Catholic Encyclopedia – Saint Martha

detail of a stained glass window of Saint Martha of Bethany; date and artist unknown; Saint-Michel abbey church, Saint-Mihiel, France; photographed on 30 November 2008 by Vassil; swiped from Wikimedia CommonsArticle

Mentioned only in Luke 10:38-42; and John 11, 12, sqq. The Aramaic form occurs in a Nabat├Žan inscription found at Puteoli, and now in the Naples Museum; it is dated A.D. 5; also in a Palmyrene inscription, where the Greek translation has the form Marthein, A.D. 179.

Mary, Martha, and Lazarus are represented by Saint John as living at Bethania, but Saint 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 Saint John (11:1) seem to imply a change of residence for the family. It is possible, too, that Saint 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 Saint Luke depicts is dwelt on by Saint 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 Saint 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.”

Difficulties have been raised about the last supper at Bethania. Saint John seems to put it six days before the Pasch, and, so some conclude, in the house of Martha; while the Synoptic account puts it two days before the Pasch, and in the house of Simon the Leper. We need not try to avoid this difficulty by asserting that there were two suppers; for Saint John does not say that the supper took place six days before, but only that Christ arrived in Bethania six days before the Pasch; nor does he say that it was in the house of Martha. We are surely justified in arguing that, since Saint Matthew and Saint Mark place the scene in the house of Simon, Saint John must be understood to say the same; it remains to be proved that Martha could not “serve” in Simon’s house.

MLA Citation

  • Hugh Pope. “Saint Martha”. Catholic Encyclopedia, 1910. CatholicSaints.Info. 16 November 2018. Web. 17 April 2021. <>