Treatment of the New Testament names commonly translated 'Mary'
Mary, THE NAME OF, in Scripture and in Catholic use. New Testament, Mariam, and sometimes Maria—it seems impossible, in the present state of the text, to say whether the form Mariam was reserved by the Evangelists for the Mother of Christ, and the form Maria used for all others of the name. The form Mariam undoubtedly represents the Hebrew MRYM, the name of the sister of Moses and Aaron (Num., xii, 1 sqq.). In I Par. iv, 17, it occurs presumably as the name of a man, but the Septuagint has ton Maron. The etymology of the name MRYM (Miriam) is exceedingly doubtful. Two roots are proposed: (a) MRH meaning "to rebel", in which connection some have endeavored to derive the name of the sister of Moses from her rebellion against him (Num., xii, 1). But this seems far-fetched, as her murmuring is by no means the only, or the principal event, recorded of her; (b) MRA meaning "to be fat"; it is thought that, since the possession of this quality was, to the Semitic mind, the essence of beauty, the name Miriam may have meant "beautiful". But the meaning "lady", which is so common among the Fathers of the Church, and which is enshrined in the Catholic expression "Our Lady", has much to support it. The Aramaic MRA means "Lord" as we see in St. Paul's Maranatha—i.e. " Come, Lord", or "the Lord is nigh". It is true that the name Miriam has no A in our Hebrew text; but, though the Aramaic word for "lord" always has an A in the older inscriptions (e.g. those of Zenjirli of the eighth century, B.C.), yet in later inscriptions from Palmyra the A has gone. Besides, the presence of the Y may well be due to the formative ending M, which is generally a sign of abstract nouns. The rendering, "star of the sea" is without foundation except in a tropological sense; Cornelius a Lapide would render. "lady, or teacher, or guide of the sea", the sea being this world, of which Christ Himself (Num., xxiv, 17) is the Star. The frequency with which the name occurs in the New Testament (cf. infra) shows that it was a favorite one at the time of Christ. One of Herod's wives was the ill-fated Mariamne, a Jewess; Josephus gives us this name sometimes as Mariamme, at others as Mariame or Mariamne. The favor in which the name was then held is scarcely to be attributed to the influence her fate had on the Jews (Stanley, "Jewish Church", III, 429); it is far more likely that the fame of the sister of Moses contributed to this result—cf. Mich., vi, 4, where Miriam is put on the same footing as Moses and Aaron: "I sent before thy face Moses and Aaron and Mary." At a time when men like Simeon were "looking for the Consolation of Israel", their minds would naturally revert to the great names of the Exodus. For extra-Biblical instances of the name at this time see Josephus, "Antiquities", iv, 6; XVIII, v, 4, and "Jewish War", VI, iv. In Christian times the name has always been popular; no less than seven historically famous Marys are given in the "Dictionary of Christian Biography". Among Catholics it is one of the commonest of baptismal names; and in many religious orders, both of men and of women, it is the practice to take this name in addition to some other distinctive name, when entering the religious state.