The story goes that in the sixth month, an angel, Gabriel was sent by God to visit a young woman in Nazareth who had never laid with a man. Her name was Mary and she was promised in marriage to Joseph who was a descendant of King David. And so the angel approached Mary and spoke to her, telling her not to be afraid, that she has found favor with God and would bear a Son.
That child would be given the name Jesus and would become known as the son of God. Upon hearing this, Mary asked how such a thing could happen when she had never slept with any man. The angel replied that the Holy Spirit would come upon her that the power of the Most High would cover her. To this, Mary answered that she was willing to be a vessel for the Lord.
And that is how the Virgin Mary became one of the most revered figures in both Christianity and Islam (with slight differences). However, there are a couple of surprising facts about the Virgin Mary that would shock even the most knowledgeable Christian historian. Here are a few of them.
1. She Was Very Likely a Teenager When She Gave Birth To Jesus
Most Christian historians theorize that Mary was around 15 – 16 years old when she gave birth to Christ. Jewish customs at the time prescribed that girls as young as 12 could be engaged and it was therefore a common occurrence in those days.
However, despite her young age, she was spiritually mature as evidenced by the angels reference to her as being ”highly favored”. Another allusion to this is her response to being told that she would be the mother of Jesus – hers was a reply of faith and obedience as she proclaimed herself to be the Lord’s servant in full acceptance of his will.
2. Mary Was the Only Person Present at Both the Beginning and End of Jesus’ Life
Several verses state that Jesus’ mother, together with his mother’s sister and Mary Magdalene, stood by the cross on the day of his crucifixion. She was a mother to him throughout his entire life.
3. The Perpetual Virginity of Mary?
Catholics believe the Virgin Mary remained a virgin even after Jesus’ birth. Protestants on the other hand contend that Mary had four other children after Jesus, namely James, Judas, Joseph and Simon. This article about the Virgin Mary, points to the existence of this divide between the two branches more clearly.
So who is right? The Protestant notion is backed up by several scriptures that state that Joseph did not consummate his marriage until Mary had given birth to Jesus. They emphasize the word until to show that her virginity only lasted up until the birth of Christ. Other verses mention the brothers by name.
The Catholic doctrine of perpetual virginity is not directly supported by the bible. What they do refer to in order to verify their claim is a historical document known as the Protoevangelium of James which teaches that Joseph had to respect the sanctity of Mary’s virginity.
Furthermore they insist that Mary had to lead a life in service to the Lord at the temple after giving birth to Jesus, just as Anna the Prophetess had done. This, in the Catholic view means that Mary would not have been able to live a normal child bearing life. As such, they explain away the protestant view by postulating that the brothers were actually step brothers; children of Joseph and not Mary’s. The Protestant position is definitely the stronger, more justifiable one.
Despite her central role in Jesus’ life, not much is known about the Virgin Mary. However, she is still the pre-eminent saint of the Roman Catholic church and as of late, even the Protestants have begun to place her in a more elevated position though still not as high as other branches of Christianity.