The Bible says Mary (from the house of David) and Elizabeth (a Levite) were cousins. Does the Bible say how they are related?
ESV - 36 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.
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The Bible indicates that Elizabeth was of the "daughters of Aaron" (Luke 1:5, (that is, descended through Moses' brother, Aaron, from the Jewish tribe of Levi (Exodus 6:20) (one of the twelve sons of Jacob, or Israel)), while Mary was from the tribe of Judah (one of Jacob's other sons, as well as Levi's full brother, since they had the same mother (Genesis 35:23), and had descended from Judah through David (in order to fulfill Old Testament prophecy concerning the lineage of the Messiah) (2 Samuel 7:16; Luke 4:23-31). Therefore, they would have at least been on some level cousins, based on that long-ago relationship between Levi and Judah. (They may have also been more closely related than that based on intermarriage between those two tribes during the preceding centuries, but (as far as I am aware) the Bible does not specify that or give any information about it.)
The Greek term 'syngenis, simply means “relative” (NKJV, NASB, NIV) or “kinswoman” (ASV, RSV). It is a general term, meaning ‘of the same family.’ Thus, Mary and Elizabeth may have been first cousins, or they may have been fourth cousins. All we know for sure is that they were kin. Mary and Elizabeth could have been from different tribes and still have been first cousins. It may be that their mothers were sisters.Though Elisabeth was, on the father’s side, of the daughters of Aaron (v. 5), yet on the mother’s side she might be of the house of David. However Mary and Elizabeth were related, tribal heritage among the descendants of Jacob was passed down through fathers, not mothers; children were always of their father’s tribe, not their mother’s. Thus, Elizabeth and Mary were descendants of Aaron and David, respectively, by way of their fathers’ ancestry, and not necessarily of their mothers’.
1 Chronicles 27:32 tells us that David had an uncle named Jonathan who was a counselor, a wise man and a scribe. The scribes pre Talmud were all priests or Levites. The most powerful scribe in the Bible was Ezra who was both priest and scribe. Mary and Elizabeth were recorded as being cousins which is meaning kindred; but whether or not they were close in blood, they were close in relationship. We don’t know how Jonathan was David’s uncle, but it had to be by a marriage. Jesse was of the tribe of Judah. Mary was descended from Nathan the son of David of the tribe of Judah. But there could have been intermarriage along the line. Jesus was prophet, priest and King. Even David was allowed to wear the Ephod without repercussions. Messiah was to be another King like David. But we know he was so much more.
My opinion is that the mother of Mary and Salome was from a priestly family, and a close relative of Elizabeth. Offered in evidence: 1) Mary knew who Elizabeth was and felt comfortable to go to her home, 2) John seems to have had a familial relationship with the high priest as demonstrated by his access to the High Priest compound while Jesus was on trial there.
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