Anna and Joachim’s Little Girl Enters the Temple

Where in the Bible do we learn that the Virgin Mary’s parents were named Anna and Joachim?

Can’t figure out what chapter and verse it is?  That’s because it’s not really in the Bible.  Saint Anna and Saint Joachim (sometimes spelled “Ioacim”) show up in a separate book called the Protoevangelium of James or, more simply, the Gospel of James.

Not one of the canonical gospels, the Gospel of James is considered apocryphal—not part of the divine revelation, although elements may, in fact, be historical.  It was probably written about 145 A.D. and takes a look back into Mary’s and Jesus’ lives, revealing details not found in Scripture.  Some of the stories seem unlikely, but others (such as the details regarding the life of Anna and Joachim) have become familiar.

It’s in the Gospel of James that we see the story of Mary’s Presentation at the Temple.  From infancy, the story tells us, Anna and Joachim—devout parents grateful that God granted them a child in their later years—dedicated her to God.  When she was three years old, Mary’s parents took her to the Temple in Jerusalem, where she would live and learn to serve in the Temple worship.   Mary remained in the Temple until she reached puberty, when she was betrothed to Joseph.

*     *     *     *

All this is to explain the Feast of the Presentation of the Blessed Virgin Mary, which the Church observes on November 21.

The Italian artist Titian, the most prominent 16th century artist in the renowned Venetian school, recreated the story of the Presentation in oils.  The painting is displayed in Venice’s Gallerie dell’Accademia.


“The Presentation of the Virgin Mary” by Titian (1534-38, Gallerie
dell’Accademia, Venice)


  • Ann

    Ann & Joachim? Or Anna & Gioachino? Does it matter? Just a fan “Ann” over here.

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  • Dutch

    Where she would live at 3? Probably not live, unless Anna and Joachim were there constantly.

  • Mr. M. Savage

    Interestingly, in the early seventeenth century work, City of God, by the Venerable Mary of Agreda, which describes in three volumes the life of Our Lady, and which has been acclaimed by many Popes and Saints alike, our saintly author attributes Jacob’s dream of Angels ascending and descending to specifically Mary’s presentation at the Temple. It follows:

    Mary, since her birth, is always accompanied by 1,000 angels. When her parents and She reach the Temple, itself host to many Angels, the scene that Jacob sees is scores of Mary’s Angels proceeding purposefully up the Temple steps to announce Her arrival. While similar numbers of Angels descending down the Temple steps to hail and receive the future Mother of their Creator.

    The more one ponders the story, the more one realises it couldn’t have been any other way.

  • bt

    Thank you! That is a beautiful painting!

  • Zed

    There are other apocryphal writings about which many opinions are also held (e g the “Gospel of Thomas”). Many long disputes happened in early times, over which writings were truly and fully ‘authentic’ (and inspired directly by God Himself) and which texts were simply valid and interesting, or ‘widely accepted’. Huge amounts of teaching were also passed on by oral transmission and sermons, both public and secret, as wisdom always had been (this is NOT the same as mere ‘narrative’). Many ancient scholars and fathers concurred on many points, whereas later, many documents were known to have been destroyed. It was very widely accepted by the wisest monks, Bishops and scholars, that Our Lady, like many young boys, was presented to the Jewish Temple as a spotless gift and sacrifice (since her parents loved her very much, as also Hannah loved Samuel). In Greek and Roman culture this was entirely the norm for some girls. From some temples, the girls had to be removed well before the menarche. It was the impeccable purity of the young St Agnes which caused her death. She had been ‘chosen’ to serve a pagan god, and she refused. So it is disturbing to read as a justification, that some stories from these apocrypha have become ‘familiar’, as if Catholics must run to pleasant, beguiling security blankets for something to lean on. It was considered by early Church fathers to be beyond any question that Our Lady had lived in perfect service to God and the many visitors to the Temple; that even as a tiny child, she was destined for Heavenly duties. If St Gertrude the Great entered a convent at around age 5, and knew nothing but holy living and Godly service, in the early Catholic Mass, 1000 years after the Crucifixion, what must the Mother of Christ have been doing, before Our Lord was born? Incidentally, many educated Protestants also refer to the Apocrypha for those morsels known as ‘insights’; for Catholics, the holy service of Christ’s infant mother is far, far stronger and more reputable than a pleasant myth. It is supported by data in certain historical writings which are reputable, renowned and cross-referenced; these books are NOT part of Holy Writ, that is the difference. The term ‘familiar’ fails to convey any of this; it puts us back hugging the placebos, not the real strength of our heritage.

  • Mimi

    As a religious painter, I am constantly faced with reconciling creative inspiration and truth. Thirst for the truth, for the truth must be first. In reference to the genealogy of our Blessed Virgin Mary, Please do not state as fact what is not directly from God Himself. I love the Anna and Joachim “story” found in the Apocrypha of St James, unfortunately we do not know if it is factual. The genealogy of our Blessed Virgin Mary is a mystery God Knows.

  • TeaPot562

    July 26 is the Feast-day of Sts Joachim and Anne. My view is that the Fourth Sunday of July should be national Grandparents’ day (after Mothers’ Day 2nd Sunday of May and Fathers’ Day 3rd Sunday of June).
    What do you think?

  • Kathy Schiffer

    Those who wonder about the tradition might enjoy this post, explaining how Mary’s presentation is foretold in the Old Testament: