The Name the Apostle John Wouldn’t Utter

Posted on September 26, 2022


By David Ettinger

Why Not Him?
She is referred to by name in the Gospels penned by Matthew, Mark, and Luke. But not John.

Yes, John did use this very common name, but not when referring to a particular individual. So then, why would the first 3 Gospel writers refer to her by name, but not John? Let’s take a look.

A Beautiful Name
The individual is Mary, the mother of Jesus. In Hebrew, the name Miriam – though quite common in ancient Israel – is nonetheless a beautiful one. In fact, if I had a daughter, that’s the name I would have wanted for her.

The Israelites in Jesus’s day evidently agreed, hence the saturation of it not only in Israel, but in the New Testament. There are several Marys in the Gospels, and John refers to them by name, but not her.

Rather, John refers to her as the “mother of Jesus” (2:1; 3); and “His mother” (2:12; 19:25, 26). But not “Mary” – as did Matthew, Mark, and Peter. Though the reason for this omission is not explained in Scripture, there is logic to it.

As Jesus was accomplishing that for which He had come to Earth (1 Peter 2:24), He was in agony. As his life was seeping away on a Roman cross, the drawn-out process was excruciating, but Jesus nonetheless had one final matter to see to – His mother’s wellbeing. We read:

Now beside the cross of Jesus stood His mother, His mother’s sister, Mary the wife of Clopas, and Mary Magdalene. So when Jesus saw His mother, and the disciple whom He loved standing nearby, He said to His mother, “Woman, behold, your son!” Then He said to the disciple, “Behold, your mother!” And from that hour the disciple took her into his own household (John 19:26-27, emphasis added).

A Matter of Respect
Jesus did not merely command John to take care of His mother physically; He commanded John to take Mary into His home as his mother. He was to love her as his mother, see to her needs as his mother, and provide the emotional support she would need after watching her Son die.

Yes, Jesus rose again, but not as Mary’s earthly Son; His place would be at the right hand of God (Acts 2:33; Colossians 3:1). There would still be grief and a longing in her heart for a son that only a mother can possess. John was to fill that emotional hole in her heart.

Of the 4 Gospels, John’s was written at the latest date – sometime between A.D. 85 and 95. Mary had begun living in John’s home in A.D. 32. We don’t know when Mary died, but it is reasonable to assume she spent a good amount of years living under John’s roof – perhaps even decades.

It is also reasonable to assume that John treated her as a mother and gave her the respect a mother deserves. Perhaps he had come to love her as a mother, and even called her “mother.”

As his “mother,” John – even in his writing – would not have felt comfortable calling Mary by name. Children rarely call their parents by their first name, and John was no exception. To John, Jesus’ mother was not “Mary,” but “Mother.”

The other apostles had no such closeness to Mary, hence their reference to her given name. For John, however, Jesus’ mother was his mother; hence he did not feel comfortable calling her “Mary.”

Just a factoid, but one that gives a touch more flesh and blood to our glorious, Holy Scriptures!