And the third day there was a marriage in Cana of Galilee; and the mother of Jesus was there

It seems to me that "the mother of Jesus" is never explicitly named, but always listed as his posession (his mother, the mother of jesus, etc). But in John 3, Jesus says that he is born of water and Spirit. Is the spirit identical to his mother throughout the gospel of John?

If we don't understand "his mother" as "the spirit" are we making the same mistake that Nicodemus was mocked for when he thought that the rebirth was an actual physical rebirth from a womb and he ended up with the absurd notion of crawling back into the womb?

If we say that this is Mary, Joseph's wife, aren't we missing Jesus' teachings about how he is born of the Spirit?

  • Is the spirit identical to his mother throughout the gospel of John? - No. For the same reason his father is not identical to God throughout the Gospels either. Which is the same reason his birth is not identical with his mystical experience, but usually refers to his physical conception also.
    – Lucian
    Jul 14 at 16:10
  • 1
    The mother ( flesh and bone) cannot be Spirit, and vice versa, and this answers your question: "Is the spirit identical to his mother throughout the gospel of John?
    – Sam
    Jul 14 at 18:08
  • Gus, I agree absolutely. As also I think when Paul talks about being born, he's speaking of his spiritual birth. Same for Samson and John the Baptist being called from "birth ". An actual new born baby wouldn't be called. Also you remind me of the creation story, I think the reason why there are 2 creation stories of man is because one is the second birth / born again, spiritual birth. I studied for quite a while the creation story -- and I ended up having ideas that I couldn't quite put my finger on, because it seemed that Adam and "the man" were two different things.
    – user38152
    Jul 15 at 8:24
  • And also eve, "the woman" and "his wife". It's a very odd read with these terms being switched back and forth. I felt quite sure that one was the flesh person and one the Spiritual person
    – user38152
    Jul 15 at 8:30
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    (-1) I don't think this question arises naturally from the text. It's shoe-horning one text into another to generate a novel meaning. In terms of authorial intent, is it really plausible that John intended his text to be understood in this way?
    – Steve Taylor
    Jul 16 at 9:29

There are numerous places where Mary is explicitly called the Mother of Jesus such as:

  • Matt 1:16 - and Jacob the father of Joseph, the husband of Mary, of whom was born Jesus, who is called Christ.
  • Matt 1:18 - This is how the birth of Jesus Christ came about: His mother Mary was pledged in marriage to Joseph, but before they came together, she was found to be with child through the Holy Spirit.
  • Matt 2:11 - On coming to the house, they saw the Child with His mother Mary, and they fell down and worshiped Him. Then they opened their treasures and presented Him with gifts of gold and frankincense and myrrh.
  • Matt 2;14 - So he got up, took the Child and His mother by night, and withdrew to Egypt,
  • Matt 13:55 - “Isn’t this the carpenter’s son? Isn’t His mother’s name Mary, and aren’t His brothers James, Joseph, Simon, and Judas?
  • Luke 2:34 - Then Simeon blessed them and said to His mother Mary: “Behold, this Child is appointed to cause the rise and fall of many in Israel, and to be a sign that will be spoken against,
  • John 19:25 - Near the cross of Jesus stood His mother and her sister, as well as Mary the wife of Clopas and Mary Magdalene. See also V26
  • Acts 1:14 - With one accord they all continued in prayer, along with the women and Mary the mother of Jesus, and with His brothers.

It appears to me that since there were at least 6 different Marys in the NT, it is entirely natural that Mary the mother of Jesus should be so distinguished from the others in this way. Some of the others are also distinguished by linking them to famous name of other such as:

  • Matt 27:56 - Mary the mother of James and Joseph
  • John 19:25 - Mary the wife of Cleopas
  • Acts 12:12 - Mary the mother of John (Mark)

Indeed, all mothers are said, in the grammatical ("genitive") sense to be "owned" by their children as per the fifth commandment:

  • Mark 7:10 - Honor your father and your mother
  • Matt 15:4 - honor your father and your mother

Thus, I see nothing theologically significant in the NT use of the genitive when describing Jesus' mother, Mary.

  • This seems to disregard the integrity of John. Just because other texts refer to mary as Jesus’s birth mother doesn’t mean that that is what john means. John is full of people labeled as ignorant for literal understanding of what Jesus says.
    – Gus L.
    Jul 15 at 18:47
  • @GusL. - you will need to provide some evidence that John's language was intentionally different from the rest of the NT and that its obvious meaning is NOT what was intended. Every text about Jesus' mother uses exactly the same syntax as John - the genitive.
    – Dottard
    Jul 16 at 11:05
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    John is full of this. And the genitive is merely the possessive.. thats not a correlation. Jesus refers to the temple in John 2 but doesn’t mean “The Temple.” He uses the term birth and Nicodemus is dimwitted for thinking he meant physical birth from a womb.. he uses the term thirst in the next chapter but doesn’t mean thirst for water. He uses the term hunger but means food that is the work of the one who sent him (4:34)…. That is just a partial list.. I am seriously not getting the pushback against this reasonable question.
    – Gus L.
    Jul 16 at 15:14
  • @GusL. I'm not sure I understand the pushback either because most Trinitarians like to see the Holy Spirit as the "feminine" side of God. (I'm not Trinitarian.) I think, however, the way the question was worded, it's keeping people from seeing a distinction between the literal and the spiritual. If you blur the line, people start thinking you're asking if Jesus' literal mother was the Holy Spirit; i.e. Mary = Holy Spirit. That would be a definite reason to get pushback. Can the rest of us be born of Mary? No. But can we be born of the Spirit? Yes. Therefore, we must not conflate them.
    – Polyhat
    Jul 16 at 20:38
  • @GusL. - the problem here is the problem you are asking which is unclear. It is true that we have much metaphoric language in John but that does not mean that all of John's language is metaphoric. When John talks about Jesus' mother, Mary, he is speaking in simple literal terms as are all the other Gospel writers. Jesus' use of temple imagery for the body correlates with a similar figure that Paul uses in 1 Cor 3, etc, but these are usually easy to spot. Please define your question better and we will try to respond.
    – Dottard
    Jul 16 at 22:00

John refers to Jesus' mother in the crucifixion scene. In John 19:26 Jesus speaks to His mother and refers to her as a woman - I think it it quite safe to say that the "mother of Jesus" in John's Gospel is Mary, the wife of Joseph.

If this were ambiguous using only John's Gospel as a source, the ambiguity can be removed by comparing to the Synoptics and Acts, which indicate that Jesus' mother was a woman named Mary.

In this post I offered a brief disambiguation of the Marys in the New Testament. All of the Gospel authors have multiple Marys in the narrative but their disambiguation is not always identical. I propose that John refers to Mary by her title of mother as a means of disambiguating her from the other Marys, not as a means of offering a cryptic reference to the Holy Spirit (note that Mary the mother of James & Joses is disambiguated in exactly the same way).

When John wants to speak of the Holy Spirit he is able to do so clearly, and he even uses masculine pronouns in some places (e.g. John 14:26)


Doesn't your premise lead to an absurd conclusion in this passage.

but standing by the cross of Jesus were his mother and his mother’s sister, Mary the wife of Clopas, and Mary Magdalene. 26 When Jesus saw his mother and the disciple whom he loved standing nearby, he said to his mother, “Woman, behold, your son!” 27 Then he said to the disciple, “Behold, your mother!” And from that hour the disciple took her to his own home. (John 19:25–27, ESV)

Does the Holy Spirit have a sister? Why would the Holy Spirit be included in a list of women? What do the other women in the list symbolize?

  • It might mean that his handing over of his mother to the beloved disciple is poetically parallel to his “handing over” of the spirit to the beloved disciple on the cross when he dies. John is famous for double entendres. It could also mean both Mary and the Spirit.
    – Gus L.
    Jul 16 at 10:02
  • Thank you for the critique. I appreciate you thinking this through with me +1
    – Gus L.
    Jul 16 at 15:19
  • Also, the spirit is clearly feminine in contemporary jewish discourse even if the term is neuter in greek. This with regard to why it would be in a list of women. See wisdom, for example, in proverbs 8.
    – Gus L.
    Jul 16 at 15:20
  • was continuing to think on this. There are several catholic convents that carry the name "Sisters of the Holy Spirit."
    – Gus L.
    Sep 7 at 16:44

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