Also referred to as: Saint Mary; Virgin Mary; Our Lady; Queen of Heaven
The oldest recorded information about Mary is believed to be in St Paul's letter to the Galatians, 4:4, written before any of the canonical Gospels. Here Jesus is stated to have been "born of woman".
It is her being the mother of Jesus Christ that gives importance to Mary; there is little else significant in her life story. Some theologians have promoted that Mary, just like Joseph, was a descendant of King David. The Gospel According to Luke tells about the birth of Jesus, parallel to the story of Matthew, while no such narrative is found in Mark or John. In John, she is not even mentioned with name, only referred to as "mother of Jesus".
Our main source to her life are the Gospels. The earliest story of Mary is the Annunciation, where it is told that she lived in Nazareth and was engaged to Joseph (Luke 1:26 ff). She is last mentioned in Acts 1:14), when devoting herself to prayer after the ascension of Jesus into heaven.
She mentioned with her visit to Elizabeth, her kinswoman and the mother of John the Baptist, who in Christianity is seen as the precursor of Jesus (Luke 1:39 ff). By a decree of Roman Emperor Augustus, Mary and Joseph, her fiancee, travel to Bethlehem for an enrollment, where she gives birth to Jesus, born in a manger (Luke 2:1-7). The next is the presentation of him in the Temple (Luke 2:1 ff); the coming of the Magi and the flight to Egypt (Matthew 2:1 ff); the Passover visit to Jerusalem when Jesus was 12 years old (Luke 2:41 ff.); the marriage at Cana in Galilee (John 2:1 ff); the attempt to see Jesus while he was teaching (Mark 3:31 ff); and at the foot of the cross, where she appears to have become a widow was entrusted to the disciple John (John 19:26 ff).
Apart from that, there is actually very little information about Mary's personality or her own personal acts. In addition to the Biblical scriptures, stories have been added to her biography by later traditions. In these, the names of her parents have been established: Joachim and Anne (this story is told in the Gospel of James).
Mary is told to be of origin in Nazareth.
Important is that Mary was a virgin, with is also explicitly indicated in the scriptures; Luke 1:27, and indirectly in Matthew 1:18. All churches agree that Mary was a virgin upon conception; it is considered heretical to state the opposite. In the Gospel According to Matthew she is said to have been the wife of Joseph, that she had been impregnated "with child of the Holy Spirit" before she and Joseph "came together". Christians see Mary in relation to the prophecy of Isaiah 7:14, that a virgin (or maiden) would bear a son named Immanuel ("God with us"). Although the Gospels tell that Mary was aware of being impregnated in a miraculous way, it is not indicated what vision she had of Jesus' mission.
Many churches have claimed that Mary remained a virgin all through her life, even if there are several mentions of Jesus' brothers, of which there appear to have been 4, together with sisters that are unmentioned. The same churches have alleged that these were not the sons of Mary, rather relatives or Joseph's sons with another woman. Beginning already in the 2nd, Mary was explained to have been completely free from any taint of sin, that she had been born without the Original Sin, that Mary herself was filled with grace and preserved from the Original Sin from her own conception. This concept, the Immaculate Conception, is only accepted in the Roman Catholic Church. Eastern Orthodox churches claims that she was cleansed from all sin first upon becoming pregnant with Jesus.
Many textual variants of Matthew 1:16 uses "Joseph begat Jesus", which causes difficulties with both the virginity of Mary and the spiritual conception.
The Council of Ephesus in 431 handled a central issue relating to Mary; whether she should be referred to as "Mother of God", Theotokos. Nestorius, Bishop of Constantinople, opposed using this title (this may or may not have been the actual case), becoming condemned at the council.
Mary is a very popular figure for popular veneration in Christianity, especially with Roman Catholics. Here she is considered as "the first believer". Mary has been venerated since the 1st century. The veneration of Mary is expressed in her own words in Luke 1:48: "Henceforth all generations will call me blessed." Mary has her own feast days in both Western and Eastern churches: her conception and birth on September 8; her Annunciation on March 25; her purification in the Temple on February 2; and her death on August 15.
There were other versions of Mary than the church's, and far less flattering. 2nd century philosopher, Celsus, claimed that Jesus was the illegitimate child of Mary becoming pregnant with a Roman soldier, Panthera. There are Talmudic references to the same story.
The field in Christian theology dealing with Mary is known as Mariology.