Un-named Holy Ones of the Bible

There are so many holy people in the Bible whose names we are familiar with:  of course our savior, Jesus, his mother Mary and foster father, Joseph.  We recognize the names of the apostles, Mary Magdalene, Martha, Gabriel the Archangel, John the Baptist and so on.  Lots of people mentioned in the Bible, however, have names that went unrecorded.  Over the centuries, some of them have been assigned nick-names.  For example, the Magi are often referred to as Caspar, Melchior and Balthasar.  The Roman Centurion who announced “Truly this man was the Son of God!” has been named Longinus (which means “lance,” for he is also considered to be the soldier who plunged a lance into Jesus’ side).  And Dismas is the name that has been given to the believing criminal who was crucified next to Jesus.

We can tell from reading the Gospels that Jesus was pleased with the faith of many others in the Bible as well … people whose names were never written down and no nick-names have been offered.  Their stories, however, are inspiring and many of these nameless people can provide us with examples of good Christian behavior.   The following are just some of the un-named believers in Christ.

THE PARALYTIC AND HIS FRIENDS

Matthew 9:1-8
Mark 2:1-12
Luke 5:17-26

Early on in His ministry, Jesus began to perform a variety of miracles, astounding all who saw.  Word got out fast and more and more people wanted to see Him.  On one occasion, shortly before calling Levi/Matthew as an apostle, Jesus was in Capernaum and lots of people had gathered at his house (possibly Peter and Andrew’s house).  In the midst of the crowd was a small group: a handful of men with a paralyzed friend.  These un-named companions, decided to bring their buddy (also un-named) to see Christ, hoping for a miracle.  Four of them were holding the paralyzed man on a stretcher, but could not break through the multitudes to get close to Jesus.  So, these really nice friends climbed to the roof — with their paralyzed buddy (outside stairways were common then).  The group made a hole in the roof (which was probably constructed out of wooden beams, thatching and mud) and carefully let their friend down into the house on his stretcher.  Jesus was astonished at this enormous display of faith, and so, with tender affection, told them that their sins were forgiven (which really annoyed some scribes and Pharisees who were present).  Jesus amazed the people even more by commanding the paralyzed man to rise and walk.  Instantly, the man who had to be carried by his friends stood up and began to walk with his feet while glorifying God with his lips!  These trusting men knew.  They knew that Jesus was blessed and caring. And, they knew that it was worth going to great lengths to be near Him.

THE WOMAN WITH A HEMORRHAGE

Matthew 9:20-22
Mark 5:25-34
Luke 8:43-48

This woman’s story is found in three of the Gospels (Matthew, Mark and Luke) and in all three recordings, it is tucked in the middle of another story — the story of Jairus’ daughter’s miraculous healing.  Jesus had just returned from the pagan territory of the Gerasenes to Galilee where a crowd of people was waiting for him.  Evidently, Jairus, a synagogue official, was the first to get Jesus’ attention.  Jairus approached Jesus with a sense of desperation, explaining that his daughter was deathly ill; he begged that Jesus might go see her.  As the Lord Jesus began to go see the daughter, he suddenly and mysteriously felt some energy slip away.  He stopped and asked the crowd who had touched him.  Everyone was a bit confused, for there were lots of people surrounding him, he could have been touched by anyone!  Jesus made it clear that someone deliberately touched him, that he felt some power leave his body.  Finally, this un-named woman who had been suffering from a hemorrhage for twelve years seemed to know He was referring to her.  Full of fear, she came forward, fell to the ground and began to explain.  Her suffering had been great and long and she yearned for a healing.  When she saw Jesus pass in the crowd, she felt certain that if she could reach far enough to just touch His cloak that she would be healed  – which she was — instantly.  Jesus clearly felt pleased with the woman’s confidence.  He proclaimed how her faith had saved her and then told her to go in peace.  Jesus then completed his journey to Jairus’ house and raised his daughter from a death-like slumber.  This nameless lady can remind us of the divine might of Christ – working even from a distance and without a face-to-face request.  All we need is trust.

THE CENTURION WHO HAD A SICK SLAVE

Matthew 8:5-13
Luke 7:1-10
John 4:46-54

This guy’s story has three variations found within the Gospels.  To summarize all three versions: there was a centurion (a Gentile officer who commanded 100 soldiers) who had a slave.  This centurion evidently liked this slave (or servant, or son) quite a bit, for the slave became terribly ill and the centurion was distraught.  The centurion sent some Jewish elders that he somehow knew to beg help from Jesus.  He had heard of Jesus and of His many incredible miracles, and hoped that maybe, even though he was a Gentile, Jesus might still be willing to help.  The Jewish elders found Jesus, and made the request.  They encouraged Jesus to assist this man, for the centurion had been kind and accepting of Jews.  Evidently, he had even helped the Jews of the area build a synagogue.  So, Jesus began to head in the direction of the centurion’s home.  As He neared the house, however, the centurion became concerned.  He understood how it would be awkward for a devout Jew like Christ to enter a Gentile home, so he sent some friends out to meet Jesus to explain how he felt unworthy to have Jesus enter his house — that if Jesus would only say the word, he knew his slave would be healed.  These strong-believing words of this un-named man gave inspiration to the plea we make at mass just before receiving communion, “Lord, I am not worthy to receive you, but only say the word and I shall be healed.” Jesus was amazed at the level of faith this Gentile displayed.  He praised him for his confidence, said the word, and the slave was immediately healed.  For now, we can only call this man “The Centurion who had a Slave.”  His story nonetheless gives us a wonderful example of tremendous and emulative faith.

UN-NAMED WOMEN OF GALILEE

Luke 8:1-3
Matthew 27:55-56
Mark 15:41
Luke 23:49,55-56
Luke 24:10

The women of Galilee were an impressive group.  They had a great devotion to Jesus and often traveled with him and the apostles to help take care of their needs in whatever way they could.  Some of these women were named:  Mary Magdalene, Joanna, Susanna, Mary of Clopas and Salome.  However, three Gospel writers have let us know that there were also many other women in the group from Galilee.  Perhaps it felt too tedious to name all of the women, or maybe some of them still had obligations elsewhere and had to leave the group now and then, making their roles appear less prominent.  Perhaps, some of them had quieter natures which prompted them to be less noticed.   Whatever the reason, these many un-named women from Galilee were clearly devoted to Christ and found his message to be so compelling that they journeyed extensively to be of service to him (central Galilee was about 80 miles from Jerusalem).  By pondering for just a bit, one can consider what a profound impact these women likely had on Christianity.  Without their help, Christ and the apostles may have achieved much less — perhaps they would have had to hold time-consuming jobs in order to afford the necessities of life.  Perhaps these women helped pay for and prepare food or perhaps they made sure the men had a place to rest their heads at night.  Perhaps they mended their clothing, or tended to them when ill.  These good women may have also shared Christ’s message with others, helping to evangelize in their own way.  The specifics of what these women may have contributed to smooth the way for Christ’s ministry can only be imagined.

Bravely and steadfastly, these largely un-named women offered their presence during Christ’s Passion.  These Galilean women were likely among the group of women who went to see Christ as he carried his cross.  While most of the apostles (all but John) were absent, these women were there when their Lord was nailed to the cross and then hung from it.  They prepared spices for Jesus’ dead body and were the first to learn that He had risen.  Although we do not know the names of many of these holy women, we can know that their selfless actions and devotion to the Lord are admirable.

MANY MORE

There are plenty additional examples of un-named people in the Bible who displayed faith, confidence and trust in Jesus:

The Canaanite woman who persistently appealed to Jesus on behalf of her daughter (Matthew 15:21-28).

The 72 Disciples who were sent out by Christ to evangelize in various locations (Luke 10:1-12).

The Poor Widow who gave generously of her meager funds to the Temple treasury (Mark 12:41-44).

The people who greeted Jesus so joyously with palms as He entered Jerusalem (John 12:12-13).

… and more.

Even though we do not know the names of these many devout biblical people, they are nonetheless great sources of inspiration and encouragement.  Perhaps when we go to heaven, we will meet these wonderful souls, learn their names and then thank them for their roles in helping us to embrace the message of Christ.

BIBLIOGRAPHY

Achtemeier, Paul, Ed.  Harper’s Bible Dictionary. New York: HarperCollins Publishers, 1985.

Brown, R., Fitzmyer J., and Murphy, R., Editors.  The New Jerome Biblical Commentary. Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Prentice Hall, 1990.

The Catholic Comparative New Testament. New York, NY:  Oxford University Press, Inc., 2005.

Cunial, Hector, Imprimatur.  The New World Dictionary Concordance to the New American Bible. Charlotte, North Carolina: C.D. Stampley Enterprises, Inc., 1970.

Dubruiel, Michael.  The How-To Book of the Mass. Huntington, IN: Our Sunday Visitor Publishing Division, 2002.

Harpur, Jay and Braybrooke, Marcus.  The Collegeville Atlas of the Bible. Collegeville, Minnesota:  The Liturgical Press, 1999.

The New American Bible for Catholics. Huntington, IN: Our Sunday Visitor Publishing, 1991.

Then and Now Bible Map Book. Necedah, Wisconsin:, Ascension Press of Rose Publishing, Inc., 2003.

Trigilio, Rev. John  Jr. and Kenneth Brighenti, Rev.  Catholicism for Dummies. Hoboken, NJ: Wiley Publishing, Inc., 2003.

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