|HOME - Mary of Scripture - a Biblical Compilation|
|ARTICLE:||MARY OF SCRIPTURE - BIBLICAL COMPILATION|
|2. Mary in the Epistles|
|MARY PASSAGE  Born of Woman - Galatians 4:4|
|3. Mary in Mark|
|MARY PASSAGE  Mother & brothers arrive - Mark 3:31-35|
|MARY PASSAGE  Son of Mary - Mark 6:3-4|
|Comment and summary|
|4. Mary in Matthew|
|MARY PASSAGE  Christmas stories - Matthew 1-2 (5 sections)|
|Comment and summary|
|5. Mary in Luke and Acts|
|MARY PASSAGE  Christmas stories - Luke 1:5-2:40 (6 sections)|
|MARY PASSAGE  Jesus aged 12 - Luke 2:41-52|
|MARY PASSAGE  Awaiting the Spirit - Acts 1:14|
|6. Mary in John|
|MARY PASSAGE  At the Wedding - John 2:1-12|
|MARY PASSAGE  At the Cross - John 19:25-27|
|1. Introduction - the sources||(back to top)|
Whether Mary features a lot or little in your Christian life it is good to go back to the Mary of Scripture to refocus on what we reliably know of her. A response to Mary that is true to Scripture requires first that we look at her afresh in Scripture.
The Mud-before-Gates Error
An urban child visited a farm.
Of all Scriptural topics it is over Mary that we are most likely to fall for the mud-before-gates error. It is for that reason that I have dealt with the Scriptures concerning her not in the order in which they are printed in your New Testament, but in the order in which they were written.
My First Century Approach
Christians have inherited 2,000 years' accumulation of material about Mary from nativity plays to dogmas. This rich and varied heritage, some of it negative, some of it positive, makes it very easy to read back into Scripture things that are not there. We tend to interpret Scripture in the light of what we know in the 21st. century, not as the writers and readers in the 1st. century.
For some, who would not naturally be inclined to look at Mary in Scripture, the material concerning her is likely to strike them as richer and more varied than the well-known Christmas stories suggest. For those who know rather more about Mary, an impartial and fresh look at Scripture might well reveal facets rarely mentioned.
Let me now explain the different orders within the New Testament.
(a) The ORDER OF EVENTS
The New Testament books are printed in a sensible order.
Because the Life of Jesus Christ preceded the lives of the Early Christians, so the books about the life of Jesus are printed before the letters to the young churches.
Your New Testament has two main groups of books, the GOSPELS and the EPISTLES, and they are printed in that sequence, because the Gospels are about Jesus, while the Epistles are about living as Jesus' followers after his Resurrection.
We are so used to the order
GOSPELS - EPISTLES, that the order
EPISTLES - GOSPELS seems back-to-front!
(b) The ORDER WRITTEN
But the order EPISTLES-GOSPELS is a logical one, for it is the order in which (generally speaking) the two groups were written.
Thus, for instance, the earliest account of the Last Supper is that written by St. Paul in I Corinthians, rather than the accounts in Matthew, Mark, Luke or John.
[I need to mention at this point that it is my practice in all my writing, unless discussing authorship, to use as author-names those that are most familiar and obvious to the majority of readers. ]
(c) The BOOKS IN ORDER
If the individual New Testament books were placed in the order written their existing order would also be radically changed. St. Paul's letter to the Galatians would come before the Gospels, and Mark would replace Matthew as the earliest Gospel.
When the books containing the nine major Mary-passages are arranged in chronological order they come out not as Matthew, Mark, Luke, John, Acts and Galatians, but as:
(d) The NINE 'MARY' PASSAGES  to 
| Galatians 4:4||'BORN OF WOMAN'|
| Mark 3:31-35||MOTHER & BROTHERS ARRIVE|
| Mark 6:3-4||'SON OF MARY?'|
| Matt 1:1-2:23||MATTHEW's CHRISTMAS STORIES (5 incidents)|
| Luke 1:5-2:40||LUKE's CHRISTMAS STORIES (6 incidents)|
| Luke 2:41-52||JESUS AGED 12 AT THE TEMPLE|
| Acts 1:14||MARY AWAITS THE SPIRIT|
| John 2:1-12||MARY AT THE WEDDING|
| John 19:25-27||MARY AT THE CROSS|
[There is no need to list separately Matthew and Luke's use of  and .]
Some of the following points about the nine Mary-passages may strike you as surprising -
|2. Mary in the Epistles||(back to top)|
 'BORN OF WOMAN', Galatians 4:4
But when the fullness of time had come, God sent his Son, born of a woman, born under the law...
|3. Mary in Mark's Gospel||(back to top)|
 JESUS' MOTHER & BROTHERS ARRIVE, Mark 3:31-35
Then his [Jesus'] mother and his brothers came; and standing outside, they sent to him and called him. 32A crowd was sitting around him; and they said to him, 'Your mother and your brothers and sisters* are outside, asking for you.' 33And he replied, 'Who are my mother and my brothers?' 34And looking at those who sat around him, he said, 'Here are my mother and my brothers! 35Whoever does the will of God is my brother and sister and mother.'
*Other ancient authorities lack and sisters
Mark gave the reason for the family visit a little earlier in 3:20-21 ...Then he [Jesus] went home, and the crowd came together again, so that they could not even eat. 21When his family heard it, they went out to restrain him, for people were saying, 'He has gone out of his mind'.
|(back to top)|
 'THE SON OF MARY?' Mark 6:2-4
They said 'Where did this man get all this? What is this wisdom that has been given to him? What deeds of power are being done by his hands! 3Is not this the carpenter, the son of Mary* and brother of James and Joses and Judas and Simon, and are not his sisters here with us?' And they took offence at him.
4Then Jesus said to them,
'Prophets are not without honour, except in their home town, and among their own kin,
and in their own house.'
*Other ancient authorities read son of the carpenter.
Comment and summary of Mary passages ,  & 
In the earliest written half of the New Testament we learn from the Mary-passages  in Paul, and  &  in Mark that
There were no Christmas stories in wide circulation. But Matthew and, later, Luke began writing and all that changed! Let's see why.
Why the change?
Mark set out to write about Jesus Christ, the Son of God (1:1).
Mark began his story when Jesus was about thirty at his Baptism in the River Jordan. On that occasion the Holy Spirit descended on him, and God affirmed 'You are my Son, the Beloved.'
As the Holy Spirit led Christians ever more deeply into the truth of Jesus' person and work, so new and important questions arose.
First a Jew (Matthew) and then a Gentile (Luke) found and collected the best material they could that threw light on Jesus' beginnings and made clearer who he was.
|4. Mary in Matthew's Gospel||(back to top)|
 MATTHEW'S CHRISTMAS STORIES, Chapters 1-2
This two-chapter Mary-passage has five sections as follows, and I shall later quote the main parts of each.
| i. Jesus' genealogy back to Abraham||(1:1-17)|
| ii. Jesus' Spirit-conception & Birth||(1:18-25)|
| iii. Jesus is worshipped by the 'Wise Men'||(2:1-12)|
| iv. Jesus escapes King Herod's massacre||(2:13-18)|
| v. Jesus is returned to Nazareth||(2:19-23)|
In Matthew's Christmas stories three things stand out -
Matthew's account of Joseph shows that it is he who listens to God and obeys him. Mary has perhaps the more difficult task; her role is to obey Joseph whom God regularly guides at key times.
|A) MARY IN MATTHEW'S FIVE CHRISTMAS SECTIONS/STORIES|
 i. Jesus' genealogy to Abraham (Mt. 1:1-17)
The climax of the Matthew genealogy runs:
Jacob the father of Joseph
the husband of Mary,
of whom Jesus was born, who is called the Messiah.
 ii. Jesus' Spirit-conception and Birth (Mt. 1:18-25)
Now the birth of Jesus the Messiah took place in this way. When his mother Mary had been engaged to Joseph, but before they lived together, she was found to be with child from the Holy Spirit. 19Her husband Joseph, being a righteous man and unwilling to expose her to public disgrace, planned to dismiss her quietly. 20But just when he had resolved to do this, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream and said, 'Joseph, son of David, do not be afraid to take Mary as your wife, for the child conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit. 21She will bear a son, and you are to name him Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins.' 22All this took place to fulfil what had been spoken by the Lord through the prophet:
23'Look, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son,
and they shall name him Emmanuel,'
which means, 'God is with us.'
24When Joseph awoke from sleep, he did as the angel of the Lord commanded him; he took her as his wife, 25but had no marital relations with her until she had borne a son; and he named him Jesus.
 iii. Jesus is worshipped by the Wise Men. (Mt. 2:1-12)
This familiar story tells of magi coming from the east to find the king of the Jews. King Herod gets details from them in order to annihilate the threat to his throne. Under the guidance of a star they come to Bethlehem -
...they were overwhelmed with joy. On entering the house, they saw the child with Mary his mother; and they knelt down and paid him homage. Then, opening their treasure-chests, they offered him gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh.
 iv. Jesus Escapes King Herod's Massacre.(Mt. 2:13-18)
 v. Jesus is Returned to Nazareth. (Mt. 2:19-23)
|B) MARY IN THE REST OF MATTHEW|
Matthew copied much of Mark but felt free occasionally to make things clearer if necessary.
For example in the Mary-passage number  (above),
he sensibly changes Mark's those who sat around him [Jesus] to disciples. It is shorter, simpler, and it replaces their spatial relationship to Jesus by their spiritual relationship to him.
Of real importance, however, are Matthew's very few but deliberate omissions.
Comment and Summary
Before turning to Luke's Gospel, let's summarise the main points about Matthew's account of Mary.
|As we turn to sections , , ,  and  we're on much more familiar ground for studying Mary in the New Testament.|
|5. Mary in Luke's Writings (Gospel & Acts)||(back to top)|
 MARY IN LUKE's GOSPEL CHRISTMAS STORIES (Luke 1:5 - 2:40)
This two-chapter Mary-passage has six sections, and I shall quote the main parts of each.
| i. John's future birth is told to Zechariah||(Lk.1:5-25)|
| ii. Jesus's future birth is told to Mary||(Lk. 1:26-38)|
 iii. John's mother-to-be is visited by Mary
(including Mary's Song, vvs. 46-55)
 iv. John's birth and naming
(including Zechariah's Song, vvs. 68-79)
 v. Jesus' birth and shepherds' visit
(including the Angel's Song, v. 14)
 vi. Jesus' naming and presentation to God
(including Simeon's song, vvs. 29-32)
In Luke's Christmas stories two things stand out -
A PENTECOST PREVIEW!
What is not obvious from the mere listing of topics but what becomes so clear when reading the passages is that these events are primarily the work of the Holy Spirit.
The prophet Joel had written I will pour out my spirit on all flesh;
your sons and your daughters shall prophesy,
your old men shall dream dreams,
and your young men shall see visions.
Even on the male and female slaves, [handmaids]
in those days, I will pour out my spirit
Luke begins his Gospel with an outpouring of the Holy Spirit as he would begin his second volume, the Acts of the Apostles.
Among the manifestations of the Holy Spirit in particular are:
|A) LUKE'S SIX CHRISTMAS INCIDENTS  (i) to (vi)|
 i. John's Birth is Foretold to Zechariah (Luke. 1:5-25)
God's pattern of enabling the 'impossible' birth of John the Baptist to Elizabeth is paralleled in his enabling the even more 'impossible' birth of Jesus to Mary.
We can see the way Elizabeth's story is in large measure echoed by Mary's.
While Zechariah doubts and cannot believe;
 ii. Jesus' Birth is Foretold to Mary (Lk. 1:26-38)
After seeing the very deliberate parallel and linking of Elizabeth's and Mary's experiences, it is particularly interesting that this famous passage begins by dating itself according to Elizabeth's pregnancy - in the sixth month - or 'in her sixth' month to be more precise.
26In the sixth month the angel Gabriel was sent by God to a town in Galilee called Nazareth, 27to a virgin engaged to a man whose name was Joseph, of the house of David. The virgin's name was Mary. 28And he came to her and said,
'Greetings, favoured one! The Lord is with you.' 29But she was much perplexed by his words and pondered what sort of greeting this might be. 30The angel said to her, 'Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favour with God. 31And now, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you will name him Jesus. 32He will be great, and will be called the Son of the Most High, and the Lord God will give to him the throne of his ancestor David. 33He will reign over the house of Jacob for ever, and of his kingdom there will be no end.'
Then comes the earliest record of Mary's words in the New Testament.
[Mary's words throughout this article are in blue.]
34Mary said to the angel, 'How can this be, since I am a virgin?' 35The angel said to her, 'The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you; therefore the child to be born will be holy; he will be called Son of God. 36And now, your relative Elizabeth in her old age has also conceived a son; and this is the sixth month for her who was said to be barren. 37For nothing will be impossible with God.' 38Then Mary said, 'Here am I, the servant of the Lord; let it be with me according to your word.' Then the angel departed from her.
 iii. John's Mother-to-be is Visited by Mary. (Lk. 1:39-56)
39In those days Mary set out and went with haste to a Judean town in the hill country, 40where she entered the house of Zechariah and greeted Elizabeth. 41When Elizabeth heard Mary's greeting, the child leapt in her womb. And Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit 42and exclaimed with a loud cry, 'Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the fruit of your womb. 43And why has this happened to me, that the mother of my Lord comes to me? 44For as soon as I heard the sound of your greeting, the child in my womb leapt for joy. 45And blessed is she who believed that there would be a fulfilment of what was spoken to her by the Lord.'
47and my spirit rejoices in God my Saviour,
48for he has looked with favour on the lowliness of his servant.
Surely, from now on all generations will call me blessed;
49for the Mighty One has done great things for me,
and holy is his name.
50His mercy is for those who fear him
from generation to generation.
51He has shown strength with his arm;
he has scattered the proud in the thoughts of their hearts.
52He has brought down the powerful from their thrones,
and lifted up the lowly;
53he has filled the hungry with good things,
and sent the rich away empty.
54He has helped his servant Israel,
in remembrance of his mercy,
55according to the promise he made to our ancestors,
to Abraham and to his descendants for ever.'
 iv. John's Birth and Naming, (Lk. 1:57-80)
Mary is not mentioned in this section. Luke tells how -
 v. Jesus' Birth & the Shepherds' Visit. (Lk. 2:1-20)
Joseph went to his own town, Bethlehem. 5He went to be registered with Mary, to whom he was engaged and who was expecting a child. 6While they were there, the time came for her to deliver her child. 7And she gave birth to her firstborn son and wrapped him in bands of cloth, and laid him in a manger, because there was no place for them in the inn.
After angelic guidance the shepherds find
16...Mary and Joseph, and the child lying in the manger.
After they have left
Mary treasured all these words and pondered them in her heart.
 vi. The Naming & Presentation of Jesus to the Lord (Lk. 2:21-40)
After Jesus' circumcision, Jesus is named and Mary and Joseph offer sacrifice. Being too poor to afford a sheep they take the option of a pair of turtle-doves or two young pigeons.
The Holy Spirit prompts the aged Simeon to go to the Temple, where Mary and Joseph have taken the baby Jesus.
Simeon took him in his arms and praised God.
His Song of Praise (the 'Nunc Dimittis') makes no reference to Mary, but leads Mary and Joseph to be amazed at what was being said about him.
Next, in this account, the aged Anna recognises the child as God's instrument of redemption; Mary and Joseph complete the religious requirements and then return home to Nazareth in Galilee.
|B) MARY IN THE REST OF LUKE||(back to top)|
 JESUS AGED TWELVE AT THE TEMPLE (Luke 2:41-52)
In this, the sixth  of the nine Mary-passages  - , Luke gives us the only record of Jesus between birth and ministry.
Jesus' parents went annually to Temple Passover. They took the 12-year-old Jesus, but when they left, Jesus remained there, unknown to them. Mary and Joseph return to find Jesus with the teachers 46...listening to them and asking them questions. 47And all who heard him were amazed at his understanding and his answers. 48When his parents saw him they were astonished; and his mother said to him, 'Child, why have you treated us like this? Look, your father and I have been searching for you in great anxiety.' 49He said to them, 'Why were you searching for me? Did you not know that I must be in my Father's house?' 50But they did not understand what he said to them.
Then he went down with them and came to Nazareth, and was obedient to them.
His mother treasured all these things in her heart.
And Jesus increased in wisdom and in years,
and in divine and human favour.
LUKE'S MARY DURING JESUS' MINISTRY
Luke, who has more knowledge of Mary than any other author, modifies Mark's material in the same way as Matthew does:
Luke adds no Mary incident to this Mark based Gospel, but alone of the Gospel writers adds the account of the woman in the crowd who shouts out to Jesus 'Blessed is the womb that bore you, and the breasts that nursed you!' It tells us nothing about Mary.
|C) MARY IN LUKE'S ACTS OF THE APOSTLES||(back to top)|
 MARY AWAITS THE SPIRIT (Acts 1:14)
This is the last recorded event in Mary's life, but it comes here at  not , because I am listing the passages in the order written, not the order in which they took place.
All these [the apostles whose names had been listed] were constantly devoting themselves to prayer, together with certain women, including Mary the mother of Jesus, as well as his brothers.
Only Peter is named in the Pentecost narrative that follows, and the natural meaning is that Mary was there. Luke thus places Mary at the start both of his first volume, Luke's Gospel and his second volume the Acts of the Apostles.
Luke thereby shows Mary's unique experience of being both -
Luke's picture of Mary prior to Pentecost suggests that -
|6. Mary in John's Gospel||(back to top)|
JOHN'S CONTRIBUTION TO UNDERSTANDING JESUS
Mark started his story at Christ's adult Baptism.
Matthew and Luke sought to answer the question about Jesus' person and origin by each independently going back to Christ's nativity. Matthew's new source depicted events mainly from Joseph's point of view, Luke's from Mary's.
When we come to John - there are no Christmas stories at all!
John does not tell us Christmas stories and leave us to guess their meaning, he is Spirit-inspired to tell us the meaning of Christmas and leaves us to guess its stories!
In the beginning was the Word
...and the Word was God
...and the Word became flesh.
Unlike Matthew and Luke, John does not rely on Mark's account, so does not repeat the incidents in Mark's Mary-passages  and . Nor does John use the name Mary which Mark first revealed.
John instead gives us two incidents not written about before. Both of them are at the very extreme ends of Jesus' ministry -
|(back to top)|
 MARY & JESUS AT THE WEDDING IN CANA (John 2:1-12)
1On the third day there was a wedding in Cana of Galilee, and the mother of Jesus was there. 2Jesus and his disciples had also been invited to the wedding. 3When the wine gave out, the mother of Jesus said to him, 'They have no wine.'
4And Jesus said to her, 'Woman, what concern is that to you and to me? My hour has not yet come.' 5His mother said to the servants, 'Do whatever he tells you.'
John then tells us:
After this he went down to Capernaum with his mother, his brothers, and his disciples;
|(back to top)|
 MARY AT THE CROSS. (John 19:25-27)
Meanwhile, standing near the cross of Jesus were his mother, and his mother's sister, Mary the wife of Clopas, and Mary Magdalene.
26When Jesus saw his mother and the disciple whom he loved standing beside her, he said to his mother, 'Woman, here is your son.'
27Then he said to the disciple,'Here is your mother.' And from that hour the disciple took her into his own home.
His mother may point to Mary but also beyond her to God's People of the Old Covenant whose goal was the coming of Christ.
The disciple may typify God's People of the New Covenant created by Christ's coming.
My omission of Old Testament texts which throw light on the meaning of these Scriptures, like Hannah's 'Magnificat', is because my aim has been to collate and assemble the New Testament's witness to Mary, not to expound it.
It is when Christians with different views of Mary look together at the Scriptures concerning her that their differences are seen in their true perspective, and, indeed, often diminish. This gathering of the Mary-passages in Scripture makes one thing clear. The New Testament writers, like Mary herself, do not focus on her. They, like Mary, point always to Our Lord, and bid us 'Do whatever he tells you.'
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|Copyright John Richards 2001, but waived for users of www.helpforchristians.co.uk|