[Supplement to Gospel Doctrine New Testament lesson 2]

Mary and Elizabeth were cousins and were the mothers, respectively, of Jesus Christ and John the Baptist. Each had reason to consider her pregnancy miraculous. Mary was still a virgin at her conception of the Son of God (Luke 1:34-35). Elizabeth and her husband Zacharias, like their ancestors Abraham and Sarah (Genesis 17:16-19; 18:11-14), considered themselves to be too old to have a child (Luke 1:7, 36-37).

The angel Gabriel appeared to both Zacharias and Mary to announce the birth of their firstborn sons (Luke 1:5-38).

Luke 1:39 says that, following the annunciation by Gabriel, Mary went to “a city of Juda” (Iuda in Greek) [1] to visit Elisabeth. While this suggests a town in the territory of the tribe of Judah, in his Chronicon, the 4th century Christian historian Eusebius maintained that the name of the town itself was Iuda, and he compared it to the Old Testament town Juttah (Yuttah in Hebrew, pronounced in the same way as the state of Utah). [2] Later tradition associated John’s family with Beth ha-Kerem, west of Jerusalem, where the event is today commemorated by the Church of the Visitation, constructed in 1861.

Elisabeth began her greeting to Mary with the same words used by the angel when he had visited the young woman in Nazareth (Luke 1:28, 42). The two passages were combined in the Roman Catholic prayer “Hail, Mary.” Mary responded by a hymn of praise that came to be known in Latin as the Magnificat, from her use of the verb “magnify.”

And Mary said, My soul doth magnify the Lord, And my spirit hath rejoiced in God my Saviour. For he hath regarded the low estate of his handmaiden: for, behold, from henceforth all generations shall call me blessed. For he that is mighty hath done to me great things; and holy is his name. And his mercy is on them that fear him from generation to generation. He hath shewed strength with his arm; he hath scattered the proud in the imagination of their hearts. He hath put down the mighty from their seats, and exalted them of low degree. He hath filled the hungry with good things; and the rich he hath sent empty away. He hath holpen his servant Israel, in remembrance of his mercy; As he spake to our fathers, to Abraham, and to his seed for ever. (Luke 1:46-55)

The psalm seems to be based on the one uttered by the mother of another man whose birth was miraculous. Hanna, wife of Elkanah, had been barren for many years and prayed for a son, whom she promised to dedicate to the Lord. After the birth of her son Samuel, who became Israel’s judge and one of its greatest prophets, she uttered a hymn of praise that bears resemblances to the one uttered by Mary (cf. 1 Samuel 2:1-10). Here are some of the parallels:

Luke 1
1 Samuel Comments
46 My soul doth magnify the Lord,

47 And my spirit hath rejoiced in God my Saviour.

2:1. My heart rejoiceth in the Lord . . . I rejoicein thy salvation. In Hebrew, yeshucahis “salvation,” from the same root as the name Jesus (Yeshuac).
48 For he hathregarded the low estate of his handmaiden: for, behold, from henceforth all generations shall call me blessed. 1:11 O Lord of hosts, if thou wilt indeed look on the affliction of thine handmaid, and remember me, and not forget thine handmaid, but wilt give unto thinehandmaid a man child, then I will give him unto the Lord all the days of his life The Samuel passage derives not from Hanna’s hymn of praise, but from her plea for the Lord to give her a son.
51 He hath shewed strengthwith his arm; he hath scattered theproud in the imagination of their hearts. 2:9 for by strength shall no man prevail.

2:10 and he shall givestrength unto his king

2:4 they that stumbled are girded withstrength.

2:3 Talk no more so exceeding proudly; let not arrogancy come out of your mouth

52 He hath put down the mightyfrom their seats, and exalted them of low degree. 2:4 The bows of themighty men are broken

2:1 mine horn is exaltedin the Lord

2:7 The Lord maketh poor, and maketh rich: he bringeth low, andlifteth up.

2:8 He raiseth up the poor out of the dust, and lifteth up the beggar from the dunghill, to set them among princes, and to make them inherit thethrone of glory

2:10 he shall givestrength unto his king, and exalt the horn of hisanointed.

The Hebrew term for “seat” is often rendered “throne” in the King James Bible.

Ancient Israelite kings were anointed with olive oil and thus the term “anointed one” (rendered Messiah in English) usually denotes the king. [3]

53 He hath filled the hungry withgood things; and the rich he hath sent empty away. 2:5 They that were fullhave hired out themselves for bread; and they that werehungry ceased

For additional material relating to this lesson, see:

  • John A. Tvedtnes, “Knowledge of Christ to Come,” Journal of Book of Mormon Studies 5/1 (Spring 1996), posted on the Maxwell Institute web site at http://maxwellinstitute.byu.edu/
  • Chapters 35 (“That Which Is to Come” and 36 (“Angels Announce the Coming of Christ”) in John A.Tvedtnes, The Most Correct Book: Insights From a Book of Mormon Scholar(Salt Lake City: Cornerstone, 1999, later reissued by Horizon)
  • John A. Tvedtnes, “John the Baptist and the Keys of Baptism,”Insights 19/6 (June 1999), posted on the Maxwell Institute web site at http://farms.byu.edu/

For an introduction to the books of the New Testament and in-depth discussions of each verse in the New Testament, see Kevin L. Barney (ed.), John H. Jenkins, and John A. Tvedtnes, “Footnotes to the New Testament for Latter-day Saints,” go to:http://feastupontheword.org/Site:NTFootnotes.  Additional writings of John A. Tvedtnes can be found here(http://www.bookofmormonresearch.org/).

 


[1] As in other Germanic languages, the English J originally had a Y sound. Its current pronunciation came about because of the French influence brought to England by the Normans in 1066.

[2] The Palestinian village that currently occupies the site is calledYattah in Arabic.

[3] 1 Samuel 16:6; 24:6, 10; 26:9-11, 23; 2 Samuel 11:14-16; 19:21.