🔼The name Maria in the Bible
For some reason, the Biblical name Maria was turned into Mary in the English speaking world (and see our article on that name for a closer look at Mary's literary function in the Bible). But the name Maria is still very popular in the rest of it. And it seems that the name Maria was also quite popular in the time of Jesus. There is a surprisingly large amount of Marias mentioned in the New Testament:
- The most famous Maria, of course, is the mother of Jesus (Matthew 1:16).
- A close second is Mary Magdalene (Matthew 27:56).
- Then there are: Maria, the wife of Clopas (John 19:25).
- The sister of Lazarus and Martha (John 11:1).
- The mother of John Mark (Acts 12:12).
- A disciple in Rome who Paul mentions in his epistle to the Roman congregation (Romans 16:6).
🔼Etymology of the name Maria
The name Maria is Greek but it is a transliteration of the Hebrew name Miriam. When the Bible was translated from Greek to Latin, the translators had a problem because Μαριαμ, the Greek version of the Hebrew name Miriam, looked like an accusative form. And that would make Mariam look like the grammatical object of every sentence she featured in. The translators solved the problem by neatly omitting the -m, and thus the name Maria saw the light.
The name Miriam is probably very old; it stems from Egypt, together with other typical Levite names such as Moses and Aaron, and it's probably derived from a word that means Beloved. But to a Hebrew audience it probably seemed as if the name Miriam had something to do with the verb מרה (mara) meaning to be rebellious or disobedient. And this new Greek name Maria may have seemed more akin to the Hebrew and Aramaic verb מרר (marar), meaning to be bitter or strong:
NOBSE Study Bible Name List doesn't treat Maria but for Mary it reads a brusque "same as Miriam," and proposes Obstinacy (Stubbornness) for Miriam. Jones' Dictionary of Old Testament Proper Names reads Their Rebellion for Miriam.