Correcting Confusion about the Identities of Persons in the Gospels

See this Genealogical Table, adapted from the writings of Blessed Anne Catherine Emmerich and Sacred Scripture.

{19:25} And standing beside the cross of Jesus were his mother, and his mother’s sister, and Mary of Cleophas, and Mary Magdalene.

Standing beside the Cross of Jesus, there were four women:
1. Mary, the mother of Jesus, whose parents were Anna and Joachim (called Heli in Luke 3:24)
2. Maria, the older sister of the Blessed Virgin Mary; the sister was called Maria of Heli, according to Blessed Anne Catherine Emmerich
3. Mary of Cleophas, the daughter of Maria of Heli and Cleophas (the nephew of St. Joseph)
4. Mary Magdalene (a wealthy, formerly sinful, woman from Magdala; the sister of Martha and Lazarus)

5. Salome, also called Mary Salome, is mentioned in Sacred Scripture (Mk 15:40 and 16:1). She also was among the holy women who followed Jesus.

According to Blessed Anne Catherine Emmerich:

“Mary the mother of James the younger and of Joseph” (Mk 15:40) is the same as Mary Cleophas. She married Alphaeus, and three of their sons were Apostles: Jude Thaddeus, Simon the Zealot, and James the Less. Matthew (Levi) the Apostle was the son of Alphaeus by his first wife.

Mary Salome married Zebedee, and two of their sons were Apostles: James the Greater and John the Gospel writer.

All the aforementioned Apostles (6 of them) were related distantly. Eluid was a Levite who married Ismeria. Their daughter Sobe was the mother of Mary Salome. Their daughter Anna (wife of Joachim) was the mother of the Blessed Virgin Mary and Maria of Heli, the grandmother of Mary Cleophas, and the great-grandmother to Jude, Simon, and James the Less. Matthew would be related to Anna only by the later marriage of his father to Mary Cleophas, so Matthew was the half-brother to Jude, Simon, and James the Less.

In addition, Acts of the Apostles mentions another Mary:

{12:12} And as he was considering this, he arrived at the house of Mary, the mother of John, who was surnamed Mark, where many were gathered and were praying.

This John Mark was the Gospel writer Mark, who fled with Peter to Rome during one of the first persecutions of Christians in the Holy Land.

Matthew versus Luke

As for the genealogies of Matthew and Luke, Matthew tell us the genealogy of Joseph, who was the legal father of Jesus under religious law, especially since he was betrothed to Mary prior to the Incarnation of Christ.

“According to Jewish custom, marriage took place in two stages: first, the legal, or true marriage was celebrated, and then, only after a certain period of time, the husband brought the wife into his own house. Thus, before he lived with Mary, Joseph was already her ‘husband.’ ” (Pope John Paul II, Redemptoris Custos)

In other words, the betrothal was the beginning of the marriage in the Jewish religion.

The promise that the Messiah would be descended from Abraham and David was fulfilled under the law through Joseph, the legal father of Jesus (though not the father according to the body). The promise was fulfilled according to the body, by physical descent, through Mary. Matthew gives us Joseph’s genealogy; Luke gives us Mary’s genealogy.

{3:23} And Jesus himself was beginning to be about thirty years old, being (as it was supposed) the son of Joseph, who was of Heli, who was of Matthat,
{3:24} who was of Levi, who was of Melchi, who was of Jannai, who was of Joseph,

The text says “being (as it was supposed) the son of Joseph” because Joseph’s name stands in the place of Mary. Jewish genealogies are through the father’s line, not generally through the mother’s line. As the rabbis say: “The father’s line is a line; the mother’s line is not a line.” The verse says “as it was supposed” to indicate that Joseph is not in this line, he merely represents Mary. So Mary was the daughter of Heli, another name for Joachim (according to Blessed Emmerich).

Also according to Emmerich:

“Joachim was poor and a relative of St. Joseph. Josephs grandfather Mathan had descended from David through Solomon. He had two sons, Joses and Jacob. The latter was Josephs father. When Mathan died, his widow married a second husband named Levi, descendant of David through Nathan. The fruit of this marriage was Mathat, the father of Heli, or Joachim.” (Life of Jesus Christ, Volume 1)

Joseph was the son of Jacob, who was the son of Mathan (a descendant of David through Solomon, as the Gospel of Matthew says). Mathan’s widow married Levi (a descendant of David through Nathan, as the Gospel of Luke says), and their son was Matthat, the father of Heli (i.e. Joachim). So the father of Joachim (Matthat) and the father of Joseph (Jacob) were half brothers. This makes Joseph and Joachim half first cousins.

The Children of Joachim and Anna

Ss. Joachim and Anna had two daughter (no sons) — the Blessed Virgin Mary and her older sister, called Mary of Heli. The second name of a person in that time and culture was often the first name of the father. So Maria Heli is the daughter (not the wife) of Heli.

Maria of Heli married Cleophas (the nephew of Joseph), and her daughter is Mary Cleophas — the daughter, not the wife, of Cleophas. Mary Cleophas married Alphaeus, and their sons included the three Apostles: Jude Thaddeus, Simon the Zealot, and James the younger (the less).

Alphaeus had a son by his first wife; that son is Matthew (Levi) the Apostle and Gospel writer.

James the greater was called ‘greater’ because he was older than James the younger. James the greater and his brother John the Gospel writer were distant cousins of Jude, Simon, and James the less. The grandmother of James and John was the sister of the great-grandmother (Anna) of Jude, Simon, and James the less.

This explanation of genealogies was revealed to Blessed Anne Catherine Emmerich by God in private revelation. But it is also in accord with Sacred Scripture.

Last Names

Some of the women in the New Testament have an apparent last name; this is not the same as last names in our time. For example:

Mary Magdalene was from Magdala, so her last name is a place. We could also call her Mary of Magdala. Jesus of Nazareth: He grew up in Nazareth. Jesus Christ: He is the Christ, the Anointed savior of the world.

Maria Heli — Heli is the other first name used to refer to Joachim. So Maria Heli is not the wife of Heli, but the dauther.

Mary Cleophas — Cleophas was her father’s first name, not her husband’s first name.

Mary Salome — Salomo was her father’s first name, not her husband’s first name.

This type of last name shows the lineage of the woman, by referring to her father, not to her spouse as some have claimed.

Similar examples can be found of men:

James of Zebedee (Mt 10:3) — Zebedee is the name of his father.
James of Alphaeus (Mt 10:3) — Alphaeus is the name of his father.

Judas Iscariot (Mt 10:4) [is-cariot, meaning man of Carioth, a place]
Simon the Canaanite (Mt 10:4) — Canaan is an area, but Canaanite is an ethnicity.

On the other hand:
Simon Zelotes (the Zealous) — the name describeds his character, that he had a zeal for the Jewish law (this implies also that he was very literate).

Ronald L. Conte Jr.
Roman Catholic theologian and Biblical scholar

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