Mary, Blessed Virgin, I (in the Bible)
MARY, BLESSED VIRGIN, I (IN THE BIBLE)
Biblical data on the Blessed Virgin Mary, the Mother of Jesus, is naturally found primarily in the New Testament (NT). But also certain passages of the Old Testament (OT) as interpreted by inspired writers in the NT concern her. By way of conclusion this article sums up the historical data on Mary and the inferences that can be drawn from it.
In the New Testament. The references to Mary in the NT are divided here into those that are merely allusions to her and those that speak directly of her and present theological reflections on her.
Allusions to the Mother of Jesus. In Gal 4.4. St. Paul alludes to Mary when he says that "God sent his Son, born of a woman." Other indirect references to her are found in the Synoptic Gospels, which are treated here primarily as they are given in Mark, the earliest of the Synoptic Gospels.
Galatians 4.4. When St. Paul established the churches in Galatia, he did not impose circumcision and the resulting observances of the OT Law upon his converts. Judaeo-Christian missioners, perhaps from Jerusalem itself, who later visited these communities, urged them to adopt the OT Law. According to them St. Paul's proclamation of the gospel was incomplete as long as it failed to incorporate the religious culture of the OT into the lives of Christians (cf. Acts 15.5). The burden of Paul's exposition in his Epistle to the galatians in defense of his teaching is that the redemptive death and Resurrection of Christ unveiled the true meaning of the OT: in OT times the Israelites were justified, i.e., remade to live in accordance with the will of God, by the merciful action of God received through their faith in His word of salvation to them and not by their endeavor to observe the OT Law (Gal 2.16). With this understanding of the significance of Christ, which Paul insists is Apostolic teaching rather than doctrine personal to himself (Gal 2.1–10), he did not instruct the Galatians in OT observances.
Paul's exposition of the meaning of the OT in Gal2.15–3.18 naturally raised the question of the purpose of the Law: if the Law did not justify, what value did it have? He replied that one purpose of the Law was to keep man more conscious of his sinfulness than of his justice (Gal 3.19). The function of the Law was to stress man's inability to justify himself by its observance (Gal 3.22; see Rom 3.10–28). In this sense it was a preparation for man's clear understanding revealed in Christ, that the sanctifying power of God alone was the source of man's justice. Christ not only introduced the justifying power of God into history in a new way, i.e., through faith in His redemptive death and Resurrection, but at the same time liberated man from a source of anguish—his violation of the Law he agreed to observe as the presumptive condition of his salvation (Gal 2.15–16). One function of Christ's mission was to remove the burden of violations of the Law from the conscience of man (see Acts 15.10) by enabling him to center his faith in the justifying power of Christ, through whom he receives the strength and inspiration to live a life in the justice that he knows in his heart befits his human dignity (see Rom 7.13–25).
In this context concerning the liberative effect of Christ's death and Resurrection, Paul focuses attention on the reality of the human existence of Christ, Son of God, so that the Galatians might better understand why he did not instruct them in OT observances. In Gal 4.4 Paul traces Christ's redemptive mission to an eternal decree of God concerning the Son that became effective in history ("But when the fullness of time came") in the birth of His Son ("God sent his Son, born of a woman"). To effect the liberation of man from sin, the Son identified Himself fully with humanity through His birth of a human mother (see Heb 4.15). Further, He was "born under the Law," i.e., He identified Himself with the chosen people, Israel under the Covenant Law, so that the liberation from sin might include the Law itself: "… That he might redeem those who were under the Law" (Gal 4.5).
Since in Gal 4.4 Paul wished to emphasize the reality of Christ's humanity, he did not refer to the mother of Jesus by her proper name, "Mary," nor did he use "woman" as a religious title. He designated her as "woman" to make clear that Christ, despite His divinity, possessed full humanity because He was born like all men from a human mother from whom His humanity derived. Paul's allusion to the reality of Mary's maternity of Christ presupposes some knowledge about her both on the part of Paul as well as the Galatians. But the allusion is so restricted that it is not possible to determine the extent of this knowledge or its nature. Nothing more need be assumed to account for Paul's reference to Mary in this passage than the knowledge that Christ accepted her as His mother in the ordinary sense. The words of Gal 4.4 are valuable as a reflection of the mind of the first Christian generation that Mary is the mother of Christ, Son of God, in the commonly accepted sense of motherhood, i.e., she conceived Christ and gave Him birth. Paul presented Mary's maternity as a fact of Christian faith without raising the further issue of the virginal conception of Christ, recorded by Luke and Matthew. Even if Paul was aware of the virginal conception, it would not have served his purpose to mention it in this passage. He was concerned only with the fact of Mary's maternity as the deliberate will of God that provided the Son of God with the same humanity He died to save and with the very subjection to the Law from which He freed men.
Mark 3.20–21 and 3.31–35. According to Mk3.20–21, a group of people determined to exercise a certain control over Christ's conduct of His mission, for they concluded from information they had received that He was "beside Himself," i.e., acting imprudently, or perhaps strangely. This group is designated by Mark as οἱπαρ' αἱτο[symbol omitted], literally, "those with him." The phrase is commonly taken to mean the relatives of Jesus, but it can also mean friends or neighbors. (On this phrase and the relationship between it and "his mother and brethren" in Mk 3.31, see the commentaries on the Gospel of Mark.) While it seems more probable that the group is composed chiefly of the relatives of Jesus (see Jn 7.5 for the incredulous attitude of His relatives toward Him), it is doubtful that the mother of Jesus is included in it. The second evangelist is particularly concerned to indicate the attitude of various groups of people toward Jesus (e.g., Mk 1.22; 2.16; 3.6, 22). In Mk 3.20–21 he indicates a reaction of the relatives that is hostile toward Him, perhaps out of fear that His actions will lead to family embarrassment. But this reference to the attitude of the relatives of Jesus does not warrant ascribing the same sentiments to His mother, whom Mark does not here specifically mention and who may be presumed to have rendered her own judgment on the question of her Son's conduct.
Modern scholarship of the Gospels has questioned whether the visit of Jesus' "mother and brethren" in Mk3.31–35 (parallel passages in Mt 12.46–50; Lk 8.19–21) was the historical outcome of the efforts of the relatives to control His ministry. From the literary standpoint it is clear that Mark connects the two events ("they went forth" in Mk 3.21; the mother and brethren "come" in Mk 3.31). The specific mention of the presence of the mother of Jesus made in Mk 3.31 lends support to the older view assuming the events to be historically connected. Although it is true that according to Jewish family custom Jesus was no longer under the rule of His mother, neither was He subject to His other relatives. If, as the Catholic tradition holds (see on "the brethren of Jesus' below), He was Mary's only child, it is comprehensible why the relatives might have enlisted her presence, the more readily to secure access to Him in view of His constant preoccupation with crowds (Mk 3.20). The announcement conveyed to Jesus in Mk 3.32 concerning the arrival of His mother as well as His brethren has an authentic historical ring when viewed in the entire context.
These observations allow the inference that Mary permitted herself to be pressed into service by the relatives so that they might have their confrontation with Jesus; but they do not allow the further inference that she thereby shared their sentiments concerning His conduct of the ministry. The evangelist provides no data from which a conclusion can be drawn concerning her own state of mind on the issue raised by the relatives. He affords only a basis for the judgment that in a matter of family concern Mary made the contribution for which the family asked.
Mark concludes his account of the visit, not by recording the meeting between Jesus and the relatives, but by citing His comment in the context of the hostility of the relatives. Jesus takes occasion of the announcement of the arrival of His mother and brethren to observe that His mother and brethren are those who "do the will of God" (Mk 3.35) like the audience before Him listening to His teaching (Mk 3.34). In Mark's context this saying of Jesus constitutes a telling response to His relatives who are disturbed at His acceptance of the crowds (Mk3.20–21): His own relatives are unwilling to accept His teaching as prophetic (Mk 6.4). Not only do they feel free to instruct Him; they also refuse to be instructed by Him. Were they to accept His teaching themselves, they would discover a bond between Him and themselves of greater significance than ties of blood. (For the ultimate acceptance of Jesus and His teaching by His relatives, see Acts1.14.)
This incident revealing Jesus' experience of rejection by His relatives may owe its recall to the persecution Judaeo-Christians underwent at the hands of their Jewish brethren (Acts 4.1–2; 5.17–18), in which Paul himself eventually played a leading role before his conversion (Acts 8.3; 22.4). The Gospel of Matthew (Mt 12.46–50) places the visit of Jesus' mother and brethren in close connection with the parables on the kingdom of God (Mk 13.1–52) in order to associate the rejection of Christians and the Christian message with the mystery of the kingdom of God. (On Lk 8.19–21, see below.)
Mark 6.1–4. In Mk 6.1–4 (parallel in Mt 13.54–57) the people of Nazareth refuse to accept Jesus and His message (see Lk 4.16–30). Apparently, they are insulted that His preaching and miracles were not presented first to themselves. In their opinion their familiarity with His family circle entitled them to this consideration. According to the parallel passage in Mt 13.55, they know Him as "the carpenter's son." These were probably the original words in the early oral catechesis from which the Synoptic Gospels are derived. The best manuscripts in Mk6.3 have: "The carpenter, the son of Mary." But this does not accord with the Jewish custom of describing a man as the son of his father rather than of his mother, a practice well illustrated in the title given Jesus in Jn 6.42. A third reading, in a few manuscripts, "the son of the carpenter and of Mary," is probably the result of a conflation of the other two variant readings. The title, "the carpenter's son," implies no knowledge among the Nazarenes of Jesus' virginal conception, as is to be expected.
The family circle of Jesus is further described in Mk6.3 as composed of His "brothers" and "sisters," four of the brothers being explicitly named. The Greek words ἀδελφοί and ἀδελφαί that are used to designate the relationship between Jesus and these relatives have the meaning of full blood brother and sister in the Greek-speaking world of the evangelist's time and would naturally be taken by his Greek reader in this sense. Toward the end of the 4th century (c. 380) Helvidius, in a work now lost, pressed this fact in order to attribute to Mary other children besides Jesus so as to make her a model for mothers of larger families. St. Jerome, motivated by the Church's traditional faith in Mary's perpetual virginity, wrote a tract against Helvidius (a.d. 383) in which he developed an explanation of the Gospel usage of ἀδελφοί and ἀδελφαί for the relatives of Jesus that is still in vogue among Catholic scholars. In the Septuagint (LXX) ἀδελφόί is used in the sense of "kinsman." In Gn 13.8;14.14, 16 Abraham's nephew lot is called his "brother"; the same term is applied to Jacob's nephew Laban in Gn 29.15. In 1 Chr 23.22 the sons of Cis (Kish) are called the "brothers" of Eleazar's daughters, though they were their cousins. This usage of ἀδελφός in LXX derives from the fact that Hebrew is deficient in terminology for blood relationships (as is also Aramaic, the language behind the Greek of the Gospels). Both Hebrew and Aramaic were forced to use āḥîm, "brothers," in the sense of "kinsmen" to supply for the deficiency. The translators who produced LXX transferred this broader meaning of Semitic āḥîm to ἀδελφοί and thus established a usage that the evangelists could follow.
It is important to note the point of St. Jerome's argument. He did not contend that the only possible linguistic meaning for "brothers" and "sisters," used of Jesus' relatives in the Gospels, is "cousins." To establish the relatives as cousins of Jesus he worked from other, complicated evidence in the Gospels that indicated that the James and Joseph of Mk 6.3 were children of a Mary who was a different person from the mother of Jesus (cf. Mt 13.55; 27.56, Mk 15.40). The validity of this argument depends on the assumption (probably correct) that the James and Joseph of Mk 6.3 are the same persons who are mentioned in Mk 15.40. On this supposition the mother of James and Joseph who is called Mary in Mk 15.40 was a relative of the mother of Jesus. Jerome considered her a sister of Jesus' mother and concluded that James and Joseph were His cousins. This conclusion, although reasonably probable, is less certain than the central point of Jerome's argument against Helvidius. Helvidius assumed that ἀδελφοί and ἀδελφαί in the Gospels, when used of blood relationships, had no other possible sense than full blood brother and full blood sister. Jerome's argument does not deny that such would be the normal usage of these terms in the Greek-speaking world, but he adduces evidence to show that the evangelists wrote within a linguistic tradition that enabled them to use the terms in a broader sense. There is, then, no necessary incompatibility between the Church's doctrine of Mary's perpetual virginity, in vogue long before Helvidius's time, and the Gospel usage of "brothers" and "sisters" for the relatives of Jesus.
The texts here under consideration, as well as Mk3.31 and its parallels, reflect the view of Mary as the natural mother of Jesus that prevailed during His public ministry. Even those on familiar terms with the family circle of Jesus were unaware of the virginal conception. Since they regarded Jesus as the son of Mary and Joseph in the fully natural sense, they could not possibly have attached any particular religious significance to the fact that Jesus was the only child of Mary and Joseph. All the texts so far considered, including perhaps Gal 4.4, mirror a historical milieu that made no religious reflection on the person of the mother of Jesus.
Theological Reflections on the Mother of Jesus. When Mary is spoken of in the NT its inspired writers often convey a deeper theological meaning by their words than may be seen by the average modern reader. Such passages, which are treated here, are (1) Mt1.18–25; 2.11, 13–14, 20–21; (2) Lk 1.26–38; 1.39–56;2.1–7; 2.16, 19; 2.33–35; 2.41–51; (3) Lk 8.19–21;11.27–28; (4) Rv ch. 12; (5) Jn 2.1–12; 19.25–27.
Matthew 1.18–25; 2.11, 13–14, 20–21. The theological conceptions that govern the thought of Matthew's in fancy gospel are expressed in his genealogy of Jesus (Mt 1.2–16). The genealogy invokes the messianic hope of Israel in recalling the divine promises to the patriarchs (Mt 1.2) and to David (Mt 1.6). It acknowledges Israel's sinfulness by pointing to David's murder of Uriah (Mt1.6) and the disaster of the Babylonian captivity (Mt1.11). It emphasizes the presence of God in Israel as continuously sustaining the faith and hope of the people (the sense of ἐγέννησεν, "begot," constantly repeated throughout the genealogy).
It is in this context of God's continuous and beneficent presence in Israel that the events in Mt 1.18–2.23 are set. The evangelist's main purpose in these chapters is to declare that the saving action of God, begun in Abraham and carried forward throughout Israel's history, continues in Christ for the benefit of Israel and the world. Jesus is declared the Savior of His people (Mt 1.21); the King of the Jews (Mt 2.1); the Son of David (Mt 1.1), i.e., descended from the Davidic line in accordance with Nathan's prophecy (2 Sm 7.12–13); and the Son of Abraham (Mt 1.1), i.e., the one through whom the divine promise that all the nations are to be blessed in Abraham is fulfilled (Gn 12.3; Gal 3.8–9).
Matthew's concept of Jesus as the bearer in history of the messianic saving action of God clarifies the meaning of the evangelist when he sets out to explain the "origin" of Christ (Mt 1.18): he aims to show how God's presence in Israel produced the person of Christ. The salvific action of God (1) caused a virginal conception of Jesus in Mary, the fiancée of Joseph (Mt 1.18); (2) it resolved Joseph's perplexity over this event by directing him to marry her so as to give the Child legal status as a descendant of David (Mt 1.20); and (3) it provided the Child and His mother with necessary protection (Mt 2.11, 13–14, 20–21). As conceived by Matthew, the action of God involved a divine choice of the person of Joseph, since his role as legal father of the child had specific purposes.
The evangelist adds his own comment upon the events by citing Is 7.14 as here receiving its "fulfillment," i.e., as revealing the continuity of God's saving action in history. In the virginal conception of Jesus, God acted in accordance with what He had planned all along, as faith perceives when it reads Is 7.14 in the light of Mary's virginal maternity and the meaning of her child as the bearer of salvation to the world ("'Emmanuel,' which is interpreted 'God with us"'). This position of Matthew that Is 7.14 already stated (so far as God is concerned) the virginal conception of Jesus that occurred in Mary implies a divine choice of her person to be the virgin mother of the Savior. The evangelist reenforces this point by stating that Joseph "did not know her" until the birth of the child; that is to say, Joseph recognized that Mary was divinely chosen to be Virgin Mother of the Child, and fully respected the divine will that she remain a virgin.
It is universally recognized that Matthew's famous "until" ("he did not know her until she brought forth a son"; Mt 1.25) is not a term of chronological intent: it neither affirms nor denies marital intercourse after the child's birth. The Evangelist is not looking forward in time through the history of the marriage between Joseph and Mary, but rather backward to his own citation of Is7.14. He stresses this prophecy as being operative especially for the religious understanding of Joseph and Mary. This fact is important for the interpretation of the story of the Magi (Mt 2.1–12). The Magi learn that the messianic king of the Jews has been born, and they worship Him. [see magi (in the bible).] But Matthew's readers are better informed than the Magi. The readers know that the king is emmanuel; in Him is found the salvific presence of God (2 Cor 5.19). They know also, as the Magi do not know, that the mother of the Child is the virgin mother of God's salvific plan. Matthew's Christian readers can perceive, not merely a continuity between the virginal conception of Christ and Is 7.14, but also a continuity in history: in God's design the virgin mother whom He destined to appear in Israel gave birth to the Savior in whom the Gentiles are to believe. God's plan is to bridge the gap between Jew and Gentile; this Israelite mother of divine choice becomes associated through her child with the Gentile world.
Joseph's further role in Mt 2.13–14, 20–21 is to care for the Child in whom the Gentiles are to believe and for the virgin mother whose maternity is ultimately to make their faith possible. These considerations indicate that in Matthew ch. 1–2 Mary's maternity is related to the Gentile world through faith in Christ, and it is not oriented to the question of the personal family of herself and Joseph. In the theological thought of Matthew, her maternal role is fully accounted for in her virginal maternity of Christ and its significance for the Gentile world. For the first evangelist Mary is the virgin mother of the Emmanuel whose salvific presence, once He is conceived, remains in the world forever (Mt 28.20).
Luke 1.26–38; 1.39–56; 2.1–7; 2.16, 19; 2.33–35;2.41–51. The Lucan Infancy Gospel (Luke ch. 1–2) is a conscious product of literary artistry that offers a series of religious reflections on John the Baptist and Jesus, and on Zechariah, Elizabeth, and Mary. Considered as a whole, Luke's Infancy narrative is made up of two diptychs. The first diptych parallels the annunciation of John to Zechariah (Lk 1.5–25) with the annunciation of Jesus to Mary (Lk 1.26–38). The second diptych parallels the birth of John (Lk 1.57–58) with the birth of Jesus (Lk2.1–20). In addition to this broad scheme of parallelism, there is comparison and contrast of scene and detail throughout Luke ch. 1–2. The more detailed use of parallelism is evident in the Annunciations; it is less evident but clearly detectable elsewhere (e.g., in the contrast between Mary in Lk 1.39–46 and Zechariah in Lk 1.20–23). The purpose of the parallelisms in ch. 1–2 is to show adroitly the superior dignity in the order of the divine gifts of Jesus over John, and of Mary over Zechariah and Elizabeth.
In certain portions of ch. 1–2 the literary style draws heavily upon words, expressions, and figures of the OT, not by direct citation of them but by an interweaving of the OT elements into the Lucan narrative. In this way the author alludes to past prophecies, personages, and momentous events of the sacred history of Israel in order to bestow life, warmth, and relevance upon the events and people he describes. Beneath the surface of his Annunciation narratives, and the magnificat especially, lie unusually rich undercurrents of theological thought.
All the personages and events of Luke ch. 1–2 derive their importance and meaning from Jesus. He is Son of the Most High, the Davidic messianic King (Lk 1.32–33; cf. 2 Sm 7.13–14), miraculously conceived by the power of God (Lk 1.35); He is Savior, Christ, and Lord (Lk2.11), the very bearer of salvation (Lk 2.30), the light of the Gentiles and the glory of Israel (Lk 2.32). John's greatness consists in the fact that he was appointed by God to prepare the way for Him (Lk 1.15a). To fulfill this task John was consecrated to the Lord from birth [an idea conveyed by a combination of OT allusions taken from 1 Sm 1.11 (see especially the LXX); Jgs 13.2–5, 7] and endowed with the spirit and power of Elijah (Lk 1.17; cf. Mal 3.23). He is the last and the greatest of the OT Prophets because it was his function to prepare Israel for the immediate appearance of Jesus through his baptism for the remission of sins (Lk 1.76–77).
In the thought of the Lucan narrative, the mother of Jesus likewise derives her dignity from Jesus. The evangelist introduces her as a παρθένος (virgin) and the fiancée of Joseph (Lk 1.27). His judgment concerning her virginity is based not on historical data but on the more certain terrain of the action of God making choice of her, much in the line of thought of Mt 1.23 (see above). According to Luke, she is κεχαριτωμένη (highly favored, traditionally rendered as full of grace), the favored object of the divine choice, because of the person of Jesus she is about to conceive and bear (Lk 1.28). This title, ascribed by Luke to the angel Gabriel, is bracketed by χα[symbol omitted]ρε (hail, greetings; literally "rejoice") and ὁ κύριος μετὰ σο[symbol omitted] [the Lord (is) with you]. The entire "greeting," as Luke terms it (Lk 1.29), is not to be interpreted conventionally, for the evangelist describes Mary as pondering it, attempting to penetrate its meaning (Lk 1.29).
A growing number of NT scholars concede that the greeting is a subtle allusion to a set of OT prophecies that invite Israel, under the figure of a woman, the "daughter Sion," to rejoice at the prospect of the action of God bringing about the promised salvation of the people (Jl2.21–27; Za 9.9–10; Zep 3.14–17). Luke's χα[symbol omitted]ρε parallels the χα[symbol omitted]ρε (rejoice) of Zep 3.14 (LXX). His κεχαριτωμένη parallels the OT figure, the "virgin daughter Sion" (Is 37.22), "virgin Israel" (Jer 31.4), an abstract personification of God's favored people Israel, directed in these prophecies to rejoice at the fulfillment of their messianic hope. The expression, "The Lord [is] with you," as used in the OT (Gn 26.24; 28.15; 46.4; Ex 3.12; Jgs 6.12, 16), expresses the idea of God's salvific presence, here to inaugurate the messianic era by allusion to Zep 3.15b: "The King of Israel, the Lord, is in your midst." After his notation on the necessity of reflection concerning the greeting, Luke introduces a parallel of contrast: "Fear not, Mary" (Lk 1.30), to parallel "Fear not, Sion" (Zep 3.16); "you have found grace with God" (Lk 1.30), to contrast with, "you have no further misfortune to fear" (Zep 3.15b). As the Prophet Zephaniah invites Israel to rejoice over the presence of God within it to save it from all its misfortunes (Zep 3.14–17), so the angel invites Mary to rejoice because she is favored with the presence of God who saves her from all its misfortunes. Whereas the prophecy of Zephaniah refers globally to Israel, or more exactly to the faithful Remnant of Israel, under the figure of a woman, the angelic greeting concretizes the prophecy in Mary: she receives in her person the fulfillment of the messianic hope of her people.
The angel explains that Mary is to receive the fulfillment by conceiving and bearing a son whom she is to name Jesus ("Yahweh is salvation"; Lk 1.31). The Evangelist employs conventional language to allude to women favored by God with sons (Sarah: Gn 21.2; Samson's mother: Jgs 13.3; Anna: 1 Sm 1.19; the young woman of Is 7.14; see also the terms used in regard to Elizabeth: Lk 1.24, 57). After the Child is described as the Davidic Messiah, Mary presents her famous question, "How shall this happen, since I do not know man?" (Lk1.34). Since Mary is fiancée to Joseph, since there is no historical background sustaining the possibility that she and Joseph would have entered a virginal marriage of their own accord, and since there is no evidence in the Biblical texts that, they were divinely enlightened to make such a decision at the time of their bethrothal, it is necessary to conclude that the thought in Lk 1.34 does not refer to a "vow" of virginity Mary would have already made.
The interpretation of Mary's question has not achieved a consensus among NT scholars. It is clear that Luke intends it to contrast with Zechariah's question (Lk1.18). He requests evidence to verify the truth of Gabriel's prophecy concerning Elizabeth's child. Mary, however, does not challenge Gabriel's prophecy that she will be mother of the messianic King. Her question reflects upon the angel's announcement that it is out of the divine favor toward herself (Lk 1.30) that she will be mother of this King (Lk 1.31–33). She inquires how she is to understand the divine favor toward herself in this messianic maternity ("How shall this be"), for she is not married, and unlike women of the past favored with children she has no evidence that she is barren ("since I do not know man").
The angel replies that the divine favor is to be shown her through a virginal conception of the child by the divine presence residing within her (Lk 1.35a). This divine action will be comparable to the cloud, the symbol of the divine presence, that settled down on the Meeting Tent housing the ark [Ex 40.35; to describe a special divine presence the Lucan text uses the verb ἐπισκιάζω, overshadow, the same word employed by LXX to translate the Hebrew verb šākan (to settle down, to abide) in Ex 40.35, where Yahweh's residence in the sanctuary is explained].
In consequence of God's action within her the Child to be born will be holy with the holiness of Yahweh, and the special divine presence within Him will come to be recognized (Lk 1.35b). Since the divine favor shown Mary, and through her to the Child, is concealed by the virginal conception, the angel gives her a sign, i.e., a pledge, that God's favor will be manifested in His own time. The sign is Elizabeth's pregnancy (Lk 1.36). Whether it is the case of the barren woman, Elizabeth, or the case of Mary, the virgin, God shows His favor when and as He chooses: "because nothing shall be impossible with God" (Lk 1.37).
Mary accepts the angelic message in its entirety, expressing her confidence in the virginal conception as an action of God, in the mystery of the divine presence in the Child, and in the pledge of God that the divine favor toward her and her Child will be manifested: "Be it done to me according to your word" (Lk 1.38). The Lucan scene ends on the note that in the chosen woman, Mary, the divine presence resides as it resided in a similar manner in the midst of Israel in the sanctuary.
Luke's scene of Mary's visitation (Lk 1.39–45, 56) utilizes 2 Sm 6.1–11, 15 to draw out the theological implications of the divine presence in child and mother that the Annunciation narrative has prophesied. Mary, carrying the Child in her womb, is compared to the ark of the covenant, the site of the permanent presence of Yahweh among His people. As the ark was brought to Jerusalem in David's time, so the mother of Jesus departs in the direction of the Holy City to visit Elizabeth (Lk 1.39; cf. 2 Sm 6.2). As Israel honored the presence of Yahweh in the ark during its trip toward Jerusalem, so Elizabeth recognizes at Mary's greeting that the mother of Jesus carries in herself the divine presence. But unlike David's (2 Sm 6.9), her reaction to the presence of the Lord is one of joyful awe, not reverential fear (Lk 1.43); for Mary carries the presence of God that sanctifies (Lk 1.41) in contrast to the terrible presence that dealt Uzzah a mortal blow (2 Sm 6.7). As the ark stayed in the house of Obededom for 3 months (2 Sm 6.11), so Mary remains with Elizabeth for about three months (Lk 1.56).
Despite her exalted role as bearer of the divine presence, the ark of the new covenant, Mary is characterized by Luke in the magnificat (Lk 1.46–58) as the perfect representative of the 'ănāwîm (lowly, humble, poor), the spiritual community of the poor, the remnant, whom God was to prepare to receive His expected salvation (cf. Zep3.12). God has taken into consideration Mary's ταπείνω-σις (humiliation, humble station, lowliness; Lk 1.48), both material and spiritual, and has looked favorably upon her longing for deliverance from this condition, as He promised to Abraham (Lk 1.55). Following the OT tradition of ascribing canticles to the person honored by them, Luke attributes the Magnificat to Mary. Essentially, it is a series of religious reflections invoking various OT ideas that concern the mystery of God's salvific plan come to term in Mary, through whose maternity of Jesus the generations to follow (the new Israel; Lk 1.50) will receive the blessings of the messianic era. All generations, recognizing the divine favor bestowed upon them through her, i.e., through her maternal role in the creation of the new Israel, will call her blessed (Lk 1.48).
The second chapter of Luke shifts its orientation somewhat away from consideration of the mother of Jesus to focus upon the mystery of salvation to occur through her Child, Jesus. However, the reader is invited to reflect upon this mystery through the eyes of the mother. The Child's birth occurs in simple and lowly surroundings that reflect the condition of the parents as classic examples of the 'ănāwîm (Lk 2.6–7). The Lucan text makes discrete reference to Mi 5.1–5, with which it associates the birth of the Child at Bethlehem. It makes a second allusion by the use of φάτνη (crib, manger) to Is 1.3–4 (see especially the LXX, where the same Greek word is used) to give meaning to the circumstances surrounding the birth as forecasting the rejection of Jesus.
True to His pledge, God overcomes the poverty and isolation of the birth by the angelic revelation to the shepherds (Lk 2.8–15). Mary ponders the divine message to these 'ănāwîm attempting to fathom its meaning as well as the circumstances of the birth (Lk 2.19; cf. Dn 7.28; Gn 37.11). In accordance with the Magnificat she remains among the 'a’nāwîm. It is in this capacity that she presents the Child to the Lord in the Temple and makes the offering of the poor, two turtledoves (Lk 2.22–24). Again God acts to manifest the significance of the Child as Savior both of the Gentiles and of Israel, fulfilling a pledge to Simeon (Lk 2.32). When the parents marvel at the ingenuity of the divine plan, Simeon foretells the rejection of the Child (Lk 2:33–34) and addresses himself to the mother: "And thy own soul a sword shall pierce, that the thoughts of many hearts may be revealed" (Lk2.35). This prophecy has not been convincingly interpreted. It appears to allude to Ez 14.17, where the sword is the sign of division that the action of God produces in Israel to separate the faithful remnant from the rest of the people. In the Lucan theology Mary is addressed as a member of the 'ănāwîm. The probable meaning of the prophecy is that she, together with her Child (Lk 2.34), will be separated from her people. She is here envisioned by Luke in her representative capacity, already indicated in the Magnificat, as mother of the new Israel. Since Luke does not place Mary at the cross (cf. Lk 23.49 with Jn 19.25), it is improbable that he sees the prophecy as a direct reference to her compassion. He does associate her, however, with the primitive Christian community in Jerusalem (Acts 1.14).
Luke concludes his Infancy narrative with a cryptic allusion to the death and Resurrection of Jesus ("after three days"; Lk 2.46) in his account of the parents' discovery of Him in the Temple. Joseph and Mary are counted among the 'ănāwîm (who properly belong in the Temple, according to OT thought). The mother is left in a state of reflection on all the events of the childhood of Jesus, prayerful and awaiting expectantly the deliverance of Israel through her Son (Lk 2.51).
Luke 8.19–21; 11.27–28. The first of these passages has parallels in Mk 3.31–35; Mt 12.46–50 (see above). From the Lucan designation of Mary as the perfect representative of the 'ănāwîm it is evident that in both these passages the Evangelist intends to allude to the mother of Jesus as the perfect hearer of the word of God. In the Lucan theology she is the model of all Christians, who must respond to the word of God, and in this sense is already the figure or type of the Church.
The theological portrait of Mary in the Gospel of Luke as a whole exhibits a sweep of thought that takes the Christian reader from the lofty pinnacle of the symbolic ark of the new covenant in whose person the Son of God was conceived and resided, down to the humble station of the 'a’nāwîm and finally leaves her as an invitation to all Christians to allow the word of God to fructify in themselves through an obedient faith as it fructified in the woman chosen to be the mother of Jesus. Since for Luke the divine favor shown Mary and her child is at first concealed and only gradually manifested, it appears quite incompatible with his theology that Mary would have other children by Joseph. To be the virgin mother of Jesus, the messianic King in whom the divine presence resides, is her personal, religious mission. Luke does not propose her virginity as a moral ideal, but as a determination of the divine will, a mystery of faith requiring that she hear the word of God and keep it.
Revelation ch. 12. The image of the woman in ch. 12 of Revelation is a symbol of the people of God, Israel of the OT and the new Israel of the NT (see Gal 6.10). In a highly subtle and complex manner the author of Revelation ch. 12 transforms the OT comparisons of Israel to a woman from metaphor to symbol. The OT Prophets compare Israel to a faithless bride (Jer ch. 2; Ez ch. 16), to a mother (Hos 2.4; Is 66.7), to a woman in labor (Jer 6.24;13.27; Is 37.36). Selecting the woman image itself, ch. 12 of Revelation draws further upon the imagery of the OT Prophets to produce an original symbol that is remarkable for its ambivalence. New Testament scholars are in virtual agreement that the woman symbol of Rv.12.1 stands for the people of God of both Testaments; but on the development of the symbol in the remainder of the chapter opinions diverge considerably. (see woman clothed with the sun.)
The allusion to the Israel of the OT in the symbol of the woman is evident from the unmistakable relationship between Rv 12.2 and Is 26.17. The thought and language of the two passages coincide. In Is 26.17 the Prophet likens Israel's suffering under divine chastisement to a woman in labor who is writhing and crying out. Like the metaphorical woman of this passage in Isaiah, the symbolic woman of Rv 12.2 is with child, cries out, and writhes. But in Isaiah the pregnancy, like the woman, is metaphorical: the whole figure of the Isaian woman is meant to depict the incapacity of Israel to save itself from its sufferings (Is 27.18). God Himself must intervene if Israel is to be saved (Is 27.20–22). The symbol of the woman in Rv 12.2 pertains to the Israel of the OT yearning for salvation but unable of itself to fulfill this yearning.
The inclusion of the Christian Church under the symbol of the woman appears clearly from Rv 12.5, 13–18, when these passages are understood in the context of the entire Book of Revelation. In Rv 12.5 the woman bears a son who is described in terms that unmistakably designate Him as the Christ of Christian faith. Once born, the Child is taken up to God's throne, a plain reference to the Resurrection and Ascension of Christ. But the woman is separated from Him by the threat of a dragon. She escapes the dragon through the protection of God, who prepares a place for her on earth (Rv 12.6, 14). Frustrated in his attempt to destroy the woman, the dragon awaits reinforcements before launching himself against the rest of the woman's offspring (Rv 12.17). In the context of the Book of Revelation, the woman who flees the dragon and is protected from harm by God can only be the Christian Church, for it is the Church at once divinely protected and persecuted that is the main theme of Revelation.
The ambivalent meaning of the woman symbol in the broad sweep of Rv ch. 12, symbolizing both Israel and the Christian Church, is clear also from the imagery of Rv 12.1. There, at the opening of the chapter, the woman is described as clothed with the sun, having the moon at her feet, and crowned with 12 stars. The imagery of sun and moon is taken from Is 60.1–2, 19–20, where the Israel of the future is envisioned, under the figure of a mother, as illuminating the entire world. Placed in heaven, i.e., immediately below God's throne, she reflects the light of God Himself. She is, as it were a new luminary for the earth, comparable to the sun and moon (cf. Gn 1.14–15). This imagery of the woman illuminating the world combines the people of God of the OT and the people of God of the NT into a unity: the promise made to the Israel of the OT in Is ch. 60 finds its fulfillment in the Church of the NT. The crown of 12 stars probably refers to the 12 tribes of Israel, who are sealed in Rv 12.4–8, and to the 12 Apostles, whose names are inscribed on the foundation stones of the New Jerusalem in Rv 21.14. This interpretation corresponds perfectly to the ambivalence of the woman symbol.
The interpretation of the woman symbol meets with its greatest difficulty in the passage of thought from Rv 12.2, the portrait of the woman in labor, to Rv 12.4–5, the portrait of the woman bearing the child. Because of the utilization of Is 26.17 to describe the labor of the woman in Rv 12.2, it is necessary to conclude that the labor here is fruitless: the portrait reflects the Isaian contention that Israel cannot save itself from its sufferings, but must await the act of God (Is 26.20–22). In Rv 12.4–5, however, the woman, who is no longer specified as being in labor but instead is confronted by the dragon, is fruitful and bears the child. Since Rv 12.5 designates the child as Christ and as immediately seized to be brought to God's throne, it is legitimate to conclude that behind this allusion to the Resurrection and Ascension of Christ lies the Johannine concept of the ὕψωσις "lifting up" (Jn 3.14; 12.32), i.e., the Passion-death and Resurrection-Ascension of Jesus. This allusion to the historical Jesus is on the high plane of the theology of the Johannine Gospel: the reference is to the historical Christ who is glorified by the Father (Jn 12.28; 13.31–32). In the Johannine theology Christ always possesses this glory. It is gradually revealed at the determination of the Father (Jn2.11; 8.54). The woman of Rv 12.5 gives birth to the Christ who is glorified by the Father because He possessed this glory, i.e., His self-revealing divine power, before creation (Jn 17.5), and lived among men to manifest it (Jn 1.14), especially through His Resurrection and Ascension (Rv 12.5b). In Rv 12.5 an extremely complex set of ideas in the realm of Johannine theology is propounded: (1) by an act of God the OT Israel (the woman of Rv 12.5) received in herself the fulfillment of her longing for deliverance (Is 26.20); (2) the OT Israel (the woman of Rv 12.5) gave birth to the messianic King (Ps2.7), whose proper dwelling is at the throne of God, where He now resides (Rv 12.5b); (3) but since Christ always possessed the divine glory He now enjoys, it must be recalled that it was through the Virgin Mary (the woman of Rv 12.5) that He first "became flesh and tabernacled among us" (Jn 1.14) for the purpose of manifesting this glory ("and we saw his glory"; Jn 1.14). (The Johannine ἐσκήνωσεν, "tabernacled," has the same overtone of the divine presence as the "overshadow" of Lk 1.35.)
Through its complex symbolism Revelation ch. 12 combines into a single picture the mystery of God's salvific plan now operating through the Christian Church whose historical dependency on Israel lies in Christ, born of the Virgin Mary.
John 2.1–12; 19.25–27. The mother of Jesus appears in the Fourth Gospel in roles unequaled for their prominence in the synoptic accounts of the public ministry of Jesus. At cana she takes an active role in Jesus' changing of water into wine at a marriage feast. On Calvary she is present beneath the cross, where she is instructed by her own dying Son to receive the beloved disciple as her son.
Attempts to interpret the Cana narrative (Jn 2.1–12) simply on the historical level have failed to account for all the data of the passage. Jesus' reply to Mary, "What wouldst thou have me do, woman? My hour has not yet come" (Jn 2.4), lacks coherence with Mary's confident instruction to the waiters, "Do whatever he tells you" (Jn2.5). The expression τί ἐμοì καì σοί (literally, "What to me and to thee") is invariably used in both the OT and the NT to imply a certain rejection (Jgs 11.12; Jos 22.24; 2 Sm 16.10; 19.22; 1 Kgs 17.18; 2 Kgs 3.13; 2 Chr 35.21; Mt 8.29; Mk 1.24; 5.7; Lk 4.34; 8.28). The hour of Jesus in John is a technical term for His glorification through His Passion (Jn 7.30; 8.20; 12.23, 27;13.1; 17.1). Even if "hour" is read as part of a question ("Has my hour not yet come?") as some of the Fathers have understood it, an allusion to the Passion cannot be excluded from the text.
The impossibility of satisfactorily interpreting the Cana narrative on the assumption that it is solely the historical record of an objective event has forced exegetes to study the OT background to the account. It is obvious that an OT background saturates the Evangelist's thought in his Prologue (Jn 1.1–18), which alludes to Gn 1.1 and to the concept of the logos in certain Psalms and in the Book of Wisdom. But the OT background is even more evident in Jn 1.19–51: the messianic expectancy (v. 19,41), the citation of Is 40.3 in v. 23, and the allusions to Is 53.7 in v. 29 and v. 36, to the Law and the Prophets in v. 45, to the Davidic Messiah (2 Samuel ch. 7) in v. 49, and to Dn 7.13 ("Son of Man") and Gn 28.12 in v.51. The Cana narrative alludes to the OT water of ritual purification in Jn 2.6, and Mary's statement to the waiters closely parallels Gn 41.55. Moreover, in Jn 1.19–51 titles are important to clarify the religious significance of personages: the Baptist is not Messiah, Elijah, or the Prophet, but "a herald's voice in the desert"; Jesus is Lamb of God, the Chosen One, teacher, Christ, Son of God, King of Israel, Son of Man; Simon is Rock; Nathanael is "a genuine Israelite." The use of titles is a procedure followed also in the case of Mary in the Cana narrative. The Evangelist avoids the use of her proper name, designating her instead as "the mother of Jesus" (four times, including Jn 2.12) and "woman" (once). The title, "the mother of Jesus" is to be understood according to the thought of Jn 1.14: the logos became flesh and "tabernacled" in her in order to manifest His glory.
Since the reply of Jesus to Mary in Jn 2.4 must be interpreted on a theological rather than a historical level, the title γυνή (woman) cannot be taken simply for the respectful term of address it represented in the Greek world of the Evangelist's time. Except for the possible correlation with "Son of Man" in Jn 1.51 no direct indication of the religious sense of "woman" is provided in the first two chapters of John. It is necessary to judge the sense of the title on the basis of the Cana narrative as a whole.
The narrative concerns the manifestation of the glory of Christ (Jn 2.11). The transformation of the ritual water of purification into wine is symbolic of the messianic benefits coming through Christ (for wine as one of the symbols of the messianic benefits, see Am 9.4; Is 25.6; Jer 31.12; Jl 4.18). The miracle is a prophetic action fulfilling Jesus' prophecy that Nathanael would see evidence that the messianic benefits promised to the Patriarchs are fulfilled in Him (Jn 1.51; Gn 28.12). The setting of the miracle is a γάμος (wedding banquet), a Christian term portraying the joys of the messianic kingdom (Mt 22.2; 25.10; Lk 12.36). Mary's declaration, "They have no wine" (Jn 2.3), petitions, or at least hints, that Jesus should bestow the benefits of the kingdom on Israel. Although He replies that the time for such action has not yet arrived, He responds by the performance of the miracle. The ambiguity between Jesus' reply and His action suggests that the term "woman" shares in this equivocation.
The only sound explanation presenting itself for this peculiar usage of "woman" in Jn 2.4 is the varied senses in which the same term is utilized in the Johannine theology of Revelation ch. 12. The reply of Jesus views Mary's petition eschatologically, i.e., in the light of His future action inaugurating the kingdom with finality through His death on the cross. In this final sense He cannot now act; Mary is "woman" in accordance with Is 26.17, the figure of the metaphorically pregnant woman, yearning for the kingdom but unable to bring it about. However, in Christ's ministry the kingdom has really arrived (Mk 1.15). Thus He can respond to her request with a prophetic miracle indicating the future advent in Himself; from this standpoint Mary is the future mother-Israel of Is 60.4, i.e., the figure of the future people of God. Through her participation in the miracle at Cana she is beginning to experience the joy of the gathering of the new people of God (Is 60.5) in the kingdom that Christ will finally establish. The title "woman" in the Cana narrative makes of Mary's person the figure of the people of God: first of the old Israel yearning for salvation through Christ, yet completely dependent on the action of God through Him; and secondly of the new Israel to come into existence through His Passion and Resurrection.
The Johannine scene of Mary at the cross (Jn 19.25–27) completes his gospel theology of the mother of Jesus as "woman." That the Cana and Calvary narratives involving the mother of Jesus are intended to be mutually explanatory is clear from several considerations: the theological sense of the word "hour" in Jn 2.4, meaning the glorification of Jesus through His Passion: the absence of the proper name in favor of the titles "the mother of Jesus" and "woman" in both passages, and the phrase "the third day" in Jn 2.1, probably in itself an allusion orienting the Cana narrative to the Calvary scene (cf. Mt 16.21; Lk 9.22).
On Calvary Jesus addresses His mother from the cross, before He declares the Scriptures fulfilled (Jn 19.28), to inform her that she has a son in the beloved disciple. The promise of Cana here comes to term: the transition from the old to the new Israel, prefigured in Mary at Cana, is completed. The messianic fulfillment she yearned for in her declaration, "They have no wine," is the gift to her of her Son: the gift is the new people of God, typified in the beloved disciple. The yearning of Israel for messianic salvation, so often spoken of by the Prophets under the imagery of the woman in labor, is concretized on Calvary in the historical mother of Jesus. Just as she is the woman chosen by God to be the tabernacle of the Logos become flesh so that He might manifest His saving power among men, so she depicts in her person the faith, the expectancy, the suffering, and the final mysterious destiny of the Christian Church.
IN THE OLD TESTAMENT
When the OT is interpreted from the standpoint of its literal historical meaning, i.e., the sense intended by the inspired human author for his OT audience, a Marian meaning is not discoverable in it. Such is true also of the Christological sense. Neither Christ nor Mary can be discovered in the books of the OT by the method of critical, historical exegesis of their literal sense.
Relation of OT Prophecy to NT Messianism. Messianic prophecy both in origin and in fulfillment is an event dependent upon the will of God; God prophesies, and God fulfills the prophecy according to His own free determination and wisdom. The messianism of the NT derives from the prophetic proclamation of the Twelve concerning Jesus of Nazareth: God raised Him from the dead so that the world might be saved from its sins through faith in Him (Acts 2.14–36). The entire NT is a prophetic elaboration of this fundamental prophecy. The messianism of the NT is a divinely instituted fulfillment of that of the OT, just as OT messianism is in itself of divine institution. The sense of the NT is that it possesses an essential bond with the OT as the divinely caused fulfillment of the messianic expectancy of the old Israel. Under the prophetic light of Christ, the Apostles, and the Church the NT endeavors to provide its own prophetic messianism with intelligibility, depth, and color by understanding itself, not as the logical outcome of the expectancy of the old Israel, that is, a result deducible by reason from OT texts, but rather as the divinely determined outcome of this expectancy.
To interpret the OT the authors of the NT begin with their own prophetic messianism; understanding the OT in this light, they show the unity and wisdom of the divine plan of salvation that courses through both Testaments. The NT quest into the OT has as its main objective the illumination of Christ, but of Christ as head of the Church; its quest is principally, if not exclusively, Christological and ecclesiological. In principle, the NT quest into the OT is not a Marian search, for the apostolic kerygma proclaims Christ alone to be the cause and source of salvation.
Mary in NT Messianism. The NT conceives of the mother of Jesus as a theologically significant discovery within the compass of its own prophetic messianism: the fact of this discovery is reflected in the Infancy narratives of Matthew and Luke, in ch. 12 of Revelation, and in the Fourth Gospel. The theological significance the NT Church attached to the discovery is that the mother of Jesus is relevant to its new messianism: her messianic maternity serves to flesh out the Church's christology and its ecclesiology.
The discovery of Mary's messianic maternity, i.e., the fact that she became the mother of Jesus by the open manifestation of the divine mind and will in her virginal conception, led NT thought to search into the OT to forge a stronger bond between its Christological messianism and the messianic expectancy characteristic of the OT.
The bond is forged with theological care, subtlety, and delicacy. It does not consist in a series of affirmations that in the mother of Jesus God chose a salvific companion for Christ. It does consist in the affirmation that the divine plan of salvation included God's choice of a virgin in Israel whom He willed to make meaningful for the comprehension of His Christ and His Church.
The NT quest into the meaningfulness of the mother of Jesus for Christ and the Church relies, as for Christology itself, upon the prophetic grasp of the OT. This prophetic grasp is little, if at all concerned, with drawing a direct correlation between the mother of Jesus and the material content of OT messianic prophecy. The NT authors favor an allusive use of OT messianic texts and symbols to suggest the religious significance of the mother of Jesus against the broad background of OT messianism. The only passage directly applied to the mother of Jesus in the NT (Mt 1.22–23) is Is 7.14. But the Isaian text is not employed here to affirm the truth of the virginal conception by appeal to OT prophecy. It is used to point up the religious significance of the virginal conception in the plan of God: in this way He chose to inaugurate His presence in Christ, which remains permanent in the world (Mt 28.20).
Especially remarkable in the NT is that its quest into the OT to illuminate its Christological messianism does not cite Gn 3.15 directly of Christ and His mother. In Rv 12.9 the NT prefers to use Gn 3.15 to express its conception of the earthly existence of the Church in its struggle against satanic power. However, there is a delicate association of the serpent with the woman who gives birth to the messianic King in Rv 12.5, and therefore a complex Marian allusion to Gn 3.15 (See Also Is 27.1 ).
The NT preference for utilizing the woman images of the OT to present its conception of the mother of Jesus is the most striking aspect of its theological reflection upon her person and role. It is only through a deeper understanding of the NT's prophetic use of the OT imagery that a more exact appreciation of the Bible's view of Mary's place and function in the divine plan of salvation is attainable.
LIFE OF MARY ACCORDING TO THE GOSPELS
The sparseness of historical detail concerning the mother of Jesus is due to the theologically disciplined writing peculiar to Sacred Scripture: the interest of the inspired writers lies in the salvific action of God in history. Endeavoring to keep the divine activity in history foremost, they content themselves with only that data necessary to provide the minimal historical setting that renders the work of God comprehensible to their readers.
Historical Data. The main piece of historical data offered in the Gospels concerning Mary is the fact that she and Joseph were betrothed at the time of the Annunciation (Mt 1.18; Lk 1.27). Otherwise she is simply located at various places, always in connection with her Son: at Nazareth for the child's conception (Lk 1.26); in the hill country of Judea (near Jerusalem) for Elizabeth's recognition of her unique maternity (Lk 1.39); at Bethlehem for the Child's birth (Lk 2.4, 7; Mt 2.1); at Jerusalem for her own purification in the Temple and the offering of the Child to Yahweh (Lk 2.22); at Nazareth for the Child's rearing (Lk 2.51; Mt 2.23); at Jerusalem for the discovery of Jesus speaking with the teachers in the Temple (Lk2.42, 46); at Cana for a wedding (Jn 2.1); end finally at Jerusalem when Jesus is crucified (Jn 19.25), where Luke places her at the origin of the Church (Acts 1.8). The datum of Mt 2.13 that Mary spent some time in Egypt is difficult to interpret and need not be pressed historically.
The Biblical texts offer no information on the proximity of Mary's virginal conception of Jesus and her impending marriage to Joseph. It is legitimate to presume that the Annunciation occurred shortly before the wedding date, and that the wedding took place at its predetermined time so that the shadow of scandal (quite likely in Galilee) over the conception of the Child would have been excluded. It is unnecessary to suppose from Mt1.18–20 that Mary suffered from Joseph's suspicion of her adultery. The text of Matthew is better comprehended as a reflection on the fact that Joseph accepted the Child's paternity as the divine will in his own regard since in the actual circumstances he could not exercise his legal right of divorce without casting the suspicion of adultery upon her, and thus also injuring the Child. Luke's Annunciation narrative appears rather to exclude Mary from the Davidic line. If she were of Levitical descent, a possibility raised by her relationship to Elizabeth, the Evangelists have attached no importance to it; nor have they attempted to derive religious significance from her name. Her life seems to have been spent in the quiet and obscurity of Nazareth (Mk 1.9), where she acquired no other reputation than that of being the mother of Jesus.
Historical Inferences. The most important historical inferences to be drawn from the Gospel data about Mary's life are the religious implications of the Lucan Annunciation scene. According to the Lucan theology, her understanding of herself and of her future underwent profound alteration due to the virginal conception of the messianic King. She was required thereafter to live in the obscurity of faith, awaiting the realization of the angelic prophecies concerning her Son. In the thought of Mt1.18–25 Joseph agreed to share this religious life of faith with her. That their married life would have pursued the normal course of preparing for other children besides Jesus seems excluded by the Lucan theology. This theology demands of Mary that she await the time for the manifestation of her choice by God as the Virgin Mother of His Son, the divine Messiah.
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[c. p. ceroke/eds.]