So many times in the gospels, you see a woman who is important in the life of Jesus and her name is called Mary.

a). When he came out of a belly, the first woman that saw him was Mary his mother

b). When he came out of the belly of the earth, the first woman that saw him was Mary Magdalene.

  1. Mary the mother of Jesus
  2. Mary Magdalene
  3. Mary the mother of James the less, Joses and Salome
  4. Mary the sister of Martha
  5. Mary the wife of Cleopas
  6. The other Mary (Matthew 28:1)


Based on the meaning of the name Mary (Miriam in hebrew), is there a deeper meaning to explain why important women in Jesus's ministry would bear this name ?

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    If I'm not mistaken it was a very common name at that time among the Jews (as was Jesus, e.g. Col 4:11). My guess would be because it was the name of Moses' sister. Its etymology seems to be hopelessly lost, leaving only guesses as to its meaning. – Sola Gratia Nov 26 '17 at 20:50
  • Popularity of the name cannot be the issue. Many events in the life of Jesus are both prophetic and significant in our understanding of the law. – user20490 Nov 26 '17 at 21:40
  • Jesus, John, Peter etc all these are names that were inspired. If the virgin of Isaiah prophecy ended up being named Mary, then that name must be relevant in Scripture. – user20490 Nov 26 '17 at 21:41
  • Call me no longer Naomi (pleasant) but Mara - bitter. The Book of Ruth.Naomi had experienced the hand of death in her life. – Nigel J Nov 27 '17 at 9:32
  • @SolaGratia That seems unlikely to me, since there are few if any attested people named Moses or Aaron from the period – b a Nov 27 '17 at 10:48

About a quarter of all contemporary Jewish women bore the name "Mary" or a derivative (מרים, מרימא, מריה).

To quote the statistics from Tal Ilan ("Notes on the Distribution of Women’s Names in Palestine in the Second Temple and Mishnaic Period," Journal of Jewish Studies 40 (1989) 186-200, online here), 58 out of 145 attested women (23.5%) were named Mary, second only to "Salome" (61 women). Half of all women bore one of those two names.

The breakdown of these two names alone (Mary and Salome) is:

  • 13 of 40 women mentioned in Josephus
  • 6 of 16 women mentioned in the NT
  • 9 of 25 women mentioned in rabbinic literature
  • 80 of 152 women in funerary inscriptions
  • 15 of 19 women in funerary material

So it should be no surprise why there are so many named Mary in Jesus' life.

As for why these two names were so popular, Tal Ilan suggests that the popularity derives from the fact that these were Hasmonean names: Salome (שלומציון) the Hasmonean queen, and Herod's Hasmonean wife Miriam. This is supported by the fact that the names of Matthias and his five sons make up 30.6% of all male names, which seems to demonstrate a vogue for names related to the Hasmoneans.

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  • Thanks for your response. You've explained it using history. But I was also searching for an whether or not there was an inspired motive behind the number of times that name occurred. +1 – user20490 Nov 27 '17 at 11:26

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