36 And, behold, thy cousin Elisabeth, she hath also conceived a son in her old age: and this is the sixth month with her, who was called barren.
37 For with God nothing shall be impossible.
38 And Mary said, Behold the handmaid of the Lord; be it unto me according to thy word. And the angel departed from her.
1. There is a difference in spelling of the word "cousin" [literally "kinswoman"] that makes no difference of any significance.
2. There is a difference in the form of the word "conceived". The Textus Receptus has it as a participle; the Nestle/Aland 26 has it in the indicative.
3. There is a difference in the spelling of the word for "old age" that makes no significant difference.
4. The Textus Receptus has "with God" [Dative] while the Nestle/Aland 26 has "of God" [Genitive] -- though the overall meaning is very similar, the difference is "every word with God is not unempowered" as opposed to "every word of God is not unempowered". The Textus Receptus text assumes what the Nestle/Aland 26 says outright: that the words that are empowered are God's words. The Nestle/Aland 26 text is more difficult linguistically.
1. Gabriel reveals Elizabeth's "secret" (according to 1:24, she has been 'hiding').
2. Gabriel makes a connection between Elizabeth's "word-developed-circumstances" and Mary's "word-developing-circumstances" [both sets of circumstances are/will be exactly according to the words of God] and pointedly says "no word from God is unempowered".
1. The KJV's translation of "kinswoman" as "cousin" is a real stretch (at least in twentieth century English). There is absolutely no basis for assuming that Elizabeth is a "cousin". Since she is beyond the change of life for women and Mary is most likely a teenager, the likelihood that they are cousins is remote. It's more likely that Elizabeth is an "aunt", but even this is a guess. We know that Elizabeth has at least one parent that is Aaronic; we know that Mary's father is Davidic; and we do not know which sides of the families had mutual genetic ties. Besides this ambiguity, the word translated "cousin" sometimes is used of folks whose "gene-links" went back to Jacob, but had no further linkages because of the fact that his 12 sons split the gene pool with countless variations and separations. Mary was out of David who was out of Judah; Elizabeth was out of Aaron who was out of Levi. Where the connections were with them is beyond knowing at this point. The issue here is why Gabriel referred to Elizabeth as "kinswoman" and why he even mentioned her to Mary.
a. Without dispute, the two women now had a "connection" that was very significant: their pregnancies were both supernatural and their sons were both to be very great in the plan of God.
b. Mary's question of Gabriel ("How shall this be to me...") has its generic answer in Gabriel's words, "no word of God is unempowered". After giving a specific answer ("the Holy Spirit shall come upon you..."), Gabriel gives this "generic" answer as a foundation of life. When God speaks, history will fall along the lines of His words regardless of whether men ever discover the specific means of how that happens, or not. This is a fundamental life-principle. No word from God ever fails. Thus, it is to Mary's benefit to discover that what is going to happen to her has already happened to another whom she knows.
c. Thus, we can say that Gabriel mentioned Elizabeth for three probable reasons...
1) Mary needed the faith-building that mutual experience generates.
2) Elizabeth needed Mary to come to help her during the last months of her pregnancy.
3) Mary needed the support she would get from a "believer" who accepted her account of the pregnancy's means because her claims were not going to get much acceptance once the news was out.
2. Mary's response and Gabriel's departure indicate a "lesson learned". Mary picks up immediately on Gabriel's life-principle and goes with it: "...be it done unto me according to the word..." Gabriel's task is complete. Just as he left Zacharias after "settling" what is to be believed, so also he left Mary once the "faith" issue has been settled.