View Full Version : How old was Mary when she bore Jesus?

25-03-2007, 23:15
s3 and greatings,

When student long time at a College run by Catholic priests, the headmaster, a priest, confided to me that Mary was no older than 11 years when she bore Jesus.

In fact the Catholic Encyclopedia sheds some light into this matter, that in fact she was a minor according to our modern standards:

source: http://www.newadvent.org/cathen/08504a.htm

"When forty years of age, Joseph married a woman called Melcha or Escha by some, Salome by others; they lived forty-nine years together and had six children, two daughters and four sons, the youngest of whom was James (the Less, "the Lord's brother"). A year after his wife's death, as the priests announced through Judea that they wished to find in the tribe of Juda a respectable man to espouse Mary, then twelve to fourteen years of age, Joseph, who was at the time ninety years old, went up to Jerusalem among the candidates; a miracle manifested the choice God had made of Joseph, and two years later the Annunciation took place."

In jewish society of that time girls that reached puberty were considered of marriagable age. Being of a a noble family most likely the parents of Mary were trying to get her married as soon as she had reached puberty. I doubt though that Joseph was 90 years old as it seems Catholics are exagerating on his age. From what we read in Christian scriptures all the walking he had to do, including escaping to Egypt, he could not be so old. Men at that time didn't reach normally such an advanced age. Also there are no indications in Christian sriptures that James, Jesus' half-brother was so much older than Jesus.


26-03-2007, 00:15
The average age for a Roman girl to marry was thirteen or fourteen; men usually married in their late teens or early twenties. If the husband has been married previously there might be a wide age gap between him and his wife.

The assumption is that Mary was average although no age is given. Thus no theological basis for the acceptance of early marriage can be built on the Mary case since no definite age is given.

Most Chirstian theologians do not think that Mary had sex (Catholic, Orthodox and possibly Luthuran) and thus no theological acceptance of child marriages that incorporate sex is implied. Basically no theology can be built on the Mary case. Age is not mentioned and sex is not mentioned. Its an educated assumption that she was a young teenager - nothing else can be said or implied.


26-03-2007, 01:53
Mary wasn't roman she was from a traditional jewish family.

26-03-2007, 10:52
Dear John,

Just to add in judaism, technically speaking, a girl may be betrothed the moment she is born, and married at the age of three A boy may betroth and marry at the age of thirteen:

Shulchan Aruch, Even HaEzer 37:1.
Shulchan Aruch, Even HaEzer 43:1.

In practise parents used to wait for their daughters to reach puberty and soon they would marry her. In patriarchal society of that time men used to practise polygamy and hence there were many candidates as soon as the girl was in marriageable age, thus the Catholic Encyclopedia mentioning there were a number of men wanting to marry Mary.

I am using strictly jewish and christian sources and restricting any Muslim sources.


26-03-2007, 20:42
At the time of Jesus, 10% (at least, possibly a lot higher) of the entire Roman population was jewish. Roman and Greek cultural practices were widely used by Jewish people. If this was not so than its pretty certain that Christianity would not have spread the way it did.

The Catholic Church, along with other denominations believe that Mary did not have sex with anyone at any time.

Other, so called "brothers" and "sisters" of Jesus are mentioned but the Orthodox Church maintains that Joseph was a windower (having children from a previous marriage) , whereas Catholics state that they were Cousins. Certainly when Jesus was 12 and got lost, no other children are mentioned in this bible story.

what other religions believe is a different matter. Most christians are Catholic.

26-03-2007, 21:05
Dear John,

To be virgin means normally unmarried. As I have said at that time among jews girls were considered to be of marriageable age as soon as they reached puberty.

On Jesus' conception I have not given Muslim views. I quoted from Catholic Encyclopedia.

Interestingly I found out that for girls the age of consent in Britian until 19th cencutry was 10 years old. This reflected in US laws. It was codified into law in 1576. Before the age of consent was 12. (source: Juvenile Rights Project of the American Civil Liberties Union, "The Strange World of Statutory Rape," Children's Rights Report, Vol. 2, No. 6, 1978)

Now on mixing up this issue calling upon roman influence is not correct. Roamans were tiny minority in Palestine at that time. They were essencially soldiers and administrators.


26-03-2007, 23:46
No, at the time of Jesus, it is very well documented that Jewish culture was heavily influenced by Greek/Roman culture (and of course the other way round too). There can be no other RATIONAL explanation for the INCREDIBLY FAST spread of Christianity (seriously) unless the Jewish population was huge and very romanised - indeed I think Paul claimed to be Roman.

Looking at the European stats - going back centuries the average age of marriage (women) was over 20 (which I find quite surprising).


27-03-2007, 11:34
Dear John,

Are you telling me that Jesus' family was romanized, i.e. had stopped believing and practsing what jewish faith taught?

If I am not wrong your objective is to prove that Mary was much older when conception of Jesus occured. So what is your opinion Mary's age when conception occured? 14?

Well, according to Roman customs a girl was considered ready for marriage at the age of 14. The girl's father would choose a husband and conduct the required arrangements, including the size of the dowry, with the groom's family:


On Mary it is unlikely she was 14 when her parents wanted to marry her. The jewish tradition of marrying a girl was her puberty.

The link you gave cannot be compared with the source I gave you. Your country, Britain, until 19th century considered 10 years as the age of consent.

Of course I don't want to dwelve into what's the age of consent these days in Europe. You'll be surpised that it's in case of Malta as low as 12 or 13 in Spain? Here's an interesting read:


The matter here is not age of consent or marriage but Mary's age when conception occured. I don't understand why some Christians don't want to accept that perhaps was as young as 11 or 12 on Jesus' conception. Ih ave read on Internet and elsewhere that this matter is really swept under the carpet.


27-03-2007, 20:47
I think you are confusing two seperate things.
a) what was biologically/legally possible
b) what people actually did.

If you look at the birth, marriage records (there are loads on line - I'll not bore you to death) - people, on average, for centuries in Europe married late (take the records for London as a typical example and also Mining towns ).

The Mary, thing. Its pretty obvious, that Roman/Greek Jews were the main followers of Jesus. Stephen, the first person to die, was a Greek or Roman Jew. Apparenly, archeologists tend to think that Jesus was born near a Roman fort and perhaps Joseph was employed as a carpenter to the Romans. No one really knows. I think Catholics tend to think that Mary might be like a "New Eve", and I think it was traditional that Adam and Eve were about 12. As I say there is no evidence of any specific age and its all a bit immaterial as most Christains do not think Mary at any stage in her life had sexual relations with anyone. The Mary and Joseph story, if it says anything, is that marriages should follow the traditional Irish model, men marry late and women marry early. Perhaps men should marry at 40 and women at 20. eg man most wealthy at that age and woman most stronge - possibly the right combination for a happy family.

To be fair to the Jewish people, their history/bible etc was written over many thousands of years and their marriage customs have also changed over time. The traditional start of it all was Abraham and Sarah. They both married very late and they both married for love.
Traditionally in Europe late marriage has always been concidered good and wise, and today it is still concidered the best policy to marry after 20 - for both men and women.


27-03-2007, 21:36
I think Catholics tend to think that Mary might be like a "New Eve", and I think it was traditional that Adam and Eve were about 12. As I say there is no evidence of any specific age and its all a bit immaterial as most Christains do not think Mary at any stage in her life had sexual relations with anyone.

Dear John,

I as a Muslim believe that it was an Immaculate Conception and that Mary was never touched by any man. What is in analysis here is the events unfolding to birth of Jesus, namely how old Mary was.

I don't know where you got the analogy with Eve but it is unsubstantiated. During Mary's lifetime the traditional jewish families - she belonged to one of them and not to any romanised family, unlike you think - and she may have just reached puberty when the Angel came to her and gave her the good news on giving birth to Jesus.

Perhaps we lay to rest this discussion agreeing she may have been 12 years old. Perhaps that may he reason why in Europe the age of consent was 12 years old during a long time, specially in your country.


30-03-2007, 12:28
There can be no other RATIONAL explanation for the INCREDIBLY FAST spread of Christianity (seriously) unless the Jewish population was huge and very romanised - indeed I think Paul claimed to be Roman.

Under Constantine it was the state religon, and as a new religon, it molded and evolved happily so rather than forcing converts to appease it and forsake previous ideas and desires, it instead incorporated them. Hence the speedy growth. The Yahudi population was not huge, that wouldn't make sense at all in Galilee which was considered as seperate from Judea and which even the Jews called as the "home of the Gentiles". It didn't need Judaism to grow, and in fact threw Judaism aside in order to grow (for example the breaking of Ibrahim's (as) eternal covenent of circumcision, the breaking of the law to eat only amongst non-pagans etc.)

31-03-2007, 00:05
Don't be silly (no offence) Constantine would not have backed the new religion unless it was already huge (he wasn't a mug).

Sorry... Lets at least attempt to be realistic.

If you want a learned description of Christianity - pre-constantine - not only in Rome but as far as India etc then this is it:


31-03-2007, 18:16
....If you are interested in how Christianity and Rome became interlinked there is an answer that goes back to when Jesus was a child.

Put in google these two words: JESUS BASALT

(as I did)..... You will find the Synagogue where Jesus taught as a child has been found and dated. It was built by a Roman Centurian.

31-03-2007, 19:19
....I just wanted to add that the above Basalt Synagogue is mentioned in the very first chapter of Mark as the FIRST PLACE Jesus taught. In the gospel of Luke it is made clear that this Synagogue was built by a Roman Centurian.

I rest my case......

03-05-2007, 11:49
She was 14 years old