The Historical Virgin Mary – II

In chapter 6 of his book What Have They Done with Jesus? Dr. Ben Witherington continues his discussion of the historical Mary, mother of Jesus. In general this is a harmonizing account based on all sources combined, though primarily it works from John and Mark.

I have already discussed the issues I have with this approach to establishing the historicity of the specific material, so I will continue simply looking at the general outline Witherington is producing of Mary.

He begins with he wedding at Cana, which he concludes is not the wedding of Jesus himself, which is probably a good conclusion, assuming the story is accurate as told in John. He also cites a number of incidents showing that Mary did not become a disciple until the crucifixion. He also finds no basis for the idea of the the perpetual virginity of Mary. He believes that the brothers and sisters of Jesus were indeed blood half-brothers and sisters.

There are two very interesting sidelines. First, Dr. Witherington says of the beloved disciple and Mary beneath the cross that “[w]e may perhaps also see a symbolic foreshadowing here of the equaity of man and woman beneath the cross” (p. 127). If it was anything but the gospel of John I would think he was reaching, but this is precisely the sort of symbolism that one finds throughout the Johannine narratives.

Second, Witherington includes Revelation 12:1-6, the woman clothed with the sun, under references to Mary in the New Testament, but he sees the possibility in the symbolism of a reference to Mary’s activities here on earth, and not to her position in heaven. It’s quite worthwhile reading this section in particular. (I have previously written about Dr. Witherington’s commentary on Revelation, which I believe is the best currently available for the non-scholar.)

I am generally less optimistic about the historicity of particular narratives, but nonetheless I found these two chapters on Mary fascinating and helpful.

The next section discusses “the disciple whom Jesus loved.”

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