Mary and Martha are Biblical Favorites, but Who Were They?

Two models of Christian devotion.

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Mary and Martha need not tame dragons to engage the modern reader. Whether one imagines the sisters in a dusty biblical town, in Vermeer's 17th-century Holland, or even as contemporary women, they have much to offer beyond their imagined rivalry. In Vermeer's painting, Jesus points toward Mary, not as a rebuke to Martha but as a gentle reminder that leadership demands both the ability to listen and the ability to act. Finally, Mary and Martha are not at odds but form two parts of a whole.