Mentioned only in Luke 10:38-42; and John 11, 12, sqq. The Aramaic form occurs in a Nabatfan inscription found at Puteoli, and now in the Naples Museum; it is dated A.D. 5 (Corpus Inscr. Semit., 158); also in a Palmyrene inscription, where the Greek translation has the form Marthein, A.D. 179.
Mary, Martha, and Lazarus are represented by St. John as living at Bethania,
but St. Luke would seem to imply that they were, at least at one time, living in
Galilee; he does not mention the name of the town, but it may have been Magdala,
and we should thus, supposing Mary of Bethania and Mary Magdalene to be the same
person, understand the appellative
Magdalene. The words of St. John (11:1)
seem to imply a change of residence for the family. It is possible, too, that St.
Luke has displaced the incident referred to in Chapter 10. The likeness between
the pictures of Martha presented by Luke and John is very remarkable. The
familiar intercourse between the Saviour of the world and the humble family
which St. Luke depicts is dwelt on by St. John when he tells us that
loved Martha, and her sister Mary, and Lazarus (11:5). Again the picture of
Martha's anxiety (John 11:20-21, 39) accords with the picture of her who was
busy about much serving (Luke 10:40); so also in John 12:2:
They made him a
supper there: and Martha served. But St. John has given us a glimpse of the
other and deeper side of her character when he depicts her growing faith in
Christ's Divinity (11:20-27), a faith which was the occasion of the words:
the resurrection and the life. The Evangelist has beautifully indicated the
change that came over Martha after that interview:
When she had said these
things, she went and called her sister Mary secretly, saying: The Master is come,
and calleth for thee.
Difficulties have been raised about the last supper at Bethania. St. John
seems to put it six days before the Pasch, and, so some conclude, in the house
of Martha; while the Synoptic account puts it two days before the Pasch, and in
the house of Simon the Leper. We need not try to avoid this difficulty by
asserting that there were two suppers; for St. John does not say that the supper
took place six days before, but only that Christ arrived in Bethania six days
before the Pasch; nor does he say that it was in the house of Martha. We are
surely justified in arguing that, since St. Matthew and St. Mark place the scene
in the house of Simon, St. John must be understood to say the same; it remains
to be proved that Martha could not
serve in Simon's house.
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