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Friday, April 2, 2010

Good Friday: Counting Mary's

This blog is generally irreverent and I save the religion for a more appropriate place. This is a one-time thing.

On Good Friday, we hear about the women at the cross. John 19:25: "Meanwhile, standing near the cross of Jesus were his mother and his mother's sister, Mary the wife of Clopas and Mary Magdalene." Matthew 27:56: "Among them were Mary Magdalene and Mary the mother of James and Joseph and the mother of the sons of Zebedee." Mark 15:40: "Among them were Mary Magdalene and Mary the mother of James the younger and of Joses and Salome."

How many women is that and how many are named Mary? The answer turns out to depend upon whether you're Catholic or Protestant.

One of the biggest shocks people tend to have when they first read the Bible comes with Galatians 1:19 "But I did not see any other apostle except James the Lord's brother." Jesus had a brother? Why is this the first I'm hearing this? It comes up in Matthew 13:5-6a: "Is this not the carpenter's son? Is not his mother called Mary? And are not his brothers James and Joseph and Simon and Judas? And are not all his sisters here with us?" and in Mark 6:3: "Is not this the carpenter, the son of Mary [some read this "son of the carpenter and Mary"] and brother of James and Joses and Judas and Simon and are not his sisters here with us?"

If you're Protestant, you end up hearing that, yes, Jesus was not an only child, but we don't talk about it much - it's not important. If you're Catholic, you're told that Jesus could not have a brother and that these passages are speaking metaphorically. If you're Protestant, Mary was a virgin when Jesus was born; if you're Catholic, Mary is eternally virgin and therefore Jesus could not have a brother (The Immaculate Conception became doctrine only in 1854. It led to the doctrine of the Assumption of Mary in 1950. This is recent stuff!)

Matthew 4:21 speaks of James, the son of Zebedee and his brother John. Matthew 10:2,3 repeats Matthew 4:21 and mentions James the son of Alphaeus. Luke 6:15-16 mentions James son of Alphaeus and Judas son of James. Acts 1:13 mentions James son of Alphaeus and Judas son (or brother) of James. Getting all this reconciled is a challenge!

Though it is not official church doctrine, there is the Golden Legend, which tries to make sense of this. It goes as follows (I think!): Jesus the Christ's mother Mary was the daughter of Joachim and Anne. When Joachim died, Anne married Cleophas and they had a daughter named Mary, who married Alphaeus (who may or may not also have been called Clopas) and their children were James the Major Apostle, Joseph the Just (who may also have been called Joses), Simon and Judas. After Anne died, Cleophas married another Mary and they had a daughter, Salome, who married Zebedee and had for children James the Major Apostle (St. Iago de Campostella) and John the Evangelist. There's also a version of this where Anne was married three times, with three daughters named Mary.

So how many Mary's were there at the cross? Three, if Protestant, four if Catholic (and five if Mary wife of Clopas is not Mary wife of Alphaeus).

Just something to think about on Good Friday...

1 comment:

Glaven Q. Heisenberg said...
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