Ch 5: Mary in the Bible from Genesis to Revelation

Go To the Forward & Introduction to all Three Volumes of So That The World May Believe  

Go To the Beginning of this Book So That The World May Believe Volume II: Who is Mary in the Church?  

Chapter 5 

Mary in the Bible from Genesis to Revelation 

Mary as the Mediating “Queen of Heaven” in the Bible:

The Earthly Davidic Kingdom of Israel Prefigures the Heavenly Kingdom of the New Israel Ruled by the Messianic Son of David, Jesus Christ – and the Davidic Queens Were Always the Mother of the Reigning King, Who Shared His Reign Through Mediating for His People 

A solid understanding of the Old Testament (which Jesus does “not abolish, but completes”) is required to see how importantly Mary is prefigured there along with Jesus.  As long as one accepts (as both Catholic and Protestant theology do) that the earthly Davidic Kingdom of Israel is a type or prefiguring of the promised Messianic Davidic Kingdom of the New Israel, the Church, over which Jesus Christ the prophesied Messianic “Son of David” reigns as King – and this is obvious from Gabriel’s greeting alone – then it is also obvious that  Mary is the Queen of this Messianic Davidic Kingdom of the New Israel of the Church (which is the beach-head of the Kingdom of Heaven which Jesus said was already “among us”), since she is the Mother of Jesus the King in line from David, just as all the Davidic Queens were the mothers (not the wives) of the Davidic Kings in the Old Testament.  Many of the Davidic Kings had many wives (including David himself with 23 wives [1], but they all had only one mother, who was always the Queen – the concept of a Queen as wife of the King comes from European monarchies, not from the Bible.  As human parents have lower expectations and tolerate certain bad or non-ideal behaviors from very young children, so God the Father tolerated certain non-ideal behaviors from His People of the earlier covenants when humanity was younger, including polygamy, though He gave guidelines which limited it so it would not go too far.  As human parents give more dramatic and physical discipline (such as “spanking”) to very young children who are too immature to respond to any other form of discipline, so God’s judgements are harsher in the periods of the older covenants when humanity was younger and more immature.  Properly understood, the entirety of both Testaments in the Bible tell one beautiful overarching story of God the Holy Trinity of Love creating humanity only in order to adopt humanity into His own Trinitarian Family of Love (Father, Son, and Holy Spirit) and very lovingly and patiently raising and training humanity towards this goal through a series of covenants.  (See my book The Bible’s “Big Picture”: Using “Family Theology” to Understand the Single Overarching Story Told Throughout the Scriptures, Which Makes the Bible Our Family History as Christians.)  

Among other things the Queen, as both the mother of the currently reigning King and the (or a) wife of the previous (now dead) King, was a symbol of the legitimate succession of the current King her son (in terms of European monarchies we would call her the Queen Mother, and some Bible translations render the Hebrew Gebirah this way).  “Strikingly, almost every time the [1&2 Kings and 2 Chronicles] narrative introduces a new king in Judah it mentions the king’s mother as well, highlighting her part in the dynastic succession” (Suprenant, 86).  The word Gebirah, literally “Great Lady” and usually translated as Queen or Queen Mother, is rarely used directly, but the title – and the royal prerogatives which come with it –  is assumed by the Bible whenever a King’s mother is mentioned.  And the King’s mother is frequently mentioned specifically alongside the King her son whenever the reign of a specific King is introduced or mentioned, since she reigned as Queen by his side. 

Though the basis of the Queen’s authority rested not in herself but entirely on the fact her son was the King, the Queen, or Queen Mother in the terms we are more familiar with in our culture, was an extremely important figure in the royal court of the Kingdom of Israel (and Judah after Israel was divided into the Northern Kingdom of Israel and the Southern Kingdom of Judah).  “At the end of 2 Kings, when Babylon conquered the kingdom of Judah, the narrator describes how King Jehoiachin surrendered the members of the royal court to the King of Babylon…(2 Kings 24:12[see also Jeremiah 29:2]). What is significant is that the queen mother was considered so important to the kingdom that she was the first official in the royal court listed among those surrendered to the Babylonians” (Suprenant, 86).  Previously Jeremiah had addressed a prophecy to both the King and the Queen Mother starting in Jeremiah 13:18 which refers to the fact that both of them possessed a throne and a crown, the symbols of royal power (verse 18), and that both of them would lose this royal power, the “flock” (verse 20) of the Israelites whom they ruled would be taken away from them and given over to the invading Babylonians.  The Queen (or Queen Mother) had a position in the Kingdom which was important enough for God to single her out alongside the King her son in this prophecy of impending judgement.  

While Bathsheba was merely the wife of King David (1 of 23, though David’s favorite), she approached the King much like any other subject of the King did, bowing her face to the ground and so on (1 Kings 1:16-17, 31), but when she is the mother of King Solomon, therefore the Queen (or Queen Mother), the King her son bowed down to her, and had her sit in a throne at his right hand (1 Kings 2:19-20) – a position which in the Bible always indicates the next highest position of authority (and therefore Christ is spoken of as sitting at God the Father’s right hand). 

Likewise the evil Jezebel in the divided Northern Kingdom of Israel, who was a bad influence on an already bad man, was still described only as the wife of King Ahab of Israel (1 Kings 21:7, 25), among his many wives (1 Kings 20:1-7), until her son Joram became King of Israel, at which time she became Queen Jezebel.  Jezebel is referred to directly as Gebirah, Queen or Queen Mother, by King Ahaziah of Judah’s relatives.  While King Ahaziah of Judah was visiting King Ahab in Israel, his relatives had also come to Samaria (capital of the Northern Kingdom of Israel) to “greet the families of the king [Joram] and of the queen mother [Jezebel]” (2 Kings 10:13).  They did not know that Jehu, God’s anointed next King of Israel, had just killed both King Ahab of Israel and the visiting King Ahaziah of Judah, both of whom were idolatrous kings, as well as Jezebel the Queen or Queen Mother of Israel (Jehu motivated her servants to push her out an upper window).  When King Ahaziah’s mother, Queen Athaliah of Judah, found out that her son the King was dead, in order to continue ruling Judah as Queen she ordered all the King her son’s male offspring (her grandsons) killed, so that one of them would not become King and his mother replace Athaliah as Queen.  Her orders to kill the King’s young successors were followed because she was already the ruling Queen the soldiers were used to obeying.  Without a clear successor to her son the King at whose side she had reigned left alive, Athaliah the current ruling Queen was able to remain Queen for six more years by this strategy, until Ahaziah’s youngest son Joash (Athaliah’s grandson) who had been hidden from Queen Athaliah as a baby was brought out of hiding by the High Priest and anointed the new King of Israel while still a child, and his mother Zibiah became the new Queen (see 2 Kings 11:1-12:1, 2 Chronicles 22, 23).  There is another example of a grandmother of the heir to the throne retaining power as Queen of Judah in Maacah.  Her son Abijah was King of Judah, so she became Queen or Queen Mother and is (as usual) named beside the King her son when Abijah’s reign is introduced (1 Kings 15:1-2).  After Abijah died, the introduction to the reign of the next King of Judah, Abijah’s son Asa, names not the King’s mother beside him as usual but his grandmother Maacah (1 Kings 15:9-10).  For whatever reason (we are not told – perhaps Asa’s mother died before he became King), Maacah held on to the Queenship she had had alongside her son Abijah when her grandson Asa became King.  Since Abijah and his mother Maacah had been an idolatrous King and Queen of Judah, godly King Asa found he could not share his rule with her and so “King Asa also deposed his grandmother Maacah from her position as queen mother, because she had made a repulsive Asherah pole [used in idolatrous worship]” (2 Chronicles 15:16, 1 Kings 15:13).  Since it was unusual for his grandmother instead of his mother to be named next to the King when identifying his reign, the text makes explicit that Maacah held the royal position of Gebirah, Queen or Queen Mother of Judah, which is usually just assumed when a King’s mother is named in the introduction to his reign.  Even evil Queens demonstrate the norm in Israel that the Queens were the mothers of the ruling King who ruled at their sides.  

The “ideal” Israel was the United Kingdom of Israel under David and Solomon, when Israel was at the peak of its earthly glory and exerted wide godly influence over the nations of the world who either had been conquered by and paid tribute to Israel or who had made alliances with Israel or just came from far and wide to hear Solomon’s legendary wisdom given to him by the Lord.  It is the Israel of this “golden age” era which is hearkened back to in the images used by the Messianic prophecies of the everlasting Messianic Davidic Kingdom.  So this Israel more than any other is the “type” or prefiguring of the Messianic Kingdom of the New Israel which Jesus would establish, and thus the nature of the Queenship of Israel at this time will be the most significant for understanding the nature of the Queenship of the prophesied New Israel possessed by Queen Mary, mother of King Jesus. 

When we examine the Queenship of Israel at this time we find that the King shared his reign with his mother the Queen through a formalized courtly intercession of the Queen (or Queen Mother) on behalf of the people before the King her son.  And this is exactly the role that the early Christians ascribed to Mary, right from the Heroic Age of the Church when Christians suffered under the pagan Roman persecutions.  As the people of the earthly Davidic Kingdom of Israel sought the formal intercession of the Queen Mother who would take their requests before the King her son, who was generally disposed to grant the request because it came from his mother, so the early Christians of the New Israel sought Mary’s motherly prayer intercession on their behalf as subjects of her son Jesus, the King of the prophesied everlasting Messianic Davidic Kingdom, notably during the fierce empire-wide persecution of Christians by the Roman Emperor Decius in 250 AD. 

The Queen Mother of King Lemuel in Proverbs 31:1-9 (some say Lemuel is Solomon, and the whole Book of Proverbs is attributed to him and his legendary wisdom – Proverbs 1:1) specifically advocates on behalf of the poor and needy of her son’s Kingdom (31:8-9).  But the prime example of the Queen Mother’s formal intercessory role on behalf of the King’s subjects before her son the King is in 1 Kings 2:12-22.  Adonijah, an older son of King David by Haggith, another of David’s 23 wives, and a subject of King Solomon his brother, came to Bathsheba the Queen Mother of Solomon to ask her to intercede for him before the King her son in the matter of a seemingly innocent request, to ask Queen Bathsheba to ask King Solomon for something on his behalf, to advocate or mediate between King Solomon and his subject Adonijah.  Adonijah had great confidence in the effectiveness of Bathsheba the Queen Mother’s intercession, and when he asks her to intercede for him he says “he [King Solomon] will not refuse you” (1 Kings 2:17).  His confidence was justified, for Solomon himself says “make it [your request], my mother; I will not refuse you” (2:20).  The whole exchange between Queen Bathsheba and King Solomon is in fact highly ritualized: 

“When Bathsheba went to King Solomon to speak to him for Adonijah, the king stood up to meet her, bowed down to her and sat down on his throne. He had a throne brought for the king’s mother, and she sat down at his right hand.” 

“I have one small request to make of you,” she said. “Do not refuse me.” 

The king replied, “Make it, my mother; I will not refuse you.” (1 Kings 2:19-20) 

“The formalized ritual…reveals the significance of the queen mother’s office. The ritual that surrounds Bathsheba’s intercession suggests that it was a common courtly event.  Clearly, intercession was a fundamental part of the gebirah’s office” (Hahn & Suprenant, 202).  This shows that Adonijah was actually quoting the common court procedure when he said to Bathsheba that Solomon “will not refuse you” in verse 17, which is why he went to her in the first place, and with such confidence.  This intercessory role was how a Davidic Queen shared in the reign of the King her son.  She brought what she thought were worthy or valid requests of the people before the King her son, and the King, who loved and respected his mother and her judgement, would typically grant them.  The only reason that King Solomon in this specific case did not grant Adonijah’s request through the intercession of Queen Bathsheba had nothing to do with Bathsheba’s intercession not being powerful enough to influence the King, as the way she as Queen reigned alongside the King her son – Solomon had fully expected that he “would not refuse” his mother (see 2:20).  But Solomon, being the wisest man who ever lived, was wise enough to understand that this seemingly innocent request that his mother thought was valid, was actually part of a greater scheme of Adonijah his half-brother to eventually seize the throne from Solomon (see 2:22). 

So the Gebirah, the Queen or Queen Mother who reigned alongside the King her son through intercession on behalf of the King’s subjects, was an important feature of the earthly Davidic Kingdom of Israel which was a type or prefiguring of the heavenly everlasting Messianic Davidic Kingdom of the New Israel, that Kingdom which is already here though not completely fulfilled (see Matthew 12:28, Luke 11:20)  in the Church of Jesus Christ, the only place on earth where Jesus the Son of David reigns as King.  Understanding the Gebirah/Queen Mother tradition in the Old Testament makes it easy to see that Mary the mother of Jesus the King is the Gebirah or Queen Mother of the New Israel ruled by Jesus her son, and allows us to see that the New Testament in fact identifies Mary as such (see below).  Even Jesus’ very first miracle at Cana is specifically shown as being done in response to Mary’s intercession on behalf of the poor married couple whose celebration had run out of wine.  Thus the early Christians in fact understood Mary to have the Gebirah’s intercessory role on behalf of Christians who are subjects of Jesus the King, her son, and would ask Queen Mary to intercede on their behalf before King Jesus her son (see Volume II Appendix I for much more to help one properly understand the prayer intercession of Mary our mother in God’s adopted Family and the prayer intercession of the Saints, our older brothers and sisters in God’s adopted Family, the Body of Christ the Church, who the Bible says surround us even now in the “great cloud of witnesses” [Hebrews 12:1]. Asking Mary and the Saints in Heaven to intercede in prayer for us is no different from asking our Christian mothers and brothers and sisters on Earth to pray for us). 

The Angel Gabriel Specifically Announces the Fulfillment of the Promised Messianic Davidic Kingdom in Jesus the King, Son of Mary, Which Makes Mary the Queen 

Now, God promised King David that one of David’s descendants would rule God’s people and Kingdom of Israel forever, and David recognized the messianic overtones of this promise, far beyond a simple earthly royal dynasty.  The Angel Gabriel announced to Mary the fulfillment of God’s messianic promise to King David in the son Mary would bear: 

“You will be with child and give birth to a son, and you are to give him the name Jesus.  He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High. The Lord God will give him the throne of his father David, and he will reign over the house of Jacob [that is, Israel] forever; his kingdom will never end.”  (Luke 1:31-33) 

So it is absolutely clear that God intended Jesus, physically a descendant of King David as were Mary and Joseph (who registered for the census in David’s hometown of Bethlehem), to fulfill God’s promise to David of a King in line from David who would rule God’s People Israel forever in an everlasting Messianic Davidic Kingdom, a Messianic Davidic Kingdom which was prefigured by the earthly Davidic Kingdom recorded in the Old Testament.  A Biblical Kingdom which, again, included the important feature of a Queen who was the mother of the reigning King (the Queen having an intercessory role on behalf of the people before the King her son – the precise role the early Christians assigned to Mary [a tradition continued by Catholic and Orthodox Christians today] ). 

Several Messianic Prophecies in the Old Testament Are about Both Jesus and Mary, the King and Queen of the Promised Messianic Davidic Kingdom 

In fact several of the messianic prophecies in the Old Testament are about Jesus and Mary, the King and Queen of the promised Messianic Davidic Kingdom.  “Therefore the Lord himself will give you a sign: The virgin [Mary] will be with child and will give birth to a son [Jesus], and will call him Immanuel” (Isaiah 7:14).  This child will be the King who “will reign on David’s throne and over his kingdom…forever” (Isaiah 9:7), meaning the child’s virgin mother will be the Gebirah, the Davidic Queen Mother.  Just as a Queen Mother of Israel was a living sign of the legitimate rule of the King her son, because she was the wife of the previous King, so the appearance of the virgin Gebirah or Queen would be a living sign that legitimized and identified the Messianic King.  “[Isaiah] not only identifies the heir to the line of David, but also the queen mother as well.  The virgin gebirah “legitimizes” and identifies the long-awaited heir to the line of David” (Hahn & Suprenant, 203).  

Note also that Mary is the prophesied sign of Isaiah 7:14 –  “Therefore the Lord himself will give you a sign: The virgin [Mary] will be with child and will give birth to a son [Jesus], and will call him Immanuel.”  John, who lived with Mary (John 19:27), then uses similar language (and queenly imagery) to describe the fulfillment of the Messianic prophecies in Revelation 12: “A great and wondrous sign appeared in heaven: a woman [Mary]…with… a crown [denoting a Queen] of twelve stars on her head” (verse 1) who gives birth to a son who is clearly Jesus, Mary’s son, the King “who will rule all the nations”(verse 5).  The Revelation 12:1 “woman…crowned with twelve stars” (that is, a Queen) is clearly identified as Mary by the fact that nobody disputes that “the woman’s” royal male offspring is Mary’s son Jesus, and to the original Jewish Christians, steeped in the knowledge of the Old Testament, it would be obvious that if Jesus was the King sitting on “the throne of his father David” (Luke 1:32), that very fact made Mary His mother the Queen of this fulfilled Messianic Kingdom promised to David. 

Elizabeth in Luke 1:43 Greeted Mary with a Greek Term Equivalent to the Hebrew Title of the Davidic Queens 

It was so obvious to the Jews who believed in Jesus, in fact, that the New Testament (written in Greek) records that Elizabeth greeted Mary, who was bearing Jesus the King in her womb, with a Greek title equivalent to the Hebrew title for the Davidic Queens.  In Luke 1:43 Elizabeth calls Mary “the mother of my Lord.”  “Mother of my Lord” is the English expression for how Luke translated into Greek whatever Elizabeth called Mary in the Aramaic spoken in Palestine at the time, a variant of Hebrew.  It is very possible that Elizabeth actually used the Hebrew word Gebirah, literally “Great Lady,” the formal Hebrew title of the Davidic Queens, who were all the mothers of the reigning Davidic King (not the wives).  “Mother of my Lord (the King)” would certainly be an equivalent expression to the Hebrew Gebirah.  And as established above, the Old Testament often does not  even use the term Gebirah itself but assumes it and its royal prerogatives whenever the mother of a King is mentioned, because motherhood of a King is what makes someone a Queen of Israel.  So whether she originally called Mary Gebirah or literally and simply “mother of my Lord,” either way Elizabeth, as a Jew, knew that if her cousin Mary was mother of the promised Messianic Davidic King, the descendent of David who God promised would rule forever, that made her cousin Mary the Gebirah, the Queen, the “Mother of my Lord (the King).” 

Thus when Elizabeth says, “Why is this granted me, that the mother of my Lord should come to me” (Luke 1:43), aware of the gebirah tradition, we can see that Elizabeth is declaring her amazement that the gebirah and queen of Israel should come and be her midwife [Mary had come for 3 months when Elizabeth was 6 months pregnant in order to help Elizabeth give birth to John the Baptist].  For any Jew, the mother of the lord, that is, the mother of the king, would be the queen mother.  Thus Elizabeth announces Mary’s queenship by her greeting.  Just as later John would announce Jesus with a title that spoke of His mission, “Behold the Lamb of God,” so Elizabeth announced Mary’s mission with the title “mother of the Lord,” or gebirah

In the New Testament, Mary’s queenship was alluded to by Gabriel, and announced by Elizabeth.  In the account of the wedding at Cana, Mary’s queenship is manifested by her intercession with the king.  Cana is known as the place where Jesus performed his first miracle and began his public ministry.  It is also the first place where we see Mary publicly performing the gebirah’s intercessory role.  The young married couple ran out of wine and, in compassion, Mary interceded with Jesus for them.  As we have seen, one of the gebirah’s fundamental roles was to intercede for the people of the kingdom.  This is exactly what Mary does at Cana.  Mary’s intercessory role began at Cana and extends to all those who are in need within her Son’s kingdom. 

In Baptism, we enter into Christ’s kingdom.  In that kingdom, we have at Christ’s right hand [like Queen Mother Bathsheba at King Solomon’s right hand] a holy queen mother who is an advocate for us before Christ’s throne.  We should take courage that, just as Jesus turned the water into wine at Cana because of His mother’s intercession, He will grant her petitions on our behalf as well (Hahn & Suprenant, 204). 

And thus the Early Church made use of Queen Mary’s prayer intercession before Jesus the King – because they understood themselves as subjects in Christ’s Kingdom [again, see Volume II Appendix I for more on the prayer intercession within the Body of Christ the Church on earth and in Heaven – Mary and the Saints in Heaven who intercede in prayer for us on Earth before Jesus the King are no more “getting in between” us and Jesus than our Christian mothers and brothers and sisters on Earth who pray for us]. 

So Mary “the virgin who conceived” is prophesied in the Old Testament as the future Queen (mother of the King) of the everlasting Messianic Davidic Kingdom God promised to David which was proclaimed by the Angel Gabriel; Mary the mother of Jesus the King is identified as the Queen by Elizabeth who confessed her as such, with a term equivalent to the formal title of the Davidic Queens (quite possibly using the exact title in the language she spoke before it was translated into Greek for the New Testament record of her words); and Mary the mother of Jesus the King is seen by John who knew her so well (John 19:27) in a heavenly vision crowned as a Queen (Revelation 12:1,5) – thus it is no surprise the Early Church recognized Mary as Queen of Heaven as do all the Christian Churches today – Catholic and Orthodox – who have full historical continuity with that Early Church. 

The Mother of the Messiah (Mary!) Crowned Queen Appears in the Bible in Revelation 12 

Thus (to recap), Mary is the crowned Queen of Heaven (cf Revelation 12), but this is simply and only due to her being the mother of Jesus Christ, the messianic Son of David, crowned King of Heaven (cf Hebrews 2:9, Revelation 6:2, 14:14, 19:12) in fulfilment of God’s promise to David, making Mary the Hebrew “Gebirah,” the “Great Lady” or “Queen Mother” (in terms of European monarchies) of the promised Everlasting Davidic Kingdom of which the earthly Davidic Kingdom (in which the King’s mother was always the Queen) was a type or prefigurement. 

In the rich symbolism of the Book of Revelation, Revelation 12’s “woman” is more than simply Mary, but Mary is the primary individual representative of all of Revelation 12’s references to this “woman.”  At the beginning of the chapter John sees “a woman…crowned with 12 stars” (that is, a Queen) who is clearly identified as Mary by the fact that nobody disputes that “the woman’s” royal boy offspring (verse 5) is Mary’s son Jesus, the King.  The three characters in this vision – the woman, the dragon, and the woman’s royal son – all represent specific individuals (Mary, Satan, Jesus).  At the end of the chapter, “the woman” appears to also represent the Church, which squares with the early Christian tradition which saw Mary the first Christian disciple as a representative of the whole Christian Church, as in the above Vatican II references in Volume II Chapter 4.  This kind of “corporate personality” was common in the Biblical worldview.  Mary the first believer in Jesus is an individual and a representative for the People of God, just like Adam the first human being in the Bible is an individual and a representative of all humanity (e.g. in Romans 5:19), just like Jacob (who was renamed Israel) in the Bible is an individual and a representative of the whole nation of Israel (e.g. in Psalms 44:4).  Undisputedly the “other offspring” of “the woman” at the end of the chapter, whom the dragon Satan continues to make war with, are Christians, whose mother can be seen either as the Church, the Bride and Body of Christ of which Mary is the first (and representative) member (early Baptismal fonts were sometimes called the “womb” of Holy Mother Church) or directly as Mary the Mother of Jesus whose Body they are as Christians (therefore His mother is their mother).  Either way Mary the first Christian is representative of the entire Church even in the New Testament, as well as all later Christian tradition. 

While it is obvious that the Revelation 12 woman’s crown of 12 stars marks her as a Queen, and while it is obvious from the fact this Queen’s royal son represents King Jesus whose mother is Mary that the woman represents Mary, who is obviously the Queen of Jesus’ Kingdom according to the Biblical Gebirah tradition and according to Elizabeth’s declaration of Mary’s queenship in that tradition, it is still worth unpacking further the rich image of the “woman clothed with the sun, with the moon under her feet and a crown of twelve stars on her head” (Revelation 12:1) in John’s vision.  The vivid use of the sun, moon, and stars imagery is clearly intended by the author to make the reader connect John’s vision with an earlier Biblical dream vision which uses the same imagery.  I will quote from Timothy Gray to explain this connection: 

“But why does John depict Mary as a queen?  And what is the nature of this queenship? 

That the crown is made up of twelve stars in an important clue.  The number twelve in Scripture connotes the twelve sons of Jacob [renamed Israel], and later the twelve tribes [descended from these 12 sons] that constituted the nation of Israel.  The twelve stars also echo the story concerning the dreams of Jacob’s favorite son, Joseph.  One of Joseph’s dreams prophetically predicts, though the symbols of the sun, moon, and stars, that Joseph will rule over his brothers and even his parents: “Behold, I have dreamed another dream; and behold, the sun, the moon, and eleven  stars were bowing down to me” (Gen. 37:9).  The meaning of the prediction is so obvious that Joseph’s father rebukes him and says, “Shall I and your mother and your brothers indeed come to bow ourselves to the ground before you?” (Gen. 37:10).  In the dream, the stars represent the sons of Jacob, and therefore a woman described as wearing a crown of twelve stars would be seen as having authority over the twelve tribes of Jacob, Israel.  This woman could be none other than the Queen Mother of Israel.  

Yet there is another dimension to the number twelve.  When Jesus chose twelve apostles, He was reestablishing the twelve tribes around Himself, the new Israel.  For those who have ears to hear (cf. Mt. 13:9), the number twelve signifies the new kingdom of God established by the new and eternal king, Jesus Christ.  The twelve stars are no ordinary crown.  The vision of Mary crowned with twelve stars reveals Mary as the queen of the kingdom of God! ” (Hahn & Suprenant, 199-200) 

The Apostle John’s Rich Testimony of His Mother in Christ, Mary (John 19:27) 

Further, John, writing his Gospel last, typically writes the most symbolically, and typically reports details not in any earlier gospel which he considered important.  John, who lived with Mary (John 19:27), makes sure that the Christian community knows that Jesus performed His first miracle in Cana, inaugurating His public ministry, at Mary’s request (indicating her continued mediation of the grace that Jesus brings into the world even after the Incarnation, through intercession, which was a role of the Davidic Queens).  John also makes sure that the Christian community knows that Jesus told him (generically referring to himself as “the beloved disciple,” representative of all Jesus’ beloved disciples) that Mary was his mother (John 19:27).  It is obvious that John does not refer to himself as “the disciple Jesus loved” in order to exalt himself above other Christians, as if to say “I John am Christ’s beloved disciple and all other Christian disciples are not” or “Jesus loved me more than any other disciple.”  Clearly, referring to himself this way is a term coming from John’s humility, John puts himself on the level of all other Christians who are likewise “beloved disciples” of Jesus, we are all “disciples who Jesus loves.”  And as such, by referring to himself in these generic terms, he deliberately makes himself representative of all Christ’s beloved disciples, especially at the powerful moment at the foot of the Cross.  All beloved disciples, all Christians will have a “foot of the Cross” experience with Jesus the Savior at their conversion – and it is precisely at this special moment that Jesus says to all beloved disciples, “behold your mother” (John 19:27).  Without this, the adopted Family of God would have no mother, and what a strange and incomplete family that would be

John thus knew Mary as his mother as Jesus told him, and it will be the future Christian leaders in line from and closest to John, like Saint Irenaeus,2 who effectively defended the Church from the earliest gross heretics, the Gnostics (whom John had fought), who will early on develop the Church’s explicit understanding of Mary’s role in God’s family the Church, in terms such as Mary as the “New Eve” who “by her obedience untied the knot of Eve’s disobedience” – Eve being “the mother of all the living” (Genesis 3:20), the mother of all who have natural life, and Mary the New Eve being the mother of all those living the supernatural life of the indwelling Holy Spirit restored to those who are members of the Body of Christ Jesus, Mary’s son. 

The Repeating Biblical Image of “The Woman” Who Is Always the Mother of the Messiah, Which John Uses Explicitly of Mary the Mother of Jesus, Shows Mary Is in the Bible from Genesis to Revelation 

Very significantly, John in both the instance at Cana (John 2:1-11) and at the Cross (John 19:25-27) reports that Jesus referred to Mary as “woman,” which in Biblical language connects her with “the woman” of the Genesis 3:15 prophecy (the first prophecy in the Bible!) whose “seed” or offspring will crush the serpent Satan and his seed.3  John also uses the “woman” term he used in his gospel of Mary in his record of the Book of Revelation in Chapter 12, making it clear that John sees Mary as intimately linked with Jesus in the course of salvation history.  No one disputes that John’s references to the “woman” at Cana and the Cross refer to Mary the mother of Jesus, and in both Genesis 3 and Revelation 12 (the latter also written by John) no one disputes that the child or offspring of the “woman” is Jesus, whose mother is Mary!  So John makes sure that the Early Church knows that Mary, whom he lived with and knew intimately (fathoming her unique relationship with Jesus and its consequences for the Church His Body), knows that Mary is in the Bible from Genesis to Revelation!  And John never mentions Mary by name (these personal details were well recorded in the earlier Gospels), always calling her instead “the mother of Jesus,” emphasizing her ongoing motherly role, culminating in his record of Jesus giving Mary to him as his own mother (John 19:27). 

The Early Church got John’s message, and the tradition is handed down and gets more detailed the longer Christians reflect upon the mystery of the Incarnation of God in the person of Jesus Christ through the willing instrument of Mary, Jesus’ beloved mother who lived with John.  The earliest Christians like Saint Irenaeus will develop the Body of Christ’s understanding of Mary’s role in Salvation history and in the Church with terms like “the New Eve” who supports Jesus “the New Adam,” and “death through Eve, life through Mary.”  

Mary “The Ark of the New Covenant” in the Bible, Bearing the Presence of God 

Other Early Church Fathers will call Mary “the Ark of the New Covenant,” who bears in her womb the very Presence of God, as the Old Testament Ark of the Covenant bore the Presence of God, noting that Mary’s movements recorded in Luke actually closely parallel the movements of the Old Testament Ark and the language within which they are described, such that Luke under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit intended them to make this connection.  Particularly there are many parallels between 2 Samuel 6 and Luke 1, which detail the visitation of the Ark and of Mary to the same area:  Both David in 2 Samuel 6 and Mary in Luke 1 go to locations in the hill country of Judah (2 Samuel 6:2, Luke 1:39); those there in the Presence of the Old and New Arks express their feelings of unworthiness in similar language – David, “afraid,” asks “How can the ark of the LORD come to me?” (2 Samuel 6:9) while Elizabeth asks “But why am I so favored, that the mother of my Lord should come to me?” (Luke 1:43); the Old Ark stays in the house of Obed-edom for 3 months (2 Samuel 6:10,11) and Mary the New Ark stays in the house of Zechariah for 3 months (Luke 1:40,56); David rejoices (2 Samuel 6:12) and Mary’s spirit rejoices (Luke 1:47); the Old Ark’s presence provokes reactions of shouting (2 Samuel 6:15) while Mary the New Ark’s presence similarly provokes a loud cry (Luke 1:42); God’s Presence borne by the Ark of the Old Covenant makes David leap and dance (2 Samuel 6:16) while God’s Presence (unborn Jesus) in Mary the Ark of the New Covenant likewise makes the unborn baby John the Baptist leap in Elizabeth’s womb (Luke 1:41).  Timothy Gray notes, 

“If in the Old Testament cult the ark, which was simply made of precious gold and wood, held such a place honor because it mediated the presence of God, it is not surprising that Mary holds a place of surpassing honor in the New Testament cult.  The ark bore the presence of God, and after the Annunciation Mary bears God in her womb.  Just as the ark contained the tablets of the old law, the manna, and the staff of Aaron, Mary holds in her womb Jesus Christ the Messiah, who is the new law, the living bread from heaven, and the true high priest who offers His own life for us. 

That the early Christians understood Mary as the new ark of the covenant is evident in Saint Luke’s crafting of his account of the Visitation (Lk. 1:39-56).  Luke subtly parallels Mary’s carrying Jesus (in her womb) to visit Elizabeth with the ark’s bearing the presence of God to Jerusalem.  In 2 Samuel 6 we hear how David, aware of both his unworthiness that the ark should come to him (v.9) and of the immeasurable blessing that the presence of the ark brings (v.12), goes to bring the ark of the covenant up to Jerusalem.  David offers sacrifices (v.13) and leaps and dances (v.16) before the ark as the procession progresses to Jerusalem amid shouting and the sound of the horn (v.15). 

Saint Luke parallels his account of the Visitation with this scene in 2 Samuel 6 to demonstrate that Mary is the new ark of the covenant.  Mary, like David, heads to the hill country of Judah.  As Mary, bearing Christ in her womb, approaches the home of Elizabeth, Saint John the Baptist “leaps” in Elizabeth’s womb and she exclaims with a “loud cry,” reminding us of David’s leaping before the ark of the covenant and the shouts of the people of Israel.  Elizabeth greets Mary with words similar to those of David, “And why is this granted me, that the mother of my Lord [who is the new ark of the covenant] should come to me?” (Lk. 1:43).”  (Suprenant, 75-6) 

Both Luke and John in the Bible Parallel Mary with the Ark of the Covenant 

In fact, it is not only Luke who understands Mary is the Ark of the New Covenant, as above, but also John.  In Revelation 11:19, the last verse of Chapter 11, the verse immediately preceding John’s Revelation 12:1 vision of Mary the “woman…crowned with twelve stars” who gives birth to King Jesus (12:5), John sees the ark of the covenant, and this is the only time the ark is mentioned in the Book of Revelation.  Since the Bible originally did not have “chapter and verse” demarcations, but these were added to the Bible’s text centuries later, this means John originally wrote this part of his vision as a continuous description, as follows: 

“Then God’s temple in heaven was opened, and within his temple was seen the ark of his covenant. And there came flashes of lightning, rumblings, peals of thunder, an earthquake and a great hailstorm. A great and wondrous sign appeared in heaven: a woman clothed with the sun, with the moon under her feet and a crown of twelve stars on her head.  She was pregnant and cried out in pain as she was about to give birth.”  (Revelation 11:19-12:2) 

So John’s vision of the Ark of the Covenant is immediately followed by his vision of the “woman,” Mary, pregnant, bearing God’s presence in Jesus the Incarnate Son of God, “God with us,” as the Old Testament ark just seen had previously borne God’s presence – indicating that Mary is the New Ark. 

Thus it is no surprise that the early Christians who lovingly meditated upon the Scriptures (Old and New) noticed the close connection between the Old Testament Ark and Mary which was drawn by both Luke and John in the New Testament, and very early on started calling Mary the Theokotos.  The Greek word Theokotos, usually translated as “Mother of God” (which recalls the New Testament title given to Mary in Luke 1:43, “Mother of my Lord”) is most literally translated as God-bearer, which emphasizes Mary as the New Covenant Ark, bearing the Presence of God as did the Old Covenant Ark. 

Mary’s Ark-like Role as Theokotos (God-bearer or Mother of God) Was Declared in the 3rd Ecumenical Council of the Undivided Early Christian Church in Support of the Divinity of Jesus Against the Heretics 

The Early Heroic Church which suffered through the Roman persecutions for love of Jesus also drew Mary at prominent places in the Christian art of the catacombs and requested her motherly (and queenly) intercession formally (specifically as Theokotos) in the 250 AD sub tuum prayer during the great Roman persecution under Emperor Decius.  This long tradition of Mary as Theokotos, God-bearer or Mother of God, would become an irrevocable dogma of the Undivided Early Christian Church at the 431 AD 3rd Ecumenical Council, at Ephesus, in order to protect the Divinity of Jesus Christ from the Nestorian heretics – Christians who did not believe that the human Jesus was also God. 

The Nestorian heretics were Christians who, in their reflections on the Bible, came to interpret the Bible to mean that the human Jesus was inhabited or possessed by the separate person of the Divine Christ (so only the human Jesus had suffered and died on the Cross, and not God), and on this basis they refused to say “God suffered” or “God died” or “God was thirsty” and they refused to call Mary Mother of God as orthodox (non-heretical) Christians did. The Council, as all the Ecumenical Councils (patterned after the Jerusalem Council in Acts 15 which settled the first great dispute among Christians), was called to authoritatively settle this great dispute among Christians over how the Bible was to be interpreted – trusting in the Mystery of the Body of Christ revealed in the Bible, wherein Christ’s Body the Church is “the pillar and foundation of the truth” (1Timothy 3:15), the Church’s united ordained leaders in the Council (ordained in line from the Apostles) being led by the Holy Spirit “into all the truth” (John 16:13) as Jesus had promised His Apostles. 

This Ecumenical Council of Christian leaders ordained in line from the Apostles, speaking as the Living Body of Christ, ruled against the Nestorian Christians, and proclaimed that all orthodox Christians must interpret the Bible to mean that “Jesus is one Person with two natures, divine and human.”  To support this declaration of the true Incarnation of God in Jesus which meant it is wholly appropriate to call Jesus God, and wholly appropriate to say “God did” anything that Jesus did, the Council also proclaimed that Mary the mother of Jesus was indeed appropriately called mother of God, or Theokotos, God-bearer, as the Nestorian heretics had refused to do on the basis of their heretical understanding of Jesus. 

The next Chapter Applies What We Have Learned about the Body of Christ the Church Through Considering the Scriptures and Through Considering Mary the Mother of Christ and First Member of His Body to the Actual Early History of That Body of Christ the Church 

This leads us into the next and final chapter before the conclusion of Volume II, which temporarily leaves the topic of Mary directly but in essence applies what we have learned about the Body of Christ the Church through considering the Scriptures and through considering Mary the Mother of Christ and First Member of His Body to the actual early history of that Body of Christ the Church.  That mystical participation of the Christian Church in the life of Christ Himself which allows the New Testament to call us His Body, that  participation in the Divine Nature (2 Peter 1:4), sublimely in union with the Divine Holy Spirit which Mary as first member of the Body, and the only member as yet glorified both body and soul in Heaven, exemplifies, has a particular and particularly important earthly and historical expression in the ongoing line of leaders of the Christian Church who initially were specially ordained by the Apostles who were specially ordained by Christ Himself to lead and teach His Body the Church.  These leaders met together in Councils in the early centuries of Christianity and there permanently established the basic fundamental tenets of Christian faith as we know them today, and their authority to do this, such that Christians can be confident of the truth of the traditional fundamentals of Christianity, depends upon understanding the Church with its ordained leaders as the very Body of Christ Himself. 

© 2005, 2009 Peter William John Baptiste SFO 

Go To Chapter 6:  The History of the Early Ecumenical Councils and Their Pronouncements of the Fundamental Christian Truths about Jesus Against Many Heretical Christians Is the History of the Living Body of Christ the Church Living its Life on Earth in Communion with Christ the Head and Animated by His Holy Spirit in Order to Indeed Be “The Pillar and Foundation of the Truth” (1 Timothy 3:15), Such That Traditional, Orthodox Christianity Is Inseparable from Church Authority  

Go To the Beginning of this Book So That The World May Believe Volume II: Who is Mary in the Church?  

Go To the Forward & Introduction to all Three Volumes of So That The World May Believe 


1There are many things in the Old Testament which are uncomfortable or even offensive to Christians, including the fact that King David, who the Bible describes as “the man after God’s own heart,” was a polygamist with 23 wives.  How come God’s People in the Old Testament were allowed to do many things Christians are not allowed to do and would find distasteful to do?  How come God Himself is so much harsher in His judgements?  Many Christians are tempted to have little to do with the Old Testament because of this discomfort, even though, as Saint Augustine said, “to neglect one of the Testaments is to hobble towards Christ on one foot only.”  Everything that is uncomfortable or offensive to Christians in the Old Testament can be explained in terms of Family Theology which includes Covenant Theology, whereby it is recognized that God made six major Covenants in the Bible and each one called the Covenant People to strive to live by an ever higher standard of love, culminating in the New Covenant of Jesus Christ which, in the Sermon on the Mount which deliberately parallels Moses giving the Mosaic Law on Mount Sinai, raises the moral standard the Covenant People are to strive for to the highest level yet – the perfection of love which actively seeks out opportunities to love (which is a much higher standard of love than the 10 Commandments which focus on the avoidance of the anti-love of sin through “thou shalt nots”).  The same God the loving Covenant Father Christians know was raising His Covenant child humanity slowly and patiently to its maturity in love throughout the Old Testament (see my various works on Family Theology ).  

2The Early Church’s first systematic theologian, who learned about Jesus from the beloved early Christian martyr Saint Polycarp, who learned about Jesus from the Apostle John himself. 

3The Bible is so rich that this prophecy has multiple shades of meaning, and of course “the woman” most immediately in the original Book of Genesis context refers to Eve – but in the context of the whole Bible Mary is the “New Eve” whose own immediate offspring is Jesus “the seed/offspring” of “the woman” who will “crush the head” of the serpent Satan and his seed (sin), though the serpent Satan will “strike his heel” as Satan struck a powerful (but not ultimately fatal!) blow to Jesus on the Cross.