Click to donate today!
Cyclopedia of Biblical, Theological and Ecclesiastical Literature
(Μαρία or Μαριάμ , from the Heb. מַרְיָם Miriam), the name of several females mentioned in the New Test.
1. The wife of Joseph, and a lineal descendant of David (Matthew i); "the Mother of Jesus" (Acts 1:14), and "Mary, his Mother" (Matthew 2:11); in later times generally called the "VIRGIN MARY," but never so designated in Scripture. Little is known of this highly-favored individual, in whom was fulfilled the first prophecy made to man, that the "seed of the woman should bruise the serpent's head" (Genesis 3:15). As her history was of no consequence to Christianity, it is not given at large. Her genealogy is recorded by Luke (ch. 3), in order to prove the truth of the predictions which had foretold the descent of the Messiah from Adam through Abraham and David, with the design evidently of showing that Christ was of that royal house and lineage (comp. Davidson's Sacred hermeneutics, p. 589 sq.). Eusebius, the early ecclesiastical historian, although unusually lengthy upon "the name Jesus," and the genealogies in Matthew's and Luke's Gospels, throws no new light upon Mary's birth and parentage. The very simplicity of the evangelical record has no doubt been one cause of the abundance of the legendary matter of which she forms the central figure. Imagination had to be called in to supply a craving which authentic narrative did not satisfy. We shall give the account from both these sources somewhat in detail, with a full discussion of many interesting questions incidentally involved in their consideration. (See MARIOLATRY).
I. Scriptural Statements. —
1. We are wholly ignorant of the circumstances and occupation of Mary's parents. If, as is most probable, the genealogy given by Luke is that of Mary (Greswell, etc.), her father's name was Heli, which is another form of the name given to her legendary father, Jehoiakim or Joachim. But if Jacob and Heli were the two sons of Matthan or Matthat, and if Joseph, being the son of the younger brother, married his cousin, the daughter of the elder brother (Hervey, Genealogies of our Lord Jesus Christ), her father was Jacob. (See GENEALOGY OF OUR LORD) ). She was, like Joseph, of the tribe of Judah, and of the lineage of David (Psalms 132:11; Luke 1:32; Romans 1:3). What was her relationship to the so-called "sister" named Mary (John 19:25) is uncertain (see No. 3 below), but she was connected by marriage (συγγενής, Luke 1:36) with Elisabeth, who wsas of the tribe of Levi and of the lineage of Aaron.
2. In the autumn of the year which is known as B.C. 7, Mary was living at Nazareth, probably at her parents' house, not having yet been taken by Joseph to his home. She was at this time betrothed to Joseph, and was therefore regarded by the Jewish law and custom as his wife, though he had not yet a husband's rights over her. (See MARRIAGE). At this time the angel Gabriel came to her with a message from God,. and announced to her that she was to be the mother of the long-expected Messiah. He probably bore the form of an ordinary man, like the angels who manifested themselves to Gideon and to Manoah (Judges 6:13). This would appear both from the expression εἰσελθών, "he came in," and also from the fact of her being troubled, not at his presence, but at the meaning of his words. Yet one cannot but believe that there was a glory in his features which at once convinced Mary of the true nature of her visitor, entering as he did unannounced, apparently into her secret chamber — most probably at the time of her devotions. The scene as well as the salutation is very similar to that recounted in the book of Daniel, "Then there came again and touched me one like the appearance of a man, and he strengthened me, and said, O man greatly beloved, fear not: peace be unto thee, be strong, yea, be strong!" (Daniel 10:18-19). The exact meaning of κεχαριτωμένη is "thou that hast had bestowed upon thee a free gift of grace." The A.V. rendering of "highly favored" is therefore very exact, and much nearer to the original than the "gratia plena" of the Vulgate, on which a huge and wholly unsubstantial edifice has been built by Romanist devotional writers. The next part of the salutation, "The Lord is with thee," would probably have been better translated, "The Lord be with thee." It is the same salutation as that with which the angel accosted Gideoi (Judges 6:12). "Blessed art thou among women," is nearly the same expression as that used by Ozias to Judith (Judges 13:18). Gabriel proceeds to instruct Mary that by the operation of the Holy Ghost the everlasting Son of the Father should be born of her; that in him the prophecies relative to David's throne and kingdom should be accomplished; and that his name was to be called Jesus. He further informs her, perhaps as a sign by which she might convince herself that his prediction with regard to herself would come true, that her relative Elisabeth was within three months of being delivered of a child.
The angel left Mary, and she set off to visit Elisabeth either at Hebron or Juttah (whichever way we understand the εἰς τὴν ὀρεινὴν εἰς πόλιν Ι᾿ούδα , Luke 1:39), where the latter lived with her husband Zacharias, about twenty miles to the south of Jerusalem, and therefore at a very considerable distance from Nazareth. Immediately on her entrance into the house she was saluted by Elisabeth as the mother of her Lord, and had evidence of the truth of the angel's saying with regard to her cousin. She embodied her feelings of exultation and thankfulness in the hymn known ulnler the name of the Magnificat. Whether this was uttered by immediate inspiration, in reply to Elisabeth's salutation, or composed during her journey from Nazareth, or was written at a later period of her three months' visit at Hebron, does not appear with certainty. The hymn is founded on Hannah's song of thankfulness (1 Samuel 2:1-10), and exhibits an intimate knowledge of the Psalms, prophetical writings, and books of Moses, from which sources almost every expression in it is drawn. The most remarkable clause, "From henceforth all generations shall call me blessed," is borrowed from Leah's exclamation on the birth of Asher (Genesis 30:13). The same sentiment and expression are also found in Proverbs 31:28; Malachi 3:12; James 5:11. In the latter place the word μακαρίζω is rendered with great exactness "count happy." The notion that there is conveyed in the word any anticipation of her bearing the title of "Blessed" arises solely from ignorance.
Various opinions have been held as to the purpose of divine Wisdom in causing the Savior to be born of a betrothed rather than a disengaged virgin. It seems eminently seemly and decorous that the mother of the Messiah should have some one to vouch for her virginity, and to act as her protector and the foster-father of her child, and that he should be one who, as heir of the throne of David, would give to his adopted Son the legal rights to the same dignity, while of all persons he was the most interested in resisting the claims of a pretendar. Origen, following Ignatius, thinks it was in order to baffle the cunning of the devil, and keep him in ignorance of the fact of the Lord's advent.
Mary returned to Nazareth shortly before the birth of John the Baptist, and continued living at her own home. In the course of a few months Joseph became aware that she was with child, and determined on giving her a bill of divorcement, instead of yielding her up to the law to suffer the penalty which he supposed that she had incurred. Being, however, warned and satisfied by an angel who appeared to him in a dream, he took her to his own house. It was soon after this, as it would seem, that Augustus's decree was promulgated, and Joseph and Mary traveled to Bethlehem to have their names enrolled in the registers (B.C. 6) by way of preparation for the taxing, which, however, was not completed till several years afterwards (A.D. 6), in the governorship of Quirinus. They reached Bethlehem, and there Mary brought forth the Savior of the world, and humbly laid him in a manger.
Bethlehem stands on the narrow ridge of a long gray hill running east and west, and its position suggests the difficulty that a crowd of travelers would have in finding shelter within it. As early as the second century, a neighboring cave was fixed upon as the stable where Joseph abode, and where accordingly Christ was born and laid in the manger. The hill-sides are covered with vineyards, and a range of convents occupies the height, and encloses within it the cave of the nativity; but there are grassy slopes adjoining, where the shepherds may have kept watch over their flocks, seen the vision of the angelic hosts, and heard the divine song of "Glory to God in the highest, on earth peace and good will towards men." Full of wonder and hope, they sought the lowly sojourn of the Virgin, and there saw with their own eyes what the Lord had made known to them. But while they published abroad and spread the wondrous tale, Mary kept all these things and pondered them in her heart.
3. The circumcision, the adoration of the wise men, and the presentation in the Temple, are rather scenes in the life of Christ than in that of his mother. The presentation in the temple might not take place till forty days after the birth of the child. During this period the mother, according to the law of Moses, was unclean (Leviticus 12). In the present case there could be no necessity for offering the sacrifice and making atonement beyond that of obedience to the Mosaic precept; but already he, and his mother for him, were acting upon the principle of fulfilling all righteousness. The poverty of Mary and Joseph, it may be noted, is shown by their making the offering of the poor. But though tokens of poverty attended her on this occasion, she was met by notes of welcome and hymns of grateful joy by the worthiest and most venerable of Jerusalem. Simeon, we know, was a just and devout man-one who waited for the consolation of Israel, and had revelations from the Holy Ghost; but tradition also says that he was the great rabbi Simeon, the son of Hillel, and father of Gamaliel, in whose days, according to the rabbins, the birth of Jesus of Nazareth took place (Rosenmü ller, quoted by Wordsworth). Anna, too, who had spent her long life in daily attendance at the worship of the Temple, was evidently the center of a devout circle, whose minds had been led by the study of Scripture to an expectation of redemption.
Mary wondered when Simeon took her child into his arms, and received him as the promised salvation of the Lord, the light of the Gentiles, and the glory of Israel; but it was the wonder of joy at the unexpected confirmation of the promise already given to her by the angel. The song of Simeon and the thanksgiving of Anna, like the wonder of the shepherds and the adoration of the magi, only incidentally refer to Mary. One passage alone in Simeon's address is specially directed to her: "Yea, a sword shall pierce through thy own soul also." The exact purport of these words is doubtful. A common patristic explanation refers them to the pang of unbelief which shot through her bosom on seeing her Son expire on the cross (Tertullian, Origen, Basil, Cyril, etc.). By modern interpreters it is more commonly referred to the pangs of grief' which she experienced on witnessing the sufferings of her Son. In the flight into Egypt, Mary and the babe had the support and protection of Joseph, as well as in their return from thence in the following year, on the death of Herod the Great (B.C. 4). It appears to have been the intention of Joseph to settle at Bethlehem at this time, as his home at Nazareth had been broken up for more than a year; but on finding how Herod's dominions had been disposed of, he changed his mind and returned to his old place of abode, thinking that the child's life would be safer in the tetrarchy of Antipas than in that of Archelaus. It is possible that Joseph might have been himself a native of Bethlehem, and that before this time he had only been a visitor at Nazareth, drawn thither by his betrothal and marriage. In that case, his fear of Archelaus would make him exchange his own native town for that of Mary.
4. Henceforward, until the beginning of our Lord's ministry — i.e. from B.C. 4 to A.D. 25-we may picture Mary to ourselves as living in Nazareth, in a humble sphere of life, the wife of Joseph the carpenter, pondering over the sayings of the angels, of the shepherds, of Simeon, and of those of her Son, as the latter "increased in wisdom and stature, and in favor with God and man" (Luke 2:52). Two circumstances alone, so far as we know, broke in on the otherwise even flow of the still waters of her life. One of these was the temporary loss of her Son when he remained behind in Jerusalem (A.D. 8); the other was the death of Joseph. The exact date of this last event we cannot determine, but it w-as probably not long after the other. (See JOSEPH).
5. From the time at which our Lord's ministry commenced, Mary is withdrawn almost wholly from sight. Four times only, as detailed below, is the veil removed which, surely not without reason, is thrown over her. If to these we add two references to her, the first by her Nazarene fellow- citizens (Matthew 13:54-55; Mark 6:13), the second by a woman in the multitude (Luke 11:27). we have specified every event known to us in her life. It is noticeable that, on every occasion of our Lord's addressing her, or speaking of her, there is a sound of reproof in his words, with the exception of the last words spoken to her from the cross.
(1.) The marriage at Cana in Galilee (John 2) took place in the few months which intervened between the baptism of Christ and the Passover of the year 26. When Jesus was found by his mother and Joseph in the Temple in the year 8, we find him repudiating the name of "father" as applied to Joseph. "Thy father and I have sought thee sorrowing." "How is it that ve sought me? Wist ye not that I must be at [not Joseph's and yours, but] my Father's house?" (Luke 2:48-49). Now, in like manner, at his first miracle, which inaugurates his ministry, he solemnly withdraws himself from the authority of his earthly mother. This is Augustine's explanation of the "What have I to do with thee? my hour is not yet come." It was his humanity, not his divinity, which came from Mary. While, therefore, he was acting in his divine character, he could not acknowledge her, nor does he acknowledge her again until he was hanging on the cross, when, in that nature which he took from her, he was about to submit to death (St. Aug. Conmn. in Joan. Evang. tract 8, vol. 3, p. 1455 [Paris, 1845, edit. Migne]). That the words Τί ἐμοὶ καὶ σοί;= מה לי יל imply reproof, is certain (comp. Matthew 8:29; Mark 1:24; and Sept., Judges 11:12; 1 Kings 17:18; 2 Kings 3:13), and such is the patristic explanation of them (see Iren. Adv. Haer. 3:18; Apuld Bibl. Pair. Alax. tom. ii, part ii, p. 293; St. Chrysost. Hom. in Joan. 21). But the reproof is of a gentle kind (Trench. On the Miracles, p. 102 [London, 1856]; Alford, Comm. ad loc.; Wordsworth, Comm. ad loc.). Mary seems to have understood it, and accordingly to have drawn back, desiring the servants to pay attention to her divine Son (Olshausen, Comm. ad loc.). The modern Romanist translation, "What is that to me and to thee?" is not a mistake, because it is a wilful misrepresentation (Douay version; Orsini, Life of Mary, etc.; see The Catholic Layman, p. 117 [Dublin, 1852]). Lightfoot supposes the marriage to have taken place in the house of Alphaeus, Mary's brother-in-law, as his son Simon is called the Canaanite, or man of Cana. But this term rather describes him as a former Zealot. (See ZELOTES).
It is clear that Mary felt herself to be invested with some authority in the house. Jesus was naturally there as her Son, and the disciples as those whom he had called and adopted as his especial friends. As yet, the Lord had done no miracle; and it has been questioned whether Mary, in drawing his attention to the failure of the wine, meant to invoke his miraculous powers, or merely to submit the fact to his judgment, that he might do what was best under the circumstances — either withdrawing from the feast with his disciples, or engaging the attention of the guests by his discourse. The better opinion, however, seems to be that she knew he was about now to enter on his public ministry, and that miracles would be wrought by him in proof of his divine mission; and the early fathers do not scruple to say that a desire to gain eclat by the powers of her Son was one motive for her wish that he should supply the deficiency of the wine, and that by his reply he meant to condemn this feeling.
(2.) Capernaum (John 2:12) and Nazareth (Matthew 4:13; Matthew 13:54; Mark 6:1) appear to have been the residence of Mary for a considerable period. The next time that she is brought before us we find her at Capernaum (Matthew 12:46; Mark 3:21; Mark 3:31; Luke 8:19). It is the autumn of the year 27-a year and a half after the miracle wrought at the marriage-feast in Cana. The Lord had in the mean time attended two feasts of the Passover, and had twice made a circuit throughout Galilee, teaching and working miracles. His fame had spread, and crowds came pressing round him, so that he had not even time "to eat bread." Mary was still living with her other sons, and with James, Joses Simon, Jude, and their sisters (Matthew 13:55); and she and they heard of the toils which he was undergoing, and they understood that he was denying himself every relaxation from his labors. Their human affection conquered their faith. They thought that he was killing himself, and, with an indignation arising from love, they exclaimed that he was beside himself, and set off to bring him home either by entreaty or compulsion. He was surrounded by eager crowds, and they could not reach him. They therefore sent a message, begging him to allow them to speak to him.
This message was handed on from one person in the crowd to another, till at length it was reported aloud to him. Again he reproves; again he refuses to admit any authority on the part of his relatives, or any privilege on account of their relationship. "Who is my mother, and who are my brethren? And he stretched forth his hand towards his disciples, and said, Behold my mother and my brethren! For whosoever shall do the will of my Father which is in heaven, the same is my brother, and sister, and mother" (Matthew 12:48-49). Compare Theoph. in Marc. 3:32; St. Chrys. lonz. 44 in Matt.; St. Aug. in Joan. tract x, who all of them point out that the blessedness of Mary consists, not so much in having borne Christ, as in believing on him and in obeying his words (see also Quaest. et Resp. ad Orthodox. 136; ap. St. Just. Mart. in the Bibl. a. Pax tr. tom. ii, pt. ii, p. 138). This, indeed, is the lesson taught directly by our Lord himself in the next passage in which reference is made to Mary. In the midst or at the completion of one of his addresses on the same occasion, a woman of the multitude, whose soul had been stirred by his words, cried out, ‘ Blessed is the womb that bare thee, and the paps which thou hast sucked!" Immediately the Lord replied, "Yea, rather, blessed are they that hear the word of God, and keep it" (Luke 11:27). He does not either affirm or deny anything with regard to the direct bearing of the woman's exclamation, but passes that by as a thing indifferent, in order to point out in what alone the true blessedness of his mother and of all consists. This is the full force of the μενοῦνγε with which he commences his reply.
(3.) The next scene in Mary's life brings us to the foot of the cross. She was standing there with her sister Mary and Mary Magdalene, and Salome, and other women, having no doubt followed her Son as she was able throughout the terrible morning of Good Friday. It was about 3 o'clock in the afternoon, and he was about to give up his spirit. His divine mission was now, as it were, accomplished. While his ministry was in progress he had withdrawn himself from her that he might do his Father's work. But now the hour had come when his human relationship might again be recognized, "Tune enim agnovit," says Augustine, "quando illud quod peperit moriebatur" (St. Aug. In Joan. 9). Standing near the company of the women was the apostle John, and, with almost his last words, Christ commended his mother to the care of him who had borne the name of "the Disciple whom Jesus loved:" "Woman, behold thy Son." "Commendat homo homini hominem," says Augustine. From that hour John assures us that he took her to his own abode. If by "that hour" the evangelist means immediately after the words were spoken, Mary was not present at the last scene of all. The sword had sufficiently pierced her soul, and she was spared the hearing of the last loud cry, and the sight of the bowed head. Ambrose considers the chief purpose of our Lord's words to have been a desire to make manifest the truth that the redemption was his work alone, while he gave human affection to his mother. "Non egebat adjutore ad omniurn redemptionem. Suscepit qnidem matris affectum, sed non quaesivit hominis auxilium" (St. Amb. Expos. Evang. Luc. 10:132). But it is more probable that she continued at the spot till all was over. See CRUCIFIXION.
(4.) A veil is drawn over her sorrow, and over her joy which succeeded that sorrow. Medieval imagination has supposed, but Scripture does not state, that her Son appeared to Mary after his resurrection from the dead. (See, for example, Ludolph of Saxony, Vita Christi [Lyons, 1642], p. 666; and Rupert., De Divinis Officis [Venice, 1751], 7:25, tom. 4, p. 92). Ambrose is considered to be the first writer who suggested the idea, and reference is made to his treatise De Virginitate, 1:3; but it is quite certain that the text has been corrupted, and that it is of Mary Magdalene that he is there speaking. (Comp. his Exposition of St. Luke, 10:156. See note of the Benedictine edition [Paris, 1790], 2:217.) Another reference is usually given to Anselm. The treatise quoted is not Anselm's, but Eadmer's. (See Eadmer, De Excellentia Mariae, chap. v, appended to Anselm's Works [Paris, 1721 ], p. 138.) Ten appearances are related by the evangelists as having occurred in the forty slays intervening between Easter and Ascension Day, but none to Mary. She was doubtless living at Jerusalem with John, cherished with the tenderness which her tender soul would have specially needed, and which undoubtedly she found pre-eminently in John. We have no record of her presence at the Ascension. Arator, a writer f the 6th century, describes her as being at the time not on the spot, but in Jerusalem (Arat. De Act. post. 1. 50, apud Migne, 68. 95 [Paris, 1848], quoted by Wordsworth, Gk. Test. Com. on the Acts, 1:14). We have no account of her being present at the descent of the Holy Spirit on the day of Pentecost. What we do read of her is, that she remained steadfast in prayer in the upper room at Jerusalem with Mary Magdalene and Salome, and those known as the Lord's brothers and the apostles (Acts 1:14). This is the last view that we have of her. Holy Scripture leaves her engaged in prayer (see Wordsworth, as cited above).
6. From this point forwards we know nothing of her. It is probable that the rest of her life was spent in Jerusalem with John (see Epiph. Haer. 78). According to one tradition, the beloved disciple would not leave Palestine until she had expired in his arms (see Tholuck, Light from the Cross, vol. 2, Serm. x, p. 234 [Edinb. 1857]); and it is added that she lived and died in the Coenaculum, in what is now the Mosque of the Tomb of David, the traditional chamber of the Last Supper (Stanley, S. and P. ch. 14, p.456). Other traditions make her journey with John to Ephesus, and there die in extreme old age. It was believed by some in the 5th century that she was buried at Ephesus (see Conc. Ephes., Conc. Labb. 3:574 a); by others, in the same century, that she was buried at Gethsenane, and this appears to have been the information given to Marcian and Pulcheria by Juvenal of Jerusalem. As soon as we lose the guidance of Scripture, we have nothing from which we can derive any sure knowledge about her. The darkness in which we are left is in itself most instructive.
7. The character of the Virgin Mary is not drawn by any of the evangelists, but some of its lineaments are incidentally manifested in the fragmentary record which is given of her. They are to be found for the most part in Luke's Gospel, whence an attempt has been made, by a curious mixture of the imaginative and rationalistic methods of interpretation, to explain the old legend which tells us that Luke painted the Virgin's portrait (Calmet, Kitto, Migne, Mrs. Jameson). We might have expected greater details from John than from the other evangelists, but in his Gospel we learn nothing of her except what may be gathered from the scene at Cana and at the cross. It is clear from Luke's account, though without any such intimation we might rest assured of the fact, that her youth had been spent in the study of the holy Scriptures, and that she had set before her the example of the holy women of the Old Testament as her model. This would appear from the Magnificat (Luke 1:46). The same hymn, so far as it emanated from herself, would show no little power of mind as well as warmth of spirit. Her faith and humility exhibit themselves in her immediate surrender of herself to the divine will, though ignorant how that will should be accomplished (Luke 1:38); her energy and earnestness, her journey from Nazareth to Hebron (Luke 1:39); her happy thankfulness, in her song of joy (Luke 1:48); her silent, musing thoughtfulness, in her pondering over the shepherds' visit (Luke 2:19), and in her keeping her Son's words in her heart (Luke 2:51), though she could not fully understand their import. Again, her humility is seen in her drawing back, yet without anger, after receiving reproof at Cana, in Galilee (John 2:5), and in the remarkable manner in which she shuns putting herself forward throughout the whole of her Son's ministry, or after his removal from earth. Once only does she attempt to interfere with her divine Son's freedom of action (Matthew 12:46; Mark 3:31; Luke 8:19); and even here we can hardly blame, for she seems to have been roused, not by arrogance and by a desire to show her authority and relationship, as Chrysostom supposes (Hom. 44 in Matt.), but by a woman's and a mother's feelings of affection and fear for him whom she loved. It was part of that exquisite tenderness which appears throughout to have belonged to her. In a word, so far as Mary is portrayed to us in Scripture, she is, as we should have expected, the most tender, the most faithful, humble, patient, and loving of women, but a woman still. See Niemeyer, Charakt. 1:58.
II. Christian Legends. — These, as might naturally be expected, played an important part in the traditional history of Mary. They began to appear probably in the early part of the 3d century, and were usually published under false names. Of these the apocryphal writings called the Protevangeliumn and the Gospel of the Birth of Mary are among the earlier specimens. We give at considerable length their conntents on this head.
1. The early Life of Mary. — According to these apocryphal accounts, Joachim and Anna were both of the house of David. The abode of the former was Nazareth, the latter passed her early years at Bethlehem. They lived piously in the sight of God, and faultlessly before man, dividing their substance into three portions, one of which they devoted to the service of the Temple, another to the poor, and the third to their own wants. So twenty years of their lives passed silently away. But at the end of this period Joachim went to Jerusalem with some others of his tribe, to make his usual offering at the Feast of the Dedication. It chanced that Issachar was high-priest (Gospel of Birth of Mary); that Reuben was high-priest (Protevangelion). The high-priest scorned Joachim, and drove him roughly away, asking how he dared to present himself in company with those who had children, while he had none; and he refused to accept his offerings until he should have begotten a child, for the Scripture said, "Cursed is every one who does not beget a man-child in Israel." Joachim was ashamed before his friends and neighbors, and he retired into the wilderness and fixed his tent there, and fasted forty days and forty nights. At the end of this period an angel appeared to him, and told him that his wife should conceive, and should bring forth a daughter, and he should call her name Mary. Anna meantime was much distressed at her husbands's absence, and being reproached by her maid Judith with her barrenness, she was overcome with grief of spirit. In her sadness she went into her garden to walk, dressed in her wedding-dress. She there sat down under a laurel-tree, and looked up and spied among the branches a sparrow's nest, and she bemoaned herself as more miserable than the very birds, for they were fruitful and she was barren; and she prayed that she might have a child, even as Sarai was blessed with Isaac. At this moment two angels appeared to her, and promised her that she should have a child who should be spoken of in all the world. Joachim returned joyfully to his home, and when the time was accomplished Anna brought forth a daughter, and they called her name Mary. Now the child Mary increased in strength day by day, and at nine months of age she walked nine steps. When she was three years old her parents brought her to the Temple, to dedicate her to the Lord. There were fifteen stairs up to the Temple, and, while Joseph and Mary were changing their dress, she walked up them without help; and the high-priest placed her upon the third step of the altar, and she danced with her feet, and all the house of Israel loved her. Then Mary remained at the Temple until she was twelve (Prot.), fourteen (G. B. M.), years old, ministered to by the angels, an aadvancing in perfection as in vears. At this time the high- priest commanded all the virgins that were in the Temple to return to their homes and to be married. But Mary refused, for she said that she had vowed virginity to the Lord.
Thus the high-priest was brought into a perplexity, and he had recourse. to God to inquire what he should do. Then a voice from the ark answered him (G. B. M.), an angel spake unto him (Prot.); and they gathered together all the widowers in Israel (Prot.), all the marriageable men of the house of David (G. B. M.), and desired them to bring each man his rod. Among them came Joseph and brought his rod, but he shunned to present it, because he was an old man and had children. Therefore the other rods were presented and no sign occurred. Then it was found that Joseph had not presented his rod; and behold, as soon as he had presented it, a dove came forth from the rod and flew upon the head of Joseph (Prot.); a dove came from heaven and pitched on the rod (G. B. M.). So Joseph, in spite of his reluctance, was compelled to betroth himself to Mary, and he returned to Bethlehem to make preparations for his marriage (G. B. M.); he betook himself to his occupation of building houses (Prot.); while Mary went back to her parents' house in Galilee. Then it chanced that the priests needed a new veil for the Temple, and seven virgins cast lots to make different parts of it; and the lot to spin the true purple fell to Mary. As she went out with a pitcher to draw water, she heard a voice saying to her, "Hail, thou that art highly favored, the Lord is with thee. Blessed art thou among women!" and she looked round with trembling to see whence the voice came; and she laid down the pitcher and went into the house, and took the purple and sat down to work at it. But behold the angel Gabriel stood by her and filled the chamber with prodigious light, and said, "Fear not," etc.
When Mary had finished the purple, she took it to the high-priest; and, having received his blessing, went to visit her cousin Elisabeth, and returned back again. Then Joseph returned to his home from building houses (Prot.); came into Galilee, to marry the Virgin to whom he was betrothed (G. B. M.), and finding her with child, he resolved to put her away privately; but being warned in a dream, he relinquished his purpose and took her to his house. Then came Annas the scribe to visit Joseph, and he went back and told the priest that Joseph had committed a great crime, for he had privately married the Virgin whom he had received out of the Temple, an d had not made it known to the children of Israel. So the priest sent his servants, and they found that she was with child; and he called them to him, and Joseph denied that the child was his, and the priest made Joseph drink the bitter water of trial (Numbers 5:18), and sent him to a mountainous place to see what would follow. But Joseph returned in perfect health, so the priest sent them away to their home. Then after three months Joseph put Mary on an ass to go to Bethlehem to be taxed; and as they were going, Mary besought him to take her down, and Joseph took her down and carried her into a cave, and, leaving her there with his sons, he went to seek a midwife. As he went he looked up, and he saw the clouds astonished and all creatures amazed. The fowls stopped in their flight; the working people sat at their food, but did not eat; the sheep stood still; the shepherds' lifted hands became fixed; the kids were touching the water with their mouths, but did not drink. A midwife came down from the mountains, and Joseph took her with him to the cave, and a bright cloud overshadowed the cave, and the cloud became a great light, and when the bright light faded there appeared an infant at the breast of Mary. Then the midwife went out and told Salome that a Virgin had brought forth, and Salome would not believe; and they came back again into the cave, and Salome received satisfaction, but her hand withered away, nor was it restored until, by the command of an angel, she touched the child, whereupon she was straightway cured. See Giles, Codex Apocryphus Novi Testamenti, p. 33- 47 and 66-81 (Lond. 1852); Jones, On the New Testament, vol. 2, ch. 13 and 15 (Oxf. 1827); Thilo, Codex Apocryphus; also Vitae glorississimae Matris Anno peir F. Petrum Doriando, appended to Ludolph of Saxony's Vita Christi (Lyons, 1642); and a most audacious Historia Christi, written in Persian by the Jesuit P. Jerome Xavier, and exposed by Louis de Dieu (Lugd. Bat. 1639).
Three spots lay claim to be the scene of the Annunciation. Two of these are, as was to be expected, in Nazareth, and one, as every one knows, is in Italy. The Greeks and Latins each claim to be the guardians of the true spot in Palestine; the third claimant is the holy house of Loretto. The Greeks point out the spring of water mentioned in the Protevangelion as confirmatory of their claim. The Latins have engraved on a marble slab in the grotto of their convent in Nazareth the words Verbum hic caro factum est, and point out the pillar which marks the spot where the angel stood; while the head of their Church is irretrievably committed to the wild legend of Loretto. See Stanley, S. and P. ch. 14.
In the Gospel of the Infancy, which seems to date from the 2d century, innumerable miracles are made to attend on Mary and her Son during their sojourn in Egypt, e.g. Mary looked with pity on a woman who was possessed, and immediately Satan came out of her in the form of a young man, saying, "Woe is me because of thee, Mary, and thy Son!" On another occasion they fell in with two thieves, named Titus and Dumachus; and Titus was gentle and Dumachus was harsh: the Lady Mary therefore promised Titus that God should receive him on his right hand. Accordingly, thirty-three years afterwards, Titus was the penitent thief who was crucified on the right hand, and Dumachus was crucified on the left. These are sufficient as samples. Throughout the book we find Mary associated with her Son, in the strange freaks of power attributed to them, in a way which shows us whence the cultus of Mary took its origin. See Jones, On the New Test. vol. 2 (Oxf. 1827); Giles, Codex Apocryphus; Thilo, Codex Apocryphus.
2. Mary's later Life. — The foregoing legends of Mary's childhood may be traced back as far as the third or even the second century. Those of her death are probably of a later date. The chief legend was for a length of time considered to be a veritable history, written by Melito, bishop of Sardis, in the 2d century. It is to be found in the Bibliotheca Maxima (tom. 2, pt. 2, p. 212), entitled Sancti Melitonis Episcopi Sardensis de Transitu Virginis Marice Liber; and there certainly existed a book with this title at the end of the 5th century, which was condemned by Pope Gelasius as apocryphal (Op. Gelas. apud Migne, 59:152). Another form of the same legend has been published at Elberfeld, in 1854, by Maximilian Enger in Arabic. He supposes that it is an Arabic translation from a Syriac original. It was found in the library at Bonn, and is entitled Joannis Apostoli de Transitu Beattae Marice Virginis Liber. It is perhaps the same as that referred to in Assemani (Biblioth. Orient. [Rome, 1725], 3:287), under the name of listoria Dormsitionis et Assumptionis B. Mariae Virginis Joanni Evangeliste falso inscripta. We give the substance of the legend with its main variations.
When the apostles separated in order to evangelize the world, Mary continued to live with John's parents in their house near the Mount of Olives, and every day she went out to pray at the tomb of Christ, and at Golgotha. But the Jews had placed a watch to prevent prayers being offered at these spots, and the watch went into the city and told the chief priests that Mary came daily to pray. Then the priests commanded the watch to stone her. At this time, however, king Abgarus wrote to Tiberius to desire him to take vengeance on the Jews for slaying Christ. They feared, therefore, to add to his wrath by slaying Mary also, and yet they could not allow her to continue her prayers at Golgotha, because an excitement and tumult was thereby made. Accordingly, they went and spoke softly to her, and she consented to. go and dwell in Bethlehem; and thither she took with her three holy virgins who should attend upon her. In the twenty-second year after the ascension of the Lord, Mary felt her heart burn with an inexpressible longing to be with her Son; and behold an angel appeared to her, and announced to her that her soul should be taken up from her body on the third day, and he placed a palm-branch from paradise in her hands, and desired that it should be carried before her bier. Mary besought that the apostles might be gathered round her before she died, and the angel replied that they should come.
Then the Holy Spirit caught up John as he was preaching at Ephesus, and Peter as he was offering sacrifice at Rome, and Paul as he was disputing with the Jews near Rome, and Thomas in the extremity of India, and Matthew and James: these were all of the apostles who were still living; then the Holy Spirit awakened the dead, Philip and Andrew, and Luke and Simon, and Mark and Bartholomew; and all of them were snatched away in a bright cloud and found themselves at Bethlehem. Angels and powers without number descended from heaven and stood round about the house; Gabriel stood at blessed Mary's head, and Michael at her feet, and they fanned her with their wings; and Peter and John wiped away her tears; and there was a great cry, and they all said "Hail, blessed one! blessed is the fruit of thy womb!" The people of Bethlehem brought their sick to the house, and they were all healed. Then news of these things was carried to Jerusalem, and the king sent and commanded that they should bring Mary and the disciples to Jerusalem. Accordingly, horsemen came to Bethlehem to seize Mary, but they did not find her, for the Holy Spirit had taken her and the disciples in a cloud over the heads of the horsemen to Jerusalem. Then the men of Jerusalem saw angels ascending and descending at the spot where Mary's house was. But the high-priests went to the governor, and craved permission to burn her and the house with fire, and the governor gave them permission, and they brought wood and fire; but as soon as they came near to the house, behold there burst forth a fire upon them which consumed them utterly. Now the governor saw these things afar off, and in the evening he brought his son, who was sick, to Mary, and she healed him.
Then, on the sixth day of the week, the Holy Spirit commanded the apostles to take up Mary, and to carry her from Jerusalem to Gethsemane, and as they went the Jews saw them. Then drew near Juphia, one of the high-priests, and attempted to overthrow the litter on which she was carried, for the other priests had conspired with him, and they hoped to cast her down into the valley, and to throw wood upon her, and to burn her body with fire. But as soon as Juphia had touched the litter the angel smote off his arms with a fiery sword, and the arms remained fastened to the litter. Then he cried to the disciples and Peter for help, and they said, "Ask it of the Lady Mary;" and he cried, "Lady, O Mother of Salvations, have mercy on me!" Then she said to Peter, "Give him back his arms;" and they were restored whole. But the disciples proceeded onwards, and they laid down the litter in a cave, as they were commanded, and gave themselves to prayer.
Now the angel Gabriel announced that on the first day of the week Mary's soul should be removed from this world. So on the morning of that day there came Eve, and Anne, and Elisabeth, and they kissed Mary, and told her who they were: there came Adam. Seth, Shem, Noah, Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, David, and the rest of the old fathers: there came Enoch, and Elias, and Moses: there came twelve chariots of angels innumerable: and then appeared the Lord Christ in his humanity, and Mary bowed before him and said, "O my Lord and my God, place thy hand upon me;" and he stretched out his hand and blessed her; and she took his hand and kissed it, and placed it to her forehead, and said, "I bow before this right hand, which has made heaven and earth, and all that in them is, and I thank thee and praise thee that thou hast thought me worthy of this hour." Then she said, "O Lord, take me to thyself!" But he said to her, "Now shall thy body be in paradise to the day of the resurrection, and angels shall serve thee; but thy pure spirit shall shine in the kingdom, in the dwelling-place of my Father's fullness." Then the disciples drew near, and besought her to pria for the world which she was about to leave. So Mary prayed. After her prayer was finished her face shone with marvelous brightness, and she stretched out her hands and blessed them all; and her Son put forth his hands and received her pure soul, and bore it into his Father's treasure-house. Then there was a light and a sweet smell, sweeter than anything on earth; and a voice from heaven saving, "Hail, blessed one! blessed and celebrated art thou among women" (The legend ascribed to Melito makes her soul to be carried to paradise by Gabriel while her Son returns to heaven.)
Now the apostles carried her body to the valley of Jehoshaphat, to a place which the Lord had told them of, and John went before and carried the palm-branch. There they placed her in a new tomb, and sat at the mouth of the sepulcher, as the Lord commanded them; and suddenly there appeared the Lord Christ surrounded by a multitude of angels, and said to the apostles, "What will ye that I should do with her whom my Father's command selected out of all the tribes of Israel that I should dwell in her?" So Peter and the apostles besought him that he would raise the body of Mary and take it with him in glory to heaven. Then the Savior said, ‘ Be it according to your word." So he commanded Michael the archangel to bring down the soul of Mary. Then Gabriel rolled away the stone, and the Lord said, "Rise up, my beloved, thy body shall not suffer corruption ill the tomb." Immediately Mary arose, and bowed herself at his feet and worshipped; and the Lord kissed her, and gave her to the angels to carry her to paradise.
But Thomas was not present with the rest, for at the moment that he was summoned to come he was baptizing Polodius, who was the son of the sister of the king. And he arrived just after all these things were accomplished, and he demanded to see the sepulcher in which they had laid his Lady: "For ye know," said he, "that I am Thomas, and unless I see I will not believe." Then Peter arose in haste and wrath, and the other disciples with him, and they opened the sepulcher and went in; but they found nothing therein save that in which her body had been wrapped. Then Thomas confessed that he too, as he was borne in the cloud from India, had seen her holy body carried by the angels with great triumph into heaven; and that on his crying to her for her blessing, she had bestowed upon him her precious Girdle. which when the apostles saw they were glad. Then the apostles were carried back each to his own place. For the story of this Sacratissimo Cintolo, still preserved at Prato, see Mrs. Jameson's Legends of the Madonna, p. 344 (Lond. 1852).
On this part of the legend, see generally Joannis Apostoli de Tran situ Benate Mariae Virginis Liber (Elberfeldae, 18.54); St. Aelitonis Episc. Sard. de Transitu V. M. Liber, apud Bibl. Malx. Pasr. tom. ii, pt.ii, p. 212 (Lugd. 1677); Jacobi a Voragine. Legenda. Aureas, ed. Graesse, ch. 119, p. 504 (Dresd. 1846); John Damasc. Serma. de Dorsit. Deiparce, in Opp. ii, p. 857 sq. (Venice, 1743); Andresw of Crete, In Dornmit. Deiparce Sersr. iii, p. 115 (Par. 1644); Mrs. Jameson, Legends of the Madonna (London, 1852); Butler, Lives of the Saints in Aug. 15; Dressel, Edita et inedita Epipahanii Monachi et Presbyteri, p. 105 (Paris, 1843).
3. Her Assumption. — The above story gradually gained credit. At the end of the 5th century we find that there existed a book, De Transitu Virginis Mariae, which was condemned by pope Gelasius as apocryphal. This book is without doubt the oldest form of the legend, of which the books ascribed to Melito and John are variations. Down to the end of the 5th century, the the story of the Assumption was external to the Church, and distinctly looked upon by the Church as belonging to the heretics and not to her. But then cam he the change of sentiment on this subject consequent on the Nestorian controversy. The desire to protest against the early fables which had been spread abroad by the heretics had now passed away, and had been succeeded by the desire to magnify her who had brought forth him who was God. Accordingly a writer, whose date Baronius fixes at about this time (Ann. Eccl. 1:347, Lucca, 1738), suggested the possibility of the Assumption, but declared his inability to decide the question. The letter in which this possibility or probability is thrown out came to be attributed to Jerome, and may still be found among his works, entitled Ad Paulam et Eustochium de Assumptione B. Virginis (v. 82, Paris, 1706). About the same time, probably, or rather later, an assertion (now recognized on all hands to be a forgery) was made in Eusebius's Chronicle, to the effect that "in the year A.D. 48 Mary the Virgin was taken up into heaven, as some wrote that they had had it revealed to them." Another tract was written to prove that the Assumption was not a thing in itself unlikely; and this came to be attributed to St. Augustine, and may be found in the appendix to his works; and a sermon, with a similar purport, was ascribed to St. Athanasius.
Thus tie names of Eusebius, Jerome, Augustine, Athanasius, and others, came to be quoted as maintaining the truth of the Assumption. The first writers within the Church in whose extant writings we find the Assumption asserted, are Gregory of Tours in the 6th century, who has merely copied Melito's book, De Transitu (De Glor. Mart. lib. 1, c. 4; Migne, 71, p. 708); Andrew of Crete, who probably lived in the 7th century; and John of Damascus, who lived at the beginning of the 8th century. The last of these authors refers to the Euthymiac history as stating that Marcian and Pulcheria, being in search of the body of Mary, sent to Juvenal of Jerusalem to inquire for it. Juvenal replied, "In the holy and divinely-inspired Scriptures, indeed, nothing is recorded of the departure of the holy Mary, Mother of God. But from an ancient and most true tradition we have received, that at the time of her glorious falling asleep all the holy apostles, who were going through the world for the salvation of the nations, borne aloft in a moment of time, came together to Jerusalem; and when they were near her they had a vision of angels, and divine melody was heard; and then with divine and more than heavenly melody she delivered her holy soul into the hands of God in an unspeakable manner. But that which had borne God, being carried with angelic and apostolic psalmody, with funeral rites, was deposited in a coffin at Gethsemane. In this place the chorus and singing of the angels continued three whole days. But after three days, on the angelic music ceasing, those of the apostles who were present opened the tomb, as one of them, Thomas, had been absent, and on his arrival wished to adore the body which had borne God. But her all-glorious body they could not find; but they found the linen clothes lying, and they were filled with an ineffable odor of sweetness which proceeded from them. Then they closed the coffin. And they were astonished at the mysterious wonder, and they came to no other conclusion than that he who had chosen to take flesh of the Virgin Mary, and to become a man, and to be born of her — God the Word, the Lord of Glory — and had preserved her virginity after birth, was also pleased, after her departure, to honor her immaculate and unpolluted body with incorruption, and to translate her before the common resurrection of all men" (St. Joan. Damas. (Op. 2:880, Venice, 1748). It is quite clear that this is the same legend as that which we have before given. Here, then, we see it brought over the borders and planted within the Church, if this "Euthymiac history" is to be accepted as veritable, by Juvenal of Jerusalem in the 5th century, or else by Gregory of Tours in the 6th century, or by Andrew of Crete in the 7th century, or, finally, by John of Damascus in the 8th century (see his three Homilies on the Sleep of the Blessed Virgin Mary, in his Opp. 2:857- 886). The same legend is given in a slightly different form as veritable history by Nicephorus Callistus in the 13th century (Niceph. 1:171, Paris, 1630); and the fact of the Assumption is stereotyped in the Breviary services for August 15 (Brev. Rom. Pars cest. p. 551, Milan, 1851). Here again, then, we see a legend originated by heretics, and remaining external to the Church till the close of the 5th century, creeping into the Church during the 6th and 7th centuries, and finally ratified by the authority both of Rome and Constantinople. See Baronius, Anmn. Eccl. (1:344, Lucca, 1738) and Martyrologium (p. 314, Paris, 1607).
III. Jewish Traditions. — These are of a very different nature from the light-hearted fairy-tale-like stories which we have recounted above. We should expect that the miraculous birth of our Lord would be an occasion of scoffing to the unbelieving Jews, and we find this to be the case. We have already a hint during our Lord's ministry of the Jewish calumnies as to his birth. "We (ἡμεῖς ) be not born of fornication" (John 8:41), seems to be an insinuation on the Jews' part that he was. To the Christian believer the Jewish slander becomes in the present case only a confirmation of his faith. The most definite and outspoken of these slanders is that which is contained in the book called תולרות ישוע, or Toledoth Jesu. It was grasped at with avidity by Voltaire, and declared by him to be the most ancient Jewish writing directed against Christianity, and apparently of the first century. It was written, he says, before the Gospels, and is altogether contrary to them (Lettre sur les Juifs). It is proved by Ammon (Biblisch. Theologie, p. 263, Erlang. 1801) to be a composition of the 13th century, and by Wagenseil (Tela ignea Satanae; Confut. Libr. Toldos Jeschu, p. 12, Altorf, 1681) to be irreconcilable until the earlier Jewish tales. In the Gospel of Nicodemus, otherwise called the Acts of Pilate, we find the Jews represented as charging our Lord with illegitimate birth (c. 2). The date of this Gospel is about the end of the third century. The origin of the charge is referred with great probability by Thilo (Codex Apocsr. p. 527, Lips. 1832) to the circular letters of the Jews mentioned by Grotius (ad Matthew 27:63, et ad Act. Apost. 28:22; Op. 2:278 and 666, Basil. 1732), which were sent from Palestine to all the Jewish synagogues after the death of Christ, with the view of attacking "the lawless and atheistic sect which had taken its origin from the deceiver Jesus of Galilee" (Justin, adv. Tryph.). The first time that we find it openly proclaimed is in an extract made by Origen from the work of Celsus, which he is refuting. Celsus introduces a Jew declaring that the mother of Jesus was repudiated by her husband for adultery (ὑπὸ τοῦ γήμαντος, τέκτονος τὴν τέχνην ὄντος . ἐξεῶσθαι, ἐλεγχθεῖσαν ὡς μεμοεχευμένην, Contra Celsum, c. 28, Origenis Opera, 18:59, Berlin, 1845; again, ἡ τοῦ Ιησοῦ μήτηρ κύουσα, έξωσθεῖσα ὑπὸ τοῦ μνηστευσαμένου αὐτὴν τέκτονος, ἐλεγχθεῖσα ἐπὶ μοιχείᾷ καὶ τίκτουσα ἀπό τινος στρατιώτου Πανθήρα τοὔνομα, ibid. 32).
Stories to the same effect may be found in the Talmud-not in the Mishna, which dates from the 2d century, but in the Gemara, which is of the 5th or 6th (see Tract. Sanhedrin, cap. 7, fol. 67, Colossians 1; Shabbath, cap. 12, fol. 104, Colossians 2; and the Midrash Koheleth, cap. 10:5). Rabanus Maurus, in the 9th century, refers to the same story: "Jesum filium Ethnici cujusdam Pandera adulteri, more latronum punitum esse." Lightfoot quotes the same story from the Talmudists (Exercit. at Matthew 27:56), who, he says, often vilify Mary under the name of Satdah; and he cites a story in which she is called Mary the daughter of Heli, and is represented as hanging in torment among the damned, with the great bar of hell's gate hung at her ear (ibid. at Luke 3:23). We then come to the Toledoth Jesu, in which these caltmunies were intended to be summed up and harmonized. In the year 4671, the story runs, in the reign of king Jannaeus, there was one Joseph Pandera who lived at Bethlehem. In the same village there was a widow who had a daughter named Miriam, who was betrothed to a God- fearing man named Johanan. Now it came to pass that Joseph Pandera meeting with Miriam when it was dark, deceived her into the belief that he was Johanan her husband. So after three months Johanan consulted rabbi Sirmeon Shetachides what he should do with Miriam, and the rabbi advised him to bri
These files are public domain.
McClintock, John. Strong, James. Entry for 'Mary'. Cyclopedia of Biblical, Theological and Ecclesiastical Literature. https://www.studylight.org/encyclopedias/eng/tce/m/mary.html. Harper & Brothers. New York. 1870.
the Week of Proper 14 / Ordinary 19