When Mary heard from the angel Gabriel that Elizabeth was in her 6th month of pregnancy, Mary quickly left to join her. As the two greeted and the baby John leaped for joy in her womb, Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit and couldn’t believe Mary would come to her that she exclaimed

Luke 1:42-45 “Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the child you will bear! But why am I so favored, that the mother of my Lord should come to me? As soon as the sound of your greeting reached my ears, the baby in my womb leaped for joy. Blessed is she who has believed that the Lord would fulfill his promises to her!”

After noting the three had all that excitement and gratefulness, we soon read the following verses in an interesting order:

Luke 1:56 Mary stayed with Elizabeth for about 3 months and then returned home.

Luke 1:57-58 When it was time for Elizabeth to have her baby, she gave birth to a son. Her neighbors and relatives heard that the Lord had shown her great mercy, and they shared her joy.

Q: When Mary left to go home, Elizabeth would have been in about her 9th month of pregnancy (6th month + “about 3 months” she stayed). With the author having written verses 56 through 58 in that order, was he saying Mary actually left Elizabeth before John was born?

6 Answers 6


Lk 1:57, where Elizabeth gives birth, comes after Lk 1:56, where Mary leaves. Though this in itself is not conclusive evidence that Mary left before John was born, it is an indication.

Furthermore, Lk 1:58-36 talk about how Elizabeth's neighbors reacted, and how her relatives who had just heard the good news reacted, and how Zachariah reacted - there is nothing about Mary's reaction. Since she already knew the good news, I do not believe she should be classified among Elizabeth's relatives. Thus, since Mary's absence from the following verses is conspicuous, it is best to assume she wasn't there.

Neither of these two points are conclusive or completely convincing, but they seem to be the best indications we have.

  • A.) I do not believe she should be classified among Elizabeth's relatives. B.) What do you mean by this - doesn't the text say different? C.) Luke 1:36 And behold, even your relative Elizabeth has also conceived a son in her old age; Apr 21, 2017 at 17:47

She left in order to remain ritually clean so as not to come in contact with blood from the birth of John. Mary remained a pure vessel...the tabernacle of the Lord.

  • 1
    This may be the case but you need to provide some evidence, such as quoting the applicable purity law that she would be obeying. Just saying it is so is not enough for this site. Kind of like college.
    – Ruminator
    Sep 29, 2018 at 15:05
  • Ritual uncleanness is not a sin. It can happen from various kinds accidental an natural occurrences. Dec 20, 2023 at 1:43

According to Lev 15:19-24, staying until the birth would have made Mary unclean, as she would likely be involved in the birth to some degree. Adhering to Scripture, as stated, it is inclusive. But Mary, being a humble, obedient servant, likely would do whatever she could to remain clean according to the law.

  • Welcome to BHSE! Good answer. Please make sure you take our tour. Re: Questions and answers, please include the citation for us to actually see (e.g. as Ozzie does with Luke 1:56-57 below, or I do in my Q). Thanks. Jan 28, 2020 at 16:16

Mary made a wise decision to leave before Elizabeth gave birth to John.

Mary after staying with her relative (Luke 1:36) Elizabeth, for about three months and helping her in the last months of her pregnacy, decides to leave just before Elizabeth gives birth to John.

Why?. Most like is that neighbors and relatives of them would come to visit Elizabeth. Mary now is at the early days of the fourth month of her pregnancy, single and unmarried would most likely be embarrassed, so she decides to return to Nazareth

Luke 1:56-57 (NRSV)

56 And Mary remained with her about three months and then returned to her home.

The Birth of John the Baptist

57 Now the time came for Elizabeth to give birth, and she bore a son. 58 Her neighbors and relatives heard that the Lord had shown his great mercy to her, and they rejoiced with her.


These are Hebrew lunar months in the Bible, not solar months. Chinese proverbs count pregnancy period as 10 months.

30 days/month * 9 = 270 days
28 days/month *10 = 280 days

Modern statistics says full term pregnancy is 280 days.

Luke 1:36 Even Elizabeth your relative is going to have a child in her old age, and she who was said to be unable to conceive is in her sixth month. 37For no word from God will ever fail.”

38“I am the Lord’s servant,” Mary answered. “May your word to me be fulfilled.” Then the angel left her.

39At that time Mary got ready and hurried to a town in the hill country of Judea, 40where she entered Zechariah’s home and greeted Elizabeth.

56Mary stayed with Elizabeth for about three months and then returned home.

Mary left Elizabeth at Elizabeth's 9th lunar month of pregnancy, one month before John was born.


Sixth Hebrew month Elul was also 6th month of Elizabeth's pregnancy. Mary stayed through first trimester--12 weeks. Back 12 weeks from conception is date of birth after 40 week pregnancy.

According to Gene https://www.worldcat.org/title/witnesses-for-jesus-the-messiah/oclc/21426450, who agrees with Clement of Alexandria, Jesus born Pachom 25, May 14 Gregorian, Iyar 28 Hebrew. It was 6 BC

Found why 3 months here. https://www.puritanboard.com/threads/why-did-mary-stay-with-elizabeth-3-months.53950/

"Here is Gill's take on it:

" And Mary abode with her about three months,.... That is, she continued with Elisabeth, as the Syriac and Persic versions express, about the space of three months; in which time, she had full satisfaction of the truth of the sign the angel had given her; namely, of Elisabeth's conception and pregnancy, for by this time she was ready to give birth; and she must now be fully assured, that she was with child herself: this space of three months is a term of time fixed by the Jewish doctors, to know whether a woman is with child or not, as in case of divorce or death: the rule runs thus (k),

"every woman that is divorced, or becomes a widow, lo! she may not marry, nor be betrothed, until she waits, תשעים יום, ninety days (i.e. three months), exclusive of the day in which she is divorced, or her husband dies, and of the day in which she is betrothed; that so it may be known whether she is with child or not, in order to distinguish between the seed of the former, and the seed of the second husband.

And so in the case of marrying the wife of a brother, that died without issue (l), and of newly married couples mistaking their spouses (m):

and returned to her own house; at Nazareth, in Galilee; and now it was, that Joseph, to whom she was betrothed, perceived she was with child; and suspecting evil, had a mind to put her away privately; but was informed by an angel of God, in a dream, of the whole matter; and was advised and encouraged to take her to wife, which he accordingly did; see Mat_1:18.

(k) Maimon. Hilch. Gerushin, c. 11. sect. 18. Vid. T. Bab. Becorot, fol. 47. 1. (l) Misn. Yebamot, c. 4. sect. 10. T. Hieros, Yebamot, fol. 6. 1. T. Bab. ib. fol. 34. 2. & 35. 1. Maimon. Hilch. Yebum, c. 1. sect 19. T. Bab. Erubin, fol. 47. 1. (m) Misn. Yebamot, c. 3. sect. 10.""

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