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17. Mary, mother of Jesus
17-1 Mary: Our Representative || 17-2 Mary’s Character: 17-2-1 The Loneliness Of Mary || 17-2-2 The Spiritual Ambition Of Mary || 17-2-3 Hannah And Mary || 17-2-4 A Bible Mind: Mary And The Magnificat || 17-2-5 The Faith Of Mary || 17-2-6 Mary And The Virgin Of Isaiah 7 || 17-2-7 The Humility Of Mary || 17-3 Mary In Crisis: 17-3-1 Mary’s Crisis Of Faith || 17-3-2 Mary And Jesus In The Temple || 17-3-3 Mary At Cana || 17-3-4 Mary And Her Other Children || 17-3-5 Mary In Mid-Life Crisis || 17-3-6 The Jesus-Mary Relationship || 17-4 Mary’s Victory: 17-4-1 Mary At The Cross || 17-4-2 The Influence Of Mary || 17-4-3 The Psychological Matrix Of Jesus

17-2-4 A Bible Mind: Mary And The The Magnificat

Mary’s Bible minded-ness was really quite something. The Greek word translated “ponder” (Lk. 2:19) comes from syn, “with”, and ballein , “to throw”, as if she combined Scripture with her experience of life, seeking to find her place in the mass of OT allusion and teaching which she was being presented with. Her every phrase has multiple allusions to Scripture, which in itself indicates a fair level of intelligence to think on so many levels simultaneously. In Lk. 2:51 it is recorded that she “kept these sayings”. It could be that she had pondered from the LXX of Gen. 37:11 how Jacob “observed” (s.w.) the saying of Joseph / Jesus, and therefore felt that she too must meditate on all the words associated with her Son. She speaks in Lk. 1:55 Gk. of “the seed of him”- she understood the seed of Abraham to be Messiah, her son, and makes many references and allusions to the promises to Abraham. She had clearly reflected upon her ‘first principles’.  

Hannah’s song was clearly a major influence in the mind of Mary. But there are some background similarities as well as the verbal ones. The LXX of 1 Sam. 1:18 [not the Hebrew text] speaks of Elkanah and Hannah staying in a katalyma on their journey to Shiloh- the very word used of the “inn” in whose stable Mary had to stay. If we ask why Mary based her song so heavily on that of Hannah, we find a clue in considering how she was greeted by the Angel as “favoured” (Lk. 1:28). The Greek kecharitomene virtually translates the Hebrew name ‘Hannah’. The record is written in Greek, but Mary was a Jewess and spoke Aramaic and Hebrew; and probably the Angel spoke to her in those languages. So the link would have been all the stronger- ‘Hail, Hannah-like one’. And this set the mind of Mary thinking about Hannah, and in the days between hearing these words and meeting Elisabeth, Mary had perceived the similarities between her position and that of Hannah. She allowed the spirit of Hannah to genuinely become hers, in perceptive obedience to the Angel’s bidding. She came to share God’s perception of her as a woman like Hannah. ‘Hannah’ comes from the Hebrew root hnn – favour. Mary is told that she has been favoured / ‘Hannah-ed’ by God (Lk. 1:30)- as if to lead her to see the similarities between her and Hannah. And she responds magnificently, by alluding to Hannah’s song so closely. Tragically as we shall see, she later came to be more influenced by the world’s perception of both herself and her Son. The theme of joy is very great in her song- again, because she was obedient to the greeting “Hail!”, literally, ‘rejoice!’. The points of connection between the songs of Hannah and Mary's Magnificat are really quite detailed: 

1 Samuel     Luke / Magnificat

1:3           1:7

1:18         :38

“              :30

2:1           :46

1:11         :48

2:2           :49

2:4           :51

:3             :51

:4             :52

:8             :52

:5             :53

:10           :69

:26           2:52

:10 anointed LXX “His Christ”- the first occurrence of ‘Messiah’ in the O.T. 

And there are plenty of allusions in the Magnificat to other parts of Scripture and well known Apocryphal writings, especially the Psalms, which Mary evidently had committed to memory: 

My soul proclaims the greatness of the Lord,

And my spirit has found gladness in God my Saviour;

Ps 35:9

Then my soul will find gladness in the Lord;

It will take pleasure in His salvation. 

I Sam 2: 1-2 (Hannah’s hymn):

My heart is strengthened in the Lord;

My horn is exalted in my God…

I delight in your salvation. 

Hab. 3: 18 (Habakkauk’s hymn):

I shall find gladness in the Lord;

I shall rejoice in God my Savior.

Because He has regarded the low estate of His handmaid-

I Sam 1:11 (Hannah praying for a child):

O Lord of Hosts, if you will look on the low estate of your handmaid,

Gen 29:32 (Leah after childbirth):

Because the Lord has regarded my low estate.

4 Ezra 9:45 (Zion speaking as a barren woman):

God heard you’re your handmaid and regarded my low estate,

And considered my distress and gave me a son.

For behold, henceforth all generation will call me fortunate-

Gen 30:13 (Leah after childbirth):

Fortunate am I, for all women call me fortunate.

Because He who is mighty has done great things for me.

Deut. 10:21 (Moses to Israel):

He is your God who has done great things in you.

Zeph. 3:17:

The Lord your God is in you,

A Mighty One will save you.

And holy is His Name,

Ps. 111:9:

Holy and awesome is His name.

And His mercy is from generation to generation

On those who fear Him.

Ps 103:17:

But the mercy of the Lord is from everlasting to everlasting

Upon those who fear Him.

Psalms of Solomon 13:11:

His mercy upon those who fear Him.

He his shown His strength with His arm;

He has scattered the proud in the imagination of their hearts.

He has put down the mighty from their thrones

and has exalted those of low degree.

He has filled the hungry with good things,

and the rich He has sent away empty.

I Sam 2:7-8 (Hannah’s hymn):

The Lord makes poor and makes rich:

He reduces to lowliness and he lifts up.

He lifts the needy from the earth,

and from the dung heap He raises up the poor

to seat them with the mighty,

making them inherit a throne of glory.

Ps. 89:11(10- a hymn praising God’s action for the Davidic king):

You have reduced the proud to lowliness like a wounded thing:

And by your powerful arm you have scattered your enemies.

Sirach 10:14:

He has put down the thrones of princes

And has seated the humble before them.

Job 12:19:

He has overthrown the mighty.

1QM xiv 10-11:

You have raised the fallen by your strength,

And have cut down the high and mighty.

Ezek 21:31 LXX (26 Heb.):

Having reduced the proud to lowliness,

and having exalted the man of low degree.

Ps 107:9:

He has filled the soul of the hungry with good things.

He has helped His servant Israel

in remembrance of His mercy,

as He spoke unto our fathers,

to Abraham and his posterity forever.

Isa. 41:8-9:

You, O Israel,

My servant Jacob whom I chose,

Seed of Abraham whom I loved,

Whom I have helped from the ends of the earth.

Ps. 98:3:

He has remembered His mercy to Jacob

And His goodness to the House of Israel.

Psalms of Solomon 10:4:

And the Lord will remember His servants in mercy.

Micah 7:20:

You will give truth to Jacob and mercy to Israel,

As you have sworn to our fathers from days of old.

2 Sam. 22:51 (David’s hymn at the end of his life)

Showing mercy to His anointed one,

To David and his posterity forever.

And a few more:   


1:47 = Gen. 21:6

1:48 = Ps. 138:6 LXX; Gen. 30:13

1:49 = Ps. 126:2,3; 111:9

1:50 = Gen. 17:7

1:51 = Ps. 118:14,15

Yet despite all this undoubted spiritual perception in the Magnificat, she didn’t have totally pure understanding. It seems that her allusion in Lk. 1:52 to Ez. 21:26 [the mighty being put down from their thrones and the humble one exalted] that she thought that Ezekiel’s prophesy about Messiah’s restoration of the Kingdom had already been fulfilled in her conception of Jesus. It could be that she was so sure that her child would one day do this that she saw the time of the coming of “Him whose right it is” as being right there and then; and yet we know that it is in fact still future. Likewise “How shall this be, seeing I know not a man?” may imply [although not necessarily- see later] that she hadn’t grasped the implications that Messiah must be the result of a virgin birth, as per Is. 7:14. Yet for all this, she still had acceptability before God, and the required spiritual ambition to be Messiah’s mother. 

All these wonderful observations about Mary could lead us to think that she was some head in the clouds fanatic. But it seems to me she wasn't. It has been commented that there was at that time in Palestine a reluctance amongst young women to marry. The school of Hillel was quite popular, whereby a woman could be divorced for very petty things (see Ketuboth 7.6; Gittin 9.10). The fact she wanted to get married when many other girls didn't reflects not only on Joseph's good character, but also indicates that she wanted to marry. She wasn't a white faced nun who wanted nothing more than to be hidden away with her scrolls. She wanted to marry, and willingly went along therefore with the arranged marriage that presumably she was involved with rather than delaying it.

Mary And God Manifestation

The Magnificat Mary had a fair appreciation of God’s Names, in that she refers to Him as “He that is mighty”, interpreting for us the Old Testament idea of El Shaddai, the God of fruitfulness [Heb. shad = ‘breast’]. Note how neither Mary nor the NT writers transfer the OT Hebrew titles of God, e.g. ‘Yahweh’, rather they interpret them. She sees her conception of the Son of God as an example of how “holy is His Name” (Lk. 1:49). The Lord Himself understood that “Hallowed be Thy Name” is to be paralleled with the Father’s will being done. The Name of God speaks of His actions; because He is who He is, He will articulate this in how He acts. This is why all His actions are understandable and broadly predictable in terms of the basic characteristics that comprise His Name. The Name is not just a word, a lexical item. And Mary perceived all this- that the Holy Name of Jehovah was to be manifested ultimately and supremely in the Son she would bear. For this is the climax of God manifestation. Because “Holy is His Name”, she would bear a “holy thing” that manifested that Name. There is in Hebrew an ‘intensive plural’, whereby the plural form is used to reflect the greatness of a singular thing. Thus ‘Jehovah Elohim’, Jehovah who will be mighty ones, can be read as a specific prophecy of His definitive revelation in the ‘mighty one’ of His Son. And could it be that Mary grasped all this? I for one think she did.  

My soul doth magnify the Lord” (Lk. 1:46) is alluded to by Paul, when he uses the same Greek word in Phil. 1:2: “Christ shall be magnified in my body / soul”. If this is a valid allusion, then " the Lord" is a reference to Jesus. In Lk. 1:43 Elisabeth had just described Jesus as " my Lord" . And then Mary in v. 46 parallels " the Lord" with " God my saviour / my Jesus" . She understood how God was to be manifest in Jesus, as she parallels " my soul" with " my spirit" . It's amazing that an illiterate teenager should have risen to such heights of understanding, probably without learning much at all from the local synagogue.