Widow and her Eldest Son: Did Jesus Break the Law?


When Jesus saw his mother and the disciple whom he loved standing beside her, he said to his mother, “Woman, here is your son.” Then he said to the disciple, “Here is your mother.” And from that hour the disciple took her into his own home. - John 19:26-27

Tim Staples, Scott Hahn and E. W. Hengstenberg all point to John 19:26-27 as a defense for our blessed mother Mary’s perpetual virginity saying: the Jewish law says the next eldest sibling would have had to take responsibility for the widow, therefore if there was a available brother (another son of Mary) Jesus in giving Mary to st. John would have broken the law.

I’ve been looking all over but I can’t find this law in the old testament. Where does it say a widow is under the responsibility of the eldest son if there are no brothers of the deceased husband to get married to?

Thank you!

P.S: through praying about the matter, I was guided to Ruth who married Mahlon who took care of his mother after her husband, his father died. This doesn’t prove the point about the law but it does show a son taking care of his widowed mother


Would that be God’s law or man’s law?


I think the apologists were simply referring to the Commandment, “Honor your father and mother” (Exodus 20:12; Deuteronomy 5:16), or in the negative, “Cursed be he who dishonors his father or his mother.” (Deuteronomy 26:16)

Of course, if Jesus was speaking as God, then he could certainly dispense his supposed siblings from their sacred duty toward their mother, the Virgin Mary. However, if he was speaking as a man, then entrusting his mother to John could only be understood as an insult or curse of his supposed siblings who were either unable or unwilling to fulfill their sacred duty toward their mother.


Well knowing that Jesus was a law abiding Jew I´d just like to know what law he would have been under at the time before his death. :slight_smile:


To Todd977’s point, a few people I have read do take the fourth commandment to be primarily about caring for one’s parents in old age in its original historical context, although I cannot remember the argument.

There is of course, Proverbs 23:22, which is, of course, a proverb, not a law.

Today, a number of states in the union (including mine) have filial piety laws, which make adult children responsible for the care of their parents (although people getting prosecuted under these laws is very rare, it has happened), and in a scenario where you only had one child, presumably that one child would bare responsibility for the mother.

I am sure that in a culture with far more emphasis on filial piety, they had some concrete law on the subject too, although I cannot point to any. I am sure some digging will turn them up though.

But for Hahn’s argument, I think that the only point Hahn is trying to make is that it is odd that there was no one else to take care of Mary, as there would have been had there been siblings. Anyway, I think a strictly literal understanding of that scene misses the point, but then again a strictly non-literal one might miss it too.


Hi, Christian!

There are several passages in the Old Testament that speaks about the care of the widows; one can speculate that its major source would be the Forth Commandment: honor father and mother.

We do find a specific passage in the New Testament where it touches on the issue of the widow:

16 If any of the faithful have widows, let him minister to them, and let not the church be charged: that there may be sufficient for them that are widows indeed. (1 Timothy 5:16)

Regardless of an implied code of conduct, we know that Jesus would have sinned if He would “give” the Virgin Mary away to one of His disciples while she had other children that would have taken care of her. Could the same Messiah that asked the Father to forgive those who had a hand in His Crucifixion not forgive His siblings and allow them to take their mother home with them?

Maran atha!



I’ve not read it (it’s hundreds of pages long) but can we assume that if it’s not explicitly spelled out in the Torah (i.e. the first 5 books of the Bible), then it would have been dealt with in the Talmud?

Just looking at some of the things the Talmud says, and the sheer amount of detail it goes into, there must be something in there that deals with who takes care of a woman after her husband dies.

If anyone’s read the Talmud and knows if it’s in there, please chime in!


Oh, the Talmud. duh.
On the mitzvah to honor thy father and mother:

‘Honor’ means that he should give his father food and drink, he should help to dress his
father, cover him, and lead him in and out.

Which, you know, clearly means caring for their needs after they are unable to do so.


Thank you for you input, it actually is making a lot of sense with everything I’ve studied about the subject especially the Talmud and the mitzvah.

I’m no scholar but from bible classes I’ve taken and readings I’ve done I’ve deduced the following:

A good way to see how Jesus looked at the commandment, “Honor your father and mother” would be how he saw the tradition of Corban which the Pharisees observed. Saying, “It is Corban” (devoted to God as a gift.) would exempt a person from his responsibility to his parents.

Jesus replied, “And why do you break the command of God for the sake of your tradition? For God said: ‘Honor your father and mother’ and ‘Anyone who curses his father or mother must be put to death.’ But you say that if anyone says to his father or mother, ‘The help you would have received from me has been given to God,’ he need not honor his father or mother with it. Thus you nullify the word of God for the sake of your tradition.
[RIGHT]-Matthew 15:3-6[/RIGHT]

I can see how it would basically curse his supposed siblings to give our mother the way he did.


Hi, Christian!
I had forgotten that particular passage; though it does not explicitly makes a direct connection, it does implicitly demonstrate that children are obliged, in God’s Eyes, to take care of their elderly parents, even if it causes some financial strains.

So it would follow that Jesus would have sinned from the Cross if He had removed Mary from her rightful caregiver–since we know that Jesus became man and joined us in everything but sin, it follows that the Virgin Mary had no other caregiver besides Jesus.

Maran atha!



The Law is simply the divine Gospel in the hand of Christ. The actuality is pretty crudely available.


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