As a pastor and professor of theology, I always seek to understand the significance of the people whom God chose to fulfill his purposes on earth. From Jacob to Moses to John the Baptist and even Jesus Christ, the BibleBible is full of people to whom God used to send divine messages to his people. Since there are up to six Marys mentioned in the Bible, I’ve always wondered, “What does Mary symbolize in the Bible?”
Luke 1:30–35 suggests that the Virgin Mary conceived her son by the power of the Holy Spirit, which symbolizes God’s ability to carry out his will in our lives. Also, the righteous lives that the Marys mentioned in the Bible led are examples of how Christians should live to attain spiritual growth in Christ.
Join me as I explore the symbolism and meaning of the different Marys in the Bible so that we can better understand the divine messages that God intended to convey through them.
How does the BibleBible describe Mary?
There are six Marys mentioned in the BibleBible:
Mary, the mother of Jesus, was a humble and faithful servant whom the Lord chose to be the mother of Jesus Christ. According to Luke 1:28, the angel Gabriel described Mary as one who was highly favored because the Lord had chosen her to give birth to Jesus Christ, who was the Messiah (Luke 2:11). Also, Luke 2:22–40 and Luke 2:41 describe Mary as a Jewish woman who followed the Law of the Lord as written by Moses. She and Joseph presented Jesus to the Lord for the purification rites, and they celebrated the Festival of the Passover every year in Jerusalem.
Mary Magdalene was one of Jesus’ followers from whom he cast out seven demons (Luke 8:2). She was among the women present during Jesus’ crucifixion on the cross (John 19:25). She went with Mary, the mother of James, and Salome to anoint Jesus’ body in the tomb (Mark 16:1). This led her to be among the first people to witness Jesus’ resurrection (John 20:11–18). The BibleBible describes Mary Magdalene as a devoted and faithful follower of Christ.
Mary of Bethany was the sister of Martha and Lazarus. The BibleBible describes her as completely devoted to the service of Jesus Christ to the exclusion of everyone else. She chose to sit at Jesus’ feet and listen to his teachings over helping her sister Martha with serving the guests (Luke 10:38–42). Before Jesus’ crucifixion, Mary anointed his feet with expensive perfume and wiped them with her hair, despite being criticized by Judas Iscariot (John 12:1–8).
The remaining Marys are not accounted for as much as the first three. Mary, the wife of Clopas, was among the women who witnessed Jesus’ crucifixion and resurrection (John 19:25; Mark 16:1). The believers met at the home of Mary, the mother of John Mark, for prayers (Acts 12:12). Paul mentions Mary from the church at Rome in his greetings and describes her as hard-working (Romans 16:6).
What are the virtues of Mary according to the Catholic Church?
The Catholic Church suggests that Christians can obtain salvation and lead a holy life by imitating the evangelical virtues that the Blessed Virgin Mary models for us:
Luke 2:19 and Luke 2:51 imply that Mary listened to things that were said to her and pondered them in her heart. This points to the virtue of prudence, which means carefully considering our options to make the right decision.
In Luke 1:45, Elizabeth suggests that Mary was faithful, for she believed that God would fulfill the promises he had made to her.
Here, the Catholic Church refers to Mary’s simplicity of heart and detachment from earthly possessions (Luke 2:7).
Mary demonstrated patience when she endured her son’s suffering with complete trust in God (John 19:25).
Mary demonstrated mercy when she learned that her relative Elizabeth was pregnant in her old age. She went to stay with her for three months, presumably helping her (Luke 1:56).
Lastly, the Catholic Church refers to Mary as the “Most Sorrowful” in regard to Simeon’s prophecy that a sword would pierce her soul (Luke 2:35). Indeed, Mary endured great sorrow as her son was crucified on the cross.
What does the name Mary mean in the BibleBible?
The Hebrew variation of the name Mary is “Miryam,” which theologians have interpreted to mean “sea of bitterness,” “rebelliousness,” or “beloved.” Since there’s no definite meaning to the name Mary in the Bible, we can use the meaning “sea of bitterness” to refer to the bitter sorrows that the Marys mentioned in the BibleBible endured. Mary, mother of Jesus, Mary Magdalene, and Mary, wife of Clopas, were followers of Jesus Christ, and they watched in agony as Jesus was crucified on the cross (John 19:25). Mary of Bethany mourned the death of her brother Lazarus, but she was comforted when Jesus brought him back to life (John 11:1–43). Before Jesus cured her, Mary Magdalene was tormented by evil spirits (Luke 8:2).
What does Mary represent in Christianity?
The Marys in the Bible are significant figures in Christianity who represent the following:
- God’s grace – the Lord chose the Virgin Mary to be the mother of Jesus Christ because she had found favor in his eyes (Luke 1:28). The Hail Mary prayer in the Catholic Church describes Mary as full of grace; hence, she represents the presence of God’s grace in the lives of those who believe in and worship him.
- Virtue – As followers of the teachings of Christ, the Marys mentioned in the BibleBible are models of virtues like purity, humility, obedience, and devotion. They represent righteousness and servitude to God.
- Discipleship – Mary Magdalene, Mary of Bethany, Mary the wife of Clopas, and Mary the mother of John Mark, were devout followers of Jesus Christ. Through them, Christians learn about the challenging yet fulfilling journey of being Disciples of Christ.
What was special about Mary in the Bible?
The most significant thing that distinguished the Virgin Mary from all the other women in the BibleBible was that she was the mother of Jesus Christ. She is also the only woman in the BibleBible who conceived a baby with the power of the Holy Spirit.
On the other hand, Mark 16:9 suggests that Mary Magdalene was the first person to see Jesus after his resurrection. As for Mary of Bethany, the thing that set her apart was her complete and pure devotion to her Lord Jesus Christ.
What is the biblical symbolic meaning of Mary?
The Virgin Mary’s ability to conceive a son with the power of the Holy Spirit symbolizes God’s ability to carry out his will in our lives (Luke 1:30–35). The angel Gabriel declared that no word from God will ever fail (Luke 1:37), and indeed, Mary conceived and gave birth to a son without engaging in any sexual relations with Joseph. Also, Mary’s divine role as the mother of the Son of God, even though she was just a humble servant, symbolizes the uplifting power of God’s grace in the lives of Christians. In her song (Luke 1:46–55), Mary acknowledged that the Lord had done great things for her and that he does the same for those who fear him.
On the other hand, the righteous lives that the Marys mentioned in the BibleBible led are examples of how Christians should live to attain spiritual growth in Christ. They model for us humility, obedience, compassion, devotion, and faithfulness.
What are some symbols that represent Mary?
Some of the symbols that represent Mary include:
- The lily represents Mary’s virginity and purity. There is a type of white lily that blooms when Catholics celebrate the Assumption of Mary.
- The iris has sword-like leaves that represent Mary’s seven sorrows, according to Catholic doctrine.
- The Crown: Most Christian art depicts Mary wearing a crown of stars, which represents her role as the queen over the people of God.
- The star – a symbol of a star with ten rays represents the ten virtues of Mary that Christians seek to emulate. The Catholic Church also refers to Mary as the “morning star” to signify her role in guiding and leading Christians closer to Jesus Christ.
- The Immaculate Heart of Mary represents Mary’s undying love for Christians, and the white roses encircling it represent her purity of heart. Some images depict a sword going through the heart, which symbolizes the sorrow that the priest Simeon prophesied she would endure during Jesus’ crucifixion.
As a devout Christian, I have always been passionate about the Christian faith. This inspired me to pursue a degree in Religious studies and a Masters in Theology in college. I have also been privileged to teach 4 Christian courses in a college and university. Since I am dedicated to spreading the word of God, I am actively involved in the Church. Additionally, I share his word online and cover diverse topics on the Christian faith through my platform. You can read more about me on the about us page.