~ An Amazing Life ~ 

A book by Rich Van Winkle

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An Amazing Life: Jesus and the Nozerim

Appendix II - Mary

Mary remains one of the most enigmatic and revered personages in human history. We know so little about her – and yet so much. Of all the personages in the stories of the gospels, none is so human and tragic as hers. Given the legacy of her first-born son – and her other sons - we must recognize her as one of the most significant mothers of any time. Putting together her story requires plenty of “reading between the lines”. However, there is sufficient historical record to support a much different view of her life than is commonly believed. But first, we should provide a bit of context.

It is impossible for us to appreciate the nature of her times. Aside from the well known turmoil, there were strong political and religious feelings that led to many “royal” killings – either among the Kingly group or the High Priestly groups. Three different groups actively sought out any persons who might have any sort of legitimate claim to the Davidian throne or the High Priesthood; the Romans who saw them as potential trouble makers, the Herodians who saw them as direct threats to their throne, and the pseudo-Zadokian cousins (the family of Ananus) who were presiding as high priests and knew they could not compete with the true line of Aaronite succession.

Just to exemplify the reality of this danger, we need only take a cursory look at the reign of Herod (the First or “the Great”) to realize that he killed his wives, their children, his children, step-children, and just about anyone who appeared to threaten his control of power. Caesar Augustus told the joke that “it was preferable to be Herod's pig (hus)[1] than his son (huios).” At times he ordered entire groups of people killed because they posed some perceived threat to his power[2].

Let us then assume that the Christian claims for the genealogy of Jesus are generally valid with two key adjustments: first, since we have two different genealogies (Mathew and Luke), one must be for Mary and the other for Joseph; and second, if Joseph was Jesus’ step-father, his genealogy is meaningless in providing any claim for Jesus’ Davidic ancestry. Foregoing the “virgin birth” myth and then analyzing the genealogies of both of Jesus’ parents, we are then confronted with another claim that is generally ignored: if Jesus actually did have any legitimate claim to the Davidic throne and Mary’s lineage is priestly (as would combine to create a “Messiah”), then any offspring of Joseph and Mary would be targets for many.

If this was the reality for the family of Jesus, then we should wonder how the Davidic and priestly family of Jesus related to the messianic parties of the time and to the other Jewish powers in Judea. Why weren’t they quickly hunted down (and killed) by the Romans and Herodians as royal rivals since the gospel accounts make it clear that neither Jesus nor his family lived lives of seclusion. Part of the answer comes from a closer look at Mary and her family ties.

We should begin with an acknowledgement that we know little about Mary or her family. Trying to assemble her genealogy requires substantial speculation, but it is not without foundation. The starting presumption is that the genealogy offered in the Gospel of Luke (Luke 3:23) is actually Mary’s and not Joseph’s[3]. We add in some traditional information about her priestly father and her service in the Temple and some pieces fall into place. Finally, we tie together some names that were quite common and credit Mary with relations to some important people of the time – people mentioned in the Gospel accounts. From this, a new and different picture emerges for Jesus’ mother.

The historical record contradicts the Biblical down-playing of Jesus’ family: if John the Baptist was Jesus’ cousin (Luke 1:36), then their family had clear ties to the legitimate High Priesthood. If James (the brother of Jesus) was the popular “James the Just” and served as a prominent Temple priest (Jerome citing Hegesippus' lost Commentaries), then it was most likely because Mary’s family had historical power within the priesthood. If the family had friends (or relatives) like Chouza (the minister of finance[4] for King Herod Antipas - Luke 8:3) and Joseph of Arimathea (Matt. 27:57, Luke 23:50, and Mark 15:43), then they had ties to some of the most powerful families in Judea. Once we accept that the reality of Jesus’ true family heritage and position, we can better understand his life and message. The family of Jesus was far from poor, obscure, or unimportant.

Mary’s natural father is named “Heli” in Luke’s genealogy, but other strong traditions name her father  “Joachim” (even being sainted as such by the Catholic Church). Some have tried to reconcile this by suggesting that Heli and Joachim are actually the same name (as if Joachim = Eliachim = Eli = Heli), but that is too much a stretch. Besides, if Jesus is to gain his Davidic lineage through Mary’s family, there is no reason to believe he could do so through Joachim (a priest). On the other hand, a person who was of Davidic lineage and who could have offered the kingly lineage was Alexander III Helios, also known as “Heli”.

For most people, this man is totally unknown. Even among historians, he does not have prominence. But in more recent years, he has gathered greater and greater attention. As more and more people realize that the Jesus legend of the New Testament reflects substantial bias, intentional misdirection, and clear obfuscation, a new and more complete view has emerged. As mentioned before, the Jesus story of the gospels is self-contradictory regarding Jesus’ ancestry and position: if he was a legitimate contender to the throne of David then he certainly wasn’t a “nobody from Hicksville” as generally portrayed. If he was born under any circumstance akin to that described in the gospels, his Davidic claims would have had to come through his mother’s family. We will return to this topic later.

Our expanded view of the family of Mary takes examines four separate lines and ties them together…

  1. The Egyptian connection
  2. The Hasmonean/Davidic connection
  3. The Herodian connection
  4. The Preistly (Aaronite/Levite) connection

At first glance it may seem a stretch to have so many prominent families linked in one person. But there were four major differences in marriage during the time that greatly changed the way people were related.

  1. Intentional inter-family marriage
  2. Strategic  intra-family marriage
  3. Levirite marriage among the Jews
  4. Polygamy

All of these were directly involved in Mary’s ancestry. An inter-family marriage might result in combinations that we might consider unethical or even illegal. Parents married their own children, siblings married, first cousins married, and almost any other combination of inter-family marriage was practiced. Similarly, marriages between families were arranged based upon specific objectives. Alliances between countries were cemented by marriage, royal bloodlines were controlled and manipulated, and brides were bought and sold to gain or solidify position and title.

The Jewish custom of leverite marriage evolved over time (originating in Gen. 38:8 and elaborated in Deut. 25: 56) and was one of the topics that distinguished the major sects during the first century. As a general rule, the Jews didn’t marry within the close family (note Lev. 18:16-21) except in the specific circumstance of the leverite custom, but then it was regarded as obligatory. Specifically, the idea of such a marriage (also found in other cultures) was to ensure that men had a legal heir. It became an issue when there was no “issue”. That is, when a married man died without an heir, his surviving brothers (or other closest male relative) assumed the duty to provide one. That involved a number of associated issues.

Some believed that the obligation occurred only when the relatives lived in the same “estate” or dwelling (or village). The surviving relative could avoid the obligation by the ceremony of “aliah” (where the widow follows the odd procedure of Deut. 25: 5-10 to release the obligation – allowing her to marry someone else). Also involved is the institution of “Go'el” (retaliation) where murder or manslaughter is suspected. Under Jewish law, a child from a levirate union would inherit the title and the estate of the deceased brother.

Finally, before we look at Mary’s family trees, it is important to note the naming conventions (and difficulties) from the period. For those unfamiliar with Jewish naming traditions[5], it may be worth your time to look at the article regarding such (link here). It has been common for historians to move freely between Hebrew names and grecized names – usually based upon the context. Important people usually adopted a Greek name as well as their given name and that name was used as their “official” name. Thus, outside of Jewish works, the Greek names are almost always used for royal families during this period. In this way, Eli ben Matthat and Alexander III Helios are the same person.

 In the following family trees, I have not included lines having little or no significance to Mary and to simply the charts, some lines are not duplicated in each tree. There are numerous situations  where the lines connect by marriage that are not shown and where a wife ends up being married (and having children) with a close relative.

We will use the following family tree for Mary’s mother (Anna):    

 

                                                                Hananeel (Ananelus) the Egyptian                                                                        

                                                                                                |                                                                                                             

                                                                                Boethus (Egyptian)                                                                                             

       _____________________________________|___________________________________                        

      |                         |                            |                  |                |                       |                                    |                       

Ananelus        Phabet (Fabi)        Simon IV      Joazar      Eleazar        Sethus (Sie)       (Simon) Kantheras         

       ___________ |________               |                                                             |                               

      |                         |                 |              |                                                            |

Yehoshua III       Eliam   Ishmael      Joseph (Cabi) II                                       |

       |                           |                                                                               ________|_______________

       |                           |                                                                               |                                                           |

   __|______         Yoseph                                                              Yehoshua IV                              Ananus

   |        |         |                                               

Jane     |           |                                                                                           

      Elizabeth     |                                                                                                    

                       (H)anna  _________>   Mary        

 

(Those shown in purple served as High Priest in Jerusalem).

 

As is obvious in this chart – Mary’s ancestors were among the most prominent of High Priestly families with deep roots in the Egyptian High Priesthood of Onias. Her grandfather, Yehoshua III was one of four High Priest sons of Phabet who was one of seven High Priest sons of Boethus. This was a High Priest family dynasty unmatched in Jewish history.


This is the family tree for Mary’s blood father (Heli/Helios):

 

                                                                    Yohanan (John) I Hyrcanus

                                _________________________|__________________

                                |                                                                                                       |

      Aristobulus I (Judah)                                                               Alexander I Jannaeus

(1st via Salome Alexandra I)                          __ Melchi _____________|__   (with Alexandra I[6])__

                    |                                                           |                                                    |                                             |

                    |                                                      Levi                                             Hyrcanus II,                      Aristobulus II

                    |                                                        |                                                      |                                                  |

                    |_(2nd Marriage)_____ Matthat ben Levi[7])                              |                          _______  |_____

                                                                                |                                       Alexandra II                    |                               |

                                                                                                                                      |             Alexander II   Antigonas II[8]

                                          ______________| _____(2nd Marriage)______|_ ___ (1st Marriage)                                        

                                          |                                |                                                                                       |     

                            Aristobulus III       Alexander III Helios[9]                 Mariamme I (2nd wife of Herod the Great)

                                                                                |                                                            ________ |_______

                                                                            |                                                               |                       |

                                                                           Mary                                       Alexander IV                Aristobulus IV                                      

              

 

Although there are several key personages in this genealogy, there are two who deserve special discussion: Salome Alexandra (I) and Matthat ben Levi…

Salome Alexandra I (Hebrew: שְׁלוֹמְצִיּוֹן אלכסנדרה, “Shelomtzion” or possibly “ShlomTzion”)(139–67 BCE), was the only Jewish regnant queen[10]. Her personal genealogy is not given by Josephus and is generally unknown although she was married to a host of the most important men of the era, including: Aristobulus I and Alexander Jannaeus.  The reason for this was plain: she was considered the legitimate Queen of the Davidic line and her offspring would gain that titular lineage (by whatever father). Her marriages to the Hasmonean kings was intended to give them greater legitimacy and gained her great power. The circumstances that led to her being the second wife of Matthat ben Levi are unknown, but the best guess is that it was a result of him being one of the richest men in Judea. (More below).

Matthat bar Levi is both a biblical and non-biblical character of history.
Then there is the family tree for Mary’s legal father (Joachim):

                                               

  Boethus (from above)                                                                  Jannai (via unknown wives)[11]

                |                                                                                           _____________|___________________       

                |__________Simon                                                  |                                                                                  |

Phabet (Fabi)                                                      Melchi (“Elam” = Mute)[12]                              Theophilus                 |______________________                   __________ |_________ ____________

                |                              |                     |                       |                        |                      |                            |

 Yehoshua III       Mariamme             Simar           Levi                 Jacob           Jonathan      Zecharias[13]

               |                                                                            |                        |                        |                         |

______|_________                               |--------Matthat[14]        Joses                Joachim               |

|              |                                          _____________             |__________                         |                        |             

Jane   Elizabeth  (H)anna              |                              |                        |                           |                      |

                 |                   |          Joseph (Arimathea)  Jorim   “Heli” ben Matthat[15]    |                    |

|                  |_________________________________|                                        |                     |                               |                                                                                                             |__(levirite)__|                    |

                 |                                                                                                  Mary                                           |

                 |_________________(only Marriage – only child)__________________ John (Baptist)                                                                                                                                             

(Again, those who were High Priest are shown in purple)

I realize that this can be confusing (although I have tried to simplify it). Three things compound the confusion: traditional Jewish naming customs, the Hellenization of names during this period, and the widespread practices of polygamy and multiple marriages within these families[16]. The thing that should stand out in these family trees is the plain fact that Mary was descended from and related to the most important families in Judea during this time. Her immediate families included High Priests, the Hasmonean royalty, the Davidic lineage, and the wealthiest of Jews.

To explain Mary’s family trees, I will start with what little is known of her personal history. It seems clear that her natural father was of the tribe of Judah, the “seed of Jesse”, and the lineage of David (Luke 1:32). She was the “cousin” (actually niece) of Elizabeth (wife of Zacharias), who was of the lineage of Aaron (Luke 1:36). In the Gospel of James[17] her parents are named Joachim (“Imran” in Arabic -per the Qur'an) and Anne. Tradition states that Heli (in this case, “Eli”) was a first cousin of Mary's father Joachim (who is described as a rich and pious man from Sepphoris (in Galilee)). Following the hint that Heli was Joachim’s cousin, the tree would make sense if Heli had died when Anne was young (as below) and she was then wed to his closest relative in a levirate marriage[18]. Thus, Heli would be the proper name in the genealogy while Joachim may have actually raised Mary. The common ancestor of Jannai would make the lineage difference minor.

Let us start then with the parts of Mary’s lineage that are better established. The genealogy given in Luke starts like this…

                Heli  ben Mattat (Alexander III Helios)

                from Matthat (Matthatias bar Levi )

                  from Levi

                    from Melki

                      from Jannai

                        from Joseph

                          from Mattathias (the Maccabbean)…

(see also Hieros Chagiagah 77.4). We can be certain that Luke’s genealogy is incomplete and use the well established genealogy of the Hasmoneans to make minor changes:

                Helios (Alexander III aka Heli ben Mattat)

                  from Mattat

                    from Levi

                      (no Melchi known)

                        from Jonathan (Yehonatan bar Jannai or Alexander Jannaeus)

                          from Jannai (should be Johanan Hyrcanus or Yohanan Girhan)

                            from Simeon (Simon Thassi the Maccabbean)

                              from Mattathias (the Maccabbean)…

Although the genealogies are not a perfect match, there are six points that impel their acceptance as being the same:

1. The differences between the two lines are small: Luke has placed “Joseph” between Mattathias and Jannai and instead the Hasmonean lineage was through Simon. Also, there is no Melchi  (a woman???) known in the Hasmonean lineage. While there is no easy explanation for the discrepancy, anyone who studies ancient bloodlines should recognize the remarkable overlap while understanding the differences are minor (especially given Luke’s other well established mistakes).

2. These relationships explain how the followers of Jesus could legitimately think he was qualified to be the Messiah.

3. These relationships explain why Herod might have been willing to slaughter infants in an effort to exterminate Jesus - a legitimate competitor to the throne.

4. These relationships explain several Biblical tales and interactions: how Jesus got away with his disruptions at the Temple (immediate death to any normal Jew), the relationship to Joanna (wife of Chuza in the house of Herod), some aspects of the trial legend (even the need for a “trial”), and the actions of Joseph of Arimathea (claiming the body of Jesus as a relative).

5. The relationships explain some of the difficulties with names in the gospels – such as why Mary’s father is called both Heli and Joachim.

6. The relationships fit other aspects of the gospel accounts and explain Mary’s ties to both Gallilee and Egypt.

There are a few details in the family trees that are worthy of special note:

1. The marriage of Simar (Mary’s great-aunt) to Matthat first tied the family of the legitimate High Priest with the family of Davidic succession – which was repeated with Anne’s marriage to Heli. It seems likely that the marriage of Alexandra II to Matthat was a leverite marriage (following Alexander II’s execution).

2.  Considering the following sequence of assassinations by Herod, it is clear where the Davidic lineage was thought to be…

                 Aristobulus II (poisoned in 49 BCE),

                Alexander II (poisoned with his father, above, in 49 BCE),

                Hyrcanus II (Exiled in 49 BCE, then hung by Herod in 30 BCE),

                Antigonas II (beheaded by Mark Anthony in 37 BCE),

                Aristobulus III (drowned by Herod in 36 BCE),

                Alexander III Helios (murdered in 23 BCE) (or 17???)

                Alexandros (strangled by Herod in 7 BCE),

                Aristobulus IV (strangled by Herod in 7 BCE).

3. Mary and John (the Baptist) are uniquely positioned to tie the High Priestly lineage to the royal lineage.

Under the circumstances, those interested in protecting the lineage of David (and any Messianic aspirant) would have been wise to hide eligible male children. Mary would have been safe as a child because she held such great promise as a wife for any aspiring king. That her father was executed when she was young (or even possibly before she was born) was probably part of Herod’s planning. We know that Herod keep very close tabs on competing royal bloodlines and it would have been difficult to miss the remarkable convergence that occurred with Hannah.

So, before we continue with Mary’s early life, it is important to explore a few key relations that Mary had. Mary’s grandmother was Esther (Elizabeth of Jerusalem), a descendant of the Hasmonean family that ruled Judea before the Roman take-over. Esther was a daughter of Hyrcanus (the Hasmonean) and so she was given a Greek name - Alexandra (II). That means that she would have been one of several Maccabean queens since she married the Hasmonean who would be the successor, Alexander II[19]. Alexandra II and Alexander II had two children: Prince Aristobulus III (who would become High Priest for a few months before being murdered by Herod in 36 BCE) and Princess Mariamme I (who would marry King Herod as his 2nd wife)[20].

Mary’s paternal grandfather Mattat[21] was married to two other famous wives (besides Mary’s grandmother): 

      Rachel of Arimathea, mother of the biblical Joseph of Arimathea, and

      Salome of Jerusalem[22] (aka “The Proselyte”), mother of Prince Gjor (father of Simon V Bar Gjora[23])

 

Mary’s aunt JoAnna married Joachim, the son of Alamyos, the Governor of Judea from 50-47 BCE (an Onaidite), and her aunt Elizabeth married Zechariah, a Priest of the Abijah Order (Levite)[24]. JoAnna was also the sister-in-law of Salome who married the brother of Joseph of Arimathea – Zebedee (the parents of the Apostles James and John).

 

Mary’s great-great-great grandfather was one of the priests of the House of Zadok: Hananeel (Ananelus) from Alexandria. He was the son the famous Boethus (also from Alexandria) and the father of Boethus, whose family would serve many roles in Judaism over more than a lustrum (five decades). Hananeel served as High Priest twice during the reign of Herod the Great. Mary’s grandfather was also a High Priest – not surprisingly named Yehoshua (Jesus or Joshua ben Phiabi). We know little about him except that he held the post of High Priest from 30 to 25 BCE (replaced by Simon ben Boethus) and that he could only prevent his Zadokian lineage form being lost by properly marrying at least one of his three daughters Joanna (Jane), Esther (Elizabeth), and Hannah (Anna or “Bethulah”) as a dynastic heiress. 

Boethus bar Hananeel, who presided as the “Nasi” or the President of the Great Sanhedrin, had a son named Simon whose daughter (another JoAnna/Jane) was married to Chuza bar Joseph[25], the chief steward of Herod (as his father had been). Boethus’ daughter, Mariamne II was Herod’s third wife[26].

With the “marriage” of so many families of prominence and significance producing Mary, it is no wonder that she would end up as the mother of such a famous son.  It would also have been incredible for her to escape the attention of Herod, who wanted to marry for himself or to one of his sons every woman of royal blood he could. Unfortunately for Mary, her life would change several times due to executions.

With the birth of Mary, Hannah would have been forced to isolate herself from society until all evidence of any post-partum bleeding had passed. Then, after an additional 66 days, Hannah would have followed the customary rites as were given to Moses and presented herself (along with Mary) to a priest along with an offering of a yearling lamb as a thanksgiving burnt offering and a pigeon or turtle dove as a sin offering (as an atonement and to ritually cleanse  her mother) (Leviticus 12:5-8).

With the execution of her father “Heli” (around 23 BCE[27]) Mary’s life was altered dramatically. It is hard to imagine Herod letting Hannah and her baby leave Jerusalem (unless she was pregnant and not yet showing). If so, Hannah would certainly have been wise to get far away from Jerusalem. Since Heli had no living brothers (for a direct “levirate marriage”), Hanna was then married to her uncle, Joachim[28], a well known priest from Sepphoris. From this, we appear to have two legends: one placing Mary in Galilee/Sepphoris and the other in Jerusalem. There is probably truth to both. Our best guess is that Mary was raised in Sepphoris while very young. When Mary was old enough to serve in the Temple, Joachim became a Temple priest, and so the family moved to Jerusalem. They could have done so without revealing Mary’s identity and she would have been safe in the Temple.

Herod began re-construction of the “Second Temple” in 20 BCE and there can be little doubt that the situation in Jerusalem during this time was unusual. Only priests were allowed to work within certain areas of the Temple so there had to be a great demand for priests to come to Jerusalem during this time. During this phase of construction (which lasted until 10 BCE), Herod must have been pre-occupied and there was far less “intrigue” or focus on the pogrom. We can easily accept that this part of Mary’s early life was centered upon the massive building project in Jerusalem[29] and that takes us until the point where she enters puberty and would no longer be able to serve in the Temple.

Mary was born no later than 22 BCE. She was very unlikely to have been eligible to serve in the Temple much past its completion[30] in 10 BCE. And, as indicated by the list of executions above, the situation in Jerusalem changed dramatically in 7 BCE. What seems clear is that several of the Davidic claimants reached the same conclusion – it was time to escape Herod’s pogrom. If he was willing to kill his own sons, he obviously wouldn’t hesitate to kill any other potential rivals. It was this juncture that seemed to bring Mary and Joseph together since both ended up in Galilee at about the same time.

 Joseph’s story is detailed in Appendix III, but what is most relevant here is that he also needed to be concerned about Herod since his ancestry made him an unlikely candidate for the Davidic throne.  With ever y execution or imprisonment of a higher ranking heir, the risk to Joseph increased[31]. Since his family ties included two uncles who were prominent in the Galilean zealot movement, moving there was simple and safe for him. Not surprising is the fact that Joseph and Mary were related even before their marriage – although not closely[32].

Joachim was married to JoAnna[33], Mary’s aunt. He was also the brother of Escha and Mary Salome (all offspring of Alamyos, the Governor of Judea from 50-47 BCE - an Onaidite). Joseph had two younger brothers (twins) named Ptolas and Clopas. Escha was married to Ptolas and Mary Salome was married to Clopas.

We don’t know why Mary ended up back in Sepphoris. Joachim may have simply returned home upon completion of the Temple or perhaps they recognized the increasing risks of staying in Jerusalem[34]. For whatever reason they were there, sometime near 8 BCE they were both in, or near, Sepphoris.  The reason for the betrothal becomes apparent when we understand their lineages: combining their bloodlines would produce prodigious offspring.

Joseph carried Davidic royal blood and Mary carried Hasmonean royal blood. In their offspring there would be lineage from King David, Zerubabbel, the prophet Nehamiah, the High Priest Onias (last of the “legitimate” High Priests), Queen Alexandra, Queen Cleopatra, either Julius Caesar or Mark Antony, the Persian kings, and the Exilarchs. They carried both the priestly bloodlines (Levite and Aaronite) as well as the line of Zadok. They represented and merged two different Davidic lineages (the Abiudite and Rhesaite). Their friends and relatives would include a host of High Priests, one of the richest men in Judea (Joseph of Arimathea), members of Herod’s Court, members of the Sanhedrin, and many others. From the close family would come the best known “prophet” of the time – John the Baptist, the most popular “opposition” priest of the time (and the first Bishop of Jerusalem), James, several of the most famous “zealots”, and (obviously) the most famous person in human history, Jesus.

Although we don’t know the details regarding the betrothal of Joseph and Mary, we know plenty about the laws and customs of the time. Under those laws and customs, a woman[35] was betrothed at her own or her father’s house[36] and then up to a year elapsed before she was taken into the house of her husband. (Note Deut. 22:7; Judges 14:7-8 and see “Adam Clarke’s Commentary on the Bible,” abridged by Ralph Earle (1997) (p.766)). Even when a marriage had not been consummated, it was considered  fully legal and binding; and therefore a breach of the betrothal “contract” was considered “adultery” and punished in the same way. (Deut. 22:13-29).

Although we lack details, we know a few things:

  • Mary was Joseph’s wife, but not his first (or only) wife.
  • Joseph probably had children by earlier marriage.
  • Jesus was Mary’s first child, but not her only child.
  • The circumstances of Jesus’ birth were unusual and he was considered a “mamzer”[37].

We will return to birth of Jesus after we take the same detour that Luke sends us on: Mary’s visit to her aunt Elizabeth.

According to Luke, the elderly (and supposedly barren) Elizabeth was six months pregnant (with John the Baptist) when an angel told Mary to go and visit her in Judea (at Zechariah’s villa near Ain-Karim, in the hills four miles west of Jerusalem). Seeing Mary, Elizabeth is said to have cried out with a loud voice: Blessed you are among women and blessed is the fruit of your womb. Why have I been favored with a visit from the mother of my Lord?[38] (Luke 1:42-43). This visit (a rigorous three day trip for a pregnant Mary) was likely made in conjunction with some festival in Jerusalem and lasted through John’s birth in the year 8 or 7 BCE. (See Appendix X for discussion regarding the dating of events).

Plenty of theological discourse has arisen from this side story, along with some historical extrapolations. In the King James translation of Luke, Elizabeth is termed Mary’s “cousin” in one of the few cases where the generic use of the original Greek term should be assumed (“συγγενίς” is better translated as an uncertain “relative”). As elaborated upon above, it is highly likely that Elizabeth was Mary’s aunt and the hint about the age difference supports that conclusion. A blood relationship between Jesus and John also helps us make sense of other biblical references. That Zechariah owns both a villa and a house near Jerusalem is another indication that these families were not poor.

It seems clear that Elizabeth’s greeting was a later theological insertion consistent with early Christian efforts to elevate Jesus above John – even having John’s mother declare Mary’s fetus her “Lord” before he was born. From here Luke tells us that Mary returned to her “home” (Sepphoris/Nazareth?). But then she and Joseph soon make another trip south and end up in Bethlehem for the birth of their child. (Again, this event is discussed in detail in Appendix X where I conclude that the Bethlehem narrative is purely theological and not historical).

While some may choose to believe in the miracle of “virgin birth” or even the perpetual virginity of Mary, both detract from a clear understanding of Jesus’ life. Indeed, one can argue that the creation of such misunderstanding and distraction from the truth was the very intent of the New Testament editors. We have no reason to think that the gospels would include a story which would create doubt about the legal/parental status of Jesus unless such was so well known and established that it couldn’t be ignored.

The birth of Jesus would occur under less than ideal circumstances and disrupt the whole scene of Davidic lineages.

Mary’s story is re-told in the canonical gospels and in the Protevangelion 10:1-10:

And in her sixth month of pregnancy, Joseph returned from his building houses abroad and entered into the house, only to find that Mary had grown big. With smite on his face, he said: “With what face can I look up to the Lord my God? What shall I say concerning this young woman, for I received her as a virgin out of the Temple of the Lord my God and have not preserved her thus? Who has thus deceived me? Who has committed this evil in my house and seduced and defiled her?”… But Mary, with a flood of tears, replied “I am innocent!”.”[39]

We have tended to ignore the larger circumstance and issues presented in this scenario. Those around Mary would have known that she was pregnant after being betrothed to Joseph. Upon Joseph’s return, the people in their village would have demanded that the law be enforced and that law would have required Joseph to either acknowledge his wrong-doing or implicate Mary. Since the accounts offered make no mention of this, the only realistic explanation is that the cause of Mary’s pregnancy was known to all.

Given the circumstance presented to Joseph, the custom and expectation of the time was that he should invoke the law and have Mary stoned to death (Deut. 22:24) – unless she had been raped where no one could save her. (Deut. 22: 27). Given the gospel account that Joseph presumed a choice in sparing her, there had to be some circumstance permitting exception to the law. Of course, the biblical tale holds that Mary was impregnated by the Holy Spirit and that Joseph changed his mind in a dream. But that implies that Joseph had reason not to invoke or enforce the law promptly.

So, unless we accept the “immaculate conception” doctrine, the best explanation for the gospel accounts fits with other legends. Celsus[40], writing about 180 CE, stated that Jesus was actually an illegitimate son of a Roman soldier named Panther (Panthera). There is also mention in the Talmud[41] of a Yeshua ben Pandera, which some think supports the legend. Epiphanius, in refutation of Celsus, wrote that Joseph and Cleopas were both sons of Jacob who was also known as Panther, but that seems a stretch. This is one of many questions that might never be answered, and yet Christians tend not to consider the alternative that the gospel stories speak an underlying truth that is obfuscated by mythical/magical overlays. Other issues surrounding Jesus’ birth are discussed in related Appendices.

Joseph follows the instruction from his dream and the boy is named Yeshua/Jesus. Joseph ended the betrothal by taking Mary to live in his home and completing the marriage contract. Matthew’s statement that “[Joseph] had no union with her until [after] she gave birth” (Matt. 1:25)[42] and Luke’s use of the term “firstborn” (Luke 2:7) indicates what happened after they began married life. There is simply no reason to believe that anything less than a normal relationship of marriage[43] followed (unless one adopts an unsupported notion that Mary’s semi-divinity compelled her to perpetual virginity[44]). “Matthew betrays no such inclination” (“The Wycliffe Bible Commentary,” p. 932) and neither should we.

Unlike the presentation described above for Hannah and Mary, Jesus would have additional ceremonies: male Jewish babies were circumcised. Circumcision is a "mitzvah" (commandment from God) central to Jewish culture. It is an outward physical sign of the eternal covenant between God and the Jewish people. It is thought that the Jewish people will be perpetuated through the circumcised man. When a Jewish boy is circumcised, he is accepted into the "Covenant of Abraham" and assumes the rights and duties of the Torah. A male Jew who is not circumcised is something less than a Jew and suffers the penalty of kareit (spiritual excision) - regardless of how good a Jew he is in all other ways, an uncircumcised man may not enter the World to Come.

Brit milah (ritual circumcision) or "the bris" is performed in a special ceremony during the daytime of the eighth day[45] of the boy's life. Circumcision must be done by a qualified "mohel" or the circumcision is invalid. Because the mother is niddah (or partially impure) for at least 40 days after the birth of a boy she is unable to attend the ceremony. Among the key parts of the ceremony - the boy is given his name (which is sometimes spelled out in the marriage contract).

For the Jews, part of God’s perfection is the lack of foreskin and those born without a foreskin were regarded as made in the image of God – a sign of the most saintly of people from Adam to Zerubbabel (see Midrash Ab. R. N., ed. Schechter, p. 153; and Talmud, Sotah 12a). Those born with a foreskin (even a minimal one) are circumcised by either removal of the skin or a symbolic “pinprick”. Special health issues may affect how the procedure is accomplished.

The ceremony itself has several components and customs. Traditionally, the boy’s father honors someone (e.g. the grandfather) as the "sandek" whose lap serves as an altar where the boy is held. A chair is set aside because, according to tradition, Elijah the prophet comes to every bris. It is customary for those attending  to stand. The father recites the traditional declaration of God's unity, the "Shma": Hear, O Israel, the Lord is our God, the Lord is One." The baby is then passed to the "sandek" who  holds the baby on his lap while the mohel unwraps the infant and prepares him for the bris. The father stands next to the mohel and before the cut, he recites the following blessing: "Blessed are You, Lord our God, King of the universe, who has sanctified us with His commandments and commanded us concerning the circumcision." The mohel then performs the cut and the father recites this blessing: "Blessed are You, Lord our God, King of the universe, who has sanctified us with His commandments and commanded us to enter him into the Covenant of Abraham our father.

The assembly wishes the father and baby well: "Just as he has entered into the Covenant of Abraham, so may he enter into Torah, into marriage and into good deeds." At this point the mohel takes a cup of wine and blesses it: "Blessed are You, Lord our God, King of the universe, who has created the fruit of the vine." (Wine is partaken at all Jewish ceremonies and festive meals to recall the goodness of God.” With the wine, the following blessing is made: "Blessed are You, Lord our God, King of the universe, who sanctified the beloved one from the womb, set His statue in his flesh, and sealed his descendants with the sign of the holy Covenant. Therefore, as a reward of this circumcision, the living God, our Portion, our Rock, has ordained that the beloved of our flesh be saved from the abyss, for the sake of the Covenant which He has set in our flesh. Blessed are You, Lord, who makes the Covenant."

At that point the child is held out and his name is given with this blessing:  "Our God, and the God of our fathers, preserve this child for his father and mother, and his name in Israel shall be called ------- the son of --------. May the father rejoice in his child and the mother be joyous with the fruit of her womb as it is written: May your father and mother rejoice, and she who bore you be glad. And it is said: I passed by you and saw you weltering in your blood and I said to you: You shall live through your blood, and I said to you: You shall live through your blood. And it is said, He has remembered his Covenant forever, the word which He has commanded to a thousand generations; the Covenant which He made with Abraham, and His oath to Isaac, He established it for Jacob as a statute for Israel as an everlasting Covenant. And it is said: Abraham circumcised his son Isaac when he was eight days old, as God had commanded him. Give thanks to God for He is good, for His kindness is eternal. Give thanks to God for He is good, for His kindness is eternal. This small infant –[name] -- grow and become great. As you have come into the Covenant of Abraham, so may you come into Torah, into marriage and into good deeds." A drop of wine is given to the new son of Israel and those gathered wish the father “mazel tov”. Afterwards, a festive meal is common.

At the time of Jesus, tradition held that the first and best of all things belong to God, including firstborn children. In more ancient times, the firstborn sons would serve as priests and Temple functionaries. Later, God decided that the tribe of Levi would serve in the sacred role of priests and others would only perform rotating service to the Temple (Num. 8:14-18). Nevertheless, firstborn still retain a certain degree of sanctity and must be “redeemed”. The ritual of redemption is referred to as pidyon ha-ben, literally, Redemption of the Son.

A firstborn son must be redeemed after he reaches 31 days of age (the day of birth being the first day). The ritual involves paying a small sum (five silver shekels) and therefore cannot be performed on Shabbat. Pursuant to the procedure commanded in Numbers 18:15-16, a kohein[46] performs a brief ritual to the firstborn male child born by natural childbirth[47]. Thus, if a female is the firstborn, no child in the family is subject to the ritual. If the first conception ends in a miscarriage after more than 40 days the ritual does not apply to any subsequent child. Logically, it does not apply to members of the tribe of Levi, or children born to a daughter of a member of the tribe of Levi.

“Is this not the son of Joseph?” (Luke 4:22). This question will remain unanswered, but the fact that it was asked (and included in the Gospel of Luke) raises others. If there had been an “immaculate conception”, one would expect it to be a major issue – and well known. The “locals” would not have asked this question if the Jesus’ father was well known to be “the Holy Spirit”. Similarly, if Jesus had been born under other suspicious circumstances, would he be known as “the son of Jospeh”?

Other sources and cites offer little in addressing the matter. The Protoevangelium says "Joseph…was registered with Mary" and "she brought forth her first born son." (8:13). Matthew tells us: “Jesus left that place, and came to his home town, where he taught the people in their synagogue…Is he not the carpenter’s[48] son?  Is not his mother called Mary, his brothers James, Joseph, Simon and Judas? And are not all his sisters here with us?” (Matt. 13:55). And Mark gives us: "Is this not the [scholar], the son of Mary, and brother of James, Joses, Judas, and Simon?” (Mk. 6:3).

At the time, to call someone the son of their mother was an insult as it implied that their father was unknown. It’s doubtful that it was Mark’s intent to offer such an insult – probably thinking that use of “son of Joseph” would contradict the “immaculate conception” idea. There is considerable disagreement about the legal circumstance and inheritance of Jesus, especially since the Messianic claim must be founded upon descendancy from David and traditionally such descendancy would come from one’s blood father.

Since there are at least three major versions of the story, a complete analysis requires different starting points:

    • The first tradition (or theological assertion) is that Mary was impregnated by a divine act and that Joseph accepted this and nevertheless “adopted” Jesus as his son.
    • The second traditional says that Mary was raped by a Roman soldier (named Panthera) after being betrothed to Joseph (while he was away) and Joseph still adopted Jesus as his son.
    • Finally, there is the possibility that Joseph was actually Jesus’ biological father.

We don’t have to spend much time with the last option since under that circumstance, Jesus was the biological son of Joseph and normal Jewish patrilineal inheritance laws would apply. The first option is simply too far from normal to offer precedence – so we are left to apply traditional law regarding non-biological sons. That leaves us with only one issue to discern, although it is less than simple.

There is no formal procedure of adoption in Jewish law and adoption as it exists in civil law is considered irrelevant[49]. Judaism does, however, have certain laws related to the circumstance where a child is raised by someone other than the birth parents. In many ways, Jewish adoptive parents are treated the same as a birth parent would be. In the Talmud, one who raises someone else's child is regarded as if he had actually brought him into the world physically and those who cannot have children of their own satisfy the obligation to be fruitful and multiply by adopting. An adopted child may be formally named as the child of the adoptive parents and owes the adoptive parents the same duty of respect as he would a birth parent.

Most matters related to the child's title or status are determined by the status of the birth parents, not by that of the adoptive parents. For example, an adopted child does not gain status as a Kohein or a Levi through their adopted parents. Indeed, they are not automatically a Jew unless born to a Jewish mother. Rights and duties of the firstborn are determined by the birth parents. Judaism as a religion is passed down through the matrilineal line (traditionally, one is Jewish if one’s mother is Jewish); however one’s tribal identity is patrilineal. Jewish law presumes that a man is the natural father of every child to whom his wife gives birth, unless either his paternity is disproved or he denies paternity by a simple declaration. Once a father has acted as a father to the child (such as by giving him a name), he is legally the child’s father. Similarly, a father who teaches a boy his trade has declared himself his father.

Under Jewish law, tribal affiliation and family genealogy can only be traced through the person's father (patrilineal). See Exodus 28:4, 29:9-30, 30:30, and 40:15 [Priesthood Lineage]; Numbers 36 [Tribal Lineage]; Genesis 49:10, I Kings 11:4, and I Chronicles 17:11-19 [Kingship Lineage].). In Numbers 1:8 we're told that the Jewish people declare their pedigrees according to their fathers' houses. The Jewish law of royal succession provides that the Throne shall pass from father to son in order of primogeniture, though a King can name any male he pleases as his successor, as long as he is Jewish and of the House of David.

The Torah’s listing of the laws of inheritance are both simple and straightforward[50]. When a couple marries, the woman’s tribal alliance transfers to her husband’s tribe. For this reason, it was not in the best interest of the tribes for women to inherit land. See Numbers, Ch. 27 and the circumstance of the daughters of Zelophehad[51]. Before any inheritance could be distributed to the heirs, the wife of the deceased was apportioned an allowance for her own upkeep or given a lump sum distribution as pledged in her marriage contract. A portion was also set aside for living expenses and dowry for any unwed daughters. There is no provision in the Torah that specifically identifies the law relating to transfer of title through inheritance, however tradition clearly established that the oldest son of the High Priest was the legal successor of his father in that role. (That tradition had little effect after Onias III).

Beyond the birth narratives in the synoptic and various infancy gospels, we know very little about Mary or her life. One problem is the commonality of the name “Mary” during the period and within the synoptic gospels. (One estimate purposes that one in four of all the women in Judea were named Mary during the period). Generally, Mary’s presence in the gospels is associated with the siblings of Jesus:

 Matthew 13:55 - “When he had finished these parables Jesus left that place, and came to his home town, where he taught the people in their synagogue…Is he not the carpenter’s son?  Is not his mother called Miriam, his brothers James, Joseph, Simon and Judas? And are not all his sisters here with us?”  

 Mark 6:1-6 - “He left that place (Capernaum) and went to his home town (Nazareth) accompanied by his disciples. When the Sabbath came he began to teach in the synagogue……Is not this the carpenter, the son of Mary, the brother of James and Joseph and Judas and Simon?  And are not his sisters here with us?” 

 Luke 8:18-21 – “On the Galilean hillside, “His mother and his brothers arrived but could not get to him for the crowd.  He was told, ‘Your mother and brothers are standing outside, and they want to see you....’ He replied, ‘My mother and my brothers - they are those who hear the word of God and act upon it.’”

Gospel of the Hebrews - “Behold the mother of Jesus and his brothers said to him “John the Baptist is baptizing for the remission of sins. Let us go and be baptized by him.” But he said to them, “In what matter have I sinned, that I should go and be baptized by him? Unless, perhaps I have committed a sin of ignorance.”     

Mary’s last recorded presence within the synoptic gospels is at the foot of the Cross watching Jesus die… 

 John 19:25 – “Now there stood by the cross of Jesus, His mother, and His mother’s sister, Mary the wife of Cleopas, and Mary Magdalene.  When Jesus therefore saw His mother, and the disciple whom He loved (the disciple, John the Beloved) standing by, He said to His mother, ‘Woman, behold you son!’  Then He said to the disciple, ‘Behold your mother!’ and from that hour that disciple took her to his own home.”

After the tale relating the ascension of Jesus (when he disappeared in a cloud over the Mount of Olives), we have the last record of Mary in Acts...

"Then they returned to Jerusalem from the mount called Olivet, which is near Jerusalem, a Sabbath day's journey. And when they had entered, they went up into the upper room where they were staying….They all continued with one accord in prayer and supplication, with the women and Mary the mother of Jesus, and with His brothers." Acts 1:12-14

 Being one of the most venerated women in history[52], there are also many legends and artifacts associated with Mary, “the Virgin Mother”. None have any significance here, although she has importance in the sequel, “After Jesus”. 

Whatever the whole truth may be, Mary is at least a significant figure in the character development of Jesus – and his character remains one of the most influential of all humans. If only the most basic gospel and historical facts are true, she was a woman of remarkable contribution and importance. And, if even only a small part of the legends are true, then she was “most blessed among all women” although her life presented some great suffering.



[1] Of course, Jews are prohibited from eating pork, so pigs were safe with Herod.

[2] Although the story of the massacre of the innocents seems to have no historical basis, it certainly fit Herod’s character.

[3] For a complete analysis of this presumption, see http://home.inreach.com/bstanley/geneal.htm.

[4] See “The interpretation of scripture in early Judaism and Christianity” by Craig A. Evans (2004), p.269. The word “procuratoris” from the Vulgate would indicate he was steward of realm (and not just of the household).

[5] Especially the use of patronymics and papponymics. A patronymic is a name derived from one’s father such as David bar (son of) Joseph or Miriam bat (daughter of) Aaron. A papponymic is a personal name based on the name of one's grandfather. Papponyms were common with both the Greeks and the Jews. Also note that there were nicknames and variations of names not unlike today.

[6] Or, more accurately: Shelamziyyon Alexandra. She married Alexander upon the death of Aristubulus I.

[7] His 2nd wife was Rachel of Arimathea, sister of Joseph.

[8] Antigonus II Mattathias has the unfortunate distinction of being historically recorded as an anointed King of the Jews (“messiah”) who was scourged and crucified by the Romans.

[9] Married Hanna daughter of Yehoshua III, as above and below. The “Cave of Treasures” names Anne’s father  “Paqud son of Eleazar” while the Gospel of Pseudo-Matthew names him “Issachar” (of the tribe of Judah).

[10] Her husband's mother had been prevented from ruling as his dying father had wished. The much earlier usurper, Athaliah, had never actually reigned.

[11] Probably Alexander Jannaeus, the Jewish king and High Priest from 103-76 BCE. While he provided the blood lineage, the true connection was through his wife, Alexandra of Jerusalem (Salome Alexandra) who became the popular regnant Queen when the hated Jannaeus died. Rabbinical legends state that she was the daughter of Setah Bar Yossei (Yossei Bar Yochanan) and that the Pharisee sage Simeon b. Shetah was her brother. She died in 67 BCE.

[12] Melchi was nicknamed “the mute” and his disability prevented him from becoming the High Priest.

[13] This tie is speculative, but fits the circumstances and record.

[14] Mattathias ben Levi (aka Mattan) was a prominent priest in the Davidic line who married three notable women: Esther (Elizabeth) Alexandra II of Jerusalem, Rachel of Arimathea (daughter Anna), and Salome of Idumean (a Herodian princess who was also called “The Proselyte”). Mattathias and Alexandra II had a son named Heli ben Mattat who would be known as Alexander III Helios; the father of Mary. But Mary’s family also had roots along other prominent lines.

[15] Aka Alexander III Helios

[16] According to Robert Killian, around 100 BCE John Hyrcanus (I) had instigated a policy intending to interweave the various Jewish blood-lines so that more royal males would be born into each line. Since Hyrcanus was both “King” and “High-Priest”, he set Jewish religious and political policy for much of the era!

[17] Also so named in the "Gospel of the Nativity of the Blessed Mary" and the "Book of the Nativity of the Blessed Virgin Mary and of the Childhood of the Savior."

[18] Which prescribes that when a man dies childless his widow "shall not marry to another: but his brother shall take her, and raise up seed for his brother" (Deut., xxv, 5). The child, therefore, of the second marriage is legally the child of the first (Deut., xxv, 6). If Heli died childless his widow would become the wife of his brother [Joachim] and the offspring of the marriage would be the son of Heli legally. See “The Catholic Encyclopedia”, Vol. 7 (1913), p. 204.

[19] King of Judea from 67-63 BCE. Murdered in 49 BCE.

[20] Alexandra later married Antigonus (the last Maccabean king). Their daughter, Antigone, married the Herodian Prince Antipater (III), who Herod executed just before dying.

[21] Mattathias and Alexandra II also had a daughter named Alexandra III who married Ptolemy Bar Mennius, the  Exilarch who was deposed in 13 BCE and fled to Parthia.

[22] In early tradition, Mary is said to have been related to Helene (Salome), and we know that Simeon (ben Shetach) , vice-president of the Sanhedrin under Tabbai, was the brother of Salome (Alexandra).

[23] Simon V Bar Gjora became the last king of the Jews in Judah during the Roman siege of Jerusalem in 66 CE.

[24]  Luke 1:5 – “There was in the days of Herod, the king of Judea, a certain priest named Zacharias, of the division of Abijah.  His wife was of the daughters of Aaron, and her name was Elizabeth.”

[25] Note Luke 8:3.

[26] She had one child by Herod, Herod Boethus (aka Herod Philip II). Herod Boethus married his niece, Herodias, and they had a daughter named Salome. (See Mark 6:17-29).

[27] Perhaps tied to the great famine in 24-23 BCE which changed Herod’s political fortunes.

[28] Joachim was married to JoAnna, Mary’s aunt.

[29] Mary’s early life had parallels with that of the Prophet Samuel who, as a child, resided in the sanctuary at Shiloh with Eli the High Priest. Being in and around the Temple for several years, it is likely that Mary observed Temple rituals hidden to most women and knew the life of halakhic observance (being surrounded by the priests speaking Hebrew). Additionally, she would have been exposed to international delegations speaking Greek.

[30] The Temple itself was dedicated then, but the platform and other parts of “Herod’s Temple” wouldn’t be completed for decades to come.

[31] In 4 BCE, Prince Simon V of Perea, the last heir of the halakhic approved lineage from the time of Ezra, died without any heirs and the Meshullamite line ended.

[32] In the Harley Manuscripts (38-59, f. 193b), the lineages of Joseph and Mary converge at Matthan/Matthat so that this person is the father of both Heli and Jacob, making Joseph and Mary first cousins. Some propose that they could have only been cousins through a common mother of Jacob and Heli, thus not passing on the curse of Jechoniah. This theory would mean that Joseph of Arimathea was their uncle and that his daughter (Anna Consobrina) was Mary’s close cousin.

[33] One of the three daughters of the High Priest Yehoshua III.

[34] The Gospel of James states that Sephoris was the home of Joachim and Anna and that later on they lived in Jerusalem, in a house called by “Probatica” (a name probably derived from nearness to the pool of Bethsaida).

[35] Jewish maidens were considered marriageable at the age of twelve and a half.

[36] The custom was for the betrothal to be arranged by the parents of the husband, but supposedly Joseph was well aged it is unlikely that his parents were alive..

[37] A child of doubtful or illegitimate birth under Jewish law (“מַמְזֵר” from Deut. 23:2-3). Wrongly translated as “bastard” as it involves complex interpretations and application under halachic law. See Appendix V.

[38] Mary's answer is the canticle of praise called the "Magnificat" which is clearly one of the most inspiring passages in scripture. (Luke 1-46-55). If authentic to Mary, it would reflect her magnificent qualities.

[39] See “The Lost Books of The Bible and The Forgotten books of Eden” an anthology by A & B Book Dist Inc, March 1994, ISBN 1-881316-63-7.

[40] “Alethes Logos” is not extant and is only known from it being quoted by Origen in “Contra Celsum” written around 230 CE. For extensive discussion, see “Jesus in the Talmud” by Peter Schäfer (2007).

[41] Actually, there are numerous references in the Talmud to a Yeshua who some think is the same as the Christian Jesus. The Toledot Yeshu is most frequently discussed, but it probably refers to an earlier person with seemingly coincidental names – Miriam as his mother and Jochanan, a carpenter was his father. There was also a legend of an earlier Jesus who came out of Egypt with magical healing powers. Later authors added content clearly intended to refute or disparage the Christian Messianic claims. None seem to offer useful historical content.

[42] After birthing, a woman is considered unclean (“niddah”) and must remain sexually separated from her husband for a period of 7 days after the birth of a male child and 14 days after the birth of a female child. (Lev. 12:2).

[43] Historical records make it clear that for Jews of this period, the command of the Lord to “be fruitful and multiply” was viewed as an obligation to procreate. Throughout scripture it is repeated that parents were blessed if they had children and cursed if they did not. The scriptural purpose of marriage was procreation.

[44] Besides, the idea of Mary being a “virgin” is based upon a mistranslation of Isaiah 7:14 where the Hebrew word  עַלְמָה ("almah"), meaning “young woman” was changed to “virgin”. (The word for virgin would have been בְּתוּלַ֖ת “bethulah”, Cf. Isaiah 62:5).

[45] The circumcision mitzvah is so important that the bris will happen even if the eight day falls on the Sabbath.

[46] Rabbis are not necessarily koheins and koheins are not necessarily rabbis.

[47] For example, if the first child is born by Caesarean section the ritual does not apply.

[48] See note 18, above.

[49] Civil adoption is essentially a transfer of title or “ownership” from one parent to another and the concept of owning another person is foreign to Jews.

[50] (Numbers 27:8-11): “If a man dies with no sons, then his inheritance goes to his daughter(s). If he has no daughter(s), then the inheritance goes to his brothers. If he has no brothers, then the inheritance goes to his father’s brothers. If his father had no brothers, then the inheritance goes to the closest kin of the family, and he will possess it.” The firstborn is known as the bekhor, "firstborn [male]", his inheritance right is termed mishpat ha-bekhorah, "the rule of the birthright" (Deut. 21:17), and the process is called yakkir "he shall acknowledge."

[51] For a full reading of Jewish Inheritance law, see http://www.bc.edu/bc_org/avp/law/lwsch/journals/bciclr/23_2/01_FMS.htm.

[52] Mary is the only woman directly named in the Qur'an and is mentioned more there than in the New Testament.

 


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