Biblical Meditations—Mary a widow?

Scot McKnight says in his book that the officially established church tradition holds Mary to be a widow (The Blue Parakeet, 177).

Actually, it’s debatable in the Syriac textual tradition that Mary was even, err, married.

In fact, Fr. Brown notes that there exist textual discrepancies in some areas of the birth narrative, alternative renderings in the Syriac text indicate Mary and Joseph were betrothed but not necessarily married. One such reading for Matthew 1:16 reads, “Joseph, to whom the virgin Mary was betrothed, was the father of Jesus” (The Birth of the Messiah, 62). On Matthew 1:19, Fr. Brown comments that “since Joseph and Mary have taken the first step in the matrimonial procedure…they are truly ‘husband’ and ‘wife’” (125). He also notes that there exist variants on the textual translation on Matthew 1:16 insisting on Mary as Joseph’s betrothed and that the terms “husband” and “wife” are a no-show in the Lukan narrative (125). On 1:24, Brown notes that “The Syriac translator…has ‘Mary your betrothed’” (129).

The Syriac text would therefore seem to support the theory that Mary and Joseph were engaged but when she bore Jesus, Joseph considered her so holy that they both completely broke off the engagement altogether. Joseph would therefore have been mistakenly considered Jesus’s father by some and when Matthew writes of Joseph as the father of Jesus (1:16) or as the carpenter’s son (13:55), he is probably expressing this cultural mistake that people made.

A further mistake McKnight makes is that he assumes Mary was the biological mother of the author of James! I have already commented on the perpetual virginity of Mary in the past and won’t do that here but to comment, why does McKnight think that John had to take care of Mary in place of James (John 19:28)? It seems a little strange that Jesus would have asked John and not his biological brother James to take care of Mary in this cultural setting if James was his biological brother. If he had biological brothers, they would have been apostates and turned on Jesus (Matt. 13:55-57) which is something observed in passages used to “prove” that Mary had intercourse with Joseph after giving birth to Jesus. If they were apostates, then John would be the only one left to take care of Mary as they’ve now all turned on Mary. But the author of James was not an apostate and therefore, is presumably not a biological brother of Jesus.

Was Mary a widow? My Mariology tends to lean Catholic having been influenced quite a bit by Mother’s theological reflections but I can most assuredly testify, McKnight’s Mariology is a fiction.

About Emperor Thomas I

Catholic monarch of the New Roman Coalition. Consecrated to the Apostle Thomas, the Holy Martyr Sigismund, and the Holy Martyr Olaf II.
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