Reformed musician Paul Jones, in Singing and Making Music, page 109, comments on the song of praise found in Luke 1:46–55:

Some scholars believe the Magnificat may have been Elizabeth's song rather than Mary's.

I've never heard such a thing, and Wikipedia doesn't shed any light. Literal translations like the NASB and YLT say "Mary" in Luke 1:46, and BibleHub's interlinear seems to clearly show Mary's name in the Greek text:

Luke 1:46 interlinear

These considerations, not to mention tradition, seem to make it indisputable that Mary is the speaker here. So what, then, is the basis for the Magnificat being a hymn of Elizabeth?


A number of sources discuss the evidence in favor of Elizabeth speaking the Magnificat, though most of them ultimately reject it as insufficient. Here are the basics; refer to the references below for fuller treatment.

First, a few manuscripts and church fathers have Elizabeth, rather than Mary, in Luke 1:46. On this basis A. von Harnack and others have suggested that the original text had "and she said," not identifying the speaker, only later did guesses get added to the text. If this is accepted, then the evidence for Elizabeth mounts:

  • Elizabeth is the last speaker before 1:46, and "Mary" is explicity identified in v. 56, suggesting a new speaker
  • The Magnificat has obvious similarities to Hannah's song of 1 Samuel 2, and Elizabeth and Hannah shared the condition of barrenness
  • The parallels between the Magnificat and the Benedictus given by Elizabeth's husband, Zechariah

That said, scholars still find this evidence insufficient in light of the counterarguments to these arguments1 and especially when considering the vast textual evidence supporting the "Mary" reading in Luke 1:46. Stephen Farris writes:

That Luke attributed the Magnificat to Elizabeth has been, as we have seen, argued with considerable learning and ingenuity. In my judgment it must, however, be rejected. The positive arguments in its favour can be countered and there remain certain important considerations which suggest that the hymn be attributed to Mary.

Taken together with the near unanimity of the textual witness, these arguments can give one considerable confidence that the hymn belongs to the one to whom it has been attributed 'from of old.'


1 Emmet and Farris in particular devote significant effort to dismantling the arguments summarized here.


It might be helpful in sorting this out to look more deeply at the context of the Miriam and Elizabeth's pregnancies and the fact that Jesus and John are identified as 'cousins.' During the Roman occupation there was much concern about the 'invasion' of the wombs of the women of Judaea by Roman soldiers. Jane Schabeg's book ILLEGITIMACY OF JESUS delves into this as it related to the paternity of Jesus. Following that I delved into the record re the paternity of John, especially the pointed anomalies written into the account by Luke. Schaberg et alia pointed out that Matthew's genealogy of Jesus including 4 women whose stories include sexual deviations on the not exactly pure lineage of David.

  • This does not even attempt to answer the actual question.
    – Nigel J
    Jan 19 '20 at 9:44

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