Sunday, March 11, 2007

First Century Use of Mariam not Maria contd.

In the first century we find other uses of the name Mariam to describe Jesus' mother and the women to whom the resurrected Jesus appears in John 20.

It is interesting to note that Luke identifies Jesus' mother by the name Mariam in the account of Gabriel's visitation. We might translate "Miriam." Everything in Luke 1:4-2 draws on the Greek translation of Hebrew Scriptures from names to language to motifs: Jesus' mother is a devout Jewish woman who recites God's acts in Israelite history as a picture of bringing down the proud and raising the lowly. In the same way Matthew identifies Jesus mother as Mariam at 13:54-6,

Jesus came to his native place and taught the people in their synagogue. They were astonished and said, "Where did this man get such wisdom and mighty deeds? Is he not the carpenter's son? Is not his mother named Mary and his brothers James, Joseph, Simon, and Judas?Are not his sisters all with us? Where did this man get all this?"
To identify Jesus' mother as Miriam makes complete sense when speaking of Jesus' origin and family in Nazareth.

John uses the name Mariam when describing the encounter of Jesus with the woman at the tomb in John 20: 16, 18. Here, Jesus calls her by her Hebrew name ‘Mariam,’ to which she replies ‘Rabbouni’. The encounter between Miriam and Jesus takes place at the Hebrew level of the text and it is because he calls her by her Hebrew name that she recognizes him. Too bad English translations do not reflect this Hebrew dialogue. In 20: 1, 11 otoh, the narrator identifies her as Maria. I discuss these passages and manuscript readings in Mariam, the Magdalen, and the Mother (2005).

On the name Mariamene in the Talpiot inscription, from for Wed March 7th comes a post from Dr Alexander Panyotov of the University of St. Andrews suggesting three different interpretations:-

A. Mara son/daughter of Mariamenon/Mariamene

The obvious hitch in this reading is that the inscription starts with name in genitive, which, of course, should be read as ‘Of Mariamenon/Mariamene…’. This doesn’t, however, contradict the reading above. It is not impossible that the person who inscribed the text in Greek was still following the local manner of writing (i.e. from right to left). Or, just, the Greek text was arranged in a different way for reasons we don’t know. The name Mara occurs on inscription, dated to the 1st century CE, from Taucheira-Arsinoe in Cyrenaica. The editors of SEG (vol. 16, 1959, no. 918) and the Lexicon of Greek Personal names (vol. 1, 1987, p. 298) consider Mara a feminine name. This reading, however, presumes that the name is in the nominative.

Another possibility is to read the name Mara as the genitive form of Maras. The Doric genitive singular ending –a, was, in later periods, applied to feminine and masculine names ending in –as. According to Tal Ilan’s lexicon the name Maras occurs on papyri from Egypt. However, I was not able to double check her sources (we don’t have the books she refers to in the library). Thus, the inscription could also be read as:

B. Of Maras son/daughter of Mariamenon/Mariamene.


C. Of Mariamenon/Mariamene daughter of Maras.

It is, of course, possible that we can have reading C with the name Mara in the nominative – although not grammatically correct it really depends on the level of knowledge of Greek, which the author of the inscription possessed. This, we just don’t know.

My observations are preliminary. I was not able to consult Rahmani’s corpus and have been working with the photos published on the Discovery website. This means that I am not aware of the archaeological and epigraphic context of the tomb. There are many questions still withstanding. Like, was the inscription added later to the ossuary? Do we know if some of the ossuaries, or the whole tomb, were re-used (which means inscribing new names, formulas, etc.)? Whatever the case, I think that this inscription does not mention a person with alternative name, but follows a standard Greek funerary formula.

Dr Alexander Panayotov
School of Divinity
University of St Andrews
St Mary's College, South Street
St Andrews KY16 9JU

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