On this day: Mary of Bethany

by Gerelyn Hollingsworth

View Author Profile

Join the Conversation

Send your thoughts to Letters to the Editor. Learn more

On this day, Monday of Holy Week, we hear of the dinner given for Jesus at Bethany.

"Martha served, while Lazarus was one of those reclining at table with him. Mary took a liter of costly perfumed oil made from genuine aromatic nard and anointed the feet of Jesus and dried them with her hair; the house was filled with the fragrance of the oil."

For a detailed explanation of this incident within the context of the relationship between Jesus of Nazareth and Mary of Bethany, see Chapter 4, "Mary and Martha of Bethany", in The Women in the Life of the Bridegroom: A Feminist Historical-Literary Analysis of the Female Characters in the Fourth Gospel, by Adeline Fehribach, SCN, The Liturgical Press, 1998, beginning on page 83.

"Since the second wave of feminist hermeneutics, many scholars who have dealt with Mary and Martha of Bethany in the Fourth Gospel have identified them as disciples of Jesus. Raymond Brown, for instance, . . . Elisabeth Schüssler Fiorenza . . . Sandra Schneiders, . . .

"Although this identification of Mary and Martha of Bethany as disciples, like the identification of the Samaritan woman as a disciple, is certainly a valid interpretation for a reader of the twentieth or twenty-first century, I believe that a first-century reader would not have interpreted them in exactly this way. Given the literary and cultural milieu of the first-century reader of this Gospel and the previous portrayals of women in this Gospel, I believe the first-century reader would have perceived Mary of Bethany as the betrothed/bride of the messianic bridegroom on behalf of the Jews, just as the Samaritan woman would have been perceived as the betrothed/bride of the messianic bridegroom on behalf of the Samaritan people. This portrayal of Mary of Bethany as a fictive betrothed/bride of Jesus would automatically make her sister and brother members of Jesus' family within the literary structure of the story."

Click here to find the book at Amazon.

Click here to find the Liturgy of the Hours for today.

Latest News


1x per dayDaily Newsletters
1x per weekWeekly Newsletters
2x WeeklyBiweekly Newsletters