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Who Are Mary's Parents?

Updated: Aug 18

And on the following day he brought his offerings, saying in himself: If the Lord God has been rendered gracious to me, the plate on the priest’s forehead will make it manifest to me. And Joachim brought his offerings, and observed attentively the priest’s plate when he went up to the altar of the Lord, and he saw no sin in himself. And Joachim said: Now I know that the Lord has been gracious unto me, and has remitted all my sins. And he went down from the temple of the Lord justified, and departed to his own house. And her months were fulfilled, and in the ninth month Anna brought forth. And she said to the midwife: What have I brought forth? and she said: A girl. And said Anna: My soul has been magnified this day. And she laid her down. And the days having been fulfilled, Anna was purified, and gave the breast to the child, and called her name Mary.

-- The Protevangelium of James [1]

I normally start my blog posts with a scripture from the Bible. However, in order to set the context for the remainder of this post, I decided to start with a text from The Protevangelium of James. This text teaches that the parents of Mary, the mother of Jesus, were Anna and Joachim. Does the Bible teach that they are Mary's mother and father? If not, then who are Mary's parents?

Protevangelium of James

The Protevangelium of James, also called the Infancy Gospel of James, is a noncanonical, apocryphal New Testament infancy gospel that focuses on the birth and life of Mary and expands on the account of Jesus’ birth and infancy. The Protevangelium was used in portions of the early church, but was officially rejected by the Gelasian Decree. [2] This document was more than likely written between A.D. 150 and 200.

The Decretum Gelasianum (Gelasian Decree) is a sixth-century Latin manuscript usually attributed to Pope Gelasius I in A.D. 492-496. In this decree, the fifth century Roman Catholic Church accepted the books of the Old and New Testament and rejected sixty-two apocryphal texts. [3] A story or statement of doubtful authenticity is called apocryphal, even if it is widely circulated as being true.

Saints Joachim and Anne

On July 26, 2023, the Roman Catholic Church commemorated the parents of the Virgin Mary, Saints Joachim and Anne. The couple's faith and perseverance brought them through the sorrow of childlessness, to the joy of conceiving and raising the immaculate and sinless woman who would give birth to Christ. The New Testament contains no specific information about the lives of the Virgin Mary's parents, but other documents outside of the Biblical canon do provide some details. Although these writings are not considered authoritative in the same manner as the Bible, they outline some of the Church's traditional beliefs about Joachim, Anne and their daughter. The “Protoevangelium of James,” which was probably put into its final written form in the early second century, describes Mary's father Joachim as a wealthy member of one of the Twelve Tribes of Israel. Joachim was deeply grieved, along with his wife Anne, by their childlessness. “He called to mind Abraham,” the early Christian writing says, “that in the last day God gave him a son Isaac.” [4]

This article states that the New Testament contains no specific information about the lives of Mary's parents, which is partially true. It admits that the writings used to provide details about Mary's parents are not considered authoritative. In fact the Roman Catholic Church officially rejected the Protoevangelium of James.

Another agency, Catholic Online, states the following:

Saints Joachim (sometimes spelled "Joaquin," pronounced "wal-keem") and Anne, are the parents of the Virgin Mary. There are no mentions of them in the Bible or Gospels, what we know comes from Catholic legend and the Gospel of James, which is an unsanctioned, apocryphal writing form the second century A.D. We do know from scholarship that the Gospel of James was not written by James, the Brother of Jesus, despite its claim to be so authored. Even the early Church fathers expressed skepticism about the Gospel of James in their writings. There are about 150 copies of the ancient manuscript which often have different titles, but tell the same story, that Mary was promised to Joachim and Anne by an angel, was consecrated to God, and she remained a virgin all her life. [5]

This article accurately declares the following:

- Joachim and Anne are not mentioned in the Bible.

- What is known about them comes from Catholic legend and the unsanctioned Gospel of James (the Protevangelium of James).

Regardless of the skepticism of the early church fathers about the Protevangelium of James, the Roman Catholic Church venerated Joachim and Anne as saints and they are commemorated as the parents of the Virgin Mary! Anne is the patron saint of mothers and women in labor. Joachim and Anne are patron saints of grandparents. Several Roman Catholic Churches are named after them.

What, if anything, does the Bible reveal about Mary's parents?

So far we have two people who, according to Roman Catholic tradition, are Mary's parents - Joachim and Anne. While the fifth century Roman Catholic Church rejected the Protevangelium of James, as well as other apocryphal texts, they rightly accepted the sixty-six books of the Old and New Testaments.

The Old Testament scriptures were completed approximately 400 years before the birth of Jesus Christ. Many passages within the Old Testament were quoted or referenced by Jesus and His apostles, especially Paul, a Pharisee who was educated under Gamaliel, strictly according to the law of our fathers (Acts 22:3). The thirty-nine books of the Old Testament were widely accepted as the canon of holy scripture by A.D. 250. In A.D. 363, the Council of Laodicea stated that only the Old Testament and twenty-six books of the New Testament (Revelation was excluded at this time) were canonical and to be read in the churches. The twenty-seven books of the New Testament were officially affirmed as authoritative by the Council of Hippo (A.D. 393) and the Council of Carthage (A.D. 397). The Roman Catholic Church accepted the sixty-six books of the canonized Bible by the end of the fifth century.

The Bible does not tell us who Mary's mother is. But it does point us to her father. To know who he is, we must look at the two genealogies of Jesus in the gospels of Matthew and Luke.

The Genealogy of Jesus in Matthew

The gospel of Matthew is the first account of the life of Christ that was collectively a work of the twelve apostles written between A.D. 42 and 44. Copies of this manuscript were carried by the apostles on their individual journeys throughout Jerusalem, Judea, Samaria, and other parts of the known world at this time (Acts 1:8). Matthew 1:1-16 is the record of the genealogy of Jesus the Messiah, the son of David, the son of Abraham (Matthew 1:1). This record ends as follows: Jacob was the father of Joseph the husband of Mary, by whom Jesus was born, who is called the Messiah (Matthew 1:16).

As the son of Abraham, Jesus is the seed of Abraham in whom all the nations of the earth shall be blessed (Genesis 22:18). The apostle Paul speaks of Christ as the seed of Abraham (Galatians 3:16). Jesus is also the seed of David. He will sit on the throne of David which shall be established forever (2 Samuel 7:12-16; Psalm 89:3-4).

David was the father to several sons and daughters. Two of his sons are Solomon and Nathan (2 Samuel 5:13-16). Solomon was David's successor to the throne (1 Kings 1:29-39). Solomon is mentioned in Matthew's genealogy of Jesus (Matthew 1:6-7). The last of the kings in this line mentioned is Jeconiah (Matthew 1:11-12). Jeconiah, also known as Coniah and Jehoiachin, was the last of the kings born in the line of David through Solomon to sit on the throne of David. This is documented in Jeremiah 22:28-30 - “Thus says the LORD, ‘Write this man (Coniah) down childless, A man who will not prosper in his days; For no man of his descendants will prosper Sitting on the throne of David Or ruling again in Judah’ ” (Jeremiah 22:30). Jehoiachin was deported to Babylon by King Nebuchadnezzar in 597 B.C. (see 2 Kings 24:8-16).

God promised that the seed of David will establish the throne of David forever, yet how will He accomplish this after declaring that none of Coniah's descendants will sit of the throne of David again? God gives us the answer: Jacob was the father of Joseph the husband of Mary, by whom Jesus was born, who is called the Messiah (Matthew 1:16).

Joseph, the son of Jacob, is in the kingship line of Solomon. He is the husband of Mary who remained a virgin until after she gave birth to Jesus (Matthew 1:26). Thus, by way of being Mary's husband, Joseph became the adoptive father of Jesus. As the son of David through Joseph, Jesus has the right to sit on the throne of David.

Jacob is Mary's father-in-law through her marriage to Joseph.

The Genealogy of Jesus in Luke

Luke, was written around A.D. 59. It's author, Luke, was a physician (Colossians 4:14) who investigated everything from the beginning and wrote it out in consecutive order (Luke 1:3). Luke 3:23-38 documents the genealogy of Jesus, as was supposed the son of Joseph, the son of Eli (Luke 3:23). This genealogy ends with the son of Adam, the son of God (Luke 3:38).

Luke's genealogy is different from Matthew's. First, Jesus is mentioned as the son of God, not the son of David. He is the son of God by way of being conceived by the Holy Spirit in the womb of the virgin, Mary (Matthew 1:18; Luke 1:31-35). Second, instead of being a descendant of David's son Solomon, Jesus is listed as a descendant of David's son Nathan (Luke 3:31). Although her name is not listed in Luke's genealogy, Mary is a descendant of Nathan. Lastly, Jacob is not listed as Joseph's father as he is in Matthew's genealogy. Joseph is documented as the son of Eli (Luke 3:23).

Logically speaking, Joseph could not have been born to two descendants of David - Solomon and Nathan. Thus, he cannot be both the son of Jacob (Matthew 1:16) by birth and the son of Eli (or Heli) by birth. Matthew 1:16 explicitly states that Jacob was the father of Joseph, indicating Joseph was Jacob's son by birth. This passage also states that Joseph was the husband of Mary. There is only one logical conclusion:

Eli is the father of Mary and the father-in-law of Joseph, the husband of Mary.

The only reference to Anna in the Bible is found in Luke 2:36 - And there was a prophetess, Anna the daughter of Phanuel, of the tribe of Asher. She was advanced in years and had lived with her husband seven years after her marriage.

The Jacob recorded in Matthew 1:16 and the Eli recorded Luke 3:23 are only mentioned once in the Bible. The names of their wives are not mentioned in the scriptures.


[1] James Orr, ed., New Testament Apocryphal Writings, The Temple Bible (London; Philadelphia: J. M. Dent & Co.; J. B. Lippincott Co., 1903), 4–5.

[2] Charles Meeks, “Protevangelium of James,” ed. John D. Barry et al., The Lexham Bible Dictionary (Bellingham, WA: Lexham Press, 2016).

[3] Carrie Sinclair Wolcott, “Decretum Gelasianum,” ed. John D. Barry et al., The Lexham Bible Dictionary (Bellingham, WA: Lexham Press, 2016).

[4] Saints Anne and Joachim Feast Day: July 26, (Catholic News Agency; EWTN News, Inc., 2023),

[5] Saints Joachim and Anne, (Catholic Online/Saints & Angels; Bakersfield, CA, 2022),

Unless otherwise noted, all scripture cited in this post is taken from the New American Standard Bible: 1995 Update.

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