• Elaine Kelly

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

Updated: Apr 20

"Forgotten Followers (From Broken to Bold Series Book 1) is a biblical fiction of Mara and Joanna. Each has personal challenges to overcome in order to feel secure and become bold enough to follow their calling. Through their eyes, readers will come to know the following twelve women disciples:



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

Facts: The Bible refers to Mary of Clopas eight times, calling her Jesus' mother's sister, Mary of Clopas (John 19:25), Mary the mother of James and Joses (Matthew 27:56, Mark 15:47), Mary the mother of James the Younger /James the Less (Mark 15:40-41, Mark 16:1-7, Luke 24:1-32), and “the other Mary” (Matthew 27:61; Matthew 28:1-10). She is named as a follower of Jesus who cared for his needs, was an eyewitness at his death, burial, and resurrection. Some say that James the Less was the same person as James the brother of Jesus. However, since the Bible states that Jesus's brothers did not believe in Jesus until after the resurrection (John 7:5), my novel shows James the Less distinct from James, Jesus’ brother. James the Less is also called James, son of Alphaeus (Matthew 10:3). Clopas (Alphaeus) is named twice in the Bible, Luke 24:13 and John 19:25.


Tradition:

The 2nd-century writer Hegesippus and 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, the sister-in-law of Jesus’ mother.

As an aunt of Jesus, she would have followed the Jewish tradition of guarding the body after death until burial, which she did in Mark 15:47, Matthew 27:61. 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. Eusebius says Clopas has 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, some say it was his wife. Theologians who believe Jesus’ mother remained a Virgin say that the children of Mary of Clopas are the brothers/kin of Jesus named in the Gospels: James, Joses/Joseph, Jude, Simon/Simeon and at least two sisters.

Fiction:

It is fictional that I use Mara as a variation of the name Mary and Jamie as a variation on the name James the Less. Since I believe Jesus’s mother Mary had her own children (biblical names James, Joseph, Jude, Simon and fictional names Rachel and Anna), I have given Mary of Clopas her own children (biblical names James, Joses, fictional name Janis, and traditional name Simeon). I imagine Mara about 35 at the time of the novel. It is fictional that the smallholding was a twelve-acre lentil farm. I imagine Clopas as a blacksmith in Nazareth, and Emmaus as the childhood home of Mara of Clopas. It is fictional that Mary 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, 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, to uncover her gifts and calling and speak and act boldly.

Photo: Pexels


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

Facts: The mother of Jesus is the most mentioned woman in the New Testament. Widow of the carpenter Joseph. Maria heard and obeyed angels and followed Jesus and listened to his teachings. (Matthew 1:16-25, Matthew 2:11-21, Matthew 12:46-50, Matthew 13:55-56, Mark 3:31-35, Mark 6:3, Luke 1:26-56, Luke 2:4-50, Luke 8:19-21, John 2:1-12, John 6:42). According to John 7:5 Jesus' siblings did not believe in Jesus until after the resurrection, so the novel portrays Jesus' siblings as not being among the twelve apostles. After Jesus dies, the apostle John takes Maria into his home (John 19:25-27). Maria became a disciple and was anointed with the Holy Spirit (Acts 1:14).

Tradition:

The Bible tells us Jesus had brothers James, Joseph, Simon, Jude and at least two sisters (Mark 6:3, Matthew 13:55). The fifth-century Catholic theologian Jerome taught that Jesus' siblings were actually cousins or step-siblings and that Maria remained a virgin and did not give birth to other children. The Eastern Orthodox Church teaches that Jesus's siblings were Joseph's sons from his a 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 the siblings named in the Bible are Jesus's half-siblings, children of Maria and the Holy Spirit. This novel follows the Protestant teaching that Jesus’s mother Maria had her own children (biblical names James, Joseph, Jude, Simon). Tradition says that Maria and John went to live in Ephesus after Jesus's resurrection.

Fiction:

I have used the fictional names Rachel and Anna for Maria's daughters, and I imagine them with small children. I imagine Maria 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.

Photo: pexels-photo-7951459


Joanna:

Facts:

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 taking spices to anoint the body on the morning Jesus rose from the dead who returned to announce the resurrection to the apostles (Luke 24:10).

Tradition:

Some writers identify Chuza as the nobleman who begs Jesus to heal his son (John 4:46-54). As a person of Herod’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). Traditionally 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 at the upper room and at Pentecost (Acts 1:14). There is an ossuary (urn holding remains) near Jerusalem bearing the inscription 'Joanna, daughter of John, son of Theophilus, the high priest". This shows that Joanna was completely Jewish. The novel follows the tradition that Joanna is the granddaughter of Theophilus, the prominent teacher of the law and high priest to whom Luke addresses his gospel and the book of Acts. Some theologians identify Joanna (Hebrew name) with Junia (Latin name), the apostle named in Romans 16:7.

Fiction:

I imagine Joanna being about 20 years old, healed of Leishmaniasis, a parasitic disease spread by sandflies near the Mediterranean, giving scars, abdominal pain, chronic fatigue, fever, anemia, and hemophilia. Leishmaniasis can be passed from mother to child at birth and can be fatal. The novel shows that Chuza also believed in Jesus, because Jesus healed his son and wife. The novel shows that Chuza and Joanna share what they have seen and experienced among Herod Antipas's servants and relatives, but remain loyal to Antipas. It is fictional that Joanna’s father is Greek, her mother died in childbirth, and she was raised by her grandfather Theophilus. I imagined Joanna with racial imposter syndrome, doubting her own accomplishments and accolades.

Photo: Pexels


Salome:

Facts:

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.

Tradition:

Salome is the name traditionally associated with the wife of Zebedee and 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. In ancient times, Saint Anne had three husbands, by one she gave birth to Maria (mother of Jesus), by another gave birth to Mary Salome, and by another gave birth to Mary of Clopas. 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. Protestants 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.

Fiction:

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 in 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 to having his two sons leave him. I have imagined Zebedee and Salome also had two daughters, and that the marriage of Salome and Zebedee was torn by a difference in values and beliefs. 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.

Photo: pexels-photo-1394499

Perpetua

Facts:

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).


Tradition:

Unnamed in the Bible, her traditional name is Perpetua. Peter and Perpetua traditionally have a daughter Petronilla.

Fiction:

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

Photo: Pexels


Mariamne

Facts:

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).

Tradition:

Mariamne is the brother of Philip, from Bethsaida near Capernaum, spoke Aramaic and Greek, was a follower, eyewitness. Philip is traditionally one of the disciples of John the Baptist when John says "Behold the Lamb of God" (John 1:36, 43). Church history shows Mariamne working as an apostle together with Philip and Nathanael (also called Bartholomew) in Phrygia and Lykaonia (present-day Turkey).

Fiction:

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, and she becomes betrothed to Nathanael.

Photo: pexels-photo-322920

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

Facts:

Marie was from the city of Magdala. She was healed by Jesus of seven demons, followed and supported him out of her private means, was an eyewitness at Jesus’ death, burial and resurrection and was a disciple and apostle. (Luke 8:2-3, Matthew 27:55-61, Matthew 28:1-10, Mark 15:40-47, Mark 16:1-11, Luke 24:1-11, John 19:25, John 20:1-18). The Bible does not identify her as a prostitute, past prostitute, 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.

Tradition:

The original church tradition combined Marie of Magdala, Miriam of Bethany, and the sinful woman of Luke 7 as a composite Mary. Some Protestant Reformers agreed with the composite Mary while others did not. Images portraying her as a priest, liturgical leader, saint or intercessor were outlawed in the sixteenth century. She is portrayed in art as a penitent sinner. The Eastern Orthodox Church has always characterized Marie Magdalene as a virtuous disciple. She has been called an 'apostle to the apostles' because Jesus commissioned her to tell the apostles that he had risen. The Catholic Church has revised its interpretation an now honours her separately from Miriam of Bethany. Catholics now recognize Marie of Magdala at the same level as the apostles, with the reading for her special day being the John 20 account of her as the first to see the risen Jesus. The non-canonical Gospel of Mary shows Marie of Magdala as a disciple with special revelations from Jesus and shows that she likely preached in Egypt. Sixth-century records show Marie of Magdala buried in Ephesus with her remains later moved to Constantinople.

Fiction:

I understand her seven demons to describe an unknown and completely debilitating illness. I imagine Tetanus, which comes 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, and 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. 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 about age 35 in the novel.

Photo: Pexels


Susannah:

Facts:

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

Fiction:

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 was healed by Jesus in Capernaum. I imagine Susannah at about age 20, friends with Joanna, both a similar age, living in Capernaum, serving the Romans.

Photo: Pexels


Photini

Facts:

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).

Tradition:

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.

Fiction:

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.

Photo: Pexels

Veronica

Facts:

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).

Tradition:

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 comforted 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.

Fiction:

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 about age 35 in the novel.

Photo: pexels-photo-3323428


Miriam of

Bethany

Martha of Bethany:

Photo: Pexels

(Miriam is a variation of Mary)

Facts:

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. Jesus affirmed Mary's decision to be a disciple learning from him. Jesus also affirmed Mary's role as a prophet anointing him with oil. The Bible records Martha, like Peter, told Jesus, 'You are the Messiah' (John 11:27).

Tradition:

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 and 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 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 of Bethany was traditionally merged with Mary Magdalene and tradtion says that she lived in meditation in a cave in the Sainte-Baume mountains. Her body was kept in a sarcophagus in Sainte-Maximin-la-Sainte-Baume near Marseille.

Fiction:

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 among 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).


While these twelve women were not the twelve apostles, they each were called by Jesus, became his students, supporters, disciples and apostles. They were given the gift of the Holy Spirit and authorized to go into all the world to make disciples.






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