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Mary of Clopas

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Michelangelo Caravaggio 052

The hysteria of Mary of Cleophas in Caravaggio's "The Entombment of Christ" (1602).

Mary of Clopas or Cleophas (Greek: Maria he tou Klopa) the wife of Clopas who is believed to be the brother of Saint Joseph, was one of various Marys named in the New Testament.

Mary of Clopas is explicitly mentioned only in John 19:25, where she is among the women present at the Crucifixion:

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), though those holding that Saint Anne had three husbands see Clopas as one of Anne's husbands and father of Mary of Clopas.[1]

In a manner very similar to the Gospel of John, the apocryphal Gospel of Philip also seems to list Mary of Clopas among Jesus' female entourage:

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.[2]

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").

According to some interpretations, the same Mary was also among the women that on Easter morning went to the tomb to 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 Jacobae, is often used in tradition to distinguish her from the other Mary.

In John 19:25 Mary of Clopas appears immediately after the expression "His mother’s sister". Therefore, Mary is therefore 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.

The most sound traditions within the Roman Catholic Church and first visible in the writings of Papias,[3] identify her sons James and Joses/Joseph referred to in scripture as the "brothers of Jesus" as his biological cousins, Mary of Cliopas being the sister (or sister in law or even cousin of Mary the Mother of Jesus). Other traditions outside the Church make her the mother of the "brethren of the Lord". This has led some modern writers, such as Robert Eisenman or James Tabor, to claim that Mary of Clopas actually refers to Jesus's mother as well,[4] quite in conflict to the passage in John's Gospel that mentions both side by side.

In medieval legend the three Marys (Mary Mother of James and Jose The Wife of Alpheaus, Mary Salome and Mary of Clopas) were adrift in a boat that miraculously arrived off the coast of Provence, now called Saintes-Maries-de-la-Mer. In that legend Mary Jacobe is the mistress of her Egyptian servant Sarah, venerated by Gypsies.

In the Roman Martyrology she is remembered with Saint Salome on April 24.

Notes

  1. Wikisource-logo "St. Anne" in the 1913 Catholic Encyclopedia.
  2. 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).
  3. See Fragment X at Fragments of Papias.
  4. Robert Eisenmann, James the Brother of Jesus: The Key to Unlocking the Secrets of Early Christianity and the Dead Sea Scrolls, 1997: xviii.

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