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Old Feb 7, '07, 7:34 am
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Default Revelation 12 again. Woman Clothed with the Sun

Who is the Woman Clothed in the Sun of Revelation 12?

This is actually an interesting apologetics question, since there is a clear difference of opinion between Catholics and most protestants (a few prominent protestant exegetes do adhere to the Catholic position). The “Woman” in Revelation 12 is important because of the position she is given in the book and in heaven by St. John (she is depicted as the “Queen of Heaven”). Here is the text:



Revelation 12:1-6. 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 12 stars; she was with child and she cried out in her pangs of birth, in anguish for delivery. And another portent appeared in heaven: behold, a great red dragon, with seven heads and ten horns, and seven diadems upon his heads. 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; 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, 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.


Agreeing on the Basics
Let’s start with a few things we can agree on: the Woman is giving birth to Jesus and the dragon is the devil. Virtually all will agree on that. We can also agree that in some respects the woman represents the Church, which gives birth to faith and children of God. However, the question here is: who does John intend the woman to be? And at this, the question becomes very complex. As Stefano Manelli points out in All Generations Shall Call Me Blessed:



According to one scholar, “not two exegetes are in perfect agreement about the twelfth chapter of Revelation.” The interpretation of this splendid, dramatic page of the Book of Revelation, in fact, has been and remains difficult because of the complexity of elements composing it, because of the variety of its literary genres (prophetical, apocalyptical, Johannine), and because of the multiple references to the Old and New Testament.
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"They abstain from the Eucharist and from prayer, because they do not admit that the Eucharist is the flesh of our Savior Jesus Christ,.." - St. Ignatius of Antioch, "Letter to the Smyrnaeans", paragraph 6. circa 80-110 A.D." - Manny
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Old Feb 7, '07, 7:35 am
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Default Re: Revelation 12 again. Woman Clothed with the Sun

So we can all agree that it is complex and we probably will not completely understand the text until we are in heaven with the writer! There are, as pointed out, multiple references to the Old Testament here: Genesis 3:15, Isaiah 7:14, Song of Songs 6:9, Psalms 2:9, and Micah 5:2, for example. And these must all be considered in a full analysis.

The Logical Conclusion
Now with those basics set, we can agree on two of the three players. It seems almost too obvious to stick the Virgin Mary as the third player, but frankly she fits. Remember, she gave birth to Christ and then fled through the desert (three and a half years) during Herod’s slaughter of the innocents, which can be interpreted as the devil throwing down the “stars.” It is, I concede, an imperfect fit, but clearly one of the two best fits for the passage. As Manelli also states:



A more critical analysis of the theories [concerning this passage], however, shows that as in yesteryear, so today there are but two basic interpretations of the “woman” of Revelation 12, namely: Mary and the Church. Traditionally, there has been “a pendulum movement between the two interpretations,” writes I. de La Potterie, “and neither of the two aspects can be totally excluded in the interpretation of this mysterious symbol.”


And, as Cardinal Newman points out:


The image of the woman, according to general Scripture usage, is too bold and prominent for a mere personification. Scripture is not fond of allegories. We have indeed frequent figures there, as when the sacred writers speak of the arm or sword of the Lord. So, too, when they speak of Jerusalem or Samaria in the feminine, or of the Church as a bride or as a vine. But they are not much given to dressing up abstract ideas or generalizations in personal attributes. This is the classical rather than the scriptural style. Xenophon places Hercules between Virtue and Vice, represented as women.


This does not remove the value of interpreting the woman as the Church, however I think there is enough evidence available to say that one interpretation of Revelation 12 must be the woman as Mary, Queen of Heaven.

Why Must Mary be Accepted?
There are numerous reasons why Mary the Mother of God must be seen in this passage, but I’ll point out the key ones:




She was the Mother of Jesus and the Protoevangelium (Genesis 3:15) puts her as the devil’s adversary.

The term “Woman” is used throughout Scripture to refer to Mary: Genesis 3:15, Galatians 4:4, John 2:1-11, and John 19:25-27 (note the last two, along with Revelation, were written by the Apostle John)

She fled after the birth into the desert wilderness.


Again, this isn’t a perfect interpretation, just as putting the church as the woman is not a perfect interpretation. The best answer is seeing the woman as primarily Mary and a model of the Church. In Christian history Mary was always seen as representative of the Church, so this fits perfectly. As Scott Hahn points out in Hail, Holy Queen:


The woman of the Apocalypse is the ark of the covenant in the heavenly temple; and that woman is the Virgin Mary. This does not, however, preclude other readings of Revelation 12. Scripture, after all, is not a code to be cracked, but a mystery we could never plumb in a lifetime.
In the fourth centry, for example, Saint Ambrose saw the woman clearly as the Virgin Mary, “because she is mother of the Church, for she brought forth Him who is the Head of the Church”; Yet Ambrose also saw Revelation’s woman as an allegory of the Church herself. Saint Ephrem of Syria reached the same conclusion, fearing no contradiction: “The Virgin Mary is, again, the figure of the Church . . . Let us call the Church by the name of Mary; for she is worth of the double name.”


The Queen of Heaven, the Mother of God
In the end, we must say that the woman in Revelation was intended to represent Mary – at least as one of two symbols. I believe the evidence strongly suggests she is the primary symbol and her motherhood of the Church is the secondary symbol. It is silly to try and say she has no part of the passage, especially once you concede the other two participants: Jesus and the Devil.
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Call me Emmanuel, or Manny.

"They abstain from the Eucharist and from prayer, because they do not admit that the Eucharist is the flesh of our Savior Jesus Christ,.." - St. Ignatius of Antioch, "Letter to the Smyrnaeans", paragraph 6. circa 80-110 A.D." - Manny
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