MaryBiblical Figure / Religious Figure / Saint
Born: c. 20 B.C.
Best known as: Virgin mother of Jesus of Nazareth
Mary is the mother of Jesus of Nazareth in Christian and Islamic scriptures. Catholicism and some other Christian traditions honor her as a special saint, the "blessed virgin," who hears and acts upon prayers. Bible stories in the books of Matthew and Luke tell of the angel Gabriel, announcing to Mary that the Holy Spirit will "overshadow" her and she will bear a holy child while still a virgin. Her fiancee, Joseph, decides at an angel's prompting not to break the engagement and marries the pregnant Mary. She gives birth to Jesus in a stable in Bethlehem, near Jerusalem. Mary follows Jesus during his adult ministry and is present at his crucifixion. The Acts of the Apostles lists her and Jesus' "brothers" among disciples who persevere after his death and resurrection, but whether these were Mary's own children is disputed. In Islam's holy book, the Koran, Mary's (Maryam's) story is in chapters 3 and 19. Allah, through an angel, declares Maryam "pure" and "exalted above all women," chosen to bear the prophet Jesus. She conceives simply by Allah's decree. In Christianity, Jesus is called the Son of God, divine as well as human. In Islam, he is human and decidedly not divine.
Famous names for Mary include the Madonna, from the Italian for “my lady,” and Notre Dame, Latin for “our lady.” The Catholic prayer that starts with “Hail Mary” (Latin: “Ave Maria”) also calls her the Mother of God… The doctrine of the “immaculate conception,” that Mary was conceived without sin, was declared in 1854 by Pope Pius IX; the immaculate conception of Mary is sometimes confused with the virgin birth of Jesus… Mary should not be confused with approximately seven other Marys in the Bible (including Mary Magdalene), nor with Miriam, sister of Aaron.
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