Women in the Bible: Mary, the Mother of Jesus

    When I think of Mary, my view is a little skewed–I always picture her as an adult woman. One thing that makes Mary’s story a remarkable one is her faith, but some things that typically get overlooked make Mary’s story even more remarkable than we often realize.

    Traditionally, Jewish girls were engaged between the ages of 12 and 14 to their future husbands, meaning that Mary probably wasn’t older than 14 when she conceived Jesus by the Holy Spirit. Jewish engagements lasted one year and then the marriage took place, but even during the engagement, the girl was called her fiancé’s wife and adulterous conduct could be punished by death.

    We often read Mary’s story and think that she had such great faith because she found favor with God and was willing to experience the cultural shame of being pregnant before she and Joseph married, but there is much more to Mary.

    And Mary said, “Behold, the bondslave of the Lord; may it be done to me according to your Word.” And the angel departed from her (Luke 1:38).

    When Mary gave this response to Gabriel, she knew that she was saying “yes” to shame for herself, her child, Joseph, and her family. Mary knew that if Joseph chose, he not only could call off their engagement, but also he could claim that she had committed adultery and have her killed or banished.

    Mary chose to have faith that God would provide for her and her baby, but she didn’t know how. Mary was a very young teenage girl–she had to be frightened to be pregnant and unmarried. Mary must have been concerned about the shame that this event could bring to her family. She had to wonder about the weight and importance of her baby and the life He would live.

    How could she, an unmarried teenager, parent the Son of Yahweh? Would Joseph stand by her? Would he leave her? If he left her, would he show her mercy? What about the birth–would it hurt? What would her parents say? Would anybody believe that she’d been visited by an angel?

    When we read Mary’s story now, we know that Joseph didn’t leave her. We assume that Mary and Joseph raised Jesus well. We know that Mary survived the birthing process. When Gabriel showed up to visit Mary, though, she didn’t know any of those answers.

    Mary rejoices in God, giving praise for His mercy, holiness, and grace. This is the response that all of us are supposed to have even in the most difficult situations, but it doesn’t mean that Mary wasn’t afraid or worried.

    For a relatively good telling of the Christmas story, pick up the movie “The Nativity Story;” for a more modern experience, take a look at “A Social Network Christmas,” below.

    Has this article given you any new insights into the Christmas story?

    When Elizabeth heard Mary’s greeting, the baby leaped in her womb; and Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit. And she cried out with a loud voice and said, “Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the fruit of your womb!” (Luke 1:41-42).

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    Jenn Arman
    Jenn Arman is a youth pastor, freelance writer and blogger. She was born in San Diego, California and raised 2 hours north east in the Inland Empire where she lives with her husband David and their cats. Jenn desires to bring glory to God and a healthy dose of reality to Christians through both writing and preaching. Visit for more on her work. You can also connect with her on and


    1. Think about how much shame and internal struggle a girl has to go thru even today, when teenage pregnancies are so common. Imagine back then, how much more. Think about it, would any of us today agree to do that with the threat of death possible looming over us? Or even now when its more common? Mary was an incredible woman.

    2. It is normal to be afraid when God has something for you to do. That’s why so many people don’t listen. The devil tells them that they are so scared that they can’t do it. You NEED faith,no matter what age.

    3. Ommm… i’m sorry, I hate to say this… but on the side… there is an add for youtube and it advertises Seventeen a nd stuff like that, and well, Seventeen magazine and such are thick as thieves with Cosmo…. just though you would like to know…

    4. I watched “The Nativity Story” on Christmas! It was an amazing, insightful movie! Even my mom said that usually movies like that kinda bores her, but the Nativity Story was SO good! Usually people think Mary is an adult woman who had no problems giving birth to Jesus, but truth is this: Mary was hardly a teenager, who would have to face shame and possible accusation of adultery and death. Joseph himself didn’t believe her at first until he had the dream. It was amazing. 😀

    5. Great article, but doesn’t it say in the Old Testament that everyone under the age of twenty is a child? Wouldn’t that then make her much older than 12 or 14 years old, considering she was called a woman?

      • As a matter of a fact, I’m pretty sure she was quite a bit older than this article implies. I have found no Biblical evidence to support the idea that girls married so young in ancient Israel. In the end, God chose the time for Jesus to be conceived and born, not man.

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