Monday, March 05, 2007

First Century Use of Mari(h)am not Maria

This will be a brief post (with a follow up later in the week) reacting to discussions of the name MARIAMENE (the Greek inscription on the ossuary in the debate on Jesus' family tomb is MARIAMENOU MARA).

In the Coptic text of the Gospel of Thomas at Saying #21 (36:34) and Saying #114 (51:91) a woman is named Mariham. The Coptic text of the Gospel of Thomas (NHC II,2) was translated from Greek in the mid-4th Century. Three Greek papyrus fragments of Thomas were found at Oxrhynchus: P. Oxy. 1, P. Oxy. 654, and P. Oxy. 655 and published in 1897 and 1904. P. Oxy 1 is plausibly dated after 200CE; P. Oxy. 655 between 200 and 250CE. It seems that the Coptic text of Thomas is translated from an underlying Greek text. There are differences between the Greek fragments and the Coptic text but it is possible that the Coptic is based on a version of one of the papyrus fragments. While none of the Greek fragments contains the name Mariham, if the Gospel of Thomas is dated to the late first century as an interpreted collection of Jesus' oral sayings, then the Gospel contains two first century examples of the name Mariham.

Mariham in the Gospel of Thomas is most likely one of Jesus' disciples. However the form of her name does not correspond to forms of the name Mary Magdalen(e) that we find in the Greek New Testament: Maria (or Mariam) he Magdalene (Mark 15:47 and 16:1 for example). What do we make of this difference? Are there two different ways to refer to Mary (Magdalene) in the first century? Is the Mariham of the Gospel of Thomas who asks Jesus "whom are your disciples like?" and who stands in opposition to Peter at the end of the text a composite figure?

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