The Presentation of the Blessed Mary
An analysis of the presumptions of sacred tradition of the Presentation of Mary (the Entry of Theotokos) at the Jerusalem Temple, and the time of her residence there once again will demonstrate that the Orthodox Church does not possess the truth in its confession of faith and, in fact, adheres to historical fraud.
The previous section proved that the names of Mary parents were not Joachim and Anna, nor was she an only daughter. This is a basic starting point to see that further disseminated legends about Jesus’ mother alleged of her youth have no basis in reality. This stands in direct contrast to the assurances of the Eastern Orthodox Church.
The event of “Presentation” occurs when Mary is three years old and is taken to the temple to be dedicated to God, thus fulfilling a vow her parents had made even before she saw the light of day. The New Testament records nothing about such an event. However, Bishop Nikolai sets things in order about this event and says the following:
“When the Most-holy Virgin Mary reached the age of three, her holy parents Joachim and Anna took her from Nazareth to Jerusalem to dedicate her to the service of God according to their earlier promise… Many kinsmen of Joachim and Anna gathered in Jerusalem to take part in this event, at which the invisible angels of God were also present… The virgin was clad in vesture of royal magnificence and adornments as was befitting the ’King’s daughter, the Bride of God’.”
After they arrived in front of the Temple, Mary climbed the stairs to the top where she met the high priest Zechariah (the future father of John the Baptist). He grabbed her by the hand and led her to the most holy place of the Temple – the Holy of Holies. At the Temple, Mary ministered to God and read Scripture over the next nine (or eleven) years until she turned twelve (or fourteen, as Bishop Nikolai contradicts himself ). She then submitted herself in betrothal to the elderly Joseph of Nazareth and kept her virgin chastity.
In the text cited above by Bishop Nikolai and known in Eastern Christianity for centuries, we notice several obvious differences with the records of the Bible inspired by God.
First, despite the presence of the angels at this unknown historical event, the Holy Scriptures never refer to Mary as “the King’s Daughter, the Bride of God”. Furthermore, the “Presentation” refers to Zechariah as the high priest, although Luke calls him (and looking chronologically about 15 years later) a “common” priest:
“There was in the days of Herod, the king of Judea, a certain priest named Zacharias, of the division of Abijah. His wife was of the daughters of Aaron, and her name was Elizabeth.”
If it were true that this Zechariah (Zacharias) fifteen years previously participated in such an important event such as “the Presentation of Mary, Mother of God” in the Holy of Holies (which would have been unprecedented), surely Luke would have written something about it to remind us (and also Matthew in the case of the death of John the Baptist in Mt. 14:1-12). Also, as already pointed out, this legend makes up for one absolutely unbelievable event, that is, the introduction of a three year old girl into the most sacred place of the Temple. Anyone who has knowledge of the Old Testament Scriptures knows the regulations for the ministry of a high priest to God in the sanctuary. The religious law of the Lord allowed entry into the Holy of Holies only in strictly prescribed circumstances, namely on the “Day of Atonement” (Yom Kippur) once a year. Moses communicates to his brother Aaron, the first Jewish high priest, God’s warning about the manner of entry into the Holy of Holies:
“…and the Lord said to Moses: ‘Tell Aaron your brother not to come at just any time into the Holy Place inside the veil, before the mercy seat which is on the ark, lest he die; for I will appear in the cloud above the mercy seat… And Aaron shall bring the bull of the sin offering, which is for himself, and make atonement for himself and for his house, and shall kill the bull as the sin offering which is for himself. Then he shall take a censer full of burning coals of fire from the altar before the Lord, with his hands full of sweet incense beaten fine, and bring it inside the veil. And he shall put the incense on the fire before the Lord, that the cloud of incense may cover the mercy seat that is on the Testimony, lest he die. He shall take some of the blood of the bull and sprinkle it with his finger on the mercy seat on the east side; and before the mercy seat he shall sprinkle some of the blood with his finger seven times… Then he shall kill the goat of the sin offering, which is for the people, bring its blood inside the veil, do with that blood as he did with the blood of the bull, and sprinkle it on the mercy seat and before the mercy seat. So he shall make atonement for the Holy Place, because of the uncleanness of the children of Israel, and because of their transgressions, for all their sins; and so he shall do for the tabernacle of meeting which remains among them in the midst of their uncleanness. There shall be no man in the tabernacle of meeting when he goes in to make atonement in the Holy Place, until he comes out, that he may make atonement for himself, for his household, and for all the assembly of Israel… This shall be a statute forever for you: In the seventh month, on the tenth day of the month, you shall afflict your souls, and do no work at all, whether a native of your own country or a stranger who dwells among you. For on that day the priest shall make atonement for you, to cleanse you, that you may be clean from all your sins before the LORD… This shall be an everlasting statute for you, to make atonement for the children of Israel, for all their sins, once a year.’ And he did as the Lord commanded Moses.”
Pay attention to the part of this text that clearly defines the only circumstance when the High Priest could ever dare to enter the most sacred room of the Temple (i.e. “the Tent of Meeting” or “Tabernacle” before the Temple was built):
(1) It had to be during the Day of Atonement, which took place on the tenth day of the month Tishra (the seventh month of the Jewish calendar) (Lev. 16:29-30);
(2) Wearing special attire for the occasion, the High Priest had to sacrifice for atonement on behalf of the people and their sins (3-11);
(3) The High Priest had to burn incense on the altar of incense that was in the sanctuary, which was located in front of the curtain which divided the sanctuary from the “Holy of Holies” (12-13);
(4) The High Priest could enter only with the blood of sacrificial animals (34);
(5) The High Priest had to go twice to the Holy of Holies of the temple (behind the curtain), first with the blood of a bull, and then with the blood of a goat, then sprinkling blood on the mercy seat and on the east side seven times with his finger seven times dipped in a bowl full of blood (14-15);
(6) No one dared to accompany the High Priest into the Temple while he was performing the purification of sins before the Lord on behalf of the nation of Israel (17);
(7) The Lord intended this ordinance to be observed as an eternal decree (i.e. fully
unchanging for all time) (29, 34);
(8) Every High Priest had to abide by all the regulations firmly established in God’s law given to Moses. Otherwise, the Lord would certainly punish them by death (13).
This ordinance was mentioned and confirmed by the New Testament:
“Now when these things had been thus prepared, the priests always went into the first part of the tabernacle, performing the services. 7 But into the second part the high priest went alone once a year, not without blood, which he offered for himself and for the people’s sins committed in ignorance…”
If the author of Hebrews had known an exception to this rule, a deviation from the commandments of God, without a doubt he would have mentioned it after the seventh verse of this chapter. Since this letter was written at least seventy years after the alleged entry of Mary into the Temple with Zechariah, surely this writer inspired by God would have known of this event. The fact of the matter is that neither the author of this text, nor any other apostle elsewhere in the New Testament mentions anything of the sort. Therefore, we have to conclude that the story of the Presentation of Mary, based on non-biblical texts, never happened.
Of course, Bishop Nikolai was well aware of all the opposition to the Orthodox traditions by the biblical texts. Yet, he wished to provide a convenient rationalization that would assist the case of Eastern theologians of the church. Bishop Nikolai mentions an explanation made by the Blessed Theophylact, Archbishop of Okhrid (who lived in the 9th-12th century after Christ, his life is related in the Prologues of Okhrid on December 31, page 959):
“St. Theophylact of Ohrid says that Zacharias ‘was outside himself and possessed by God’ when he led the Virgin into the holiest place in the Temple, beyond the second curtain – otherwise, his action could not be explained.”
So, in the opinion of the Blessed Theophylact, this act of Zechariah is completely inexplicable – as in all situations that violate God’s commandments. However, he attempts to rationalize this myth by saying the High Priest was “outside himself and possessed by God.” However, it remains unclear how it is possible that in one moment, a prohibition that God had commanded suddenly leads to another case where a person feels “overwhelmed” and does the opposite of God’s will? The Apostle Paul gives very clear instructions:
“Therefore do not be unwise, but understand what the will of the Lord is.”
“…for it is God who works in you both to will and to do for His good pleasure.”
The Holy Spirit through the Apostle clearly speaks from God to the hearts of his servants. He gives instruction to obey His will, not to violate it. Again, this principle clearly shows that the event of the “Presentation of Mary”, in fact, never took place.