• Menu
Icon of the Wedding at Cana

Why did Christ call his mother “Woman”?

Why does Christ seem so disrespectful to his mother? In the Gospel, Christ calls his mother “Woman,” and answers her, “What have I to do with thee?” Why does he seem to speak so disrespectfully to her?

The short answer is that these were choices made by the Protestant translators of the King James Version.

In Luke 5:20 and 12:14 Christ uses “Man” as a respectful, kind way to address a man. It means the same as “Sir” or “Mister” in modern English.

In the same way, in two passages Christ refers to his mother as “Woman” (Modern English “Ma’am” or “Lady.”)

One instance is on the cross, when he gently gives his mother into St John’s care because she has no other sons to care for her. “Woman, behold [John], your son” (John 19:26-27).

The other time Christ uses this address is at Cana in John 2:8.  The King James “What have I to do with thee” is rather a strained translation of the four Greek words Τί ἐμοὶ καὶ σοί — literally, “What to-me and to-you?” Here Christ is a grown man, and in public, so he does not call her “Mommy.” Instead he addresses her respectfully like a noble woman. She says “They have no wine,” and he answers properly, “Ma’am, what is that to me and you?” Or, as the International Standard Version translates, “How does that concern us, dear lady?”