Luke 2:17-18, 33-34


Heres a good one:

“He will go before him in the spirit and power of Elijah to turn the hearts of fathers toward children and the disobedient to the understanding of the righteous, to prepare a people fit for the Lord.” Then Zechariah said to the angel, 'How shall I know this? For I am an old man, and my wife is advanced in years."- Luke 2-17-18

Zechariah is punished for expressing his doubt.

"and he will rule over the house of Jacob forever, and of his kingdom there will be no end.’ But Mary said to the angel, “How can this be, since I have no relations with a man?”-Luke 2:33-34

Mary however, goes unpunished and is lauded by the Church for her obedience. What am I missing here?


Mary said “how will this be since I know not man?” She knew it would happen, but she just wanted to know how this would happen since she wasn’t married. She wasn’t expressing a doubt but just an honest question of how it was going to happen.

In Zechariah’s case, he laughed and apparently didn’t take it seriously since his wife was beyond having children. So he thought the angel didn’t know what he was saying.

May God our Father give you grace and peace.


As Fred said, Zechariah doubted. Mary asked for an explanation and tested the spirit. See 1 John 4:1-4.



Zechariah responded, “I don’t believe. Prove it to me.” Mary responded, “I don’t understand. Could you explain it to me?”

Big difference. :wink:


Since the wording of Zachary’s question and Mary’s question are so similar and the reaction to their questions so different, perhaps the motive behind Zachary’s question was less noble than the motive behind Mary’s question.


Zechariah’s response mirrors Abraham’s response in Genesis 17. Mary’s response mirrors Hannah’s response in 1 Samuel 1. Both desired a son.

Abraham doubted, laughed and demanded a sign - proof that God would do what he promised. Abraham schemed to have a son in spite of God’s promise.

Hannah wept, fasted, prayed and made a vow to God to give the son back to God if her prayer was granted. Hannah went away glad when the high priest prayed for her, confident in God’s providence that her prayer would be answered.

Jews knew the Old Testament. Those who read or heard Luke 2 would have recognized the response of Zechariah as a reference to Abraham who fathered Isaac and the response of Mary as a reference to Hannah who gave birth to Samuel.

Hannah, Judith, Esther, Ruth, the mother of the seven sons in 2 Maccabees 7… these are the strong Jewish women of the Bible. Jews revere these women. Christians should study them, and should recognize how they foreshadow Mary.



Note that Zechariah’s punishment also symbolized the silencing of the Levitical priesthood with the coming of Jesus.

It recently occurred to me that since Zechariah was a priest, John was also a Levitical priest. However, it appears that he never exercised that office.


John 4:20-21
Our fathers worshiped on this mountain; and you say that in Jerusalem is the place where men ought to worship.” Jesus said to her, “Woman, believe me, the hour is coming when neither on this mountain nor in Jerusalem will you worship the Father.

Since he was in the wilderness until his day of manifestation to Israel (Luke 1:80), was he also the precursor of worshipping in spirit and in truth?


In Genesis 17 when Abraham expresses doubt he is blessed, whereas when Zechariah expresses doubt he is punished.

In 1 Samuel 1 Hannah is immediately obedient to god whereas Mary expresses doubt.

Because thier responses are so similiar “How can this be?” vs. “How shall I know this?”, I assume that God gave Mary preferential treatment over Zechariah because of thier individual stations. God sought to abolish the Levitical priesthood, and therefore punished Zechariah. And God sought to promote the cause of Mary and was therefore lenient.


In this case, I would argue that the difference lies in the individuals and in their contexts. Zechariah has a far greater grasp of God’s history with Man than Abraham does; Zechariah has access to the entire history of God’s interactions with the Israelites, but Abraham does not. Given the history of God’s interactions with his people, Zechariah should already know that God does miraculous things for our benefit; Abraham doesn’t have this kind of history or knowledge. I would argue that the way you treat a 5-year-old is a lot different than the way you treat an 18-year-old, when they say something contrary to fact… :wink:

In 1 Samuel 1 Hannah is immediately obedient to god whereas Mary expresses doubt.

Hmm… I’m not sure to what you’re referring. Does Hannah speak with an angel? Does Hannah receive a revelation from God? In what way is Hannah “immediately obedient to God”?

Because thier responses are so similiar “How can this be?” vs. “How shall I know this?”,

That’s just it: they’re not similar. Zechariah says, “by what will I know this?” – that is, he’s asking for a sign from Gabriel through which Gabriel might prove himself to Zechariah. In other words, Zechariah is asking for a sign from Gabriel! And, of course, Zechariah gets the sign he’s asking for – Gabriel strikes him temporarily mute!

Mary, on the other hand, asks a simple question: she’s been told that she will conceive in her womb, but – knowing that she is (and will be) a virgin, she doesn’t understand the mechanism by which she’ll become pregnant (hey – she’s a virgin, but she’s no dummy ;)). She asks ‘Πῶς ἔσται τοῦτο?’ – that is, “by what means will this happen?” … that is, she doesn’t laugh at Gabriel; she doesn’t ask him to prove that what he’s saying is true; she doesn’t doubt him. Rather, she simply asks for information… and Gabriel gives her that information.


Not at all. Doubt indicates a lack of faith. Mary expressed her lack of knowledge and tested the spirit by asking how it was going to happen, and not “how can I be certain of this?” as Zechariah did. Huge difference. Look ahead to what Elizabeth says by the Holy Spirit about Mary:

Luke 1:45
“Blessed art thou for thy believing; the message that was brought to thee from the Lord shall have fulfilment.”

Mary believed. She did not doubt.


Very good, thank you all for contributing.


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