Friday, February 21, 2014

Name of Mary: Exalted Lifted up

The name Mary in Hebrew Miriam is spelled identical to two other words in the Hebrew bible "bitter ones" and "exalted" (from the word רום , rum meaning lifted up as in Deuteronomy 17:20) the Syrian Christians have favored the latter explanation.. Some have also proposed it means "rebel" (from root meri, מרי meaning "rebellion" as in Numbers 17:25))  rebel and bitter maybe linked since they represent the resentment the Hebrews felt under Egyptian bondage. Bitter herbs were used to represent slavery in Exodus 12's Passover meal. Perhaps if "bitter"/ "rebel" is the meaning she rebelled against those of her time by being obedient to the Law of God, and certainly she rebelled by not letting her son be killed by King Herod!, or perhaps this could be one of those time where Hebrew words sometimes mean the opposite of their primary meaning (many examples in the Hebrew bible exist like "bless/curse" God and die" in Job 2:9, or רנן which means joy in Psalm 132:16 and moan/cry in Lamentations 2:19 ), in which case "rebel" would mean something along the lines of "obedient" "loyal one" or "servant"--the latter the Virgin calls herself when says she is the "handmaid." The Miriam in the Torah seems to be called Miriam from the word "bitter," because we do not see her named until Exodus 15 where the word bitter is used. Exalted seems more reasonable for Mary of the New Testament, it would perhaps fit in with why the Angel Gabriel said "blessed are you among women"--that is she is exalted among women, and be an allusion to her assumption into Heaven. A popular explanation--stella mar [star of the sea] among Latins was popularized by a misreading of St Jerome "stilla maris" which means "drop of the sea." St Jerome took Miriam as being from mar, מר "drop" [only used in Isaiah 40:15 as k'mar, כְּמַר--"as a drop"] and yam, יָם meaning "sea" as in Genesis 14:13 where the "Salt Sea" is referenced.  מר , mar can also mean myrrh as in Exodus 30:23.  Mar in Aramaic is the word for "lord" as in Daniel 4:19  (v16 in some texts), where mari,  מָרִאי or מָרִי is used, "lady"/"mistress" (mistress in the older usage meaning a respectable woman, not the modern expression for a home-wrecker) would probably be a similar word, though never used in any Aramaic biblical text, but is used in the "Jerusalem" Talmud (Sanhedrin 23) in the form מרתה, marta (similar to Martha, like the name in the New Testament).

First for the Hebrew name of Mary we look at Exodus, where Moses' sister Miriam is named:
And Miriam [Miryam, מִרְיָם] the prophetess, the sister of Aaron, took a timbrel in her hand; and all the women went out after her with timbrels and with dances.--Exodus 15:20
The spelling מרים (no vowels, with no vav, lammed, etc prefixes) appears 16 times in the Hebrew Bible (not including the 'Deuterocanonicals') in 14 verses. The name Miriam in any form appears 15 times in 13 verses (with and without the vav, lammed 'prefix'). There are 3 meaning its translated as Miriam, bitter ones, and exalted. Here are the appearances of the spelling מרים (no vowels, with no vav, lammed, etc prefixes) in red, underlined are words that are similar or have the some root:
And Miriam [Miryam, מִרְיָם] the prophetess, the sister of Aaron, took a timbrel in her hand; and all the women went out after her with timbrels and with dances.  And Miriam [Miryam, מִרְיָם]  sang unto them: Sing ye to the LORD, for He is highly exalted: the horse and his rider hath He thrown into the sea.--Exodus 15:20-21
And when they came to Marah [Maratah, מָרָתָה]  , they could not drink of the waters of Marah [מִמָּרָה, mimmarah] for they were bitter [mirim, מָרִים]. Therefore the name of it was called Marah [marah, מָרָה ].--Exodus 15:23
every one lifting up [mérim, מֵרִים] a heave-offering [t'rumatתְּרוּמַת] of silver and brass have brought in the heave-offering [t'rumatתְּרוּמַת] of the LORD; and every one with whom hath been found shittim wood for any work of the service brought it in.--Exodus 35:24 Young's Literal Translation (most translations do not literally translate it as "lifting up", also I removed the 'J name')
And Miriam [Miryam, מִרְיָם] and Aaron spoke against Moses because of the Cushite woman whom he had married; for he had married a Cushite woman......And the LORD spoke suddenly unto Moses, and unto Aaron, and unto Miriam [Miryam, מִרְיָם]: 'Come out ye three unto the tent of meeting.' And they three came out.....And when the cloud was removed from over the Tent, behold, Miriam [Miryam, מִרְיָם] was leprous, as white as snow; and Aaron looked upon Miriam [Miryam, מִרְיָם]; and, behold, she was leprous.....And Miriam [Miryam, מִרְיָם] was shut up without the camp seven days; and the people journeyed not till Miriam [Miryam, מִרְיָם] was brought in again.--Numbers 12:1, 4, 10, 14
And the children of Israel, even the whole congregation, came into the wilderness of Zin in the first month; and the people abode in Kadesh; and Miriam [Miryam, מִרְיָם] died there, and was buried there.--Numbers 20:1
 And the name of Amram's wife was Jochebed, the daughter of Levi, who was born to Levi in Egypt; and she bore unto Amram Aaron and Moses, and Miriam [Miryam, מִרְיָם]  their sister.--Numbers 26:59
And the sons of Ezrah: Jether, and Mered, and Epher, and Jalon. And she bore Miriam [Miryam, מִרְיָם], and Shammai, and Ishbah the father of Eshtemoa----1 Chronicles 4:17
The wise shall inherit honour; but as for the fools, they carry away [mérim, מֵרִים]  shame.--Proverbs 3:35
He that is slow to anger is of great understanding; but he that is hasty of spirit exalteth [mérim, מֵרִים] folly.--Proverbs 14:29
and because of the greatness that He gave him, all the peoples, nations, and languages trembled and feared before him: whom he would he slew, and whom he would he kept alive; and whom he would he raised up [marim, מָרִים] , and whom he would he put down.--Daniel 5:19 (Aramaic text not Hebrew)
For evidence in the New Testament on why Mary's name should be interpreted as "exalted" or "lifted up" we go to Luke 1:
He has thrown down the rulers from their thrones but lifted up the lowly--Luke 1:52
We see here she refers to the lowly being "lifted up", this is related to Mary herself because she a few verses prior she calls herself "lowly":
For he has looked upon his handmaid’s lowliness; behold, from now on will all ages call me blessed.--Luke 1:48
Now, going back to Luke 1:52 in red I highlighted lifted up because in the Aramaic Texts of Luke 1:51 in both the Old Syriac and the Peshitta text (both of which predate the 6th century at least) the word here is
ܣܲܚܸܦܼ ܬܿܲܩܼܝܦܼܸܐ̈ ܡܸܢ ܟܿܘܼܪܣܲܘܵܬܼܵܐ̈܂ ܘܲܐܪܼܝܡ   ܡܲܟܼܿܝܟܼܸܐ̈܂ --Luke 1:52 Peshitta Text
 He has put down the mighty from their seats, and he has lifted up the meek--Luke 1:52 Lamsa
ܘܐܢܚܬ ܬܩܝܦܐ ܡܢ ܟܘܪܣܘܬܗܘܢ ܘܐܪܝܡ   ܡܟܝܟܐ--Luke 1:52 Old Syriac Syriac Sinaiticus (4th century manuscript)
 And he has brought the mighty down from their seats and exalted the lowly--Luke 1:52 from The Old Syriac Gospels: Luke and John, Old Syriac Syriac Sinaiticus

  The red word ܘܐܪܝܡ waruym (I am not sure if I have the vowels correct), the spelling I do know is waw-alap-resh-yod-meem

 For more information see Catholic Encyclopedia "Name of Mary"

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