Is Mary my Mother? A look at Revelation 12

Is Mary my Mother? A look at Revelation 12

By Matt1618

Newly Updated with an Appendix!

One of the things that upset many Evangelicals about Catholic theology is the idea that Mary is not only the mother of Jesus, who happens to be God, but the fact that Mary is seen to be mother of all Christians. They will term this idea as ‘unbiblical’ and are greatly offended by this. Many don’t even like to admit that Mary is the Mother of God, (even though inspired Scripture has her cousin Elizabeth saying, Luke 1:42-43: and she exclaimed with a loud cry, "Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the fruit of your womb! 43 And why is this granted me, that the mother of my Lord should come to me?). 17 times in Luke 1 for example, the term ‘Lord’ is used and every single time the term is used, it speaks of God.) Of course Evangelicals will even admit that Jesus is God. The aversion to using the term Mary is the Mother of God is thus anti-biblical. Nonetheless, most Protestant founders had no qualms in applying the title ‘Mother of God’ to Mary. It is plain: Not only is Jesus God, and thus Mary is the mother of God, but Scripture explicitly teaches that Mary is the Mother of God, as stated in Luke 1:43.

In this essay however, I want to focus on the fact that Mary is the mother of Christians and this is not speculation, but a direct biblical fact. There are many Catholics who use John 19:25-27, as proof that Mary is the Mother of Christians, and see in John as one who takes Mary into his home, as representing all Christians who take Mary as their mother. I believe there is alot of truth to that. Others have written quite a bit on that, including many saints. However, I want to focus in this essay on another passage which I believe undoubtedly shows that Mary is the mother of all Christians. This is Revelation 12. There has been much discussion and debate on whether the ‘woman’ of Revelation 12 is Mary or Israel, or the Church. That will be the focus of this essay. If the passage teaches Mary as being the woman (by the way, the Catholic view historically has also seen the woman as being the Church, the people of God, and an assortment of other views), then a look at the whole passage will show that if Mary is the (or at least ‘a’) woman of Revelation 12, she is the mother of all Christians. First, a look at the passage itself, Rev. 12:1-17.

1 And a great portent appeared in heaven, a woman clothed with the sun, with the moon under her feet, and on her head a crown of twelve stars; 2 she was with child and she cried out in her pangs of birth, in anguish for delivery. 3 And another portent appeared in heaven; behold, a great red dragon, with seven heads and ten horns, and seven diadems upon his heads. 4 His tail swept down a third of the stars of heaven, and cast them to the earth. And the dragon stood before the woman who was about to bear a child, that he might devour her child when she brought it forth; 5 she brought forth a male child, one who is to rule all the nations with a rod of iron, but her child was caught up to God and to his throne, 6 and the woman fled into the wilderness, where she has a place prepared by God, in which to be nourished for one thousand two hundred and sixty days. 7 Now war arose in heaven, Michael and his angels fighting against the dragon; and the dragon and his angels fought, 8 but they were defeated and there was no longer any place for them in heaven. 9 And the great dragon was thrown down, that ancient serpent, who is called the Devil and Satan, the deceiver of the whole world--he was thrown down to the earth, and his angels were thrown down with him. 10 And I heard a loud voice in heaven, saying, "Now the salvation and the power and the kingdom of our God and the authority of his Christ have come, for the accuser of our brethren has been thrown down, who accuses them day and night before our God. 11 And they have conquered him by the blood of the Lamb and by the word of their testimony, for they loved not their lives even unto death. 12 Rejoice then, O heaven and you that dwell therein! But woe to you, O earth and sea, for the devil has come down to you in great wrath, because he knows that his time is short!" 13 And when the dragon saw that he had been thrown down to the earth, he pursued the woman who had borne the male child. 14 But the woman was given the two wings of the great eagle that she might fly from the serpent into the wilderness, to the place where she is to be nourished for a time, and times, and half a time. 15 The serpent poured water like a river out of his mouth after the woman, to sweep her away with the flood. 16 But the earth came to the help of the woman, and the earth opened its mouth and swallowed the river which the dragon had poured from his mouth. 17 Then the dragon was angry with the woman, and went off to make war on the rest of her offspring, on those who keep the commandments of God and bear testimony to Jesus. And he stood on the sand of the sea.
Now at the end of the passage we see that the devil makes war with those who keep the commandments of God and bear testimony to Jesus. These are all Christians as Christians are those who bear testimony to Jesus and keep God’s commandments (1 John 2:3-4, Jn. 14:15, 15:10, 1 Cor. 7:19). No one would question that here who those John the apostle, the writer of the Book of Revelation is speaking of are Christians, as they are those who bear testimony to Jesus. However, look at whose offspring these Christians are: offspring of the woman of Revelation 12. Thus, whoever is the ‘woman’ is the mother of Christians. Thus, we must investigate who the woman of Revelation 12 is. As a Catholic it is not incumbent that I prove Mary is the only ‘woman’ of Revelation, as it is acceptable in Catholic theology to have different meanings (such as the people of God, or the Church, or a variety of other interpretations that have been proposed) that do not exclude the other interpretations. If Mary is in any way a ‘woman’ of Revelation 12, she would be the mother of Christians, as only Christians are those who bear testimony of Jesus.

We need to look at who the woman of Revelation 12 is. We see that whoever this woman is, she has great authority. She is crowned with symbols of authority with ‘a crown of twelve stars’. We will look at that further down the road. However, the main part of who the ‘woman’ is, is the part that gives birth to the son (v. 2). Who is the Son? The Son, who she does give birth to in v. 5, is one who rules the earth, with a rod of iron. This is a clear reference to Psalm 2. In Psalm 2, God says, v. 7, “You are my son, today I have begotten you.” In the New Testament, this is applied to Jesus (Heb. 1:5, for example). In Psalm 2:9 it says that this Son will "rule them (or break) them with a rod of iron." In Revelation 19:13-15, this phrase of ruling with a rod of iron is specifically applied to ‘the Word of God’. In Johannine theology, this phrase is a direct reference to Jesus. Thus, this son is Jesus. Now the woman of Revelation 12 is one who gives birth to Jesus. Now, who gave birth to Jesus? The only person who gives birth to Jesus is Mary. Since the emphasis two times is on the woman who gives birth (vv. 2 & 5), and the Son is Jesus, the most obvious candidate for the ‘woman’ of Revelation 12 is Mary. There is much further evidence that we will look at to show that the most simple answer is that Mary is the woman spoken of, being the only person to give birth to Jesus. However, let us look at an objection that some Protestants will use to say that Mary is not the woman or at least not a ‘woman’ of Revelation 12.

I will look at two examples from books that attack Catholicism as ‘unbiblical’, and do not accept Mary as the woman of Revelation 12. First, Ron Rhodes writes:

The ‘Woman’ mentioned in this verse is not Mary, but is rather the nation of Israel. Theologian John F. Walvoord explains how the backdrop of the Book of Genesis helps us come to this conclusion:
The statement that [the woman] is clothed with the sun, with the moon under her feet (12:1) is an allusion to Joseph’s dream in which he saw the sun, moon, and eleven stars bowing down to him (Gen. 37:9). The sun and the moon in this context refer to Jacob and Rachel, the forebearers of Israel. The woman is also said to have a crown of twelve stars on her head (v. 1). In Joseph’s dream also the stars, or the sons of Israel, are intended with the twelfth star, including Joseph himself who was not in the dream as such.
That a woman represents Israel is not unusual in the context of the Book of Revelation. Indeed, another woman named Jezebel is portrayed as representing a false religion in Revelation 2:20. A harlot in Revelation 17 represents the apostate church of the end times. In similar fashion, the woman of Revelation 12 represents the nation of Israel.

Note also that the woman mentioned in Revelation 12 “fled into the wilderness where she had a place prepared by God, so that there she might be nourished for one thousand two hundred and sixty days” (verse 6). There is certainly nothing in Mary’s life that remotely resembles what is described in this verse. In context, the verse refers to Israel in the prophetic future. [1]

Here is another example of opposition to Mary as ‘the woman’, Norman Geisler in his book, Roman Catholics and Evangelicals: Agreements and Differences. Although the focus is against the interpretation that this passage implies the assumption of Mary, which is a related issue but not our main focus, the main concern that I want to focus on is the opposition to Mary as being the ‘woman’:
This passage does not support the bodily assumption of Mary for several reasons. First, the ‘woman’ does not represent Mary but the nation of Israel for whom there is ‘a place prepared by God, that there she might be taken care of for twelve hundred and sixty days” (v. 6) during the tribulation period before Christ returns to earth (cf. Rev. 11:2-3). [2]
What do we say about the option that both Rhodes and Geisler give us as the woman being the Nation of Israel? The main problem is that this option totally misses the main point of what the woman does in Revelation 12. In Rev. 12:2, the ‘woman’ is one that gives birth to the child. In v. 5, the ‘woman’ again is referred to as one who brings forth a male child who will rule. Now, who does the Bible say is the woman who brings forth a male child? In Isaiah 7:14, there is a prophecy of a virgin (or as the RSV says, a young ‘woman’) who will give birth to a child. That of course is a prophecy on the virginity of the woman. The woman happens to be Mary, not Israel. In Matthew 1:25-2:1 and Luke 2:5, we see that it is Mary that gives birth to the Son. A look at the Scriptures, both New and Old Testament will not find a single reference to Israel either being a ‘woman’, or giving birth to the Messiah. Genesis 37 says absolutely nothing about Israel giving birth to a Messiah. Thus, the main feature of the woman in Revelation 12, giving birth to the Messiah, has no relevance to Israel, and its feature as 'woman' is nowhere to be found in the New or Old Testament. Both Rhodes, Geisler, and all Protestants that I have seen, acknowledge that the Son in this picture is Jesus. Their admission that the Son is Jesus, explicitly points to Mary being the Mother.

What about Rhodes’ idea that the mentioning of the sun, moon and stars surround the woman suggests Israel per Joseph’s dream? Besides the fact that this totally ignores the idea that the woman gives birth to the son Jesus. Besides the fact that it is a ‘woman’ that is identified, and not the sun, moon, and stars themselves. The Sun, moon and stars indeed allude to Israel, but the woman is not the sun, moon, and stars herself. The woman is ‘clothed’ with the Sun, moon and stars. As the ‘woman’ she gives birth to the son, so it is Mary. There is no indication in Scripture anywhere that the Nation Israel gives birth to the Son who is the messiah, the central identification of Revelation 12.

Stephano Manelli gives us some insight of her wearing the Sun, moon and stars as alluded to by the apostle John:

Of great importance, in particular, is the description of the exterior feature of the ‘woman’, rich in a symbolism quite unusual. “Clothed with the sun”, Mary was really flooded by divine grace that consecrated her immaculate from conception and transformed her into the Mother of God. “The moon under her feet” signifies that all things created and passing - symbolized by the moon, which appears and disappears - are under the feet of the Queen of the universe. “on her head a crown of twelve stars” is the symbol of Mary’s reign over the angels (stars), the Chosen People (the “twelve” tribes), over the Church (the “twelve” apostles). [3]
Many will say that this is an exaggeration, an excuse to exalt Mary. But if this woman is Mary, and she is the only one who gives birth to the Messiah as shown in Revelation 12, Isaiah 7, Matthew and Luke. It shows that she is indeed exalted in a magnificent manner, which in no way detracts from the Son who rules the nations. If in any way this woman is Mary, the phrase ‘Queen of heaven and earth’ has direct biblical support in Revelation 12.

Now Rhodes did say that there is nothing in Mary’s life that has her going off to the wilderness, (as in Rev. 12:6) and that is why the woman could not be Mary. However, a look at Matthew 2 shows indeed that Mary did flee to escape the wrath of Herod, just as Revelation 12 indicates:

13 Now when they had departed, behold, an angel of the Lord appeared to Joseph in a dream and said, "Rise, take the child and his mother, and flee to Egypt, and remain there till I tell you; for Herod is about to search for the child, to destroy him." 14 And he rose and took the child and his mother by night, and departed to Egypt
In fact there is something in Mary’s life that did have her flee. Herod wanted to destroy all the children, for the purpose of destroying the one who would be the Messiah (Mt. 2:16-17). She fled with Joseph to escape the wrath of King Herod based on the angel telling Joseph through a dream. Thus, actually there was something in Mary’s life that matches Revelation 12. In Revelation 12, the dragon, or Satan, tried to destroy the child Jesus when he became born (Rev. 12:2-5). They fled and stayed in Egypt (or the wilderness) until King Herod died and it became safe to return back to Israel. This matches the happenings as found in Matthew.

Also, the objection that both Geisler and Rhodes have that the events in Revelation 12 are only speaking of future events are betrayed by the context. Their premillenial eschatological errors are foisted onto the text of Revelation 12. We see both in Revelation 12:2 and 5 the comment on the woman giving birth to the Son. Jesus is not born sometime way in the future. As they themselves admit, John is speaking of Jesus. Jesus was born years before John wrote Revelation 12. Jesus ascension into heaven (as noted in verse 5) is not a future eschatological event. It already happened. They both assert that v. 5 is speaking about Jesus’ ascension. Thus, at least these important sections of Revelation 12 (where specifically the woman is mentioned) entail events that already happened according to both Geisler and Rhodes. They thus contradict themselves not only on whether the personages are individuals or collective entities, but also on whether all the events are description of past events or are exclusively speaking of future events. The view thus far perfectly fits the events of Mary’s life, as the events spoken of from verses 2 to 5 are speaking of past events.

The Geisler and Rhodes view is that the ‘woman’ is not an individual but is a collective entity, Israel. Consistency in interpretation is necessary. In Revelation 12, there are 4 personages that are identified. For consistency sake, we need to know whether the personages in Revelation 12 are collective entities or individuals. If the main way of interpreting the other personages are collective entities that would give credence to the possibility of the view that the woman is Israel (although even in that case, more support elsewhere in Scripture would be needed). If the main way of interpreting the other personages are individuals instead of collective entities than that would give credence to Mary as being the ‘woman’.

The apostle John gives us the identification of those spoken of in Revelation 12. We will let alone the ‘Woman’ at first since that is in dispute. The ‘Son’ is him who will rule all the nations (Rev. 12:2-5), who was born of a woman. No Christian will dispute that this person is in fact an individual, Jesus, not a collective entity. John speaks also of a dragon who is seeks to destroy the child, and goes to war against the angels of God (vv. 3-4, 7-9). The apostle John directly identifies the one who is at war with both the Male child who happens to be Jesus, and the Woman, and Michael and the angels, as the Devil, or Satan, who is the deceiver of the whole world. Thus, the dragon is an individual, not a collective entity. Also, we see that those who are fighting against the dragon are Michael and the angels. The Archangel Michael is an individual, not a collective entity. The apostle John identifies Michael as an individual, not a collective entity. Thus, it is indisputable that the three others in Revelation 12 are individuals, not collective entities. Thus, in order to be consistent we must find the woman to be an individual, not a collective entity. Who is the only woman that would fit the description of a woman who mothered the child who would rule the nations? Of course, in order for our exegesis of the passage of Revelation to be consistent, the main way of interpreting Revelation 12 would have the woman be Mary, as she is the only individual who would qualify to be the mother of the Messiah. In any case, the interpretation of the collective entity of ‘Israel’ would be inconsistent with the way of identifying those that are spoken of in Revelation 12.

Robert Payesko gives us further insight on the impossibility of ‘Israel’ being the ‘woman’ of Revelation 12, and the inconsistency of those such as Geisler and Rhodes in their interpretation of Revelation 12:

Fundamentalist exegetes interpret the ‘woman’ here as being a symbol for Nation Israel which gave us the Messiah. It is astonishing how people who are literalist on most other passages of Scripture allegorize direct statements of Scripture when it refutes their theological agenda. In the verse “And she brought forth a man child, who was to rule all nations with a rod of iron,” the man child (from the reference to Psalm 2:29) is clearly Jesus. Those who acknowledge the “man child” as referring to Jesus but say (in sheer opposition to the text) that the mother is Nation Israel or the messianic people must answer this difficulty raised by Ignace de la Potterie:
If the Woman who gives birth is the Woman Zion, the messianic people, and if her infant is the Christ, the Messiah, is it not strange to propose in this manner a collective interpretation for the mother and an individual interpretation for her son? Do not forget that in the prophetic texts on the Woman Zion who gives birth, her son is not designated the Messiah, but the people are messianic.
Also, as noted below by J. Salgado, there is no instance in the Old Testament where “the people of God, Israel, personifies the Mother of the individual Messiah.” [4]
In fact the very inconsistencies spoken of by Payesko do in fact indeed apply to the critics of the Marian interpretation of Revelation 12, such as Geisler and Rhodes. While they both positively assert that the Son spoken of in verses 2-5, is an individual, not a collective entity, and that individual happens to be Jesus, at the same time they call it ‘unbiblical’ for Catholics to assert that the Mother of Jesus in Revelation 12 happens be an individual, the Mother of Jesus. Inconsistently the ‘woman’ is turned not into an individual, but a collective entity. They assert unhesitatingly that there is a reference to Jesus’ ascension into heaven as an individual (v. 5), [5] but deny that his mother in the same passage is his mother, but all of a sudden is transformed into a collective entity. This biased exegesis must be seen as the ‘anybody but Mary defense,’ similar to Protestants who look at Matthew 16:18 and say the proper exegesis is the ‘anything or anybody except Peter’ defense.

The ‘Woman’ in the Old and New Testament

Rhodes in his earlier quote said that we needed to go to the book of Genesis for help in identifying the woman, and this supposedly proved that John in Revelation 12 meant ‘Israel’. However, he only referred us to items that the Woman was clothed with (Genesis 37), not to the woman herself. I do agree that in reference to the woman of Revelation, an important biblical text is found in Genesis which is indeed related to who the woman of Revelation 12 is. However, not in an indirect sense that Rhodes refers us to, in identifying what the ‘woman’ wears, but to an identification of the woman herself. We in fact do have an important verse, to help us discover who the woman of Revelation 12 is, in Genesis 3:14-16

14 The LORD God said to the serpent, "Because you have done this, cursed are you above all cattle, and above all wild animals; upon your belly you shall go, and dust you shall eat all the days of your life. 15 I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your seed and her seed; he shall bruise your head, and you shall bruise his heel." 16 To the woman he said, "I will greatly multiply your pain in childbearing; in pain you shall bring forth children, yet your desire shall be for your husband, and he shall rule over you."
Before we approach the task of identifying who this woman of Genesis 3:15 is, let us look at the similarities between Genesis 3, which speaks of a ‘woman’, and Revelation 12, which also speaks of a ‘woman’. When speaking of Revelation 12, Rene Laurentin offers these important insights:
The beginning of the passage echoes the prophecy of Is. 7:14 taken up by Micah 5:1-2. As the almah of Isaiah, the woman of the Apocalypse is a sign (semeion). But here she appears in her triumph; the moon “under her feet” seems to indicate that she is raised above the vicissitude of which this constantly changing planet is the symbol. As with Mary in Jn 19:25-27 this heavenly personage is repeatedly designated by the word ‘woman’ (Apoc. 12:1, 4, 12, 13-17). As with Mary, who is taken to be the Mother of Christ, and mother of the disciples of Christ, who are called “the rest of her children” (Apoc. 12-17). This last term is an echo of Gn. 3:14-15, where also the serpent (Apoc. 12:9 and 14) is at war against “the woman” and “her descendants”. Genesis 3:14-15

1) God said to the serpent...

Revelation. 12:9

The great dragon, the primeval serpent known as the devil or Satan...

Genesis 3:15

2) I will make you enemies of each other: you and the woman

Rev. 12:13-14

sprang in pursuit of the woman ... but she was given a huge pair of eagle’s wings to fly away from the serpent into the desert.

Genesis 3:15

3) your offspring and her offspring.

Revelation 12:17

The dragon was enraged with the woman and went away to make war on the rest of her children, (or offspring) that is, all who obey God’s commandments and bear witness for Jesus.[6]

Another parallel between Genesis 3 and Revelation 12

Gen. 3:15

4) he shall bruise your head, and you shall bruise his heel.

Rev. 12:5, 11

The seed of the woman, who happens to be Jesus, ascends into heaven, and the Devil is defeated, and it is by his blood (called the blood of the Lamb) through which he crushes the dragon.

The parallels are obvious. First, the devil is spoken of in both Revelation and Genesis. The devil is intricately involved in both of these passages at war with both the Son and woman. Rhodes had tried to refer us to Genesis 37, in reference to the moon and stars and such, but there are no such parallels to Revelation 12, found in Genesis 37. The devil is at war both with the woman of Genesis 3:15, and the woman in Revelation 12, who bore a Son, who will be victorious in both passages. The devil will be defeated as both prophesied in Genesis 3, and fulfilled in Revelation 12. In this victory, The ‘woman’ is at the center of both passages. This woman in both instances are mothers.

Since Genesis 3 and Revelation 12 is undoubtedly linked, and the person of the woman, is a central figure in both passages, the identity of the woman of Genesis 3 is absolutely important. Now, since Christians identify the seed of the ‘woman’ in Genesis 3:15 as Jesus, it is important to see who this woman is.

It is obvious that if this (Genesis 3:15) is a prophecy about Jesus, and this is called the ‘protoevangelium’, the one whose seed Jesus came from was his Mother Mary. If that is the case, the ‘woman’ spoken of who will be at war with the Devil, would be Mary. This fits again the Revelation 12 where the woman is at war with the devil. However, how do the opponents of the Marian interpretation of Revelation 12 deal with this fact? In their analysis of Genesis 3 and Revelation 12, they ignore this obvious parallel. In both of their books analysis of Revelation 12, both Geisler and Rhodes told us that the ‘woman’ was Israel. Now they ignore the obvious relationship between Genesis 3 and Revelation 12.

Remember, both Geisler and Rhodes clung to their hope that the ‘woman’ of Revelation 12 is not Mary by placing it in the hope that it is Israel. If the woman is Israel, it is obvious that in the clear parallel of Genesis 3, the ‘woman’ of Genesis 3 should be Israel. Let us look at their own interpretations to see if this interpretation is Israel.

Of course, the first focus of both Geisler and Rhodes is to note that just as Revelation 12, the woman who gives to birth to Jesus is not Mary, their focus on Genesis 3 is likewise to assert that the woman who is the source of the seed of the Savior (as stated in Genesis 3:15) is not Mary. Although the focus of this essay is not on the doctrine of the immaculate conception, just on the identification of the woman, the doctrine of the immaculate conception does come up in this critique. Here Geisler and Rhode's critique focuses on how the passage doesn't infer that Mary is sinless and the best way to defuse that argument is to deny that the 'woman' of Genesis 3 is Mary:

First, Geisler not only argues that the text doesn't apply to Mary, but it wouldn't prove anything even if indirectly it applies to Mary:

Even if by extension or culmination Mary is found in this text in some indirect way, it is a gigantic leap from this to her immaculate conception, which is nowhere stated or implied in this passage. The literal sense is that Eve (not Mary) and her posterity will win in their moral warfare against Satan and his offspring, culminating in the crushing victory of the Messiah over Satan and his hosts. The ‘woman’ is obviously Eve, the "offspring" are clearly the literal offspring of Eve (cf. 4:1, 25), and the victory is the victory of Christ over Satan.

Protestant need not object to the Catholic argument that, just as the Messiah is found by extension and culmination in the term "offspring," even so Mary the mother of the Messiah is implied too. Be this as it may, the point still stands that there is no necessary or logical connection between Mary being the mother of he Messiah and her being conceived without sin.[7]

Here Rhodes agreeing with Geisler that the 'woman' of Genesis 3:15 is Eve, not Mary, writes:
There is virtually no mention of Mary, and not even the slightest hint of the so-called Immaculate Conception in this verse. Taken in its plain sense, the verse indicates that a descendant of Eve would defeat the devil. Even Catholic theologian Ludwig Ott concedes that the literal and plain sense of the verse is that "between Satan and his followers on the one hand, and Eve and her posterity on he other hand, there is to be constant moral warfare." It is the literal seed or offspring of Eve that will be victorious, not that of Mary.

Even if by some stretch this verse could be interpreted as referring to Mary and not Eve, that still would not make the doctrine of the Immaculate Conception logically necessary. For, indeed, the text indicates that while there will be enmity between the offspring of the woman and that of the devil, nevertheless the victory itself lies in the Messiah alone, who is one individual from among the woman's seed. It is never prophesied that "the woman" herself would be victorious, so any need for an Immaculate Conception of the woman vanquishes. The woman's only significant role is to give birth to the human-divine Messiah. [8]

First things first. As we have seen the striking parallels between Revelation 12 and Genesis 3, and the fact that the woman of Revelation 12 is in fact the woman of Genesis 3:15, it is interesting that in their interpretation of Genesis 3:15, they do not even pretend to find 'Israel' as the 'woman' of Genesis 3. If the woman of Gen. 3:15 is Eve, then the 'Woman' of Revelation 12 should be Eve. Neither Geisler nor Rhodes propose that theory. This verse further discredits the idea that Israel is the woman that John is speaking of in Revelation 12. If Israel is the woman of Revelation 12, Israel should be the woman of Genesis 3. Neither Geisler nor Rhodes propose that theory. Thus, either way that they interpret is not consistent with Genesis 3 and Revelation 12. Mary, as Mother of the child who rules in Revelation 12, and the provider of the seed of the triumphant savior of Genesis 3, fits both passages. Both Rhodes and Geisler seem amazed that Catholics could read a prophecy of Mary into the text. On the one hand, they both admit that the Protoevangelium prophecies of the Messiah, but contradictorily deny the woman is a prophecy. Even though it specifically speaks of the Messiah, they deny that the woman who provides the seed is actually the specific woman who provides the seed (Mary). Somehow it is a stretch to think that the woman who provides the seed is actually the woman who provides the seed?

Now that they admit that the Woman of Genesis 3 is not Israel, and the option that Geisler and Rhodes provide is that the woman of Genesis 3 is Eve, let us investigate the text again to see whether the woman in Genesis is more likely Eve or Mary.

14 The LORD God said to the serpent, "Because you have done this, cursed are you above all cattle, and above all wild animals; upon your belly you shall go, and dust you shall eat all the days of your life. 15 I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your seed and her seed; he shall bruise your head, and you shall bruise his heel." 16 To the woman he said, "I will greatly multiply your pain in childbearing; in pain you shall bring forth children, yet your desire shall be for your husband, and he shall rule over you."
The first thing to note is that in each of the verses there are contrasts being made. First, in v. 14, we see that the serpent (who we know is the dragon of Rev. 12:9) is cursed. After the curse that is given Satan, he is shown in v. 15 how he will be cursed. His curse is the promise of the redemption of the human race. In v. 15 is the protoevangelium, where the promise for mankind is given that a seed, who Christians see as Jesus, will prevail over Satan by striking his head, even though his heel will be bruised (thus for Christians implying Christ's crucifixion). Both Rhodes and Geisler admit that this is a prophecy about Jesus, but again deny that the seed from whom Jesus comes, is his own Mother. However, for the woman, we see that she is at enmity with the devil. Here, she shares in the victory of her seed, who happens to be Jesus. Jesus is the one who is victorious, but the woman shares in this great blessing, though it is her seed, Jesus, who bruises the head of Satan. Next, in contrast to the promise made of victory for mankind through Jesus in v. 15, in v. 16 we see God promise not blessing but penalties for Eve. First, there will be pain in childbirth and she will be made an underling of the husband. After that, we see Adam get promised pain and suffering as well, and Adam is cast out of the garden (vv. 17-24). Although it is not stated, it is taken for granted that Eve is cast out of the garden as well. There is a striking contrast between the blessing for the woman of v. 15, and the penalties for the woman of v. 16-24.

We see in v. 15 that it is a prophecy about the future. V. 16-22 is about penalties for Adam and Eve for their sins. When does Christ come? In the future, not in the present!!! Thus, since the woman in question is noted in the very verse in which Jesus is prophesied it clearly excludes Eve. If Gen 3:15 contains a prophecy projected into the future, it follows that the real content of this text and its overall meaning are likewise projected into the future. The woman in the future is Mary. Therefore, it follows that the text’s content and overall meaning can not be determined from that present moment in which it is first spoken. Thus, both Geisler and Rhodes are wrong and contradictory when they admit that V. 15 speaks about a prophecy of a future messiah, then forget that it is a prophecy when he speaks on who the woman is. If it is speaking about the future messiah, he must be speaking about the woman who mothers him, Mary.

The woman of the promise, victorious over the serpent and bearer of the Savior, finds no echo in sinful Eve, who will live and die in the obscurity of her days. In fact, immediately after the divine oracle of Gen. 3:15 she gets penalized by God, with Adam in vv. 16-24.

Although the purpose of this essay is not to directly deal with the Immaculate conception, the enmity between the ‘woman’ and the serpent cannot be reconciled with sin in the woman: not only with original sin, but with any sin whatsoever,. Any sin at all would constitute a victory for the serpent. This is a basis for ascribing to Mary an immunity from every sin. Whereas Eve helped to plunge the world into sin, and she went along with the serpent, Mary did not go along with the Serpent. In fact Eve was not at enmity with the devil as v. 15 indicates. She was at full enmity with the devil prior to her and Adam's sin. When she sinned, she befriended the devil. When we sin, we befriend the devil. Eve’s disobedience to God but befriending the devil, led to the world’s downfall. Mary’s obedience led to the birth of our Lord and Messiah Jesus Christ. Again, see the contrast of blessing with the woman of v. 15 with the penalties given to Eve:

I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your seed and her seed; he shall bruise your head, and you shall bruise his heel. 16To the woman he said, "I will greatly multiply your pain in childbearing; in pain you shall bring forth children, yet your desire shall be for your husband, and he shall rule over you." 17 And to Adam he said, "Because you have listened to the voice of your wife, and have eaten of the tree of which I commanded you, 'You shall not eat of it,' cursed is the ground because of you; in toil you shall eat of it all the days of your life; 18thorns and thistles it shall bring forth to you; and you shall eat the plants of the field. 19In the sweat of your face you shall eat bread till you return to the ground, for out of it you were taken; you are dust, and to dust you shall return." 20 The man called his wife's name Eve, because she was the mother of all living. 21 And the LORD God made for Adam and for his wife garments of skins, and clothed them.

Manelli notes as well the great contrast between the woman of v. 15 and that of Eve in verse 16 and following:

Immediately after having so solemnly of how the ‘woman’ with her “seed” is to triumph over the serpent, he speaks of how Eve must endure suffering and humiliation for the rest of her life. On what grounds is it possible to understand in each the same ‘woman’? If God had intended Eve to be victorious over the serpent as our avenger, as stated in Gen. 3:15, one could hardly understand why in the verses immediately following, God addresses Eve only in terms of reproach and chastisement. Nowhere in Scripture is Eve ever alluded to, except negatively. Every time mention is made of Eve, she is indicted as the cause of our ruin, never as the beginning of our restoration (2 Cor. 11:3; 1 Tim. 2:14). Rather, the point of departure for the logical development of this powerful and fruitful antithesis between Eve and Mary, noted by the earliest Fathers, such as St. Justin and St. Irenaeus, and commented upon down the centuries since, is the reality of that contrast between Eve and the ‘woman’ of Genesis 3:15. It is a contrast that makes it impossible for both verses to refer to the same ‘woman’ (Gen 3:15). The antithesis between the ‘woman’ and Eve is clearly evident both in God’s manner of speaking of the ‘woman’ (Gen 3:15) and to the woman (Eve) (Gen 3:16), as well as in the diametrical opposition between Eve and the ‘woman’, considering the fundamental role each exercised historically. [9]
Another person noting the words of Gen. 3:15 which speaks of the enmity between the ‘woman’ and Satan is Patrick Madrid:
This passage is especially significant in that it refers to the “Seed of the woman,” a singular usage. The Bible, following normal biology, otherwise only refers to the man, the seed of the father, but never to the seed of he woman. Who is the woman mentioned here? The only possibility is Mary, the only woman to give birth to a child without the aid of a human father, a fact prophesied in Isaiah 7:14. If Mary were not completely sinless this prophecy becomes untenable Why is that? The passage points to Mary’s Immaculate Conception because it mentions a complete enmity between the woman and Satan. Such an enmity would have been impossible if Mary were tainted by sin, original or actual (see 2 Cor. 6:14). This line of thinking rules out Eve as the woman, since she clearly was under the influence of Satan in Genesis 3. [10]
Only by way of arbitrary and contradictory interpretation can one find Eve in the ‘woman’ of Gen. 3:15. There is simply nothing in her entire life in any way related to the great salvific mission of the two protagonists described in Gen. 3:15: the Messiah and his Mother. Gen. 3:15 is not only a prophecy about Jesus, but is perfectly fulfilled in his mother, who gives birth to him. Those who are objective will see that the ‘woman’ of Genesis 3:15 is Mary.

In fact all the Protestant “Reformers” who did a study of this passage saw both not only the Christological significance of the Genesis 3 passage, but also the Mariological significance of the passage. Now, remember, all of these Protestants are going by the theory of The Bible Alone. Thus, the doctrine that they are coming to is not being forced by Catholic eisogesis, as modern Protestant critics say. A study of this issue by a Father Gallus resulted in the following finding:

Father Gallus extended his studies to the field of Protestant exegesis and published two further volumes, the first of the leaders of the Reform (Luther, Zwingli, Calvin), the second on Protestant scholars from those contemporary with Luther to the end of the 18th century: Der Nachkomme der Frau in der Altlutheranischen Schriftauslegung, vol. 1 (Klagenfurt, 1964); Der Nchkomme der Frau in der Altlutheranishcen Schriftauslegung. Ein Beitrag zur Geschichte der Exegese von Gen 3, 15, vol. 2 (klagenfurt, 1973). In this second volume, “Fr. Gallus gives an account of the exegesis of seventy Protestant professors, showing that all of them fully accept the messianic and mariological significance of Gen. 3:15. The followers of Luther do nothing more than deepen and clarify the exegesis of the German Reformer. The seed of the woman is Christ and only Christ. In the phrase ‘the seed of the woman’ is indicated the virginal birth of Christ from Mary, a promise confirmed by Isaiah 7:14” (S. Virgulin, “Ricerche su Genesi 3, 15 dal 1970 al 1977”, Marianum 40 [1978]: 28-29. [11]
With Geisler and Rhodes and many others, we currently have the wave of anti-Marian theology that ignores or at least discounts tradition as not binding, whether it is Christian, be it Protestant or Catholic, and tries new theories with no historical basis, and tortured and contradictory ways to interpret Scripture while at the same time unbelievably saying that the exegesis agreed upon by Christians for almost 2000 years as a ‘stretch.’

Now that we have examined a very important passage that gives us a backdrop of the phrase ‘woman’ as applied in a prophetic text in Genesis 3, which is directly tied into our understanding of Revelation 12, let us look at the other way where the term ‘woman’ is applied in the New Testament. Now we saw that Israel was not termed as ‘woman’ in the Old Testament, perhaps we will see Geisler and Rhodes’ view that ‘woman’ is used in the New Testament will verify Israel as the woman? Or will it be Mary?

Since John is the author of the book of Revelation which is our focus in this paper, it would be best to look at any indication of the use of the term “woman’ in his gospel. We need to see whether that term is used of Israel (Geisler and Rhodes’ view) or of Mary (the Catholic view).

It is not my intention to dissect the whole meaning of the passages that we run across that use the term ‘woman’ in a singular manner, but just on how it is used, and what indication we can get from it. Now we know that both in Matthew and Luke, Mary is identified by name, and is termed Jesus’ mother, which no one would question. Matthew calls her Mary in 1:16, 18, 20, 2:11. Luke calls her Mary in Luke 1:27, 30, 38, 41, 46, 56, 2:5. Of course other times Mary is simply referred to as Jesus’ mother. However, John never identifies her by name. John refers to Mary as Jesus’ mother several times as well (Jn 2:1, 3, 5; 19:25, 26). But John, the author of Revelation 12, also the author of his gospel, also identifies her in a different way. He identifies her several times through Jesus’ words. In Jn 2:1-11 there is the mention of the wedding feast that Jesus and Mary appeared at in Cana. I will highlight a particular part of the passage in John 2:

John 2:2-5

2 Jesus also was invited to the marriage, with his disciples. 3 When the wine failed, the mother of Jesus said to him, "They have no wine." 4 And Jesus said to her, "O woman, what have you to do with me? My hour has not yet come." 5 His mother said to the servants, "Do whatever he tells you."
Notice before any miracles had happened, on the eve of beginning his ministry, the specific way that Jesus addresses his mother. He does not address her as ‘mother’, even though she definitely was his mother. He identifies her as ‘Woman’. Of course modern readers can read this as Jesus even being curt with his own Mother. However, it is important that he addresses her in this fashion. Before he goes to Calvary, and even before he goes to begin his mission, he calls his mother as ‘woman’. Now of course Mary had just known that the wine run out and made him aware of that fact. Obviously she expected something to come of her passing this on to Jesus. Although Jesus responded that it was not yet his time (there is a question on whether his time is ‘Calvary’ or the beginning of his mission), her prompting (even if it seems just to inform Jesus that they had run out of wine) actually ends up with Jesus providing his first miracle and apparently the beginning of his ministry to the people. Mary asks, Jesus delivers. There is much more than that, but for the purpose of this essay, what does Jesus declare his mother? ‘Woman’. This unmistakingly refers us back to the ‘woman’ of Genesis 3:15.

John 19:25-27

25 So the soldiers did this. But standing by the cross of Jesus were his mother, and his mother's sister, Mary the wife of Clopas, and Mary Mag'dalene. 26 When Jesus saw his mother, and the disciple whom he loved standing near, he said to his mother, "Woman, behold, your son!" 27 Then he said to the disciple, "Behold, your mother!" And from that hour the disciple took her to his own home.
Just as Mary was one who was present at the beginning of Jesus’ ministry in Cana, at the end of his life, Mary is right at his side with the apostle John, the only one left of the apostles during his crucifixion. As mentioned earlier, there is alot of discussion on the full meaning of Jesus’ words to Mary that relate to whether it supports the perpetual virginity, or whether this is a good verse that supports her maternity of all Christians. I do not want to dwell on that in this study. However, what I do want to focus on is at the end of his ministry, just before he is about to breathe his last breath, he mentions her as Mother of John, the disciple that he loved, but also directly spoke to her as ‘woman’.

Thus, two times the author of Revelation 12 specifically focuses on Jesus’ words identifying her not only as ‘mother’, but more importantly for this study, as ‘woman’. Now, what is the significance of Jesus calling his mother ‘woman’ instead of ‘mother’? Is that a phrase that a son would normally use when speaking to his mother? Apparently not. John McHugh notes:

Apart from Cana and Calvary (Jn 2 & Jn 19) there is not a single instance anywhere in the Bible or in any of the rabbinical writings of a son’s addressing his mother as ‘Woman’. In fact, Jesus in the gospels uses this form of address to several women, including those whom he had never met before. Thus he uses it to the Samaritan woman (Jn 4:21) and to Mary Magdalen (Jn 20:13), to the Canaanite woman (Mt. 15:28) and to the woman crippled with arthritis (Lk 13:10. He also uses it to the woman caught in the act of adultery (Jn 8:11). From these examples it is fair to conclude that it was a normal form of courteous address (like the French Madame or the Italian (Signora) to someone outside the family; but when a Jew addressed his mother he said ‘imma (‘mother’). Jesus was therefore drawing attention away from Mary’s blood-relationship with him by addressing her as ‘Woman’. And if one objects that on Calvary (Jn 19:25-27) he was certainly regarding her as the mother who gave him birth, is not this begging the question? Perhaps Calvary has a different message too; perhaps Jesus on the cross was thinking of something other than physical ties of blood. [12]
Many will see that John is representative of all Christians and at the point of Jesus completing his mission on earth, he gives not only to John his Mother Mary. I believe there is credence to that theory, but for the purposes of this essay, I want to focus on the fact that Jesus calls his mother ‘Woman’. Indeed, with the knowledge of the fact that Genesis 3:15 points to him being bruised at the foot, but the woman of that verse has a share in the victory over Satan ultimately that will bruise the head of Satan, his identification of his mother as ‘woman’ is important. His identification of her as ‘woman’ in John 2, at the beginning of his mission, as ‘woman’ in John 19 at the completion of his earthly mission, and with Jesus’ foreknowledge that in years the passage would be written that the ‘woman’ of Revelation 12 will be at war with the devil and share in the victory of the Lamb over that devil, and will be identified as a ‘woman’ who has great privileges, this identification is important indeed. The identification of Mary at this pivotal point of his life as ‘woman’ points us even further to Mary as the ‘woman’ of both Genesis 3:15 and Revelation 12. Contrast to the Geisler and Rhodes theory of 'Israel'. Nowhere is Israel even thought of as 'woman' here or anywhere in the New Testament, let alone that being the identification of the 'woman' of Revelation 12..

Galatians 4:4

4 But when the time had fully come, God sent forth his Son, born of woman, born under the law
This is Paul’s only direct reference to Mary, but he knows to refer to her as ‘woman’. Here he indicates implicitly the fact of the virginal conception of Jesus. He writes born of ‘a woman’ in a Semitic society that would usually say ‘born of Jesse’ or born of whoever the man is. Pointing to Jesus as born of a ‘woman’ instead of a man indicates the uniqueness of the incarnation. However, again, Mary is again referred to as a woman, even outside a Johannine context. Thus, the phraseology of ‘a woman’ being tied to Mary has been passed on to Paul, who passes it on to his readers.

Conclusion: Mary is our Mother
via Revelation 12

Who is the woman of Rev. 12? Who is called Woman in the Bible? Whenever Jesus refers to his mother, what does he call her? Woman. He calls her woman at the time of his first miracle in Cana John 2:4. He calls her Woman, behold your Son, when referring to John (John 19:27). Paul calls her the Woman in Gal. 4:4. Are all these coincidences (there happen to be no such coincidences for Israel and the term ‘woman’) or does it not show without a doubt, that the primary meaning of the Woman of Rev. 12 is Mary!!!

We have seen a striking parallel between the woman of Genesis 3:15, and the woman of Revelation 12. There is a woman who is at enmity with the Devil in both passages. Satan is at war with Jesus in both passages, and the woman is a central part in both passages. In the Genesis passage there is a promise of the victory that shows it fulfilled in Revelation 12. It is apparent that the ‘woman’ of Genesis 3:15 and Revelation 12 are the same woman. The only one who fits the bill in both passages is Mary. We have looked at the alternatives given by opponents of the Marian interpretations. In Genesis 3 we saw the possibility of Eve, being destroyed by the internal evidence. Genesis 3 points not only to Jesus but also to Mary, as even acknowledged by the ‘reformers’. Martin Luther writes in reference to the Genesis 3:15 passage:

Is Christ only to be adored? Or is the holy Mother of God rather not to be honoured? This is the woman who crushed the Serpent’s head. Hear us. For your Son denies you nothing. [13]
Eve nowhere is even brought into the picture of Revelation 12. None of the Protestant interpreters saw Eve as the ‘woman’ of Revelation 12. The Protestants who deny the Marian interpretation of Revelation 12 gave us Israel as the ‘woman’. In fact we saw nowhere in the Bible was the ‘woman’ ever identified as Israel. Nowhere does Scripture ever allude to Israel being the one who specifically gives birth to the Messiah. Of course Scripture is quite clear that the one who gives birth to the Messiah is Mary. The most natural interpretation of Revelation 12, is that the ‘woman’ who gives birth to the Messiah, is actually the ‘woman’ who gives birth to the Messiah: That is Mary.

We have looked at Revelation 12 and looked at who is more likely to be identified as the ‘woman’ of Revelation 12. The ‘woman’ is one who gives birth to the Son who rules over the earth. The woman is clothed with the sun and the moon is put under her feet and she is crowned with twelve stars. All the other personages in the scene of Revelation 12 are individuals. Jesus is the Son who rules. Michael is identified. Satan is identified. Thus, in order to be consistent in interpretation the only way it can be so is by having this person identified as an individual. The only person who is an individual, who is also the Mother of the Messiah, is Mary, the Mother of Jesus. Now I am not arguing that there are not other interpretations possible. In fact many Church Fathers saw the ‘woman’ as referring to the Church, or the people of God, and varying other interpretations. There can be many senses and interpretations in various passages and indications are that the woman of Revelation 12 does not need to be limited to one interpretation. The Catholic Church indicates in its interpretation of Matthew 16:18, the ‘rock’ not only is Peter, but can also supplementarily be the confession of faith of Peter, and even indirectly Jesus as the Rock. One interpretation does not necessarily exclude other interpretations. However, the indication in this study, has shown us Mary is the ‘woman’ of Revelation 12 in a primary way. Even if some after looking at the data want to say, that she is not the primary ‘woman’, will at a minimum have to in some way admit that the mother who bears the son who rules the earth (Rev. 12:5), is indeed the ‘woman’ who bears that son. That woman is Mary. Even if only in a secondary sense. Of course I believe that this study indicates she is the woman in a primary sense.

Some of those who are not pro-Catholic who objectively look at the data will admit that the woman of Revelation 12 is indeed Mary. An opponent of the Catholic view on Mary even cites the ‘World Evangelical Fellowship’ acknowledgment of the ‘woman’ of Revelation 12 as Mary.

In the apostolic witness, there are only two references to her. Paul spoke of the seed born of a woman (Gal. 4:4), and John told of the woman clothed with the sun who brought forth the manchild (Rev 12:1). Both depict the birth of Christ.[14]
Thus, even the World Evangelical Fellowship, hardly an advocate of Catholic theology will admit that the woman of Revelation 12 is indeed Mary.

What have we seen in our study? Manelli gives a shorter and sweeter summary than I can so I will let him analyze what Scripture has pointed us to in the phrase ‘Woman’.

First, the term ‘woman’ is expressly linked in the text to Old and New Testament passages where Mary is present and acts as protagonist. Such is the prophetic text of Gen. 3:15 where the ‘Woman’, with her son, is the triumphant enemy of the serpent, seducer of our first parents. In Gal. 4:4, the ‘Woman’ - Mary is the human origin of the Word made flesh. At Cana of Galilee, Mary is the ‘Woman’ of who prepares the way for the public manifestation of the Messiah-Savior, persuading Jesus to work the first of His "signs" (Jn 2:1-11): Next beneath the Cross, at the consummation of the universal salvific mission, Mary is present as the ‘Woman’ associated with Christ, and proclaimed by Jesus as the mother of John, who represents redeemed humanity. Finally, in the text of Rev. 12, the same ‘Woman’, recapitulates and concludes the salvific plan of God already predicted at the dawn of humanity, in Genesis 3:15. [15]
Now let us go back to the end of Revelation 12:
17Then the dragon was angry with the woman, and went off to make war on the rest of her offspring, on those who keep the commandments of God and bear testimony to Jesus. And he stood on the sand of the sea.
Now we have seen that the woman of Revelation 12 is Mary. In the above passage, where the woman is battling with the dragon, or Satan, she has some offspring who are at war with the devil. Who are her offspring? All those who keep the commandments of God and bear testimony to Jesus. Thus, we see that those Christians who bear testimony of Jesus have this woman, or Mary as their Mother. This study has shown that Revelation 12 has Mary as the mother, and this passage in Revelation 12 indicates that those Christians who bear testimony to Jesus, also are Mary’s offspring. God didn’t give us a single parent household. He gives us his mother as Mary. Obviously these are the followers of Christ, not physical children of Mary. Just as Jesus named Mary the mother of John (Jn. 19:27), all who follow him, are her children, via Revelation 12:17. In addition to that, when we see that it is Mary who is the Woman who has the 12 crowns, we have a perfectly Biblical basis for calling her Queen mother. The fact that there are false Queen Mothers that may be referenced the Old Testament does not do away with her title and Revelation 12:1 any more than the fact that there are false messiahs, do away with the fact that there is a real Messiah!!! Thus, those who bear testimony to Jesus, also have Mary as their Mother. That is clear Scriptural truth.

Appendix - But what about the pain in
Childbirth? Doesn’t that disprove that it is Mary?

Let us again focus on one part of this passage that Protestants will refer to, to prove that Mary could not be the ‘Woman‘. This is again, Revelation 12:2, given with the context.

2 she was with child and she cried out in her pangs of birth, in anguish for delivery. 3 And another portent appeared in heaven; behold, a great red dragon, with seven heads and ten horns, and seven diadems upon his heads. 4 His tail swept down a third of the stars of heaven, and cast them to the earth. And the dragon stood before the woman who was about to bear a child, that he might devour her child when she brought it forth; 5 she brought forth a male child, one who is to rule all the nations with a rod of iron, but her child was caught up to God and to his throne
The Protestant will argue, well ‘don’t you Catholics argue that pains of child birth is a direct result of original sin, and if the woman is Mary, then she wouldn’t have labor pains, and here you have labor pains, so there!”. Now, at first glance, he may seem to have a point. However, in fact, for a Protestant who is objectively looking at this passage, whether Mary is sinless is besides the point. If our look at Revelation 12 excludes Israel from being the ‘woman’, as the reasons we have given above, theoretically, the identification of Mary as Mary remains, regardless of whether she is sinless. A Protestant, who has come to see the above analysis, should not be bothered in the least that there are labor pains, because he wouldn’t consider it even essential that Mary would be sinless. Theoretically, thus, a Protestant should have no problem seeing Mary as the (or at least a primary) woman of Revelation, and still have labor pains.

Nonetheless, it is true that for a Catholic, we do have to deal with fact that there are indeed labor pains. To best answer this, I will refer to some sources that do have some valid answers. I can not pretend that I am coming up with this, and I will give citations which do seem to give cogent answers. Now, first, there is aa author, John McHugh, who sees Mary as not the primary ‘Woman’ of Revelation 12, but still sees her as the woman in a secondary manner. He sees the Church as the primary ‘woman.’ He notes the passage where she cries out in anguish, that is used by Protestants to say it couldn‘t be Mary.

The woman, we read was ‘in anguish for delivery’ (Revised Standard Version). The Greek verb here translated ‘in anguish for delivery’ (Revised Standard Version). The Greek verb here translated ‘in anguish’ is never once used in the Septuagint, the New Testament, the apocrypha, the papyri or the Fathers to denote the pains of physical birth; and this is all the more remarkable when one remembers the scene of a painful birth is alluded to in these writings. The word can perhaps best be rendered as ‘going through torment or torture’, and it is therefore a very surprising verb to encounter when one recalls the radiant description of the woman in 12:1. [16]
Thus, this passage does not show that the woman is experiencing physical labor pains, and if the author had wanted to say that, he would have used such language. Instead, it seems as though John is speaking of a double birth. Now, at Calvary, where Mary was there whereas all the apostles (except John) fled Jesus, she went into untold to suffering while she watched Jesus get tortured, and hung on the cross. Remember, Jesus said ‘Woman’ to Mary, in Jn. 19:26. Mary is undergoing suffering at that point. Thus, there is a double birth pointed to in Revelation 12:2. The pain she is suffering here, is not indicating she was suffering pain in birth, but the suffering at seeing her son’s pain and suffering on Calvary. This will eventually point to his resurrection and ascencion into heaven (Rev. 12:5). Thus, the best explanation is pointed out by Manelli, who has already given us much insight in our study:
The pains of childbirth of the “woman” seem to constitute a particular problem, if they are referred to the virginal childbirth of Mary at Bethlehem. If instead, they are referred to the childbirth of Mary on Calvary, where she is constituted “truly the mother of the members of Christ”, as St. Augustine affirms (quoted by Lumen Gentuium, no. 53), then we too can understand with other exegetes, among them D. Squillaci, that to our Lady “is to be ascribed a double childbirth: one natural and virginal, by which without pain or injury of any kind, she begot the Son of God the physical Christ: the other spiritual, by means of which on Calvary, uniting her sufferings to those of the Redeemer, she begot the Mystical Body of Christ.

According to R. Laurentin, the difficulty over the pains of childbirth on the part of the “woman” of Revelation can be eliminated by a comparison:

In Apoc (Rev. ) 5:6 Christ appears in heaven in the form of an immolated lamb (cf. Jn 19:36). The sufferings of the woman who also appears in heaven in Apoc 12:2, stands in relation to the immolation of the celestial Lamb. Thus, in the 12th chapter of Apocalypse, the reference is not to the childbirth at Bethlehem, but to the words of Christ on the cross: “Son, behold your Mother” (Jn 19:26). It is a question of the spiritual motherhood of Mary and of the compassion with which the Mother of Jesus shares in the sufferings of the immolated Lamb. Jn 12:9 and Apoc 12 are therefore, in strict relation to one another. In each passage Mary’s motherhood in relation to the disciples entails a context of suffering (Jn. 19:25; Apoc 12:2). [17]) (D Suillaci, “Maria nella Donna dell’ Apocalisse”, Mile Immaculatae 5 (1969): 151)
Thus, here John is speaking about a different type of suffering. Thus, for example, in Gal 4:19, Paul was in birth pains until Christ was formed within his readers. Also, Rom. 8:22 shows ‘All creation has been groaning in travail together until now.’ When speaking about Lot who was the only righteous one in Sodom and Gomorra, it says that ‘he was vexed by his righteous soul day after day with their lawless deeds). Thus, the suffering can be spiritual. So how does this relate to Mary? Mary gives birth to Christ, and his sufferings on Calvary. Well, there was a a prophecy given by Simeon, in Luke 2:34-35 that speaks to this very issue, as brought up in Rev. 12:2:
34 and Simeon blessed them and said to Mary his mother, "Behold, this child is set for the fall and rising of many in Israel, and for a sign that is spoken against 35 (and a sword will pierce through your own soul also), that thoughts out of many hearts may be revealed."
So Mary underwent the spiritual suffering at Calvary. Her soul was pierced when she saw her Son die on the cross. There is a richness in Luke 2:34-35, which shows how Mary suffered. But not only on the cross. John McHugh notes that the traditional classical interpretation in Catholic thought is that the sword signifies the suffering felt by Mary as she stood by the cross, watching the death-agony of her son. McHugh gives alot of evidence to say that the suffering of Mary speaks to much more than that (pages 104-112 of his book), but also in Lk. 2:35:
The ‘classical interpretation’ of Lk 2:35a (that Mary was suffering watching the suffering of Christ on the cross) may therefore be restated with this perspective of Luke in mind. ‘Thou thyself, O Israel, shall feel a sword pass through they soul.’ Mary as an individual had rejoiced to be the mother of him who would fulfill the promises made to Abraham; as the Daughter of Zion, more aware than anyone else of the destiny of her child, she welcomed his coming for the joy it would bring to Israel and to the world (cf. once more the Magnificat). Yet in the course of Jesus‘ public life she had to watch the mounting opposition to her son, and knew that the leaders of Israel were thereby turning against their saviour. Her mental sufferings reached a climax on Calvary, but they had begun long before. And even at the foot of the cross, she suffered a double agony. She watched the physical torment and heard the mockery directed at Jesus, her son‘ but in addition she had the far greater sorrow of knowing that the appointed leaders of God‘s chosen people had refused the message of salvation. [18]
Thus, this directly speaks to the issue of Revelation 12. Now, we also saw in Revelation 12 that right after speaking about her suffering in v. 2, it speaks to the dragon chasing the woman and the child, seeking to devour them. Her child is caught up to the throne. Thus, it speaks to his both resurrection and ascension into heaven. This is done after the fact of her suffering. Thus, the suffering pointed to in Revelation 12:2 points exactly to the suffering that she entailed when seeing the rejection of her Son, that reached its fulfillment on the cross. In addition to this, we see her as the Spiritual mother of all of Christ’s children (Jn. 19:27, Rev. 12:17). Now, as Mary is still the only one who is Jesus’ mother, this shows a double birth, both a physical birth of Christ, and a spiritual birth, where she begets the children of Christ. That brings with it also a painful spiritual childbirth, as we have seen in other passages which show spiritual suffering (2 Pet. 2:8, Gal. 4:19, Rom. 8:22).

Now a good summary of this passage and its relation to Mary, and the suffering in Revelation 12, is again provided by Manelli:

If the whole Son of Mary is Jesus, Head and Body, Mary is shown in joy at Bethlehem as the Mother of the Head, and on Calvary as the Mother of the Body regenerated unto the supernatural life of grace. Koehler succinctly summarizes: Mary “is the Woman who in Jesus (therefore born at Bethlehem and at Calvary) gives to God mankind reborn to divine sonship.[19]

[1] Ron Rhodes, Reasoning from the Scriptures with Catholics, Harvest House Publishers, Eugene, Oregon, 2000, pp. 320-321

[2] Norman Geisler and Ralph E. MacKenzie, Roman Catholics and Evangelicals: Agreements and Differences, Baker Books, Grand Rapids, Michigan, 1995, pp. 313-14.

[3] Stephano Manelli, All Generations Shall Call Me Blessed, Academy of the Immaculate, New Bedford, Massachusetts, 1995, pp. 359-60.

[4] Robert Payesko, The Truth About Mary: A Scriptural introduction to the Mother of Jesus for Bible-Believing Christians, Volume two: Mary in Scripture and Historic Christian Faith, Queenship Publishing Company, Santa Barbara, CA, 1996, pp. 62-63.

[5] Rhodes, p. 321, Geisler, p. 320

[6] Payesko, p. 71, quoting Rene Laurentin, A Short Treatise on the Virgin Mary, p. 43-46.

[7] Geisler, pp. 306-7

[8] Rhodes, pp. 292-3

[9] Manelli, p. 27.

[10] Payesko, pp. 59-60, quoting Patrick Madrid, This Rock, “Ark of the New Covenant,”, December 1991, pp. 11-12.

[11] Manelli, p. 23.

[12] John McHugh, The Mother of Jesus in the New Testament, Doubleday & Company, Inc., Garden City, New York, 1975, pp. 362-63

[13] Payesko, vol. 2, p. 53, quoting Martin Luther, Weimar edition of Martin Luther’s Works, Volume 51, pp. 128-29.

[14] Payesko, The Truth About Mary: A Scriptural introduction to the Mother of Jesus for Bible-Believing Christians, Volume three: Mary in Scripture and Historic Christian Faith, Queenship Publishing Company, Santa Barbara, CA, 1996, p. 98, citation of Paul G. Schrotenboer, Roman Catholicism: A Contemporary Evangelical Perspective, p. 92

[15] Manelli, p. 353.

[16] John McHugh, The Mother of Jesus in the New Testament, Doubleday & Company, Inc. Gardent City, NY, 1975, p.411.

[17] Manelli, pp. 356-357.

[18] McHugh p. 111.

[19] Manelli, p. 358.

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