Christianity Knowledge Base

The Virgin Mary was a Jewish woman identified in the New Testament and in the Quran as the mother of Jesus through divine intervention.

She was the virgin mother of Jesus of Nazareth, who had been conceived by the Spirit of God. She was the wife of a carpenter, Joseph, son of Jacob. She was with Jesus at a wedding in Cana, and had authority over the servants there. She was often seen accompanied by the brothers of Jesus and did not have much contact with him during most of his ministry.

During the week before Jesus' death, she was seen with a group of women associated with the disciples, including her sister-in-law, Mary, wife of Clopas. As He was dying on the cross, Jesus commended her into the care of John, his dearest friend from among the disciples.

She became a member of the first assembly of believers in Jerusalem during John's tenure there along with the other apostles. Her son James[1] became the leader of that large assembly[2].


Early Life and Family[]

Mary was born in the Roman province of Judea, during the reign of Augustus, first emperor of Rome. She was a relative of Elizabeth,[3] a Levite of the house of Aaron.[4] In some way, then, her heritage was linked to the Levites, the priestly class of the Jews. It is not clear whether this was through her mother or father, but the inclusion of two genealogies for Jesus strongly suggests a "legal" line and a blood relationship. For Jesus to be the promised "Son of David," one of those genealogies logically must be for Mary.

Luke, in his detailed account, gives a genealogy all the way back to Adam. In those details, he is clear to point out Jesus "being (as was supposed) the son of Joseph" was descended from Heli (Eli). In Matthew's account, Joseph is stated to be the "husband of Mary" and that Jacob begat him. In Luke's account, the lineage goes back to Nathan rather than to Solomon (the chosen son). In this way, Jesus is separate from the cursed line of Jeconiah (aka Jehoiachin). Not having Joseph's seed, Jesus had a legal right to a throne that had been lost. This leaves very real possibility that Eli was Mary's father.

Mary is said to have a "sister" by the name of Mary, "she who was of Clopas[5]." This "Mary of Clopas" is most likely his wife. Since Mary (Heb: Myriam) was a common name, but hardly shared by blood relations, this "sister" was most likely Mary's sister-in-law. If Clopas (=Heb: Khalphi; Gr: Alphaeus?) were Mary's brother, then the Apostle James the Less (and maybe Matthew as well), could have been her nephews.

Mother of the Messiah[]

At a young age, Mary became engaged to be married to a carpenter named Joseph, son of Jacob, in the town of Nazareth. Before they could be married, Gabriel, an angel sent by God, appeared to her and announced that she would bear a child that would be conceived by the Spirit of God. This child was to rule the people of God.[6] Gabriel also told her that her close relative Elizabeth, though old, was to also bear a child. Due to this, she traveled to Judea to visit Elizabeth. When she arrived, John, the child in Elizabeth's womb, jumped and Elizabeth realized that Mary was blessed because of her yet "invisible" child that she was carrying.[7] Having heard Elizabeth's words, Mary worshiped God in song. After staying with Elizabeth for three months she returned home to Nazareth.[8]

When Caesar Augustus ordered a census to be taken in all the provinces of Rome, all inhabitants were required to register in their home districts. During this time Mary and her betrothed went down to Bethlehem to register for the census.[9] By the time they arrived at Bethlehem, the time for Marry to give birth to Jesus had come. Therefore she gave birth to her son, wrapping him in binding strips and placing him in an available manger (feeding trough).[10]

A week later, Mary presented Jesus to be circumcised and named according to the name given to Joseph by the angel: Jesus (meaning either "He saves" or "Yah saves")[11]. After another 32 days, having fulfilled the law concerning her 40 days of purification[12], she returned to a temporary home in Bethlehem.

Sometimes later, after several magi came by with gifts for Jesus[13], Joseph was warned in a dream that Herod was jealous[14]. Joseph and Mary, with the child, fled to Egypt for a time. After Herod the Great was dead, the family returned to Nazareth where the family re-established itself[15].

When Jesus was twelve, Mary would discover his potential as a leader and teacher. She "lost" her firstborn son for a few days when he stayed behind in the temple after the yearly pilgrimage to Jerusalem had ended[16].

As Jesus grew, Mary was there by his side. At some point, her husband Joseph died, for during Jesus' ministry he is not mentioned[17]. It is probable that she remained a widow, under the care of Jesus as he carried on Joseph's work as a carpenter. At the beginning of her son's ministry she served as mistress of a wedding party in Cana, telling the servants there to do as Jesus commanded of them[18].

Disciple of Jesus[]

Mostly in the background for much of her son's earthly ministry, Mary was one of the few that stayed near him when he was dying on the cross. As he was dying, Jesus put his mother under the care of his best friend, John. After he died, she followed the faithful followers who had taken his body for quick burial[19].

Having seen where Jesus was buried, she and the other women prepared spices to anoint the body, but did not venture out on the Sabbath day[20]. When they arrived early on the first day of the week, they found that the heavy stone had been rolled out of the way to reveal an empty grave. To their astonishment, two angels declared that Jesus had been raised from the dead. When they ran to tell the disciples, they were laughed at[21].

However, after having seen and talked to their risen Savior, they watched as he ascended into heaven. He had given them instructions to go into Jerusalem and await the promised coming of the Holy Spirit[22]. There, on the day of Pentecost, Mary and the other disciples experienced the Spirit of God -- not as a dove, but as fire and wind[23]. From that point on, Mary accompanied John as she would her own son.


The fact that Mary's death is not recorded in the Acts or the epistles is not unusual, for not many deaths are recorded. All that is known from the record is that Jesus turned the care of his mother over to John, the beloved disciple.

The level of detail in Luke's gospel surrounding not only the birth of, but also the annunciation of the nature of the pregnancy, indicates that the evangelist interviewed Mary in the process of writing the gospel. Since Luke was a companion of Paul during his missionary journeys, he would have conducted interviews after the mid 40's. If this is the case, Mary lived to be at least 60 years old.

Mary's recorded "song" displays a recognition of her standing before God. She sees herself in the need of a savior, with the attitude of a servant to her master. She understands God to be both judge of the proud and provider for the weak[24]. For much of her life she demonstrated a quiet dedication to her family, even to the extent of agreeing with her children against Jesus[25]. But after the Resurrection, she is found with the rest of the 120 awaiting the coming of the Holy Spirit[22].

Protestant view of Mary[]

Generally speaking, Protestants honor Mary, but do not venerate her like Catholics do. Although Protestant churches teach the Virgin Birth, most Protestants see no basis of scripture for the Perpetual Virginity of Mary or her own Immaculate Conception. Neither do they see any scriptural basis for the Assumption. These doctrines are based on New Testament Apocrypha such as the Protoevangelium of James, which Protestants do not accept. The Gospels list several brothers and sisters of Jesus, which most Protestants believe are the younger siblings of Jesus and natural born children of Mary and Joseph.

Eastern Christian view of Mary[]

Orthodox Christians use the Greek word "Theotokos" (Θεοτοκος) for Mary, which means "God-bearer" or "Birth-giver to God." and is sometimes translated as "Mother of God." Like Catholics, Orthodox Christians believe that Mary is Ever-Virgin, and accept the events chronicled in the Protoevangelium of James. Unlike Catholics, they do not believe in the Immaculate Conception of Mary. Orthodox Christians believe that the brothers and sisters of Jesus listed in the Gospels are Joseph's children from a previous marriage, again based on the Protoevangelium of James.

Orthodox Christians believe in the Dormition of the Theotokos, which is somewhat different than the Catholic doctrine of the Assumption of Mary. The Orthodox believe that Mary, after spending her life after Pentecost supporting and serving the nascent Church, became ill. The apostles, scattered throughout the world, are said to have been miraculously transported to be at her side when she died. The sole exception was Thomas, who was characteristically late. He is said to have arrived three days after her death, and asked to see her grave so that he could bid her goodbye. When they arrived, her body was gone, leaving a sweet fragrance. An apparition is said to have confirmed that Christ had taken her body to heaven after her soul and reunited them, as a foretaste of the general resurrection to come. This event is celebrated on August 15 ( August 28 Old Style) as the Feast of the Dormition of the Mother of God. It is preceded by a two-week fast from meat, dairy and oil.

Biblical passages about Mary, the mother of Jesus[]

  • Foretold in OT Isaiah 7:14; Micah 5:2-3
  • Conceived without sin Genesis 3:15; Luke 1:28
  • A Virgin Isaiah 7:14; Matthew 1:18-25; Luke 1:27; 34
  • Mother of God Isaiah 9:6; Matthew 1:23; Luke 1:32; 35; 43; 2:11; Galatians 4:4
  • Highly blessed Luke 1:28; 48
  • Was to suffer many sorrow Lamentations 1:12; Luke 2:34-35; 48; John 19:25
  • Meditated on Jesus' words Luke 2:51
  • Pondered events in Jesus' life Luke 2:19
  • Requested Jesus' first miracle John 2:1-12
  • Devoted herself to prayer Acts 1:14
  • Annunciation Luke 1:28
  • Blessed are you among women. Luke 1:42-48


  1. Galatians 1:19; Matthew 13:55; Mark 6:3
  2. Acts 15:13; 21:19
  3. Luke 1:36
  4. Luke 1:5
  5. John 19:25
  6. Luke 1:26-38
  7. Luke 1:39-45
  8. Luke 1:46-56
  9. Luke 2:1-5
  10. Luke 2:6-7
  11. Luke 2:21
  12. Luke 2:22-24
  13. Matthew 2:11
  14. Matthew 2:13-Matthew 2:14
  15. Matthew 2:19-23
  16. Luke 2:42-50
  17. Matthew 13:55; Mark 6:3
  18. John 2:1-5
  19. Matthew 27:59-Matthew 27:60; Luke 23:53; John 19:42
  20. Luke 23:55-56
  21. Luke 24:1-6
  22. 22.0 22.1 Acts 1:1-14
  23. Acts 2:1-3
  24. Luke 1:46-55
  25. Mark 3:21, 31


Mary, mother of God