Mary Magdalene's name


I’ve wondered… This Mary was from Magdala. Am I right? I don’t understand her name. The Virgin’s name wasn’t Mary Nazarene. Why do we call this other Mary “Mary Magdalene?” Why not Mary of Magdala? Sorry if this seems a silly question, I hope not. I’m asking because I’m particularly interested in her. Also, I don’t believe she was ever involved romantically with Christ.;):slight_smile:


That is her name as recorded in the Scriptures: Mt 27:56 (et al.) Μαρια η Μαγδαληνη “Mary the Magdalene”, i.e. “Mary of Magdala”. The epithet differentiates her from Jesus’ mother, who was evidently central enough not to need one.


It’s just like calling Jesus ‘Jesus the Nazarene’ or the demoniac from Gadara/Gerasa the ‘Gerasene/Gadarene demoniac’. -en(e) is just another way of saying ‘of (insert place name here).’


I didn’t make it past the 20-minute edit limit, so I’ll post here.

The thing back then is that Jews living in Palestine at that time really no large pool of names to choose from. So you had a lot of people who will have the same name. On top of that, they tend to recycle the same names over and over again, especially within the family: a baby is often named after one of its grandparents or its parents or some ancestor. (This was especially true among the upper classes.) Plus there’s also a trend to name children after the rulers of the past Hasmonean dynasty, the dynasty founded by the Maccabees. Going by different sources (the NT, Josephus, ossuary inscriptions, the documents from the Judaean desert), the top eleven most attested Jewish male names in that time are (in descending order):
[LIST=1]*]Shim(e)on (Simon)
*]Y(eh)osef (Joseph)
*]Yehudah (Judah/Judas)
*]Eleazar/Eliezer (cf. Lazarus)
*]Y(eh)ohanan (Johanan/John)
*]Ye(ho)shua (Joshua/Jesus)
*]Hananiah (Ananias, with the variant Hanina)
*]Y(eh)onathan (Jonathan)
*]Matityahu (Mattathias/Matthias/Matthew)
*]Ya’aqov (Jacob/James)[/LIST]You’ll notice that the names of the Maccabees - Mattathias and his sons Simon, John, Judah/Judas, Eliezer and Jonathan - are among the top eleven.

As for female names: the majority of women used only eleven Hebrew names; the other half used names adopted from other languages like Greek, Aramaic, Persian or Nabataean. The top twelve names (by attestation) are:

Maram/Mariamme/Mariah (Miriam/Mary)
Shalom (Salome)
Marta (Martha)
Y(eh)ohana (Joanna)
Shiphra/Shapira (Sapphira)
Berenice (Greek name)
Mara (Short form of Martha)

You would notice the Hasmonean factor here as well: Joanna is of course just the female version of ‘John’, Salome Alexandra was a Hasmonean queen (141-67 BC), while Mariam(me) was the name of two Hasmonean princesses who became the second and third wives of Herod the Great.

When you have many Jameses or Jesuses or Marys around (and there were a lot of them), obviously you’ll want to find a way to distinguish between them. A common way is to call people by their parents’ (usually the father’s) names or their place of origin: hence ‘Jesus the Nazarene’, ‘Jesus son of Joseph/son of Mary’, ‘James son of Zebedee’ or ‘Mary Magdalene’. Sometimes you could also refer to them by their occupation or some distinguishing physical characteristic or a positive or negative quality of theirs.

(You might notice that the concept of last names - in the West at least - derives from this same idea: in English you have last names like Johnson ‘John’s son’, Smith ‘one who works in metal’ (cf. blacksmith), Cooper ‘barrel-maker’, Perry ‘pear tree’ (i.e. someone who lives near a pear tree), Brown, etc.)


Thanks for the answers. I think Mary Magdalene is a very beautiful name.

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