Myriam and Mary

– Anwered by Father Johann Roten, S.M.

Q: Does the name "Miriam" refer to the Virgin Mary?

A: Indeed, "Miriam" is a name commonly used to designate Our Lady. The correct spelling is "Myriam." Myriam represents the Hebrew Old Testament version of Mary's name. In Aramaic, the language spoken by Jesus, Joseph and Mary, Mary is called Maryam. The Greek translation of the Old Testament calls her Mariam, whereas with New Testament Greek she is Maria. The Latin uses the same expression: Maria. The name is used not only for Mary, the mother of Jesus. There are eight other persons in the Old and New Testament who held the same name. For example, the sister of Moses, usually called Miriam (Exodus 15, 20-21); Mary, wife of Clopas (John 19,25) whom some identify with Mary, mother of James and John, who witnessed Jesus' crucifixion and the empty tomb (Mark 15:40-47); Mary Magdalene (Luke 8:2); Mary, the sister of Lazarus and Martha (Luke 10:38-42); Mary, the mother of John Mark (Acts 12:12); a Roman lady to whom Paul sends greetings (Romans 16,6). Less well established is the reference of a woman descendent of Judah (1 Chron. 4,17 - we are possibly dealing with a make descendant of Ezra!).

According to modern philology the name of Mary has three probably interpretations:

1. "satiated, fat, or corpulent" (mara; Egyptian) which means beautiful according to oriental feminine esthetic.

2. "loved" (mari; Egyptian): Mary is the beloved of God.

3. "the exalted one" (sublime, august) (mrym; Ugaritic/Canaanite).

All three fit the personality of Mary. The third seems to be the most probable of all.

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