April 04, 2005

Mary: Mother Of Jesus

I was watching a special on Discovery Channel the other day called “Mary: The Mother of Jesus” it was pretty interesting. I got a lot of insight on what life might have been like for Mary, growing up, having a baby, etc. I’d like to really accent that “might” … there sure was a lot of assumption making going on in this special, yet the account in the Scriptures wasn’t given nearly the leeway that “Scholars” theories were.

The Traditional Mary

For example the image of Mary in the “traditional” sense was fiercely contested --- no blue veiled ‘Mary Mother of God’ here. No, instead it was a very young looking 12 or 13 year old girl. I’m fine with not inserting “middle ages” ideals of Mary into her actual life, but a feeble scared preteen? The idea was that in that time period women got married very early, and in the case of the documentary, to much older men (Joseph looked at least 40 or 50.)

What is addressed later, but not at this point is that --- more then likely people aged ‘faster’ in this time and culture --- why then use a very young looking modern girl to portray someone who would no doubt look much older then her 13 years? Of course the shock value of seeing a pregnant 13 year old ---I suppose is just too great to pass up, even if it was apparently very common, that is if Mary was actually 12 or 13 as is presupposed.

No mention Mary’s interaction with her cousin was at all invested or mentioned. Instead the idea of her being scared and most likely very confused about what was happening was played up.

Undue Scrutiny on the Gospels

A prime example of undue scrutiny placed on the Gospels were theories raised as to ‘the most likely’ account of Jesus’ birth. We are told “the story of Jesus’ birth in a manger in Bethlehem is so well know to us that it’s hard to believe it didn’t happen.” Excuse me? Apparently there is some kind of Scholarly conscientious on this point? Well not even the “Scholars” are quoted as saying it didn’t happen, instead an unfair assumption is maintained. An apparent “contradiction” in the Gospels is pointed out: “in Matthew we have Jesus’ family already living in Bethlehem and in Luke we have them coming to the city for a census.” Both of these are seen as later “additions” in an “attempt to tie Jesus to the City of David” --- completely ignoring Micah 5:2 --- and making sweeping assumptions on what the Gospels are saying.

Where Did They Live?

I have no idea where they get the idea that Jesus’ family were already living in the city, in fact Matthew doesn’t even speak to the actual birth of Jesus. And no where does it say anything about the family already living there! Matthew is pretty sparse on this, Mary becoming pregnant is discussed, why Joseph decides to marry her, and then:

Now after Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judea in the days of Herod the king, behold, wise men from the east came to Jerusalem, saying, “Where is he who has been born king of the Jews? For we saw his star when it rose and have come to worship him.”

In Luke we get a bit more detail, of course this is to be expected as Luke was a stickler for details and was an excellent historian. The Gospel of Luke is we get the more detailed ‘Christmas Story:’

In those days a decree went out from Caesar Augustus that all the world should be registered. This was the first registration when Quirinius was governor of Syria. And all went to be registered, each to his own town. And Joseph also went up from Galilee, from the town of Nazareth, to Judea, to the city of David, which is called Bethlehem, because he was of the house and lineage of David, to be registered with Mary, his betrothed, who was with child. And while they were there, the time came for her to give birth. And she gave birth to her firstborn son and wrapped him in swaddling cloths and laid him in a manger, because there was no place for them in the inn.

But as for Matthew that’s it --- we go from Mary being pregnant to quite likely a year or so after Jesus is born in Bethlehem.

The Wise Men Cometh, But When?

At this point, and only in Matthew the “Wise Men” appear in Jerusalem asking how they can find the Messiah. These were most likely men from Persia, having known of the coming of a Jewish Messiah from all the Jews scattered amongst former Persian Empire.

Then Herod summoned the wise men secretly and ascertained from them what time the star had appeared.

He then plots how to get rid of this threat to his rule, that’s not very far fetched either --- Herod was crazy, he killed countless people including much of his own family in his mad lust for power, and paranoia. He “sent and killed all the male children in Bethlehem and in all that region who were two years old or under, according to the time that he had ascertained from the wise men.” Matthew 2:16

“Out of Egypt I called my son.”

They also assume that the fleeing to Egypt was latter ‘added in’ order to link Jesus symbolically to Moses. It is at least mentioned that this exodus “could have been” in response to Herod’s slaughter mentioned above, but it just seems too poetic, and wonderfully allegorical to have “really happened.”

Now Luke doesn’t discuss this, is that because it didn’t happen? Or perhaps it wasn’t talked about because Luke already knew of and read Matthew and didn’t want to repeat too much? Or maybe he didn’t think it was as important as other details? If you read a news report of a football game and one reporter mentions a play that another reporter didn’t mention, yet in the end the same final score is reported are we to believe that the play mentioned only by the first reporter never happened?

When Were the Gospels Written?

The viewer is left with the assertion that it was later added in “70 to 90 AD” when “the Gospels of Matthew and Luke were written” --- why do they pick that date by the way? Wow that’s big question, suffice to say that’s pretty much a guess, and frankly I don’t agree. I’m more in the early date camp, i.e. the Gospels and Acts written before the fall of Jerusalem in 70 A.D. As Greg Koukl puts it:

We know the Apostle Paul died during the Neronian persecution of A.D. 64. Paul was still alive at the close of Acts, so Acts must have been written sometime before A.D. 64. Acts was a continuation of Luke's Gospel, which must have been written earlier still. The book of Mark predates Luke, even by the Jesus Seminar's reckoning. This pushes Mark's Gospel into the 50s, just over twenty years after the crucifixion.

There’s lot of talk about this, and every year or so the “Jesus Seminar” makes news with some new assumptions. Again, as Greg Koukl wrote:

Their [the Jesus Seminar’s] reasoning goes something like this: It's impossible for the Gospels to be historically accurate, because they record things that simply can't happen, like dead people coming alive again and food multiplying--miracles, in other words. We live in a closed universe of natural order, with God (if there is a God) locked out of the system. If miracles can't happen, then the reports in the New Testament must be fabrications. Therefore, the Gospels are not historical.

Further, if miracles can't happen, then prophecy (a kind of miraculous knowledge) can't happen. The Gospels report that Jesus prophesied the fall of Jerusalem. Therefore, they could not have been written early, but after the invasion of Titus of Rome in 70 A.D. In addition, they could not have been written by eye-witnesses, as the early church Fathers claimed.

Notice that the Jesus Seminar doesn't start with historical evidence; it starts with presuppositions, assumptions it makes no attempt to prove. This is not history; it's philosophy, specifically, the philosophy of naturalism.

Unmaking-over Mary

Lastly for some reason there seems to have been a push to make Mary less iconic, to the extreme. We have Mary aged into a very haggard, old woman with graying frazzled hair and scares on her face. We are informed by a voice over that woman usually lived into their 40s and this was considered very old, and that man might live to their 50s. Hence we have a very unflattering, scraggly, dirty woman who in fact actually sticks out of the crowd as being especially ugly instead of showing her as a more common person (as we are led to believe the producers were attempting to convey.) Why this need to make her almost repulsive?

Your Truth, Your Mary

One line at the end was telling “for many people their Mary will always be …” their Mary, as if there was not actual Mary, or the actual Mary doesn’t matter. I suppose it’s kind of like ‘their truth’ absurd.

Also not at all mentioned is the discourse at the Wedding in Cana.

While the Catholic tendency to over glorify and raise up Mary disturbs me, there is no reason what so ever to treat her the way this documentary did. We are told “Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the fruit of your womb!” Mary disserves at the least, our respect.


At February 20, 2006 6:23 PM, Blogger J. B. Hood said...


Thanks for the breakdown.
I posted recently on Mary and the genealogy of Jesus, and the German "enlightened, liberal scholarship" that resulted in exegetical support the holocaust; check it out at www.gospelofmatthew.blogspot.com.


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