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Mary The Mother of Jesus, Who Was She?

Part 1

The following are the elements of a theory that Mary the mother of Jesus was an Hasmonean princess directly descendant from the last Jewish king, Antigonus. FN1

Claim of Jesus to Kingship

The starting point of this analysis is Jesus' claim to the throne of Judea.
Pilate therefore said to him, "So you are a king?" Jesus answered, "You say correctly that I am a king. For this reason I have been born, and for this reason I have come into the world, that I should testify to the truth."
John 18:37 (Emphasis added); See also Luke 23:3-4.

On what grounds did Jesus claim kingship? According to the Old Testament, the king of Judea was required to be a descendant of King David FN2 through his son Solomon FN3 and not one of David's other sons. More specifically, these OT passages make clear that descent from David must be bodily (or of the flesh) and not through marriage or adoption. Even the Apostle Paul recognized the importance of claiming that Jesus descended from David according to the flesh. See Romans 1:3: "Concerning his Son Jesus Christ our Lord, which was made of the seed of David according to the flesh."

Dueling Genealogies

There are two differing genealogies given for Jesus in the Bible (Matthew and Luke). Let's start with the history found in Matthew 1:1-16. Two problems: (a) the genealogy is through Joseph from whom Jesus did not bodily descend as required for a king under the OT and (b) this list of ancestors (at verse 11) contains the name Jeconiah. Jeremiah 22:30 (OT) states, "Thus says the Lord: write this man [Jeconiah] down as childless, a man who shall not prosper in his days: for none of his descendants shall prosper, sitting on the throne of David, and ruling any more in Judea." Joseph (per Matthew) was in the line of the Jeconiah curse and, thus, he nor any of his descendants were eligible to sit on David's throne. FN4. It should be noted that the cursed Jeconiah was the last descendant of David through Solomon to sit on the Jewish thrown. He was taken off to captivity in Babylon. FN5.

The genealogy given at Luke, 3:23-38 is even more problematic. First, the list of ancestors lacks the name of Solomon, son of David, as required by the OT for a Davidic king. Second, it ostensibly names differeent ancestors for Joseph than given in Matthew, a huge problem for literal interpretationists who claim each word of the Bible is literally the voice of God.

The above analysis leaves us with one firm conclusion: Jesus could not have made a claim to the Davidic throne under Joseph for two reasons: (a) Jesus did not descend bodily from Joseph and (b) both lists of ancestors (Matthew and Luke) are tainted for Davidic kingship according to the OT.

Mary's Geneology

If Joseph is not the source of Jesus' claim to royalty, then might Mary be the source? On the face of it, the Bible does not tell us much about Mary's genealogy. A hint is given at Luke 1:5: "In the time of Herod king of Judea there was a priest named Zechariah, who belonged to the priestly division of Abijah; and his wife Elizabeth was also a descendant of Aaron." Descendants of Aaron are priests of the tribe of Levi. Further, Luke 1:36 states that Elizabeth (the mother of John the Baptist) is the kinswoman of Mary the mother of Jesus. As to the degree of relationship between Elizabeth and Mary, the Bible does not say. For what it's worth, the Qur'an also mentions Mary the mother of Jesus as being a "sister of Aaron" (Sura 19:28). FN6.

What importance attaches to the fact (if true), that Mary is of the tribe of Levi? First, the Hasmonean kings were said to be of the tribe of Levi. Secondly, Jesus' genealogy given at Luke 3:23-38 twice contains the name "Levi". Is the Luke genealogy really that of a person from the priestly tribe of Levi? Might not Luke 3:23-38 in fact be a list of Mary's ancestors as opposed to those of Joseph.

Luke's Genealogy is of Mary

One theory offered by scholars to solve the problems inherent in Luke's ancestry is the argument that, in fact, it is a genealogy of Jesus through Mary and not Joseph. See Wikipedia. The best argument in favor of this theory is a parenthetical statement found at Luke 3:23: "And Jesus himself was a son (being thought) of Joseph of Heli ... ." Through the parenthetical, Luke acknowledges that Jesus was not the son of Joseph, only thought of as being his son. With such an admission, why would Luke continue with the charade of Joseph being the son Heli, et cetera? A reasonable answer would be that Luke is giving us a clue that the ancestry is not through Joseph. Furthermore, Matthew 1:16 clearly lists Joseph's father as Jacob, not Heli.

Outside of Luke 3:23, is there any mention that Heli was the father of Mary (the mother of Jesus)? "This view is supported by a tradition which names the father of the Blessed Virgin [as] 'Joachim', a variant form of Eliacim or its abbreviation Eli, a variant of Heli." NewAdvent.com. Although the name "Joachim" does not appear in the Bible, the Catholic Church has a long tradition naming him as Mary's father. The tradition is so entrenched that Joachim was made a saint of the Catholic Church. Wikipedia. Not only oral tradition but several ancient apocryphal texts name Joachim the father of Mary: see The Protoevangelium of James, The Gospel of the Nativity of the Blessed Virgin, and The Book of the Nativity of the Blessed Virgin Mary. See Bob Stanley.

Against the view that Luke records the ancestry of Jesus through Mary is the point that "[i]t was not until the 15th century AD, when Annius of Viterbo first suggested this reassignment of the genealogy to Mary." Link. The mere fact that a certain point in history was not recorded does not, by itself, hold tremendous weight IMHO. History is replete with events not recorded or corroborated that later generations assumed to be mere myth and then in recent times turned out to be provable fact. Exhibit A: the existence of the city of Troy from Homer's Iliad long assumed to be just a myth given the lack of recorded evidence of its existence. The city was later excavated by archaeologists in modern day Turkey. Information is often lost over the rubble of history only to be rediscovered by later generations.

Although the weight of current scholarship is against the position, the theory outlined herein operates under the assumption that Luke's genealogy is in fact that of Mary.

Click here for Part 2--Mary The Mother of Jesus, Who Was She?

JJR 1-21-2007

See also Mary the Mother of Jesus, 'Daughter of Aaron'

Comments (1) Religion Index Page

FN1 More on Antigonus. Herod the Great, although his family converted to Judiasm in prior generations, was technically not ethnically Jewish; his father was Idumaean and mother Nabatean from the city of Petra. Today we would call him Arab. Thus, Antigonus of the Hasmonean line was the last ethnically Jewish king of Judea.

FN2 This prophesy was spoken to King David by God: "When your days are fulfilled and you rest with your fathers, I will set up your seed after you, who will come from your body, and I will establish his kingdom. He shall build a house for My name, and I will establish the throne of his kingdom forever." 2 Samuel 7:12-13 (Emphasis added). See also, "The Lord hath sworn in truth unto David; he will not turn from it; Of the fruit of thy body will I set upon thy throne. If thy children will keep my covenant and my testimony that I shall teach them, their children shall also sit upon thy throne for evermore." Psalm 132:11-12.

FN3 These are the words of King David. "And of all my sons, (for the LORD hath given me many sons,) he hath chosen Solomon my son to sit upon the throne of the kingdom of the Lord over Israel. And he said unto me, Solomon thy son, he shall build my house and my courts: for I have chosen him to be my son, and I will be his father. Moreover I will establish his kingdom for ever, if he be constant to do my commandments and my judgments, as at this day." 1 Chron 28:5-7. See also www.geocities.com/b_r_a_d_99/genealogy.htm.

FN4 See biblia.com and campus.fortunecity.com/defiant/666/genmatt.html.

FN5 See Wikipedia.

FN6 It should be noted that the Protoevangelium of James names Mary as a member of the tribe of David.

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