A Study on the Birth of Jesus Christ

Luke Chapter 1, Verses 26-28

Please return to the main page of this study for the introduction and other verses.

By Mary E. Stephens
Sept. 2014

Luke 1:26-27 And in the sixth month the angel Gabriel was sent from God unto a city of Galilee, named Nazareth, To a virgin espoused to a man whose name was Joseph, of the house of David; and the virgin's name was Mary.

According to the 1828 Webster's Dictionary, "espoused" can mean several different things. In this passage it is assumed to mean "betrothed."  Of the three definitions that apply, this one seems to be the most likely, "To betroth; to promise or engage in marriage, by contract in writing, or by some pledge; as, the king espoused his daughter to a foreign prince. Usually and properly followed by to, rather than with." Of course, I say this because the "to" is used in this passage as is indicated in the definition.

One of the common claims is that Mary was probably only a little girl of 12-14 years old. The reason given for this is that it was "common custom" in those days to marry girls off that young. It is also suggested by some that Joseph must have been much older than she was because he appears to have died early. There is no mention of him after Jesus was 12 years old. These are both assumptions.

I don't think we can determine Joseph's age, but I think it is not likely that Mary was as young as some people represent her.

First of all, while I realize that Joseph and Mary were already espoused - but not officially married - I find it interesting that her parents don't even get an honorable mention here. We're not introduced to her as "Mary the daughter of _________".  Added to that, Mary gets a lot more "press" than even Joseph does, especially in this passage. If Mary was just a little 12 to 14 year old girl betrothed to marry an older man, that seems a little bit odd. In such a case her parents would have still held a large place in her life because Joseph hadn't taken her yet, Matthew 1:18-20.

Some people might like to use this to show that a girl/woman belongs to her husband-to-be immediately upon betrothal/espousal, but that doesn't exactly make sense. When a young lady is promised in marriage, but not yet taken, and is still in her father's home, she must be in a situation of being answerable to both men for a time of transition. Assuming Mary was only 12-13 years old, she would surely have been living with parents or guardians still. One would expect that either Mary's father or Joseph would have been the main character being dealt with by God, and yet neither one is. That is a very interesting point and makes it hard for me to believe that she was that young. The fact that God deals directly with her and there is no mention of her father makes it seem likely that she was a good bit older than that, especially since in v. 39 she apparently travels by herself to see her cousin, Elisabeth.

Another reason I don't believe Mary was such a young girl is because in Mark chapter 5 we meet Jairus who came to Jesus pleading with Him to heal his daughter. In Mark 5:23 we read, And besought him greatly, saying, My little daughter lieth at the point of death: I pray thee, come and lay thy hands on her, that she may be healed; and she shall live. Jesus went to the house and raised the girl from the dead, and in vs. 41-42 the scripture says,  And he took the damsel by the hand, and said unto her, Talitha cumi; which is, being interpreted, Damsel, I say unto thee, arise.  And straightway the damsel arose, and walked; for she was of the age of twelve years. And they were astonished with a great astonishment. 

First, it is just my observation that a man who expected to marry his daughter off in a year or less just might not be calling her his "little daughter" at age 12. I realize that emotions could be blamed for his use of this expression, but somehow it just doesn't ring true. But, more than that, the word "Talitha" is thought to be a diminutive word meaning "little girl", as opposed to a young woman. We might infer from this that Jesus also did not consider her a young woman of marriageable age.

Which leads to another point which I think is even more important. Just because something is the "common custom" of a given era, it does not follow that all those who love God and follow His word will be doing that thing. Imagine if this earth went on another 2000 years and much of our present history was lost along the way. Some "scholar" who was supposedly "in the know" might portray us all as having tattoos because "it was the common custom" of that day. And, yet, would that be true? No! Certainly not. Some of us don't have tattoos for Biblical reasons, in fact. Mary and Joseph both were obviously people who loved the Lord and followed His commandments. It is even likely that Mary was raised by parents who loved God. They would not follow the customs of the day just because that is what everyone else was doing - even if the "good, godly" folks at the synagogue thought it was fine. There were a lot of things the "good, godly" people of their day were doing that Jesus later rebuked!

Furthermore, we know that the early Christians in the Roman Empire did not typically practice early marriage for their young girls.  n his book, The Book that Made Your World, Vishal Mangalwadi writes (p. 284), "Christians also expressed their respect for women by raising the age of marriage. Roman law established twelve as the minimum age at which girls could marry. But the law was nothing more than a recommendation...and was routinely ignored. The best available studies show that in the Roman Empire the pagans' daughters were three times more likely than Christians to marry before they were thirteen. By age eleven, 10 percent were wed. Nearly half (44 percent) of the pagan girls were married off by the time they were fourteen, compared to 20 percent of the Christians. In contrast, nearly half (48 percent) of the Christian females did not marry before they were eighteen."

My point is that the people Mary was associated with - Zacharias, Elisabeth and Joseph - were all godly people who loved the Lord. Mary herself was obviously a godly woman. It is possible that Joseph and Mary had been betrothed when she younger, but he had not taken her yet, and based on some of the other things I've already mentioned, it seems more than likely that she was older than the legendary 12-13 years at the time this account opens.

My last reason for not believing that Mary was a little 12-13 year old girl is that it is not physically safe for a girl that young to have children. If no one else was watching out for Mary's safety you can count on the fact that God was! My loving, kind heavenly Father would not impregnate a girl that young and physically immature. He just wouldn't do it. He is not that kind of God. That kind of behavior is found in gods in other religions, but not in God Almighty, the Faithful and True. Of Him it is said,  He shall feed his flock like a shepherd: he shall gather the lambs with his arm, and carry them in his bosom, and shall gently lead those that are with young. Isaiah 40:11 If there is no other reason to know that Mary was not that young it is this. The God we know and trust simply wouldn't do that to one of His daughters. (Yes, men might do this; men who professed to fear God might do this; but remember that in this case God was the one calling the shots, fulfilling the prophecy, and ordering every event. He was fully in charge in a way we don't always see when He's dealing with sinful men.)

Luke 1:28 And the angel came in unto her, and said, Hail, thou that art highly favoured, the Lord is with thee: blessed art thou among women.  

Again, Mary was blessed among women, which might be taken to indicate that God didn't view her as a young girl either.

This salutation is partially used for the prayer called "Hail, Mary" which the Roman Catholic church uses for ritualistic, vain repetition prayer. The prayer goes as follows:

Hail Mary,
Full of Grace,
The Lord is with thee.
Blessed art thou among women,
and blessed is the fruit
of thy womb, Jesus.
Holy Mary,
Mother of God,
pray for us sinners now,
and at the hour of death.

In the first place we're never told in scripture the pray to Mary. Jesus clearly told us to a pray to our Father in heaven, and to ask in His name.

Matthew 6:6 ...pray to thy Father which is in secret...
Matthew 6:9 After this manner therefore pray ye: Our Father which art in heaven...
Luke 11:2 ...When ye pray, say, Our Father...
John 15:16 ...that whatsoever ye shall ask of the Father in my name, he may give it you.

We don't find the believers in the New Testament praying to anyone else either. They certainly could have prayed directly to Mary in the upper room when they were gathered there (Acts 1:13-14), yet there's no indication that she was esteemed among the early disciples over others except to mention that she was the mother of Jesus, which is honor enough.

Secondly, I don't recall any mention of Mary being "full of grace." I think this is used in this Roman Catholic prayer because they believe Mary to be a "dispenser of graces," and attaining "graces" through "means of grace" is an important part of their works based salvation. After the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ, and after the Holy Ghost was given to indwell every believer, Mary could have been "full of grace" to the extent that any believer might be, but not more.  

The Lord was with her. That is a phrase that actually is from scripture. She also was blessed among women; but let's be clear that she was not blessed above women! The Catholic church has definitely raised her to a position above women which is not biblical.

The fruit of her womb in the person of Jesus Christ was also blessed, and this also comes from Elisabeth's greeting of Mary later in Luke 1:42. Interestingly, though, the rest of the fruit of her womb - her other children whom she had with Joseph - were not blessed except in as much as they believed on the Lord Jesus Christ. The Catholic church has, at least in the past, denied that there were any other children, and involved with this there has arisen the doctrine of Mary as a "perpetual Virgin" or "ever Virgin." This belief is part of the cult of the Virgin Mary which has been one of the great heresies of the Roman church. Mary was not a perpetual virgin. The scripture clearly tells us that Jesus had brothers and sisters, and they were clearly not his disciples.  Matthew 13:55-56 Is not this the carpenter's son? is not his mother called Mary? and his brethren, James, and Joses, and Simon, and Judas? And his sisters, are they not all with us? Whence then hath this man all these things?

Next is the problem of the title "Holy Mary." Well, was she holy? No, we read in Luke 1:46-47, And Mary said, My soul doth magnify the Lord, And my spirit hath rejoiced in God my Saviour. She needed a Saviour just like the rest of us. Romans 3:23 For all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God; The thing that was done in her was holy, being the person of the Son of God, but that did not make her holy. She was later made holy in as much as any believer is made holy, through faith in Jesus Christ and the salvation He purchased at Calvary for all who believe.

She was also NOT the "Mother of God." Elisabeth says in Luke 1:43, And whence is this to me, that the mother of my Lord should come to me? Please note that she uses the word "Lord", not God. The Lord Jesus Christ is certainly the Son of God and He is God in the flesh, but Mary was not and is not "the Mother of God" in the broad sense of the term. This mistake undoubtedly springs from the Babylonish influences that are present in the teachings of the Roman Catholic church which correlate with the mother-child cult (in which a goddess annually gives birth to a child god - the sun god - in December, and he annually dies in the summer or autumn). [Please see Babylon Mystery Religion by Ralph Woodrow or The Two Babylons by Alexander Hislop for further details on that.]

Lastly, Mary does not pray for us now nor in the hour of our death. There are only two who are said in scripture to pray for us in such a divine manner and that is Jesus Christ and the Holy Spirit. 
Romans 8:26 Likewise the Spirit also helpeth our infirmities: for we know not what we should pray for as we ought: but the Spirit itself maketh intercession for us with groanings which cannot be uttered.
Romans 8:34 Who is he that condemneth? It is Christ that died, yea rather, that is risen again, who is even at the right hand of God, who also maketh intercession for us.

Furthermore, there is only one who has a supernatural mediator role and that is the Lord Jesus Christ Himself. 

1 Timothy 2:5 For there is one God, and one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus;

Mary is not a "co-mediatrix." She is not in heaven praying on our behalf to her Son who then goes to God and asks favors for us, as has been taught by the Roman Church. God is not a big ogre who can only be handled by His Son or by Mary. He desires us to pray to Him directly because He loves us. John 16:26-27 At that day ye shall ask in my name: and I say not unto you, that I will pray the Father for you: For the Father himself loveth you, because ye have loved me, and have believed that I came out from God. In other words, we are not obligated to only go to Jesus with our petitions because God doesn't want to hear from us. The Father loves us and wants to hear from his own children.

We may safely conclude that the exaltation that the Roman Catholic church gives to Mary in her role as the mother of the Lord Jesus is far beyond anything that God ever allowed her. In fact, it is nothing short of idolatry. If Mary were to know of it, it would surely grieve her heart. Even on this earth when she sought her Son to do a miracle at the marriage in Cana we read, His mother saith unto the servants, Whatsoever he saith unto you, do it. John 2:5 She would want the same thing today - for all mankind to do what Jesus told us!

1 John 5:21 Little children, keep yourselves from idols. Amen.

Return to the main page to continue the study.


Background and graphics by Mary Stephens
except where noted
Updated 2019