One of the most interesting aspects of Spain this time of year, the Yuletide, is looking up the variety of Belenes, or little model Bethlehems. It stretches the idea of a manger scene. You can find them in shop windows, churches, town halls and little booths scattered around the cities.
The one common denominator between them all is Jesus, Joseph and Mary. As I walked around the many different Belenes, looking up the figure of Mary, I began to think about her name. Mary.
It is such a popular name in Latin countries. Especially in Spain. And in my village. It seems like 1 out of every 2 women has that name.
What about in the Bible? How many women named Mary are mentioned in the New Testament?
In fact, if you take a quick glance, you might find as many as eight. If you do a bit of research, you will find six. Let me introduce them.
- Mary the mother of Jesus – She ranks number 1. For obvious reasons. She needs no introduction. In the bible, she is always identified as such. Her first mention is in Matthew:1-18.
- Mary from Magdala – She is the second most popular Mary. From the region of Magdala on the west side of the Sea of Galilee, this Mary has risen to controversy, thanks to Hollywood. In the films about Jesus, Mary Magdalene has been cast as a prostitute, the woman caught in adultery, the woman who wipes Jesus feet with her hair and the lover of Christ. The Bible account of her is that she was a woman from whom 7 demons were cast out. She also gets the credit for being the first person to witness Christ after his resurrection and to be mandated to spread the good news. She was an apostle to Christ and traveled in his clan during his ministry. She was also present at his crucifixion unlike any of his disciples, save John. There was obviously a special connection as she was devout. But there are no more details given in the Scriptures. Her first appearance is in Matthew 27:56.
- Mary of Bethany – This is the third very popular Mary in the New Testament. Mary and Martha were two apostles of Christ. In fact, he cared for them so deeply, that he delayed his arrival into their home when their brother was ill; he trusted them for a bigger miracle. Lazarus died and was called to life by Christ. Mary was praised by the Lord for wanting to sit learn at his feet. This Mary is the one whom took very expensive nard and fine oils and anointed Jesus’ feet just before he was crucified. Her first mention is in Matthew 26:27.
- Mary the mother of James, Joses, Jude, and Salome – While the text in the Bible where this Mary appears causes a bit of confusion, if we read the text closely, we can identify her better. Some have believed this Mary is identical to the mother of Christ. In fact, she is the mother of James the less, an apostle of Christ. In the New Testament, when this marry is referred to, at least one of her sons is mentioned except when she is called “the other Mary” meaning other than Mary the mother of Jesus. In John 19:25, she is identified as the sister of Jesus’ mother. This would mean that both sisters have the same name. She is first referenced in Matthew 27:61.
- Mary the mother of John Mark – Simple. Her mention is in Acts 12:12.
- Mary from Rome – She was Paul’s helper. Find her in Romans 16:6.
That is our brief look at Marys in the New Testament. In Greek, Latin and other languages, the names Miriam and Maria are the same as Mary. It was a popular name. In this case, the first mention of Mary in the Bible would be Miriam, the sister of Moses, in Exodus. Perhaps that is why the name was so common.
Many people think there are only three different Marys in the New Testament. Their assumptions of these women are also derived from films. The Virgin Mary, of course, is most people’s Mary of choice. You can find her at the nearest Belen.
By Jori Sams