Alpha & Omega Ministries Apologetics Blog
Brown and Fitzmyer vs. Ray
12/22/2007 - James WhiteIn glancing through various sources relevant to the woman of Revelation 12 (historically taken as the people of God in the Old and New Testaments, but becoming Mary as Marian piety developed, especially in the middle ages) in response to Steve Ray's words in his pdf from a few months ago seeking to defend the idea of the idea of a "Queen Mother" assumed bodily into heaven:
Another passage in Scripture provides a window into heaven were we see a Queen Mother giving birth to a royal son. In Revelation 12 we see Mary revealed as Queen of Heaven. Fundamentalists dismiss this passage in various ways (which we will discuss later), but even if one wants to deny it is actually Mary, it is still obvious that the idea of a Queen Mother giving birth to a royal son was not abhorred or condemned in the first century of Christianity—even by the Apostles. This is, for heaven’s sake (no pun intended) part of the Bible. In fact, the book of Revelation was included in the canon of Scripture even though it graphically portrayed a Queen Mother in Heaven.Yeah, those wacky fundamentalists who just "dismiss" the passage! Fundamentalists like...Raymond Brown and J.A. Fitzmyer, editors of the Jerome Biblical Commentary (2:482):
a woman: Most of the ancient commentators identified her with the Church; in the Middle Ages it was widely held that she represented Mary, the Mother of Jesus. Modern exegetes have generally adopted the older interpretation, with certain modifications.
In recent years several Catholics have championed the Marian interpretation. Numerous contextual details, however, are ill-suited to such an explanation. For example, we are scarcely to think that Mary endured the worst of the pains of childbirth (v. 2), that she was pursued into the desert after the birth of her child (6, 13ff.), or, finally, that she was persecuted through her other children (v. 17). The emphasis on the persecution of the woman is really appropriate only if she represents the Church, which is presented throughout the book as oppressed by the forces of evil, yet protected by God. Furthermore, the image of a woman is common in ancient Oriental secular literature as well as in the Bible (e.g., Is 50:1; Jer 50:12) as a symbol for a people, a nation, or a city. It is fitting, then, to see in this woman the People of God, the true Israel of the OT and NT.
(For those not familiar with Roman Catholic scholarship, Brown and Fitzmyer are names at the very top of Rome's NT scholarship list over the past thirty years, both having worked and published at the direction of high level Papal commissions, etc. The Jerome Biblical Commentary is likewise Roman Catholic, so to find it contradicting Ray's surface-level comments on the text is a bit humorous.)