Mary of Clopas
Now there stood by the cross of Jesus His mother, and His mother’s sister, Mary [the wife] of Clopas, and Mary Magdalene.
The expression Mary of Clopas in the Greek text is ambiguous as to whether Mary was the daughter or wife of Clopas, but exegesis has commonly favoured the reading "wife of Clopas" (as reflected in above translation). Hegesippus thought that Clopas was the brother of Saint Joseph.
According to some interpretations, the same Mary was also among the women that on Easter morning went to the tomb to anoint Jesus' body with spices. Matthew 28:1 calls her "the other Mary" to distinguish her from Mary Magdalene, while Mark 16:1 uses the name "Mary of James", most probably derived from James the Less. The Latin version of that name, Maria Iacobi, is often used in tradition. Stephen S. Smalley (1982) says that it is "probable" (but not virtually certain) that Mary of Clopas is Mary the mother of James son of Alphaeus.
In John 19:25 Mary of Clopas appears immediately after the expression "His mother’s sister". Therefore, Mary is often seen as the sister of Jesus's mother, despite the awkwardness of having two sisters bearing the same name. However, other interpretations distinguish between two different persons, one being "His mother's sister" and the other being "Mary of Clopas". Still, other interpretations make Mary of Clopas not the sister but the cousin of Jesus' mother, as Hebrew or Aramaic had no specific word for cousin, or her sister-in-law, as Clopas was considered the brother of Joseph.
In chapter 24 of the Gospel of Luke, there is an account of Jesus appearing to two people walking on the road to Emmaus after His resurrection. Luke 24:18 identifies one of the persons as "Cleopas" who is believed to be Mary's husband. Some biblical scholars speculate the other person with Cleopas on the road was his wife, Mary.
New Testament Apocrypha
There were three who always walked with the Lord: Mary, his mother, and her sister, and Magdalene, the one who was called his companion. His sister and his mother and his companion were each a Mary.[note 1]
Adding to the confusion, the Gospel of Philip seems to refer to her as Jesus' mother's sister ("her sister") and Jesus' own sister ("his sister").
An early tradition within the Roman Catholic Church, first visible in the writings of Papias,[note 2] identify Mary of Clopas being the sister (or sister-in-law, or even cousin) of Mary the Mother of Jesus.
- The Old and New Testament and Gnostic contexts and the text are discussed by Robert M. Grant, "The Mystery of Marriage in the Gospel of Philip" Vigiliae Christianae 15.3 (September 1961:129-140).
- See Fragment X at Fragments of Papias.
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