Dialogue with Father James Martin– Part Five

Dialogue with Father James Martin– Part Five September 21, 2023

Q. It appears that Mary, Martha, and Lazarus are all single. This seems odd since they are all adults.  What is the best way to explain this?

A. Oh, there are so many explanations about that.  One of the joys of writing this book has been doing some real exploration into competing theories about different parts of the story.  In this case, some say, relying on a connection to Simon the Leper (and the fact that Bethany could be possibly translated as “House of Affliction” and might have been a place where the sick lived, far from the Temple) that the three of them might have suffered from leprosy.  Thus, they are sequestered and single. 

There is also the theory that because Martha and Mary are two unmarried women with an unmarried brother that possibly Lazarus had some sort of physical or mental disability, and the two unmarried sisters were caring for him.  (It also may explain why Martha and Mary speak, but Lazarus does not.)  This would make his being called by the sisters to Jesus, “he whom you love” especially poignant.  And, interestingly, In Luke, Jesus visits Martha’s house, not Lazarus’s house, which seems surprising in a patriarchal culture. (Amy-Jill Levine, however, suggests that it wasn’t unusual for women to own their own homes.) 

But in the end, who knows?  It’s one of the many questions I’m planning on asking if I get to heaven. 

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