Mary — Hebrew Miriam. (1.) The wife of Joseph, the mother of Jesus, called the “Virgin Mary,” though never so designated in Scripture (Matt. 2:11; Acts 1:14). Little is known of her personal history. Her genealogy is given in Luke 3. She was of the tribe of Judah and the lineage of David (Ps. 132:11; Luke 1:32). She was connected by marriage with Elisabeth, who was of the lineage of Aaron (Luke 1:36).
While she resided at Nazareth with her parents, before she became the wife of Joseph, the angel Gabriel announced to her that she was to be the mother of the promised Messiah (Luke 1:35). After this she went to visit her cousin Elisabeth, who was living with her husband Zacharias (probably at Juttah, Josh. 15:55; 21:16, in the neighbourhood of Maon), at a considerable distance, about 100 miles, from Nazareth. Immediately on entering the house she was saluted by Elisabeth as the mother of her Lord, and then forthwith gave utterance to her hymn of thanksgiving (Luke 1:46–56; comp. 1 Sam. 2:1–10). After three months Mary returned to Nazareth to her own home. Joseph was supernaturally made aware (Matt. 1:18–25) of her condition, and took her to his own home. Soon after this the decree of Augustus (Luke 2:1) required that they should proceed to Bethlehem (Micah 5:2), some 80 or 90 miles from Nazareth; and while they were there they found shelter in the inn or khan provided for strangers (Luke 2:6, 7). But as the inn was crowded, Mary had to retire to a place among the cattle, and there she brought forth her son, who was called Jesus (Matt. 1:21), because he was to save his people from their sins. This was followed by the presentation in the temple, the flight into Egypt, and their return in the following year and residence at Nazareth (Matt. 2). There for thirty years Mary, the wife of Joseph the carpenter, resides, filling her own humble sphere, and pondering over the strange things that had happened to her. During these years only one event in the history of Jesus is recorded, viz., his going up to Jerusalem when twelve years of age, and his being found among the doctors in the temple (Luke 2:41–52). Probably also during this period Joseph died, for he is not again mentioned.
After the commencement of our Lord’s public ministry little notice is taken of Mary. She was present at the marriage in Cana. A year and a half after this we find her at Capernaum (Matt. 12:46, 48, 49), where Christ uttered the memorable words, “Who is my mother? and who are my brethren? And he stretched forth his hand toward his disciples, and said, Behold my mother and my brethren!” The next time we find her is at the cross along with her sister Mary, and Mary Magdalene, and Salome, and other women (John 19:26). From that hour John took her to his own abode. She was with the little company in the upper room after the Ascension (Acts 1:14). From this time she wholly disappears from public notice. The time and manner of her death are unknown.
(2.) Mary Magdalene, i.e., Mary of Magdala, a town on the western shore of the Lake of Tiberias. She is for the first time noticed in Luke 8:3 as one of the women who “ministered to Christ of their substance.” Their motive was that of gratitude for deliverances he had wrought for them. Out of Mary were cast seven demons. Gratitude to her great Deliverer prompted her to become his follower. These women accompanied him also on his last journey to Jerusalem (Matt. 27:55; Mark 15:41; Luke 23:55). They stood near the cross. There Mary remained till all was over, and the body was taken down and laid in Joseph’s tomb. Again, in the earliest dawn of the first day of the week she, with Salome and Mary the mother of James (Matt. 28:1; Mark 16:2), came to the sepulchre, bringing with them sweet spices, that they might anoint the body of Jesus. They found the sepulchre empty, but saw the “vision of angels” (Matt. 28:5). She hastens to tell Peter and John, who were probably living together at this time (John 20:1, 2), and again immediately returns to the sepulchre. There she lingers thoughtfully, weeping at the door of the tomb. The risen Lord appears to her, but at first she knows him not. His utterance of her name “Mary” recalls her to consciousness, and she utters the joyful, reverent cry, “Rabboni.” She would fain cling to him, but he forbids her, saying, “Touch me not; for I am not yet ascended to my Father.” This is the last record regarding Mary of Magdala, who now returned to Jerusalem. The idea that this Mary was “the woman who was a sinner,” or that she was unchaste, is altogether groundless.
(3.) Mary the sister of Lazarus is brought to our notice in connection with the visits of our Lord to Bethany. She is contrasted with her sister Martha, who was “cumbered about many things” while Jesus was their guest, while Mary had chosen “the good part.” Her character also appears in connection with the death of her brother (John 11:20,31,33). On the occasion of our Lord’s last visit to Bethany, Mary brought “a pound of ointment of spikenard, very costly, and anointed the feet of Jesus” as he reclined at table in the house of one Simon, who had been a leper (Matt. 26:6; Mark 14:3; John 12:2,3). This was an evidence of her overflowing love to the Lord. Nothing is known of her subsequent history. It would appear from this act of Mary’s, and from the circumstance that they possessed a family vault (11:38), and that a large number of Jews from Jerusalem came to condole with them on the death of Lazarus (11:19), that this family at Bethany belonged to the wealthier class of the people. (See MARTHA.)
(4.) Mary the wife of Cleopas is mentioned (John 19:25) as standing at the cross in company with Mary of Magdala and Mary the mother of Jesus. By comparing Matt. 27:56 and Mark 15:40, we find that this Mary and “Mary the mother of James the little” are on and the same person, and that she was the sister of our Lord’s mother. She was that “other Mary” who was present with Mary of Magdala at the burial of our Lord (Matt. 27:61; Mark 15:47); and she was one of those who went early in the morning of the first day of the week to anoint the body, and thus became one of the first witnesses of the resurrection (Matt. 28:1; Mark 16:1; Luke 24:1).
(5.) Mary the mother of John Mark was one of the earliest of our Lord’s disciples. She was the sister of Barnabas (Col. 4:10), and joined with him in disposing of their land and giving the proceeds of the sale into the treasury of the Church (Acts 4:37; 12:12). Her house in Jerusalem was the common meeting-place for the disciples there.
(6.) A Christian at Rome who treated Paul with special kindness (Rom. 16:6).