Mystery Window–Which Mary?

There is a most intriguing stained glass window in the Kilmore church (“Church of Mary”) in the village of Dervaig on the Scottish Isle of Mull. The scene shows a Jesus figure in a most intimate pose with a woman named Mary who appears to be pregnant. Under the figures is a quotation from Luke 10:42 “Mary hath chosen that good part which shall not be taken away from her.” I want to thank Jennifer Duba-Scanlan, a colleague I know through e-mail, for pointing this out to me. The Web site to which I was referred understands the “Mary” in the image to be none other than Mary Magdalene, but Luke’s account (10:38-42) is set in an unnamed village, presumably in the Galilee, in the home of two sisters–Martha and Mary. It is a story unique to Luke in which the sister Mary is commended for her desire to “sit at Jesus feet” and listen to his teaching, presumably with the male disciples, while Martha attends to household serving. Wendy Pond has noted that the text actually says that “Martha welcomed Jesus into her house,” when “they,” namely the Jesus entourage, came to a certain village. It does not say that Mary lived there, but just that Martha had a sister called Mary. It is possible that this “Mary” has been traveling with the group, suggests they stop at her sister’s house for a meal and rest, and she has developed the practice of gathering and sitting with the men. Even though Luke introduces these women as if they are “new” to the story, it is clear from the way Jesus speaks to them in the core tradition that he knows them both well. The “good portion” that Mary has chosen appears to be her desire to hear and learn the words of the Teacher. The scene raises a most interesting question. Who is this particular “Mary,” in Luke’s story and is she possibly to be identified with “Mary of Bethany,” in Jerusalem, mentioned only in the gospel of John, who also has a sister named Martha and a brother named Lazarus and anoints the feet of Jesus (11:1-2). For the latest on “sorting out the Marys,” see the previous blog post as well as its links to earlier posts on this intriguing question: Was Mary Magdalene the Same Person as Mary of Bethany?

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