To Tom Butler,
Dear Tom, our first communiqué. Thanks for responding to my post.
You wrote: "I am concerned, however, that after making such a careful
analysis of topography and chronology, you so easily disregard two of the
residents of Bethany whose names are universally known by virtue of the
location of their home there: Martha and Mary of Bethany. Have you taken
the kind of care in considering whether either of them could be the BD as
you have in determining that the BD came from a home in the same community
where their home was." (ll: 1)?
For the answer to your question about Martha or Mary, be it Mary Magdalen
or Mary of Bethany being the B.D.: I can only refer you to the substance of
a previous posting of mine to the List: "Regarding the gender of the B.D.:
Apart from the fact that women were and are not allowed to lay prostrate
with the men in Moslem mosques and prayer venues for reasons I need not
spell out, the same applies to the prayer bodily positions of women in the
Jewish and indeed in general the Semitic world, Arab or Jew, again for
reasons obvious. As regards either of the two ladies or any other lady that
might arise as a candidate for B.D., for her to recline on a couch next to a
man, in this case the God-man Jesus Christ at the Last Supper and to fall
back on his breast, is out of the question full stop. For acting thus, the
same principle applies as it does for the Semitic world, again for reasons
we need not tease out! The Rabbis understandably were quite finicky about
possible un-Torah-like shenanigans by women especially so when the dramatis
personae were unrelated. And in Jesus' day, the Rabbis' directives were
regarded as emanating from Moses himself. I am not sure if you are
conversant with my post on the demonstrative adverb hOUTWS. If you are, I
can add this observation: If the B.D. demonstrator was a woman, either one
of the Bethany siblings or whoever, who leaned back on Jesus' breast, and
repeated the motion for those present in the lecture room, it may have been
imaginable and acceptable if all present in the room were women, otherwise,
if males only or males and females were both present, problems accrue! The
Last Supper scenario was too sacred a place for such to happen! About Mary
Magdalene's candidacy for B.D.: This is immediately ruled out of contention
because in John 20:2 we see M\M running to the B.D. In 20:10 it says that
the B.D. with Peter went back to the house inside Jerusalem whereas in
contrast M\M stayed in the vicinity of the tomb! As for Martha, I can only
repeat the observation above about women reclining with men on the same
I tote up four arguments why M\M = Mary of Bethany. I Include this material
as relevant to your query.
Mary of 'Bethany' and\or Mary Magdalen
Many problems in the Passion and Empty Tomb narratives receive immediate
solution if arguments could be found to support my hypothesis that Mary of
'Bethany' is Mary Magdalene. Arguments now presented are offered to that
(1) Mary of 'Bethany' applied nard to Jesus' feet and then wiped them clean
with her hair. Jesus defends her action saying that she should 'keep' the
remaining nard for his burial.
It is to be noted that the 'Bethany' Anointing occurred at STL's house. In
contrast with the Anointing episode in the Markan Gospel, where Mary broke
the vial of nard, the Fourth Gospel's Anointing passage does not say she
Mary of 'Bethany'\Mary Magdalene obeyed Jesus' wish. She set out for Jesus'
tomb from the same house 'Bethany' on Resurrection Sunday with the remainder
of the unbroken vessel of nard. By that time, it had been blended with other
ingredients suitable for Jesus' funeral obsequies. It turned out to be a
(2) Mary Magdalene's actions as related in the Lukan and 'Johannine' Gospels
also support the identity. In Luke 10:39, Mary the sister of Martha seats
herself at Jesus' feet. Apparently, he was reclining there with other
disciples, for Martha's onerous labours strongly indicate that she was
serving more persons than Jesus alone.
(3) John 11.32 reports that Mary fell at Jesus' feet when he was not
reclining but standing.
(4) In John 20:17, again she is found (implicitly) at Jesus' feet which in
Matt 28.9 is stated explicitly, with Jesus standing.
This posture and position of Mary at four different points in time and loci
mentioned in all Gospels but the Markan, suggest strongly that it is the
same woman exercising the same habit. In common law countries holding
criminal court proceedings, if such-like information was tendered to the
judge, that judge would unhesitatingly accept that information as coming
under the definition of the legal term, 'similar act evidence', where as in
this case under discussion, the judge would recognize the same modus
operandi as indicating the same person as acting.
If asked, I will gladly offer evidence for the claims below. Firstly,
for Mary of 'Bethany' to ensconse herself at the foot of a man's couch and
bareheaded at that, was permitted ever so reluctantly by the Rabbis only if
she were related to the man concerned. Secondly, as a concession to the Jews
at such a hypersensitive time as bereavement, probably under the Pax Romana,
the Romans permitted only relatives of the crucified to be near the victim.
Mary Magdalen was present close to the cross on Golgotha. Mary of 'Bethany'
as identifiable by that designation is not mentioned as present on Golgotha.
The two Mary's' relationship to Jesus show that at both scenes, the
Anointing and the crucifixion, the same woman is present. I cannot pursue
the claim now, but I have toted up six reasons that support the claim that
M\M = Mary of Bethany is STL's wife!! Therefore she cannot be the B.D.
because he is!!!