Was Mary’s mother a Levite?


Regarding necessary inferences in the New Testament:

Fact: Mary and Elisabeth are cousins.
Fact: Elisabeth had to be a full-blooded Levite in order to marry a priest. (Zacharias)
Fact: Mary's father was of the tribe of Judah.

What would be wrong with making a "necessary inference" and infer that Elisabeth's mother and Mary's mother were sisters? (making Mary and Elisabeth cousins).

This would make Mary's mother a full-blooded Levite also. This would make Mary from both of the tribe Levi (her mother) and of the tribe of Judah (her father).

Thank you.


Mary and Elizabeth were cousins, though not necessarily first-cousins (Luke 1:36). The Greek word sungenis refers to someone related by blood who is a female. Recall that there is also a significant age difference between Mary and Elizabeth.

Priests were not restricted to only marrying Levite women. The restrictions on who a priest could marry were: "They shall not take a wife who is a harlot or a defiled woman, nor shall they take a woman divorced from her husband; for the priest is holy to his God" (Leviticus 21:7).

Mary was descended from the tribe of Judah (Luke 3:23-38, especially verse 33).

Typically "full-blooded" means both parents are of the same tribe.

We cannot draw a conclusion as to which tribe the common ancestor of Mary and Elizabeth was from. However, it needs to be noted that a wife becomes a part of her husband's tribe. This is why there was a law that when a man had only daughters, they were restricted to marry within their own tribe. "This is what the LORD has commanded concerning the daughters of Zelophehad, saying, 'Let them marry whom they wish; only they must marry within the family of the tribe of their father.' Thus no inheritance of the sons of Israel shall be transferred from tribe to tribe, for the sons of Israel shall each hold to the inheritance of the tribe of his fathers. Every daughter who comes into possession of an inheritance of any tribe of the sons of Israel shall be wife to one of the family of the tribe of her father, so that the sons of Israel each may possess the inheritance of his fathers. Thus no inheritance shall be transferred from one tribe to another tribe, for the tribes of the sons of Israel shall each hold to his own inheritance" (Numbers 36:6-9).


God separated the tribe of Levi from the rest of Israel and claimed them to Himself. God is speaking to the priests in Leviticus 21:1 and that thought carries on through Leviticus 21:14 where He says they shall take a wife of his own people.

Seeing that the tribe of Levi is separate from Israel then "his own people" can only mean from the tribe of Levi.

Is this not correct?

Thank you.


A "people" refers to a nationality and not a tribe within the nation.

  • "There is no straw given to your servants, and they say to us, 'Make brick!' And indeed your servants are beaten, but the fault is in your own people" (Exodus 5:16). "Your own people" refers to the Israelites as oppose to the Egyptians.
  • "As for their children, half spoke in the language of Ashdod, and none of them was able to speak the language of Judah, but the language of his own people" (Nehemiah 13:24). Speaking about the intermarriage with other nationalities.
  • "It shall be as the hunted gazelle, And as a sheep that no man takes up; Every man will turn to his own people, And everyone will flee to his own land" (Isaiah 13:14). Referring to the nations captured by Babylon returning to their original countries when Babylon falls.

Priests were limited to marrying Israelites. There was no restriction to only marry other Levites. This can be seen in the repeat of this same law: "And they shall not marry a widow or a divorced woman but shall take virgins from the offspring of the house of Israel, or a widow who is the widow of a priest" Ezekiel 44:22).

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