By Mary Jane Chaignot

Categories: Women in the New Testament

  • Luke gives us most of our information about Mary. Matthew focuses more on Joseph. In Luke, Mary makes decisions, acts, speaks, and is spoken to.
  • Mary was engaged but not yet married to Joseph when the angel appeared to her.
  • Mary might have been 13-14 years old.
  • Joseph might have been as much as 10 years older.
  • Being engaged was legal and binding.
  • Both were to be faithful to each other.
  • Any transgression would have been considered adulterous and punishable by stoning.
  • Joseph would have had to divorce her to break the engagement.
  • During the engagement, the couple would have lived with their respective parents, while the parents (fathers) worked out the details of the wedding, including the dowry.
  • Mary must have been familiar with OT stories of heavenly visitors because she was "upset" over what the angel said, not the fact that an angel was communicating with her.
  • Mary thought she was unworthy to be looked upon with "God's favour."
  • Unlike Zechariah, she does not ask for a sign.
  • She believed the angel, but wondered how it could happen since she had known no man.
  • Scholars don't see this as doubt, just a query re: the manner in which this would take place.
  • Hearing about Elizabeth's unexpected pregnancy gave her encouragement and made the words of the angel reliable. All things are possible with God.
  • She told the angel she'd submit to God's will -- and set out to visit Elizabeth!
  • It probably took her 4-5 days to get there.
  • Upon arriving, Elizabeth blessed her, reiterating what the angel had already said.
  • The Magnificat is comprised almost wholly of OT sayings, which means she was very familiar with the Old Testament prophecies.
  • It is a prayer of deepest humility.
  • She does not speak of the promise given to her re: a son; she praises God.
  • She knew John's birth would be a major event; she did not want to be there at that time.
  • Joseph could have accused her and had her put to death when he found out she was pregnant. He knew it wasn't his baby, but because he loved her, he planned to send her away quietly.
  • No doubt they married shortly after she returned from seeing Elizabeth - after the angel appeared to Joseph in a dream.
  • Mary did not have to personally travel to Bethlehem for the census, but if she and Joseph were familiar with the Old Testament, they knew the Messiah would be born in Bethlehem.
  • Joseph might have wanted her to go along because he knew that the people in Nazareth would know the baby was born "early" and perhaps would give Mary a bad time if he weren't around.
  • We don't know for sure the exact date of Jesus' birth - it's celebrated on December 25th.
  • Jesus' actual birth is reported with an economy of words.
  • Mary's wrapping the baby in swaddling clothes is completely normal, and reflects her nurturing and care.
  • Following the visit of the shepherds who tell of the angelic visit, Mary kept "all these things in her heart."
  • Simeon's oracle forewarned Mary that pain would lie ahead.


Aland, Kurt. Synopsis of the Four Gospels. Germany: Bible Society Stuttgart, 1972.

Beare, F.W. The Gospel According to Matthew. San Francisco: Harper & Row, 1981.

Brown, Raymond. The Birth of the Messiah. New York: Doubleday, 1993.

Gaventa, Beverly. Mary: Glimpses of the Mother of Jesus. Minneapolis, MN: Fortress Press, 1999.

Geldenhuys, Norval. Commentary on the Gospel of Luke. The New International Commentary on the New Testament. Grand Rapids, MI: Wm B Eerdmans, 1977.

Griffith-Jones, Robin. The Four Witnesses. San Francisco: Harper Collins, 2000.

Johnson, Luke Timothy. The Gospel of Luke. Sacra Pagina Series. Collegeville, MN: The Liturgical Press, 1991.

Sallberg Kam, Rose. Their Stories, Our Stories. New York: Continuum Publishing, 1995.

Summers, Ray. Commentary on Luke. Waco, TX: Word Books, 1972.

Bible Characters