Mary, the Only Witness to the Entire Life of Jesus

Who was Mary besides being the famed mother of Jesus? She was present throughout the exceptional life of her son from beginning to end to beginning.[1]

As a mother, every amazing detail about her son was memorable. In a distinguishing characteristic of Luke, twice before Jesus turned 13, the Gospel says Mary “treasured all these things in her heart.”[2] The author of Luke says the Gospel is based on witness accounts “from the beginning.”[3]

Mary’s remarkable life took a turn from ordinary to extraordinary in only a moment. As a girl who had become of marriageable age at 13 living in Nazareth, a town of about 2000 or less, Mary soon agreed to marry Joseph.[4] Her betrothal was no different than for any other Jewish girl…until Mary was visited by the Archangel Michael who announced she would be impregnated by the Holy Spirit and would give birth to the Messiah.[5]

Not telling Joseph her magnificent secret, Mary promptly left to visit her cousin, Elizabeth, the wife of a priest, Zachariah.[6] Merely a few days pregnant and otherwise not physically apparent even to Mary herself other than Gabriel’s message, Elizabeth confirmed Mary’s pregnancy as soon as she arrived.[7]

It was a perfect ice-breaker opening the door for Mary to confide her secret with someone who would understand. Aside from being cousins, they both had something in common – miraculous pregnancies.[8] Elizabeth had been married for many years but had been barren. Even her husband doubted the possibility of her becoming pregnant because of her age.[9]

When it was time for Elizabeth to give birth to her son who would become known as John the Baptist, Mary went back home to Nazareth, but she still didn’t tell Joseph of her private circumstance.[10] For how long she withheld her secret is not known, but “she was found” to be pregnant apparently not because Mary divulged it.[11]

Clearly Mary’s secret was difficult to handle, much more than because of the Jewish religious society’s negative view of pregnancy before marriage. When Joseph found out, knowing he was not the father, he considered a divorce which could have dire consequences for Mary. It is safe to assume it caused stress on both sides. Archangel Gabriel paid a visit to Joseph who then had a change of heart deciding that God’s divine plan trumped the difficult situation for himself.

As if things in Mary’s home life weren’t tough enough, a few months later as Mary was preparing to give birth any day, the town crier announced a family registration decree by Caesar August. On very short notice, it required Mary to travel to Bethlehem 90 miles away with her new husband, Joseph, who was of the royal lineage of David.[12] Making matters worse, the inns in Bethlehem were full and Mary was forced to give birth in a stable.

Joy overcame the difficult circumstances followed with more amazing events. Shepherds heralded by a choir of angels left their herds in the country to see her baby.[13] That was followed by Magi who came from a faraway country bearing expensive gifts including gold and they worshipped her baby![14] Events again took another dramatic turn for the worse – the King of Judea, Herod, wanted to kill her baby forcing Mary’s new family to escape to Egypt.[15]

Finally things settled down with the death of Herod and the three returned to Nazareth. Over the following years, Mary and Joseph raised a family of five boys and at least two girls.[16] A stark reminder that their 12-year old son, Jesus, was distinctively different from his siblings came when they lost him during their trip to Jerusalem for the Passover.[17] When they eventually found Jesus in the Temple, he declared, “Why is it that you were looking for Me? Did you not know that I had to be in My Father’s house?”[18]

Mary knew her son had special powers who could perform miracles. When a wedding party ran out of wine, she asked Jesus to turn the pots of water to wine. He appeared not to be ready to reveal his miracle capabilities, but in-spite-of being a grown adult, Jesus did as his mother asked performing the first recorded miracle.[19]

Before choosing his Disciples at the beginning of his ministry, Jesus moved to Capernaum. At his new home, Mary and her family tried to meet with Jesus after he had cast out demons and performed healing miracles that roused the crowd, but they could not reach him because the crowd was too dense.[20]

Next mention of Mary three years later was the most dreadful of scenarios, all the more horrifying for a mother, as she watched her tortured son being crucified.[21] What emotions she experienced can scarcely be imagined.

Great joy again returned when Mary saw her son alive again! She celebrated with those who saw Jesus ascend into Heaven 40 days after his Resurrection.[22]

Mary was the sole witness to the entire life of Jesus from her miraculous conception, the circumstances of his birth, his miracles, his crucifixion and his Resurrection. These events are corroborated by many sources as documented in the Gospels as well as those not so readily apparent outside of the Gospels.

Magi visiting Jerusalem, an entire city full of people could have refuted the conspicuous visit if it hadn’t happened – it wasn’t repudiated by those still alive when the original Gospels were made public. History confirms the registration decree of Caesar Augustus, the death of King Herod and other Roman, Jewish and history authorities during that same time. Judaism, historical accounts and all four Gospels corroborate the crucifixion of Jesus witnessed by Mary.

Much attention is made of  Mary Magdalene’s Resurrection encounter at the tomb…if anyone could confirm or refute that it was Jesus who was alive after his death on the cross, it was his own mother and family.

Joseph and Mary no doubt talked about their amazing experiences in their home and at private gatherings. If there were disparities, as adults family members would have been expected to expose them – they didn’t. Mary’s children became followers of Jesus costing Mary another of her own sons who became a martyr for his belief in Jesus as the Messiah:[23]

“…he [Ananus] assembled the Sanhedrin of judges, and brought before them the brother of Jesus, who was called Christ, whose name was James, and some others, [or, some of his companions.]  And when he had formed an accusation against them as breakers of the law, he delivered them to be stoned…” – Josephus, Antiquities of the Jews [24]

Considering Mary’s witness of a miraculous conception and seeing her son, Jesus, crucified and Resurrected – was Jesus the prophesied Messiah who was Resurrected from the dead?

 

Creative Commons License

This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International License.

REFERENCES:

[1] Northcote, James Spencer. “The Life of Mary in the Gospels.” 1856-60. <https://www.salvemariaregina.info/SalveMariaRegina/SMR-182/LifeMary14.htm> “Who was With Jesus When He Ascended?” Pathos.com. 2017. <https://www.patheos.com/blogs/christiancrier/2015/12/15/who-was-with-jesus-when-he-ascended>
[2] Luke 2:51. NASB. NASB, NIV. Luke 2:19.
[3] Luke 1:2.
[4] “Nazareth.”  New World Encyclopedia. 2018. <https://www.newworldencyclopedia.org/entry/nazareth>  “Nazareth.” Jewish Virtual Library. 2019. <https://www.jewishvirtuallibrary.org/nazareth> Kiddushin 3b.  Sefaria. <https://www.sefaria.org/Kiddushin.3b?lang=bi>  “Marriage.” Judaism 101. <http://www.jewfaq.org/marriage.htm>  “Majority.” Jewish Encyclopedia. 2011. <http://jewishencyclopedia.com/articles/10310-majority>
[5] Luke 1:26-35.
[6] Luke 1:39, 56.
[7] Luke 1:39-45.
[8] Matthew 1:18-19, 36-37, 58; Luke 1:36.
[9] Luke 1:8-25, 57-66.
[10] Matthew 1:56.
[11] Mathew 1:18. Net.bible.org. 2019. Greek text word “heurisko.” <http://classic.net.bible.org/strong.php?id=2147> Strong’s Concordance with Hebrew and Greek Lexicon. Eliyah.com. n.d. <http://www.eliyah.com/cgi-bin/strongs.cgi?file=greeklexicon&isindex=2147>
[12] Luke 2:1-6.
[13] Luke 2:8-20.
[14] Matthew 2:1-12.
[15] Matthew 2:13-17.
[16] Matthew 13:55; Mark 3:31-32, 6:3; John 2:12; Acts 1:14.
[17] Luke 2:41-51.
[18] NASB.
[19] John 2:1-11. CR John 4:46.
[20] Mathew 4:13; Mark 3:20-32; Luke 4:16-30.
[21] John 19:25. CR Luke 23:49.
[22] Acts. 1:3, 12-14.
[23] John 2:12; Acts 1:12-14.
[24] Josephus, Flavius. Antiquities of the Jews. Trans. and commentary. William Whitson.  The Complete Works of Josephus. 1850. Book XX, Chapter IX.4.  <http://books.google.com/books?id=e0dAAAAAMAAJ&printsec=frontcover&source=gbs_ge_summary_r&cad=0#v=onepage&q&f=false

Was Mary a Virgin When She Conceived Jesus?

Frankly, no one can prove Jesus was born of a virgin. Neither can anyone disprove it. Basic human biology and common sense dictates a virgin cannot naturally conceive – conception would require a miracle.

Believing whether Mary was a virgin who miraculously conceived Jesus, if not by faith, boils down to a circumstantial case. Such a scenario requires a conclusion based on the circumstantial evidence.

Jewish marriage was a two-stage process; first the betrothal typically lasting for 12 months, then the wedding to consummate the marriage.[1] Once the proposal was offered to the prospective bride’s father, the finalized details were formally sealed in a binding contract.

Ketubah was a legal marriage contract enacted during the reign of Queen Salome (76-67 BC) and formalized by the Sanhedrin long before Joseph or Mary were ever born. A ketubah was the law of the land.[2]

Family intermediaries vetted the couple’s families, backgrounds and defined the terms of the ketubah, two of whom would eventually sign it as witnesses.[3] Financial details were negotiated including the bride price, the dowry, and any contributions from both families.[4] Monetary values for virgins and non-virgins were predefined by the Sanhedrin.

For the bride, the ketubah provided a trust fund in the event of the husband’s death or a divorce excepting for the disqualifying factor of adultery. For the groom, the ketubah factually and legally established his betrothal was a virgin.[5] The contract found in the Jewish Encyclopedia twice makes specific reference to her virginity:[6]

…“And I will set aside for thee 200 zuz, in lieu of thy virginity, which belong to thee (according to the law of Moses)…”

…“We have followed the legal formality of symbolical delivery [“ḳinyan”] between _____ son of ______ , the bridegroom, and ______ daughter of ______ , this virgin, and have employed an instrument legally fit for the purpose to strengthen all that is stated above, and everything is valid and established.

…………..Bridegroom.

…………..

…………..Witnesses. [7]

During Mary’s betrothal, the Archangel Gabriel announced she would bear a son conceived by the Holy Spirit to which Mary replied, “How can this be, since I am a virgin?”[8] By her own account, Mary was a virgin at this point. 

Gabriel informed Mary her cousin Elizabeth was also 6 months pregnant.[9] Excited by this news, she “went in a hurry to the hill country, to a city of Judah” to visit Elizabeth – Mary left almost immediately.[10]

From Nazareth to Elizabeth’s home, the trip would have taken 3 to 7 days depending on the town’s exact location near Jerusalem.[11] At the moment of hearing Mary’s voice, the babe in Elizabeth’s womb, who would become John the Baptist, leapt with joy.[12] Elizabeth also already knew that Mary was with child.

In the very short span of about a week, Mary became pregnant. No human could have known she was pregnant at that point, not even Mary herself were it not for Gabriel’s message and Elizabeth’s exclamation. Today’s modern medical pregnancy tests are effective, at the earliest, 10 days after conception and most reliably not until after 3 weeks. At best, a medical blood test can detect pregnancy in as early as 6 days.[13] 

Joseph can be ruled out as the father based on his own reaction to divorce Mary when he unexpectedly learned months later she was pregnant. The possibility that Mary had a secret paramour is a realistic possibility if one does not accept Matthew’s account at face value.[14]

Before reaching a point in her mind to cheat on Joseph, Mary would have to overcome immense hurdles – mentally, spiritually, psychologically, emotionally, and fear. It would be most challenging for a sheltered girl in her early teens still living at home with her parents.[15]

Mentally, Gabriel’s visit had to be a most impactful, unforgettable experience. Mary was told of her future son, “He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High; and the Lord God will give Him the throne of His father David.” [16] Mary then made a commitment to Gabriel and God saying, “Let it be to me according to your word.”[17] Spiritually, to then lose her virginity would be breaking her commitment to Gabriel and God.

Psychologically and emotionally, infidelity would mean betrayal. Mary would have to be willing to betray her own reputation, family, friends, and Joseph bringing them all great shame and disgrace.

Foreboding fear of serious consequences for adultery would be a huge deterrent. Forfeiture of her future financial security was at-risk by breaking the terms of her ketubah contract. Perhaps the greatest deterrent of all was the fear of death by stoning.[18]

Physically she would have to circumvent several traditional safeguards. Betrothed girls subject to Judaic Law were under strict supervision of family and the watchful eye of the community. Unmarried girls were not allowed to be alone at any time with an adult male, not even a family member.[19] While preparing for her spur-of-the-moment trip, Mary would have had to slip away from these guardians of virtue.

If Mary didn’t have a tryst before leaving Nazareth, the only opportunity would be on the journey to visit Elizabeth. Mary would have been required to travel in a caravan with a family-chosen chaperone and her secret paramour would have had to be traveling, too.[20] They would have had to find an opportunity to safely slip away without being caught.

One other factor closes the short period of time for Mary’s conception after Gabriel’s announcement. It was Elizabeth’s own words, “Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the fruit of your womb!”[21] Would an illegitimate pregnancy have been divinely revealed to Elizabeth who exclaimed that Mary and the baby in her womb were blessed?

How likely is it that Mary became pregnant by another man – or was she a virgin?

 

Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International License.

REFERENCES:

[1] Brayer. The Jewish Woman in Rabbinic Literature. pp 62-65, 69, 71, 143.  Missler, Chuck. “The Wedding Model.”
[2] “Salome Alexandria.” Jewish Virtual Library. 2018. <https://www.jewishvirtuallibrary.org/salome-alexandria> “Alexandria.” Jewish Encyclopedia. 2011. <http://jewishencyclopedia.com/articles/1167-alexandra>  “Ketubah.”  Jewish Encyclopedia. 2011. <http://jewishencyclopedia.com/articles/9290-ketubah>  “Marriage: Ketubbah.” Jewish Virtual Library. 2008. <https://www.jewishvirtuallibrary.org/ketubbah> Schauss, Hayyim. “Ancient Jewish Marriage.”  MyJewishLearning.com. n.d. <http://www.myjewishlearning.com/life/Relationships/Spouses_and_Partners/About_Marriage/Ancient_Jewish_Marriage.shtml> “The Forgotten Ancient Queen: Salome Alexandra of Judea.” Ancient History. <http://etc.ancient.eu/interviews/the-forgotten-ancient-queen-salome-alexandra-of-judea/Soncino Babylonian Talmud. Ed. Isidore Epstein. “Kethuboth.”  <https://israelect.com/Come-and-Hear/talmud/index.html>  “Ketubah.”  Soncino Babylonian Talmud. Ed. Isidore Epstein. Glossary.  <https://israelect.com/Come-and-Hear/tglossary.html#K
[3] “Ketubah.” Jewish Encyclopedia.  “Dowry.” Jewish Encyclopedia. 2011. <http://jewishencyclopedia.com/articles/5297-dowry> Singer, Isidore; Adler, Cyrus, et. al.  The Jewish Encyclopedia. Volume 9. 1912. “Pharisees.” p 663 <https://books.google.com/books?id=lfoOtGOcIBYC&lpg=PA594&ots=6qoCfVVUz7&dq> Schauss, Hayyim.  “Ancient Jewish Marriage.” 
[4] “Ketubah” and “Dowry.” Jewish Encyclopedia. 2011.  Singer et. al.  The Jewish Encyclopedia. Vol. 9 “Pharisees.” p 663.  Singer et. al.  The Jewish Encyclopedia. Vol. 9. “Mortgage or Hypothec.” p 37.
[5] Soncino Babylonian Talmud. Kethuboth 12a.
[6] Lamm, Maurice. “The Jewish Marriage Contract (Ketubah).” Chabad.org. <https://www.chabad.org/library/article_cdo/aid/465168/jewish/The-Jewish-Marriage-Contract-Ketubah.htm>
[7] “Ketubah.” Jewish Encyclopedia. 2011.
[8] Luke 1:34. NASB, NRSV.
[9] Luke 1.
[10] Luke 1:39. NASB.
[11] Luke 1:39.  “Judah.”  Jewish Virtual Library. 2018. <https://www.jewishvirtuallibrary.org/judah>
[12] Luke 1.
[13] “Pregnancy Tests.” 23 June 2012.  WebMD. 2018. <http://www.webmd.com/baby/guide/pregnancy-tests> “Pregnancy Test.” MedlinePlus. U.S. National Library of Medicine. 2018. <http://www.nlm.nih.gov/medlineplus/ency/article/003432.htm> “Home pregnancy tests: Can you trust the results?” Mayo Clinic. 2018. <http://www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-living/getting-pregnant/in-depth/home-pregnancy-tests/art-20047940
[14] Burke, Rodney Wade. Quora. “Do atheists believe Mary engaged in adultery as I do as a Jew?  2015. <https://www.quora.com/Do-atheists-believe-Mary-engaged-in-adultery-as-I-do-as-a-Jew>  “Panthera, the real father of Jesus?” The Evolving Atheist’s Blog. 2009. https://evolvingatheist.wordpress.com/2009/07/05/panthera-the-real-father-of-jesus>
[15] West, Jim. “Ancient Israelite Marriage Customs.”  Quartz Hill School of Theology.  n.d.  http://www.theology.edu/marriage.htm>  Edersheim. The Life and Times of Jesus the Messiah. Book II, Chapter 4.
[16] Luke 1:32. NASB. NKJV.
[17] Luke 1:38. NKJV.
[18] Sanhedrin 53a, footnote #3; 59a; 63a; 66b. <https://israelect.com/Come-and-Hear/sanhedrin/index.html>
[19] Soncino Babylonian Talmud.  Kethuboth 12a, 12b, 13a, 13b.  “Adultery.” Jewish Encyclopedia. 2011.  Brayer.  The Jewish Woman in Rabbinic Literature. pp 142-143.
[20] Brayer. The Jewish Woman in Rabbinic Literature. p 142-143.
[21] NRSV, NASB, NKJV, ESV, Berean, WEB.