What we know about Mary’s parents comes mainly from apocryphal texts — texts that are written in the style of sacred scripture but are not considered to be divinely inspired. The Protoevangelium of James, a text written around 150 AD, identifies Mary’s parents as Joachim and Anne. They were apparently a wealthy couple who suffered infertility for many years. According to the text, Joachim fasted for forty days and nights in hopes of having a child. Their faith and perseverance was rewarded with the birth of Mary, whose coming was announced by an angel. In gratitude, Joachim and Anne are said to have consecrated Mary to the Lord and, at the age of three, she was sent to live in the temple.
How much of this is historically accurate? It is hard to say for certain. Although apocryphal texts do not have the status of sacred scripture, it does not follow that everything in them is necessarily false. If their stories do not directly contradict scripture itself, we must consider the possibility that they are true.
If nothing else, we can, of course, be certain that Mary had parents. It’s also fairly likely that the names Joachim and Anne would have been remembered accurately over the years, even if the other details of their personal lives were not. In the final analysis, we can perhaps best understand Mary’s parents by looking at the daughter that they raised. Mary’s courage and faith in God must have come from somewhere – probably from the example of her own parents. I think we can all say with confidence that whatever else we know or don’t know about Joachim and Anne, they certainly raised a terrific daughter.