Was Virgin Mary a teenager?

    I have heard only two bases to sustain the idea that Virgin Mary was a fourteen or fifteen year old girl when she received the news from the angel, and about sixteen when she gave birth to Jesus.  The first argument is based on the wrong idea that in the Jewish culture, girls were given to marriage, as soon as they turned 13 year old.  The second argument is based on the Catholic myth that Joseph was an 80 or 90 year old man, and Mary just a girl who continued to be virgin even after the birth of Jesus.  Both of these arguments are wrong. But sadly, this error appeared in the 1998-99 winter issue of the quarterly "Life and Work Pursuits".
    Is it true that in their culture, Jewish girls were married when they were teenagers?  No, it is not true.  I think that some people confuse the far eastern culture of China and India, with the biblical culture of Israel and Judah.  It is true that in India girls get married even at 13 and 14.  It happens also in Africa and some other countries, but it was not the case with Israel in biblical times.  It is not true either that the parents made the wedding arrangements when the children were four or five years old. You will not find the slightest hint of such a custom in the whole Bible.  This happened in India, not in Israel On the contrary, you will find in the Bible many passages in which you will realize that those ladies that still were single were well over 20 years old. Let us see some of them.
    A man had to be twenty years old to be considered of age.  When we read the Bible we notice that a male was not considered a man until he was twenty years old.  He didn't enter in the count of the people (census), he was not considered an adult, until he was twenty ( Ex 30:14; 38:26 ).  God did not consider accountable anyone who was under twenty ( Nm 32:11).  That is why those teenagers were not called to war until they were twenty, Nm 1:3 & 20.  If all this was true with a man, much less was a teenage girl going to be considered an adult in that culture.


                "Every one that passeth among them that are numbered, from twenty years
        old and above, shall give an offering unto the LORD."            ( Ex 30: 14 )

            "A bekah for every man, that is, half a shekel, after the shekel of the
        sanctuary, for every one that went to be numbered, from twenty years old and
        upward, for six hundred thousand and three thousand and five hundred and fifty men"
                                                                                                            ( Ex 38: 26 )

            "Surely none of the men that came up out of Egypt, from twenty years old
        and upward, shall see the land which I sware unto Abraham, unto Isaac, and
        unto Jacob; because they have not wholly followed me"             ( Nm 32:11 )

            "From twenty years old and upward, all that are able to go forth to war in
        Israel: thou and Aaron shall number them by their armies."           ( Nm 1: 3 )

            "And the children of Reuben, Israel's eldest son, by their generations,
        after their families, by the house of their fathers, according to the number of
        the names, by their polls, every male from twenty years old and upward, all
        that were able to go forth to war"                                                 ( Nm 1: 20 )

    Let's take a look at some of the unmarried ladies mentioned in the Bible, to see if we think they were just 13 year old girls.

    Zelophehad's daughters. These five ladies appear in three passages in the Scriptures. In Numbers 26: 2 and 33 their names are given among those who were accounted for, because they were over 20 years old. Therefore it is perfectly logical to think that these ladies were over twenty.

            "Take the sum of all the congregation of the children of Israel, from twenty
        years old and upward, throughout their fathers' house, all that are able to go to
        war in Israel."                                                          ( Nm 26: 2 )

           ..."And Zelophehad the son of Hepher had no sons, but daughters; and
        the names of the daughters of Zelophehad were: Mahlah, and Noah, Hoglah,
        Milcah, and Tirzah."                                                           ( Nm 26: 33 )

    In Numbers 27:1- 4 these five sisters present themselves before Moses, the princes of Israel, and the whole congregation, and defended very wisely their right to the inheritance of their father.

            "Then came the daughters of Zelophehad, the son of Hepher, the son of
        Gilead, the son of Machir, the son of Manasseh, of the families of Manasseh
        the son of Joseph: and these are the names of his daughters; Mahlah, Noah,
        and Hoglah, and Milcah, and Tirzah. And they stood before Moses, and before
        Eleazar the priest, and before the princes and all the congregation, by the door
        of the tabernacle of the congregation, saying: Our father died in the wilderness,
        and he was not in the company of them that gathered themselves together against
        the LORD in the company of Korah; but died in his own sin, and had no sons.
        Why should the name of our father be done away from among his family, because
        he hath no son? Give unto us therefore a possession among the brethren of our
        father."                                                                                 ( Numbers 27:1- 4 )

    The way these ladies performed during those episodes, and the way they argued for their rights, does not certainly depict a bunch of immature teenagers, but on the contrary, five adult women.
    During all these occurrences, they were all single, as we can see later, at the end of the third passage.  Therefore, it was not customary, as many people think, that women got married when they were 13, 15 or 17.

            "2 The LORD commanded my lord to give the land for an inheritance
        by lot to the children of Israel: and my lord was commanded by the LORD to give
        the inheritance of Zelophehad our brother unto his daughters. 3 And if they be
        married to any of the sons of the other tribes of the children of Israel, then shall
        their inheritance be taken from the inheritance of our fathers6 This is the
        thing which the LORD doth command concerning the daughters of Zelophehad,
        saying: Let them marry to whom they think best; only to the family of the tribe
        of their father shall they marry... 10 Even as the LORD commanded Moses,
        so did the daughters of Zelophehad: 11 For Mahlah, Tirzah, and Hoglah, and
        Milcah, and Noah, the daughters of Zelophehad, were married unto their father's
        brothers' sons: And they were married into the families of the sons of Manasseh
        the son of Joseph, and their inheritance remained in the tribe of the family of their
        father."                                                                ( Nm 36: 1-12 abbreviated )

    As we can see, these women were single during all these occurrences, and being single, they could not be regarded as teenagers; they showed themselves as adult people.  Therefore it is a mistake to think that women in Israel married at 13 or 17.
    Another fact that should be noticed is that women were not forced to marry against their own will, to whom their parents, grandparents or uncles wanted. They had some freedom of choice. In fact when Moses said: "Let them marry to whom they think best", he gave us an inkling that they had freedom of choice. Moses didn't say: "Let them marry to whom their grandpa or uncles want". Biblical customs have been distorted very much by people who equate other cultures to the biblical ones.
    Rebecca's marriage.  The fact that the family asked Rebecca's opinion about the marriage does not incline me to think that she was a 13 or 15 year old girl.  It is also evident that marriages were not just forced upon daughters.

            "And they said, We will call the damsel, and enquire at her mouth.  And they
        called Rebekah, and said unto her, Wilt thou go with this man? And she said,
        I will go."                                                                             (Gen 24: 57-58)

    Female builders of Jerusalem walls.  One of the men who rebuilt the walls around Jerusalem under Nehemiah, had his daughters working with him ( Neh 3:12 ).  It stands to reason that if he had his daughters working with him in such a tough task, was because they were not married.  Otherwise the ladies would have been taking care of their children and husband.
    In my opinion building the walls was not a job for a 13, 15 or 17 year old girl; they most probably were not teenagers, but strong women of age.  Besides, because he had several daughters, evidently there were some of them that were older than others; and yet, the older ones were not married.  Therefore, the idea that girls were married when they arrived to 13 or 15 years of age is not easy to believe.  There are many cases registered in the Bible of women that were single, and it doesn't seem at all that they were teenagers.

            "And next unto him repaired Shallum the son of Halohesh, the ruler of the
        half part of Jerusalem, he and his daughters."                                  (Neh 3:12)

    Philip's daughters.  This deacon had four daughters that were known because of their gift of prophecy.  If they were already known for such a gift we have to conclude that it was not something that these ladies started to do the day before Paul arrived.  If they had that gift for some time, and if there were four, it means that at least one of them, if not all of them, were of age.  Not being teenagers, they were still single.  It reaffirms the idea that women were not given to marriage when they were 13 or 16 years old.

            "And the next day we that were of Paul's company departed, and came unto
        Caesarea: and we entered into the house of Philip the evangelist, which was
        one of the seven; and abode with him. And the same man had four daughters,
        virgins, which did prophesy."                                                             (Acts 21:8)

    Queen Esther.  If we read the book of Esther and we take note of her behavior, her wisdom, etc., it does not seem that she was a girl of 13 or 17 years of age when she was taken to king Ahasuerus. It looks as if she was already of age.
    In reading the Bible I cannot find an inkling of the supposed custom of marrying girls when they were 13 or 17. On the contrary I find several cases in which you can deem that those unmarried ladies were of age. That is why I don't believe that Virgin Mary was the exception. I don't think that she was a teenager when God entrusted her with His son.
    Any sensible father knows that a girl is not physically and psychologically mature until she is in her twenties.  Would you be happy if your daughter wanted to get married when she is only thirteen, fifteen or seventeen?  Will you be jumping for joy if your seventeen year old girl had a baby?  Wouldn't you think that she has started too young, even when she is not physically nor psychologically prepared for such a burden?  Sadly she has to start taking care of a husband and a family when she still needs to be taken care of.  This is what I have alleged to many of my friends who think that Mary was a teenager when she married Joseph and when she had her baby Jesus.
    Of course they agreed that they, by no means, would like such a marriage for their teenage girls, but allege that it was the custom of the Israelite parents at that time.  It is not true, as I have already demonstrated.  Besides, they forget a very important fact: it was not Mary's parents who determined the age at which she was going to be laid with that burden, it was God Himself.  Are we going to think that God did what a sensible father wouldn't?  It stands to reason that God would give such a burden to Mary at the age that women are mature enough, both physically and psychologically, to perform her duties perfectly.  Would God entrust His only begotten son to just a teenager 13, 15 or 17 years old?  Would you?
    I have shown several biblical examples of single ladies that were perfectly adults. Can anyone show biblical examples of teenagers given in marriage?
    Regarding the supposed old age of Joseph it is enough to say that he took his wife Mary and traveled first to Bethlehem and later to Egypt.  Certainly an 80 or 90 year old man in Roman times, was not able to perform such a feat.  It is evident that he was a young man.  If we read II Sam 19: 35 we will see that more than a thousand years before, men of such an age were already unable of such travels.  When King David proposed his friend Barzillai to go with him to Jerusalem, Barzillai answered the following way:

            "I am this day fourscore years old; and can I discern between good and evil?
        can thy servant taste what I eat or what I drink? can I hear any more the voice of
        singing men and singing women? wherefore then should thy servant be yet a
        burden unto my lord the king?"                                                     ( II Sam 19: 35 )

The supposed old age of Joseph is another effort, another myth of Romanism to prop up the myth that Mary continued to be virgin her whole life, even after giving birth to Jesus. As Romanism wants to hold Virgin Mary sort of as a goddess, they invent such myths.

As we can see, Mary was not a teenager, nor Joseph an elderly.

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