"Woman, behold your son..."


He (Jesus) said to his mother (while he was hanging on the cross and dying), ‘Woman, behold your son!’ (John 19:26)

I have always wondered something about the exegesis of this verse: the reason why commentators assume that Jesus is referring, when using the word ‘Son’ in 19:26, to the disciple whom he loved, as opposed to himself?

From the perspective of Mary: surely when Jesus says to her “woman, behold your son” she would be “beholding” him and thinking that he was saying, “look at me, see, behold your son Jesus here on the cross”. For a first time reader who does not have the gift of hindsight, the natural flow of the narrative would lend itself to the idea that “son” directed towards Mary designates her own son: the dying, crucified Jesus.

It is only afterwards that the reader’s attention is directed towards the man beside her, the anonymous disciple whom Jesus loved.

I would aver that this disciple is never explicitly identified figuratively speaking as Mary’s “son”. I think that the “son” so mentioned is a literal reference by Jesus to himself.

The ultimate importance of the scene, therefore, seems to lie in Jesus’s invitation to his mother to look away from her dying son to find him alive again in the disciple whom he loved - and hence, by implication, in every disciple now that they are his “Body” on earth, the Church, which has now become Mary’s true family. This fulfils the earlier dictum in John 1:12 which held that “to those who believed in his name [like the beloved disciple who stuck by him to the end], he gave the right to become children of God - children born not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but born of God”.

In becoming “sons of God” by grace just as Our Lord is by nature, Mary - his mother according to the flesh - becomes ours according to the spirit. This scene, therefore, appears intended to convey the doctrine described above pertaining to the ‘sonship’ of believers who through the blood of Christ have become “partakers of the divine nature”?

This very same doctrinal point is reiterated once again later in the Gospel text during the resurrection appearance to Mary Magdalene, who had been among the group of closest disciples huddled around the foot of the cross with the Mother of God and so had heard these words of Jesus to his mother herself, where it states:

16Jesus said to her, “Mary.” She turned and said to Him in Aramaic, “Rabboni!” (which means Teacher). 17“Do not cling to Me, Jesus said, “For I have not yet ascended to the Father. But go and tell My brothers, ‘I am ascending to My Father and your Father, to My God and your God.’” 18Mary Magdalene went and announced to the disciples, “I have seen the Lord!” And she told them what He had said to her.…

Like Mary the Mother of God, Mary Magdalene was here instructed by Jesus not to “cling to him/behold him” but rather to look towards His “brothers” - the entire community of believers who had become through Him “children of God by Grace”.

This would appear to be a central, perhaps the central, refrain of John’s Gospel.


I’m also thinking of this verse:

For those God foreknew, He also predestined to be conformed to the image of His Son, so that He would be the firstborn among many brothers. 30And those He predestined He also called, those He called He also justified, those He justified He also glorified” (Romans 8:39-30)

Which explains the reason why Jesus referred to the disciples as His “brothers” in the first resurrection appearance to Mary Magdalene.

All Christians were “conformed to the image of His Son” when Mary gazed at him dying for their sins on the cross, thereby making Jesus “the firstborn among many brothers” who would become “partakers of the divine nature” through Him.

In my opinion the words “behold your Son” therefore point towards the theological significance of the crucifixion, when God “conformed” mankind to the “image of His Son”. To me, that is the reason why Jesus asked his mother to “behold” Him, the Image of the Living God conforming the “predestined” whom God had already called to justification and glory.

The meaning is lost if “son” is interpreted as a reference to the Beloved Disciple.


Because Jesus knew that someone had to take her in.
Women in those days lost everything if the man of the house died.
She had no living husband. She was not going to remarry, being a consecrated Virgin. Clearly Jesus had no siblings, as proven by this statement.
She would have been homeless and at great risk. In “giving” her to St. John, Christ ensured her safety, and also gave her to US, as an intercessor and Mother. It’s a profound act of love. Even as He was taking His last breath.


I don’t see it as being exclusively either way. However, in the immediate context, it does seem to be Jesus giving his mother to the disciple and the disciple receiving her to his own home rather than saying “look at me”.


In the entire context …John taking Mary into his home …makes your interpretation shaky at best and supports the traditional exegesis.

The other point is that if Jesus was referring to himself - it’s clumsy …why use third person phrasing …behold your son …instead of first person …look at me …or see me

But the context being - behold your son… behold your mother …and he took her into his care …

Either John and Mary failed to understand what Jesus meant in the moment leading the faithful Gospel writer astray …or you are mistaken …




Three things:

  1. Mary spent her whole life knowing, loving and acknowledging her Son, and being faithful to His Divine Mission.

  2. Jesus saying to Mary to behold Him as opposed to the Beloved Disciple would give little explanation to the part in which Jesus says to the Beloved Disciple to behold his Mother - why would Jesus talk to Himself?

  3. As a Franciscan friar once preached, “Behold”, when spoken in Scripture, means an exclamation of something unprecedented (never seen before); something totally new. Well, Jesus asking His Mother to behold Him, although she already knew Him, makes little sense in that correct context of the word “behold”, as understood with consistency. However, “behold” being said to the Mother and the Beloved Disciple in relation to one another, makes perfect sense, as Our Lady is the Mother of the Church as well as His own Mother, which is brought to completion (though already realised) from the point of Jesus’ death upon the Cross, that is about to happen.


Jesus is giving His Mother to John son of Zebedee and John to His Mother.


Curious…who do you think God wouldn’t Know before hand since the verse says “for those who God foreknew” implying that there’s a distinction between this and those God didn’t “foreknow”? Also because he predestined some apparently, what does this do for their free will? Don’t mean to derail the discussion, these questions just jumped out at me.


Answer given. Thread closed. :slight_smile:


I’m not suggesting that John, Mary or the Gospel writer “went astray,” (dont know how you could think I was saying that :confused:) far be it and I certainly may be wrong.

I am only arguing that if one looks at the flow of the narrative without any preconceived ideas about the scene (given that it is so very familiar, culturally, to us), when Jesus looks at his mother from the cross - his hands impaled - and tells her to “behold your son”…why on earth would she think to look, at that moment, towards the beloved disciple beside her? Jesus is her son and her concern is for him, dying on the cross.

Likewise the reader, not yet knowing that Jesus is going to look next at the beloved disciple, would at that point surely think that Jesus was asking his mother to “behold” her son nailed to the execution stake. He asks her to behold him and then, only then, does he speak to the disciple whom he loved (i.e. John) and announce to him that Mary is now his mother.

What is indisputable is that Jesus then looks to the beloved disciple and invites him to see Mary as his mother, I would say because he had “believed in his name” and so he received “the right to become a child of God” through grace, to reference the Johannine prologue.

Throughout the Gospel accounts, Jesus frequently speaks of himself in the third person. For example Matthew 16:13 (NIV):

When Jesus came to the region of Caesarea Philippi, he asked his disciples, "Who do people say the Son of Man is?"

One other major case of third person titles is in John 17 where Jesus is praying and refers to himself as God’s son and ‘Jesus Christ’:

**1After Jesus said this, he looked toward heaven and prayed:

“Father, the hour has come. Glorify your Son, that your Son may glorify you. 2For you granted him authority o**ver all people that he might give eternal life to all those you have given him. 3Now this is eternal life: that they know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom you have sent. 4I have brought you glory on earth by finishing the work you gave me to do. 5And now, Father, glorify me in your presence with the glory I had with you before the world began.”

Do you consider these overt occasions where he does so to be “clumsy”?

Is not the taking of her into his care a visible example of his understanding that his “family of Faith”, the Church and its mother, now takes primacy even over his earthly family?

Consider that when Jesus instructs Mary Magdalene to go to “his brothers” and tell them that Jesus is ascending to His Father and “their Father”…Mary Magdalene immediately gets it.

Jesus had earthly brethren, cousins, according to the flesh…but Mary understands that he isn’t referring, as a literal reading might suggest, to his earthly relations but to his brothers in a very different sense - the disciples.

Why, when reading the text for the first time, would anyone think of the beloved disciple at the moment when Jesus invites Mary his mother to “behold” her son?


Just my 2 cents…but you’re WAY overthinking this one.
He was simply taking care of His mother. To the end.
No clumsiness to it. :shrug:


The relationship between predestination and freewill is indeed a whole other topic :slight_smile:

It has to do with prevision of merits and whether or not predestination is post praevisa merita (after prevision of merits) and by that I mean logically rather than chronologically (since there is no time in God, He being Eternity Itself)… St. Thomas Aquinas is completely ambiguous on the issue, at times sounding like Augustine and teaching unconditional election whereas in other places he seems insistent that God does not predestine before prevision of merits.

I personally subscribe to a belief in predestination posterior to foreseen merits, albeit recognizing that all meritorious acts have their origin from the grace of God as opposed to the efforts of man.

But that’s a WHOLE other topic :rolleyes:

I didn’t really mean to get in that.


I don’t deny the very human quality that you speak of here but do you really think that was the only reason why the sacred author chose to include this scene when other accounts (i.e the synoptic) did not?

IMHO he did so because it exemplified the theological message he was communicating.

It fits with the prologue and the subsequent resurrection account involving Mary Magdalene.



…but for this exegesis to be valid, wouldn’t that necessitate that Jesus was intimating that the Virgin was fully ignorant of her Salvation, of Who Jesus Is, and that He was actually Commanding her to Observe Him as St. John 3:13-15?

Maran atha!




…yes… but…

While it is true that something wonderful is taking place at the Cross… the validity of the inheritance (becoming as a Son of God) does not take place on the Cross; for this to be so that would mean that all who still remain in their sinful lifestyle are also Christ’s brothers, conformed to His Image, and coheirs with Christ… which would go against Scriptures:

[FONT=“Garamond”][size=]11 He came to his own domain and his own people did not accept him. 12 But to all who did accept him he gave power to become children of God, to all who believe in the name of him

(St. John 1:11-12)
…and while all are predestined to Salvation, not all submit their wills to Gods:

19 On these grounds is sentence pronounced: that though the light has come into the world men have shown they prefer darkness to the light because their deeds were evil.

(St. John 3:19)
Maran atha!




OP, your argument has been refuted already quite convincingly, by various posters, despite your continuing efforts to make an unprovable and illogical case, make sense. Instead of starting an argument by forming your own opinion and then trying to piece some string of evidence in order to make it concrete in your head it would be more sensible to look at reasons why the texts are interpreted the way they already are and to question your own premise.


Actually, the answer is extremely simple.

In your exegesis, you took something totally out of context, which is not a proper way to do exegesis.

What you ignored or missed was the very next sentence.

Per the Jerusalem Bible: “And from that moment the disciple made a place for her ib his home.”

Per the New American Bible: “And from that hour, the disciple took her into his home.”

Jesus’ comment, if interpreted as referring to Himself as opposed to the disciple, makes absolutely no sense when one reads the next sentence “And from that…”.



As well it should be.



I can see the writing is on the wall, to use the biblical phrase.

And I’m happy to be corrected :slight_smile:

I thank you for your own intervention in that regard.

I should also note that I wasn’t intending to be difficult in anyway.

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