Scala/Art Resouce, NY

Mary bows her head and crosses her arms in this terracotta statue by Florentine sculptor Agostino di Duccio (1418–1498). This virgin was chosen by God for her extreme virtue; but it also helped that she was married to Joseph, a direct descendent of King David according to Matthew’s genealogy of Jesus. Four other women are also named in Jesus’ list of ancestors: Tamar, who tricked her father-in-law into sleeping with her to provide an heir for her dead husband; Rahab, the Jericho harlot who helped Joshua’s spies infiltrate her city; Ruth, the plucky Moabite widow who boldly propositioned her kinsman Boaz to marry her; and Bathsheba, the bathing beauty who caught the eye of King David. Matthew clearly saw these four women as predecessors to Mary—but how? “Before Mary,”, explores what Mary had in common with these unlikely biblical women.