Why did Mary stay with Elizabeth 3 months?

Discussion in 'The Gospels & Acts' started by N. Eshelman, Oct 3, 2009.

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  1. N. Eshelman

    N. Eshelman Puritan Board Senior

    In Luke 1:56 we read that Mary stayed with Elizabeth for three months and then departed to her home.

    Why does she stay for three months? Was she hiding from the law for being pregnant? Did Joseph write her off at this point?

    Any thoughts?

    Luke 1:56 "And Mary remained with her about three months and returned to her home." :think:
  2. SolaScriptura

    SolaScriptura Puritanboard Softy

    All we can do is speculate.

    But not all speculation is equally speculative.

    My guess: She went to help Elizabeth.

    Why do I suspect this? The timeline. Verse 24 says that Elizabeth went into seclusion for 5 months. Then verse 26 begins "in the 6th month" (ostensibly, coming after hearing about 5 months of seclusion, the the 6th month of Elizabeth's pregnancy - and this would seemingly be confirmed by Gabriel's words to Mary in verse 36) Gabriel makes his announcement to Mary. Verse 39, right after the dialogue concludes, says "At that time" Mary went to see Elizabeth. Then we have the whole interchange between Mary and Elizabeth, Mary's song, and then verse 56 which speaks of Mary staying "about" 3 months.

    So based on this timeline, my guess is she went there to help Elizabeth with her final trimester and perhaps the birthing issues.
  3. Puritan Sailor

    Puritan Sailor Moderator

    My first thought was that Elizabeth was the only person in the world at that time who understood what Mary was going through. Mary could tell her what happened, and Elizabeth would completely understand and not judge her. So my thinking is that she went for fellowship and consolation. But that certainly wouldn't rule out Ben's suggestion above too. :2cents:
  4. bookslover

    bookslover Puritan Board Professor

    A more interesting question is: why did Mary leave Elizabeth after her three-month visit (Luke 1:56) just before Elizabeth's baby was born (verse 57)? Since she was already there, it seems natural that Mary would stay to help Elizabeth while she was giving birth. But she didn't. Why?
  5. OPC'n

    OPC'n Puritan Board Doctor

    I think Ben is right. Back then relatives, even extended ones, were more of a family than they are now. I don't think it would be unusual for Mary to do this since she probably didn't have other huge obligations??
  6. SolaScriptura

    SolaScriptura Puritanboard Softy

    Richard -

    Nothing in verse 57 implies anything about Mary's presence. So given the previously mentioned timeline, I think it is at least possible that she WAS there.

    Mary isn't mentioned in v.57ff because she is not the focus of the narrative.
  7. Edward

    Edward Puritan Board Doctor

    Could you provide some exegesis on this? I don't have my materials available to me right now, and so I'm having to go from the English translations. Both the KJV and the ESV suggest a time progression as rendered in English. Is this missing in the original language?
  8. SolaScriptura

    SolaScriptura Puritanboard Softy

    Verse 56 says Mary stayed "about 3 months" and then returned home. This concludes the pericope about Mary. Verse 57 simply resumes the narrative with about the coming of John the Baptist.

    Biblical authors don't always write in a linear fashion. For example, Luke 1:57ff tell us about John the Baptist. Chapter one ends with John the Baptist making his public ministerial appearance as an adult. Ok, fine and dandy. But then Luke chapter 2 begins with the words "In those days...."

    Is Luke actually saying that 2:1 occurs chronologically/historically after 1:80?
    That Mary's pregnancy was "in statis" for 30 plus years? No.

    The "In those days" of 2:1 hearkens back to the historical circumstances surrounding the announcement of the immaculate conception to Mary by Gabriel, the visit to Elizabeth, and the birth of John.

    I digressed there to demonstrate that sometimes time markers in the text are there to denote the beginning or end of a pericope, not to necessarily create a timeline.

    In the case of 1:56, it simply wraps up Mary's involvement with the narrative about the coming of John the Baptist. And in 1:57, it simply brings Elizabeth back into the foreground by introducing the fact that Elizabeth had her baby. It doesn't say something like "After this" to convey that the events of verse 57 occur some point after the events of verse 56.

    Is it possible that Mary left prior to the birth of John? Absolutely. I'm not going to be overly emphatic. But I AM convinced that nothing in 1:57 necessarily or even probably implies Mary's absence.

    Given what we do know about the timeline, I think the smart bet is on saying Mary was there.
  9. Skyler

    Skyler Puritan Board Graduate

    Why, because she chose to, of course. :)
  10. bookslover

    bookslover Puritan Board Professor

    No, I think the time sequence is very clear in the text and definitely shows that Mary did not stay. Verse 56 tells us both that Mary stayed about 3 months AND, explicitly, that she then returned home. Verse 57 begins with "Now" ("Now the time came...). So, I think the time sequence is quite marked and obvious: Mary returned home just before Elizabeth gave birth. And the fact that Mary goes unmentioned in verses 57-66 supports this. Considering how important Mary is to the early chapters of Luke, it would have been unusual for Luke to NOT mention her if she had been there.
  11. Edward

    Edward Puritan Board Doctor

    OK, you've given your conclusions, and set out the basis therefore, but those conclusions, while not incompatible with the text (as you have shown) are neither compelled by the text.

    I took a quick look at Gill and at Henry. Here's Henry's take on it:

    "Lastly, Mary's return to Nazareth (Luk_1:56), after she had continued with Elisabeth about three months, so long as to be fully satisfied concerning herself that she was with child, and to be confirmed therein by her cousin Elisabeth. Some think, though her return is here mentioned before Elisabeth's being delivered, because the evangelist would finish this passage concerning Mary before he proceeded with the story of Elisabeth, yet that Mary staid till her cousin was (as we say) down and up again; that she might attend on her, and be with her in her lying-in, and have her own faith confirmed by the full accomplishment of the promise of God concerning Elisabeth. But most bind themselves to the order of the story as it lies, and think she returned again when Elisabeth was near her time; because she still affected retirement, and therefore would not be there when the birth of this child of promise would draw a great deal of company to the house. Those in whose hearts Christ is formed take more delight than they used to do in sitting alone and keeping silence."

    -----Added 10/4/2009 at 06:51:42 EST-----

    Here is Gill's take on it:

    " And Mary abode with her about three months,.... That is, she continued with Elisabeth, as the Syriac and Persic versions express, about the space of three months; in which time, she had full satisfaction of the truth of the sign the angel had given her; namely, of Elisabeth's conception and pregnancy, for by this time she was ready to give birth; and she must now be fully assured, that she was with child herself: this space of three months is a term of time fixed by the Jewish doctors, to know whether a woman is with child or not, as in case of divorce or death: the rule runs thus (k),

    "every woman that is divorced, or becomes a widow, lo! she may not marry, nor be betrothed, until she waits, תשעים יום, ninety days (i.e. three months), exclusive of the day in which she is divorced, or her husband dies, and of the day in which she is betrothed; that so it may be known whether she is with child or not, in order to distinguish between the seed of the former, and the seed of the second husband.

    And so in the case of marrying the wife of a brother, that died without issue (l), and of newly married couples mistaking their spouses (m):

    and returned to her own house; at Nazareth, in Galilee; and now it was, that Joseph, to whom she was betrothed, perceived she was with child; and suspecting evil, had a mind to put her away privately; but was informed by an angel of God, in a dream, of the whole matter; and was advised and encouraged to take her to wife, which he accordingly did; see Mat_1:18.

    (k) Maimon. Hilch. Gerushin, c. 11. sect. 18. Vid. T. Bab. Becorot, fol. 47. 1. (l) Misn. Yebamot, c. 4. sect. 10. T. Hieros, Yebamot, fol. 6. 1. T. Bab. ib. fol. 34. 2. & 35. 1. Maimon. Hilch. Yebum, c. 1. sect 19. T. Bab. Erubin, fol. 47. 1. (m) Misn. Yebamot, c. 3. sect. 10."
  12. SolaScriptura

    SolaScriptura Puritanboard Softy

    Well, you're flatly wrong about the "obviousness" of her departure. As I mentioned above, there is nothing about the text that requires this. So while it is possible, it isn't "obvious."

    No it doesn't. It only supports the idea that she isn't the focus of the narrative.

    Anyway, there really is no room for dogmatism on a subject such as this. I've given my opinion. Take it for what it's worth.
    Last edited: Oct 4, 2009
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