Who was mary of Nazareth?

It relies on which mar you’re talking about. There were two: 

a Jewish peasant girl living in a backwater district of the roman Empire, andthe semi-goddess Virgin Mary, in Christian churches anywhere the world.

You are watching: What would mary have looked like

This page describes the first one.


19th century photograph of a young Bedouin girl

What did mary look like?

She’d have been robust, sturdy, with plump little breasts and also strong brown hands callused indigenous work.Her this would have actually been good, maybe better than ours, since the only kind of sweeteners she’d get came indigenous dried fruit – or at least from sweet syrup make from figs or dates. Sugar was unknown and honey to be a deluxe item she would probably never taste.

Mary’s jewelry?

There were heavy yellow earrings swinging from her ear lobes – an important part of her dowry, so they’d be together flashy as her family could manage.

There could be a yellow nose-ring as well, though you’re unlikely to view this on any statue that the Virgin. A Jewish peasant girl needed to make an influence with the method she looked – lumps of yellow at she ears verified she to be a respectable girl from a decent, developed family.

What to be Mary’s garments like?

Her clothes were do from homespun wool or linen, which she wove herself. The dress dropped in a handy loosefitting design, in one of the soft colors developed by herbal dyes – cream, a deep faded pink, a soft blue-grey, or irradiate brown.

The fabric and also weave relied on the season – heavy wool because that winter, light structure (or linen, however only if you were rich) for summer. The lengthy skirt acquired tucked up into the waistband once she worked.

There would certainly be wrinkle in the fabric, from whereby the garment had actually lain in among the warehouse niches in the wall surface of she house.


Handwoven fabric and also tribal-specific embroidery were usual in first century Palestine

Was over there embroidery or smocking on the front yoke of the dress? many probably. The women of the east Mediterranean had been famous for embroidery for hundreds of years.

The woven belt she wore round her waist was more than likely stiff through embroidery too, geometric designs, circles, colored edging, every in the exact same soft colors. Brighter colors come from expensive dyes she can never afford.

She wore animal leather ankle-length boots in winter, sandals in summer, and also cut her dusty toenails through a spicy knife.

The gift of speak well

The language she spoke to be Aramaic. It’s a poetic language, and also if you’ve ever heard the prayer her child composed, the ours Father, claimed aloud in Aramaic, you’ll recognize Jesus was a gifted poet. The alliteration and also rhythm the the words space lovely to hear.

But mar spoke it through a wide Galilean accent, disdained through the innovative Jerusalemites.


19th century picture of a middle Eastern girl

She could talk the leg turn off an stole pot. Being may be to talk well has constantly been a valued skill amongst Jews. Have you ever listened to Jewish mothers in new York prodding their children into continuous talk – ‘are girlfriend sure around that? Why perform you think that? and what walk you speak then? phone call me why you did that….’ This question and also answer barrage goes on indigenous morning come night. No wonder Jewish youngsters grow up through the ability to argue a point. They’ve learnt the from birth.

Mary would have been the same. Hers to be an oral society where stories, prayers and also poems to be learnt off by heart, fairly than read. The an excellent enemy in old societies to be boredom. Story-telling and also clever talk were methods to store boredom at bay. Great talk was a major way to happen the time.

Being able come entertain civilization made you an useful – due to the fact that everyone acquired bored at part time or other prior to the print media to be invented.

Women in rural neighborhoods like the city of Nazareth did not read. It to be unnecessary.

Men had to find out to read because they to be commanded to understand the Torah, but it was seen as a dedicated skill, other that men did, no women. In allude of fact, any kind of story is much better when told with nuance and wit.

What the modern world has actually forgotten is the the bibles were entertaining. Human being in the old world called stories and acted them out for pure enjoyment. There is, after ~ all, more sex and also violence in Scripture than in anything that has actually come out of Hollywood.

You don’t believe me? check out Judges 19a – the Levite’s concubine or Genesis 38 – Tamar seduces Judah, for a start. Then imagine the story acted out through gusto. That was entertainment.

What did Mary’s village look like?

It needs to be stated that the tiny village that Nazareth, top top the dreary outer fringes that the Empire, was no an attractive place. Hot and dusty in summer,

cold and also muddy in winter, there to be not lot to introduce it. The streets were narrow, impossibly for this reason by ours standards. It to be a squeeze out to get a laden donkey through. Carts went roughly the village rather than with it.

We know just how tiny that was since of the burial places excavated there. Tombs were always placed external the village limits, so by looking wherein the tombs were, you know the outer borders of the village.

If you liked civilization – over there were about 400 in Nazareth when Mary lived there – the minimal space could be an advantage. You to be never much more than a couple of feet from someone else. Friend knew your business, and they knew yours.

Why am I stating this? It’s essential to store this absence of privacy in mind when we talk about the situations of Mary’s pregnancy.

What sort of home did mar live in?

The dirt brick houses were blank-fronted, with small high windows and an occasional wood door.

Most dwellings had, as a minimum, a courtyard and two rooms – a front, public room through an awning, and a private room behind it.

The flat roof over these, v exterior stairs, was offered as an extra room, v awnings of thick woven goats’ structure to protect versus the sun.


Interior that a clay brick residence with wooden roofing

Inside, the rooms were quite comfortable, though Spartan by ours standards. There were raised platforms at one finish of the room, spanned with cushions and also mats – woven by the women and also embroidered with intricate patterns.

The walls were covered with plaster, rubbed level with a rock and painted with geometric patterns.

Was there any furniture?

There was hardly any type of furniture together we understand it. Niches were reduced into the mud-brick wall, and also these detailed storage space because that bedrolls and clothes. Huge amounts the food – jars the oil and also olives, etc., were preserved in a different storage area, make secure versus mice.


A town the size of Nazareth might never have supported a permanent carpenter (as Joseph is said to have actually been) for any type of length of time. Everyone in this trade would have actually needed to travel in other places to uncover steady employment.

As well together the buildings above ground, historical excavations present there to be a honeycomb of secret rooms under the houses, hollowed the end of the rock. Lock were offered for a variety of objectives – living soldier in the fierce warm of summer, cisterns because that water, grain silos, and also storage.

Who remained in Mary’s family?

Mary live in an extensive family.

There to be at least eight or ten people sharing the house. The nuclear family of today just did no exist. It would certainly not have worked. There to be too many tasks that necessary several people working together.

Note: maybe that was no such a negative thing. I remember mine daughter-in-law comes to remain with us, bringing her three-month old baby. Over there were three women in the residence – my daughter, the young mother, and myself. We common the tasks in between us. In the afternoon, as soon as the baby was most likely to be fractious, the young mom would go for a go or have a rest. Mine daughter would certainly take the baby, wade him, patting him and also talking come him. I would cook tea. Through mealtime, the food to be cooked, the mother was relaxed, and all of us feeling that things were together they should be. The guys were happy with the instance too. I got satisfaction from knowing I to be useful; my daughter to be happy to take it over one more woman’s child for a few hours; and also the young mother knew she was not alone in caring for her baby.


We space so accustomed to paintings of a solitary mar or a three-person Holy family that us forget the Mary came from a big family/community in Nazareth

Mary and the women in her family members worked together in lot the same way, sharing everything.

Her occupational was not restricted to the house. Galilee, where she lived, was the breadbasket the the Jewish kingdom. There to be orchards, olive-groves and vineyards to it is in tended, and of course the grain crops planted and also harvested yearly. The ladies did a many the work-related in the fields.

Menstruation – girl into woman

When she was around 11 or 12 years old, Mary began to menstruate. This intended she was of marriageable age, in Aramaic a betulah. The equivalent word in Hebrew, the ancient language of spiritual texts, is almah.

Note: psychic this word. It means ‘young woman of marriageable age’ – probably a virgin, yet not have to so.

The first menstruation to be a big milestone in any type of girl’s life, and also in Mary’s situation it would have been commemorated with a party – come let everyone recognize she was now ready for marriage.

She would have been presented to the special personalizeds that Jewish women adhered to at the time, an especially those relating come menstruation.

During her menstrual periods, a Jewish woman was relieved of plenty of of her regular duties.

She was not required to draw and carry water indigenous the well,or cook and serve food to members of she family.She go not have to go come the marketplace.If she was married, her husband could not strategy her because that sex.

The days of she menstrual duration were regarded as time out, time for herself. On this days, relieved of the mundane tasks of she normal day-to-day life, she has time come think and rest. Ah, the an excellent old days.

There were purity legislations for men too. Men had actually to to wash themselves and readjust their garments whenever they have any type of sort of sexual emission, spontaneous, as in a wet dream, or deliberate, in sex-related intercourse.


The design of a mikveh has remained virtually unchanged for plenty of centuries

What is a mikveh?

After she menstrual cycle, a woman in 1st century Galilee was forced to bathe it s her from head to toe in a special pool the clean water, dubbed a mikveh (see at ideal the old mikveh excavated in ~ Masada).

Each small community had its mikveh, and towns and also cities had big numbers the them, some public, some private.

The mikveh swimming pool was developed a distinct way, so it had

enough headroom under water to enable complete immersion,an extr tank for gathering clean rain-water, anda little pool at the entrance because that washing hair, hands and feet prior to entering the key pool.

Do you remember the story of King David watching, hidden, if the beautiful Bathsheba (whose husband to be away v the army) took her bath? The whole point of the bathtub in this story is that she must have just finished menstruating, for this reason she’s not pregnant at this point, therefore the baby she had later on must have been King David’s…..

In any kind of event, the washing the a woman’s body to be a tangible way for the woman to renew herself, update herself.

It wasn’t a negative idea in terms of hygiene, either. It expected that every adult had actually to to wash himself or herself, wash their clothes, and put ~ above clean clothes at continuous intervals. The cleanliness of Jewish ladies benefited the entirety population.

Ancient people did no know about bacteria, but they were aware of the connection in between dirt and also disease. The spiritual ritual of the mikveh lowered infant mortality, and kept Jewish mother healthier.


A young bride being all set for she wedding: paint by Frederick Goodall

Now that Mary’s term periods had actually started, serious consideration was given to the choice of a husband.

It was taken for granted that she would certainly marry. God had provided the commandment to ‘be fruitful and multiply’ come Noah, and also so Jews believed it was your duty to marry and also produce children. Any type of person who had actually passed the period of twenty without being married had not carried out the will of God – which provides you wonder around Jesus, and also whether he was married or not, or that he can have been married to. But that’s an additional story….

Mary’s entirety family join in the choice of an proper husband. ~ all, it was something the wouldl impact them all. This was no a nuclear household living by chin in a different house. This was an extensive family, where any brand-new member had to be acceptable to everyone – or there can be trouble under the line.

Mary’s household had to be sure she was marrying someone whose household and way of life would fit in with hers. She would be living and working v these world for the rest of she life, therefore they need to be people she would get along with.

What type of person was mar hoping for?

A young Galilean woman would hope for someone

round about her age. An old husband and also a young mam spelt troublesomeone with enough money and also goods to offer her comfort and securityphysically attractive; Jews believed a happy sex life was among the presents God provided to a married couplesomeone native a trusted family; there must not be any scandal or negative blood attached come his familyA student of the Scriptures; scholarship meant a man was intelligent, all set to work, and also able come think

That’s the shopping list for a young girl in first century Palestine.

Mind you, over there was not a lot of selection in Nazareth, since it’s approximated that there to be only about 400 world there altogether. For this reason the human her parents imply to she was most likely someone she’d well-known all she life, and also always fifty percent expected come marry.

He was also probably related to her in part way, despite not too closely. Joseph to be his name.

Joseph, Mary’s prospective husband

Joseph was a young man, not lot older than she was, and also well-regarded by the world of Nazareth. We understand this since Matthew’s gospel contact him ‘just’ or ‘righteous’, and also the Gospels don’t bandy adjectives ring without an excellent reason.

His name ‘Joseph’ is just one of the most famous Jewish masculine names the the time. Nine first names made up 44% the the male populace in first century Palestine, and Joseph was in the an initial three ~ above the list.

He was a builder, not a carpenter, if that lived repetitively in Nazareth. But if the had already moved out and worked in adjacent Sepphoris, a much larger town than Nazareth, or relocated to any of the other great building jobs that King Herod the Great had under way, he could have to be a carpenter.

The marital relationship contract

A marital relationship contract would have actually been worked out between the families of Mary and also Joseph. In theory, this was done by the male heads the family, yet in practice a an excellent deal the the strength in Jewish families lay through the women, and also nothing was likely to go ahead uneven they claimed so.

In any type of case, an commitment was reached, and also the engagement went ahead – again with a big party.


Ancient dowry necklace native the middle East

The betrothal was a formal covenant to marry, resolved with the deliver of home from the young man to the girl. Occasionally it was a an extensive amount, periodically a token. It was usually went back to the husband once the formal marriage took place, together a donation to setup up a new family.

What around Mary’s dowry?

The dowry was a different matter. This was residential or commercial property handed over by the girl’s family members at the moment of her marriage, and after that owned by the wife. that was her share of the household inheritance, enough to act as an revenue for her need to she be exit or widowed.

There were complex laws about payment and also ownership of the dowry. In surrounding Mesopotamia the dowry could be inherited only by the woman’s sons, not by any type of of she husband’s family. This was a precaution versus the dowry being offered to enrich the husband’s family.

In Rome the dowry was paid in three annual installments after ~ the marriage. If she husband passed away or to be the guilty party in a divorce, the mam reclaimed the entire dowry. In the later Empire, she might reclaim the dowry also if she was the guilty party.

Mary’s betrothal to Joseph

The betrothal of a young couple had to it is in public, saw by many people. part of the awareness in Galilee might involve the young man picking up the young woman and placing her on a cheat or on part other means of transport prefer a watercraft or a cart. At this stage, there to be no sexual contact.

People in the old world knew it was dangerous because that a mrs to give birth before her young human body was properly developed. She could be a permanently disabled. So marriage to be deferred, typically for about a year.

But the engagement went ahead, and also this agreement/contract to be so binding in Galilee currently it can only be broken by a formal divorce.

Mary to be pregnant. What then?

The next thing we know, mar was pregnant. Her normal menstrual periods stopped. This deserve to be surprise for rather a when in the modern-day world. But in Mary’s time, when a totality family lived and also slept in one or 2 rooms, the reality that a young girl’s periods had ceased to be noticed immediately.

A woman in first century Palestine, and in fact until fairly recently, needed a entirety stack of devices to cope v her term flow. There had actually to be a heap of absorbent cloths, normally of structure or linen, and the tapes or belts to keep them in place.

Every month when she had actually her period, a mrs took the item of cloth, folded the lengthwise and tied it up in between her foot so that it soaked up the expression fluid.

Then, as soon as the towel was used, she put it into a animal leather bucket or a clay pot filled v water, come soak it clean. (The water, by the way, had to be brought from the fine by an additional woman, since the menstruating mrs was ritually unclean.)

After a work or therefore of soaking, she scrubbed she napkin clean and laid it the end to dry on the flat roof of she house.

Having your menstrual period was extremely visible.

When a young woman ended up being pregnant, all this paraphernalia was no longer needed, since she was no producing any type of blood-stained napkins. It to be immediately obvious to the women roughly her the she was either okay or pregnant.

So it would certainly have remained in Mary’s household. The various other women, her mother, aunts and sisters, knew right away the something was up.

Mediterranean family members are not known for their reticence in together a situation. In the conservative Jewish household Mary belonged to, her pregnant meant major embarrassment if not outright disgrace to herself and also all she family.

The secret may have actually been restricted for a time to the females in the family. Exactly how long this particular mystery could be kept relied on the characters of the various other women. Judging from later ideas we have to Mary’s character, we deserve to assume she came from a family of strong women.

Even so, the mystery could no be maintained indefinitely. Apart from anything else, the loose dress she wore to be tied up with a large sash, and her swelling tummy would at some point give the game away.

Who’s the dad of Mary’s baby?

First, I’m acquisition it for granted that there’s a real, human father for she baby. No, I’m no abandoning the ‘conceived by the divine Spirit’ idea. Yet I’d prefer to placed it on host for the moment. We’ll get back to that later.


These room the facts we know:

Mary to be pregnant.there had to it is in a human father.she to be frightened, her family members embarrassed, and also the man, whoever that is, can not be named.

So who was he? there are several theories.

Shocking together the idea might be, that may have actually been a member of her own family. Statistics in the contemporary world display that pregnancies through an unnamed father usually come indigenous the girl gift interfered v by an older masculine relative.

Probably not much has changed in 2 thousand years. This is one possibility, however distasteful, that has to be faced.

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Was Mary the rape victim that a roman soldier?

Another theory, rather well argued, is that the father of her infant was a roman soldier stationed in a adjacent garrison center. Top top the confront of it, this sounds far-fetched, other you check out in a sensational tabloid. Yet there space some facts that make the theory at the very least plausible:

1. Nazareth, where Mary lives, is only a couple of miles from Sepphoris, the capital of Galilee (see height left that the map at right). It was much much more sophisticated than tiny Nazareth, and there were roman inn soldiers stationed there. Mary and the other citizens of Nazareth certainly come into contact with this soldiers at assorted times.