So Mary’s burst of praise contains over a dozen references to Old Testament (I prefer “first testament”) scriptures, which she no doubt learned as part of the religious education all Jewish children received, right?
But the next question would be, Where did Luke get the text of her song? In my sermon this morning, I considered four possibilities:
- Luke didn’t get it from her. It’s revisionism. The words are being ascribed to her because the poetry works into a nice narrative; four poems or psalms actually; being attributed to four different people. Makes a nice Christmas play, but it never happened; at least not like that.
- She didn’t use those words at the time. Luke interviewed her. She recalled being filled with awe and wonder at the moment, and gives him a text years down the road that only comes with maturity and further understanding of the prophetic texts. A revisionist version of actual events that happened differently.
- Luke did get it from her and that really was the text of her song at the time. She essentially “taught herself” the text and melody — yes, there was a tune to this song — and having memorized it, repeated it over and over throughout her life.
- The song is real, the lyrics are accurate, and it’s all Mary’s work, but Luke didn’t need to interview her to get it, because many of the women of the time had been taught “Mary’s Song;” originally from Mary herself, but some from others who knew the lyrics and melody. (However, its original CCLI number was discontinued; I think it was song number 4.)
I like options three and four. Modern scholarship would try to deconstruct the text, but instead, we should look at ways we can make the text work. Luke, the doctor and historian, having access to the text of a young peasant girl’s immediate reaction to an angelic visitation is far from impossible to imagine. And his gospel begins with a pledge of accuracy.