What's Your Name, Girl?

"What's your name, girl?"

For some reason, that line from an old rock song keeps running through my mind. Funny thing is, that's all I can clearly remember of the song; except that I believe another line went something like, "Who's your mama?" I'm not certain of that last, but it comes to mind. And when it does, so also does an image of a small-town girl named Miryam. She is better known to the world as Mary, the young girl blessed by God to bear His Incarnate Son.

What was it about this girl who lived in a hick town outside the walls of the great religious center called Jerusalem that made her God's choice? What set her apart from all the hundreds or thousands of other women of childbearing age? Was she prettier than all the others? More religious?

Why did God choose her?

Over the years, I have read learned papers that proposed reasons why God chose Miryam. The truth of the matter is that the proffered reasons were nothing more than speculation. Man simply does not know because God has not revealed His reasoning to us.

What little we truly know of Mary, we know from the scant information provided in the Scriptures. For the Bible-believing Christian, this should be sufficient. Had God wanted us to know more about her, I am confident that He would have told us. I am content with the information my God has provided.

What the Lord God has chosen to make known to posterity concerning the woman He selected to carry His Incarnate Son within her virginal womb is insufficient to the needs and desires of millions of others, however. Catholicism, in its various manifestations, appears to have a particular requirement for detailed information concerning Miryam of Galilee.

In this study, I shall concentrate on just a few aspects of the Roman Catholic version of Mary for, of all the Mary's, Rome's appears to be the image most corrupted by man's imagination. I shall not address every detail of Rome's mariology. I lack knowledge of and access to all the multitude of church and private writings on the subject. And this is just as well, since so much has been written in this genre that it seems likely a comprehensive compilation would fill a library.

We first encounter Mary in the Matthew genealogies. Though we have yet to be introduced to this young woman favored by God to bear His Incarnate Son, we are told that this is so in an unusual manner.

The first book of the New Testament begins with the declaration:

"The book of the generation of Jesus Christ, the son of David, the son of Abraham," (Matthew 1:1, KJV)

Then follow 15 verses of "begats." Beginning with Abraham, the inspired writer lists the antecedents of Joseph. Interestingly, and quite unexpected in Jewish genealogy, the list of the generations of Joseph includes the names of women. What makes this interesting is that, according to Jewish tradition, the rights of the family line are not passed through the mother. In the patriarchal system of the Jews, these rights were only passed through the father. There seems to be little reason for including women in Joseph's family tree. Later in this study, I hope to show that indeed there was a sound reason for listing their names.

Back to the begats. Through the 14 generations from Abraham to David, through the 14 generations from David to the Babylonian captivity and through the 13 generations from that captivity to Joseph, we are told who begat whom. Without fail, every generation was identified by who "begat" whom – until it came time for the generation that followed Joseph's.

"And Jacob begat Joseph the husband of Mary, of whom was born Jesus, who is called Christ," (Matthew 1:16, KJV)

A startling change. After a lengthy series of "begats," the pattern changes. The list does not declare that Joseph begat Jesus. Rather, we are informed that Joseph was the husband of Mary; a fact which, though it does not specifically declare Jesus to be the son of Joseph, does serve to establish Jesus in the Davidic line and legitimize His entitlement as Joseph's heir. And it does identify Joseph's wife to be Mary, of whom was born Jesus Christ. How do we know that the "of whom" in this verse does not refer to Joseph? Because the Greek word he and translated whom in the KJV is in the feminine gender and could not, therefore, have been referent to Joseph.

For Jews, the Matthew genealogy established Jesus' right to inherit through Joseph. Was this apparent conformance to Jewish tradition adequate to fulfill Isaiah's prophecy that Messiah would be heir to the throne of David? Would God be satisfied with an inferred lineage traceable back to David?

Of the increase of his government and peace there shall be no end, upon the throne of David, and upon his kingdom, to order it, and to establish it with judgment and with justice from henceforth even for ever. The zeal of the LORD of hosts will perform this, - Isaiah 9:7, KJV

And this brings us to the genealogy in Luke. Many Christian theologians and writers, including myself, believe this to be Mary's family tree. Why include a list of Mary's antecedents in a book originally intended for Jewish readers? As far as the Jews would have been concerned, it would serve no purpose. A person's tribal lineage was traced only through the father, as is clearly stated in the Torah:

And they assembled all the congregation together on the first day of the second month, and they declared their pedigrees after their families, by the house of their fathers, according to the number of the names, from twenty years old and upward, by their polls.- Numbers 1:18, KJV

But Joseph was not the father of Jesus. Every professing Christian should know this. Jesus' mother was a Jew, but His Father was the Holy Spirit. He would have needed a human Jewish father if He were to be the legitimate heir to the throne of David.

There are those who argue that the genealogy in Luke is also that of Joseph, and they often gloat as they point out the differences between this list and the one in Matthew. And they are correct. There indeed are a number of differences. This is one of the so-called "conflicts" in Scripture that so delight those who would discredit the written Word of God as being unreliable and not a trustworthy doctrinal standard.

I do not doubt that some, perhaps many, Jews in Apostolic times – and to this day – rejected Jesus of Nazareth as the promised Messiah and used the Christian teaching of His virgin birth as their principle justification. "How could the Nazarene be the heir to David's throne if his father was not a Jew?" they might ask. "His mother was not even of David's tribe," they might argue. "The Christian Jesus has no link to Judah."

Those who attack the reliability of Scripture cannot be right, unless there are other errors in the sacred writings. Did not the Apostle Paul claim that Jesus was from the seed of David after the flesh? Was Paul deceived? A liar?

Concerning his Son Jesus Christ our Lord, which was made of the seed of David according to the flesh; - Romans 1:3, KJV

When Paul caused those words to be written, it seems quite unlikely that he had any idea that one day some would declare that Mary had been eternally virgin. Why would such a strange thought even enter his apostolic mind? Did he not know personally some of his Lord's siblings? Had he not spoken with James the Just, the Lord's brother and first leader of the church in Jerusalem? Perhaps he also knew Jude, or Simon or Joses. And maybe one or more of Jesus' sisters. (Matthew 13:55). Would any rational man even consider that a woman who had given birth to at least seven children could be eternally virgin?

Here we are confronted with a difficulty that Jews of Apostolic times were forced to deal with. Apostolic teaching held that Jesus of Nazareth was the prophesied Heir to David's throne, that He was of David's seed according to the flesh . Yet the Apostles also taught that Joseph, through whom the Nazarene's Davidic lineage presumably could be traced, was not His father and, what is worse, His mother was a virgin when He was conceived. The issue of the virgin birth would have been viewed by some Jews as a further obstacle to the claim that Jesus of Nazareth was the Messiah of prophecy. Why? Because, it could be asserted, Mary was not of the tribe of Judah. In that she was claimed to have been the only human involved in the incarnation of Christ, then He would not have been of David's seed.

How could the Jews have come to believe that Mary was not of the tribe of Judah? Luke tells us that Mary was the cousin of Elisabeth, a descendant of the high priest Aaron (Luke 1:5). This would place Elisabeth in the tribe of Levi. If Elisabeth was a Levite, then surely her cousin Mary must also be of the tribe of Levi, for according to Torah, some would claim, a woman must marry within her own tribe. By that reckoning, if Elisabeth's father and mother were Levites, then their siblings, one of whom must have been a parent of Mary, also were of the tribe of Levi. Thus, Mary would also be of Levi's line. If Mary were of the tribe of Levi and a virgin when Jesus was conceived by the Holy Spirit, then her Son would not have been of the seed of David by the flesh and therefore could not be the prophesied Messiah. Could this be so?

No, it could not be so, unless the product of one's search in the Torah involves eisegesis. God indeed did command that, under certain conditions, the daughters of Israel must marry within their own tribe. (Numbers 36). These conditions were established to ensure that the inheritances of the sons of Israel were not transferred from tribe to tribe. So long as a father's estate was passed to his sons, there was no danger of any inheritance being alienated to another tribe. However, should a man sire only daughters his goods and land would pass to them at his death and from them to their husbands. Should any husband of such an heiress be of another tribe than his wife, then some of the goods of the wife's tribe would forever be counted with the inheritance of the husband's tribe.

There is no reason to believe that Mary could not have belonged to the tribe of Judah while her cousin Elisabeth was a Levite through her father. In fact, there are compelling reasons to believe that Mary was a direct descendant of David. At this point, it would be well to take a look at Luke's genealogy.

The first of the differences between the genealogies in Matthew and Luke that one encounters is that, while Matthew traced Joseph's lineage forward from Abraham, Luke traced Mary's line backwards all the way to Adam. If the writers of these two Gospels truly were inspired by the Holy Ghost, and I am convinced that they were, why aren't they the same? What lies behind these differences?

Here's my take on the differences. By tracing Joseph's line forward from Abraham, Matthew confirms two conditions critical to establishing Jesus' claims to the throne of David. By showing the unbroken bloodline extending from Abraham, through David, to Joseph, Jesus' is shown to be both Jew and rightful heir to David's long-vacant throne. This satisfied the legal requirements to establish Jesus as the lawful pretender to David's throne.

By tracing Mary's line all the way back to Adam, without regard to such peripheral conditions as race, or social class, or nationality, or even sex, Luke firmly established Jesus as being the representative of all mankind. And he met a few other requirements concerning the prophesied Messiah.

According to the prophecy in Isaiah, the promised Messiah would be born of a virgin:

Therefore the Lord himself shall give you a sign; Behold, a virgin shall conceive, and bear a son, and shall call his name Immanuel. - Isaiah 7:14, KJV

Jesus' virginal conception was protected in Matthew's genealogy (v. 16). Luke also protects the virgin birth of Jesus in his genealogy:

And Jesus himself began to be about thirty years of age, being (as was supposed) the son of Joseph, which was the son of Heli, - Luke 3:23, KJV

In the above verse, Joseph is said to be the son of Heli, but in Matthew's list, he is identified as the son of Jacob. Is this another of those supposed inconsistencies that Bible-haters love to point to. How could it be possible for Joseph to have two fathers? And how in the world could he have two distinctly different ancestral lists?

As a born-again follower of Jesus Christ, I know that, while man certainly is capable of both erring and lying, God does neither. Therefore, both genealogies must be accurate. How to reconcile the differences? Matthew clearly declares, in verse 1:16, that Joseph's father was Jacob. Luke, on the other hand, makes a different statement concerning Joseph's lineage:

And Jesus himself began to be about thirty years of age, being (as was supposed) the son of Joseph, which was the son of Heli, - Luke 3:23, KJV

"Which was the son of Heli" might be explained in a number of ways. He could, for example, be understood to have been the adopted son of Heli following the marriage of his widowed mother to that man. There is nothing to suggest that were so. It seems more probable that he was the son-in-law of Heli, who would have been the father of Mary. This latter seems more likely. Look at Luke's genealogy. In Judaism, the line of descent is always shown through the male line, and Luke's roster lists only sons. The pedigree is Mary's antecedents, but Heli is listed as Joseph's father when, in fact, he is Joseph's father-in-law. That's my take.

So far, the genealogies in Matthew and Luke have demonstrated the fulfillment of Messianic prophecies in Genesis 3:15 (seed of woman), Genesis 12:3 (descendent of Abraham), Genesis 17:19 (descendent of Isaac), Numbers 24:17 (descendent of Jacob), Genesis 49:10 (from the tribe of Judah), Isaiah 9:7 (heir to the throne of David) and Isaiah 7:14 (to be born of a virgin)

If we accept Luke's genealogy as being that of Mary's line, and I do, another issue is raised. The Jewish society was patriarchal; family rights and property were passed through the male line. No matter that Mary could be shown to be a direct descendent of King David, she could not pass along whatever rights accrued to that lineage by virtue of being female. Women were not universally excluded from transferring family rights to their sons. Our God, being all-wise, provided a means to bypass the laws of patriarchal inheritance in special instances. To discover that "escape clause," it is necessary to return to the Torah, the Book of the Law.

There was in the tribe of Zebulun a man named Zelophehad who had no sons but five daughters. (Numbers 26:33). Zelophehad died and his unmarried daughters were worried that they would be deprived of their rights to inherit their father's property. (Numbers 27). They took their case before Moses, seeking his intervention to protect their inheritance. Moses, wise man that he was, took the matter before the Lord. The Lord gave the Jews a new law pertaining to inheritance:

7 The daughters of Zelophehad speak right: thou shalt surely give them a possession of an inheritance among their father's brethren; and thou shalt cause the inheritance of their father to pass unto them.
8 And thou shalt speak unto the children of Israel, saying, If a man die, and have no son, then ye shall cause his inheritance to pass unto his daughter.

9 And if he have no daughter, then ye shall give his inheritance unto his brethren.
10 And if he have no brethren, then ye shall give his inheritance unto his father's brethren.
11 And if his father have no brethren, then ye shall give his inheritance unto his kinsman that is next to him of his family, and he shall possess it: and it shall be unto the children of Israel a statute of judgment, as the LORD commanded Moses. -
Numbers 27:7-11, KJV

What may we infer concerning Mary from knowing of this law and the conviction that the pedigree in Luke is hers? First of all, it appears to establish that Mary had no living brothers – not when she conceived and not when her father died – and so met one of the eligibility requirements to transfer family rights to her male offspring. It also establishes her to be of the tribe of Judah, the same tribe as her husband, and this fulfilled the second eligibility requirement.

Another indication that Mary had no brother derives from Jesus' words to her and to His disciple John as He was dying on the cross.

Now there stood by the cross of Jesus his mother, and his mother's sister, Mary the wife of Cleophas, and Mary Magdalene. When Jesus therefore saw his mother, and the disciple standing by, whom he loved, he saith unto his mother, Woman, behold thy son! Then saith he to the disciple, Behold thy mother! And from that hour that disciple took her unto his own home. - John 19:25-27, KJV

Why in the world would Jesus assign to John the responsibility of caring for His mother? Jewish custom of the times held that, when a woman with children lost her husband, she would return to her father's house or, were he no longer alive, to the house of one of her brothers. Should there be no brother to care for her, it becomes the responsibility of one of her sons. Though the above passage clearly establishes that Mary had at least one sister, there is no mention of a brother to whom she could turn.

As her eldest son, Jesus must have been looking after His mother from the moment of Joseph's death, and now He was about to die. So why did He not charge one of His brothers to care for their mother, rather than John who was not a blood relation? My take on that is that none of Jesus' siblings believed Him to be the promised Messiah (Matthew 13:54-58) and, apparently, our Lord desired to entrust His mother's care to His most faithful disciple, who was a believer.

It also is possible that none of Jesus' siblings may have been in Jerusalem at the time of our Lord's arrest, trials and crucifixion. It was Passover, and they likely were in their home town, Capernaum, observing this important Jewish feast with their families. Bear in mind that there were no telephones, telegraphs or any form of electronic communication 2000 years ago. There was no form of rapid travel between towns in those days. Some folks may have traveled on horseback, which is not terribly fast, but most went from town to town on foot. Capernaum is about 80 miles from Jerusalem, as the crow flies. Men don't fly, however, and the route between the two towns wound through hilly country. Even for people accustomed to traveling long distances on foot, I should imagine that walking from Jerusalem from to Capernaum must have taken a few days; with a similar number if days needed to make the return trip. Jesus was arrested, tried, scourged and hung on the cross in a single day by the Jewish reckoning. There is absolutely no way that any of his siblings back in Capernaum could have learned of the events in time to have been present at His passion. In the absence of any of His brothers, the Savior apparently had no option other than to entrust His mother's continuing care to someone else; in this case His beloved disciple John.

Why was it important to establish Mary's ability to transfer the rights of her lineage to Jesus? Because of the curse set against David's son Jeconiah and his descendents, among whom was Joseph. This curse dates from the time of the prophet Jeremiah, some 600 hundred years before the birth of Christ. Jeconiah, who was a descendent of David through Solomon, ruled over Jerusalem for only three months, but so managed to offend God that He sent Jeremiah to pronounce a curse on Jeconiah and his progeny.

Thus saith the LORD, Write ye this man childless, a man that shall not prosper in his days: for no man of his seed shall prosper, sitting upon the throne of David, and ruling any more in Judah. - Jeremiah 22:30, KJV

"Write ye this man childless" would certainly appear to present an insurmountable barrier to any descendent of David's ever again attaining to David's throne. But Jeconiah did not die childless. In fact, Scriptures inform that he had eight sons (1 Chronicles 3:17-18), none of whom ever was seated on the throne of David. Clearly, Jeremiah's prophecy should be read as declaring that David's dynasty would not retain continuous reign over Jerusalem, that Joconiah was, in effect, childless. Sure, he had eight sons, and through them a great number of descendants, all of whom retained legal right to the throne, but no child of his seed could ever occupy David's throne and prosper. On the surface, the curse would appear to run counter to many of the promises concerning Messiah's reign from the throne of David. Yet the Scriptures are clear:

And, behold, thou shalt conceive in thy womb, and bring forth a son, and shalt call his name Jesus. He shall be great, and shall be called the Son of the Highest: and the Lord God shall give unto him the throne of his father David: And he shall reign over the house of Jacob for ever; and of his kingdom there shall be no end. - Luke 1:31-33, KJV

"Of his kingdom there shall be no end" certainly seems to refer to a kingdom that will prosper. When Jesus was born, David's throne had been empty for 600 years – the Jews never really accepted the conquerors whom they felt had usurped that throne. At the time of Jesus' advent, Joseph was the legitimate heir to David's throne, but the curse prevented him from taking the throne and prospering. Joseph was the legal father of Jesus, but not His biological father. Jesus was the rightful heir to the throne of King David, yet He was not of the cursed seed of Jeconiah. And so, God's Messiah avoided the curse and, in so doing, fulfilled the Father's promise to King David that his kingdom would last forever (2 Samuel 7:12-13, 16)

But did not God also promise David that Messiah would be of David's own flesh and blood? (Psalm 132.11). God keeps His promises and we see, in Mary's pedigree, that she was a direct descendant of Nathan, who was a son of David.

So far in this study, I have resolved what on the surface appear to be several "inconsistencies" in the Scriptures concerning Messiah. I have established Jesus' right to sit upon the throne of David, demonstrated how Jesus' genealogies, traced through Joseph and Mary, fulfilled several Messianic prophecies while avoiding the curse set upon the line of Jeconiah.

I urge those who read this study to consider that, in accomplishing the above, I supported my arguments from Scripture, applying a consistent literal/grammatical/historical hermeneutic. Now, by contrast, I hope to show a few examples of the way Roman Catholicism "supplements" God's written revelation to man.

Though the only thing we know from Scripture concerning Mary's life prior to the Annunciation is her patriarchal lineage, the amazingly imaginative dreamers who operate the Romish dreamworks have come up with tons of information concerning her life, both before and after the birth of Jesus.

Catholics have determined that the name of Mary's father really was Joachim, which they claim is an alternative form of Heli (Eli in the Greek). And they have even come up with the name of her mother, whom they claim was named Anna (Hannah). As one hagiology records:

St. Anne was the spouse of St. Joachim, and was chosen by God to be the mother of Mary, His own blessed Mother on earth. They were both of the royal house of David, and their lives were wholly occupied in prayer and good works. One thing only was wanting to their union—they were childless, and this was held as a bitter misfortune among the Jews. At length, when Anne was an aged woman, Mary was born, the fruit rather of grace than of nature, and the child more of God than of man. With the birth of Mary the aged Anne began a new life: she watched her every movement with reverent tenderness, and felt herself hourly sanctified by the presence of her immaculate child. But she had vowed her daughter to God, to God Mary consecrated herself again, and to Him Anne gave her back. Mary was three years old when Anne and Joachim led her up the Temple steps, saw her pass by herself into the inner sanctuary, and then saw her no more. Thus Anne was left childless in her lone old age, and deprived of her purest earthly joy just when she needed it most. She humbly adored the Divine Will, and began again to watch and pray, till God called her to unending rest with the Father and the Spouse of Mary in the home of Mary's Child. - James Gilmary Shea, Ed., Little Pictorial Lives of the Saints, Benziger Brothers (1878), pp.398-99 – has Imprimatur

Wow! How could they come up with so much detail? Perhaps breathing in the fumes of incense and candle smoke over an extended period of time could cause one to become delusional. The fact that the writer of this hagiography declared Mary to be Anne's only child demonstrates either an ignorance of, or complete disregard for, the inspired Scriptures, wherein it is clearly stated that Mary's sister accompanied Mary at the cross.

Now there stood by the cross of Jesus his mother, and his mother's sister, Mary the wife of Cleophas, and Mary Magdalene. - John 19:25, KJV

The fact that the above was included in a collection of hagiographies that was sealed with the imprimaturs of two archbishops, one of them a prince (cardinal) of the Church and which carried the additional approbations of no less a personage than Pope Leo XIII, as well as another cardinal and 36 other archbishops and bishops gives rise to several possibilities:

--That the accounts of saints' lives included in the book conformed to current Catholic teaching at the time and that there was nothing contrary to faith and morals in them, or

--that the hagiographies may not have conformed to current Catholic teachings but those granting their approval never really read what they affixed their approvals to; or

--Both the writer of Anne's tale and all the approving authorities were ignorant of John 19:25; or

--Both the writer of Anne's tale and all the approving authorities were aware of John 19:25, but didn't care and chose to go with the fantasy.

Whatever the reason why such a conflict with Scripture was permitted to be published in this fantastic tale of Mary's parentage and early life, it does merit the observation that, while Catholic bishops may certify that the contents of a document bearing such approbations contain no material dangerous to faith and morals, their imprimatur cannot be considered a reliable indication that the material presented is either accurate or biblical.

There are other accounts, no doubt libraries full, that provide the most intimate details of Mary's fantasy life, including what have the appearance of transcripts of conversations between her and other people. How can any reasonable person accept such fantasies, knowing that they are the products of the overactive imaginations of self-deluded and/or excessively zealous persons? One reason could be, I suppose, that many – perhaps most – who sit in Roman Catholic pews on Sunday have no idea at all what is contained either in the Bible or the writings of their cult.

Come quickly, Lord.

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