Originally Posted by chataranga
I'm having trouble understanding the difference between Mary's question to the angel on having a child when she has not had relations with a man and Zacharia's question of having a child because of his and his wife's advanced years. Both according to the bible said "how?" After Mary said "how?" she agreed to have the child. After zacharia said "how?" he was struck mute. seems like some rationalizing going on here. Thanks for any help.
The difference is in what they could have been expected to know.
Take Abraham vs. Sarah, for example, Abraham is NOT reprimanded for his mockery (laughter), but Sarah is. At first sight, the difference appears to be sexist. But it isn't. There was no example prior to Abraham of one advanced in years having a child -- and his laughter came upon a surprise statement from God. He is therefore, not directly reprimanded -- but led as a child, to a conclusion based on his past experience of God's power. God does not walk away from Abraham in judgment, but stays to teach.
Notice, the case is not the same with Sarah; Abraham had entered into the covenant with God and the Covenant included renaming his wife from Sarai to Sarah (princess!). Sarah was quite happy to accept the name change
, which implied acceptance of the covenant -- BUT when God came to inform of the timing of the miraculous birth -- THEN Sarai mocked behind the tent door.
It is totally context dependent as to how God responds. He asks Abraham (Not Sarah) why she laughed -- and he doesn't answer. It can only mean his shame. Sarah denies that she laughed, etc. Then GOD LEAVES her.
Now, there are specifics of the case that can partially exonerate her, and I acknowledge them -- but decline to go into that much detail for the question at hand.
However, what they knew of events that pre-ceded them determined what they were responsible for understanding or not understanding.
In the case of Mary and Zechariah; Zechariah was a teacher of Israel, he was a high priest (underpriest) offering incense at the Holy of Holies upon the Golden incense altar. Zechariah would have known full well that old women can have children, exactly as Sarah did. He knew full well that he was in the place of intercession (the temple) where such promises were made by God from the time of Moses onward. He is *ALSO* the representative of the people on behalf of whom he prays (in a way he bears their sin.). With all of these things being part of his responsibility, he then questions God about whether history can repeat itself? The people were sent to Babylonian exile because of such disbelief -- and here in the temple, Zechariah repeats their mistake; they can't even believe in history.
Mary, on the other hand -- is receiving the fulfillment (for the first time) of a prophecy that could never have happened before in the *SAME WAY* as it was about to happen with her now. There are not two virgin births. Even to this day, many Jews will attempt to argue that the saying of Isaiah is "A young woman" will be with child. Such a woman is expected to be a virgin, so that the saying of the old testament is a scandal.
I would sum up as follows:
- There is no TAUGHT example in history of what a Virgin birth is.
- The prophecy was given on account of Sin, and Mary has reason to question the place of Sin in fulfillment of the prophecy.
- Mary spends time casting about in her heart BEFORE replying.
These three points are all contrary to situation with Zechariah.
- Many women who were barren conceived in their old age upon a promise
- Sin or complicating factors were not always involved in history
- Zechariah replies without using his brain or heart first -- he is *rash*.
So, the angel's judgment of Zechariah rises to the level of "dis-belief"; but no such judgment is laid upon Mary.
Anybody else got a problem with that?
Mary was a good scripture student and Zechariah was a bad scripture student.