Martha of Bethany (Hebrew language, Hebrew: מַרְתָּא) is a Bible, biblical figure described in the Gospels of Gospel of Luke, Luke and Gospel of John, John. Together with her siblings Lazarus of Bethany, Lazarus and Mary of Bethany, she is described as living in the village of Bethany near Jerusalem. She was witness to Jesus resurrecting her brother, Lazarus of Bethany, Lazarus.

Etymology of the name

The name ''Martha'' is a Latin transliteration of the Koine Greek Μάρθα, itself a translation of the Aramaic מַרְתָּא ''Martâ,'' "the mistress" or "the lady," from מרה "mistress," feminine of מר "master." The Aramaic form occurs in a Nabatean inscription found at Puteoli, and now in the Naples Museum; it is dated AD 5 (Corpus Inscr. Semit., 158); also in a Tadmor, Syria, Palmyrene inscription, where the Greek translation has the form ''Marthein.'' Pope, Hugh
"St. Martha"
The Catholic Encyclopedia. Vol. 9. New York: Robert Appleton Company, 1910.

Biblical references

In the Gospel of Luke, Jesus Jesus at the home of Martha and Mary, visits the home of two sisters named Mary and Martha. The two sisters are contrasted: Martha was "encumbered about many things" while Jesus was their guest, while Mary had chosen "the better part", that of listening to the master's discourse."Mary"
Easton's Bible Dictionary, 1897.
The name of their village is not recorded, nor (unlike in John 11:18) is there any mention of whether Jesus was near Jerusalem. Biblical commentator Heinrich August Wilhelm Meyer, Heinrich Meyer notes that "Jesus cannot yet be in Bethany, where Martha and Mary dwelt [according to John's Gospel]". But the Cambridge Bible for Schools and Colleges claims that it was "undoubtedly Bethany". , by Henryk Siemiradzki, 1886 In the Gospel of John, Martha and Mary appear in connection with two incidents: the Lazarus of Bethany#The "Raising of Lazarus", raising from the dead of their brother Lazarus (John 11) and the anointing of Jesus in Bethany (John 12:3). In the account of the raising of Lazarus, Jesus meets with the sisters in turn: Martha followed by Mary. Martha goes immediately to meet Jesus as he arrives, while Mary waits until she is called. As one commentator notes, "Martha, the more aggressive sister, went to meet Jesus, while quiet and contemplative Mary stayed home. This portrayal of the sisters agrees with that found in Luke 10:38–42." In speaking with Jesus, both sisters lament that he did not arrive in time to prevent their brother's death: "Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died". But where Jesus' response to Mary is more emotional, his response to Martha is one of teaching, calling her to hope and faith: As the narrative continues, Martha calls her sister Mary to see Jesus. Jesus has Mary bring him to Lazarus' tomb where he commands the stone to be removed from its entrance. Martha here objects, "But, Lord, by this time there is a bad odor, for he has been there four days", to which Jesus replies, "Did I not tell you that if you believed, you would see the glory of God?". They then take away the stone and Jesus prays and calls Lazarus forth alive from the tomb. Martha appears again in John 12:1–8, where she serves at a meal held in Jesus' honor at which her brother is also a guest. The narrator only mentions that the meal takes place in Bethany, while the apparently parallel accounts in the Gospels of Gospel of Matthew, Matthew and Gospel of Mark, Mark specify that it takes place at the home of one Simon the Leper. As the Catholic Encyclopedia notes, "We are surely justified in arguing that, since Matthew and Mark place the scene in the house of Simon, St. John must be understood to say the same; it remains to be proven that Martha could not 'serve' in Simon's house." It is at this meal that a woman (Martha's sister Mary, according to John) anointing of Jesus, anoints Jesus with expensive perfume.

Western traditions

In medieval Western Christianity, Martha's sister Mary was often equated with Mary Magdalene. This identification led to additional information being attributed to Martha as well:
Mary, Martha, and Lazarus are represented by St. John as living at Bethania, but St. Luke would seem to imply that they were, at least at one time, living in Galilee; he does not mention the name of the town, but it may have been Magdala, and we should thus, supposing Mary of Bethania and Mary Magdalene to be the same person, understand the appellative "Magdalene". The words of St. John (11:1) seem to imply a change of residence for the family. It is possible, too, that St. Luke has displaced the incident referred to in Chapter 10. The likeness between the pictures of Martha presented by Luke and John is very remarkable. The familiar intercourse between the Saviour of the world and the humble family which St. Luke depicts is dwelt on by St. John when he tells us that "Jesus loved Martha, and her sister Mary, and Lazarus" (11:5). Again the picture of Martha's anxiety (John 11:20–21, 39) accords with the picture of her who was "busy about much serving" (Luke 10:40); so also in John 12:2: "They made him a supper there: and Martha served." But St. John has given us a glimpse of the other and deeper side of her character when he depicts her growing faith in Christ's Divinity (11:20–27), a faith which was the occasion of the words: "I am the resurrection and the life." The Evangelist has beautifully indicated the change that came over Martha after that interview: "When she had said these things, she went and called her sister Mary secretly, saying: The Master is come, and calleth for thee."

Eastern Orthodox tradition

In Eastern Orthodox Church tradition, though not specifically named as such in the gospels, Martha and Mary were among the Myrrh-bearers, Myrrh-bearing Women. These faithful followers of Jesus stood at Golgotha during the Crucifixion of Jesus and later came to his tomb early on the morning following Biblical Sabbath, Sabbath with myrrh (expensive oil), according to the Jewish tradition, to anoint their Lord's body. The Myrrhbearers became the first witnesses to the Resurrection of Jesus, finding the empty tomb and hearing the joyful news from an angel. Orthodox tradition also relates that Martha's brother Lazarus was cast out of Jerusalem in the persecution against the Jerusalem Church following the martyrdom of St. Stephen. His sister Martha fled Judea with him, assisting him in the proclaiming of the Gospel in various lands, while Mary Magdalene remained with John the Apostle and assisted him with the Church of Jerusalem. The three later came to Cyprus, where Lazarus became the first Bishop of Kittim (modern Larnaca). All three died in Cyprus.


Martha is venerated as a saint in the Roman Catholic Church and the Eastern Orthodox Church, and commemorated by the Lutheran Church and the Anglican Communion. Through time, as the reverence for St. Martha developed, the images of maturity, strength, common sense, and concern for others predominated.

Feast days

The Latin Church celebrates her feast day on July 29 and commemorates her sister Mary of Bethany and her brother Lazarus of Bethany on the same day. The feast of Martha, classified as a "Semi-Double" in the Tridentine Calendar, became a "Simple" in the General Roman Calendar of Pope Pius XII, a "Third-Class Feast" in the General Roman Calendar of 1960, and a "Memorial (liturgy), Memorial" in the present General Roman Calendar. The Eastern Orthodox and Byzantine Rite Eastern Catholic Churches commemorate Martha and her sister Mary on June 4. They also commemorate them collectively among the Myrrhbearers, Myrrh-bearing Women on the Sunday of the Myrrhbearers (the Third Sunday of Easter, Pascha—i.e., the second Sunday after Easter Sunday). Martha also figures in the commemorations of Lazarus Saturday (the day before Palm Sunday). Martha is commemorated on July 29 in the Calendar of Saints (Lutheran), Calendar of Saints of the Lutheran Church (together with her siblings Mary and Lazarus) and in the Calendar of saints (Episcopal Church in the United States of America), Calendar of saints of the Episcopal Church (United States), Episcopal Church. Martha is Calendar of saints (Church of England), remembered (with Mary of Bethany, Mary and Lazarus of Bethany, Lazarus) in the Church of England with a Lesser Festival (Anglicanism), Lesser Festival on July 29, 29 July.


The Sisters of St. Martha are a religious congregation founded in Antigonish, Nova Scotia, in 1894.


A number of churches are dedicated to St. Martha including: *Roman Catholic churches File:The Parish of Saint Martha at Sunrise, Nov. 2020.jpg, The Parish of Saint Martha in Imus, Cavite. The only parish in the Diocese of Imus dedicated to Saint Martha. * Europe: *** Église Sainte-Marthe de Tarascon in Tarascon, France; ** United States: *** St. Martha Catholic Church in Morton Grove, Illinois, and others in East Providence, Rhode Island; Valinda, California; Kingwood, Texas; Harvey, Louisiana; Plainville, Massachusetts; and Prestonsburg, Kentucky ** Asia ***Roman Catholic Diocese of Pasig: Pateros Church, Diocesan Shrine of St. Martha and Parish of St. Roch, Pateros, Pateros, Philippines, and St. Martha Parish of Kalawaan Pasig City. ***Roman Catholic Diocese of Imus: Saint Martha Parish, Greengate Homes, Malagasang II-A, City of Imus, Province of Cavite. * Australia: ** Strathfield, New South Wales * Anglican Communion: **Canada: ***St Mary and St Martha in Toronto, Ontario ** England: *** St Martha's Hill, St Martha-on-the-Hill in Surrey *** Broxtowe, Nottingham, Broxtowe, Nottinghamshire ** United States: St. Martha's Episcopal Church in: *** Papillion, Nebraska *** Bethany Beach, Delaware *** Lexington, Kentucky *** Saints Martha & Mary, Eagan, MN * Methodist: ** St Martha's Methodist Church in Tring, Hertfordshire, England, United Kingdom * Lutheran: ** St. Mary and St. Martha Lutheran Church, San Francisco, California, United States


Golden Legend

According to legend, St. Martha left Judea after Jesus' resurrection, around AD 48, and went to Provence with her sister Mary of Bethany, Mary (conflated with Mary Magdalene) and her brother Lazarus. With them, Martha first settled in Avignon (now in France). The ''Golden Legend'', compiled in the 13th century, records the Provençal tradition:
Saint Martha, hostess of our Lord Jesus Christ, was born of a royal kindred. Her father was named Syro and her mother Encharia. The father of her was duke of Syria and places maritime, and Martha with her sister possessed by the heritage of their mother three places, that was, the castle Magdalen, and Bethany and a part of Jerusalem. It is nowhere read that Martha had ever any husband nor fellowship of man, but she as a noble hostess ministered and served our Lord, and would also that her sister should serve him and help her, for she thought that all the world was not sufficient to serve such a guest.

After the ascension of our Lord, when the disciples were departed, she with her brother Lazarus and her sister Mary, also Saint Maximin of Trier, Maximin [actually a 3rd-century figure] which baptized them, and to whom they were committed of the Holy Ghost, and many others, were put into a ship without sail, oars, or rudder governail, of the paynims, which by the conduct of our Lord they came all to Marseilles, and after came to the territory of Aquense or Aix-en-Provence, Aix, and there converted the people to the faith. Martha was right facound of speech, and courteous and gracious to the sight of the people."The Life of Saint Martha"
, text from the ''Golden Legend''.
The ''Golden Legend'' also records the grand lifestyle imagined for Martha and her siblings in its entry on Mary Magdalene:
Mary Magdalene had her surname of Magdala, a castle, and was born of right noble lineage and parents, which were descended of the lineage of kings. And her father was named Cyrus, and her mother Eucharis. She with her brother Lazarus, and her sister Martha, possessed the castle of Magdala, which is two miles from Nazareth, and Bethany, the castle which is nigh to Jerusalem, and also a great part of Jerusalem, which, all these things they departed among them. In such wise that Mary had the castle Magdala, whereof she had her name Magdalene. And Lazarus had the part of the city of Jerusalem, and Martha had to her part Bethany. And when Mary gave herself to all delights of the body, and Lazarus entended all to knighthood, Martha, which was wise, governed nobly her brother's part and also her sister's, and also her own, and administered to knights, and her servants, and to poor men, such necessities as they needed. Nevertheless, after the ascension of our Lord, they sold all these things.

St. Martha in Tarascon

A further legend relates that Martha then went to Tarascon, France, where a monster, the Tarasque, was a constant threat to the population. The ''Golden Legend'' describes it as a beast from Galicia; a great dragon, half beast and half fish, greater than an ox, longer than a horse, having teeth sharp as a sword, and horned on either side, head like a lion, tail like a serpent, that dwelt in a certain wood between Arles and Avignon. Holding a cross in her hand, Martha sprinkled the beast with holy water. Placing her sash around its neck, she led the tamed dragon through the village. There Martha lived, daily occupied in prayers and in fastings. Martha eventually died in Tarascon, where she was buried. Her tomb is located in the crypt of the Église Sainte-Marthe de Tarascon, local Collegiate Church. Image:Église Collégiale Sainte Marthe (Tarascon).jpg, upÉglise Sainte-Marthe de Tarascon, St Martha's Collegiate Church in Tarascon The dedication of the Collegiate Church at Tarascon to St. Martha is believed to date from the 9th century or earlier. Relics found in the church during a reconstruction in 1187 were identified as hers, and reburied in a new shrine at that time. In the Collegiate Church crypt is a late 15th-century cenotaph, also known as the Gothic Tomb of Saint Martha. It is the work of Francesco Laurana, a Croatian sculptor of the Italian School, commissioned by René of Anjou, King René. At its base are two openings through which the relics could be touched. It bears three low reliefs separated by fluted pilasters representing: on the left, Saint Martha and the Tarasque; in the center, Saint Mary Magdalene borne aloft by the angels; on the right, Lazarus as Bishop of Marseille with his mitre and staff. There are two figures on either side: on the left, Saint Front, Bishop of Perrigueux, present at the funeral of Saint Martha, and on the right, Saint Marcelle, Martha's servant.

St. Martha and Villajoyosa

The town of Villajoyosa, Spain, honors St. Martha as its patron saint and celebrates The Festival of Moros y Cristianos, Moors and Christians annually in her honor. The 250-year-old festival commemorates the attack on Villajoyosa by Berber pirates led by Zalé-Arraez in 1538, when, according to legend, St. Martha came to the rescue of the townsfolk by causing a flash flood which wiped out the enemy fleet, thus preventing the corsairs from reaching the coast.

Gnostic tradition

Martha appears in the sacred gnostic text Pistis Sophia. She is instructed by the risen Christ on several of the repentances that must be made in order to have salvation. She also makes several prophetic interpretations of different Psalms.

Depictions in art and literature

The subject of Martha is mostly found in art from the Counter-Reformation onwards, especially in the 17th century, when the domestic setting is usually given a realistic depiction. However it appears in some Ottonian art, Ottonian cycles of the ''Life of Christ in art, Life of Christ''. * Christ in the House of Martha and Mary (Velázquez), ''Christ in the House of Martha and Mary'' (Velázquez), a 1618 oil-on-canvas painting by the Spanish painter Velázquez. * Christ in the House of Martha and Mary (Vermeer), ''Christ in the House of Martha and Mary'' (Vermeer), a 1655 painting by Johannes Vermeer. * Martha and Mary Magdalene (Caravaggio), ''Martha and Mary Magdalene'' (Caravaggio), a 1598-9 painting by the Italian Baroque master Michelangelo Merisi da Caravaggio. Literary works about Martha include: * "Martha and Mary", a story in Karel Čapek's ''Apocryphal Tales'' (1932) * "Martha & the Dragon", a poem by Charles Causley in his collected works. * "Sons of Martha, The Sons of Martha" (1907), a poem by Rudyard Kipling. * In The Handmaid's Tale, the dystopian novel of Margaret Atwood, infertile women forced to be servants for the ruling class are called Marthas, as their service is considered imitating Martha in this fictive fundamental Christian society.


File:Saint martha.jpg, Martha from the Isabella Breviary, 1497 File:Vincentius Bellovacensis Speculum historiale fol 340v détail.jpg, Martha and the Tarasque, from a 15th-century manuscript File:Saint Martha of Hagonoy, Bulacan, Philippines.jpg, Statue of Saint Martha used in Holy Week Processions at the National Shrine and Parish of Saint Anne in Hagonoy, Bulacan, Philippines File:Santa Marta de Tarascon, Imus, Cavite.jpg, frame, The venerable image of Saint Martha at her parish in Imus, Cavite, Philippines. She is depicted with the tarasque. File:Santa Marta de Cavite (Tarascon).jpg, frame, A closer look of the venerable image of Saint Martha of Imus, Cavite, Philippines.

See also

* Jesus at the home of Martha and Mary * Lazarus of Bethany * Mary of Bethany * Myrrhbearers * Santa Marta de Pateros (Philippine Version) * 205 Martha


Further reading


External links

* * * * {{Authority control Followers of Jesus Saints from the Holy Land Order of the Eastern Star 1st-century Christian female saints Christian saints from the New Testament Roman-era Jews Women in the New Testament Anglican saints