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. In fact, 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?

 

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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

Could the Body of Jesus Have Been Stolen?

Oldest of the challenges against the Resurrection is the charge that the crucified body of Jesus of Nazareth was stolen from the tomb. Could the Body of Jesus Have Been Stolen? An unbroken chain of custody over his body would make the stolen body charge difficult to overcome.

Procurator Pilate granted the mutilated body of Jesus to Joseph of Arimathea, a prominent member of the Jewish council. He was joined by Nicodemus, another prominent member of the Jewish council, both taking the body to Joseph’s own unused tomb.

The pair quickly prepared the body for burial witnessed by women from Galilee, two identified by name – Mary the mother of Joseph (aka Jose) and http://theodds.website/could-the-body-of-jesus-have-been-stolen/.[ii] Joseph then rolled a stone in front of the tomb entrance – confirmation by the two Jewish Council members that Jesus was indeed dead and buried.

What did or didn’t happen between the time Jesus was laid in the tomb before dusk on Friday, Nissan 14, until the Sabbath morning of Nissan 15, is a complete gap in the timeline of the Gospels. It offers an opening for skeptics to say the body was stolen from the tomb that first night, although it is not the same alleged body theft in the timeline described by Matthew before sunrise Sunday, Nissan 16 – there are two possible opportunities when the body could have been stolen.

Those who most certainly would not have wanted to be corroborating witnesses of the Resurrection became just that. The Jewish leadership declared to the Roman government that the body of Jesus was still in the tomb Saturday morning, Nissan 15, according to Jewish day reckoning at dusk… 

MT 27:62-64 The next day (which is after the day of preparation) the chief priests and the Pharisees assembled before Pilate and said, “Sir, we remember that while that deceiver was still alive he said, ‘After three days I will rise again.’ So give orders to secure the tomb until the third day. Otherwise his disciples may come and steal his body and say to the people, ‘He has been raised from the dead,’ and the last deception will be worse than the first.”(NET)

Top level Jewish leadership approached Rome’s jurisdictional authority of Judea – Pilate – to state their concern implying it could also be a problem for him. As a Roman Procurator whose governing capacity included serving as a judge, Pilate had to weigh the truthfulness of their claim as well as the potential political consequences.

First was the declaration that the corpse of Jesus was lying in a tomb that Saturday morning, then their stated concern the body could be stolen. Unusual from a Roman perspective, but not for the Jews. Rome had little regard for crucified victims according to Josephus; however, Rome did allow the Jews’ custom to bury their crucified dead:[iii]

“Nay, they proceeded to that degree of impiety, as to cast away their dead bodies without burial, although the Jews used to take so much care of the burial of men, that they took down those that were condemned and crucified , and buried them before the going down of the sun.” – Josephus, Wars  [iv]

Pilate most likely considered other factors, too. False witness in the Roman Empire was a capital offense so how likely was it the Jews would risk lying to him? [v] Would the Jews take the risk that the corpse had already been stolen and then have it turned up later proving them to be liars? Making their claim even stronger, the last thing the Jewish leadership would want to have happen is for the body to actually be stolen body which would in turn be the basis for validating Jesus’ claim he would rise again in 3 days.

Weighing the credibility, truthfulness and motive of their testimony and concluding they were telling the truth that the body of Jesus was still in the tomb, an irritated Pilate issued a terse decision:

MT 27:65-66 “Pilate said to them, “You have a guard; go, make it as secure as you know how.” And they went and made the grave secure, and along with the guard they set a seal on the stone.”(NASB) 

Pilate issued what was, in essence, a Roman court order to station koustodia, a company of guards, at the tomb and secure it they best way they knew how. Together, the Jewish leadership and the koustodia placed a seal on the tomb as an additional security measure.

Pilate’s Roman authority was required to deploy the koustodia making them accountable to him; however, because some of the guards later ran to the chief priests after the events at the tomb on Sunday morning, it suggests at least some koustodia also had a form of accountability to the Jewish council. Was there such a thing as a joint Roman-Jewish military squad?

Josephus described a “seal” process involving a combined Jewish-Roman military style squad led by a “Roman captain of the temple guards.” The Roman captain, who resided in the Tower of Antonia adjacent to the Temple, was assigned to a contingent of armed Temple guards.[vi]

It was this Roman captain’s role to match his seal ring with a matching seal ring possessed by the Temple leadership to verify the integrity of the seal, in this case, used to secure the Chief Priest’s vestments worn at the Jewish festal sacrifices. This seal process was temporarily in place only from the death of King Herod until Vitellius became president of Syria in 35 AD – the period of years virtually coinciding with the lifetime of Jesus of Nazareth.[vii]

Placed at the scene of the tomb holding the body of Jesus or Nazareth that Sabbath morning are the contingent of chief priests and Pharisees (probably including stealth followers, Joseph and Nicodemus) to witness the seal being placed on the tomb and the posting of the koustodia. Jewish leadership left with full confidence the sealed tomb would remain secure alleviating their anxiety that someone might steal the body of Jesus.[viii]

Archenemies of Jesus obtained a Roman judgement confirming that the chain of custody over the body of Jesus was legally established from the Roman crucifixion, to his burial, until the incredible events at the tomb at sunrise Sunday morning when the koustodia were still stationed at their post with the seal intact. With an unbroken chain of custody over the body of Jesus, what is the possibility his body was stolen?

 

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

REFERENCES:

NET = NetBible translation; NASB = New American Standard Bible translation
Gospel references: Matthew 27-28, Mark 15, Luke 23, John 19.

[i] Pearce, Jonathan MS. “Matthew and the guards at the tomb.” 2012. <http://www.debunking-christianity.com/2012/06/matthew-and-guards-at-tomb.html rel=”nofollow”> “Gospel Disproof #38: The guards at the tomb.” FreeThoughtBlogs.com. 2014. <http://freethoughtblogs.com/alethianworldview/2012/02/27/gospel-disproof-38-the-guards-at-the-tomb rel=”nofollow”>
[ii]  Edersheim, Alfred.  The Life and Times of Jesus the Messiah. Book V. 1883. Philogos.org. n.d. <http://philologos.org/__eb-lat/default.htm>
[iii] Josephus, Flavius.  Antiquities of the Jews. Book IV, Chapter VIII;
Google Books. n.d. <http://books.google.com/books?id=e0dAAAAAMAAJ&printsec=frontcover&source=gbs_ge_summary_r&cad=0#v=onepage&q&f=false
[iv] Josephus.  Wars. Book IV, Chapter V.
[v] Jahnige, Joan. “The Roman Legal System.” KET Distance Learning. 2017. http://www.dl.ket.org/latin2/mores/legallatin/legal01.htm>  Adams, John Paul. “The Twelve Tables.” 2009. California State University – Northridge. <https://www.csun.edu/~hcfll004/12tables.html>
[vi] Josephus.  Antiquities. Book XV, Chapter XI; Book XX, Chapter I.  Wars.  Book II, Chapter XVII; Book V, Chapter VI.
[vii] Josephus.  Antiquities. Book XV, Chapter XI; Book XX, Chapter I.  Smith William. Dictionary of Greek and Roman Antiquities. 1857. “L. Vitellius” (#5); “C. Cassius Longinus” (#18), and “L. Cassius Longinus” (#19). OpenLibrary.org. n.d. <https://archive.org/stream/schooldictionary00smituoft#page/n9/mode/2up>  Smith, Mahlon H.  “Lucius Vitellius.” VirtualReligion.net. 2008.   <http://virtualreligion.net/iho/vitellius_1.html>  “Lucius Vitellius.”  Livius.org. Ed. Jona Lendering.  20John Simkin14.  <http://www.livius.org/person/vitellius-lucius>
[viii] “koustodia”, G2892l (Strong) “#2892 κουστωδία koustodia;” “strategos <4755> and “speira <4686>” Lexicon-Concordance Online Bible.  n.d.  <http://lexiconcordance.com>