This movie requires Flash Player 8. Download Flash Player 8

 
Doctrinal Matters: Bible Interpretation

Search :

How Were Mary and Elizabeth Related?

by  Eric Lyons, M.Min.

Q.

The New Testament contains two genealogies of Christ. Matthew recorded the genealogy of Christ from Abraham to Jesus (1:1-16), while Luke recorded Christ’s genealogy from Jesus all the way back to Adam (3:23-38). The differences in the genealogies result from the fact that Matthew gives the genealogy of Jesus through Joseph, while Luke presents the genealogy of Jesus through Mary (see Miller, 2003; cf. Luke 1:30-32). [NOTE: Luke followed the strict Hebrew tradition of mentioning only the names of males. Therefore, in Luke 3, Mary is designated by her husband’s name (see Lyons, 2003, pp. 157-159).] Still, some wonder how Mary could be a descendant of David. Skeptic Dennis McKinsey, for example, asked in his journal, Biblical Errancy, “If, using the genealogy in Luke, Jesus’s claim to descent [sic] from David, of the tribe of Judah, is through Mary rather than Joseph, then how can it be that Mary’s cousin, Elizabeth, was descended from the house of Aaron, of the tribe of Levi?” (1998, emp. added). Does Luke 1:5,36 imply that Mary could not have been a blood descendant of King David?

A.

First, the King James translation of the term syngenis as “cousin” (Luke 1:36) is unwarranted and somewhat misleading to those who normally interpret the word to mean “first cousin.” The Greek term syngenis simply means “relative” (NKJV, NASB, NIV) or “kinswoman” (ASV, RSV). It is “a general term, meaning ‘of the same family’” (Vincent, 1997). Thus, Mary and Elizabeth may have been first cousins, or they may have been fourth cousins. All we know for sure is that they were kin.

Second, Mary and Elizabeth could have been from different tribes and still have been first cousins. It may be that their mothers were sisters. Their mothers could have been from the tribe of Judah or Levi. As commentator Matthew Henry noted: “Though Elisabeth was, on the father’s side, of the daughters of Aaron (v. 5), yet on the mother’s side she might be of the house of David, for those two families often intermarried, as an earnest of the uniting of the royalty and the priesthood of the Messiah” (1997).

However Mary and Elizabeth were related, tribal heritage among the descendants of Jacob was passed down through fathers, not mothers (cf. Ruth 4:18-22); children were always of their father’s tribe, not their mother’s. Thus, Elizabeth and Mary were descendants of Aaron and David, respectively, by way of their fathers’ ancestry, and not necessarily of their mothers’.

REFERENCES

Henry, Matthew (1997), Commentary on the Whole Bible (Electronic Database: Biblesoft).

Lyons, Eric (2003), The Anvil Rings (Montgomery, AL: Apologetics Press).

McKinsey, Dennis (1998), “Tough Questions for the Christian Church,” Biblical Errancy, October, [On-line], URL: http://home.comcast.net/~errancy/issues/iss190.htm.

Miller, Dave (2003), “The Genealogies of Matthew and Luke,” [On-line], URL: http://www.apologeticspress.org/articles/1834.

Vincent, Marvin R. (1997), Word Studies in the New Testament (Electronic Database: Biblesoft).




Copyright © 2008 Apologetics Press, Inc. All rights reserved.

We are happy to grant permission for items in the "Doctrinal Matters" section to be reproduced in their entirety, as long as the following stipulations are observed: (1) Apologetics Press must be designated as the original publisher; (2) the specific Apologetics Press Web site URL must be noted; (3) the author’s name must remain attached to the materials; (4) any references, footnotes, or endnotes that accompany the article must be included with any written reproduction of the article; (5) alterations of any kind are strictly forbidden (e.g., photographs, charts, graphics, quotations, etc. must be reproduced exactly as they appear in the original); (6) serialization of written material (e.g., running an article in several parts) is permitted, as long as the whole of the material is made available, without editing, in a reasonable length of time; (7) articles, in whole or in part, may not be offered for sale or included in items offered for sale; and (8) articles may be reproduced in electronic form for posting on Web sites pending they are not edited or altered from their original content and that credit is given to Apologetics Press, including the web location from which the articles were taken.

For catalog, samples, or further information, contact:

Apologetics Press
230 Landmark Drive
Montgomery, Alabama 36117
U.S.A.
Phone (334) 272-8558

http://www.apologeticspress.org