Friday, May 9, 2008

Mary's background

In the text, not a lot is clearly stated about Mary’s background. Not even an age is offered for her. Tradition would have her getting engaged while in her teens – while Joseph could likely be quite a bit older than that.

Answering the questions about the linage of Mary is not as easy as we might like for it to be. Genealogies, particularly at this time, were typically traced through the father’s line. Rarely would the wives/mothers make the lists. Though we do see some women listed in Christ’s lineage here, including some we read last month like Rahab.

Genealogies are offered in Matthew and in Luke, but they differ. Luke’s goes all the way back to Adam, and Matthew’s only goes back to Abraham but that is not problematic. Both run concurrent from Abraham to King David. Then they start to vary ... a lot.

After David, Matthew traces Jesus’ line through David’s kingly son Solomon, while Luke traces it through Solomon’s brother Nathan, another son of David. Also, Matthew’s list after David is much shorter than Luke’s. Many names are listed by Luke that are not listed in Matthew’s account. In fact, they only have a few names in common from King David on, and it is possible those could be different individuals with the same names.

Notice the name “Levi” mentioned twice in Luke’s account after David, but not at all in Matthew’s. Recall from last week that Elizabeth descended from the priestly line of Aaron, which was a division of the Levi clan? And recall that Mary and Elizabeth were related? That gives us a clue about Mary’s lineage.

In fact, many Bible scholars suggest that the genealogy in Luke is actually the genealogy of Mary, while the genealogy in Matthew shows the lineage of Joseph. If this is the case, then both Mary and Joseph are descendants of King David, enabling Jesus to be eligible as Messiah from either side and fulfill that prophecy (Psalm 89:3-4, 2 Samuel 7:14-16).

Joseph’s lineage would give Jesus the legal right, while Mary’s would preserve his right biologically since Joseph did not physically father this child. All the while Jesus would actually be fathered by God’s Holy Spirit, giving Jesus the spiritual right to be Messiah. (Belivers are also re-born by God's Holy Spirit!) So Jesus was fully the Son of Man, and the Son of God. Moreover, Mary’s virgin womb was the vessel God used to accomplish this miracle.

Isn't it terrific to see through this study of women of the Bible so far, just how valued women are in God’s eyes and God’s plans?

Let me be clear that just based on reading the text in the Bible, I cannot say for absolute certain that Luke’s genealogy is actually describing Mary but I think there is a good chance this is the case.

Tomorrow I will post more and we’ll continue the discussion of Mary.
I’m praying for everyone!


  1. Thanks Rachel, I wondered about that and was talking about it last night. It will give me more to dig into. As always, I'm thankful to you for your time and insight, I'm learning so much.

  2. Wow, I don't think I've ever posted first on a discussion. It's a big responsibility. When I read about Mary in these passages I was struck by how many others these passages seemed to focus on. There's Joseph, Herod, the wise men, the shepherds, angels, Elizabeth and Zachariah, and finally John. It seemed to me that Mary was usually on the periphery of activity. Then I caught the phrase about Mary pondering all these things in her heart. Mary was taking it all in. I'ld be speechless too realizing the real meaning of what God was doing to save my people, my nation, from sin.

    Mary lived on the periphery, in the background, almost unnoticed even on the night of her babies birth. The scripture talks about the shepherds and the wise men coming to see Jesus. (after all,newborn babies do steal the show) Don't misunderstand me please, Jesus is and should be central. No one should or could take His place. But how about that young girl who was near full term riding a donkey for fifty miles or so.. hmmmm??

    The thing is, I think Mary preferred and chose the periphery. She wanted to be at Jesus' feet. Remember the account of Martha complaining to Jesus that Mary was slacking and should get up to help with the chores? Jesus replied that Mary had chosen the "better part"

    I know I would struggle with living seemingly unnoticed, quietly waiting at Jesus feet. Heck, I struggle with it NOW, but I also learn the most during those intimate one-on-one times with my Lord.

    Lastly, I think it's God's timing that we are studying Mary while we also celebrate Mother's Day.

  3. Thank you Rachel. The awesome planning of our Father God never ceases to amaze me! For those of us who need concrete proof, Jesus' genealogy from Mary and Joseph and more importantly the Holy Spirit satisfies the inquiring mind. Wonderful commentary. Be blessed today....grace and peace.

    Linda-Columbus OH

  4. AnonymousMay 09, 2008

    Question for Lisa's comment,
    I loved your insight. I agree with you that it seems Mary probably prefered living in the background but I believe the story of Mary and Martha is a different Mary. Mary and Martha were sister's. Thier brother was Lazarus. They were from Bethany.

    Now, I'm not sure but I believe we have yet another Mary. Mary Magdalene. Whom Jesus drove demons from. Someone please correct me if I'm wrong.

  5. Good Morning Ladies,
    I am so blessed to be a part of such an awesome Bible Study Group. I am so grateful to you Rachel for giving us some insight on Mary's background, I can't wait to hear the discussion of Mary. We truly are special in the eyes of God.


  6. AnonymousMay 09, 2008

    Sarah I believe you are correct. There are several mary's in the NT...not all of them are the virgin Mary - Jesus' mother.

  7. Has anyone seen "The Nativity Story" movie that came out a few years ago? It is an awesome depiction of the life of Mary.

    Mary handled a difficult situation so gracefully, especially for someone so young. I'm pretty sure I would not have handled it as well as she did! I have a lot to learn from her!

    Laura--Kalamazoo, MI

  8. AnonymousMay 09, 2008

    I can get so confused at the lineage of people in the bible. Thanks so much Rachel for helping me make sense of it.

    I know that they had many wives and different children with them so I think that is what makes it more difficult to follow. But wait a minute...we do the same today...muliple marriages and half siblings...step siblings. It's still confusing.

    My daugther is graduating from college tomorrow and one of her final projects was genealogy in her psychology class. Since she is majoring in Theater performance she chose to write a play on our is 13 pages and she got 100% on the project...I get to read it tomorrow and I'm so excited to see how she views our family lineage.

    JT - Southern IL

  9. AnonymousMay 09, 2008

    Thank you, Rachel, for addressing the question of lineage so well. It had been something that I had wondered about for a while. Since people back then did seem to marry within their bloodline, your conjectures make sense.

  10. Rachael, thank you for the discussion on the lineage. That was one of my questions too. I agree that tying all three, Joseph, Mary and the Holy Spirit does put to rest all the "legalistic" obstacles that we sometimes face.

    I had some other thoughts and questions as I read these scriptures. I would be interested in the thought of others as we post here.

    In Matthew's Gospel, the magi (royal astronomers) asked Herod about the birth of the new king and then talked to the priests and teachers of the Law about the place where the Messiah could be found. As someone mentioned on the previous post, how did they know so much and the priests and teachers of the Law not know? It seemed at fist like quite a leap from the question of the birth of a king to the birth of the Messiah.

    Another thing that struck me in Matthew's Gospel were the parallels with the Old Testament and the Exodus story. A Joseph going to Egypt to save his family, and Herod killing the sons of the land (unknowingly leaving the one under God's protection untouched).

    In Luke's Gospel, when Mary and Joseph are going to Bethlehem for the census, Mary is described as Joseph's fiancée. I know that in Matthew, after the Angel appeared to Joseph, it says he did not have relations with Mary until after Jesus was born, but I understood they were still married before the birth. I also think there were wedding feasts at the time, so what is the significance of the term "fiancée" here. Is it to also convey that Joseph and Mary had not consummated their relationship yet?

    Luke emphasizes at least twice (once when the shepherds came to the stable and once when Mary and Joseph find Jesus at the temple) that Mary kept all these things in her heart and thought about them often. I really appreciate the take that Lisa put on this that Mary was more of a periphery figure. That she quietly and gently went about fulfilling her calling. I wonder if this "servant" attribute in her was one of the main reasons she had found favor with God in the first place and became the virgin mother of our Lord.

    I too cried when I read the verse in John. I can't imagine the breaking of hearts that was occurring at that moment; seeing your son and friend dying a death reserved for the worst of criminals (in fact no Roman could be crucified, no matter what their crime), when he had done nothing wrong. To see him disfigured beyond human recognition, and to hear him, when it was almost impossible for him to speak, dedicating you to each other to take care of each other when he was gone. I don't know how anyone could remain unfazed from all that.

    This posting ins longer than I thought it would be. I want to welcome all the new ladies to this study. It has personnally enriched me greatly!

    Looking forward to everyone's thoughts and comments!

    - Karen in California.

  11. I will post later on Mary. I have an urgent prayer request. one of my daughter's friend stepfather went missing on Tues afternoon. Later that night they found his truck on fire and when the fire dept put it out, there was a body in the bed of it. They knew it was his truck, but the body was burnt so badly they didn't know if it was male or female. The family took dna to the detective and finally yesterday they comfirmed what the family feared. PLEASE PLEASE keep this family in prayer. His wife and children are devastated as you can imagine. From what my daughter said, he was a good hearted man that tried to help people. Please pray that they will find peace during this and that the police find the monster or monsters that did this.
    Thank you all so much.
    Tommie in Ky

  12. Tommie, I will be praying for the family you mentioned.

    Thanks, Rachel, for making the scriptures so much easier to understand. Mary, I think, was chosen by God even before she was born. I look forward to reading everyone's comments and your continued comments.

    Also if everyone would please add me to their prayer list. I have a physical problem and am trusting God will heal me.
    Thanks, this is an awesome group,
    AliceE., NC

  13. AnonymousMay 09, 2008

    I have more understanding of the lineage of Jesus, after having read your insights. And I said to myself ... aha, that's why Jesus is also referred to as the Son of Man. Bless you Rachel.

    On another note, I have come across several Nativity stories that refer to the wise men as 'three wise men'. The bible does not tell the number of the wise men but that they bore three kinds of gifts. Sisters, never cease to correct that impression whenever the opportunity arises.

  14. Thank you Rachel for all your comments. They help a lot.

    My prayers are with those who asked for them.

    Mary is just amazing. She was so blessed and put in such a high position by Father God as the mother of the Messiah but she never ever claimed that glory. She quietly went about her work and loved her Son always. She followed Him to the cross as it broke her heart. She truly was and is a woman of God.

    Looking forward to a lot more insights about Mary.

    I need your prayer for our grandbaby Selena one of the twin nine week preemies. She is two and one half months old now. On Wednesday she began to have frequent times when she stopped breathing. Her parents took her to the emergency room where they took one look and life flighted her to Children's Hospital in Pittsburgh. Children's immediately put her in intensive care. They don't think the problem is because she is a preemie. They think it is an infection. They are running many tests and this morning they were doing a spinal tap looking for meningitis. My sisters in Christ I know our agreement in prayer will cause the Lord to place His hand on Selena in special healing. I thank you for all your prayers.

    Latrobe, PA

    Latrobe, PA

  15. AnonymousMay 09, 2008

    Please pray for me. I think I may be pregnant and I am too afraid to even take a test. I am by myself and don't know what I would do with a child. Surely this can't be God's plan for my life. I'm so lost right now.

  16. AnonymousMay 10, 2008

    I will definitely be praying for you!! I can't imagine the emotions that you're feeling! I will pray for God to comfort you and be your strength during this time!!!
    I will also be praying for the family who loss a loved one. My step father passed away from a heart attack and I know how painful it can be to lose someone before you can say good bye.

    Karen, I was having some similar thoughts about Mary and Joseph! :) I have a NASB translation of the BIble and in Matt. 1: 24-25 it states that Joseph took Mary as his wife, but kept her a virgin until she gave birth to Jesus! I think that it so neat! :) My husband and I have almost been married for a year. It was extremely hard waiting for the wedding night! I can not imagine getting married and still waiting 9-10 months before I could make love to my husband! :) Joseph and Mary definitely had self control!!!

    I'm excited about learning more with the next post about Mary! What an amazing woman! :)

    Thanks Rachel for your dedication to this blogspot!

    In Him,


  17. Hi All, With so many prayer requests isn't it wonderful that we have a Heavenly Father that not only hears them all but also has just the right answer for each one!

    Karen - I looked to see what my study Bible said about the Magi. It gave some possible answers to how they knew the star represented the Messiah. 1) They were Jews who remained in Babylon after the exile and knew the Old Testament predictions of the Messian's coming. 2)They were eastern astrologers who studied ancient manuscripts from around the world. 3) They may have had a special message from God directing them to the messiah. - There are probably a few more possibilities too.

    I loved the next little paragraph that was in the study quide, The Magi traveled thousands of miles to see the king of the Jews. When they finally found him, they responded with joy, worship, and gifts. This is so different from the approach people often take today. We expect God to come looking for us, to explain himself, prove who he is, and give us gifts. But those who are wise still seek and worship Jeseus today, not for what they can get, but for who he is.

    (and how wonderful and reassuring to have the promise that as soon as we seek him we will find and when we call he hears!)

  18. This was interesting to read. Thanks for the extra insight as always Rachel! I'm going to be honest all the lineage passages and when they get to spurting off those long lists of names...I get lost and find myself not comprehending anything I read. I end up just skipping those verses/chapters so it was nice to be able to read about it in a format I actually could get through hah! I know I can't be the only one that gets glazy eyes during those verses!

  19. AnonymousMay 12, 2008

    fellow sisters in christ.i love this about mary,since we started this bible study i feel more inclined to understand God more starting with christ.however im im in a fix,having been in a catholic background before giving ma life to christ,i was used tothe bible being read for me rather than a personal encounter and so im having trouble where memorising verses is pastor adviced a bible with a concordance,a friend suggested a commentary.kindly advice which of this i should start with aand version.u can use


  20. Genealogies are developed, maintained, and distributed by human beings, far from perfect, because we all have some relatives that get promoted and others exposed or even cast out. God has made it clear in His Word that Jesus is the Son of God and the Virgin Mary is his earthly mother, with Joseph her husband being Jesus’ earthly father. Jesus showed us how children should be loved and well-cared for in a family by both earthly parents, and how children should respect and obey their parents, like he did. What a powerful example! Thanks, Rachel, for your clarification.

  21. Rachel,
    I'm a little behind with the reading but I truly love how you're breaking down the story with Mary.
    Being just after Mother's day and spending time with my mother and with my children, I can not imagine all of the thoughts that Mary pondered from the 1st visit from the angel to watching her son on the cross. God knew all along from the 1st visit to the cross but Mary being the mother did now know that her child would be have to sacrificed for all of the worlds' sin, my sin today. I am very thankful to Christ for the sacrifice that he made to save me, and as a mother I cry for Mary. After reading and taking this study slower than ever before in my life, I realize more little details. The pondering that Mary did and the deep faith that she had.
    Today we moms sacrifice for our children. I would rather my children be fed, clothed, and educated well. I look back at the sacrifice my mom did for me and my 2 siblings. She did not graduate from high school but went back after the 3 of us were born, got her ged and worked 2 jobs to put us through school. She sacrificed a lot of her time and her health to take care of us.
    But I look at the sacrifices that my mom made, and the sacrifice that Mary made. Yes, I think my mom is great and I appreciate everything she has done and continues to do for me and my family, but I read this about Mary and there's no comparison to the 2 different type of sacrifices.
    Rachel, you help me draw closer to God as I do this study with all of these ladies and I'm blessed each day as I read the study together.
    I will continue to pray for all of these prayer requests. God is faithful and I pray His mercy for each request.
    Thanks again.
    Sharron in Louisiana

  22. Rachel, I loved your insight... I can't recall the box at this time, but I have read that the difference is if you study both men, Luke and Matthew, Matthew appeared to be a devout Jewish taxpayer and focused on the Jewish lineage of David, while Luke, a Gentile as well as physician, focused on Mary. Either way... Praise God!

  23. I loved reading lisa and sylvia's posts. Sylvia, thanks for reminding us that we should be seeking God, not waiting for God to find us where we are.

    To the poster who asked about memorizing verses and Bible translations. I actually have 4 or 5 translations in my house. I tend to gravitate to the NIV for quick study and reading and the NKJ for deeper study. I grew up with KJ and NKJ so that may be why I go back to them for deep study.

    As far as memorizing goes, there are a few tricks to try. First, write the verse on an index card and keep in in your pocket all day. Pull it out often to read it and try to remember a phrase at a time. After a while, you'll find you know it by heart. My DD is currently using a CD of verses set to music for her schooling. She listens to the song over and over throughout the week. And now I catch her (and myself) singing those verses other times throughout the day.

  24. In response to your question, Rachel, about taking a risk... well, I certainly did!
    A couple of years ago I was confronted by God in church during the minister’s sermon on Noah building the ark. God asked me if I’d start “building His ark” for that day—and that was to take in a special ed, abused, preteen orphaned boy (from a dysfunctional single-parent family.)
    I was so impressed upon by God that I couldn’t say no, even though all circumstances, logic, logistics, and physical realities pointed to my total incapacity to even begin to accomplish this long, on-going challenge.
    In faith I did say yes to the Lord, and people all around—friends, family, strangers looked on aghast! BUT the Lord is so good, and now two years on this road, I find the Lord continually providing, and often with the help of people—both of Christian and other beliefs—supporting as I believe the Holy Spirit directs them. When anyone today praises my efforts, I have to point them to the Lord who is our Provider, and it’s my faith in the Lord that gives me the love and strength to “build this ark”.


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