555 Difficult Bible Questions Answered

222. Were There Two Anointments by Two Different Marys, She of Bethany and Mary Magdalene?




There have been many conflicting interpretations of the Scripture narrative concerning Mary of Bethany and the woman spoken of in Luke 7:37. The majority agree that there were two anointings, one during Jesus' Galilean ministry (Luke 7), the other at Bethany before the last entry into Jerusalem (Matt. 26, Mark 14, John 12). There is not the slightest trace in the Scripture story of any blot on the life of Mary of Bethany. The epithet, Magdalene, seems to have been chosen for the especial purpose of distinguishing the one to whom it was applied from other Marys. Mary or Maryam was a common name, which seems to have led to misunderstanding. Some of the earliest Church writers entirely reject the identification of the two Marys, although it is an error into which not a few have fallen. It is to be noted that Luke 7:37 speaks of a woman "which was a sinner," but gives no name, while Luke 10:38, 39 speaks of Mary and Martha as though neither had been named before and without any evidence of previous reference. The whole question is one concerning which no one can speak with final authority although the reasonable inference is, as we have said, that they were different individuals.