Luke’s Version of Jesus and John the Baptist
Luke’s version of the relationship between Zachariah & Elisabeth seems to be a parallel to that of Abraham and Sarah. In both cases, the fathers are priests: Abraham after the order of Melchizedek and Zachariah after the order of Abiyah. Both men were elderly, were married to elderly barren wives and both were childless, i.e., without a male heir. Both appealed to Yhwh and both men were answered (Abraham by Yhwh and Zachariah by an angel) that they were to expect the birth of a son and an heir. Thus far the account of Abraham’s and Zachariah’s stories are perfect parallels.
The stories diverge in that Abraham’s wife, Sarai, offers him her maid, Hagar, in order that he may father an heir, which he succeeds in doing and Ishmael is born. 16/17 years later jealous Sarai (Gen 16:4) conceives and her insistence that Isaac be the only legitimate heir, causes Abraham to renounce his first-born’s right of primogeniture and send both Hagar and his first-born into the desert. The story is a bit confusing at this point as it appears that Ishmael is treated as a toddler and not as a young man.
According to Luke, Zachariah seems to have tolerated the fact that his wife was barren and did not seek to remedy the situation by marrying a second wife even though his advanced years indicated that he viewed himself as aging to the point where fathering a child would be very difficult and even impossible. The norm would be for a Jew to take a second wife so that he could produce a male heir, especially when his priestly line was in jeopardy because of his and his wife’s infertility.
Now, suppose that Zachariah did take a second wife, who like Hagar, became pregnant at about the same time that his first wife also conceived. Both women produced a male heir. However, the first-born was, like Ishmael, the son of the second wife. The first wife then produces a male heir and insists, like Sara, that the first born be sent away to Galilee so that her son would be the only legitimate heir. Suppose that the second wife’s name was Miriam and her son’s name was Joshua (Jesus in English), meaning Yah saved, because Yah saved Zachariah’s line from extinction. Suppose that Zachariah complied with the request and demanded that Miriam not use his given name as his parent but to call Joshua by his ancestral name, Abiyah which means ‘my father is Yah’/God. As the fame of Joshua Bar Abiyah spread, Greek speaking Gentile converts to the ‘Jesus’ movement understood the name to mean Iesous/Jesus whose father is God. Zeus/Jupiter, the god of the Greek speaking Gentiles, fathered offspring on human females. These sons then became demi-gods.
Luke portrays the relationship between Elisabeth and Mary as loving and supportive. But, the idea that a pregnant Mary travelled alone from Galilee to Jerusalem to see her relative because she was pregnant with a child not fathered by her husband, is, to say the least, very, very improbable. The friendly relationship is undoubtedly a reversal of a story being gossiped around which, most likely, paralleled that of Hagar and Sarai.
The author of Luke seems to be reversing a story, which may have reflected the rivalry between the anti-temple movement of Jesus and the the anti-Herodian movement of John the Baptist. Jesus attacked the temple to which John the Baptist’s family was attached. If Jesus was exiled by his father, Zachariah, John the Baptist’s inheritance of Jesus’ birthright would have been a bone of contention between the two just as it was between Jacob and Esau. After the death of both of these leaders, authors, like the gospel authors, attempted to heal the breach by portraying the two as intimate and supportive relatives instead of rival brothers.
The above analysis is supposition, but it does go a long way to explain why Mary was in Galilee and her son was addressed as Bar Miriam (the son of Mary), i.e, he had a different father from his siblings (Mark 6:3). It also explains why Mary, a Levite, was not put to death for fornication as well as the fact that Jesus was not only accepted by the clergy in Galilee, he was schooled by them and allowed to preach in synagogues. If he was thought of as a bastard child, none of this would have been allowed. However, as Bar Abiyah, he would have been welcomed and fostered into a Levite role.