Cumberland Academy

Joachim in the Wilderness — the origin of the Theotokos tradition in Catholicism

According to ancient documents, Mary’s elderly father Joachim prayed for his wife Anna to bear a child. When Anna eventually conceived and bore a daughter, Mary, this daughter was brought to tbe temple as thanks to God, and a vow was made that she would remain a virgin for life. This may be the origin of the “Mary the Virgin” reference in Matthew.

The Presentation of the Blessed Virgin Mary in the Temple Evidence from the Protoevangelium of James, Qumran and Venerable Catherine Emmerich

The story of Mary begins with the story of her parents, Joachim and Anna. According to the Protoevangelium of James, Joachim was a pious man who was very much saddened by the fact that he was an elderly man who did not have any children, which
meant that he would be considered “unclean” and unworthy to perform his priestly duties in the temple. This is ironic because he was to be father of the most Immaculate Temple of God!

But since Joachim was despised and rejected by the “assembly of the sons of Israel,” he chose to go into the desert to escape and to pray that God would bless him with a child. He pitched his tent in the wilderness and fasted and prayed forty days and forty nights.

There is an ancient document (from a Georgian lectionary from thefifth to sixth century) which says that the place where Joachim camped was in the wilderness of Judah in the Wadi Qelt in the grottoes of Kosiba. We know that this place was considered to be a holy place because a cloister with a sanctuary dedicated to Mary was constructed here around A.D. 470. Even today one can visit this place where Joachim prayed (it is near the Greek Orthodox Saint George Monastery).

In New Testament times, Kosiba appears to have been inhabited by Essenes, as is indicated in a reference found among
the Dead Sea Scrolls (3Q15 7:14-16). One of these ancient scrolls, unearthed in 1947, is called the “Copper Scroll.” Unlike the other
scrolls found at Qumran in 1947, this text was written on copper rather than on parchment. The Copper Scroll contains a map and a list of hiding places where the Essenes hid their valuables to protect
them from the armies of Rome which attacked and destroyed Jerusalem in the year 70 A.D. Kosiba, where Joachim prayed, was one of the places where the Essenes kept buried treasure during the war with Rome.

This could mean that Mary’s parents had ties with the Essenes. It might be said that Joachim decided to make a “retreat” at an “Essene retreat center” in order to pray that his elderly wife would conceive and bear a son! For those who know anything about the Essenes, the significance of this is obvious. The Essenes were a group of ascetics, many of whom practiced celibacy. This could explain the fact that when Anna eventually conceived and bore a daughter, this daughter, Mary, seems to have made a vow to remain a virgin for life. (cf. Luke 1:34)

According to the Protoevangelium of James, the parents of Mary were so grateful to God for the birth of their daughter that they brought her to the temple and presented her so that she could be raised there.

The Presentation of the Blessed Virgin

This is the origin of the tradition of the “Presentation of the Blessed Virgin Mary.” It is not in the Bible, and so modern scholars often discount this tradition as unhistorical,
but with modern archeological discoveries we have learned that these kinds of things were actually practiced among the Jews at the time of Jesus.

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