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Ask the Pastor

† Theological musings and answers to selected questions by a confessional Lutheran pastor.

07 May 2006

Mary and the Sixth Month

Q: In the story leading up to the birth of Jesus (Luke 1), does the phrase “sixth month” mean the sixth month of the Jewish calendar or of another, such as the Julian or a Greek calendar?

The AnnunciationA: Actually, Saint Luke was referring to the sixth month of Elizabeth’s pregnancy. Events before and after Gabriel’s visit to Mary indicate this to be the case.

Following his encounter with the angel in the temple, Zechariah finished his priestly duties and returned home. Luke 1:24 says, “After these days his wife Elizabeth conceived, and for five months she kept herself hidden.” This involved her fifth month of pregnancy. Immediately afterward, Luke began the Annunciation narrative with the “sixth month. (v. 26)”

As Gabriel completed his message to the Virgin, he gave this sign: “And behold, your relative Elizabeth in her old age has also conceived a son, and this is the sixth month with her who was called barren. (v. 36)” Thus, the context of Luke 1 indicates that the best understanding of the sixth month is not a date in the Hebrew or any other calendar, but rather is marked from the conception of John the Baptist.

Scripture quoted from The Holy Bible, English Standard Version™, © 2001 by Crossway Bibles.

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Walter Snyder is the pastor of Holy Cross Lutheran Church, Emma, Missouri and coauthor of the book What Do Lutherans Believe.

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