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 ( Numbers 12:1 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 Miriam ( MRYM ) is exceedingly doubtful. Two roots are proposed: (a) MRH meaning "to rebel", in which connection some have endeavoured to derive the name of the sister of Moses from the rebellion against him ( Numbers 12:1 ). 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 permission 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 the name Miriam has no aleph in our Hebrew text; but through the Aramaic word for "Lord" always has an aleph in the older inscriptions (e.g. those of Zenjirli of the eighth century, B.C.), yet in later inscriptions from Palmyra the aleph has gone. Besides, the presence of the yodh may well be due to the formative ending mem , which is generally the sign of abstract nouns. The rendering "star of the sea" is without foundation except in a tropological sense; Cornelius à Lapide would render "lady, or teacher, or guide of the sea", the sea being this world, of which Christ Himself ( Numbers 24:17 ) is the Star. The frequency with which the name occurs in the New Testament (cf. infra) shows that it was a favourite one at the time of Christ One of Herod's wives was the ill-fated Mariamn, 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 women, it is the practice to take this name in addition to some other distinctive name, when entering the religious state.
The Catholic Encyclopedia is the most comprehensive resource on Catholic teaching, history, and information ever gathered in all of human history. This easy-to-search online version was originally printed in fifteen hardcopy volumes.
Designed to present its readers with the full body of Catholic teaching, the Encyclopedia contains not only precise statements of what the Church has defined, but also an impartial record of different views of acknowledged authority on all disputed questions, national, political or factional. In the determination of the truth the most recent and acknowledged scientific methods are employed, and the results of the latest research in theology, philosophy, history, apologetics, archaeology, and other sciences are given careful consideration.
No one who is interested in human history, past and present, can ignore the Catholic Church, either as an institution which has been the central figure in the civilized world for nearly two thousand years, decisively affecting its destinies, religious, literary, scientific, social and political, or as an existing power whose influence and activity extend to every part of the globe. In the past century the Church has grown both extensively and intensively among English-speaking peoples. Their living interests demand that they should have the means of informing themselves about this vast institution, which, whether they are Catholics or not, affects their fortunes and their destiny.
Copyright © Catholic Encyclopedia. Robert Appleton Company New York, NY. Volume 1: 1907; Volume 2: 1907; Volume 3: 1908; Volume 4: 1908; Volume 5: 1909; Volume 6: 1909; Volume 7: 1910; Volume 8: 1910; Volume 9: 1910; Volume 10: 1911; Volume 11: - 1911; Volume 12: - 1911; Volume 13: - 1912; Volume 14: 1912; Volume 15: 1912
Catholic Online Catholic Encyclopedia Digital version Compiled and Copyright © Catholic Online