How can Mary and Elizabeth be related if one is of the tribe of David and the other of Aaron?


We know that Jesus comes from the tribe of Judah. However, the Gospel of Luke mentions that Mary is related to Elizabeth, the mother of John the Baptist. Elizabeth’s husband was a priest, so he was of the tribe of Levi, wasn’t he? Does it turn out that Maria is from the same tribe if she is related to Elizabeth, or maybe I didn’t understand something correctly? Thank you for the answer. 

At first glance it would seem so. The Lord Jesus was born of the tribe of Judah, as David’s descendant in body. In the Gospel of Matthew 1:1-17 and the Gospel of Luke 3:23-38 we find the genealogy of the Lord Jesus. Both in the line of Mary and in the genealogical line of Joseph, the Bible shows us that the Lord Jesus was born of the tribe of Judah. As to the flesh, the Lord Jesus was born of the tribe of David, but as to the Spirit of holiness, he has been powerfully proved to be the Son of God (Romans 1:3-4). So, no doubt, Mary, the mother of Jesus, was of the tribe of Judah. 

But the confusion arises when we read about Elizabeth. First we find the following written about her: 

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

And then, at the end of the chapter, when the angel speaks to Mary, he tells her the following about Elizabeth: 

“behold, even your relative Elizabeth herself has conceived a son in her old age, and she who was called infertile is now in her sixth month.”(Luke 1:35-36 NASB)

And hence the question: how can the two be related, if Elizabeth is of the tribe of Aaron and Levi respectively, and Mary is of the tribe of David and Judah respectively? 

The answer is simple. Geneology was always viewed through the prism of the father. In the case of Elizabeth and Mary, obviously one of their fathers was from the tribe of Judah and the other from the tribe of Levi. However, not their mothers. As for Elizabeth, her mother was probably from the tribe of Judah, and the two may have been related. Some Bible scholars say that this is very likely because the two tribes used to marry each other and thereby unite the two important aspects of the Messiah, the King (through Judah) and the High Priest (through Levi). 

On this occasion, let me recommend the book “God, Are You There?” and “The Gospel of John, Part II.” Both will help you deepen your study of the gospel of John and you will gain a good picture of the One who is called “Christ, the Son of God.” 

Translated by Nicoleta Vicliuc