When did the Woman Clothed with the Sun become the Virgin Mary?


In the dogmatic statment on the Assumption of the Mother of God, the pope of Rome cites in support:

Moreover, 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.

When did this identification of the Virgin Mary with the woman come about? As the belief of the Assumption did not appear as a universal belief until the 5th century (it being the local belief of Jerusalem until then, when it published their belief), I know it didn’t show up until after then.

When do we have our first reference, of our first writer, to the Virgin in identifying her with the Woman of Revelation 12?

Btw I have my objections to the identification, which have been posted in ECF, my usual haunt. I’ve save them here for the moment.


Since the book of revelation was not general;ly approved as scripture until the late 4th Century, You won’t find much in the way of official interpretations of it before then. But interpretation of the Woman as Mary began soon after.


I’m not sure what you mean by this distinction between local and universal belief, but there has never been any officially taught belief in the Catholic Church contrary to Our Lady’s Assumption.


The Assumption was only a local Tradition in Jerusalem until Chalcedon. After that Church shared this information at the Council of Chalcedon, then all the other Churches accepted and celebrated it.


Interesting point about the canonization. I hadn’t thought of that before.

Can you cite some interpretations that early, that identify her with Mary?


I don’t often rely on ECF concerning the woman in Revelation 12:1. I merely use logic in this reasoning.

The woman can be identify as Mary because the woman in Revelation 12:1 gave birth to a male child, who will rule all nations with an iron rod. This child was taken up into heaven and to his throne.

We know from Scripture that Jesus is hails from the Davidic lineage. He is also a king. We also know that he will rule all nations because he is in fact the King of Kings, and Lord of Lords. We also know that Jesus ascended to his Father, and is now sitteth at the Right hand of the Father.

So logically speaking, since the male child is Jesus. We both know that Mary is the mother of Jesus. We can identify the woman in Revelation 12:1-5 as Mary. You also have to take into account that the Book of Revelation is written by St. John the Apostle.

In Gospel of John, he often describe Mary as woman in the wedding feast at Cana, Woman, what is that to me and to thee? my hour is not yet come.” and again at the foot at the cross. “Woman behold your son.”

Is this merely a coincidence? I think John knew what he was writing. I believe the woman in Revelation 12:1 is Mary. There are also some statues and paintings of Mary depicting her as a woman with a moon under her feet.


Although I don’t have the book myself, this is a quote from Scott Hahn’s 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.””

I’ll see if I can dig up some original sources for the quotes by Sts. Augustine and Ephrem the Syrian


I’m sorry I can’t cite early writings, but hope this adds to the discussion. If we go back to Psalm 2:9 we see the Messiah “rule them with an iron rod”

If we jump to **Rev 11:19 **we see “the ark of His covenat. . . within His Temple” in heaven. Remember Exod 26:33 the ark is where God took up his abode. Then John immediately notices a “Woman clothed in the sun.”

This is the woman who’s womb nurtured the child “with an iron rod” Rev 12:5 making Her the perfect “ark of the covenant.”

Scripture and Church history point to one and only one woman at this point; Mary, the Mother of Jesus. No one other than Mary fits this description.


My understanding is that John of Patmos may not have been John the Apostle.



That’s according to modern liberal theologians. The Early Church Fathers believe the John of Patmos is John the Apostle.


I posted this on another thread in a question to Manny75. This quote is from the New American Bible which if you don’t know is a catholic bible. Here is what they say about Revelations 12.

2 [1] The woman adorned with the sun, the moon, and the stars (images taken from Genesis 37:9-10) symbolizes God’s people in the Old and the New Testament. The Israel of old gave birth to the Messiah (Rev 12:5) and then became the new Israel, the church, which suffers persecution by the dragon (Rev 12:6, 13-17); cf Isaiah 50:1; 66:7; Jeremiah 50:12. This corresponds to a widespread myth throughout the ancient world that a goddess pregnant with a savior was pursued by a horrible monster; by miraculous intervention, she bore a son who then killed the monster.

Even catholic scholars agree with protestants on this.


That is true. I’m sure you probably gotten this from a lot of Catholics here.

Most Catholic theologians and scholars believe the woman in Revelation 12:1 as one of the following:

  1. Israel.

  2. The Church.

  3. Eve.

  4. Mary.

All of the interpretation is correct. However, if you were to identify the individuals in Rev 12:1-5, like I said time and time again, the child is Jesus, the Dragon is the Devil, and the Woman is Mary.

You already know my views, I don’t think I need to repeat it more than once.


You’re sidestepping. If your position is that the Church has officially taught contrary to the Assumption of Our Lady, whether before Chalcedon or after, whether in or out of Jerusalem, prove that. My statement stands: there has never been any officially taught belief in the Catholic Church contrary to Our Lady’s Assumption. (Beliefs held by persons in heresy do not reflect Catholic teaching.)


My point in referencing a catholic source is that there are a number of different interpretations in the catholic church on this and other issues. There is not just one interpretation in the catholic church. Since many want to accuse protestants of doctrinal chaos so to the same can be said of the catholic church not only today but through its history. The charge of so many different denominations is the result to sola scriptura while people fail to realize in that even with an infallible interpreter in the catholic church you still have different interpretations.


You did reference Catholic sources. Have you ever bother to look on the writings of the Pope?

Here is one.

“A great sign,” thus the Apostle St. John describes a vision divinely sent him, appears in the heavens: “A woman clothed with the sun, and with the moon under her feet and a crown of twelve stars upon her head” (Apoc. xii., 1). Everyone knows that this woman signified the Virgin Mary, the stainless one who brought forth our Head." - Pope St. Pius X, Ad Diem illum Laetissimum



With regards to this passage it is not so much a matter of different interpretations but of multiple interpretations. A church with a different interpretation would say Israel is correct, the Church, Eve, and Mary are wrong. The Catholic position would be that Israel, the Church, Eve, and Mary may all be correct ways to understand this passage. This is not to say, of course, that this passage may not most perfectly reflect one of these figures, and that figure is Mary.


As much as I loath it, I have to stick up for the liberal theologians: there were early doubts about the identity of John of Patmos. They are, however irrelevant.


Can’t prove it because the position is that until Jerusalem had spoken, the Church hadn’t taught ANYTHING on the subject.


The notes in the New American Bible are NOT authoritative in any way. They are the work of Liberal translators and teach all sorts of liberal theories in contrast to Church teaching eg that the Gospels were made up by the writers out of bits and pieces of legend and falsehoods!

The identification of the woman of Revelation with Israel is a very modern one - not seen until recent protestant scholars took it up.

The ideas of the Woman being the Church and Mary are very old, and there is no contradiction between them, since Mary is a type of the Church. This was as stated by Augustine of Hippo…

From the Treatise on the Creed, addressed to Catechumens

**Ye are as yet the unborn offspring of a great Mother. Our holy Mother the Church hath by the most sacred Sign of the Cross received you into her womb; and from thence she is now about to bring you forth, a she hath already spiritually brought forth your brethren, with great joy. But until, through the washing of regeneration, she bringeth you forth into the true light, she feedeth you in her womb with such food as becometh your condition, and so in joy matureth her children for the glad moment of her delivery. For this your Mother is not doomed, by the sentence of Eve, to bring forth children in sorrow; which children themselves oftentimes come forth weeping rather than rejoicing. Rather doth your spiritual Mother annul the sentence of your earthly mother: Eve, by disobedience endowed her offspring with death; the Church by obedience, giveth them newness of life. All the mystic prayers and ceremonies which have been and are still being performed over you by the ministry of the servants of God, (the exorcisms, the prayers, the spiritual canticles, the breathings upon, the wearing of haircloth, the prostrations the baring of the feet, the dread which must come over you, even though there is nothing to fear, ) all these things, I say unto you, are the nourishment which ye are drawing from your Mother while as yet ye are in her womb, that at your baptismal birth she may be able to present you strong and laughing babes unto Christ. **
Ye have also received the creed, which protecteth your travailing Mother against the venom of the dragon. In the Apocalypse of the Apostle John it is written: And the dragon stood before the Woman which was ready to be delivered, for to devour her child as it was born. That this dragon is the devil ye all know. Ye likewise know that by the Woman is signified the Virgin Mary, who, herself a Virgin, bore our Virgin-Head, and who is revealed unto us as a type of the Holy Church; for even as Mary bore a Son and yet remained a Virgin, so the Church doth in all times give birth to her members, and yet is ever presented a chaste virgin to Christ. I have undertaken with God’s help, to expound to you every clause of the Creed, so as to instil what each containeth into your minds. Your hearts also are ready, for the enemy hath been driven out of your hearts.


1. That identification is only one of several possible ones in Catholic tradition

  1. It does not represent the whole tradition of interpretation of that passage in Catholicism

  2. The dogmatic definition defines that the BVM was assumed into Heaven body & soul - it is not a definition of the meaning of the text in Revelation as such, but an application of that text to that particular event. The Pope was not defining about Rev. 12; he was defining something about the BVM: as the terms in which the definition is expressed show. The formula preceding those terms shows that he intended to define, & they show what was being defined.

Everything else in the Bull before:
*]"…we pronounce, declare, and define it to be a divinely revealed dogma: that the Immaculate Mother of God, the ever Virgin Mary, having completed the course of her earthly life, was assumed body and soul into heavenly glory. "[/LIST]is outside the scope of the definition. The quotation shows is what is being defined - nothing before it is, & nothing after.

Everything that precedes that formula is theological argument for the thing that that Pope will define at the end of the Bull - & theological argument is not part of the definition; it is theological argument, & it may or may not be valid as such. Popes have to do their homework, but even if they don’t, it is the defining act, not the arguments for the thing defined, that is the motive for believing in the truth of the doctrine that is defined. So even if all the argument were totally demolished, that would leave the validity of the definition, & the truth of what it defined as true, untouched. The theological arguments used gain such credibility as they may have from human industry - not from the gift of infallibility - infallibility does not “kick in” until the definition itself is reached. Until that point, the Pope is as is little or as much infallible as any other bishop or theologian; theological argument is a human activity - infallibility in teaching (which for Popes, the bishops in union with them, & Councils includes the act of definition) is a form of Divine assistance & a Divine gift.

The industry of theologians, however great, is incapable of being a sufficient basis for a definition; its arguments can always be undermined, because it has no supernatural guarantee of being free of error - unlike a definition. No amount of theology can ever make a position more than highly probable - a definition cannot rely on that, & it doesn’t.


  1. The definition is not an interpretation of Rev 12. The Pope is acting here as a Teacher - not as an exegete writing a commentary: these are two completely distinct functions in the Church, & should not be confused. So the definition leaves Catholic exegetes free to interpret all of the book as the requirements of scientific exegesis may require. There is no necessary link between what they think as exegetes of Rev. 12, & what they believe as Catholics. So they are entirely at liberty to interpret the woman as (say) the Church, while not being at liberty as believers to reject the dogma to which part of that chapter has been applied.

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