In the first half of the show we cover the Nestorian heresy and the Council of Ephesus. We then move on to talk about something that often gets overlooked: the role of the Queen Mother in the ancient Near East and then in the Old Testament (giberah). In particular, we look at royal maternity in the Davidic kingdom. We then turn to see how this forms a possible backdrop for understanding Mary's role in the New Testament--i.e., the Mother of the Son of David.
Below you'll find an outline of some of the items discussed plus more:
Podcast: The Feast of Mary the Mother of God: Theotokos and Queen Mother
The History of the Feast
January 1 today is the "Solemnity" of Mary, the Mother of God (go here for a description of how a "Solemnity" differs from a "Feast Day" or a "Memorial"). Originally, January 1 was celebrated as the "Circumcision of Jesus"--it is the 8th day from Christmas, the day Jewish males are to be circumcised.
Of course, Mary's role as Theotokos was recognized early on (see below). It is celebrated by the Byzantine Church on December 26 Coptic Christians celebrate this feast on January 16. In the West it has been celebrated in different places on different dates (in France=January 18; Spain=December 18). Interestingly, even before the seventh century B.C., the Maternity of Mary was celebrated in Rome during the octave of Christmas!
January 1 was made the Day of Peace by Pope Paul VI. He had the following to say in his encyclical Marialis Cultus (1974):
"This celebration, assigned to January 1 in conformity with the ancient liturgy of the city of Rome, is meant to commemorate the part played by Mary in this mystery of salvation. It is meant also to exalt the singular dignity which this mystery brings to the 'holy Mother . . . through whom we were found worthy . . . to receive the Author of life.' It is likewise a fitting occasion for renewed adoration of the newborn Prince of Peace, for listening once more to the glad tidings of the angels, and for imploring from God, through the Queen of Peace, the supreme gift of peace. For this reason . . . we have instituted the World Day of Peace, an observance that is gaining increasing support and is already bringing forth fruits of peace in the hearts of many." (no. 5)The Significance of the Marian Doctrines
"What the Catholic faith believes about Mary is based on what it believes about Christ, and what it teaches about Mary illumines in turn its faith in Christ." (Catechism of the Catholic Church 487).
- Mary as the Mother of God (Theotokos)
- Long-standing terminology
- Hippolytus of Rome, Discourse on the End of the World 1 (A.D. 217): “[T]o all generations they [the prophets] have pictured forth the grandest subjects for contemplation and for action. Thus, too, they preached of the advent of God in the flesh to the world, his advent by the spotless and God-bearing (theotokos) Mary in the way of birth and growth, and the manner of his life and conversation with men, and his manifestation by baptism, and the new birth that was to be to all men, and the regeneration by the laver [of baptism].”
- Peter of Alexandria, The Genuine Acts of Peter of Alexandria (A.D. 305): “They came to the church of the most blessed Mother of God, and ever-virgin Mary. . .”
- Many other 4th cent. writers! (i.e., Methodius, Cyril of Jerusalem, Ephraim, Athanasius, Epiphanius, Ambrose, Gregory of Nazianzen, Jerome. See Mark Shea, Mary, Mother of the Son (3 vols; El Cajon: Catholic Answers, 2009), 2:20–23.
- Nestorius Made Patriarch of Constantinople (428)
- Pro-Nicaean Bishop: Expelled Arians and other heretics; affirmed divinity of Christ!
- 429: preaches against Theotokos (Mary is “Mother of Christ”, not “Mother of God”)
- Mary is not Theotokos (God-bearer) but Christotokos (Christ-bearer)
- Theotokos makes Mary sound like a goddess
- The Bible never uses the term “mother of God”
- Incarnation: Divine Son of God was united to the human person Jesus
- The man Jesus Christ was the temple of the Divine Son of God
- Incarnation not union of two natures; Jesus and the Son are essentially two persons
- Desire to separate divinity from humanity
- Mary is not just mother of Jesus’ human nature
- Mary is the Mother of the Person of the Son
- The Son is one person with two natures―one human one divine
- Downplays truth of Christ: Jesus is God
- Mary is his Mother, ergo, the “Mother of God”
- Downplays Christ’s humanity
- Marian doctrine meant to preserve Christological truth; Mary is not a goddess!
- Typical in ANE context (vs. wife of the king)**
- Due to polygamy***
- Ancient Institution****
- e.g., Persia: Queen [Mother’s ] advice at the writing on the wall (Daniel 5:10–12)*****
- Title melek only given to king
- Term used: giberah (“mistress,” “great lady”) (fem. of gebhir: “lord”, “master”)
- Never used for a “wife”
- Corresponds to adon (adonai)*****
- Associated with crown and throne (see Jer 13:18 below)
“[Asa] also removed Maacah his mother from being queen mother because she had an abominable image made for Asherah. . .” (1 Kgs 15:13)
“Even Maacah, his mother, King Asa removed from being queen mother because she had made an abominable image for Asherah.” (2 Chr 15:16)
“Jehu met the kinsmen of Ahaziah king of Judah, and he said, ‘Who are you?’ And they answered, ‘We are the kinsmen of Ahaziah, and we came down to visit the royal princes and the sons of the queen mother.’” (2 Kgs 10:1)
“Say to the king and the queen mother: ‘Take a lowly seat, for your beautiful crown has come down from your head.’ (Jer 13:18)
“This was after King Jeconiah, and the queen mother, the eunuchs, the princes of Judah and Jerusalem, the craftsmen, and the smiths had departed from Jerusalem.” (Jer 29:2)
“The fact that his mother is listed but not his wives is noteworthy. Since the queen mother is listed with the officials in describing the political fall, the author of 2 Kings recognizes that the mother of the king holds an important office that is worthy of note.”—Timothy Gray
The Mother of the Son of David
“So Bathshe'ba went to King Solomon, to speak to him on behalf of Adoni'jah. And the king rose to meet her, and bowed down to her; then he sat on his throne, and had a seat brought for the king's mother; and she sat on his right. 20 Then she said, ‘I have one small request to make of you; do not refuse me.’ And the king said to her, ‘Make your request, my mother; for I will not refuse you.’” (1 Kings 2:19–20)
Symbolism of the Continuity of the Kingdom
- Embodies promises to David—Kingdom to be everlasting
- All kings of Judah except three mentioned with a Queen Mother
Jehoshaphat the son of Asa began to reign over Judah in the fourth year of Ahab king of Israel. 42 Jehoshaphat was thirty-five years old when he began to reign, and he reigned twenty-five years in Jerusalem. His mother’s name was Azubah the daughter of Shilhi. (1 Kgs 22:41–42)
In the twelfth year of Joram the son of Ahab, king of Israel, Ahaziah the son of Jehoram, king of Judah, began to reign. 26 Ahaziah was twenty-two years old when he began to reign, and he reigned one year in Jerusalem. His mother’s name was Athaliah; she was a granddaughter of Omri king of Israel. (2 Kgs 8:25–26)
Ahaziah was forty-two years old when he began to reign, and he reigned one year in Jerusalem. His mother’s name was Athaliah, the granddaughter of Omri. 3 He also walked in the ways of the house of Ahab, for his mother was his counselor in doing wickedly. (2 Chr 22:2–3)
(See also 2 Kgs 12:1; 14:1; 15:1-2; 15:32-33; 18:1-2; 2 Kgs 22:1; 21:19; 22:1; 23:31; 23:36; 24:8)
“On the throne the queen mother represented the king’s continuity with the past, the visible affirmation of god’s ongoing plan for his people, the channel through which the Lord’s dynastic promise to David was fulfilled.”--George Montague, Our Father, Our Mother: Mary and the Faces of God (Steubenville: Franciscan University Press, 1990), 92
Isaiah 7:14: “Therefore the Lord himself will give you a sign. Behold, a young woman shall conceive and bear a son, and shall call his name Immanu-el.”
*The definitive work on this subject is Edward Sri, Queen Mother: A Biblical Theology of Mary’s Queenship (Letter & Spirit Project; Steubenville: Emmaus Road, 2005).
**See, e.g., Roland De Vaux, Ancient Israel: Its Life and Institutions (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1997), 118.
***David Stanley, “The Mother of My Lord,” Worship 34 (1960): 330–32. David Stanley: “the existence of the [king’s] harem made the position of the king’s wives or concubines an anomalous one. Accordingly, it was the mother of that royal son who succeeded his father who, as dowager queen, enjoyed a position of preeminence surpassed only by her son.”
****“It has been pointed out that in Hittite and Ugaritic texts, the mother of the heir-apparent ruled as queen, participating in political, military, economic, and religious affairs. In fact, during a king’s extended absences or upon a king’s death, the queen mother served as regent. Holding an office independent of the king’s, she retained her position even after the death of her son. Although she could be removed from her office for serious crimes against the state, this was a rarity. Her preeminent position is seen in a tale of a Ugaritic king who himself even honors his mother by calling her ‘the Queen, my Mother’ and then falling at her feet as a sign of respect. In Egypt, too, the queen mother was greatly revered. The Egyptians viewed the birth of a Pharaoh as resulting from a sexual union between the Pharaoh’s mother and a deity. The queen mother held great importance because it was therefore believed that she was the instrument for bestowing divine status from the deity to her royal son. Thus, she was honored with titles of dignity, was mentioned with Pharaoh, and participated in the affairs of the state. In Assyria, the king’s mother was an important lady in the royal court. Called ‘the mother of the king, my lord,’ the queen mother received official letters from servants of the state about sacrifices and military operations. The Assyrian version of the Gilgamesh epic portrays the queen mother as ‘versed in all knowledge,’ a wise counselor and a powerful intercessor.” Sri, Queen Mother, 46–47 citing numerous sources in footnotes not produced here.
*****That the queen mother is in view here is affirmed, e.g., by G. Kirwin, The Nature of the Queenship of Mary (Ann Arbor: UMI Dissertation Services, 1973), 302; J. Montogmery, Daniel (Edinburgh: T & T Clark, 1964), 257–58; B. Ahern, “Mother of the Messiah,” 38.