Could Mary (the Mother of Jesus) Ride a Donkey While More than Eight Months Pregnant?

Posted: April 24, 2016 in The Birth of Jesus Christ

As many of my friends are already aware, I have been teaching about the birth of Jesus Christ for many, many years. I have audio lectures available on CD. I have acquired so much additional information since I last recorded the lectures however, that I am in the process of upgrading my notes in preparation to re-record them. The upgrading process has brought many questions to mind that I will be addressing in the new version.

One question in particular I cannot answer from experience. 😉 So this question is for all you ladies who have been pregnant…

Could Mary (the mother of Jesus) even ride a donkey while more than eight months pregnant?

Tradition claims Mary traveled to Bethlehem on the back of a donkey, but no donkey is ever mentioned in scripture.

It is logically presumed that Mary was at least eight months pregnant when she and Joseph made the trek from Nazareth to Bethlehem (approximately 90 miles). It is my personal opinion that Joseph and Mary most likely traveled in a caravan, and were making the pilgrimage for the annual fall feasts in addition to going to their ancestral home for the registration. Therefore, Mary most likely rode in a cart or wagon, likely with other women and children. This would have been virtually identical to the record later in Luke 2, when Jesus was 12 years old, and the family traveled to Jerusalem for Passover (41–44).

If for some reason this is not case, Mary would have either walked (Really? 90 miles?), or ridden on a donkey as tradition claims. But although I am far from an expert (I am male, and childless), I find it hard to imagine this is even possible. Yes, a donkey would walk (not trot or gallop), but the terrain they would have crossed on either of the two likely routes was rough enough that she couldn’t just “sit there,” she would actually have to “ride” the donkey—theoretically using muscles that I would think would be very hard to use under the circumstances.

I did a little research online, and several articles mentioned that horseback riding in early pregnancy is possible and apart from accidents that could happen, essentially safe. But once the pregnancy got past about five months, opinions changed dramatically. Several articles (obviously) mentioned the safety risks associated with horseback riding, and whether the rigors of riding were healthy for either mother or fetus. But again, setting that aside for the moment, my question is about feasibility and comfort. Wouldn’t you feel off balance? Nauseous? And just downright uncomfortable? Given the choice between walking and riding a donkey—ladies—which would you choose? I’d really love to hear your comments.



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