The Virgin Mary was entrusted with an enormous task at an early age.
The biblical narratives do not tell us the exact age of the Virgin Mary when the angel Gabriel asked her to bear the Savior of the world. However, Jewish traditions at the time give us some insight and provide an approximate age range.
According to the Catholic Encyclopedia, “Jewish maidens were considered marriageable at the age of twelve years and six months, though the actual age of the bride varied with circumstances. The marriage was preceded by the betrothal, after which the bride legally belonged to the bridegroom, though she did not live with him till about a year later, when the marriage used to be celebrated.”
This is in agreement with other historical sources and this was still the practice in the Holy Land even up until the early 20th century. One biblical historian notes, “Some customs of biblical Palestine continued through the centuries, and after her trip to the Near East around 1910, Alma White commented on the age of marriage in Palestine, ‘A girl is usually married in her twelfth or thirteenth year, and sometimes as early as her tenth year.'”
Short life expectancy was one of the motivating factors behind this early age, as the average life expectancy for most people in the ancient world was between 30-40 years of age. Additionally, the earliest age a woman can conceive and bear a child is typically between 12 to 14 years old.
When viewed in this context, the Annunciation is an even more remarkable event: a young teenager said “Yes” to bearing the Messiah in her womb. She was just a little older than a child and was entrusted with the task of raising Jesus, the Son of God.
It’s an awe-inspiring reality, one that can create a greater love and admiration of the Virgin Mary.
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