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The Amazing Story of Mary, Christian Goddess

The Amazing Story of Mary, Christian Goddess

Commentary by Nick Gier

The Infancy Gospel of James,” though not part of the canonical Bible, was popular among Christians for centuries. The book tells the story of Mary from her miraculous conception to the birth of Jesus. Some details differ from the accounts in Luke and Matthew.

Mary’s mother Anne is barren, so her father Joachim spends 40 days in the wilderness praying for a child. During that time Anne finds herself, just as an angel promised, pregnant with Mary.

At the age of 3, Mary is sent to the Temple where she is given the job of weaving a temple curtain. One day she “dances with her feet and the house of Israel loves her.” From the 9th to the 16th centuries, dance was part of Christian worship, but thereafter it was banned as erotic and undignified.

At the age of 12, the priests warn Joachim and Anne that once Mary starts to menstruate, she will pollute the Temple. She is taken away and readied for marriage.

The temple priests arrange a drawing of lots among the widowers of Israel. Joseph is the reluctant winner, and he protests saying, “I have two sons, and I am an old man, and I will become a laughing-stock to the children of Israel.”

Joseph has no desire to have sexual relations with Mary, and he takes off on a long business trip. Inexplicitly, he does not return for six months. When he arrives home, he finds Mary pregnant, and he rebukes himself for not keeping her safe.

Joseph cries out, “Who hath done this evil in mine house and hath defiled the virgin”? In the Gospel of Matthew we read that Joseph was ready to divorce Mary because of this embarrassing state of affairs.

Joseph then turns against Mary, “Why hast thou done this?” Mary “weeps bitterly, and says, ‘I am pure, and I know not a man.’” Joseph “was sore afraid and ceased from speaking unto her, and pondered what he should do with her.”

As in the Gospel of Matthew, an angel appears to Joseph assuring him that the Holy Spirit has caused her to conceive and that her son Jesus “shall save his people from their sins.” The temple priests do not believe Joseph. They put both him and Mary to the test of “bitter waters” and “no sin appears in them.”

This scriptural attestation, however, did not stop medieval Christians from spreading stories about whether Joseph was really the father and whether Mary was actually a virgin.

This is the subject of the popular “cherry tree” Christmas, which is set on the way to Bethlehem. Mary asks Joseph to pick her some fruit from a cherry tree, and he replies spitefully, “Let him pluck thee a cherry that brought thee with child.”

The most graphic expression of this issue is found in traveling plays in 16th Century East Anglia. One of them, playfully of course, puts Mary and Joseph on trial. Joseph is mocked unmercifully, but Mary, after passing an examination, is exonerated and praised as the Queen of Heaven.

Returning to our story, Joseph and Mary set off to Bethlehem to be taxed according to the census of Caesar Augustus. Halfway there, Mary comes into labor and they quickly find a cave for shelter. Joseph finds a midwife named Salome, and, before she arrives, Jesus has already appeared in a heavenly light and not from Mary’s womb.

Salome doubts the virgin birth, and she checks to see if Mary is still intact. She is indeed, and as punishment for her unbelief, Salome’s hand becomes withered. She is stricken with grief and she begs for forgiveness. An angel tells her to hold her injured hand near the baby Jesus. It was restored, and this was Jesus’ first miracle.

A popular souvenir among medieval pilgrims was a small statue of a pregnant Mary, which opened up to reveal the Holy Trinity in her womb. The early church rightly called her the Mother of God (theotokos).

Thus, Mary was a goddess, just as Aditi was the mother of all the Hindu gods. They sometimes formed trinities, and one of her sons Shiva was a great dancer.

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