What was Mary’s real name?

Mary is known by many different titles (Blessed Mother, Madonna, Our Lady), epithets (Star of the SeaQueen of Heaven, Cause of Our Joy), invocations (Theotokos, Panagia, Mother of Mercy), and other names (Our Lady of Loreto, Our Lady of Guadalupe).

Most English speakers forget that all the people from the Scriptures we read were called something different than what we are used to. So when we have heard the name “Mary”, for decades we naturally assume this was her actual given name.

However, according to the Catholic Encyclopedia: “The Hebrew form of her name is miryam [or myriam].

But after years, as the Bible spread throughout the world, the name has passed through so many translations.

The Hebrew form of her name is miryam denoting in the Old Testament only the sister of Moses. In 1 Chronicles 4:17, the Massoretic text applies the same name to a son of Jalon, but, as the Septuagint version transcribes this name as Maron, we must infer that the orthography of the Hebrew text has been altered by the transcribers. The same version renders miryam by Marian, a form analogous to the Syriac and Aramaic word Maryam. In the New Testament the name of the Virgin Mary is always Mariam, excepting in the Vatican Codex and the Codex Bezae followed by a few critics who read Maria in Luke 2:19.

Possibly the Evangelists kept the archaic form of the name for the Blessed Virgin, so as to distinguish her from the other women who bore the same name. The Vulgate renders the name by Maria, both in the Old Testament and the New; Josephus (Ant. Jud., II, ix, 4) changes the name to Mariamme.[The] Septuagint … renders miryam by Marian, a form analogous to the Syriac and Aramaic word Maryam. I

n the New Testament the name of the Virgin Mary is always Mariam, excepting in the Vatican Codex and the Codex Bezae followed by a few critics who read Maria in Luke 2:19. Possibly the Evangelists kept the archaic form of the name for the Blessed Virgin, so as to distinguish her from the other women who bore the same name. The Vulgate renders the name by Maria, both in the Old Testament and the New; Josephus (Ant. Jud., II, ix, 4) changes the name to Mariamme.

So the name “Miriam” is a lot closer to the original than Latin Maria or the popular English “Mary”.

Interpretation, Meaning:

Many saints have held that the original definition of the name has great symbolism and meaning. Some scholars have seen it in the Hebrew words mar (bitter) and yam (sea). Probably referring to Mary’s sorrows and sufferings at the cross.

St Jerome however goes a different direction. He rendered it in Latin as Stillamaris, which is later changed to stella (star) maris. This is where the popular Marian title “Star of the Sea” comes from.

Another is from St Bonaventure who sought to unite different symbolism and meanings giving each one its own spiritual meaning:

This most holy, sweet and worthy name was eminently fitted to so holy, sweet and worthy a virgin. For Mary means a bitter sea, star of the sea, the illuminated or illuminatrix. Mary is interpreted [as] Lady. Mary is a bitter sea to the demons; to men she is the Star of the sea; to the Angels she is illuminatrix, and to all creatures she is Lady.

Hail Mary, full of Grace.

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