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I've heard that it is Catholic tradition that Luke interviewed Mary for his gospel. This is also portrayed in the popular show, The Chosen.

Luke 1:1-4 NKJV

1 Inasmuch as many have taken in hand to set in order a narrative of those things which have been fulfilled among us, 2 just as those who from the beginning were eyewitnesses and ministers of the word delivered them to us, 3 it seemed good to me also, having had perfect understanding of all things from the very first, to write to you an orderly account, most excellent Theophilus, 4 that you may know the certainty of those things in which you were instructed.

Do Luke’s eye witnesses include Mary?

I don't know of any external evidence for this claim, but, is there any internal evidence for the claim?

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    We are not told so we do not know. However, it is entirely possible that this occurred, among other people he interviewed.
    – Dottard
    Feb 23 at 4:07
  • @Dottard Perhaps this is too opinion based. In which case I'm totally willing to remove it. I was more curious if there was internal evidence for the claim rather than if it clearly said so.
    – Jason_
    Feb 23 at 8:59
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    I would be amazed if Luke had not interviewed Mary. However, we do not know and have no way of finding out.
    – Dottard
    Feb 23 at 9:55
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    One approach may be to estimate that if Luke wrote his Gospel before about 60 AD, Mary may have been at least 80 years old (if Christ was born in 5 BC) which appears a stretch. However, perhaps Luke started his research well before this time before Mary died. But we do not know when Mary died.
    – Dottard
    Feb 23 at 10:08
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    Further, we do not know exactly how Luke conducted his research - did he (a) conduct interviews, (b) research documents at the time, (c) both of the above (d) use inspiration of the Holy Spirit, etc. He does not say so we do not know.
    – Dottard
    Feb 23 at 10:11

3 Answers 3

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This is a very common view, though it is not explicitly stated in Luke's Gospel.

If we consider Luke a reliable historian (see my work here arguing that he is), then it is almost certain that he had a source within Mary & Joseph's family. If we assume that most or all of Luke's nativity account is both fabricated & anonymous (such an assumption, though popular in some places, presupposes naturalism and must discard much historical evidence to do so) then the question is moot.

This post will consider Luke to be a reliable historian.

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Highly-specific reporting

There are a number of details in the first 2 chapters of Luke that would only be known by a handful of people directly involved, including:

  • The discussion between the angel Gabriel and Mary (Luke 1:26-38)
  • Specific details from Mary's visit to Elisabeth (Luke 1:39-45)
  • Mary's psalm (Luke 1:46-55)
  • The encounter with Simeon in the temple (Luke 2:25-35)
  • The encounter with Anna in the temple (Luke 2:36-38)

And although Luke points out occasions when people broadcast events in the surrounding area (e.g. the shepherds in Luke 2:17), he contrasts this with Mary who "kept all these things, and pondered them in her heart" (see Luke 2:19).

Several of these events are related with highly-specific details, and most of the individuals involved (e.g. Zacharias, Elisabeth, Simeon, Anna, even Joseph) would have been deceased long before Luke conducted his research. The common thread in all of them is the person of Mary, who would have been able to provide these details and was still living after Easter (for arguments that both Luke & Acts were written within a generation of Easter see Stack Exchange posts here and here).

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Second hand

If Mary told family members (such as James the Lord's brother, about whom Luke writes a great deal in Acts), then Luke may have obtained personal information from a family member who heard it directly from Mary, making Luke's report second-hand.

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First hand

If we take this statement literally:

those who from the beginning were eyewitnesses and ministers of the word delivered them to us

Then a report from James on events at which James wasn't present wouldn't be in scope, and Mary would be far and away the most likely source for Luke's writings on personal events in Mary's life. This would make Luke's report firsthand.

In fact, it is curious that while Matthew relates the experiences of Joseph prior to the nativity, Luke does not--Luke relates the experiences of Mary. Although it is not proof, it supports the firsthand argument. Luke apparently didn't meet Joseph (John 19:26-27 indicates Joseph has died prior to the crucifixion, Luke 1:2 implies Luke wasn't an eyewitness of Jesus' ministry--if he joined the movement after the crucifixion then he didn't meet Joseph), so he didn't have Joseph's eyewitness testimony and didn't report it.

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Conclusion

Did Luke only report information he received from primary sources? We cannot be 100% certain, but if we take him literally at his word, the answer would be yes, and the eyewitness for much of Luke chapters 1 & 2 would almost certainly be Mary.

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    All of what you have said here speaks to a well rounded appreciation of Luke. I can certainly go with your conclusion. + 1. Feb 23 at 9:16
  • + 1 - I don't entirely agree with your conclusion but I appreciate a your well-reasoned argument. The reason I don't entirely agree is that I think Luke did use eyewitnesses whenever he could but he does not claim to use them exclusively. IMO he could have used not only second hand accounts (from people who listened to Mary) but also stories circulating in the church at the time of his writing. He was a reliable historian by the standards of his time, but his account would not pass muster as even a master's thesis in a history faculty today. Feb 23 at 15:50
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    @DanFefferman thanks. I doubt even heavyweights like Herodotus, Thucydides, Appian, or Dio Cassius would pass muster as a master's thesis today. Feb 24 at 2:12
  • +1. I enjoyed learning from you here. I appreciate the well ordered answer!
    – Jason_
    Feb 24 at 18:49
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The main internal evidence for Luke's having interviewed Mary is the fact that Mary was present in the early church. (Acts 1:14) This was not long after the Resurrection and would put Mary in her late 40s at the time, assuming she was a teenager when she gave birth to Jesus. If Luke traveled with Paul to Jerusalem (c. 58 ce) - about 2.5 decades later - Mary could indeed have survived that long, even considering low life expectancies for women of that era. In addition, Luke refers several times to Mary keeping "these things" - meaning the details of Jesus' birth and childhood - in her heart. (Luke 2:19,51). This implies that she eventually shared these stories with others, perhaps including Luke.

The main evidence against Mary as the direct source for the information in the OP is that Mary is not mentioned again in Acts after the first chapter. Luke mentions Mary several times in his gospel and directly quotes James (the Lord's brother) several times in Acts. The fact that he never quotes Mary in Acts and does even mention her again after the very beginning could mean that she was no longer in Jerusalem when Luke arrived there, either because she moved elsewhere or because, being very old for that era, she had died.

Conclusion: it is not certain whether Luke interviewed Mary. However, it is indeed plausible.

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  • A fair look at the evidence as well, +1 Feb 24 at 2:17
  • +1. Thank you for the answer. After reading your answer I also feel like it's plausible.
    – Jason_
    Feb 24 at 18:55
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It is inherently dangerous to speculate given how differently women were viewed in the 1st century. Women were considered "UNRELIABLE" as witnesses. The fact that Mary isnt quoted should not be an oddity or strange. Given the cultural view of the role of a woman in that time in history, it is a bit surprising they are mentioned at all.

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  • +1, But Luke, picking up on the ethical trajectory of what Jesus taught, was an egalitarian - e.g., Luke records an account when Jesus praised Mary and corrected Martha (Luke 10:38-42). In doing so, he overturned the cultural explications that treated women as 2nd class citizens. Luke 8 also records a number of women who traveled with Jesus and the 12 disciple. They included Joanna the wife of Chusa who managed King Herod’s household and many other women who supported the ministry from their own personal finances. In the post resurrection community women shared in proclaiming the Gospel.
    – Jess
    Feb 29 at 19:01
  • If "women were considered unreliable as witnesses", why did Jesus first appear to Mary? (John 20:10-18)
    – agarza
    Mar 1 at 4:00
  • @Rob - From my research it was the stringent, ultra-conservative Pharisees who demeaned the status of women. Rabbi prayer was "I thank thee G-d that thou hast not made me a woman, gentile, or dog." BUT this does not mean the rest of society--nor the Roman and Greek cultures--held the same restrictive beliefs. Jesus sided with the much more lenient attitude toward women during His ministry.
    – ray grant
    Mar 2 at 20:18

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