Mary of Clopas
Jesus’ mother and his mother’s sister, Mary the wife of Clopas, and Mary Magdalene stood near the cross. When Jesus saw his mother and the disciple whom he loved standing nearby, he said to his mother, “Woman, here is your son.” Then he said to the disciple, “Here is your mother.” And from that time on, this disciple took her into his home.
After this, knowing that everything was already completed, in order to fulfill the scripture, Jesus said, “I am thirsty.” A jar full of sour wine was nearby, so the soldiers soaked a sponge in it, placed it on a hyssop branch, and held it up to his lips. When he had received the sour wine, Jesus said, “It is completed.” Bowing his head, he gave up his life.
-John 19:16-30, (CEB)
Download the iPhone Daily Bible Study App to read the week-long series about Mary of Clopas, the aunt of Jesus. We discuss how she led among the apostles in the early church in Palestine. Here is a sample below:
Mary of Clopas: Committed Disciple of Jesus
Mary is mentioned only once in the Bible in John 19:25. She is a woman linked to Clopas, another disciple of Jesus and a prominent leader in the early Chrisitan movement in Palestine. Most scholars agree that Clopas was the brother of Joseph, making Mary most likely the Aunt of Jesus. Regardless of her exact relation, she was an advocate of Jesus and traveled with the disciples, witnessing Jesus’ ministry first hand. She is mentioned as faithfully standing at the cross as Jesus died. Second century Chrsitian records place her in the early Chrisitan movement alongside Clopas. Although her name isn’t mentioned again in biblical text, common sense places her among the other female disciples referred to in the Gospels.
Mary of Clopas is one of the Biblical women that we just don’t have a ton of information on. However, because her closest male relative and husband, (Clopas), is mentioned quite prominently both in the Bible and in historical records, there is a surprising amount of information scholars have been able to uncover about her life. .
Mary of Clopas: What’s in a Name
It was common for married women to be identified through their husband or even sons if they were well known. “Mary of Clopas” is undoubtedly how she was known in the early church as a result of the naming conventions in her day and the prominence of Clopas as a known leader. This isn’t to suggest that she wasn’t recognizable as a leader in her own right.
Mary: Co-worker of Clopas
Scholars have suggested that perhaps Mary is associated through Clopas because the two were partners in ministry, similar to Priscilla and Aquila. Feminist theologian Elizabeth Shussler Fiorenza has argued that the more accurate translation of 1 Corinthians 9:5 which reads: “Don’t we have the right to travel with a wife who believes like the rest of the apostles...“ should actually more accurately read: “Don’t we have the right to travel with a coworker as a wife...”
The shift from an androcentric view of the wives as simply support for the husbands to understanding them as equal apostles and co-workers in ministry is significant for uncovering the truth behind Mary of Clopas’ story and for the support of women in ministry today.
All evidence points to Mary as a Co-worker of Clopas, as was the case for most (if not all) of the disciples that went out in pairs.
How would church teaching and ministry look different today if all of our bibles over the ages reflected this historically accurate view that women were equal to the men in the work of the early church?
For Further Reading:
I recommend Richard Bauckham’s book “Gospel Women: Stories of the Named Women in the Gospels”. It goes into great historical detail and I owe this week's study on the app a debt of gratitude for the wealth of information and research he has uncovered for us.