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Like a Virgin? The Controversial Account of Mary, Mother of Jesus

Like a Virgin? The Controversial Account of Mary, Mother of Jesus

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The Virgin Mary, mother of Jesus, is one of the key symbols of Christianity and a woman whose cult changed the world. However, she may be one of the most misunderstood biblical people. According to some researchers, the famous story of a woman who had never had sexual contact with a man yet gave birth was caused by a mistake in the translation of ancient text.

The Virgin Mary is well known from the Bible, but there are not too many pieces of archaeological evidence about her life. Through the centuries, the story of the woman whose real name was Miriam, has changed the world. Her greatest claim to fame was delivering a boy named Joshua, who became known as Jesus. As the Holy Mother in Christianity, she was described as a symbol of purity and humbleness.

Differing Stories About Mary, Mother of Jesus

The famous story from the Bible says that Miriam (Mary) was a young, perhaps single, lady who met an angel and discovered by a message from God that she would give birth to his son. However, the Toledot Yeshu , an ancient Jewish book, presents a very different version of this story.

‘Annunciation’ (1489-1490) by Sandro Botticelli. ( Public Domain )

The unknown Jewish writers claim that Miriam was married to a man named John, but met a Roman soldier named Tiberius Pantera (sometimes spelled Panthera or Pandera). She fell in love and betrayed John with the Roman warrior. When John discovered the lovers, she was already pregnant and John decided to divorce her.

Tiberius took the name Josephus and created a family with Miriam and their little son Joshua (Jesus). The boy was famous for completing all sorts of miracles, which he had learned from the old masters. Some of his abilities were said to be: walking on water, changing water into wine, and many more. But the scandalous story of Miriam and the two men may explain why some felt it was better if she was called ''the virgin''.

Jesus, Mary, and Joseph . ( DeVon /Adobe Stock)

Translations Revealing the Truth

The biggest misunderstanding in the Virgin Mary’s story comes from a mistake in translation. It is common for translations to be based on former translations and the meaning behind words is often decoded by specialists in specific languages. Moreover, many translations were made of this story based on dictionaries created by specialists in Latin - which is the key to the mystery behind the word ''virgin''.

The word ''virgin'' comes from the Latin ''virgo'', which means ''maiden'' or a sexually inexperienced woman. This word was the basis for the stories about Mary as a woman who had never had intercourse with a man.

However, historically the term virgin meant ''one-in-herself'' - a woman who didn't need a man. It didn't necessarily mean that she didn't have one, however. This interpretation better represents a woman who was independent, financially free, mentally strong, and not overly dependent on her lover or partner.

Woodcut illustration of the zodiac sign Virgo used by Alexander and Samuel Weissenhorn of Ingolstadt.

Woodcut illustration of the zodiac sign Virgo used by Alexander and Samuel Weissenhorn of Ingolstadt. ( POP/CC BY 2.0 )

In ancient times, women were sometimes believed to be very strongly attached or even mentally addicted to their first sexual partner. Therefore, to avoid this problem, an ancient society of the Mediterranean area (and also other parts of the Middle East and Persia) decided to create a custom which became a part of religious ceremonies.

It was once common for women in these locations to go to the temples of Ishtar or Aphrodite, for example, to have sexual intercourse with the priest. They could never meet again, but this act, which was seemingly approved of by the goddess of the temple, allowed the woman to avoid becoming too attached to her lover. The visit in the temple was usually a suggestion given by her family and it was not seen as a betrayal or scandal.

Fragment of a stone plaque from the temple of Ishtar as known as Inanna – goddess of love, beauty, sex, desire, fertility 2500 BC. (Xenophon / CC BY-SA 3.0 )

However, researchers also suggest that the word virgin could be applied by ancient societies to women who were independent in different fields. It is possible that Mary could have been autonomous in other ways, but neither the Bible nor other texts delve into this idea.

The Virgin Mary is a Symbol for Many Things

Mary became a symbol for many things, including the famous Ark of the Covenant . As the specialists from the website Catholic Bible 101 explain:

''The Old Testament Ark of the Covenant contained three items – The Word of God in the form of stone tablets (the 10 Commandments), manna (bread) from Heaven, and the rod of Aaron that resprouted and came back to life (Hebrews 9:4).  Just so, the womb of the Blessed Virgin Mary contained Jesus Christ – The living Word of God (John 1:1), the bread of life (John 6:48), and the ruler with a rod of iron who also came back to life (Rev.12:5). At the Annunciation of Mary, Gabriel told her that the power of the most high would “overshadow” her (Luke 1:35).  The term “overshadow” is significant, because it was also used to refer to the cherubim “overshadowing” the mercy seat of the Ark of the Covenant (Hebrews 9:5).  The Ark was made with pure gold (Exodus 4ff), and was very holy, which parallels the Catholic teaching that Mary is also pure and holy.  The Ark of the Covenant was so holy, that no ordinary person could even touch it.  Uzzah reached out to steady it, and was instantly struck dead (2 Samuel 6:7).''

Moses and Joshua in the Tabernacle, bowing before the Ark, (1896-1902) By James Tissot.

Moses and Joshua in the Tabernacle, bowing before the Ark, (1896-1902) By James Tissot. ( Public Domain )

These suggestions support the idea that Mary was depicted as a symbolic holy vessel, which brought Jesus to life. But it also became the beginning of an interesting story. It may be nothing to do with being inexperienced as a sexual lover.

Mary could have been called a virgin because of her charisma, strength, and power to support her son. Ancient people living in the Middle East during her lifetime didn't see virginity in the same way as the Romans did , for example.

The Virgin Mary from the Ghent Altarpiece – called “The adoration of the lamb” (1432) by Jan van Eyck.

The Virgin Mary from the Ghent Altarpiece – called “The adoration of the lamb” (1432) by Jan van Eyck. ( Public Domain )

Is Mary Really Holy?

Over the centuries, some priests and bishops have wondered if Christians should worship Mary, the mother of Jesus. Perhaps they were aware of the mistake which appeared in the translations of the early texts, but felt that there was nothing they could do to change that error.

However, this doesn't change Mary’s position in history. Some maintain that the stories in the Bible cannot be read as real historical accounts, but as symbolic legends. This idea creates even more debate between religious people and some researchers. Nonetheless, as time passes by and new discussions reveal more about her, the story of Mary becomes even more fascinating.

Pavia, Italy. 2017/11/11. Painting of the Coronation of the Virgin Mary. XIV century. Currently in the Castello Visconteo (Visconteo castle). ( Adam Ján Figeľ /Adobe Stock)

Top Image: Verona - Coronation of Virgin Mary scene . Source: Renáta Sedmáková /Adobe Stock

By Natalia Klimczak

References:

W. Eichelberger, Kobieta bez winy I wstydu, 2015.

The Blessed Virgin Mary, available at:
http://www.catholicbible101.com/theblessedvirginmary.htm

Should we worship Mary, available at:
https://bible.org/question/should-we-worship-mary

Toledot Yeshu, available at:
http://jewishchristianlit.com//Topics/JewishJesus/toledoth.html

Comments

All women were witches especially Mother Mary, she comes from the bloodline of King Solomon the man that single-handly committed more sin, than the city of Sodom. He had to, because God just kept saying more, more, you can do more. Christ needed to resist Satan's temptation on the mountain. Do you think God is going to leave anything on the table? He plays to win, not place or show. When Satan said, I will give you the riches of the world, Christ yawned I did that. Unlimited top shelf pussy? I have had my fill. World domination? Nah,like my great granddaddy, said all that shit is not enough all I need is God. I forgot one, human sacrifice? I did that, I had over 300 kids and i got sick of all the whining. No one was going to miss em,and if the mother said anything she went into the pot. Christ was also lazy he did not want to study the occult; so the Big Dad in the sky said, I will get Solomon to do it, he will do anything. So Christ got the power to command all demons from his great great wise King Solomon.. Christ also needed a High level Sin card to get into Hell; you really can't get down to the throne room to snatch Eve back,without just tickets for loitering, or fines for excessive masturbation, I mean try getting into one of those illuminati night clubs up here with all those Presidential model sex slaves, I mean it is virtually impossible up here even with selling off one of your kids. I can't imagine, what it would take down there. Do you think they just let anyone in?
I mean really how many of Jesus's cousins and sisters and brothers were really saints? I mean in my family besides me, no one. It sounds a bit like nepotism, I mean how did you think I got into Grad school? It certainly wasn't my study habits, I would have given Obama a run for his money.

Moonsong, I am not touchy about my faith. I have not been defending the faith. I have been attacking the poor quality of the opinion article that has failed to reference her sources adequately. It is hardly an historical article as you call it but an opinion piece. She has failed to disclose the dates of her references. The Toledo Yeshu actually Sefer Toledot Yeshu oldest manuscript and there about 100 of them date from the 11th century. This is an important fact omitted by the writer of this article. If you have any intellectual curiosity at all then you would spend the time to research the subject to which you have an interest. The computer and the internet are wonderful things to help keep us informed and not led by so called "intellectual" opinion. I have made no personal attacks, I do not mind entering into a debate and for go the ad hominem. I would ask you to refrain from the same, or you would appear to be "touchy."

J.R. Bentley, many things have been done in the past and in the present in the name of Christianity. Not all have anything to do with the teachings of Jesus as recorded in the canonical book of the Bible. Just as the Sefer Toledo Yeshu (which can be found online). Just because something has been practiced, believed, or written about doesn't make it true. That is why adequate research and study of resources are critical to any historical thesis or essay. Thank you for making the point of my criticism of this article.

Besides..they were all high when they had their “Visions” anyhoo. Just do a search about the early Christian frescos found depicting the“Snail Ceremony" that just happened to include Amanita Muscaria…

It was easier on the stomach if it was first fed to Snails and then ingest the Snails. There are a whole lot of Historical facts being stashed away and hidden through deception for the purpose of manipulation of the masses..

Moonsong's picture

If you are so touchy about your faith that even a plain historical article referring to a linguistic schism makes you feel under threat, I’m sorry, but your actions speak for themselves. Religion is a spiritual path and ‘Holy’ books are meant to be taken as metaphors and moral guidelines not as historical fact. Quibbling over whether historical linguists are right or not, only shows that you don’t even understand the notion of spirituality at its core.

- Moonsong
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A dreamer is one who can only find his way by moonlight, and his punishment is that he sees the dawn before the rest of the world ~ Oscar Wilde

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