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Cast of Characters: Twelve women who were eyewitnesses, patrons, disciples and apostles

Before I could begin to write a novel set in a harmony of the Gospels, I needed to clarify the women who were followers of Jesus, eyewitnesses, patrons, disciples, and apostles.

"Forgotten Followers: From Broken to Bold, Book 1, is a biblical fiction. For the fiction, Mary of Clopas is portrayed as healing from trauma, while Joanna is overcoming racial imposter syndrome. Each woman who follows Jesus has personal challenges to overcome, to become whole and bold enough to obey what God calls them to do. Readers will come to know the following twelve women disciples:

Mara of Clopas: (Mara is a variation of Mary)


Mary of Clopas was a follower of Jesus who cared for his needs and an eyewitness at his death, burial, and resurrection. The Bible refers to Mary of Clopas eight times:

  • Jesus's mother, his mother's sister, Mary the wife of Clopas, and Mary Magdalene near the cross (John 19:25), Some suggest that "mother's sister" is not an adjective for Mary of Clopas but possibly a placeholder for Salome, the mother of Zebedee's sons (Matthew 27:56)

  • Mary the mother of James and Joses at the cross (Matthew 27:56)

  • Mary the mother of James the Less and Joses at the cross (Mark 15:40)

  • Mary the mother of Joses saw the tomb where Jesus was laid (Mark 15:47)

  • the other Mary and Mary Magdalene sitting opposite the tomb at Jesus's burial (Matthew 27:61, Luke 23:55)

  • the other Mary went to the tomb, saw angels who said he had risen and saw Jesus on the road (Matthew 28:1-10)

  • Mary, the mother of James, went to the tomb and saw an angel who told them to tell the disciples but they were too afraid (Mark 16:1-8)

  • Mary, the mother of James, went to the tomb, saw angels and reported back to the disciples (Luke 24:1-10). Some suggest that this "mother of James" could also refer to Jesus's mother and to Zebedee's wife since they also had a son named James.

Mary of Clopas may also be included when Clopas walks with a companion on the way to Emmaus (Mark 16:12, Luke 24:13-32).

The variety of names for Mary of Clopas may have contributed to the diminished remembrance of her and her role as a disciple and apostle. Let's look briefly at the James referred to in the above verses. This James is always distinct from James, the son of Zebedee, brother of John, sometimes called Apostle James the Great. Herod Agrippa killed James, the son of Zebedee and brother of John, by the sword (Acts 12).

The Bible indicates that Jesus had siblings, and Protestants teach that these siblings were actually half-siblings, since their father is Joseph's while Jesus's father is God. Mary remained a virgin only until Jesus was born. Eastern Orthodox Churches teach that these siblings were actually step-siblings, children of Joseph's from a prior marriage. Roman Catholics teach that these siblings were actually cousins, children of Mary of Clopas, the sister-in-law of Jesus's mother (since Clopas and Joseph were brothers). The Roman Catholic Church taught a composite of James as the brother or cousin of Jesus as the same person as the Apostle James the Less. This conflated James became a pillar or bishop of the church (Galatians 2:9), wrote the letter of James (James 1:1), and was thrown from the top of the Temple and beaten with a fuller's club.

Since the Bible states that Jesus's brothers did not believe in Jesus until after the resurrection (John 7:5), I portray James, the brother of Jesus, as distinct from the Apostle James the Less. I portray James the Less, son of Alphaeus, as the son of Mary of Clopas.

In my writing, James, the brother of Jesus is a doubter until after the resurrection (Acts 1:14), leads the church in Jerusalem (Galatians 2:9), wrote the letter of James and was thrown from the Temple. In addition, James the Less is also called James, son of Alphaeus (Matthew 10:3), and Alphaeus is a variation on the name Clopas. Clopas is named twice in the Bible: Luke 24:13 and John 19:25. Apostle James the Less was killed at Ostrakine in Egypt.

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The 2nd-century writer Hegesippus, the 4th-century historian Eusebius, and the 5th-century theologian Jerome all identify Clopas as the same person as Alphaeus (Alphaeus in Aramaic/ Cleopas or Cleophas in Greek) as the brother of Joseph. This makes his wife, Mara of Clopas, a sister-in-law of Jesus’ mother.

As an aunt of Jesus, she would have followed the Jewish tradition of family guarding the body after death until burial, which she did in Mark 15:47 and Matthew 27:61. Eusebius says Clopas had a son Simeon in Hebrew (Simon in Greek), who was a relative of Jesus and became the second bishop of Jerusalem (after the death of James, the brother of Jesus). Theologians still debate who was with Clopas on the road to Emmaus on the day of the resurrection. Some say it was his son Simon/Simeon, some say it was one of the 72 disciples, and some say it was his wife. Some say that the children of Mary of Clopas are the brothers/kin of Jesus named in the Gospels.


It is fictional that I use Mara as a variation of the name Mary and Jamie as a variation of the name James the Less. I follow the tradition that Jesus’s mother Maria had her own children (biblical names James, Joses/Joseph, Jude, Simon/Simeon and fictional names Rachel and Anna), I have portrayed Mary of Clopas with her own children (biblical names James, Joses, fictional name Janis, and traditional name Simeon). I imagine Mara was about 35 at the time of the novel. I imagine Clopas as a blacksmith in Nazareth, and Emmaus as the childhood home of Mara of Clopas. It is fictional that Mara of Clopas was traumatized by authoritarian parents or abusive priests, struggling with her weight and low self-worth. The characters’ tastes, talents, and preferences are fictional. Already broken by abuse and struggling with her weight and self-confidence, Mara is forced to leave her home and figure out how to overcome her anxiety and low self-esteem, uncover her gifts, obey her calling, and speak and act boldly.

Maria of Nazareth: (Maria is a variation of Mary)


Maria heard and obeyed angels, consented to pregnancy by the Holy Spirit, encouraged Jesus in his ministry, and became a disciple and student of Jesus.

  • Maria hears angels tell her God chose her and she consents to give birth to Jesus (Matt.1:16-25, Matt. 2:11-21, Luke 1:26-56, Luke 2:4-21).

  • Maria and Joseph train Jesus in obedience to the laws of the Lord (Luke 2:22-40)

  • Maria and Joseph take Jesus to the Temple when he was twelve (Luke 2:41-50)

  • Maria, now widowed, encourages Jesus to change water to wine (John 2:1-12)

  • Maria and Jesus's siblings ask to speak to Jesus, planning to take charge of him, thinking he was out of his mind or demon possessed (Matthew 12:46-50, Mark 3:21, 31-35 Luke 8:19-21)

  • Maria is known by those in Nazareth (Matthew 13:55-56, Mark 6:3, John 6:42).

  • Maria is one of many women who followed Jesus from Galilee to care for his needs and watched at the cross (Matthew 27:55-56, Mark 15:40-41, Luke 23:49).

  • Jesus's mother stood near the cross and Jesus gave her to the apostle John's care (John 19:25-27)

  • Women who came with Jesus from Galilee saw the body laid in the tomb (Luke 23:55)

  • Maria and Jesus's brothers become disciples and are anointed with the Holy Spirit (Acts 1:14).

Some would say that references to "the other Mary" and the "mother of James the Less and Joses" are references to Jesus's mother. Since Jesus's siblings did not believe in Jesus until after the resurrection (John 7:5), I portray the mother of James the Less as Mary of Clopas.

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The Bible tells us Jesus had brothers James, Joseph, Simon, Jude, and at least two sisters (Mark 6:3, Matthew 13:55). However, church tradition teaches that Maria remained a virgin and did not give birth to other children.

Based on the fifth-century Catholic theologian Jerome, the Roman Catholic church teaches that Jesus' siblings were actually cousins or step-siblings, possibly children of Mara of Clopas. The Eastern Orthodox Church teaches that Jesus's siblings were Joseph's sons from his marriage prior to his marriage to the Virgin Maria. Protestants teach that Maria only remained a Virgin until after the birth of Jesus, and then had normal relations with Joseph. Protestants believe that Jesus was born of Maria and the Holy Spirit while the siblings named in the Bible are Jesus's half-siblings, born of Maria and Joseph. This novel follows the Protestant teaching that Jesus’s mother Maria had children with Joseph (biblical names James, Joseph, Jude, Simon). Court records of Emperor Domitian show that the grandsons of Jude (brother of Jesus) were questioned and admitted they owned a smallholding, likely a jointly-held property from the brothers Clopas and Joseph. It is fictional that the smallholding was a twelve-acre lentil farm. Tradition says that Maria and John lived in Jerusalem after the resurrection and then lived in Ephesus. There is a tourist attraction near Ephesus called the House of the Virgin Mary. There is a tomb at the Mount of Olives said to be that of the Virgin Mary.


I have used the fictional names, Rachel and Anna, for Maria's daughters, and I imagine them with small children. I imagine Maria as close to 50 at the time of the novel. I have imagined Clopas taking financial responsibility for Maria. This is because early historians note that Clopas is the brother of Joseph, and the law of Moses (Deuteronomy 25), makes the brother of a deceased man responsible for his brother's widow until her sons are of age. If Maria remained a virgin and had no genetic sons, Clopas would have remained responsible for Maria. In my novel, Maria has sons after Jesus but they do not financially support her since she is loyal to Jesus and they are not.



Joanna is the wife of Chuza, the Tetrarch Herod Antipas’s Chief of Staff. Joanna was healed and became a financial patron of Jesus’s work (Luke 8:1-5). Joanna was one of the women who took spices to anoint the body on the morning Jesus rose and who returned to announce the resurrection to the apostles (Luke 24:10). Joanna is considered one of the ‘many women’ at the crucifixion (Matthew 27:55, Mark 15:41, Luke 23:49), at the burial (Luke 23:55), and the upper room and at Pentecost (Acts 1:14).

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Some writers identify Chuza as the nobleman who begs Jesus to heal his son (John 4:46-54). The novel portrays Jesus's healing of Joanna and her son. It is fictional that their illness was Leishmaniasis, a parasitic disease common in the Mediterranean. It causes scars, abdominal pain, chronic fatigue, fever, and anemia and can be passed from mother to child at birth and can be fatal. The novel shows that while she is healed of Leishmaniasis, scars remain, and she is left infertile. The novel shows that Chuza believed in Jesus after Jesus healed his son and wife. Chuza is a Nabatean name and he is traditionally thought to be from Nabatea. As a person in Herod Antipas’s court, it is possible Joanna was Luke's source for the events in Antipas's court. Joanna would have known Manaen, a foster brother of Herod Antipas. Manaen became a teacher in the church in Syrian Antioch (Acts 13:1).

The novel follows the tradition that Joanna is the granddaughter of Theophilus, a prominent teacher of the law, based on an ossuary (urn holding remains) near Jerusalem bearing the inscription 'Joanna, daughter of John, son of Theophilus, the high priest'. Historically, Theophilus ben Ananus replaced his brother Jonathan ben Ananus as the high priest in AD 37. Luke addresses his gospel to Theophilus with the honorific title of the high priest. Luke addresses the book of Acts to Theophilus without the honorific title, likely after Theophilus finishes his term as high priest in AD 41.

Some theologians identify Joanna (Hebrew name) with Junia (Latin name), the female apostle named in Romans 16:7. Junia was outstanding among the apostles, Paul's co-worker and co-prisoner, a relative of Paul's, and she knew Christ before Paul. Some scholars erased this female apostle and other woman apostles, but today’s scholars agree that Junia was both an apostle and a female. Just as Saul uses his Hebrew name in Jewish areas and his Latin name, Paul, in Roman areas, the novel shows that when Joanna leaves Jewish areas and travels in Roman provinces, she uses the Latin version of her name: Junia.


It is completely fictional that Joanna is biracial and suffers from racial imposter syndrome. It is fictional that her mother died in childbirth, her father Zander was Greek, and her grandfather ostracized the Greek father and raised her as his own. I imagine Joanna was born in Alexandria, presented to Jerusalem society at fifteen, married at sixteen and is almost 20 when she becomes a disciple of Jesus. In AD 36, she is 28 and Adnan is 11.

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Salome followed Jesus and was one of the women who helped take care of his needs (Luke 8:2; Luke 23:55, Luke 24:1-10). Salome was an eyewitness to his death and resurrection (Matthew 27:55-56, Mark 15:40-41, Mark 16:1-8). The Bible does not specifically name her as being at the burial of Jesus.


Salome is the name traditionally associated with the wife of Zebedee and the mother of James and John. Zebedee is a Capernaum fisherman prosperous enough to have hired men (Mark 1:20). The mother of James and John believed Jesus would reign and asked Jesus to honour her sons (Matthew 20:20-22 Mark 10:35-40). The apostle John was known to the high priest Caiphas (John 18:15). John was a follower of John the Baptist before he followed Jesus (John 1:35-40). Traditionally, James is older, possibly the age of Jesus, and John is one of the youngest disciples.

Salome, also called Mary Salome, is sometimes considered the sister or half-sister of Jesus's mother. This tradition is that Saint Anne had three husbands, and by one she gave birth to Maria (mother of Jesus), by Clopas, she gave birth to Mary of Clopas, and by another husband, she gave birth to Mary Salome. Some say Salome was a midwife to Maria when Jesus was born. Salome's son James was killed by order of Herod Agrippa I in about AD 44 (Acts 12:2). Salome's son John lived a long life and took care of Jesus's mother Maria.

Traditionally, Salome travels alone to Ephesus, visits her son John, and meets the Governor of Ephesus. He is from Veroli, Italy, and she travels with him to Veroli and spreads the good news there. Her remains are housed in the Basilica of Santa Maria Salome in Veroli, Italy.

There is no biblical evidence that Zebedee either supported or opposed his sons' decision to become Jesus's disciples, but there is evidence that Zebedee did not join them. When James and John became disciples of Jesus, "they left their father Zebedee in the boat with the hired men" (Mark 1:20). He is never again mentioned in the Scriptures and was never canonized as a Saint.

Catholic and Orthodox Christians commemorate Salome as a saint. Protestant Christians do not recognize humans canonized as saints, holding to the belief that all believers are part of the priesthood and that believers do not need the intercession of saints to approach God.


Given that John knew the high priest personally, I have imagined that John studied for a year with the priests in Jerusalem. I have Salome about age 45 since her eldest son James is slightly younger than Jesus. Since Zebedee is not mentioned again in the Bible after he is left in his fishing boat (Mark 1:20), and not shown with the disciples, I imagine he did not believe in Jesus. I imagine that Zebedee's priority is increasing the prosperity of his fishing business and that he opposed having his two sons leave him. I imagined Zebedee and Salome with two daughters. It is fictional that a difference in values and beliefs caused a break in Salome and Zebedee's marriage. My novel follows the tradition that Salome was a midwife to Maria when Jesus was born. My novel shows that Salome believed from the time of Jesus's birth that he was the son of the Most High, that she shared this conviction with her sons James and John, and was a loyal disciple. Salome is confident, outgoing and friendly.


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Wife of the apostle Simon Peter, who fishes in Capernaum (Matthew 8:14-15, Mark 1:30, Luke 4:38). Peter became a disciple of Jesus after his brother Andrew; Andrew had been following John the Baptist and told Peter that Jesus was the Messiah (John 1:40). Peter's wife is an eyewitness to her mother’s healing (Luke 4:38-39). Perpetua later travelled as an apostle together with her husband (1 Corinthians 9:5).


Unnamed in the Bible, her traditional name is Perpetua. Peter and Perpetua traditionally have a daughter Petronilla. Clement of Alexandria, a 2nd-century theologian, wrote that Peter's wife was martyred. Eusebius of Caesarea, in the 4th century, wrote that Peter's wife was executed on the same day as Peter, and as she was led away, Peter called to her, "Remember the Lord!".


I present her in several crowd scenes with her children including a fictional son Jesse and daughter Petronilla. I imagine Perpetua about age 30 in the novel.

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Her story is not in the Bible except as one of the "many women" (Matthew 14:21, Matthew 15:38, Luke 18:15-17, Mark 10:13-16, Matthew 19:13-15, Luke 23:27-29, Matthew 27:55-56, Mark 15:40-4, Luke 23:49-56, Luke 24:1-24).


Mariamne is the brother of Philip, from Bethsaida near Capernaum, and was a follower, eyewitness, and disciple. Like her brother, she spoke Aramaic and Greek and was connected to the Greek community (John 12:20-21). Philip is traditionally one of the disciples of John the Baptist when John says "Behold the Lamb of God" (John 1:36, 43). Philip brought Nathanael of Cana (also called Bartholomew) to Jesus (John 1:43-46) and he also became one of the twelve.

Church history shows Mariamne working as an apostle with Philip and Nathanael, converting Nicanora, the wife of the proconsul, in Hierapolis. Mariamne was condemned to be killed but a miraculous earthquake allowed her and Nathanael (Bartholomew) to escape. Mariamne later preached in Lykaonia, where she died.

Eastern Church traditions call her 'Righteous Mariamne' and the "Apostolic Virgin". The vow of virginity was common in the early church, as the women and men wanted to fully focus on spreading the word in anticipation of Christ returning soon. Celibacy was considered a virtue, a way to dedicate oneself wholly to God. It was not a negative view of the human body or sexuality but a way to show rebirth into a new life that transformed a person to righteousness, chastity, and virginity. According to Marg Mowczko, the overemphasis on celibacy, even after marriage, may have been the false teaching addressed in 1 Timothy 2.


My novel shows Mariamne in the group with the earliest followers of Jesus. I imagine her as a young woman in her late teens, able to speak both Aramaic and Greek. Philip is her guardian and arranges her betrothal to Nathanael. It is fictional that Philip marries a woman named Talia and that Mariamne is betrothed to Nathanael. It is fictional that Philip marries a Greek woman named Talia who converts to Judaism and to The Way.

Marie of Magdala: (Marie is a variation of Mary)


Marie of Magdala was an eyewitness at Jesus’s ministry, death, burial and resurrection. The risen Jesus commissioned her to be an apostle to the apostles.

  • Marie travelled with Jesus and the twelve, was healed of seven demons and provided for Jesus and his companions from her own resources (Luke 8:1-3).

  • Marie followed Jesus from Galilee to Jerusalem to care for his needs and was at the cross (Matthew 27:55-56, Mark 15:40-41, Luke 23:49, John 19:25).

  • Marie saw Jesus laid in the tomb (Matthew 27:61, Mark 15:47, Luke 23:55).

  • Marie went to the tomb at dawn; angels told her to tell his disciples he had risen (Matthew 28:1-8,   Mark 16:1-8, Luke 24:1-11).

  • Marie met the risen Jesus, and he told her to go and tell the brothers to go to Galilee to see him (Matthew 28:9-10, Mark 16:9-10, John 20:1-18).

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The Bible does not identify her as a prostitute, past prostitute, or sex worker. She is also not called a girlfriend, wife or sexual interest for Jesus. The Bible portrays her as a mature, gifted, and devoted disciple. After the resurrection, she may have laboured in the church in Rome (Romans 16:6).


Marie was called Magdala, perhaps it described her city of origin, Magdala, or perhaps it was an honorific title meaning she was a tower (of strength).

The Eastern Orthodox Churches (Russian/Greek/Eastern Orthodox) have always characterized Marie Magdalene as a virtuous disciple, equal to the apostles. This tradition holds that Marie went to Rome and proclaimed Christ’s resurrection to Emperor Tiberias showing a sign to prove the truth by miraculously changing an egg to red. Eusebius Pamphilus says Mary Magdalene proposed that the Emperor ask the senate to include Christ in the pantheon of Roman Gods. The non-canonical Gospel of Nicodemus reports Mary Magdalene saying, “Who will let these things be heard by all the world? I shall go alone to Rome, to the Caesar. I shall show him what evil Pilate has done in obeying the lawless Jews” (Acts of Pilate Ch 11).

Mary may have stayed and laboured in the church in Rome, an early teacher and founder of the faith in Rome who became prominent in the church in Rome (Romans 16:6). The non-canonical Gospel of Mary shows Marie of Magdala as a disciple with special revelations from Jesus and shows that she likely also preached in Egypt. Sixth-century records show Marie of Magdala later went to Ephesus, where she was buried. Eastern traditions say her remains were later moved to Constantinople.

The Roman Catholic Church historically taught Mary Magdalene was the same person as Mary of Bethany and their stories were merged so that Mary went with Martha and Lazarus to Gaul (France). The tomb for Mary's sister in France is labelled Mary of Magdala's tomb. As early as the 6th century, Pope Gregory I confirmed the Roman Catholic teaching that there was one composite Mary, including Mary Magdalene, Mary the sister of Martha, and the unnamed sinful woman of Luke 7. The three women became one prostitute or penitent sinner. In the 13th century, Thomas Aquinas wrote that Mary Magdalene was a prophet and an apostle to the apostles. The Catholic Church excommunicated Aquinas posthumously in 1277, then, in 1324, declared him a saint. In 1517, Jacques Lefevre d’Etaples argued against the centuries-old Roman Catholic teaching of the composite Mary as a repentant whore. The theological faculty of the Sorbonne condemned him for heresy and only accepted portrayals of the composite Mary. However, some Catholics continued to reject the composite Mary, including the Benedictine Order, John Chrysostom, and Ambrose of Milan. In 2016, Pope Francis recognized Marie of Magdala at the same level as the apostles, with a feast day separate from Mary of Bethany and the reading for Marie of Magdala’s day being the John 20 account of her as the first to see the risen Jesus.

Protestant Reformers Martin Luther and Huldrych Zwingli supported the composite Mary. Luther explained that by speaking with a woman alone, he was called a sinner. Protestant Reformer John Calvin rejected the composite Mary. Regardless of their view of the composite Mary, most Protestant Reformers did not see Mary Magdalene as an apostle or liturgical leader. The Religious Society of Friends (Quakers) and other early Christians who believed in gender equality, were quickly sidelined. As Reformers dismantled abbeys and saints, including Mary Magdalene, they reduced models of female spiritual leadership and channels for women in ministry. “The demotion of the Virgin Mary and the saints meant that women all but disappeared from church sanctuaries. This process symbolized to women that their functions within the official church were close to nonexistent. They were to minister to their own children and young servants within the domestic setting”. Tiberius did propose adding Jesus to the Roman pantheon of gods; the Senate refused, and Tiberius “held to his opinion” and threatened anyone who persecuted Christians. These records indicate it is possible that Marie of Magdala became an apostle to the apostles and to Emperor Tiberius.


Jesus heals her of seven demons, an unknown and completely debilitating illness. My biblical fiction portrays Marie as having tetanus from a contaminated wound. Tetanus affects the whole central nervous system and would feel like demons attacking. Tetanus causes headaches, fever, painful muscle contractions or spasms, stiffness and lockjaw, making it hard to swallow or breathe. Marie of Magdala appears practical and wealthy, with the authority of higher social status, and apparently no husband, parent, or dependent children. Women of the first century were permitted to inherit if they had no brothers. Since Magdala was a city known for fish processing, I imagine her as an only child who inherited and owned a fish processing business. I imagine her in her early 30s in Forgotten Followers.



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Susannah was from Galilee, healed by Jesus, accompanied him during his work and supported him out of private means (Luke 8:2-3)

Tradition: Few traditions


I imagine Susannah had a weaving business in her home in Capernaum, making linens with flax imported from Palestine, dying it in various colours and selling clothes to the Roman elite. I imagine that Susannah suffered from malaria and that she became a disciple and patron after Jesus healed her. I imagine Susannah at about age 20, friends with Joanna, both at a similar age, living in Capernaum, serving the Romans.

There is no tradition stating if she was married or widowed. It is fictional that she married Philip the Evangelist. I use the following facts about Philip in my fiction Because She Was Called: Philip was a Greek-speaking Jew chosen as one of the seven deacons (Acts 6:1-6). He evangelized in Samaria (Acts 8:4-25). He taught and baptized an Ethiopian eunuch (Acts 8:26-40). Later, in the AD 50s, Philip hosted Paul and Luke at his house in Caesarea (Acts 21:8). At that time, he had four unmarried daughters who prophesied (Acts 21:9).

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The Samaritan woman at the well has the longest recorded conversation with Jesus. She discusses theology and contrasts Samaritans with Jews. Photini was one of the first to whom Jesus admits to being the Messiah, one of the first apostles Jesus sends out, and people respected her testimony and 'many people believed because of her'. (John 4:4-42).


Unnamed in the Bible, her traditional name is Photini or Photina (meaning 'enlightened one'). She has often been imagined as immoral and sinful because of having been divorced five times and living with a man outside of marriage. Traditionally she was baptized on the day of Pentecost and then became an evangelist in both Tunisia and Rome. She is recognized as a saint.


Since women did not have the power to request a divorce and men could divorce a woman as unwanted property at any time for any reason, I imagine Photini as a victim broken by the rejection of five husbands who divorced her for infertility.

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Unnamed in the Bible, she is healed of a bleeding disorder (Matthew 9:20-22, Mark 5:25-34, Luke 8:43-48, Luke 23:27).


Historian Eusebius tells us she was from Caesarea Philippi. The 4th century non-canonical Acts of Pilate (also called Gospel of Nicodemus) identifies her with the name Berenice and reports that she gave evidence at Jesus' trial. Another tradition shows a woman named Veronica comforting Jesus on his way to the cross, wiping his face with her veil. She may have been originally named Seraphia and then changed her name to Veronica (the Latin version of the Greek name Bernice). The names Veronica and Bernice mean 'true image'. She is called that because she is believed to have received the true image of Jesus on her veil. This veil was allegedly used to heal the Emperor Tiberius of leprosy. Catholics and some Protestants remember her at the sixth station of the cross. Catholics and Eastern Orthodox honour Veronica as a saint.


My novel shows Veronica as the same person as Bernice, that she was from Caesarea Philippi, healed of bleeding, made clean by Jesus, used her veil to wipe Jesus' face on the road to the cross, and later served Herod under Emperor Tiberius. Given that she bled for 18 years, I imagine her at about age 35 in the novel.

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Miriam of Bethany

Martha of Bethany:

(Miriam is a variation of Mary)


Supporters and disciples of Jesus and eyewitnesses to his teaching and miracles; hosted Jesus and his disciples in Bethany (Luke 10: 38-42, John 11:1-5, John 11:17-45, John 12:1-8). Martha, Miriam, and their brother Lazarus lived together in Bethany and all remain celibate. The Bible records Martha, like Peter, told Jesus, 'You are the Messiah' (John 11:27).Jesus affirmed Mary's decision to be a disciple learning from him (Luke 10:42). Jesus also affirmed Mary's role as a prophet by allowing her to anoint him with oil. Since Martha's sister Mary anointed Jesus with oil (John 11:2), there is debate on whether she was the unnamed sinful woman who anointed Jesus in Luke 7 or the faithful Mary who anointed Jesus in John 12:3. The novel shows Mary consistently faithful based on Luke 10, John 11:32, and John 12:3.


Bethany was the location of a shelter for care of the ill, disabled, & impoverished, and was a common stop for pilgrims from Galilee en route to Jerusalem. I assume the siblings were Essenes, a self-disciplined sect of Jews who remain celibate, dedicated to the study of scriptures and care of the sick. Martha is the feminine version of the word meaning Lord or Master and she is the head of the household. There are clues in the Bible, including Lazarus being non-verbal, that lead some to theorize he had special needs. Traditionally, Martha, Miriam and Lazarus escape Judea where there is a plot to kill Lazarus (John 12:10). They land in Gaul where they live and preach. There is a Golden Legend that when Martha was in Tarascon, France, some type of dragon or animal was threatening the people. Martha subdued the dragon by sprinkling him with blessed water and holding a cross in front of him. Martha brought it back to the village using her sash as a leash. Martha has been honoured as a dragon-slayer and her tomb is in Tarascon, France. The bones of Lazarus are housed in Notre Dame Cathédrale La Major in Marseille, France. Mary, the sister of Martha, lived in meditation in a cave in the Sainte-Baume mountains and was buried in Sainte-Maximin-la-Sainte-Baume near Marseille. Because early traditions merged Mary, sister of Martha, with Mary Magdalene, this burial has been called that of Mary Magdalene.


I imagine Martha and Miriam owning and managing a hostel in Bethany and staying separate from Jerusalem and its worldly influences. They enjoy spiritual studies, prayer, meditation, and taking care of those who are poor or ill. I imagine Martha as a liturgical leader in the Essene community and an early disciple of Jesus. I imagine Miriam accepting Jesus's predictions about his death and resurrection and Jesus allowing him to take the role of a prophet by anointing his head with oil in his final week. I imagine that Miriam received the expensive gift from one that she had nursed to health during the few days that Lazarus was in the tomb. I imagine Lazarus with Down Syndrome and follow the tradition that they escape Judea and land in Gaul (France).

Jesus predicted that Miriam (Mary of Bethany) would always be remembered for anointing him the week before he was killed. Jesus saw that Martha was distracted by her responsibilities as head of the house, but gave her the opportunity only given to one other disciple - Peter - to declare to Jesus that he is God's Messiah.

Pexels photo of woman adapted from PNW Production

Pexels photo: PNW Production

Pexels photo: PNW Production

In several places, the Bible refers to 'many women' who were followers, disciples, patrons and apostles. While these twelve women were not the twelve apostles, they each were called by Jesus and became his students, supporters and spokespeople. They were given the gift of the Holy Spirit and authorized to go into all the world to make disciples.

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