Mary, Witness to the Entire Life of Jesus

Who was Mary other than 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. Mentioned twice in  Luke 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” and Mary is the only one who was there for it all.[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, she became betrothed to Joseph.[4] Her betrothal was no different than for any other Jewish girl…until Mary was visited by the angel Michael who announced she would be impregnated by the Holy Spirit and would give birth to the Messiah.[5]

Mary promptly left to visit her cousin, Elizabeth, the wife of a priest named Zachariah.[6] Merely a few days pregnant, Elizabeth confirmed Mary’s pregnancy as soon as she arrived.[7]

It was a perfect ice-breaker opening the door for Mary to share something they had 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 didn’t tell Joseph of her pregnancy. [10] When Joseph found out, knowing he was not the father, he assumed Mary had a paramour and he considered a divorce which could have dire consequences for Mary. [11]

It is safe to assume Mary’s secret pregnancy caused stress in their betrothal. An angel paid a rare visit to Joseph to deliver a message from God. The message caused Joseph to have 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, as Mary was preparing to give birth any day, the Nazareth town crier announced a registration decree by Caesar August. On very short notice, the decree required Mary to travel with Joseph 90 miles away to Bethlehem, the ancestral home of King 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 by more amazing events. Shepherds heralded by a choir of angels left their herds in the country to see her newborn 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 – Herod, the King of Judea, wanted to kill her baby forcing Mary’s new family to escape to Egypt.[15]

Finally things settled down after the death of Herod and the new family returned to Nazareth. Over the following years, Mary and Joseph raised a family of at least four boys and 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, his second question was profound and probably rocked the senses of Mary and Joseph: “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 suggesting Jesus had done other miraculous things privately within their family. When a wedding party ran out of wine, she asked Jesus to turn the pots of water to wine. In-spite-of being a grown adult and not ready to publicly reveal his miracle capabilities, Jesus did as his mother asked by 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 during 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.

Much attention is made of Mary Magdalene’s Resurrection encounter at the tomb, but his own mother and family seem even better qualified to confirm or refute that Jesus was alive after his death on the cross. Mary and at least one brother confirmed Jesus was alive after he had been killed. According to Roman Jewish historian Josephus, a brother of Jesus became a martyr for his belief that the resurrected Jesus is the Messiah:[22]

“…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 [23]

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.  The incidents are corroborated by various sources outside of the Gospels – Roman historians, Judaism, science and archeology.

Do Mary’s witness accounts corroborated by various diverse sources outside the Bible provide enough evidence that Jesus’ life fulfilled the prophecies about the Messiah?

 

Updated March 9, 2022.

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 3:31-34, 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 1:12-14. CR John 2:12;
[23] 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

Angels at the Tomb – a Gospel Conflict?

Angelic encounter descriptions in the Gospels at the empty tomb of Jesus of Nazareth seem to vary, thus posing a potential conflict. Were there one or two angels at the empty tomb?

Setting the scene, by Jewish day-reckoning the Saturday Sabbath began at sunset on Friday evening. Earlier that afternoon, Jesus of Nazareth had been executed by crucifixion requiring a hasty burial that afternoon before Jewish Sabbath Law restricted various activities.

Sabbath formally ended Saturday at sunset. With the Sabbath restrictions no longer a factor, this is where the chronicles of the Resurrection of Jesus begins. The three synoptic GospelsMatthew, Mark and Luke – join the storyline at different points.

Mark’s account establishes the earliest timeline identifying Mary Magdalene, Mary the mother of James, and Salome purchasing burial spices as soon as the Sabbath ended Saturday evening.[1] The women worried about how they would move the stone from the entrance clearly indicating they were not aware the tomb was sealed and guarded.

Matthew’s account sets the scene at the tomb as sunrise approached Sunday morning. The joint-contingent, armed koustodia established by the command of Pilate at the behest of the Jewish council, were on-duty guarding the tomb to prevent the theft of the body. Arriving at the tomb were the two Marys, Salome, Joanna and other unnamed women.[2]

Suddenly a great earthquake struck when the women witnessed an angel rolling away the stone from the entrance to the tomb. Matthew described the angel:

MT 28:2-3 “And behold, there was a great earthquake; for an angel of the Lord descended from heaven, and came and rolled back the stone from the door, and sat on it. His countenance was like lightning, and his clothing as white as snow.” (NKJV)

At this point Mark and Luke join the storyline at the tomb with each describing, differently though consistently, the physical attire of the angels:

MK 16:5 And entering the tomb, they saw a young man clothed in a long white robe sitting on the right side…” (NKJV)

LK 24:4 “… behold, two men stood by them in shining garments.” (NKJV)

Luke unambiguously says there were two angels, while both Matthew and Mark only refer to one angel. Is there a conflict? Factoring in the details of each account into the entire scenario is revealing. Keep in mind, Luke’s investigative report was written after Matthew and Mark were written.[3]

Matthew says that after an angel rolled away the large stone, he did a curious and unusual thing – he sat on it. Not standing or hovering in the air like the stereotypical image of an angel; instead, in dazzling array there he sat, perhaps with his legs draped over the side. Unnecessary and unexpected information, yet personifying and specific detail, adding authentic realism.

Mark describes the angel inside the tomb specifically on the right side also sitting, not standing. Such descriptive details are typically absent from a deceptive statement. Logically, this angel cannot be the same one sitting outside on the rolled-away stone.

Body language of the angles indicates they were waiting, relaxed and inviting in demeanor. As one angel sat on the tomb’s entrance stone, he spoke to the women inviting them to go inside the tomb:

MT 28:5-6  “”Do not be afraid; for I know that you are looking for Jesus who has been crucified. He is not here, for He has risen, just as He said. Come, see the place where He was lying.”(NASB)

At the angel’s invitation, at least some of the women entered the tomb. Inside, Mark describes another angel who spoke to the women, his message similar to Matthew:

MK 16:5-6 “Entering the tomb, they saw a young man sitting at the right, wearing a white robe; and they were amazed. And he said to them, “Do not be amazed; you are looking for Jesus the Nazarene, who has been crucified. He has risen; He is not here; behold, here is the place where they laid Him.’””(NASB)

Pointed out was the same spot to the very same witnesses – the two Marys, Salome and perhaps other unnamed women – where the dead body of Jesus had lain on Friday as they watched Joseph of Arimathea and Nicodemus preparing the body of Jesus for burial.[4] Had the angel’s statement been untrue, the women would be expected to refute it and the angel’s message would have been suspect – they didn’t.

Witness statements to the same event are expected to vary and, as long as they are consistent on key information, it is a hallmark of truthful authenticity and credibility. On the other hand, if two statements vary too much or are very nearly or exactly the same, it is a strong indication of deception.

Evaluating witness statements requires investigators to consider the key facts, information, perspective, sequence of events, etc. and then, if possible during an actual interview, probe deeper. Interviews not being possible in this case, the statements must then be evaluated based on their own merit and compared to other statements and evidence.

All three Gospels’ descriptions vary, yet they are all tightly consistent on the main details – there was an angelic presence; the tomb was empty; the body of Jesus was gone; and the angelic pronouncement that Jesus is alive, just as he had predicted.

Corroborating information is provided by the eyewitness John’s account. His personal knowledge begins when the terrified women burst into the room where he and Peter were mourning and announced the empty tomb. The two Disciples raced to see it for themselves.[5] Also arriving back at the tomb was Mary Magdalene.[6]

Marveling at finding the tomb empty except the burial cloths used to wrap the body, John and Peter decided to go home leaving Mary behind. Standing outside the tomb crying, Mary stooped and looked back inside where she saw two angels who spoke to her and this time, so did she:

JN 20:12-13 “And she saw two angels in white sitting, one at the head and the other at the feet, where the body of Jesus had lain. Then they said to her, “Woman, why are you weeping?” She said to them, “Because they have taken away my Lord, and I do not know where they have laid Him.”(NKJV)

John was not there although his source, by strong indications Mary Magdalene herself, consistently described the two angels dressed in white sitting on each end of the stone slab.[7] Unlike the first encounter, this time she is not alarmed and she spoke to them. Mary Magdalene’s reaction, or lack of one, to the supernatural beings indicates familiarity with them as a result of at least one previous engagement.

One other validation, though one not called out by the Gospels, is a Jewish legal fact that, if not in met, could diminish the credibility of the Resurrection event. God’s Law required two witnesses to corroborate the same point of evidence to establish a fact. Two angels as witnesses at the Resurrection scene of Jesus of Nazareth would meet the requirement.[8]

Longstanding investigative principals to decipher credible and truthful statements from deceptive ones through the use of literary analysis and other evidence, all point in one direction. Were there actually two angels at the empty tomb who witnessed the Resurrection of Jesus of Nazareth?

 

Updated February 10, 2022.

Creative Commons License

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

REFERENCES:

[1] Mark 16.
[2] Luke 24.
[3] Kirby, Peter. “Gospel of Luke.” EarlyChristianWritings.com. 2019. <http://www.earlychristianwritings.com/luke.html>  “The Book of Luke.” . Quartz Hill School of Theology.  n.d.  <http://www.theology.edu/biblesurvey/luke.htm>
[4] Matthew 27; Mark 15; Luke 23.  Edersheim, Alfred. The Life and Times of Jesus the Messiah.1883. Book 5, Chapter XV. pp 1419-1420. <http://www.ntslibrary.com/PDF%20Books/The%20Life%20and%20Times%20of%20Jesus%20the%20Messiah.pdf>
[5] John 20.
[6] Luke 24; John 20.
[7] Shanks, Hershel.  “Crucifixion Bone Fragment, 21 CE” The Center for Online Judaic Studies. 2004.  <http://cojs.org/crucifixion_bone_fragment-_21_ce>   Romey, Kristin. “Unsealing of Christ’s Reputed Tomb Turns Up New Revelations.” National Geographic. 2016. <https://news.nationalgeographic.com/2016/10/jesus-christ-tomb-burial-church-holy-sepulchre>
[8] Deuteronomy 17:6, 19:15; Numbers 35:30.  Soncino Babylonian Talmud.Sanhedrin. 9a; 30a; 56a, footnote #1. <https://israelect.com/Come-and-Hear/sanhedrin/index.html>  Resnicoff, Steven H. “Criminal Confessions in Jewish Law .“ Project Genesis. 2007.  <https://web.archive.org/web/20160122222638/http://www.torah.org/features/secondlook/criminal.html>