Tuesday, July 19, 2022

Mary


Mary—The Favored One

B. Hodge, Biblical Authority Ministries, July 19, 2022

No doubt, Mary was amazing! Let’s explore a few aspects of Mary that often go overlooked. First let’s start with some Scripture.

Selected Passages About The Marian Account (NKJV)

 

Matthew 1:18-25

18 Now the birth of Jesus Christ was as follows: After His mother Mary was betrothed to Joseph, before they came together, she was found with child of the Holy Spirit. 19  Then Joseph her husband, being a just man, and not wanting to make her a public example, was minded to put her away secretly.

20  But while he thought about these things, behold, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream, saying, “Joseph, son of David, do not be afraid to take to you Mary your wife, for that which is conceived in her is of the Holy Spirit. 21  “And she will bring forth a Son, and you shall call His name JESUS, for He will save His people from their sins.” 22  So all this was done that it might be fulfilled which was spoken by the Lord through the prophet, saying:

23  “Behold, the virgin shall be with child, and bear a Son, and they shall call His name Immanuel,” which is translated, “God with us.”

24  Then Joseph, being aroused from sleep, did as the angel of the Lord commanded him and took to him his wife, 25  and did not know her till she had brought forth her firstborn Son. And he called His name JESUS.

Luke 1:26-38

26 Now in the sixth month the angel Gabriel was sent by God to a city of Galilee named Nazareth, 27  to a virgin betrothed to a man whose name was Joseph, of the house of David. The virgin’s name was Mary.

28  And having come in, the angel said to her, “Rejoice, highly favored one, the Lord is with you; blessed are you among women!” 29  But when she saw him, she was troubled at his saying, and considered what manner of greeting this was.

30  Then the angel said to her, “Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favor with God. 31  “And behold, you will conceive in your womb and bring forth a Son, and shall call His name JESUS. 32  “He will be great, and will be called the Son of the Highest; and the Lord God will give Him the throne of His father David. 33  “And He will reign over the house of Jacob forever, and of His kingdom there will be no end.”

34  Then Mary said to the angel, “How can this be, since I do not know a man?” 35  And the angel answered and said to her, “The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Highest will overshadow you; therefore, also, that Holy One who is to be born will be called the Son of God.

36  “Now indeed, Elizabeth your relative has also conceived a son in her old age; and this is now the sixth month for her who was called barren. 37  “For with God nothing will be impossible.”

38  Then Mary said, “Behold the maidservant of the Lord! Let it be to me according to your word.” And the angel departed from her.

 

Parallels Between Mary and Eve

 

Although there are many parallels that can be drawn from Adam, the first man who led man into death and Jesus who is called the Last/Second Adam who rescues man from death (e.g., 1 Corinthians 15:45), some also draw parallels between Eve and Mary.

Eve was the mother of all the living (Genesis 3:20), Mary was the mother of Jesus (Acts 1:14) who is The Life (e.g., John 14:6) and Creator of all life who became flesh (e.g., John 1, Hebrews 1, Colossians 1).

Sometimes we miss a simple connection that Mary is a direct descendant of Eve and both are made in the image of God (hence, people have eternal value because man is made in God’s eternal image). And we all share these commonalities with Mary in that we are descendants of Adam and Eve and made in the image of God. 

Church fathers and commentators uniformly believed that Eve was a virgin when she and Adam fell into sin—which was very soon after their creation. Based on this, there are some parallels that follow. Consider both Eve and Mary in this state when they made the decision to either follow the Word of the Lord or go against it.

Early church father Justin Martyr (~AD 100-165) writes in his Dialogue with Trypho, chapter 100:

“…and that He became man by the Virgin, in order that the disobedience which proceeded from the serpent might receive its destruction in the same manner in which it derived its origin. For Eve, who was a virgin and undefiled, having conceived the word of the serpent, brought forth disobedience and death. But the Virgin Mary received faith and joy, when the angel Gabriel announced the good tidings to her that the Spirit of the Lord would come upon her, and the power of the Highest would overshadow her: wherefore also the Holy Thing begotten of her is the Son of God; and she replied, ‘Be it unto me according to thy word.’

Irenaeus (~AD 130-202), the Bishop of Lyons and early church father, in his book Against Heresies chapter 22 relates that Mary followed the Word of the Lord where Eve neglected it. One virgin was drawn into disobedience where the other was drawn to obedience according to Irenaeus. Recall that Eve sinned (Genesis 3) prior to the Bible telling us that she knew (i.e., having sexual relations with) Adam, which did not occur until Genesis 4:1.

Adam and Eve had perfect bodies and should have had no problem conceiving on the first try. Yet they sinned prior to conceiving their first child Cain.

Both Eve and Mary saw a personal taste of the Lord’s command in Genesis 3:16 that there would be pain and sorrows in childbearing—not just with childbirth, but each saw one of their children put to death. For Eve, it was Abel murdered by Cain and for Mary, it was obviously the crucifixion of Jesus.

The Hebrew terms for pain and sorrows in childbearing also includes grieving and worrisome anguish which is directly related to the excruciating pain a parent feels seeing one of their own children die.

Mary’s Features Are Largely Unknown

 

We are given very little about Mary’s actual physical appearance. With Jesus, the Old Testament prophesied a little about His appearance in human form:

For He grew up before Him like a tender shoot, And like a root out of parched ground; He has no stately form or majesty That we should look upon Him, Nor appearance that we should be attracted to Him. He was despised and forsaken of men, A man of sorrows and acquainted with grief; And like one from whom men hide their face He was despised, and we did not esteem Him. (Isaiah 53:2-3, NASB)

She was surely a young lady—yet clearly old enough to bear children and be betrothed and married per parental permission. This means she was properly beyond the “Flower of Age” or “Flower of Youth” (e.g., 1 Corinthians 7:36).

But if any man thinks he is behaving improperly toward his virgin, if she is past the flower of youth, and thus it must be, let him do what he wishes. He does not sin; let them marry. (1 Corinthians 7:36, NKJV)

Mary’s physical features were likely similar to Jewish ladies from Israel 2,000 years ago such as long hair (e.g., 1 Corinthians 11:15) with respectful and modest apparel (consider 1 Timothy 2:9-10). But that then begs the question about cultural features—what did Jewish ladies look like back then in their physical traits?

If we to look at people in Nazareth or Bethlehem today it is different from back then. Today, many Israelites that have returned to Israel had been gone from their homeland since about AD 70 to other places. Though, some had sprinkled their way back to the land of Judea/Israel since the first century, most have been re-migrating there since World War II. After the Jewish War with Rome in the AD 60s-70s, there were two places that Jews ended up. They are:

·       Germany and the regions surrounding it to escape the Romans (what we call Germania was largely descendants of Noah’s great grandson Ashkenaz) and Jews who lived in that region are still called the Ashkenazi Jews. They fled there since Rome’s grip hadn’t conquered many parts of Germany when the Jews went to war against Rome about 2,000 years ago in the latter part of the first century.

·       Sephardic Jews who were largely taken into captivity to Spain, Portugal, and North Africa by the Romans after the Jewish War with Rome about AD 70.  Many Jews were expelled from Spain due to the Alhambra Decree in 1492 due to Roman Catholicism. Some returned to Israel at that point

In both cases, there has been some intermixing with locals over 2,000 years. Hence, many Ashkenazi Jews have many physical features that are similar to Europeans and many Sephardic Jews have physical features similar to the places they were at as well (e.g., Spain, etc.).

Nevertheless, it is possible to have features common to many Middle Eastern persons today—especially those who claim descent from Abraham, like the Israelites, Arabs, etc. But that also gives you a bigger range than you might realize as Abraham’s descendants have mixed with hosts of people throughout the Middle East too!

The point is that we cannot be certain as to how Mary looked but she was certainly modest and respectful in her decorum.

Early Image Of Mary

 

First Known Image of Mary is the title of the earliest surviving image we have of Mary. It is in a fragment of the fresco from the catacomb of Priscilla, which is in Rome. Its origin is estimated at AD 150-170.

In the image, Mary is holding baby Jesus in her lap and wearing what experts suggest is a woolen matron garment and a dedicated virgin veil. Many images of Mary later on also have her sporting a virgin veil when depicted with the baby Jesus. Perhaps this was a carryover from even earlier times!


Although the detail is significantly lacking we can still learn a lot from this. She was indeed modest in her clothing, as would be expected due to Scripture.

Mary’s Lineage

 

Jesus is a physical descendant of Mary, even though she was overshadowed by the Holy Spirit to remain a virgin for the miraculous conception. Take note that it is a miraculous conception/fertilization, not a miraculous birth. The birth was normal, outside of the fact that Mary was still virgin when giving birth.  

Why do Jesus’ lineages listed in the Bible both link to Joseph (Jesus’ supposed father) in Matthew 1:16 and Luke 3:23?

Matthew 1:16
And Jacob begot Joseph the husband of Mary, of whom was born Jesus who is called Christ.

Luke 3:23
Now Jesus Himself began His ministry at about thirty years of age, being (as was supposed) the son of Joseph, the son of Heli.

The obvious answer is that one of these lineages is Mary’s line and the reason Joseph is listed this way is to reveal her legal genealogy—which is listed as the husband (i.e., the male).

Before we dive into to the details, a few preliminary comments need to be addressed. Luke’s genealogy is complete, and Matthew’s is merely a selected one. Matthew’s genealogy was not meant to be complete according to Matthew 1:17, where it is specifically broken into groups of 14.

The two genealogies trace through two of David’s sons, and both trace to Abraham. Matthew focuses on the kingly relationship through David and, ultimately, to the Jewish patriarch Abraham. However, Luke doesn’t stop there. He continues to trace Christ’s genealogy back to Adam. Luke focuses more on the humanity of Christ going back to Adam, where sin and death first entered into creation—hence the need for a Savior in the first place.

Another note is that both genealogies are aware of Mary’s virgin birth. For example Matthew says: “Joseph the husband of Mary, of whom (feminine) was born Jesus.” Luke is more obvious in that he says: “being (as was supposed) the son of Joseph.”

With regards to the alleged “two fathers” of Joseph, the explanation of the differences between Matthew 1 and Luke 3 is quite simple. Luke traced Christ’s lineage through Mary, while Matthew traced it through Joseph.

Matthew’s Genealogy

One of the main reasons Matthew is recording Joseph’s lineage is due to Jeconiah (variant spellings: Jechonias, Jehoiakim). He is listed in Matthew 1:11. Because of Jeconiah’s actions, a prophecy came down that none of his descendants would ever sit on the throne of David. Jesus, who forever sits on this throne, could not have been a physical descendant of Jeconiah (Jeremiah 22:30). A virgin birth would obviously prevent this.

This indicates that Matthew’s genealogy is Joseph’s, and this confirms the significance of the feminine verbiage. When Matthew mentioned Joseph’s wife, Mary, at the end of the genealogical list, he used the feminine form for the parent of Jesus. This reveals that Jesus was indeed Mary’s son and not Joseph’s.

Luke’s Genealogy

When looking at Luke 3, the genealogical list is strictly men from Jesus to Adam, whereas in Matthew’s list, some women were included, such as Tamar, Ruth, and so on. So, if this were a genealogy of Mary, then she would be listed.

Joseph, when he married Mary, became the son of Heli according to the Law of Moses and could legally be included in the genealogy. Hence, this lineage is the legal genealogy.

Moreover, in the genealogy, Heli is listed as the father of Joseph, who had 2 daughters. The first is Mary, and the other was the wife of Cleopas also rendered Mary (John 19:25).[1] When there were no sons to preserve the inheritance in accordance with the Law of Moses (Numbers 27:1–11; Numbers 36:1–12), the husband would become the son upon marriage to keep up the family name. Therefore, Joseph, when he married Mary, became the son of Heli according to the Law of Moses and could legally be included in the genealogy in the all-male listing.

Also, in Luke’s genealogy the form is different from that of Matthew’s. Matthew’s list gives the father and who they begot (Greek gennao). In Luke the form is different, where X is the son of Y. But more precisely, the word son is absent in Greek, but only inserted into English so we can better understand it. The only place where son is used in the Greek is in verse 23 where Jesus was the supposed son of Joseph, of Heli, of Matthat, of Levi, and so on.

Luke is being very precise. Jesus was thought to be the son of Joseph, who was of Heli. Notice that Luke never said that Joseph was the son of Heli in the Greek. This reduces any alleged contradiction to nothing and shows that Luke’s genealogy is Mary’s—with Joseph’s name listed due to inheritance laws—and Matthew’s genealogy is Joseph’s.

Mary’s Family and Home

 

Mary’s father was Heli (Luke 3:23) a variation of the name Eli (Likewise, Mary is a variation of the name Miriam, the sister of Moses and Aaron). Heli, Mary’s father, is listed in the legal genealogy of Jesus in Luke 3 where Joseph’s name is listed as the legal son or as we say today “son-in-law” (since it is all males listed in the legal genealogy). Yet Joseph’s partial genealogy lists his father in Matthew 1.

Joseph’s father was Jacob (Matthew 1:16). One can’t help but see the parallel to Jacob of old having a son named Joseph—one of his twelve sons (and one daughter Dinah per Genesis 34:1).

Mary had a large extended family that included Elizabeth but many others who we are not given the details (Luke 2:42-45). Technically, all of Israel is related, going back to Israel (AKA Jacob) but even so, Joseph and Mary both were related to many in Bethlehem directly and indirectly. Both have lineages to David and hence they went to the city of David, which is Bethlehem to register for the census (Luke 2:1-5)

Mary and Joseph lived in Nazareth, then lived in Bethlehem, then lived in Egypt, then lived back in Nazareth and Jesus later lived in Capernaum (Matthew 4:13) when he began his ministry. Mary may have lived there for a time when in Jesus’ care prior to Jesus putting her into John’s care on the cross. 

Mary also had a sister (e.g., John 19:25). Furthermore, we are not revealed what Mary’s mother’s name is either. There are traditions that Mary’s parents’ names were Joachim and Anne but we need to be careful about these names since biblically, we can know that Heli was the father of Mary. 

Marriage Customs And Betrothal

 

Marriage has always been a big deal since God created that institution with His formation of Adam and Eve supernaturally [from dust and from Adam’s rib respectively]. Sadly in our culture, marriage has been attacked, demoted, denigrated, and reinterpreted.

These are all part of the modern war on marriage (since the 1960s) by secular humanists and others who neglect God and His Word as the supreme authority and elevate man to be greater than God. But by what authority can anyone object to the absolute authority of God, and by extension His Word? Only by a lesser authority—this is called a faulty appeal to authority fallacy. Our culture is wrong and marriage is between a man and a woman and God’s standard reigns supreme regardless of what any person on the planet may try to argue. 

With that said, understanding marriage 2000 years ago in Israel is much different than today. Even going back to the days of Moses (about 1500 BC), there were stipulations on marriage including a bride price. The potential husband or the groom’s family would pay a bride price to family of the bride (e.g., Exodus 22:16-17 mention it).

Some marriages were done for love while others were arranged by the family. And in many cases, it was both! At the instruction of the father, women of Israel were given in marriage. Even prior to the Flood of Noah (e.g., Luke 17:27) and after the Flood (Genesis 29:28) since the time of Moses (e.g., Judges 12:9) brides and grooms were given in marriage by their parents—namely the father. 

The betrothal period was also very serious (e.g., Deuteronomy 20:7). It is different from today’s engagement. Upon a betrothal, that was essentially the first stage of marriage and to get out of it required a divorce, which was a very disrespectful thing and a result of the hardness of hearts (e.g., Deuteronomy 24:1-4, Matthew 19:8). If a woman was with another man during her betrothal, she could legally be put to death if found guilty. Betrothal was a big deal.  

During the betrothal period a groom would prepare a place for his bride (such as a bridal chamber) in the same way Christ prepares a place for His church, His bride (e.g., John 14:2-3, 2 Corinthians 11:2, Revelation 19:7–9, 21:1-2). Christ will return for His bride. The bridegroom should be earning enough money for the bride price and to take a year off to please his bride (Deuteronomy 24:5). Note the differences in classical biblical marriages customs and modern marriage customs.

With a wedding, there was a wedding feast with a master of the feast (e.g., John 2:1-10) and they required plenty of wine and food to feast on. It was an embarrassment if such provision were not met. This was at the situation at Cana’s wedding feast where Jesus turned water into wine.

Misconceptions About Mary

 

Sadly, there are also a lot of misconceptions about Mary. Though we cannot address them all, here are a few prominent ones that need to be discussed in brief.

·       Some have elevated her to be perfect and sinless—which goes against Scripture (e.g., Romans 3:23).

·       Some have suggested she is a “co-redemptix”—don’t let the fancy name scare you—in other words, those in this camp believe that one can be saved through Mary in a similar way that one can be saved through Jesus. However, no one comes to the Father except through Christ (e.g., John 14:6, Acts 4:12). When someone adds Mary as a “second Savior”, it is without basis and an attack on Scripture.

·       Some pray to Mary which neglects that there is one mediator and one intercessor between God and man (e.g., 1 Timothy 2:5, Hebrews 7:25-28). God instructs us to pray to Him (e.g., Psalm 50:15, Matthew 6:9-13).

·       Marian Apparitions—supposed appearances of Mary throughout history into modern times—are dubious. Yet there are those who hold to them as though they were gospel truth. Most of them have been rejected, but some leaders, particularly in Roman Catholicism, hold to certain ones as legitimate where Protestants do not. These alleged private revelations, visions, and prophetic messages are to be viewed as suspect. Though some Christians may respectfully disagree with me, Daniel 9:24-27 indicated that after the Messiah comes and is cut off (crucified) vision and prophecy would be sealed up when holy city (Jerusalem) and the sanctuary (the Temple) were destroyed. This aligns with an older prophecy of Asaph in Psalm 74:1-9 about prophecy ceasing (no more prophets) once the sanctuary (the Temple) is destroyed (consider 1 Corinthians 13:8-10). These things happened in the first century.[2]  So, there should be no visions and prophecies from then until the consummation (Daniel 9:27) thus the canon of Scripture was sealed and sufficient with 66 books in the first century.

·       Some see Mary as a perpetual virgin, which again violates Scripture. She had other children according to the Bible (e.g., Matthew 13:55, Mark 6:3). It is interesting to what the mental gymnastics of adherents [of this view] trying to reinterpret these verses to be cousins, distant relations, adopted children, children of Joseph with another woman, and so on. When people do this, they are elevating their perpetual virgin belief to supersede the plain meaning of the Scriptures to reinterpret God’s Word. In other words, people are erring by demoting God and His Word to be lesser than man’s fallible imperfect opinions. For a detailed refutation of this view please see Is the Perpetual Virginity of Mary a Biblical View?

My hope is that some of these thoughts are a blessing to you. 

 



[1] Though both are rendered Mary in our English translations there are variations in the name such as Miriam (Hebrew form), Mariam (Greek form), Maria (Greek form) and simply Mary. All can rightly be written as Mary.

[2] If one argues that this was in reference to the first time the Temple and Jerusalem was destroyed by Nebuchadnezzar, then we have bigger problems because Daniel, Ezekiel, Joel, Jeremiah and Obadiah were still prophesying and having visions before, during, and after that. And there were plenty of prophets that followed after them as well. Furthermore, the Messiah had to come and be cut off first per Daniel and the items in the Temple had to be destroyed (Psalm 74:3) with perpetual desolations. With Nebuchadnezzar, the Temple items carried off and they were later returned when the Temple was rebuilt. The Temple in the Hoy City of Jerusalem (e.g., Nehemiah 11:1, Isaiah 52:1, Matthew 4:5) existed in the Messiah’s Day and is mentioned a number of times in the New Testament and was once measured by John (Revelation 11:1-2). The Romans took the items and destroyed them in the first century and desolations of the Temple remained for nearly 2,000 years now having the Dome of the Rock (a Muslim mosque) in its place—so the first century destruction matched the prophecies. As a point of note, some Christians may disagree with my position and are okay with vision and prophecy not being sealed up but continuing to this day. Other Christians agreed vision and prophecy close but reopen in the last century (Latter rain movement from the early 1900s). These positions have a potential open canon where it is possible to add to the 66 books of the Bible with alleged new prophecies.

Timeline

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