Is the Assumption of Mary found in Revelation 12?

The subject of Mary has created divisions within the church. The doctrines about Mary have been pushed by the Catholic and Orthodox churches to the point that, if other traditions do not accept the doctrines, they believe these traditions to be erring in the faith and the cause of this division. But is this really the case? Perhaps the doctrines of Mary were read into the Scriptures instead of out of the Scriptures. If so, the proponents of these doctrines would be the ones causing the division

In this article, we want to examine whether the dogma known as the “bodily assumption of Mary” is actually found in Revelation chapter 12 as they claim. I want to show that Revelation 12 is talking about an entirely different scriptural motif, and not about this dogma.

What is the bodily assumption of Mary?

The Catechism of the Catholic Church defines the bodily assumption of Mary in this way:

“Finally the Immaculate Virgin, preserved free from all stain of original sin, when the course of her earthly life was finished, was taken up body and soul into heavenly glory, exalted by the Lord as Queen over all things, so that she might be more fully conformed to her Son, the Lord of Lords and conqueror of sin and death.”1Paragraph 966

Is Mary the woman in Revelation 12?

Revelation 12 has served as one of the prooftexts that some Catholics use in an attempt to prove the bodily assumption of Mary. But does the passage actually teach that dogma? Let’s examine it by seeing how much of the information found in Revelation 12 actually correlates with what we know to be true of Mary.

The only correlation between Revelation 12 and Mary is that both Mary and the woman of Revelation 12 give birth to a male child which is certainly Christ. To be fair to the argument, that is a significant correlation, and we might assume that we can simply infer that Mary and this woman are one and the same. However, as I will show in a later section, the text has a number of features that show that it’s not actually a straightforward correlation.

To argue that the woman couldn’t be a symbolic figure for something other than Mary is to ignore the genre in which the book of Revelation is written.

Is there another option for who this woman could be?

First, is there another option for who the woman in Revelation 12 could be? To find out, we’ll start with short commentary on the book of Revelation by Victorinus, an early church writer from around the year 280.

And there was seen a great sign in heaven. A woman clothed with the sun, and the moon under her feet, and on her head a crown of twelve stars. And being with child, she cried out travailing, and bearing torments that she might bring forth. The woman clothed with the sun, and having the moon under her feet, and wearing a crown of twelve stars upon her head, and travailing in her pains, is the ancient Church of fathers, and prophets, and saints, and apostles, which had the groans and torments of its longing until it saw that Christ, the fruit of its people according to the flesh long promised to it, had taken flesh out of the selfsame people. Moreover, being clothed with the sun intimates the hope of resurrection and the glory of the promise.

If Revelation 12 is so clearly Mary, as the Catholics claim, and if they are the one true church that has continued from the apostles, one would think that Victorinus, as a representative of their church, would have mentioned Mary at least briefly. His silence is evidence against the likelihood of this being Mary.

Victorinus, as we can see by the quote, believes the woman to be not Mary, but the church of the ages—the church which first came in the biblical Fathers and has continued unbroken into the new covenant era. Not as a different church but as a matured church. He puts both the Jewish patriarchs, prophets and then the apostles inside this same unit typified by the woman.

What might have influenced Victorinus’s view?

The woman according to Paul

This is not the first time this idea is mentioned. Victorinus is likely drawing on Paul’s teachings, such as in Galatians 4. Paul says that Abraham had two sons, one of the bondwoman and one of the free woman. This, he said, typifies two covenants. One covenant is of Moses and the other is of Christ. He then commands that the church must cast out the old covenant and fully embrace the new. Some Jews apparently do this, and they are the church. Some don’t, and they are the Judaizers.

So, we now have two groups of people, who Paul then says are typified by two women. The bondwoman and the free woman, Sarah and Hagar. Hagar typifies Jerusalem, which is below and Sarah typifies the church, the Jerusalem from above, which is the “Mother of us all.Sarah, as a type of the church, the Jerusalem from above, gives birth to the promise child, a type of Christ. Paul’s typological understanding of the story about Sarah and Hagar is very likely a reference for Victorinus and his understanding of Revelation 12. The church of the old covenant gives birth to Christ.

So, as we can see, this was an analogy used by the apostle Paul, and therefore, Victorinus’s interpretation of John would make perfect sense.

Sam Storms said it well when he put it this way:

“the woman is both the community of faith that produced the Messiah and the community of faith that subsequently follows and obeys him. John clearly envisioned an organic continuity between OT Israel and the Church. They are one body of believers.”

The woman according to Isaiah

Many of the prophets refer to both faithful and unfaithful Israel as a woman. One such example is in Isaiah 54:1:

Sing, O barren,
You who have not borne!
Break forth into singing, and cry aloud,
You who have not labored with child!
For more are the children of the desolate
than the children of the married woman,” says the Lord.

2 Clement offers this statement on the verse:

When he said, “Rejoice, you barren that do not give birth,” he referred to us because our Church was barren until children were given to her.”

This is speaking of the desolate, unmarried woman, the church, in contrast to the married woman, Israel.

2 Clement then offers further commentary stating,

“When he said, “For she that is desolate has many more children than the one that has a husband,” he means that our people seemed to be outcast from God, but now, through believing, we have become more numerous than those who are considered to possess God.”

I quote Clement because, once again, we see the church referred to as a woman. Isaiah prophesies that she will have many children. Similarly, the woman in Rev 12 has more children as spoken of in verse 17. This is very much in the same stream of thought as Paul in Galatians 4. We have a two women. One is ultimately spiritually desolate and one is spiritually fruitful.

In verse 5 of the same chapter in Isaiah provides more information:

“For your Maker is your husband,
The Lord of hosts is His name;
And your Redeemer is the Holy One of Israel;
He is called the God of the whole earth.”

The Redeemer is the husband of this woman. We can positively know that Jesus is the Redeemer. He is clearly the name through which we can be saved and he clearly has only one bride, the Church. The church being typified as a woman is a motif that runs deep in the text of Scripture.

Later, we see the woman appear as a bride coming to her husband in Revelation 21.

The woman according to Jesus

Thinking of the Jerusalem which is above draws our mind to Jesus’s teachings. He taught much about the Kingdom of Heaven which he was bringing to earth, just as the woman in Revelation 12 came to earth from heaven. The church is depicted as Jesus’s bride in numerous places in Scripture. So we clearly see throughout the Scripture that the church is depicted as a woman figure whose origin is from heaven. This a clear picture of what we see going on in Revelation 12, where the woman figure is shown to be crowned and clothed in great glory in Heaven. Catholics like to proof text this to say that Mary is the queen of Heaven, but who does inspired Scripture says is crowned and clothed in glory in Heaven? Just a few chapters further in the same book of Revelation we see this revealed. Jesus reveals to John a vision of the woman who is the Bride of the Lamb.

But before we look at that Scripture, we should note that Peter, James, and Paul all mention in their letters that a crown shall be given to the church at the appearing of Christ (James 1:12, 1 Peter 5:4, 2 Timothy 4:8).

It is very apparent that the church is referred to as a woman in the New Testament. It is also very apparent that the church shall be crowned. So, this reasonably leads to the crowned woman being the church.

At the culmination of time in Revelation 21, a woman appears adorned as a bride for her husband and she is glorified by her husband and shares his glory

Then I, John, saw the holy city, New Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband.(Rev 21:2)

Revelation 21 has a strong resemblance to Isaiah 54. The bride is marrying the Redeemer. We know the bride to be the church. She is Paul’s New Jerusalem, Jesus’s Kingdom of Heaven, Victorinus’s church of the ages, who is the bride of the Christ and shares his glory. I ask you to consider carefully who the Scriptures seem to depict as the queen of heaven—Mary or the Church?

The standard monarchical kingdom would indeed have a King and Queen. The queen typically would be the bride of the King. Jesus is indisputably the King in the kingdom of Heaven, so it would logically lead to his bride, the church, being the queen.

Is a double fulfillment possible?

Those who claim that the woman is also Mary may have agreed with all that I just said. Many believe the woman figure is a double fulfillment of both the Mary and the church. But let’s try and see how well this correlates with the Scriptures and other claims that Catholics make about Mary.

1. The woman comes to earth out of heaven.

This is opposite of the course of Mary’s life. The dogma purports that Mary went from earth to heaven. Mary’s life as recorded in the gospels shows her first on earth, just like the rest of humanity with the exception the Scriptures give to Christ. So this does nothing to support the assumption and even leans against this being Mary.

The woman figure in the text lives first in Heaven and is then taken to the wilderness. Perhaps we might debate what the wilderness symbolizes but it certainly isn’t heaven.

There was a church who fled into the wilderness after Satan, the Dragon tried to destroy it. The church at Jerusalem fled the city before the destruction Christ’s prophesied would come to it. I would suggest that once again there is a possible and even plausible interpretation that once again points to the church. While I won’t make the argument here, there has been some good work done on how the destruction of Jerusalem is very much present in Revelation.

A second possible and perhaps even more plausible interpretation is that it points to the new exodus wherein the church is delivered from the bondage and slavery to sin and is now under the protective reign of Jesus wherein no one can take our salvation from us. They can only destroy the body because we have a continuing residency in Christ’s kingdom.

Once again, we have the church realizing the flight and protection in several possible ways while we are not made aware of Mary having personally and exclusively experienced something of this nature.

2. She has more children.

This creates a problem with another Catholic claim which is her perpetual virginity. In verse 17 it says that the Dragon went to make war with the rest of the woman’s seed. This seems to be an easy contradiction. Either give up the claim of double fulfillment or give up the claim of the perpetual virginity. Of course, Catholics and Orthodox could claim that this refers to Mary’s spiritual children, but Scripture doesn’t give such an idea.

To use such an argument would show that Catholics are willing to take to parse this passage either literally or figuratively, in order to make it say what they want it to say. It is insisted upon that the woman cannot be taken strictly symbolically earlier, so why the sudden right to deny a strict literal interpretation of this verse? Some find it unfathomable that the woman giving birth to a male child wouldn’t be a literal birth by a literal woman. So why not stay consistent with that hermeneutic? Why shouldn’t this also be a literal birth of biological children?

Interpreting this chapter to coincide with all the dogmas requires an obvious double standard. It requires an arbitrarily and inconsistent selection on which parts to interpret which way. there is nothing wrong with taking some details literally and some figuratively. But if Catholics and Orthodox agree to this point then they need to give up the argument that the woman has to be taken literally.

3. She has labor pains.

Verse 2 says, “then being with child, she cried out in labor and in pain to give birth.”. Why is this significant?

It is significant because Catholics like to cite Isaiah 66:7 as evidence that Mary had a painless delivery when Jesus was born. This reads as follows; “Before she was in labor, she gave birth; Before her pain came, She delivered a male child.” They believe this to be evidence that she was free from original sin, but Revelation obviously contradicts that, so they really need to decide which they want to keep. They can’t have both.

If it’s the case that Mary didn’t have labor pains then this is strong evidence against the woman being Mary.

Sometimes Catholics and Orthodox claim that it’s referring to the spiritual travail she went through, but once again, there is no evidence for this. A Catholic Answers article says,

“the pain she felt at the Cross, during which she became a spiritual mother to John (and by extension all believers), and the pain experienced by the people of God both before the Messiah’s birth and after his resurrection during Roman persecution.”2This article

But that really doesn’t work. That was when Jesus was dying. The text says she experienced the pain in giving birth to the man child.

All the cases I’ve read of supposed periods of spiritual travail happened to Mary during the ministry of Christ, which certainly all fail to match the text’s claim of it happening at the birth of Christ.

A double fulfillment doesn’t prove the dogmas

Even if this is a double fulfillment and Mary is a type of the church, it still doesn’t get you to any of the dogmas about her.

For instance, the fact that she is a mother that symbolically mirrors the church does not mean that she must therefore share every characteristic of the kingdom of heaven. Types almost never mirror their fulfillment on every point. If Mary were a type of the church, she need not share this detail. King David was a type of Christ. However, he didn’t share many of Jesus’s characteristics. He wasn’t divine. He wasn’t sinless. He wasn’t a man of peace. And he doesn’t need to be. This isn’t demanded of types.

And we don’t get to note Christ’s characteristics and read them into David without any evidence from David’s life that he would have shared them. Everyone knows this about Jesus and David, yet this is the very thing that is being done with Mary and the church. If someone wants to attribute any of the characteristics in Revelation 12 to Mary they need to show evidence for it. It is not an automatic carry over. If someone wants to do an automatic carryover without any evidence they should at least do so with all of them or show a good reason why to do otherwise besides the fact that they distort the narrative they are trying to read into the passage. A standard method of argumentation is to provide evidence for why you believe your proposition to be true.

So, there doesn’t seem to be good reason to believe that Mary, the mother of Christ, cannot share the one symbolic detail of motherhood with the church of the ages while not sharing all the details in the rest of Revelation 12. We could even grant that Mary is referenced in this passage without demanding that all of the details given refer to her. This hermeneutic for reading the passage has the resounding witness of nearly every type in the whole of Scripture.

Even Mary is also indicated in Revelation 12, we can still attribute the qualities about the woman in Revelation 12 to the church and not to Mary.

Does the woman have to be singular figure?

Many times, Catholics claim that the dragon is Satan, the child is Jesus and therefore the woman has to be seen singularly as well. But why would it have to be interpreted this way?

In Scripture, we have singular figures depicting both singular figures and corporate entities in the same story. We see this in the very next chapter of Revelation. The dragon, Satan, is there and gives his power to the beast which is commonly agreed upon to be the Roman empire in its original context. Two singular typological figures, one translating to a single figure, Satan and one to a corporate entity, the empire.

In chapter 17 there is another woman, who rides a beast and is drunk on the blood of the martyrs. Read from a partial preterist persuasion, this is almost certainly drawing on Ezekiel 16, where apostate Israel is compared to a harlot. In this case the harlot, still the apostate Israel, is riding a beast, the empire, and is persecuting the church. This correlates with what we see the book of Acts. The unconverted Jews are trying to get the church in trouble with the empire’s judicial system.

This argument is perhaps only as solid as the argument for a pre A.D 70 dating of Revelation. But whichever way you care to interpret the harlot, she still at least stands for Babylon, which is a corporate entity.

There is no reason to believe that chapter 12 can’t be read with similar rules. The fact is that Scripture doesn’t follow a cut and dried methodology. It can go either way and we simply don’t get to make up our own rules to lead to our preferred interpretation. The woman figure in Chapter 17 typifies a group. The beast typifies a group. This is standard language in Revelation. Single figures typify groups, and sometimes single figures typify groups and singular figures in the same story. To force a different rule on chapter 12 seems to be an arbitrary selection to lead the story where you want it to go rather than where it may want to go.

Where is the bodily assumption?

So the problem with finding the bodily assumption of Mary in Revelation 12 is that we can’t find a verse in the passage that would appear to even possibly teach it. Nowhere is anything said about this woman going to heaven either in body or soul. On the other hand, the correlation between the woman figure and the church is indisputable. As we can see, the wider scriptural usage of the “woman” is applied to the church. The immediate context in Revelation 12 itself doesn’t fit Mary. The church is referred to as a woman by the prophets, by Jesus and by the apostles. The burden of proof lies on the shoulders of Catholic and Orthodox apologists. They need to provide a solid reason on why the Revelation 12 woman figure should be taken outside of its normative scriptural usage.

Evidence must be provided in order to make an argument, but the woman in Revelation 12 shares no characteristics with Mary except for motherhood. The vast majority of the passage openly contradicts what we know to be certain about Mary. In contrast, nearly every detail can relatively easily be seen to fit the church. Mary was certainly a blessed person with a very special calling but this passage doesn’t prove her to be fulfilling any of the dogmas the Catholic and Orthodox churches have produced.

9 thoughts on “Is the Assumption of Mary found in Revelation 12?”

  1. I personally don’t think that Rev 12 is primarily about the Theotokos, if at all.

    Interestingly, even other popular types (like the Ark of the Covenant) are primarily about Christ or the priesthood of all believers.

  2. I recently came across this article, and read it with interest, as I am a former Anabaptist who converted to Catholicism. I think that the article gets some things wrong about the way Revelation 12 is used as “evidence” of the Assumption within Catholicism (and potentially within Orthodoxy as well, though I’m less familiar with the view from within that tradition).

    With regards to your starting paragraph, I’m not sure that Catholics and Orthodox view disagreement about Marian dogmas to be the cause of division with Protestants. I’m Catholic, not Orthodox, so like I said above I’m more sure about articulating the Catholic view. From the Catholic point of view, the roots of division are more foundational and paradigmatic. Disagreement about the Marian dogmas flows from deeper disagreements about things like the relationship between Scripture and Tradition, the ways in which doctrines can develop, the nature of the Church, and the nature of doctrine and dogma. In fact, these more fundamental disagreements are hinted at when you make a distinction between reading into and out of the Scriptures. You didn’t elaborate on the specific nature of this distinction in your view, but it is highly unlikely that a Catholic theologian, for example, would accept what you mean by it – such a distinction does not “carve reality at the joints” from our point of view. So if you make an argument that starts from this distinction, concludes that Marian dogmas are read into the Scriptures from your point of view, and so further concludes that Catholics are causing the division, the argument, even if logically valid, would not be convincing to a Catholic, because we don’t share the same starting assumptions – we don’t accept the premise.

    For an explicit acknowledgement of (part of) this more fundamental disagreement, here is what Catholic theologian Aidan Nichols writes in his book There Is No Rose: “Clearly, what one says about the figure that Mary of Nazareth cuts in the New Testament will be affected by the kind of approach one has to reading Scripture—or what since the nineteenth century has come to be called the ‘hermeneutic,’ the interpretative starting-point or, more widely, interpretative scheme, of this or that theologian.”

    A bit further on, you say that “Revelation 12 has served as a prooftext for Catholics who attempt to prove the bodily assumption of Mary.” Perhaps some individual Catholics use Revelation 12 as a “prooftext,” but that is not the teaching of the Church. We don’t say: “look at Revelation 12 in isolation and you automatically get the Assumption.” In fact, there was a strong historical line of Catholic theological thought which argued that the Assumption follows “virtually” from other theological truths and that an “independent” argument from clues found in Scripture and Tradition is not necessary (for example see the work of Reginald Garrigou-Lagrange, OP). Along these lines, recall that in his defining apostolic constitution Munificentissimus Deus Pope Pius XII mentions Revelation 12 only in passing: “…the scholastic Doctors have recognized the Assumption of the Virgin Mother of God as something signified, not only in various figures of the Old Testament, but also in that woman clothed with the sun whom John the Apostle contemplated on the Island of Patmos.” In the context of that document as a whole, Revelation 12 is certainly not used as a “prooftext”!

    Similarly Pope Benedict XVI, writing as Cardinal Ratzinger before he was elected Pope, declares in his book Daughter Zion of the Marian dogmas that “…they cannot be deduced from individual texts of the New Testament…” (emphasis original). No prooftexting here!

    There is a desirable standard in scholarly debate (or just the simple rational comparison of two positions) that you should be able to accurately describe or restate the views of your interlocutor in terms that they recognize and agree with. You have not done this with the Catholic view of the relationship between the Assumption and Revelation 12! If you are interesting in learning more, I encourage you to read some books by Catholic theologians on the Assumption and other Marian dogmas – I can send you one or two if money is an issue.

    Moving forward, you state that “To argue that the woman couldn’t be a symbolic figure for something other than Mary is to ignore the genre in which the book of Revelation is written.” But this isn’t the approach to the text taken by Catholic theologians and scholars (and some Protestant scholars as well)! Arguing that the woman is symbolic of Mary in some sense is not to exclude other symbolic meanings of the text. Multiple layers of symbolism and meaning are present throught the Scriptures, and abundantly so in St. John’s Apocalypse. For example, Protestant theologian Peter Leithart writes of this text in his commentary on Revelation: “If not only Mary, the woman is also Mary…” (emphasis original).

    As a tangent off of my main point, regarding your treatment of Victorinus, silence is not always evidence! (It does not always carry evidential weight, in a Bayesian sense.) But I digress…

    On the subject of the woman being the Church, Catholics would agree with at least some of your arguments. Here is Nichols again: “This ‘great sign seen in heaven’ (Rev. 12:1) is Israel as predestined to glory through Israel’s Messiah. It is the church both as triumphant, assured of final victory, and also as still in combat on earth. Triumphant, for this is the archetypal church, fulfilling and super-fulfilling Israel, and now depicted in imagery taken from the Song of Songs ‘fair as the moon, bright as the sun, majestic as the marching stars’ (Song of Sol. 6:9). But at the same time this is also the church ‘in combat,’ for despite the indestructibility of the church implied in her triumph, she is the object of mortal attack by the serpent, who spews out a river of lies before unleashing physical persecution.” The woman is the Church!

    The key surface-level exegetical disagreement comes from your arguments about why the woman cannot be what you call a “double fulfillment.” As I noted briefly above, it is not only Catholic commentators who see (at least) a double layer of symbolism here – many Protestants do as well. The brief answer to your arguments against this is that in a passage containing multivalent symbolism, not all of the textual details need to apply literally to all of the symbols. I think that this is a fairly uncontroversial hermeneutical observation. The language of allusion and symbolism simply doesn’t work in the “wooden” way you seem to require. You even recognize this later on, saying “We could even grant that Mary is referenced in this passage without demanding that all of the details given refer to her.” I agree completely, though I’m not sure why you didn’t recognize that this undercuts your previous arguments against Marian symbolism!

    I also agree with your statement that “a double fulfillment doesn’t prove the dogmas.” If this were the case, the Protestants who do recognize Mary as the woman in this passage would be logically compelled to go on and agree with the Catholic dogmas, but they clearly do not. Very few exegetical arguments can prove anything in the same as as a mathematical proof does, and all the more so when approaching a highly symbolic and allusive passage like many of those found in Revelation. The Catholic Church does not claim that Revelation 12 proves the Assumption in any sort of abstract strictly logical sense that would be compelling to a hypothetical “rational observer.” So I (and Pope Benedict XVI!) also agree with your final sentence that “this passage doesn’t prove her to be fulfilling any of the dogmas the Catholic and Orthodox churches have produced.”

    However, I do think that you overlooked a key aspect of the passage (and utilize some logically flawed arguments) in your eagerness to eliminate a Marian connection. The wilderness in relation to Mary is obviously Egypt! You say “…we have the church realizing the flight and protection in several possible ways while we are not made aware of Mary having personally and exclusively experienced something of this nature” (emphasis mine). Read Matthew 2:13-18! (And Matthew makes the connection to the Exodus explicit by quoting Hosea.) Again, this is not to argue against the potential connections you note to the Church, it is just to note that there is an obvious Marian connection with this aspect of the text as well.

    On your argument about the children (and the labor pains), if the woman is both Mary and the Church (and, I would argue, Israel), then the various aspects of the passage can apply both literally and symbolically to one or the other (or the third). There is nothing “inconsistent” about this – again I take it to be relatively uncontroversial to say that not all of the textual details need to apply literally to all of the symbols. And the children are rather explicitly identified as “those who keep the commandments of God and hold to the testimony of Jesus.”

    But all of this analysis of the text, as I mentioned at the start, is not addressing the main loci of difference between us. The larger issues are with our differing approaches to Scripture and how we believe it is meant to be read.

  3. After some further reflection, my primary objection to the above article can be summed up by saying that it commits the strawman fallacy. It does not argue against what the Catholic Church actually believes about the relationship between Revelation 12 and the Assumption (and, I would venture to say, it also strawmans the Orthodox position). In addition to the evidence that I presented for this in my previous comment, here is what Garrigou-Lagrange wrote on the matter: “It is not possible to prove directly from Sacred Scripture nor from primitive documents that the privilege of the Assumption was revealed explicitly to any of the Apostles, for no text of scripture affirms it explicitly, and there is a similar absence of explicit testimony in the primitive documents” (emphasis mine).

    It is somewhat ironic that the article commits this fallacy, as elsewhere on this site (/common-fallacies) I found the following:

    “Strawmanning is probably the worst of all argument strategies. I’d venture to say that it’s the most common, too. You commit the strawman fallacy if you don’t make the effort to find out what your opponent believes, and instead just respond to what you think he believes.

    Typically, that means that you’re responding to a less nuanced position than the one your opponent actually holds. Not only are you demonstrating your ignorance to your opponent and to any informed listener, but you’re also failing to provide any reasons for why their view is wrong” (emphasis mine).

  4. Hi Landon,
    Thanks for the comment. I’ll try respond to some of the things you said.
    I agree with you that the Marian doctrines aren’t the fundamental cause of division between Catholics and other traditions. When I wrote “this division” I was referring specifically to the division on the subject of the Marian doctrines.

    I also agree that Revelation 12 it hasn’t been used much in the official teaching on the Bodily Assumption by the Catholic Church. I’ve appreciated the fact that the magisterium seems to have been wise enough to not predicate the dogma on this passage. I didn’t write “all Catholics”, but what I should have written is “some Catholics”. I will clarify that in the article. This passage is used a lot in lower level Catholic teachings which is what I wanted to address, particularly the many YouTube apologists. I also realize that most, if not all, do not try predicate the whole dogma on this passage alone, so perhaps I should have written “one of the proof texts” instead of “a prooftext”. I will update that as well.

    I realize our differences on the Bodily Assumption are somewhat consequential of deeper differences. We’ve addressed these more fundamental differences, such as the source of Christian doctrine (/who-can-define-the-christian-faith/) and development of doctrine (/development-of-doctrine/) but we think it’s worthwhile to respond to popular apologetic arguments as well.

    Regarding the double fulfillment, as I stated in the article, someone may agree with my argument for the church and believe it is also Mary, as you obviously do. I don’t believe I argued that is cannot be a double fulfillment, rather that the evidence doesn’t seem to lead to that conclusion and certainly doesn’t give support to the bodily assumption even if it is a double fulfillment.
    As far as undercutting my own point, my argument is that if you argue that the details given about the woman can be taken as strictly symbolically (as Catholics do about the birth pangs) and not literally, where is your warrant for not allowing the same rule to apply to the woman in general? I’m saying Catholics undercut their own argument and use a double standard.
    If someone wants to take the woman as also Mary (which I’ve left a little room for), you should attribute to her only the details we have evidence for (mother of the Christ child) or give a consistent rule in deciding which details to take and which to leave. If you can attribute one point to her without evidence, such as the heavenly origin, why not the rest as well? At this point what seems going on is, that Catholics make an arbitrary selection of the details taken to fit the narrative that Catholics are trying to read into the text. I still agree that not every detail need apply but there should be a consistent method applied to the text as I believe I tried to argue for in the article.

    You mention that Mary’s flight to Egypt as a fulfillment of the woman’s flight into the wilderness. That is an interesting thought but I’m not sure that it fits. Mary fled to Egypt for the safety of the Christ-child, not because of her own safety. The woman in Revelation 12 seems to flee for her own safety’s sake. An added complication is that I don’t think the length of time spent in the wilderness matches Mary’s time in Egypt. Although to be fair I haven’t spent much time researching it.

    1. Greg,

      Thanks for the reply. If all you mean by “division” was “division on the subject of the Marian doctrines,” then your initial paragraph is unclear, because if you include that clarification you get this sentence: “The doctrines about Mary have been pushed by the Catholic and Orthodox churches to the point that, if other traditions do not accept the doctrines, they believe these traditions to be erring in the faith and the cause of this division [on the subject of the Marian doctrines].” Saying that disagreement about Marian doctrines is the cause of division about Marian doctrines is almost tautological. But I do appreciate your clarification on this point.

      In regards to “some Catholics,” at points in the article you say things like “Catholics claim.” I’m not sure that it is sufficient to replace this with “some Catholics claim” if you want your readers to be honestly informed about the Catholic position. It would be more accurate to say “some Catholics on YouTube who are misrepresenting Catholicism on this issue claim,” and even with that qualifier it would be nice if you could give an actual example of a Catholic apologist making such an argument. I think that you would appreciate the same treatment for Anabaptists. If I were to write an article examining the argument of an Anabaptist with a YouTube channel who didn’t quite grasp the actual Anabaptist position on a certain issue, and I didn’t make clear in the article that this was not the “official” Anabaptist position that I was arguing against, then you could legitimately object and say that I was misrepresenting the Anabaptist tradition.

      I think we also might disagree somewhat on what a “prooftext” is – if someone uses the Marian symbolism of Revelation 12 in the context of a discussion about the Assumption, I would not label that “prooftexting” if the person is not actually attempting to prove the doctrine from that passage in isolation, and if they are not mistreating the passage. My point is that “prooftexting” is usually a pejorative term when it comes to describing Biblical interpretation, and it doesn’t seem conducive to good dialogue to label another tradition’s use of a certain passage as “prooftexting” if they have an honest disagreement about the correct interpretation of that passage. But this is somewhat hypothetical – if you give an example of an actual argument that a Catholic is making, I might very well agree with you that their use of Revelation 12 could accurately be labeled “prooftexting.”

      Regarding your statements about the necessity of “a consistent rule in deciding which details to take and which to leave,” I simply don’t think such a rule exists for Scripture. I think that this is a fairly obvious point that I don’t want to get too sidetracked on. If passage X describes entity Y, and some of the details of X in the description of Y seem to indicate that Y is symbolic/representative of entity Z that is described elsewhere in Scripture, I don’t know of any general agreed-upon rule that specifies what specific details of passage X must apply either “literally” or “symbolically” to entity Z. It depends on the literary details of passage X, what else we know about from various sources about entities Y and Z, and any number of methods of tradition-specific reasoning could be used to arrive at some sort of “partitioning” of the details of passage X (and even then I’m not sure that an explicit literal/symbolic separation doesn’t start to break down at points for some passages).

      And I’m not sure what exactly you mean by attributing to Mary “only the details we have evidence for.” For example, the passage describes the woman as having a crown of 12 stars. Since the Catholic tradition does recognize Mary as the woman in some sense, Mary is often depicted in Catholic iconography with 12 stars around her head. I’m not sure what other “evidence” would look like that could justify applying this detail of the passage to Mary, other than simply noting that the woman in the passage is Mary (again, not only Mary, but this we already covered), and I don’t see the necessity for such evidence. Maybe you do, and you think that it would not be correct to portray Mary with a crown of 12 stars (setting aside for the moment our differences on iconography), but remember that I’m not claiming the passage “proves” anything about Mary that you viewing things from the standpoint of a non-Catholic tradition would be logically compelled to agree with.

      On the flight to Egypt, I’m not trying to be dogmatic about it, and I don’t claim that there is any sort of rigorous argument that proves the connection – I just see clear literary parallels. The time probably doesn’t match up – time periods (and even the time-ordering of different events) in Revelation are notoriously symbolic/non-literal.

      I did see some of the other articles you have on this site about more fundamental disagreements, and I plan to respond to them at some point.

  5. For more on the Egypt connection, here is the extended context of the brief quotation I gave in my initial comment from Peter Leithart:

    “The allegory as a whole is not an allegory of Mary’s experience. Yet the initial moments of the allegory fit the early portions of the Gospel story as told in Matthew 1–2. After Mary gives birth to Jesus, a murderous Pharaoh-like king, Herod, seeks to devour his rival … Like the heavenly mother, Joseph and Mary flee to safety in Egypt, an episode that Matthew connects directly with the exodus as retold by Hosea (‘out of Egypt I called My Son,’ Matt. 2:15; Hos. 11:1). Herod is the dragon’s agent, a point to keep in mind as we move into the following chapter (13:11-18). More generally, Mary belongs in the company of new Eves. Mary is the representative Israelite, the embodiment of Zion, the virgin bride and mother who receives the word of the Lord in faith and gives human shape to God. But the heavenly Queen Mother cannot only be Mary. The dragon did not attack Mary after Jesus’s exaltation, but instead assaulted the maternal community, Israel or the church (cf. Jn 19:27, where she is mother of Jesus and of the Beloved Disciple). If not only Mary, the woman is also Mary, Mary as ἔσχατος in a line of miracle mothers, as the embodiment of the virginity of Israel’s faithful remnant. Mary’s labor completes the history of Mother Israel’s labor, all of it necessary to form Christ in this world.”

    He goes on to say:
    “The allusions to Psalm 2, noted above, point in this direction. Parentage is one of the striking divergences between the Psalm and the Apocalypse. In the Psalm, there is no mother, only the divine Father Yahweh, who begets … the Son. In Revelation 12, there is no father at all, only a husbandless woman, laboring to give birth under the watchful, hostile eye of the dragon. Yahweh’s begetting and the woman’s bearing have the same result, the birth-exaltation of the divine Son. Reading Revelation 12 through the lens of the Psalm strengthens the association of the woman with Mary. Like Mary, the woman bears a divine Son who has no human father.”

  6. Greg,

    In the above quotations Leithart demonstrates why I find your request for a “consistent method applied to the text” to be somewhat puzzling. He applies the birth and the flight to Mary, but not the attack after Jesus’ exaltation. If you were to ask him for a consistent method providing “evidence” for this separation of application, I think he would be a bit puzzled. He would probably just say what he said initially that “The allegory as a whole is not an allegory of Mary’s experience.” Some parts fit and some don’t. There isn’t some more general “consistent rule in deciding which details to take and which to leave.”

  7. Landon,
    I understand that some of the positions and claims I addressed are not official Catholic teaching. This is why I didn’t label it as such, nor have I said this debunks all that Catholicism has said about the dogma. My argument is simply that Revelation 12 doesn’t teach the Bodily Assumption and along the way I pointed out that it doesn’t support a few more minor points such as Mary being queen of heaven. I’m curious where you feel I have misrepresented the official Catholic position in a case where I said “Catholics say” or “sometimes Catholics say”?

    I fail to see why it isn’t permissible to call out pop apologists even if they represent an incorrect teaching that doesn’t accurately represent their church. If I were to say that they are representing their church accurately when they aren’t, I can definitely seeing it being problematic. If I have done so I’ll be happy to correct it if you’ll point it out to me. And if there are Anabaptists out there misrepresenting the actual position of the rest of Anabaptism you have my encouragement to correct them. If we truly want truth to win, I think we would all benefit from it.

    To the point of only attributing to Mary the details we have evidence for, I mean just that. I’m not sure why this would be hard to understand. I don’t see Catholic iconography being evidence for Mary being seen of queen of heaven in Revelation 12. I see you haven’t claimed it is and I find that commendable.

    In response to the Peter Leithart quote. I don’t know that our argument hinges on the point of “the flight” because whether there is a correlation between Mary’s flight to Egypt and the Rev. 12 woman’s flight into the wilderness or not, it wouldn’t prove our other points of disagreement either way. But my main point in response to the quote is this; I can agree with the statement that “some parts fit and some parts don’t”. That is my argument. The difference is probably in what supportive evidence do we need to make a “part fit?”. I submit the Catholic Church’s “say so” and speculative typology with no additional support isn’t sufficient. I also agree with “The allegory as a whole is not an allegory of Mary’s life”. The consistent rule is- apply what we have evidence for and don’t apply what we don’t have evidence for. I’m glad he seems to agree on that point.

    1. Greg,

      I think it is fine (and admirable) to call out pop apologists who are not correctly representing Catholic teaching on this, and I applaud your efforts to do so, but you didn’t make clear in the original article that you were doing that. It is my contention that an Anabaptist reader who was uniformed about Catholicism would read the original article and come away with the impression that the teaching of the Catholic Church on the Assumption uses Revelation 12 as a prooftext. If you honestly don’t think the article conveyed that sense, then I won’t pursue the point further.

      I don’t think you quite understood my point about “evidence” but I also don’t think further discussion on in that direction would be beneficial. Though I’m happy to answer any questions you have about my position.

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