🔼The name Martha: Summary
- Mistress, Myrrh
- From the verb מרר (marar), to be bitter or strong.
🔼The name Martha in the Bible
🔼Etymology of the name Martha
The name Martha comes from the verb מרר (marar), meaning to be bitter:
The verb מרר (marar) means to be strong or bitter and can be used to describe tastes and smells, and hard or difficult situations.
Adjectives מר (mar) and מרירי (meriri) mean bitter. Nouns מרור (maror) and מרורה (merora) refer to any bitter thing, the former specifically to a certain bitter herb, and the latter to gall or poison.
Noun מררה (merera) also means gal. Nouns מרה (morra), מרה (mora), מרירות (merirut), ממר (memer), ממרור (mamror) and תמרור (tamrur) mean bitterness. The latter noun is spelled identical to the noun תמרור (tamrur), meaning marker or sign post, from the root תמר (tamar), meaning to be stiff or erect.
And speaking of such, the nouns מר (mor) and מור (mor) mean myrrh, a bitter and fragrant spice that was originally used to mark the tabernacle, but which came to be used to proclaim, olfactorily, the consummation of marriage. Hence, despite its links to words that mostly describe hardship, myrrh oil was known as the "oil of joy."
Verb מרה (mara) means to be contentious or rebellious, particularly against God. Noun מרי (meri) means rebellion.
The verb מור (mor) means to change. Perhaps the connection between the previous is coincidental but perhaps these words are indeed linked, as change is often reaction to bitterness or opposition. The noun תמורה (temura) means exchange.
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, Talmud Bavli, Talmud Yerushalmi and 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.