Need Help from Jews: Presentation of Mary: Historically Realistic?

Hey, gang.

As y’all know, today is the Feast of the Presentation of Mary. I’m curious . . . I’m not asking whether this event actually occurred, but whether there is an yreason to believe, apart from Christin apocrypha of Gentile origin, that 1st century BC Judaism has consecrated “Temple” virgins dedicated from infancy.

Anyone? Please, don’t bring up the Protoevangel of James; it has no bearing whatsoever on this question.


[quote=Sacramentalist]… that 1st century BC Judaism has consecrated “Temple” virgins dedicated from infancy.

Well, I’m not a Jew, but the tradition (little-“t”) of which you speak has nothing to do with “dedicated from infancy.” The tradition says the Temple virgins were dedicated at an early age (generally thought to be about four years of age). Mary would have been “presented” as a walking & talking little girl, not an infant.

Sacramentalist, I think that you are correct in questioning whether the presentation of the Blessed Virgin Mary actually took place in the way that it is popularly understood. Yesterday, while reading the meditation for this feast in In Converstion with God by Fr. Francis Fernandez (published with ecclesiastical approval by Scepter, the publisher of Opus Dei works) that the Church does not belive that the child Mary actually lived in the Temple under a vow of virginity. Here is what it says: “The Church, however, does not accept the fictitious narrative that supposes Our Lady to have lived in the Temple under a vow of virginity form the time she was a young maiden. But the essential basis of today’s feast is firm - the personal oblation that the Blessed Mother made to the Lord during her early youth.” Fr. Fernandez says that in the Feast of the Presentation we are actually celebrating Our Lady’s complete surrender to God’s plans for the salvation of mankind. The reference for this is the Apostolic Exhortation, Marialis cultus, of Pope Paul VI, issued February 2, 1974.

Right now I am living in Israel and have the opportunity to attend numerous lectures about the history of Jerusalem and the temple and its customs. I have never heard of any mention of temple virgins such as were found in pagan temples. The secular Jewish lecturers that I have heard tell us that archeological research has backed up most of what the Old Testament tell us about the temple. As you noted there is nothing in the Bible about temple virgins. I hope that this helps.

I always thought the Presentation of Mary commemorated the same event as the Presentation of the Lord, when the parents brought their firstborn baby to the temple, as the law commanded this first child belonged to the Lord, and was consecrated to Him. An offering was made (a calf or lamb for wealthy parents, two small birds for the poor) for the priests to sacrifice to “redeem” the child so the parents could lawfully keep him or her. I believe it was 40 days after the birth of a boy, and longer after the birth of a girl, and also a purification ritual was performed for the mother.

As I heard explained by a priest on a video from Liguori we use in sacramental preparation (I will find the title when I get to work) this purification did mean the woman had been defiled or “soiled” by pregnancy and childbirth, but that her body had been reserved by the Creator for his use in bringing new life into the world, and the purification was to ritually cleanse her body, as the altar and vessels used by the temple priests were ritually cleansed after sacrifices, so that she and her husband were free to resume marital relations. For the same reason the law separated husband and wife during the menses, and a ritual bath was necessary before they resumed relations after her period. The blood of her menses being a symbol of life marked her as unclean to her husband at that time, because he could not use what was reserved by the Creator. That is why an orthodox Jewish community erects a bathhouse for the women even before building a synagogue.
So in short I always thought this feast marked the obedience of Anna and Joachim to Jewish law in presenting their firstborn to the priests, and the purification ritual for Anna.

We need stillsmallvoice to give us the accurate teaching and practice on this topic.

Were women infants presented in the Temple, or only men?

Only male infants were presented in the temple. This practice come from the book of Exodus (RSV-CE). In Ex 13: 2, we read "The LORD said to Moses, “Consecrate to me all the firstborn; whatever is the first to open the womb among the people of Israel, both of man and of beast, is mine.” Verses 12 - 13 say, “…you shall set apart to the LORD all that first open the womb…Every first born of your sons you shall redeem.” Verse 15 says “Therefore I sacrifice to the LORD all the males [farm animals] that first open the womb; but all of the first born of my sons I redeem.” It explains that the first born sons are set apart or dedicated to service of the LORD as a remembrance of how the LORD delivered the Israelites from their captivity in Egypt. However all of these boys were not needed in the direct service of the LORD because the priesthood and the service in the temple belonged to the members of the tribe of Levi. So the Law allowed familes to offer a sacrifical victim as a symbolic ransom to redeem their sons. Mary and Joseph did this. I hope that this helps.

I remember reading in a Catholic Magaizine that the Presentation of Our Lady was on of the feast days that the Church was thinking about tossing durring Vatican II. (Like the feast of The Most Precious Blood.) However, it was determined that it would stay and the emphasis from the feast was shifted; from the literal sense, to the sense that this feast commemorates Mary’s personal consecration to God. However, you are free to believe that Mary was actually presented at the Temple, made her vow, and then was taught the Law there. The Fathers of the Church debated if this event really took place or not. My Church has a beautiful stained glass window of this event though, I love looking at it.

[quote=Marysann]Only male infants were presented in the temple.

Girls were also presented in the Temple, the requirement was for the consecration of the first born at the Temple. For a girl, it took place 80 days after her birth:

“And when the days of her purifying are completed, whether for a son or for a daughter, she shall bring to the priest at the door of the tent of meeting a lamb a year old for a burnt offering, and a young pigeon or a turtledove for a sin offering, and he shall offer it before the LORD, and make atonement for her; then she shall be clean from the flow of her blood. This is the law for her who bears a child, either male or female. And if she cannot afford a lamb, then she shall take two turtledoves or two young pigeons, one for a burnt offering and the other for a sin offering; and the priest shall make atonement for her, and she shall be clean.” (Leviticus 12:6-8)

In answer to Psalm 45:9, I think we are discussing two different practices here. The first is the presentation of the firstborn male, and the second the purification of women after childbirth. I think that that the offering of a lamb or the two turtle doves or young pigeons for a poor woman, after the birth of a son or a daughter refers to the atonement the mother must make to get rid of the ritual impurity she sustained from childbirth. Evidently, a woman was ritually impure longer after the birth of a daughter than after the birth of a son. She had to do this after every birth, but only the first born if it were a son was presented in the temple. We celebrate the Purification of Mary (although she certainly was not impure, ritually or any other way) on the same day as the Presentation of the Lord.

the celebration of the Presentation of Mary (after her birth to Anna), the Presentation of the Lord, and the Purification of Mary after her son’s birth, are celebrated to emphasize obedience to the law, and to put her obedience expressed in the account of the annunciation and in the Magnificat in the context of her being a devout Jew.

The notion of her being a dedicated virgin (not necessarily a “temple” virgin) is presented in Luke chapter 1, although you may need to contemplate on it a while.

[] Luke 1, 26 And in the sixth month, the angel Gabriel was sent from God into a city of Galilee, called Nazareth, 27 To a virgin espoused to a man whose name was Joseph, of the house of David; and the virgin’s name was Mary. 28 And the angel being come in, said unto her: Hail, full of grace, the Lord is with thee: blessed art thou among women. 29 Who having heard, was troubled at his saying, and thought with herself what manner of salutation this should be. 30 And the angel said to her: Fear not, Mary, for thou hast found grace with God. 31 Behold thou shalt conceive in thy womb, and shalt bring forth a son; and thou shalt call his name Jesus. 32 He shall be great, and shall be called the Son of the most High; and the Lord God shall give unto him the throne of David his father; and he shall reign in the house of Jacob for ever. 33 And of his kingdom there shall be no end.

Here, Gabriel tells Mary some things that shouldn’t be surprising and some things that are truly remarkable.
Lk 1, 31 that she shall (in the future) conceive in her womb and bring forth a son should have been of little surprise to anyone expecting to carry on a normal sexual relationship in her marriage, the only slight surprise would be that it is to be a son.

[] Lk 1, 32 He shall be great, and shall be called the Son of the most High; and the Lord God shall give unto him the throne of David his father; and he shall reign in the house of Jacob for ever.

WOW, well of course since Joseph was the house of David the child would be of the house of David, but he shall be called the Son of the most High; and he shall have the thrown of David. He’s going to be the king??? Holy mackerel!!! What news!!!
You can just imagine the shock of Mary can’t you? Now keep in mind that Gabriel is telling her what is going to happen in the future, not her present condition, but her future condition. To this Mary makes a statement and asks a question.

[] Lk 1, 34 And Mary said to the angel: How shall this be done, because I know not man?

Mary understood the angel was speaking of a future event and her future condition and states her FUTURE condition “I know not man”. Mary was NOT referring to her present condition of virginity but was stating her future virginity in response to the future events the angel is describing. She is here telling us she is going to remain a virgin.
Also notice that this is prior to the angel telling her the real Father of the child. Her question “How shall this be done, because I know not man?” makes no sense to a person intending to have a normal sexual marriage. The only thing she asks is the thing which should have been most apparent, that she shall (in the future) conceive a child.

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