Q. By what sources do we designate Mary’s parents as Joachim and Anne? I don’t find them mentioned in the Bible.
A. Here’s a reply from Father Reginald Martin:
We have no scriptural information about the parents of Mary. The non-canonical Gospel of James tells us their names were Joachim and Anne, that they were descendants of David, and that they lived in Jerusalem.
The legend relates that the couple were elderly and had no children, which was a source of great sadness. One day Joachim was insulted in the Temple, when the priest refused his sacrifice and said his childlessness signified God’s displeasure. Joachim fled to a desert spot, where he prayed and fasted. An angel appeared to him and his wife, promising they would have a child. Joachim returned home, and Mary was conceived soon after. When Mary was about three years old, the happy parents took her to the Temple, where she danced before the Lord, to the delight of all.
What is the point of such a fantastic tale? Probably to draw comparisons between Mary’s parents and other exemplary individuals, such as the parents of Samuel in the Old Testament and John the Baptist in the New. We dislike “blank spaces” in our heroes’ lives, so the early Christian writers did their best to devise credible — if amazing — histories to strengthen our belief.