Answering Islam - A Christian-Muslim dialog

The Quran’s Confusion Concerning the Identity of Mary

Sam Shamoun

Muslim taqiyyist extraordinaire Ibn Anwar has joined the ranks of the rest of the Muslim dawagandists in attempting to salvage the Quran from a major blunder.

The neophyte has produced an article where he tries to convince his readers that the statement of the Quran concerning Mary, the mother of Christ, being the sister of Aaron (Q. 19:28) doesn’t mean that Muhammad confused her with the sister of Moses who had the same name.

In this article we are going to examine his arguments to see how well he did in trying to explain away this blunder.

Smoke and Mirrors

The greenhorn goes on a rant about how the Quran does not say that Mary is “the sister of Aaron and Moses and the daughter of Amram,” in those exact words:

“The first thing that should be noted by anyone who is interested in really understanding the verse is that it does not say, “O Mary, mother of Jesus who sister of Aaron and Moses and the daughter of Amram”. If it had said that then the detractors of the Qur’an would have a good case against Islam and its primary text. But as any child can gather the verse simply says, “O sister of Aaron”. Those who charge that the Qur’an is confused between Mary the mother of Jesus and Mary the sister of Aaron and Moses are often Christians. Can a single Christian prove from their Bible beyond a shadow of a doubt that Mary the mother of Jesus certainly did not have a brother named Aaron? There is not a single verse anywhere in the Bible which says Mary was the one and only child of her parents. The relentless Christian detractor refusing to lose will then resort to Surah al-Imran, verse 35 which talks about “the wife of Imran” (the father of Moses, Aaron and Mary).

“In the detractor’s mind, when you put 19:28 and 3:35 together you will get the result that the Qur’an is really saying that Mary, the mother of Jesus is really the literal daughter of Moses and the direct daughter of Imran (Amram in the Bible). First of all, the verse does not have to be translated as “wife of Imran” as the word in question which is imra’ah literally means “woman” which is why Muhammad asad [sic] renders the verse as “when a woman of [the House of] ’Imrān prayed: “O my Sustainer! Behold, unto Thee do I vow [the child] that is in my womb, to be devoted to Thy service. Accept it, then, from me: verily, Thou alone art all-hearing, all-knowing!”" Secondly, even if I were to agree that the verse is talking about the wife of Imran can a Christian please prove to me that the husband of Mary’s mother was absolutely not called Imran? From a purely rational perspective the Christian detractor’s position is extremely dubious without any real evidence. If the Qur’an was really confused about Mary and Moses would it not have actually said somewhere that she is “the sister of Moses”? Notice that there is no such verse anywhere despite the fact that Moses is a far more significant figure in the Qur’an than both Aaron and Imran. In fact, Moses is mentioned in the Qur’an 136 times! Had the Qur’an truly in a muddle of confusion about Mary’s relationship to Aaron and Imran it would have had Moses ascribed to her as her brother as he is a far more prominent figure in the Qur’an…”

There are a few problems with the neophyte’s obfuscation.

First, the taqiyyist conveniently forgot to mention the following Quranic passage where Mary is explicitly said to be the daughter of Imran (Amram):

And Marium, the daughter of Imran, who guarded her chastity, so We breathed into her of Our inspiration and she accepted the truth of the words of her Lord and His books, and she was of, the obedient ones. S. 66:12 Shakir

Since Mary is supposed to be the daughter of Imran then logically speaking this would make her mother Imran’s wife!

Thus, it is more correct to interpret imra’ah in view Q. 3:35 as Imran’s wife, as opposed to a woman from his line.

In fact, this is how many Muslim translators understood the Arabic:

“(Remember) when the wife of 'Imran said…” Hilali-Khan

“(Remember) when the wife of 'Imran said…” Pickthall

“(Remember) when ‘Imran‘s wife said…” Muhammad Taqi Usmani

“Recall what time the wife of 'lmran said…” Abdul Majid Daryabadi

“Remember when Imran's wife prayed to her Lord saying…” Muhammad Sarwar

“Remember when the wife of ´Imran said…” Aisha Bewley

Imran’s wife said…” Abdel Haleem

“Allah heard when the wife of `Imran said…” Farooq Malik

“[Mention, O Muhammad], when the wife of 'Imran said…” Sahih International

The wife of Imran prayed …” Shabbir Ahmed

“When Imran´s wife said…” Hamid S. Aziz

“And (recall) when the wife of ´Imran said…” Tahir al-Qadri Mohammad

“As the wife of Imran said…” Muhammad Mahmoud Ghali

“When the wife of Imran said…” Ali Quli Qara’i

“(Remember) When the wife of Imran said…” Faridul Haque

“(Remember) when the wife of 'Imran said…” Hasan Al-Fatih Qaribullah

“Remember, when the wife of 'Imran prayed…” Muhammad Ahmed – Samira

“(Appreciate!) When the wife of Imran said…” Dr. Kamal Omar

The wife of Amram said…” Rashad Khalifa

“When the wife of Imran said…” Progressive Muslims

“Once when the wife of ‘Imran became aware that a child whom she thought was a male had been created in her womb…” Al-Muntakhab

The above translations were all taken from this source.

Now when we add the fact that the Quran also identifies Mary as Aaron’s sister,

O sister of Aaron! Thy father was not a wicked man nor was thy mother a harlot. S. 19:28 Pickthall

Then the conclusion seems inescapable that Muhammad and/or his informants confused Jesus’ mother with Moses’ sister since the latter is the only Mary we know of that had a father named Amram and a brother named Aaron according to the inspired Scriptures:

“The name of the wife of Amram was Jochebed, a descendant of Levi, born to Levi in Egypt. She bore to Amram: Aaron, Moses, and their sister Miriam.” Numbers 26:59

The children of Amram: Aaron, Moses, and Miriam. The sons of Aaron: Nadab, Abihu, Eleazar, and Ithamar." 1 Chronicles 6:3

In fact, the Hebrew Bible even expressly calls her the sister of Aaron!

“Then Miriam the prophetess, the sister of Aaron, took a tambourine in her hand, and all the women followed her with their tambourines and danced.” Exodus 15:20

This may explain why the Quran uses the phrase “sister of Aaron”, as opposed to “sister of Moses”. Muhammad and/or his informants may have heard the Jews and/or Christians using this expression for Moses’ sister since this is how they found her described in Exodus.(1) Muhammad and/or his sources then garbled up the genealogies and identities of the two Marys, resulting in the major blunder that we find in the Quran.

Secondly, the greenhorn cunningly tries to shift the burden of proof upon the Christians to show that Christ’s maternal grandfather wasn’t also named Imran and/or prove that the Quran mistook Jesus’ blessed mother to be Moses’ sister when it identified the former as the sister of Aaron.

The problem with the dawagandist’s smokescreens is that the Christians do not have the responsibility of showing anything other than that the expressions “sister of Aaron” and “daughter of Imran” are only used in relation to the Mary that is expressly said to be Moses’ sister. It is up to the neophyte to provide some biblical, historical, and/or archaeological proof that Jesus had a maternal grandfather named Imran and that his maternal uncle was called Aaron who were different from Moses’ father and brother.

Is he Moses’ brother after all?

This leads me to the third problem with the greenhorn’s rant. After raving about how these Christian detractors basically have no leg to stand on, since they cannot conclusively prove that the Quran confuses Jesus’ mother with Moses’ sister, the neophyte then goes on to cite Muslim authorities who actually admit that the Aaron mentioned in Q. 19:28 is in fact Moses’ brother!

Here are some of the traditions that the neophyte took from al-Tabari which expressly state this:

Abu Kurayb, Ibn al-Mutsanna, Suyan, Ibn Waki’ and Abu Sa’ib informed us saying that Abdullah bin Idris informed us who said that, “I heard from my father who said from Simak bin Harb, from Alqamah bin Wa’il, from Mughirah bin Shu’bah who said, ‘The Messenger of Allah dispatched me to the people of Najran and they said to me, “Do you not read ‘ya ukhta harun’?” I said yes and you already know the distance between Moses and Jesus. Thereafter I went back to the Prophet and told him about it, hence he said “Did you not tell them that they give names (to their own) with the names of their prophets and righteous ones before them.”’”

Ibn Humayd informed us and said that Al Hakam bin Bashir informed us and said that ‘Amru informed us from Simak bin Harb from al-Qamah bin Wa’il from Mughirah bin Shu’bah who said, “The Prophet dispatched me to the people of Najran for a purpose and they said to me, ‘Does your Prophet not admit that Aaron the brother of Mary is the brother of Moses?’ I was unable to answer them until I returned to the Prophet and I told him about the incident and he said, ‘Verily they christen/name (their progeny) with the names of those who were before them.’”

Other scholars are of the view that it means that Aaron is the brother of Moses and Mary is attributed to him (ukhta) because he is of her lineage such as what is commonly said regarding the Tamimi (people of Tamim), “O brother of Tamim” or to the Mudhari, “O brother of Mudhar.”

Musa bin Harun informed us and said that Amr bin Hammad informed us and he said that Asbath informed us from al-Suddi regarding the verse “ya ukhta harun” (O sister of Aaron) and he said, “Mary comes from the lineage of Aaron and this is the same as your saying, ‘O brother of so and so.’”

What makes this all the more remarkable is that the taqiyyist goes as far as to say that the view which claims that the phrase “sister of Mary” indicates that Mary is from the line of Aaron, Moses’ brother, is a plausible and acceptable position!

Though the details of the narrations may differ they all agree on one essential point and that is the Mary spoken of in the verse is not the literal and immediate sister of Prophet Moses. From the interpretations elucidated above we can summarise them as follows:

1) Harun was a righteous man from among the people of Israel, but not the brother of Moses and Mary was ascribed to him due to his righteousness which is an attribute that was shared by her.

2) Harun was a wicked man from among the people of Israel, but not the brother of Moses and Mary was ascribed to him due to his wickedness which is an attribute that was shared by her as perceived by the accusers around her.

3) Harun in the verse is the actual brother of Moses, yet Mary is ascribed to him not because she is literally his sister, but rather because she hails from that lineage.

We will not entertain option two in the ensuing discussion because it is similar to option one with only a slight variation in the attribute in question, that is, one posits a positive quality and the other a negative one yet the point of both is the shared trait between Aaron and Mary. Either commendation or reproach the basic point is that both share similar qualities hence the linkage by the use of the term ukht. Further more, there is little to no evidence that the Aaron meant in the verse in the Islamic tradition was in any way wicked. As a matter of fact the immediate sentence that follows talks about the positive character of Mary’s parents which seems to suggest that the whole point of the verse seems to compare the righteousness of Aaron together with her parents and Mary herself. It should be noted that both option one and option three have probative value despite the apparent dichotomy, yet they may not necessarily be mutually exclusive of each other as will be shown in due course.

And after quoting another scholar the greenhorn goes on to say that:

Sheikh Al-Maraghy’s commentary corresponds to al-Tabari’s in its essential points and from it we may discern that like al-Tabari’s commentary it is preferable to go by what the Prophet said. At this point it is important to note that the Prophet’s explanation does not contain any hints as to the actual relationship between Mary and Aaron. The Prophet’s explanation basically says that the descendants of the past prophets and righteous ones use their names for themselves and their children. However, it would seem that the reply given by the Prophet implicitly allows the possibility that the verse is indeed talking about Mary who had an actual brother called Aaron who was christened as such because it was a practice among Jews to recall the names of old prophets and give them to their children out of reverence. This possibility is mentioned by Mufti Shafi’ Uthmani in his commentary. [3] This however remains only a possibility because the Prophet could very well have meant option one which is mentioned earlier. Be that as it may, the essential and fundamental point that is immediately discernible from the Prophetic explanation is that the person named Mary in the verse is definitely not the actual and literal sister of the prophets of old, Aaron and Moses.

We would like to suggest that both interpretations or positions that Sheikh al-Maraghy enumerate as also enumerated by al-Tabari above are not mutually exclusive as mentioned earlier. The Qur’anic usage of ukhta in relation to Mary and Aaron is reflective OF BOTH INTERPRETATIONS: Mary is a direct descendant of Aaron and he was a righteous man. On the other hand there was another individual who was not Moses’s brother named Aaron around the time of Mary or before that and due to his righteousness and Mary’s own righteousness the two are connected also by the term in question i.e. ukhta. She is the sister of Aaron in the sense that she is his descendant and they both share the characteristic of righteousness and at the same time she is described as the sister of Aaron in the sense that there was another Aaron who was not the actual brother of Moses, yet was also righteous like Mary the mother of Jesus. THEREFORE UKHTA MENAS THAT SHE IS A DESCENDANT OF THE HOUSE OF AARON and it also points to the righteousness shared by her with the two Aarons, THE FIRST BEING THE BROTHER OF MOSES and the other a man from among the people of Israel. We believe this is a reasonable way of understanding the two different interpretations found in al-Tabari, al-Maraghy and other works of tafsir as well. (Bold and capital emphasis ours)

This is the same dawagandist who just got done telling us that “sister of Aaron” doesn’t mean that Muhammad had the Aaron who was Moses’ brother in view, and that it is up to the Christians to prove otherwise!

However, since the taqiyyist has done a fine job of refuting his own argument, and has basically established the Christian contention that the Aaron which the Quran has in view is none other than Moses’ brother, there is therefore no need for the “Christian detractors” to prove anything!

Shouldering the Burden of Proof

The problems are far from over for the taqiyyist.

According to one of the traditions cited by the Muslim authorities, Muhammad claimed that the people of the past would associate certain individuals with the names of specific prophets or pious persons. Here it is taken from the collection of Sahih Muslim:

Mughira b. Shu'ba reported: When I came to Najran, they (the Christians of Najran) asked me: You read “O sister of Harun" (i.e. Hadrat Maryam) in the Qur'an, whereas Moses was born much before Jesus. When I came back to Allah's Messenger I asked him about that, whereupon he said: The (people of the old age) used to give names (to their persons) after the names of Apostles and pious persons who had gone before them. (Sahih Muslim, Book 025, Number 5326; *)

Suffice it to say there are a host of problems with the solutions proposed by Muhammad and his followers.

In the first place, there is absolutely no evidence for the assertion that the Jews and Christians referred to people with the names of their prophets and/or righteous ones which came before them. This is something that Muhammad simply made up in order to save face after being exposed for making such an embarrassing blunder.

Second, Jews and Christians did not (nor do they now) use “brother/sister of” when referring to someone’s lineage or tribal affiliation. The expression they use to denote one’s lineage is “son/daughter/offspring of”:

“In the days of Herod, king of Judea, there was a priest named Zechariah, of the division of Abijah. And he had a wife from the daughters of Aaron, and her name was Elizabeth.” Luke 1:5

“And ought not this woman, a daughter of Abraham whom Satan bound for eighteen years, be loosed from this bond on the Sabbath day?” Luke 13:16

“And Jesus said to him, ‘Today salvation has come to this house, since he also is a son of Abraham.’” Luke 19:9

And if one’s tribal affiliation were in view then they would denote this by the use of the genitive, i.e. “from/of the tribe of”:

“circumcised on the eighth day, of the people of Israel, of the tribe of Benjamin, a Hebrew of Hebrews; as to the law, a Pharisee;” Philippians 3:5

Moreover, the examples from the Arabic language fare no better, i.e. “O brother of Tamim” or “O brother of Mudhar, since in those cases it is speaking of someone who is a member of that particular tribe. However, Aaron is not the name of a tribe but of a specific person! And the tribe that Aaron belonged to is called Levi.

Thus, if the Quran really did mean the tribe that Mary belonged to then it should have said “sister of Levi” or, to be more Biblically and historically accurate, “daughter of Levi.”

With the foregoing in perspective, the neophyte is obligated to back up his assertions, not by shifting the burden of proof, but by producing some reliable historical data which shows that Mary was from the tribe of Levi and a descendant of Aaron. He must also cite sources which use the expression “brother/sister of” to refer to a person’s lineage.

The Less Than Perspicuous Quran

Third, the Quran claims to be a scripture whose verses are perspicuous and explained in detail:

Alif Lam Ra. A Book whose verses ARE SET CLEAR, and then distinguished, from One All-wise, All-aware: S. 11:1 Arberry Mecca

A. L. R. These are the Ayats of Revelation, - of a Qur'an that makes things clear. S. 15:1 Y. Ali Mecca

And indeed We know that they (polytheists and pagans) say: "It is only a human being who teaches him (Muhammad)." The tongue of the man they refer to is foreign, while this (the Qur'an) is a clear Arabic tongue. S. 16:103 Hilali-Khan Mecca

We verily, have made it a Qur'an in Arabic, that you may be able to understand (its meanings and its admonitions). S. 43:3 Hilali-Khan Mecca

Thus doth God MAKE CLEAR His Signs to you: In order that ye may understand. S. 2:242 Y. Ali Medina – cf. Q. 2:187, 219, 242, 266; 3:103, 118; 4:26, 176; 5:89; 24:18, 58-59, 61; 57:17

It is He Who has set the stars for you, so that you may guide your course with their help through the darkness of the land and the sea. We have (indeed) explained IN DETAIL Our Ayat (proofs, evidences, verses, lessons, signs, Revelations, etc.) for people who know. It is He Who has created you from a single person (Adam), and has given you a place of residing (on the earth or in your mother's wombs) and a place of storage [in the earth (in your graves) or in your father's loins]. Indeed, We have EXPLAINED IN DETAIL Our revelations (this Qur'an) for people who understand. S. 6:97-98 Mecca

Thus We explain variously the Verses so that they (the disbelievers) may say: "You have studied (the Books of the people of the Scripture and brought this Qur'an from that)" and that We may make the matter clear for the people who have knowledge. S. 6:105 Hilali-Khan

Say (O Muhammad): "Who has forbidden the adoration with clothes given by Allah, which He has produced for his slaves, and At-Taiyibat [all kinds of Halal (lawful) things] of food?" Say: "They are, in the life of this world, for those who believe, (and) exclusively for them (believers) on the Day of Resurrection (the disbelievers will not share them)." Thus We explain the Ayat (Islamic laws) IN DETAIL for people who have knowledge. S. 7:32 Hilali-Khan Mecca

Certainly, We have brought to them a Book (the Qur'an) which We have explained IN DETAIL WITH KNOWLEDGE, - a guidance and a mercy to a people who believe. S. 7:52 Hilali-Khan

Thus do We explain the Ayat (proofs, evidences, verses, lessons, signs, revelations, etc.) IN DETAIL, so that they may turn (unto the truth). S. 7:174 Hilali-Khan

And this Qur'an is not such as could ever be produced by other than Allah (Lord of the heavens and the earth), but it is a confirmation of (the revelation) which was before it [i.e. the Taurat (Torah), and the Injeel (Gospel), etc.], and A FULL EXPLANATION of the Book (i.e. laws and orders, etc, decreed for mankind) - wherein there is no doubt from the Lord of the 'Alamin (mankind, jinns, and all that exists). S. 10:37 Hilali-Khan Mecca

Indeed in their stories, there is a lesson for men of understanding. It (the Qur'an) is not a forged statement but a confirmation of Allah's existing Books [the Taurat (Torah), the Injeel (Gospel) and other Scriptures of Allah] and A DETAILED EXPLANATION OF EVERYTHING and a guide and a Mercy for the people who believe. S. 12:111 Mecca

A Book whereof the Verses are explained IN DETAIL; A Qur'an in Arabic for people who know. S. 41:3 Hilali-Khan Mecca

Here is how another version translate the above text:

A scripture whose verses PROVIDE THE COMPLETE DETAILS, in an Arabic Quran, for people who know. Khalifa – Cf. Q. 6:55, 126; 11:1; 16:89; 30:28

And yet, according to the Islamic narrations which the dawagandist provided, there were native Arab speakers that failed to understand the supposed perspicuous Quran since they understood the Arabic phrase “sister of Aaron” to mean that Muhammad thought that Jesus’ blessed mother was the sister of Moses!

Recall that in the hadith from Sahih Muslim, Muhammad’s own companion Mughira was taken aback by the Quranic phrase. Like the Christians of Najran, he did not think for a moment that the expression meant something other than that Mary was the sister of Aaron and Moses. This is why he was left silent and embarrassed by the objection of the Christians, causing to run to Muhammad for an answer.

And also keep in mind the tradition from al-Tabari where Aisha accused Wahb of lying when he denied that Jesus’ mother was Moses’ actual sister:

Ya’qub informed me that Ibn Aliyah informed us from Sa’id bin Abu Sadaqah from Muhammad bin Sirin and he said: I was told that Ka’ab said regarding the words of Allah “ya ukhta harun” (O sister of Aaron) “that this Aaron is not the brother of Moses.” Ka’ab said, “Aishah said to him, ‘YOU LIE.’ He answered, “O mother of believers, if the Prophet said so then he is the one who knows best, and if he did not then I found that the distance between them is six hundred years.” He said, “thus she became silent”. (Bold and capital emphasis ours)

This should really trouble the greenhorn. Aisha lived with Muhammad for approximately nine years, e.g. from the time when her marriage was consummated at the age of 9 until the time of Muhammad’s death which occurred when she was 18 years old:

(39) CHAPTER. Giving one’s YOUNG CHILDREN in marriage (is permissible).

By virtue of the Statement of Allah: "…and for those who have no (monthly) courses (i.e. THEY ARE STILL IMMATURE) …" (v. 65:4)

And the ‘Idda for the girl BEFORE PUBERTY is three months (in the above Verse).

5133. Narrated ‘Aishah that the Prophet wrote the marriage contract with her when she was six years old and he consummated his marriage when she was none years old, and then she remained with him for nine years (i.e. till his death). (The Translation of the Meanings of Sahih Al-Bukhari, translated by Dr. Muhammad Muhsin Khan [Darussalam Publishers & Distributors, Riyadh – Saudi Arabia, July 1997], Volume 7, Ahadith 5063 to 5969, 67 – Book of An-Nikah (The Wedlock), p. 57; capital emphasis ours)

She is even said to have been one of the most knowledgeable Muslims that ever lived.

And yet for all those years Aisha assumed that the Quran was claiming that Moses was actually Jesus’ maternal uncle! It took a convert to Islam who had some knowledge of Biblical chronology to point out this error to her!

This means we have no less than three independent witnesses who all thought that the Quran taught that Jesus’ mother was Moses’ biological sister! Two of these witnesses personally knew Muhammad, with one of them being his own wife, and the other witness being native Arabic speaking Christians who would have known the language quite well.

Hence, here were native Arab speakers, people whose mother tongue was Arabic, who did not understand the Quran’s statement to be referring to some ancient custom or tradition. Nor did they view this as a reference to Mary’s lineage.

As one Answering Islam writer explained it:

#1 The first important clue to note here, and one that is easily overlooked, is found in the text itself. The Arabic Christians of Najran objected to Mary being called ‘sister of Aaron’. This speaks volumes, don't miss this fundamental point…..

“Muhammad said that this manner of using the idiom, ‘sister of Aaron’, was done by the pious people of the ‘old age’, i.e. people who lived during Mary's time. Those people called their fellow citizens after pious persons who had lived earlier. But the Christians of Najran did not recognize the use of this idiom. Although they lived some 600 years after Christ's time, they were familiar with their own religious stories, and certainly those of the Jews. But this idiom struck their ears as peculiar. If the idiom were familiar to them, they would not have objected. But the expression ‘sister of Aaron’, when applied to Mary in relation to Aaron, was not familiar.

Further, they did not recognize the technique or model in which this idiom was used. Had they known the custom that Muhammad said existed, of people calling other people ‘brother’ or ‘sister’ of ancient pious people, like possibly, ‘sister of Moses’, ‘brother of David’, ‘sister of Abraham’, ‘brother of Isaac’, they would have understood what the Quran was saying and raised no objection. But both the idiom, and the model in which it is used, were foreign to them.

“Note the next critical event. Again, it is fundamental to the point. The Arabic Muslim who came to Najran, and spoke with the Christians, did not know that the term was metaphorical. When confronted with the mistake he was dumbfounded! He had to go and see Muhammad to find out why there was a mistake in the Quran. Had he known that it was a metaphorical idiom, he would not have had to go and see Muhammad; he could have told the Najran Christians the meaning of the metaphor. Instead, the Muslim was confused because he also understood the passage to mean that Mary was Aaron's literal sister.

In sum, the Christians understood the Arabic of the Quran to mean a literal brother and sister relationship between Aaron and Mary. Further, they did not recognize the idiom ‘sister of Aaron’ when Muhammad used it with respect to Mary. In fact, the term, ‘sister of Aaron’ was abnormal to them when applied to anyone other than Aaron's real sister - Miriam. Further the Arabic Muslim, Mughira Shu'bah, also did not know this idiom was metaphorical. He also understood it to be literal. When told of the error, he was confused, and went to see Muhammad to get an answer.” (Silas, Is Mary the Sister of Aaron?)

Silas also shows that neither the Quran nor the ahadith provide any example that the expression “sister of” was ever used in the manner proposed by Muhammad.

Jesus’ Lineage and Tribal affiliation

Fourth, a further reason why the claim that “sister of Aaron” refers to Mary’s lineage doesn’t work is because the consistent testimony of the inspired Scriptures, starting from the earliest of our NT writings and Gospels, is that Jesus is a son of David, and therefore from the tribe of Judah:

“Then they came to Jericho. As Jesus and his disciples, together with a large crowd, were leaving the city, a blind man, Bartimaeus (that is, the Son of Timaeus), was sitting by the roadside begging. When he heard that it was Jesus of Nazareth, he began to shout, ‘Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me!’ Many rebuked him and told him to be quiet, but he shouted all the more, ‘Son of David, have mercy on me!’” Mark 10:46-48

“A record of the genealogy of Jesus Christ THE SON OF DAVID, the son of Abraham.” Matthew 1:1

“The angel went to her and said, ‘Greetings, you who are highly favored! The Lord is with you.’ Mary was greatly troubled at his words and wondered what kind of greeting this might be. But the angel said to her, ‘Do not be afraid, Mary, you have found favor with God. You will be with child and give birth to a son, and you are to give him the name Jesus. 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, and he will reign over the house of Jacob forever; his kingdom will never end.’ ‘How will this be,’ Mary asked the angel, ‘since I am a virgin?’ 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.’” Luke 1:26-35

“Jesus, when he began his ministry, was about thirty years of age, being the son (as was supposed) of Joseph, the son of Heli… the son of Mele-a, the son of Menna, the son of Mattatha, the son of Nathan, the son of David… the son of Amminadab, the son of Admin, the son of Arni, the son of Hezron, the son of Perez, the son of Judah,” Luke 3:23, 31, 33

“David said about him: ‘I saw the Lord always before me. Because he is at my right hand, I will not be shaken. Therefore my heart is glad and my tongue rejoices; my body also will live in hope, because you will not abandon me to the grave, nor will you let your Holy One see decay. You have made known to me the paths of life; you will fill me with joy in your presence.’ Brothers, I can tell you confidently that the patriarch David died and was buried, and his tomb is here to this day. But he was a prophet and knew that God had promised him on oath that he would place ONE OF HIS DESCENDANTS on his throne. Seeing what was ahead, he spoke of the resurrection of the Christ, that he was not abandoned to the grave, nor did his body see decay.” Acts 2:25-31

“concerning His Son, who was of the SEED OF DAVID according to the flesh, and declared to be the Son of God in power according to the Spirit of holiness by his resurrection from the dead, Jesus Christ our Lord.” Romans 1:3-4

“Remember Jesus Christ, raised from the dead, descended from David. This is my gospel…” 2 Timothy 2:8

“For it is clear that our Lord descended from Judah, and in regard to that tribe Moses said nothing about priests.” Hebrews 7:14

“Then one of the elders said to me, ‘Do not weep! See, the Lion of the tribe OF JUDAH, the Root OF DAVID, has triumphed. He is able to open the scroll and its seven seals.’” Revelation 5:5

“I, Jesus, have sent My angel to attest these things to you for the churches. I am the Root and OFFSPRING of David, the Bright Morning Star.” Revelation 22:16

We also find this stated in the writings of the Apostolic Fathers such as Ignatius of Antioch, a man who had met the Apostles such as John. He wrote seven letters around AD. 107-112 on his way to being martyred in Rome for Christ:

“For our God, Jesus Christ, was, according to the appointment of God, conceived in the womb by Mary, of the seed of David, but by the Holy Spirit… For the Son of God, who was begotten before time began, and established all things according to the will of the Father, He was conceived in the womb of Mary, according to the appointment of God, of the seed of David, and by the Holy Spirit…” (Epistle of Ignatius to the Ephesians, Chapter XVIII. - The Glory of the Cross)

What all of this suggests is that Mary must have been a descendant of David since this is the only way that Jesus could have been from David’s line seeing that his blessed mother conceived and gave birth to him by the power of the Holy Spirit while she was still a virgin. As such, she could not have been from Aaron’s line.

Was Mary of Levitical Descent?

Now the neophyte may try to counter this fact by appealing to Luke 1:36 which identifies Elizabeth as Mary’s kinswoman or relative:

“Even Elizabeth your relative is going to have a child in her old age…”

Greenhorn may argue from this fact that, since Elizabeth is said to be a descendant of Aaron (cf. Luke 1:5), Mary must have also been from the household of Aaron.

The problem, however, is that the only thing that this verse would prove is that Elizabeth had Judean blood in her, not that Mary was of the stock of Aaron.

After all, the Holy Bible clearly teaches that Levitical priests were allowed to marry women from any of the twelve tribes of Israel:

“The woman he marries must be a virgin. He must not marry a widow, a divorced woman, or a woman defiled by prostitution, but only a virgin from his own people.” Leviticus 21:13-14

The prophet Ezekiel, in his vision of a restored priesthood and temple, further clarifies this point:

“They shall not marry a widow or a divorced woman, but only virgins of the offspring OF THE HOUSE OF ISRAEL, or a widow who is the widow of a priest.” Ezekiel 44:22 ESV

The Holy Bible also provides an example of a priest who had married a woman from Judea, and who was actually a descendant of king David:

“Now when Athaliah the mother of Ahaziah saw that her son was dead, she arose and destroyed all the royal family of the house of Judah. But Jehoshabeath, the daughter of the king, took Joash the son of Ahaziah and stole him away from among the king's sons who were about to be put to death, and she put him and his nurse in a bedroom. Thus Jehoshabeath, the daughter of King Jehoram and wife of Jehoiada the priest, because she was a sister of Ahaziah, hid him from Athaliah, so that she did not put him to death.” 2 Chronicles 22:10-11

It is, therefore, more reasonable to assume that Elizabeth was from the line of David from her mother’s side, which would account for her being related to Mary.

As such, Luke 1:36 does very little to establish that Mary was from the line of Aaron, especially when the Biblical data points in the direction of her being a descendant of king David.

In fact, the earliest extant non-canonical writings confirm that the early Christians considered Mary to be of Davidic stock, not of Levitical descent.

The following is taken from The Gospel of the Nativity of Mary, Chapter 1:

“The blessed and glorious ever-virgin Mary, sprung from the royal stock and family of David…”

This next one comes from what is commonly referred to as The Protevangelium of James, 10:

“And there was a council of the priests, saying: Let us make a veil for the temple of the Lord. And the priest said: Call to me the undefiled virgins of the family of David. And the officers went away, and sought, and found seven virgins. And the priest remembered the child Mary, that she was of the family of David, and undefiled before God…”

Mary’s lineage according to Islamic Scholars

What makes this rather ironic is that we even have Muslim scholars acknowledging that Mary was a descendant of David!

For instance, the same noted Muslim scholar that the neophyte quoted, namely Al-Tabari, links Jesus’ mother to David. He even went as far as to “borrow” the genealogy of Joseph found in Matthew’s Gospel!

“The Persians assert that sixty-five years after Alexander seized Babylonia, and fifty-one years after Arsacid rule began, Mary the daughter of ‘Imran gave birth to Jesus. But the Christians assert that Jesus was born to her 303 years after Alexander conquered Babylonia, and that John the Baptist was born six months before Jesus. They report that Mary was pregnant with Jesus when she was thirteen years old. They also report that Jesus lived thirty-two years and a few days before his ascension, and that Mary lived six more years after his ascension, altogether over fifty years. They assert that John and Jesus met in the Jordan River when Jesus was thirty years of age, and that John was slain before the ascension of Jesus. Zechariah b. Berechiah, the father of Yahya b. Zechariah, and ‘Imran b. Matthan, the father of Mary, were married to two sisters. One was married to Zechariah- she was the mother of John, the other was with ‘Imran b. Matthan, and she was the mother of Mary. ‘Imran b. Matthan died when the mother of Mary was pregnant with her. When Mary was born, Zechariah provided for her after her mother’s death, because her aunt, the sister of her mother, was with him. The name of Mary’s mother was Hanna bt. Faqud b. Qabil; the name of the sister of Mary’s mother, that is, the name of John’s mother was Elizabeth bt. Faqud. Zechariah provided for Mary, and she was engaged to Joseph b. Jacob b. Mathan b. Eleazar b. Eliud b. Achim b. Zadok b. Azor b. Eliakim b. Abiud b. Zerubbabel, b. Shealtiel b. Jechonia b. Josiah b. Amon b. Manasseh b. Hezekiah b. Ahaziah b. Jotham b. Uzziah b. Joram b. Jehosaphat b. Asa b. Abijah b. Rehoboam b. SOLOMON B. DAVID.

According to Ibn Humayd – Salamah – Ibn Ishaq: As far as I could learn from her lineage, Mary was the daughter of ‘Imran b. Josiah b. Amon b. Manasse b. Hezekiah b. Ahaziah b. Jotham b. Azariah b. Amaziah b. Joash b. Ahaziah b. Joram b. Jehosaphat b. Asa b. Abijah b. Rehoboam b. SOLOMON. (The History of al-Tabari Volume IV - The Ancient Kingdom, Moshe Perlman trans. [The State University of New York Press; Albany, 1987], pp. 103-104; bold emphasis ours)

Hence, al-Tabari cites traditions which affirm that both Joseph AND Mary were descendants of King David.

The other classical Muslim scholars also took this position:

“The Qur’an informs us that the father of Mary was named ‘Imran and the classical Muslim scholars UNANIMOUSLY ACCEPT that she was from the line of the prophet David… Differences of opinion emerge, however, over the intervening genealogy, most probably due to a lack of familiarity with such foreign names and consequent error in recording them in the Arabic orthography. According to the Spanish exegete al-Qurtubi, ‘All these differences are mentioned because the Prophets and Messengers are all descendants one of the other.’ The following genealogy (taking into account orthographic variations), which is attributed to Ibn Ishaq or directly to the Prophet’s companion Ibn ‘Abbas, is the most generally accepted: Mary bint ‘Imran ibn Yashim ibn Misha ibn Hazqiya ibn Yawish (ibn Isha ibn Yahushafat) IBN SULAYMAN IBN DAWUD… Although the name of her mother is not supplied in the Qur’an, it is universally accepted as Hanna bint Faqudh.” (Aliah Schleifer, Mary The Blessed Virgin of Islam, Fons Vitae; ISBN: 1887752021; July 1, 1998, pp. 22-23; bold and capital emphasis ours)

One such scholar was Ibn Kathir who wrote the following in reference to Q. 19:16:

<And mention in the Book, Maryam,> She was Maryam bint `Imran from the family lineage of Dawud. She was from a good and wholesome family of the Children of Israel. Allah mentioned the story of her mother's pregnancy with her in Surah Al `Imran, and that she (Maryam's mother) dedicated her freely for the service of Allah. This meant that she dedicated the child (Maryam) to the service of the Masjid of the Sacred House (in Jerusalem). Thus, they (Zakariyya, Maryam's mother and Maryam) were similar in that aspect. (Q. 19:16; bold emphasis ours)

Ibn Kathir also mentioned Muslims who used Jesus as proof that a man can trace his lineage through his mother:

“… Mentioning `Isa in the offspring of Ibrahim, or Nuh as we stated above, is proof that the grandchildren from a man's daughter's side are included among his offspring. `Isa is included among Ibrahim's progeny through his mother, although `Isa did not have a father. Ibn Abi Hatim recorded that Abu Harb bin Abi Al-Aswad said, ‘Al-Hajjaj sent to Yahya bin Ya`mar, saying, “I was told that you claim that Al-Hasan and Al-Hussein are from the offspring of the Prophet, did you find it in the Book of Allah? I read the Qur'an from beginning to end and did not find it.” Yahya said, “Do you not read in Surah Al-An`am…

(and among his progeny Dawud, Sulayman…) until,

(and Yahya and `Isa…).

Al-Hajjaj said, “Yes.” Yahya said, “Is not `Isa from the offspring of Ibrahim, although he did not have a father!” Al-Hajjaj said, “You have said the truth.”’ For example, when a man leaves behind a legacy, a trust, or gift to his ‘offspring’ then the children of his daughters are included. But if a man gives something to his ‘sons’, or he leaves a trust behind for them, then that would be particular to his male children and their male children…” (Q. 6:84-90; bold emphasis ours)

Therefore, the claim that Mary was one of the descendants of Aaron holds no weight since there is no reliable historical data to support this.

As such, the neophyte must come to grips with reality and face the fact that the Quran contains a major blunder since it confuses Jesus’ mother with the sister of Moses!

Our Challenge to Greenhorn

Here are our challenges to this neophyte, which will hopefully insure that the taqiyyist won’t try to avoid shouldering the burden of proof next time around, in the case he tries to respond.

Our challenge is for him to provide some historical and archaeological data to substantiate the following assertions made by his "prophet" and his religious scholars:

– Cite references which show that, both before and during the time of Christ, the Jews would refer to individuals as the brother/sister of prophets and/or pious individuals that went before them.

– Quote sources from the same time period where the Jews used the expression “brother/sister of” to speak of a person’s lineage or tribal affiliation.

– Provide some reliable historical data to substantiate the assertion that Jesus’ mother was from the tribe of Levi and, more specifically, that she was a descendant of Aaron.

Further Reading

Is Mary the Sister of Aaron?
Mary, the Mother of Jesus and Sister of Aaron
Jesus is from the Seed of David
Is Mary from the tribe of Levi or Judah?
Imran’s Fatherhood: Part I, Part II


In fact, a search for the names Moses and Miriam shows that the Holy Bible never couples Miriam with Moses alone. Either Moses, Aaron and Miriam are all mentioned together (Numbers 12:4; 26:59; 1 Chronicles 6:3), or Miriam is coupled with Aaron rather than (or even in opposition to) Moses (Numbers 12:1; Micah 6:4). The reference in Micah may simply be a list, with Miriam mentioned last, right after Aaron, but still placing her name closer to the name of Aaron rather than Moses.

Searching for the names Aaron and Miriam turns up an additional three verses (Exodus 15:20; Numbers 12:5,10). Clearly, Miriam is mentioned several times closely and only with Aaron and never exclusively with Moses. Thus, it is not only this one verse, Exodus 15:20, but this is consistent throughout the Torah.