The Bible does not tell us exactly how old Mary was when she gave birth to Jesus. But there are some indications that she was quite young.
She testified of her virginity. And her actions show that her behavior was that of a truthful and respectful young woman.
Most people are surprised to learn how young Mary probably was. So how old was Mary when she gave birth to Jesus?
Historians believe the Virgin Mary was 12-16 years old when she gave birth to Jesus Christ.
Surprised to learn how young she was? This was a typical age of marriage in ancient Israel.
More importantly, the Bible prophesied in numerous places centuries before the fact that the Messiah would be born of a virgin.
More details straight ahead.
How Do We Know How Old Mary Was When She Had Jesus?
Mary, the mother of Jesus, lived in a highly religious and cultured society that placed great value on early marriage.
Early marriage was important in a culture with an average lifespan of less than 50 years. An early marriage led to a bigger family with more children.
Since virginity until marriage was important in first century Israel, an early marriage led to less opportunities for lost virginity before marriage. So adolescent marriage was common for both males and females.
In ancient Israel, girls were betrothed to their future husbands at a very young age. This is where the story of Mary, as presented in the Bible, begins.
She was betrothed to Joseph, a carpenter from the tribe of Judah. The whole arrangement would have taken a normal course, with the two of them getting married in a very elaborate Jewish wedding. (Do you have questions about young Joseph? Here’s my post that answers so many questions about him)
They would have lived a simple life in the quiet town of Nazareth of Galilee, like the people around them, and no one would have heard of them.
Things took a different turn when the angel Gabriel visited young Mary, who was not prepared for what the holy messenger had to tell her. Gabriel’s announcement to Mary that she’d been chosen by God to give birth to the Christ is known as The Annunciation.
Related Content: Why is Jesus Called Christ?
The Bible specifically describes her as a virgin to show that she could not have been more than a teenager when God sent the angel to her. (see Luke 1:27)
Considering her age, Mary was not too young to marry based on Jewish culture.
Virginity was an absolute requirement, and the younger the bride, the more likely she would be pure for her marriage.
The big question is, why would God choose a young, naive girl to be the mother of Jesus, the Savior of the world?
The answer is explicitly written in the following verse.
“But God chose the foolish things of the world to shame the wise; God chose the weak things of the world to shame the strong.”-1 Corinthians 1:27
Even Mary herself didn’t understand why she was chosen for this role. She replied to the angel who told her.
And Mary said to the angel,
“How will this be, since I am a virgin?” Luke 1:34 (ESV)
God knows how to use unqualified vessels for great and mighty things that well-qualified vessels could not do.
For Mary to play her part successfully was a miracle that only God could do. This is where God wants to show us that if we can trust Him, there is no limit to what He can do through us.
If God’s choice of a young girl from among the simple Jewish people to conceive the “holy thing” that would eventually become the Son of God is a great surprise, the ability of the girl to accept the offer is even more so.
Mary had never seen an angel before, let alone heard of a woman conceiving without contact with a man, so it was difficult for her to fully grasp what the holy angel was saying.
Nevertheless, she responded in faith and said. “Be it to me according to your word”.
Mary’s conversation with the angel Gabriel is recorded in Luke 1:28-38.
When the angel Gabriel heard this, it was a simple confirmation of what he already knew. Mary’s response to his message is just what could be expected from God’s chosen vessel.
God cannot force His will on a person. That is not the way He works. He can tell you what He has planned for your life and allow you to choose whether you want it or not. Whatever you decide is what He will do for you.
When the children of Israel said at His hearing that they did not want to go into the Promised Land, God granted them their wishes.
Thank God that Mary chose to live by faith instead of walking by sight. God always looks for such people because they are the only ones who can understand His ways and serve Him the way He wants.
Why Was Mary So Young When She Had Jesus?
The Bible does not reveal the exact age of Mary when she conceived and gave birth to Jesus.
Based on history and Jewish culture, Bible scholars have been able to deduce what her age might have been, which is between twelve (12) and sixteen (16).
This is the normal age at which girls are betrothed to their husbands and married off when all the necessary marriage rites have been performed.
Mary is no different from any other virgin in the land, she is just privileged to be used by God to bring the Messiah into the world.
Related Content: What is the Difference between God and Jesus?
While some may view her as very young for such a role, why did God not choose another person better suited for the job?
The fact is that God has a special preference for young people. Throughout the Bible we see Him use many of them to accomplish great things, and they succeeded where adults failed.
Over two thousand years before the Virgin Mary, a different young man named Joseph was sold into slavery by his brothers.
It looked like they had succeeded in their evil plan because there was no way Joseph could have returned home.
Because God was involved, He helped Joseph overcome all the challenges that came his way, including the temptation that came from his master’s wife. He made Pharaoh have a dream that no one but Joseph could interpret.
Eventually, Joseph became the Viceroy of Egypt. Egypt was the most prosperous nation in the world at that time. Joseph went on to be the best economic administrator and counselor to Pharaoh before, during, and after the famine.
He was so good at his job that nothing ungodly was recorded against him.
Daniel was also a young boy when King Nebuchadnezzar’s men took him to Babylon with other boys his age.
He had no one to rely on to teach and guide him in the way of the Lord, but he never forgot the knowledge he had received from his homeland.
He was taught not to serve idols, and he stuck to it. At the risk of his life, he confronted the officer in charge and told him why he should not eat the king’s food.
Daniel eventually became the wisest man in the land. He rose to prominence and served honorably in the government of three successive kings.
He defeated all his enemies and their evil plans and made the idolatrous kings under whom he served realize that there is no other God but the Almighty.
What about David, Samuel, Josiah, and a host of others who were young but became powerful instruments in the hand of God?
God’s use of Mary is an indication that He can use anyone or anything for His purpose. He is the Almighty. He does what He pleases among the inhabitants of the earth, and no one can stop His hand or say to Him, “What have you done?
Where Did Mary Go After The Angel’s Visit?
Immediately after the angel Gabriel delivered his message and departed, Mary hurried to visit her cousin Elizabeth.
Some folks are skeptical of Mary’s claim to be a virgin. But consider her actions. Mary goes straight to Elizabeth’s house. Her husband Zechariah was a Temple Priest! (see Luke 1:5)
Who goes to the home of the Temple Priest if she’s become pregnant the usual way out of wedlock? Does anybody think a girl with a guilty conscience is going to go straight to the house of the priest?
The angel revealed to Mary that Elizabeth was six months pregnant. This was a woman who was considered permanently barren because she had passed the age of childbearing.
Elizabeth lived in the hill country of Judea, and she had hidden from the people because she didn’t want them to see her, but Mary desperately needed to see her.
Mary needed confirmation of what the angel had told her. The only proof she could get immediately was to confirm Elizabeth’s pregnancy. If she had conceived, then the angel could not have been wrong in everything he had told her.
She could not tell anyone about her encounter with the angel and what he said! They would not believe her. She was not sure if what she had seen was real or a dream.
As soon as she entered Elizabeth’s house, the baby in her womb leaped for joy!
Deep called to deep. John, the forerunner of Jesus -whom Elizabeth was carrying in her womb- recognized the Lord in Mary’s womb and could not contain his joy.
It was a great moment for the two women who were carrying two persons destined to change the history of the world and the course of humanity forever.
They were filled with the Holy Spirit and prophesied great things that God would accomplish through the seeds they were carrying.
Mary stayed with her cousin for three full months and returned to her home fully convinced that although what had happened to her was strange and abnormal, she had nothing to fear because it would be as God had said.
And these events led to the first Christmas. (see my post on the Difference Between Jesus and Santa Claus)
Indeed, nothing is impossible with God!
Whenever God reveals things to us, He wants us to fully understand and believe. He wants us to start acting toward its realization.
You don’t need a third party to explain or interpret God’s intentions to you. The God of all flesh can communicate His purpose to people in a language they can understand. All we need to do is to focus and submit ourselves completely to His will.
What Do Mary’s Words And Actions Tell Us About Her Character?
As a Jewish girl, Mary must have gone through the religious teachings intended for girls of her age. These would have taken her through the Law of Moses, which was what the Jewish teachers and scribes had at that time.
This knowledge must have prepared her for the encounter with the angel.
She must have heard about the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob who brought the Israelites out of the land of Egypt, led them through the wilderness and planted them in the Promised Land.
Mary would also have heard the Story of Moses and the Bronze Snake that you can read about here.
She must have heard how this God parted the Red Sea, divided the Jordan River, and rained down food from the sky. She must have heard about the great heroes and heroines of the Old Testament and the great deeds they did because God was with them.
She would have heard about the coming Messiah, a great king who would be born in the land of Israel, and who would deliver the nation from the oppressive Roman government (that was how the Jews understood the coming of the Messiah at that time).
In all of this, she could never have imagined that she would play any role in the coming of the Messiah, let alone be the person who would give birth to Him.
Mary had the general knowledge of God that other people have, but above all, she had something that was of great value to her and that helped her to prepare herself fully for her role.
She had a humble spirit.
This is the spirit that makes someone believe and accept new things that they don’t fully understand or that seem foolish and unreasonable.
Those who have this spirit don’t try to find logical reasons for God’s plans, they try to believe even when they don’t have enough evidence to support such an action.
Hannah had this spirit. When she prayed in the temple and Eli the priest told her that God had answered her prayers, she went home rejoicing and was never sad again.
Joshua and Caleb had this spirit. They saw the Promised Land, and even though they saw giants, they returned to camp to tell the people that God had given them the land.
Jesus called those who have the Spirit “poor in spirit.” (See my post on the Meaning of Poor in Spirit) He said they are blessed, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
Mary humbly accepted what the angel said. She never doubted although she had every reason to do so. She never asked for a sign or proof, but simply followed what the angel told her.
What a woman of faith. She is a rare jewel among the women of her time. No wonder the angel gave her a special greeting.
Why Did God Choose Mary?
God chose Mary because He intended her to play the role of the mother of Jesus. She had excellent character.
When you read Mary’s Magnificat (Luke 1:46-55) you can see that it is a very inspired passage. Scholars say the Magnificat quotes multiple Old Testament passages and connects them in an amazing way!
This puts Mary’s learning and character –and the character of those who raised her- on display.
Her parents (believed to be Joachim and Anne based on extra-Biblical sources) likely took to heart the Old Testament directive;
“Train up a child in the way he should go;Proverbs 22:6, ESV
even when he is old he will not depart from it.
On the other hand, Mary acknowledges her sinfulness. Right in the Magnificat, she acknowledges her need for a Savior. (Luke 1:47)
From Old Testament times, the prophets foretold the coming of Jesus as follows
Behold, a virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and shall call his name Immanuel.
(Isaiah 7:14 KJV).
The stage was set, but God had to provide the right virgin to play that role for His purpose to be accomplished.
The angel Gabriel coming to Mary was not an afterthought. God had already planned the events.
We are all created for a purpose. There are roles that God has ordained for us to play. It can be big or small. The important thing is that we believe in it and do it.
The man who was given a talent in the Bible thought he deserved more. He failed to act on it. Little did he know that if he had been faithful with the little he was given, he would have received the same reward as others who were given more talents.
Mary isn't the only notable woman in the Bible. See my post on Incredible Female Heroes, Villains and Warriors in the Bible.
Looking at Mary from a human point of view, one word leads to the conclusion that she should not be the candidate for such an enormous task.
We should stop looking at our limitations and focus on God who has unlimited resources and abilities. The One who knows the end from the beginning and who can do all things.
If the person He wants to use is not qualified, He can recreate them and make them more than able for the job.
Jesus said to Peter, James, John, and others, including you and me, “Follow me and I will make you…”
Let us follow Him, the Author and the Finisher of our faith. He will surely make us into what He intended us to be, for He is the Master Builder.
How Old Was The Virgin Mary When She Died?
The Bible does not tell us how old Mary was when she died. Perhaps the reason for this is that her age is not important, but the role she played.
One thing we can deduce from the biblical story of Mary and Jesus Christ is that if she gave birth to Jesus as a teenager and Jesus lived up to 33 years before he died and rose again, then Mary must have lived over 50 years before she died.
She must have experienced her moments of joy and sorrow as a mother. Joy as she watched Jesus grow into a teacher and miracle worker. Grief when she saw him hung on the three crosses in great agony, and when he died and was buried.
Jesus felt her pain when He was on the cross.
When Jesus saw His mother there and the disciple whom He loved standing nearby, He said to her, “Woman, here is your son,” and to the disciple, “Here is your mother. From that time on, the disciple took her into his home (John 19:26-27).
What a caring Savior! His pain was unimaginable, yet he put it aside and took care of his mother’s pain.
One remarkable thing we cannot help but notice in the Bible is that Mary did not die a virgin. We will also notice that the Bible drops the word “virgin” from her name and instead calls her Mary, the mother of Jesus.
She gave birth to James, Joses (a form of Joseph), Simon, and Jude, as well as unnamed sisters after Jesus Christ, as mentioned in the books of Mark and Matthew.
It is wrong for anyone to still refer to her as the Virgin Mary, and it is wrong to worship her or pray to God through her.
There is no doubt that Mary is truly blessed among all the women created by God. To conceive and give birth to Jesus Christ was no small responsibility.
What makes her even more unique is that she fulfilled her role so well and never gave God any reason to regret ever having chosen her. She was certainly a young woman of great moral character, and she was very diligent in serving her God.
One might ask, did Satan never try to tempt her to sin, to disbelieve, or to disobey God?
Mary has shown us that simple faith in God is all we need to connect with the Almighty and make a great impact in the world.
If your faith is as small as a mustard seed, you have more than enough to move mountains.