DID MARY, JESUS’ MOTHER, HAVE A SISTER ALSO NAMED MARY?
by Shawn Brasseaux
“Is John 19:25 saying that Jesus’ mother Mary had a sister named Mary? I thought perhaps Mary’s sisters’ name wasn’t mentioned here, being the second person in this listing of 4 women, 3 of whom were named ‘Mary.’ ‘Now there stood by the cross of Jesus his mother, and his mother’s sister, Mary the wife of Cleophas, and Mary Magdalene’ (John 19:25).”
So, basically, we can summarize your question as: (1) Are there four women—three named “Mary” and one unnamed? Or, (2) Are there only three women all of whom are named “Mary?”
If you look at the wording, it appears to be three women who are all named, rather than four women with only three named. Notice the verse does not say “Jesus his mother, and his mother’s sister, and Mary the wife of Cleophas, and Mary Magdalene.”
The correct wording is: “Now there stood by the cross of Jesus his mother, AND his mother’s sister, Mary the wife of Cleophas, AND Mary Magdalene.” There are only two “and’s” not three, which leads me to conclude there are only three women in this verse: three “ands” would have indicated four women.
Yes, it seems awkward for Mary to have a sister named Mary—imagine how confusing that was!—but perhaps they were half-sisters?
SUPPLEMENTAL: SURROUNDED BY SINNERS
“Now there stood by the cross of Jesus his mother, and his mother’s sister, Mary the wife of Cleophas, and Mary Magdalene” (John 19:25).
This verse seems insignificant, but it conveys a marvelous Bible truth.
You should have noticed that there are three Marys listed in this verse. Although not explicitly named here, we find in other Scriptures that Jesus’ mother’s name is “Mary” (Matthew 1:16; Luke 2:6-21; et cetera). So, in John 19:25, we have: (1) Jesus’ mother named Mary, (2) the wife of Cleophas named Mary, and (3) Mary Magdalene. There were thousands of people who stood by Jesus’ cross, so why did the Holy Spirit select these three people to list, all of whom are named Mary?
“Mariam” is the Greek form of the Hebrew name “Miriam,” from which we get “Mary.” The New Testament was written in Koine Greek, so these Jewesses’ Hebrew names were rendered in Greek, and then that Greek name “Mariam” was translated into “Mary” in our English Bible. Now, think about it: Who was Miriam in Scripture?
The Bible says that Miriam was the sister of Aaron and Moses (Numbers 26:59; 1 Chronicles 6:3). Miriam rebelled against Moses’ leadership in Numbers 12:1-16, and God judged her with leprosy (a skin disease) because of it. Interestingly, the Hebrew name “Miriam” means “rebelliously.” Now, we can begin to think of John 19:25 in light of this information.
Of the thousands of people standing near Mount Calvary during Jesus Christ’s crucifixion, God the Holy Spirit selected three women who stood by, and He names them in His Word. It is no coincidence that the three women who are named are named Mary (John 19:25; cf. Matthew 27:55,56; Mark 15:40,41; Luke 23:49). What could God be teaching us through that?
Jesus Christ is hanging on Calvary’s cruel cross, dying for the sins of the people who hated Him. He was surrounded by Marys… He was surrounded by rebels… He was surrounded by sinners! In His own words, “They that are whole have no need of the physician, but they that are sick: I came not to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance” (Mark 2:17). Amazing! The three people named Mary in the verse was God’s way of emphasizing how there were many “rebels”/sinners surrounding Jesus’ cross.