Is Mary from the tribe of Levi or Judah?

Most Christians would immediately say "Judah", this is clear, they never heard anything else. But since the Qur'an speaks about Mary as the "sister of Aaron" (Sura 19:28), Muslims try to make a case that Mary is a descendant of Aaron and from the tribe of Levi to ease the problem inherent in this statement.

What is the Muslim argument?

In Luke 1:5 and 36 we read that

Elizabeth is called the "relative" or "kinswoman" of Mary in all other translations, only in the KJV we read "thy cousin Elisabeth." And hence the Muslim argument is:

But the Greek word is "syngenis" which means "relative" which might be a cousin, or an aunt or any kind of nearer or wider family relationship for that matter.

The Israelites from the various tribes regularly intermarried and the children of a marriage are counted to belong to the tribe their father came from. There is absolutely no problem, neither when it was a distant family relationship between Mary and Elizabeth nor even when they were cousins which is quite unlikely since they are probably over 40 years apart in age.

      Levi                                 Judah
       .                                     .
       .                                     .
     Aaron                                   .
       .                                     .
       .                                     .
       .                                   David
       .                                     .
       .                                     .
       .                                     .
       .                                     .
    Father of E.                             .
       .                 Mother of M.  &  Father of M. 
    Elizabth                                 .
       .                                    Mary
       .                                     .
     John                                   Jesus

Whether the Mother of Mary was the sister of Elizabeth or the sister of Elizabeth's Father, making Elizabeth either an aunt or a cousin of Mary, there is no problem for Elizabeth to be a descendant of Aaron and Mary from the tribe of Judah, and descendant of David.

And that it the Biblical testimony, since we read in Luke 1:

30  But the angel said to her, "Do not be afraid, Mary, 
    you have found favor with God.
31  You will be with child and give birth to a son, 
    and you are to give him the name Jesus. 
32  He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High. 
    The Lord God will give him the throne of his father David, 
33  and he will reign over the house of Jacob forever; 
    his kingdom will never end." 
34  "How will this be," Mary asked the angel, "since I am a virgin?" 
35  The angel answered, "The Holy Spirit will come upon you, 
    and the power of the Most High will overshadow you. 
    So the holy one to be born will be called the Son of God. 
36  Even Elizabeth your relative is going to have a child 
    in her old age, and she who was said to be barren 
    is in her sixth month. 
37  For nothing is impossible with God." 

Since the angel just announced that this child will not have any earthly father and Mary is not even married, the statement that God will give him the throne of his father David only makes sense when Mary is a descendant of David herself, since otherwise how will her son be descendant of David?

This is confirmed as well in Hebrews, where we read in 7:14

and the whole argument of the passage is that Jesus is NOT a descendant of Aaron.

There is no evidence in the Bible whatsoever that Mary is from the tribe of Levi and member of a priestly family to qualify to be called "a daughter of Aaron" like Elizabeth. Even though it is never clearly stated which tribe Mary belongs to, all statements that are made are only sensible when she is from Judah and this is the implicit assumption.

If Muslims want to claim that Mary is from the tribe of Levi, then they will have to make their argument apart from the Bible.

Jochen Katz

Further reading: Jesus is from the Seed of David

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