Josephus, lastly, tells a story about one final Mary…the last one in his index and on my list. This Mary’s story is pretty awful. She does something that is the crowning evil that a woman could do; and not just any woman but a wealthy noble woman. Even Josephus hesitates to tell her story, except I have innumerable witnesses to it in my own age….
There was a certain woman that dwelt beyond Jordan, her name was Mary; her father was Eleazar, of the village Bethezub, which signifies “the House of Hyssop.”[i] She was eminent for her family and for her wealth, and had fled to Jerusalem with the rest of the multitude, and was with them besieged therein at this time.
When all exits were closed to the Jews, every hope of escape was now eliminated; and the famine, strengthening its hold, devoured the people, houses and families, one after another. The roofs were full of women and infants in the last stages of exhaustion, the alleys with the corpses of the aged: children and young men, swollen with hunger, haunted the market places and collapsed wherever faintness overcame them…Many, as they buried the fallen, fell dead themselves, while others set out for their graves before their fate was upon them. And throughout these calamities, no weeping or lamentation was heard…Deep silence blanketed the city, and night laden with death was in the grip of a yet fiercer foe—the brigands…Josephus andThe Jewish War V.XII.3 Cornfeld.
Matthew was the first gospel to add a birth story, probably to answer questions about Mary that persisted in ca 100 A.D. Matthew is the most Jewish of the gospels so his birth story is told from Joseph’s perspective. And yet, Matthew subtly makes Mary more important than Joseph, to the point of saying that he is not Jesus’ father.
And Jacob begat Joseph the husband of Mary, of whom was born Jesus, who is called Messiah. Matthew 1:16
That is exactly the birth story Matthew fleshed out.
Now the birth of Jesus…was on this wise: When as his mother Mary was espoused to Joseph, before they came together, she was found with child… Matthew 1: 18-19
If Joseph had a Davidic bloodline and had contracted an alliance with a young virgin princess who could bear a contender for the throne…this was a blow…even with her prophecy that she would be the one to bear such a son…even and especially if the real father was Herodian…so it is understandable that the two birth stories, Matthew and Luke’s, while quite different, the emphasis was put on Mary’s virginity:
“Behold, a virgin shall be with child, and shall bring forth a son, and they shall call his name Emmanuel.” (1:23)…or “And she shall bring forth a son, and thou shalt call his name JESUS…” (1:21)…