🔼The name Martha in the Bible
🔼Etymology of the name Martha
The name Martha comes from the verb מרר (marar), meaning to be bitter:
By the time Israel spoke Aramaic, the root מרר (marar), or rather the truncation מר (mar), had fallen apart into several separated groups of words. And there were some other words that had yielded derivations that were indistinguishable from mar. Marcus Jastrow's Dictionary of the Targumim, the talmud Babli and Yerushalmi, and the Midrashic Literature lists the following:
- מר (mar) means myrrh (a bitter herb) and pronounced slightly different from the following five identical words.
- מר (mar I) means to speak or say. This word comes from the verb אמר (amar), meaning to speak.
- מר (mar II), meaning bitter.
- מר (mar III), meaning to exchange, probably from מור (mwr).
- מר (mar IV), meaning to be strong. This word slowly became an authoritative title, meaning boss, lord or master, and went on to denote the owner and master of a house.
The latter version of the word מר made feminine forms the word מרת (mrt), which is pronounced marta. This is the Aramaic form of the Greek name Martha.
The name Martha means Lady Boss, Mistress, Land Lady. The two sisters Maria and Martha quite obviously represent Israel's general cultural leaning (with brother Lazarus playing the part of Israel's long suffering priestly tradition). The two names Maria and Martha are very closely related in an etymological sense, yet Maria is a Hellenized version of the original Hebrew name Miriam (the sister of Moses), whereas Martha is the Hellenized version of its Aramaic counterpart.
The mini-series of Bethany stories form a small novel that discusses Israel's cultural evolution from Egypt to Hebrew to Aramaic, finally viewed through Greek's wide but distorting lens: Maria mostly attends Jesus' words whereas Martha is mostly concerned with sweeping the floor.