The Gemara in Chaggigah (4b) mentions a woman by the name of Miriam Megadla Se'ar:

זיל אייתי לי מרים מגדלא שיער נשייא

Which means she was a "grower of woman's hair" which is to mean she was a hair dresser.

When I came across this I thought for sure this is a reference to Mary Magdalene of Christian fame. She is also the patron saint of hairdressers (SE.Christianity site featuring our very own Mi Yodeyan:-)). So I thought for sure the Gemara is talking about the same person. As both the name and profession seem to line up.

However, Tosafos on the Daf says instead this is Jesus' mother Mary.

דמרים מגדלא נשייא בבית שני היה דהיתה אמו של פלוני

I was wondering is Tosafos correct in their identification? Were the Baalei Hatosfos familiar with Christian theology and works to be able to correctly identify Mary?

Are there any sources which discusses this?

  • 1
    You were mechavein to the note in Soncino: "Supposed by Tosaf. to be the Mother of Jesus; cf. Shab. 104b in the earlier uncensored editions. [Her description megaddela (hairdresser) is connected by some with the name of Mary Magdalene whose name was confused with that of Mary, the mother of Jesus, v. Herford R.T. Christianity in Talmud and Midrash, pp. 40f]" – wfb Jun 8 '15 at 19:23
  • and here's the source Soncino is quoting books.google.com/… – wfb Jun 8 '15 at 19:26
  • just some other background angelfire.com/mt/talmud/jesusnarr.html – rosends Jun 8 '15 at 22:35
  • Interesting mishna kiddushin 2.3 .על מנת שיש לי בת או שפחה גדלת.... Bartenura ...in his first perush. קולעת שער הנשים – kouty Jan 24 '19 at 14:54
  • Interesting side point there is a Jesus that was a talmid of yehoshua Ben prachya but could not be the same person as Christian mythology as he lived at a much earlier time period – Dude Jan 24 '19 at 16:44

I'm not sure if you will accept this as an answer, but I will deflect your question on Tosafos by pointing out that this is not Tosafos' chidush. It is a direct quote from a censored gemara in Shabbos 104b which Tosafos in Chagiga referenced.

The missing gemara there says אמו מרים מגדלא.

Tosafos there says the people under discussion lived during the time of Rabi Akiva, so perpetuating the confusion and coincidences of the names and personalities under discussion.

Or Sanhedrin 67a:

בן סטדא בן פנדירא הוא אמר רב חסדא בעל — סטדא בועל — פנדירא בעל פפוס בן יהודה הוא אלא אֵימא אמו סטדא אמו מרים מגדלא נשיא הואי כדאמרי בפומדיתא סטת דא מבעלה:]

The Gemara asks: Why did they call him ben Setada, when he was the son of Pandeira? Rav Ḥisda says: Perhaps his mother’s husband, who acted as his father, was named Setada, but his mother’s paramour, who fathered this mamzer, was named Pandeira. The Gemara challenges: But his mother’s husband was Pappos ben Yehuda, not Setada. Rather, perhaps his mother was named Setada, and he was named ben Setada after her. The Gemara challenges: But his mother was Miriam, who braided women’s hair. The Gemara explains: That is not a contradiction; Setada was merely a nickname, as they say in Pumbedita: This one strayed [setat da] from her husband.

  • אדרבה good answer! – Shoel U'Meishiv Jun 8 '15 at 19:26
  • Note that Rabbeinu Tam says that this was in the days of Pappos Ben Yehudah, who was in the days of Rabbi Akiva....not specifically that Yoshke was in the days of Rabbi Akiva. – warz3 Jun 9 '15 at 4:04

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