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Bible Dictionaries

Fausset's Bible Dictionary

Mary, the Virgin

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(See GENEALOGY OF JESUS CHRIST.) Probably Matthan of Matthew is Matthat of Luke, and Jacob and Heli were brothers; and Heli's son Joseph, and Jacob's daughter Mary, were first cousins. Joseph, as male heir of his uncle Jacob who had one only child Mary, would marry her according to the law (Numbers 36:8). Thus the genealogy of the inheritance or succession to David's throne (Matthew's) and that of natural descent (Luke's) would be primarily Joseph's, then Mary's also (Psalms 132:11; Luke 1:32; Romans 1:3). She was sister or half-sister to Mary (John 19:25), and related to Elisabeth who was of the tribe of Levi (Luke 1:36). (See MARY OF CLEOPHAS; ELISABETH.) In 5 B.C. (Luke 1:24, etc.) Mary was living at Nazareth, by this time betrothed to Joseph, when the angel Gabriel came from God to her in the sixth month of Elisabeth's pregnancy. (See GABRIEL.)

He came in no form of overwhelming majesty, but seemingly in human form, as is implied by the expression "he came in," also by the fact that what she was "troubled at" was not his presence but "his saying" (compare Daniel 10:18-19). "Hail thou that art highly favored" (kecharitomenee ) cannot mean as Rome teaches in her prayer to the Virgin, "Hail Mary full of grace"; that would be pleerees charitos as in John 1:14; the passive of the verb implies, as usually in verbs in -oo, she was made the object of God's grace, not a fountain from whence grace flows to others; as John 1:30 explains it, "thou hast found favor (charin ) with God"; so Ephesians 1:6, echaritoosen , "He hath graciously accepted us." "The Lord is (or, BE) with thee (Judges 6:12), blessed art thou among women"; not among gods and goddesses.

As Jael (Judges 5:24); "blessed" in "believing" (Luke 1:45), more than in conceiving Christ (Luke 8:19-21; Luke 11:27-28); compare her own practice, Luke 2:51; Matthew 12:49-50. "Her relationship as mother would not at all have profited Mary if she had not borne Christ more happily in the heart than in the flesh" (Augustine, Tom. 4, De Sanct. Virg.). In Luke 11:27-28, during His last journey, a month before His crucifixion (A.D. 30), upon a woman of the company exclaiming, "blessed is the womb that bore Thee, and the paps which Thou hast sucked," He said, "yea, rather (menounge ) blessed are they that hear the word of God and keep it"; the blessedness even of Mary is not her motherhood towards Him, but her hearing and obeying Him.

The Spirit's prescience of the abuse of the words Luke 1:28 appears in the precautions taken subsequently in the same Gospel to guard against such abuse. The Virgin's words (Luke 1:48) "all generations shall call me blessed" mean not, shall call me by that name, "the Blessed Virgin," but shall count me blessed, as in James 5:11 (the same Greek). The nations shall count JESUS, not the Virgin, the fountain of all blessedness (Psalms 72:17). When in "fear she cast in her mind what might the meaning of the salutation be," the angel reassured her by the promise, "behold thou shalt conceive in thy womb and bring forth a son, and shalt call His name Jesus.

He shall be great (not merely as John Baptist 'in the sight of the Lord,' Luke 1:15, but as the Lord Himself), and shall be called (i.e. shall be really what the name means) the Son of the Highest, and the Lord God shall give Him the throne of His father David (not merely His throne in heaven whereon David never sat, but on Zion, Jeremiah 3:17), and He shall reign over the house of Jacob forever, and of His kingdom there shi all be no end." She asked, not incredulously as Zacharias (Luke 1:18), but in the simplicity of faith which sought instruction, taking for granted it shall be, only asking as to the manner, "how shall this be, seeing I know not a man?"

The angel therefore explained, "the Holy Spirit shall come upon thee, and the power of the Highest shall overshadow thee (as with a cloud, denoting the mildest, gentlest operation of the divine power, coveting, quickening, but not consuming: Mark 9:7), therefore also that Holy thing which shall be born of thee shall be called the Son of God" (from whence our creed saith, "He was conceived by the Holy Spirit," etc.; compare Genesis 1:2. "As the world was not created by the Holy Spirit, but by the Son, so the Son was not begotten by the Holy Spirit, but by the Father, and that before the worlds, Christ was made of the substance of the Virgin, not of the substance of the Holy Spirit, whose essence cannot be made. No more is attributed to the Spirit than what was necessary to cause the Virgin to perform the actions of a mother. And because the Holy Spirit did not beget Him by any communication of His essence, He is not the Father of Him." Pearson, Creed, 165-166.)

Gabriel instanced Elisabeth's being six months advanced in pregnancy, who once was barren, to confirm the Virgin's faith that "nothing is impossible with God" (Romans 4:17-21); she evinced her faith in the reply, "behold the handmaid of the Lord; be it unto me according to thy word," Her expression of humble, believing acceptance of and concurrence in the divine will (Luke 1:38; Luke 1:45) was required, and may be with reverence supposed to be recorded to mark the date of our Lord's conception. Mary then went in joyous haste to the hill country of Judah, to a city where Zacharias and Elisabeth lived, whether Jutta, (Joshua 21:13-16) a priests' city, or Hebron, S. of Jerusalem and much further S. of Nazareth in Galilee. On Mary's saluting Elisabeth the latter hailed her as "mother of her Lord," inasmuch as at her salutation "the babe leaped in her womb for joy," adding, in contrast to Zacharias whose unbelief had brought its own punishment," blessed is she that believed, for there shall be a performance of those things told her from the Lord."

Mary then under the Spirit uttered the hymn known as the "Magnificat," based on Hannah's hymn (1 Samuel 2:2). In it we see a spirit that drank deeply at the wells of Scripture, a humility that "magnified the Lord" not self, that "rejoiced" as a sinner in "her Savior" (disproving Rome's dogma of the immaculate conception), a lively sense of gratitude at the mighty favor which the Mighty One conferred on one so low, a privilege which countless Jewish mothers had desired (Daniel 11:37, "the desire of women"), and for which all generations should count ("call") her happy (makariousin , compare Genesis 30:13), and an exemplification of God's eternal principle of abusing "the proud and exalting them of low degree," and a realization of God's faithfulness to His promises "to Abraham of mercy and help to Israel forever." Mary stayed with her cousin three months, and just before John the Baptist's birth returned to her own house at Nazareth.

Then followed Joseph's discovery of the conception and his tender dealing with her, and reception of her by God's command (Matthew 1), as being the virgin foretold who should bring forth Immanuel (Isaiah 7:14; Jeremiah 31:22). (See JOSEPH.) Augustus' decree (Luke 2) obliged them to go to Bethlehem, God thereby causing His prophecy (Micah 5:2) to be fulfilled, Mary there giving birth to the Savior. The shepherds' account of the angels caused wonder to others, "but Mary kept all these things and pondered them in her heart"; so again Luke 2:51, not superficial, but reflective and thoughtfully devout. The law regarded her as unclean until the presentation 40 days after the birth (Leviticus 12). Then she was bound to offer a lamb of the first year for a burnt offering, and a young pigeon or turtle dove for a sin offering, to make atonement for her poverty compelled her to substitute for the lamb a pigeon or turtle dove.

Simeon's hymn followed, at the close of which he foretold, "a sword shall pierce through thy own soul also, that the thoughts of many hearts may be revealed"; the anguish of her Son should pierce the mother's heart, and be a testing probation of character to her as well as to all others (John 9:39; John 19:25; Psalms 42:10); that she had misgivings and doubts is implied in her accompanying His brethren afterward, as if enthusiasm was carrying Him too far (Matthew 12:46; Mark 3:21; Mark 3:31-35; John 7:5). The flight to Egypt followed; then the return, at first designed to be back to Bethlehem, but through fear of Archelaus to Nazareth of Galilee, their former home.

Then the visit to Jerusalem when Jesus was 12 years old. Had she remembered aright the divine Sonship of Jesus announced by Gabriel, she would have understood His lingering in the temple, and have forborne the complaint, "Son, why hast Thou thus dealt with us? Thy father and I have sought Thee sorrowing." Still maternal solicitude and human love prompted her words, of which the only fault was her losing sight of His divine relations. She and Joseph (who is never after mentioned) "understood not Jesus' sayings, but Mary kept them all in her heart." Four times only does Mary come to view subsequently.

(1) At the marriage of Cana (John 2), in the three months between Christ's baptism and the Passover of A.D. 27. As at the finding in the temple He disclaimed Joseph's authority as His father in the highest sense, cf6 "wist ye not (thou Mary and Joseph) that I must be about My (divine) Father's business", so here He disclaims her right as human mother to dictate His divine acts, "they have no wine." cf6 "Woman, what have I to do with thee?" (what is there (in common) to Me and thee?) a rebuke though a gentle one, as in Matthew 8:29; Mark 1:24; 1 Kings 17:18. Mary, when reproved, meekly" saith to the servants, Whatsoever He saith unto you, do it" (2 Chronicles 25:9). The Christian's allegiance is solely to Him, not to her also: a prescient forewarning of the Holy Spirit against mediaeval and modern Mariolatry.

(2) Capernaum next was her home (John 2:12). Two Passovers had elapsed since the marriage in Cana, and He had twice made the circuit of Galilee. Crowds so thronged Him that lie had no time even "to eat bread." Mary dud His brethren, anxious for His safety, and fearing He would destroy Himself with self denying zeal, stood outside of the crowds surrounding Him and "sought to speak with Him, and to lay hold on Him, for they said He is beside Himself" (Mark 3:21; Mark 3:31-35). Again He denies any authority of earthly relatives, or any privilege from relationship, cf6 "who is My mother or My brethren?" and looking round on those sitting about Him, cf6 "behold My mother and My brethren," for" whosoever shall do the will of My Father which is in heaven the same is My brother, sister, and mother" (Matthew 12:50).

(3) Shortly before three o'clock and His giving up the ghost, He once more recognizes His human relationship to her, which He had during His ministry put in the background, that His higher relationship might stand prominent; for "now that which she brought forth was dying" (Augustine). Commending her to John He said to her, cf6 "woman, behold thy son", and to John cf6 "behold thy mother". John (John 19:26-27) immediately "from that hour took her to his own home," so that she was spared the pang of witnessing His death. "He needed no helper in redeeming all; He gave human affection to His mother, but sought no help of man" (Augustine).

(4) She is last mentioned Acts 1:14, "Mary the mother of Jesus" (not "of God") was one of the women who continued with one accord in prayer and supplication for the Holy Spirit before Pentecost. In all the epistles her name never once occurs. Plainly Scripture negatives the superhuman powers which Rome assigns her. In the ten recorded appearances of the risen Savior in the 40 days, not one was especially to Mary. John doubtless cherished her with the tender love which he preeminently could give and she most needed. It is remarkable how with prescient caution she never is put forward during Christ's ministry or after His departure. Meek (John 2:5), and humble, making her model the holy women of old (Luke 1:46), yielding herself in implicit faith up to the divine will though ignorant how it was to be accomplished (Luke 1:38), energetic (Luke 1:39), thankful (Luke 1:48), and piously reflective (Luke 2:19; Luke 2:51), though not faultless, she was the most tender and lovable of women, yet a woman still.

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Bibliography Information
Fausset, Andrew R. Entry for 'Mary, the Virgin'. Fausset's Bible Dictionary. 1949.

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