Home > Miracles, Theology, Virgin Birth > Virgin Mary’s Question – a quiz for you

Virgin Mary’s Question – a quiz for you

Here is another puzzle you may want to think about.

In Judaism in effect betrothal was already a marriage, but without moving in together. If such couples wanted to break up, they had to go through the process of divorce.

Jews take bearing children very seriously because they believe it is their duty to fulfill the command “go forth and multiply”, indeed, having less than two children is considered sin for a Jewish family. Thus, the very hope of every Jewish women is having children, a number of them.

Now, knowing this we stand perplexed at Mary’s question. Read the following:

Lk. 1:26 “In the sixth month the angel Gabriel was sent from God to a city of Galilee named Nazareth, 27 to a virgin betrothed to a man whose name was Joseph, of the house of David; and the virgin’s name was Mary.”

The angel Gabriel comes and tells her that she was going to have a child who will be a great leader. Mary’s question is the following:

Lk. 1:34 “Mary said to the angel, “How can this be, seeing I am a virgin?”"

She is asking this while having a husband! Notice, the angel didn’t tell her when she would fall pregnant. If she was betroathed to Joseph while still a child, she could have said, she was too young to fall pregnant. But no, she points to her virginity. Every Jewish women knew that they could fall pregnant from their husbands, thus, Mary’s question is extremely strange.
The solution to the answer can be found in early church history, and I provide you with a lead from the earliest gospel, Mark, that served as a template for both Matthew and Luke:

Mark 1:1 “The beginning of the gospel of Jesus Christ, the Son of God.”

Then the author goes on telling us the story of John baptising Jesus. Think about 1John 5:6 also.

What is your solution?

  1. emmadonovan
    03/04/2006 at 4:26 AM

    great post … it makes me really think about all of that. you’re awesome – keep up the great work.

  2. shohn
    14/08/2008 at 2:43 PM

    I’m not connecting the dots, but I also thought there was a betrothal period of a year or something just to make sure that the virgin being married wasn’t pregnant from another man prior to the marriage ceremony, thus I don’t see why the question is strange if it was part of the custom.

  3. hp1181
    12/09/2008 at 4:38 AM

    If I remember my professor correctly, there were several steps in the betrothal process.
    The basic betrothal can be found here: http://www.jewishencyclopedia.com/view.jsp?artid=995&letter=B but is only part of the story.
    The patriarch of the family decides when the son will take a bride (God sent Jesus to us), the deal is struck (Jesus fulfills the law, dies sinless, and raises Himself from the dead), then the son goes back to his father’s house and builds on to it (Jesus said, ‘I go to prepare you a place. . . .there are many rooms in My Father’s house), and then the father decides when the marriage is to take place (Only the Father knows)
    Until the father sends the son to get his bride she lives with her family and has no relation with him even though they are “officially” husband and wife.
    So Mary’s comments are not unusual given the circumstances surrounding HER betrothal until the angel delivers the message to her.
    Mary was a child, 13-15 y/o, when she was betrothed. Unless you mean child to mean an adolescent. Girls are women at age 12, I believe, in Jewish custom when she has a Bat Mitzvah.
    Mary’s question is perplexing at all, it is an observation by here that she has never had relations with a man, and wants to know how else such a thing could happen. The angel then goes on to esplain that the power of God will OVERSHADOW her and because of this He shall be called the Son of the Most High. She simply says, ‘Be it unto me as you have said.” Pretty brave for a little girl, not to mention the problems it could produce her being pregnant out of wedlock (since the ceremony had not yet occurred)

  4. 13/09/2008 at 2:47 AM

    Reply to shohn:
    Think about the fact that the angel didn’t tell Mary about the timing of her pregnancy. Remember that God foretold Abraham that he would give him a seed, but it didn’t happen for many years.

    Reply to hp1181:
    Through my research I found that the one year waiting period was not enforced everywhere in the land of Canaan equally. In more strict areas like Jerusalem public flogging was meted out as a punishment for breaking it, while other places would have been more liberal. The fact of a matter is I cannot recall that this waiting period was commanded in the law (I might be wrong though as my memory is nothing great :-), so it would have rather been a religious ruling. Remember Jacob marrying Leah and then marrying Rachel seven days later? What about in case of the concubines? There was no such a waiting period. I recall the story of David laying ill in bed and his subjects running up and down the country to find a beautiful woman (who would have become his concubine) to cheer him up. David didn’t wait for a year.

  5. hp1181
    14/09/2008 at 3:44 AM

    If you will go to the link in my previous comments you will see that says that betrothal is usually a one year period. However, once the contract has been drawn up it can be as short as seven days.
    Concubines did not hold the status of a wife. Solomon had a gazillion of them, and I guess that would be because he could afford them. It was foretold that they would draw him away from El-Shaddai.
    Back to the original posts question – what is it exactly?

  6. 14/09/2008 at 12:00 PM

    Of course, I did not mean that concubines had the legal standing as wives, only that there was no real biblical reason for the waiting period. If the man could take a concubine and sleep with her from day one, there was no apparent reason, apart from religious tradition perhaps derived from rulings made by religious leadership.
    The question of Mary in my opinion is striking simply because the angel gives no timing for the conception. The angel could have meant she would fall pregnant immediately or a year or two later, but Mary didn’t ask for clarification.

  7. hp1181
    15/09/2008 at 2:57 AM

    I don’t believe she needed clarification. Once she asks the question of “How?” the angel tells her. “The Spirit of the Lord shall overshadow you. . .” and then she simply takes him at his word.
    I am rather confused why this falls under the “Miracle” heading, which is what I thought the original question would have been about. Not sure what heading it would exactly fall under though.

  8. 17/09/2008 at 9:22 PM

    I’d like to point out again that there is no reference to time in the text. It could happen at that moment or two years later. Remember that God promised a seed to Abram and it was only many years later that came true:

    “1 The LORD visited Sarah as he had said, and the LORD did to Sarah as he had promised. 2 And Sarah conceived, and bore Abraham a son…” Gen 21:1-2.

    Was this another virginal conception? (This article is in this category not only because the virginal conception idea is considered a miracle, but because ancient Jews considered the conception of every legitimate child a miracle).

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