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Skip to comments.Is Mary's Queenship Biblical? [Ecumenical]
Posted on 08/22/2009 1:20:36 PM PDT by Salvation
Is Mary's Queenship Biblical?
By Edward P. Sri
Marys title as "Queen of Heaven and Earth" is a great scandal to many non-Catholic Christians. After all, the Bible doesnt mention anything about there being a queen in Gods kingdom. All this royal attention Catholics give to Marywhether its singing "Hail, holy queen enthroned above" or portraying Mary in statues and paintings with a crown on her headseems to many non-Catholics to detract from the royalty of Christ, who alone is King of Kings. Besides, how could Mary be a queen, since she is not the wife of the Jesus but only his mother?
One biblical theme sheds light on these questions and serves as a key for unlocking the mystery of Marys queenship: the Old Testament tradition of the "queen mother" in the Davidic kingdom.
In the monarchy of King David, as well as in other ancient kingdoms of the Near East, the mother of the ruling king held an important office in the royal court and played a key part in the process of dynastic succession. In fact, the kings mother ruled as queen, not his wife.
The great pre-eminence of the kings mother may seem odd from our modern Western perspective, in which we think of a queen as being the wife of a king. However, recall that most ancient Near-Eastern kings practiced polygamy. King Solomon had seven hundred wives (1 Kgs. 11:3)imagine the chaos in the royal court if all seven hundred were awarded the queenship! But since each king had only one mother, one can see the practical wisdom in bestowing the queenship upon her.
A number of Old Testament passages reflect the important role of the queen mother in the Davidic kingdom. For example, almost every time the narrative of 1 and 2 Kings introduces a new monarch in Judah, it mentions the kings mother as well, showing the mothers intimate involvement in her royal sons reign. Similarly, the queen mother is listed among the members of the royal court whom king Jehoiachin surrendered to the king of Babylon in 2 Kings 24:12.
Her royal office is also described by the prophet Jeremiah, who tells how the queen mother possessed a throne and a crown, symbolic of her position of authority in the kingdom: "Say to the king and the queen mother: Take a lowly seat, for your beautiful crown has come down from your head. . . . Lift up your eyes and see those who come from the north. Where is the flock that was given you, your beautiful flock?" (Jer. 13:18, 20). It is significant that God directed this oracle about the upcoming fall of Judah to both the king and his mother. Addressing both king and queen mother, Jeremiah portrays her as sharing in her sons rule over the kingdom.
Probably the clearest example of the queen mothers role is that of Bathsheba, wife of David and mother of Solomon. Scholars have noted the excellence of Bathshebas position in the kingdom once she became queen mother during Solomons rule. Compare the humble attitude of Bathsheba as spouse of King David (1 Kgs. 1:1617, 31) with her majestic dignity as mother of the next king, Solomon (1 Kgs. 2:1920). As spouse of the king, Bathsheba bows with her face to the ground and does obeisance to her husband, David, upon entering his royal chamber. In striking contrast, after her son Solomon assumed the throne and she became queen mother, Bathsheba receives a glorious reception upon meeting with her royal son:
"So Bathsheba went to King Solomon, to speak to him on behalf of Adonijah. 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 kings mother; and she sat on his right. 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 Kgs. 2:1920).
This account reveals the sovereign prerogatives of the queen mother. Note how the king rises and bows as she enters. Bathshebas seat at the kings right hand has the greatest significance. In the Bible, the right hand is the place of ultimate honor. This is seen in particular in the messianic Psalm 110 ("Sit at my right hand until I make your enemies your footstool"). In fact, many New Testament passages refer to the right-hand imagery of Psalm 110 to show Christs divinity and his reign with the Father over the whole universe (e.g., Hebrews 1:13). Thus, the queen mother sitting at the kings right hand symbolizes her sharing in the kings royal authority and illustrates how she holds the most important position in the kingdom, second only to the king.
This passage regarding Bathsheba also shows how the queen mother served as an advocate for the people, carrying petitions to the king. In 1 Kings 2:17, Adonijah asks Bathsheba to take a petition for him to King Solomon. He says to her: "Pray ask King Solomonhe will not refuse youto give me Abishag the Shunammite as my wife" (1 Kgs. 2:17). It is clear that Adonijah recognizes the queen mothers position of influence over the king, so he confidently turns to Bathsheba as an intercessor for his request.
A few Old Testament prophecies incorporate the queen mother tradition when telling of the future Messiah. One example is Isaiah 7:14, which originated during a time of dynastic crisis in Judah when Syria and Israel were threatening Jerusalem and plotting to overthrow King Ahaz. God offers Ahaz a sign that the kingdom will continue: "Hear then, O house of David! Is it too little for you to weary men, that you weary my God also? Therefore the Lord himself will give you a sign. Behold, a young woman shall conceive and bear a son and shall call his name Emmanuel" (Isa. 7:1314).
On one level, this passage points to the next king (Hezekiah) as a pledge that the Davidic dynasty will continue despite the threats of invading armies. At the same time, the royal son who is to be named "Emmanuel" points to the future messianic king (cf., Isa. 9:67, 11:12). This is why the New Testament says Jesus fulfills this prophecy from Isaiah (Matt. 1:23).
For our purposes we should note how this prophecy links the mother to her royal son. Since the oracle is addressed specifically to the Davidic household and concerns the continuation of the dynasty, the young woman bearing forth the royal son would be understood as a queen mother. This has implications for our understanding of Mary. Since the mother of the king always ruled as queen mother, we should expect to find the mother of the messianic king playing the role of the true queen mother in the everlasting Kingdom of God.
With this Old Testament background, we can now more clearly see how the New Testament portrays Mary in light of the queen mother tradition.
The Gospel of Matthew has often been called the "Gospel of the Kingdom." Matthew emphasizes that Jesus is "the Son of David," who is the true King of the Jews establishing the "Kingdom of Heaven." With all this kingly imagery, it should not be surprising to find queen mother themes as well.
Right away, Matthew shows explicitly how the infant Jesus is the "Emmanuel" child as prophesied in Isaiah 7:14 (Matt. 1:23). As we saw above, this prophecy links the royal messianic child with his queen mother. Further, Matthew singles out the intimate relationship between the mother and her royal son by using the phrase "the child and his mother" five times in the first two chapters, recalling the close association between queen mother and royal son as described in the Books of Kings. Just as the queen mother was constantly mentioned alongside the Judean kings in 1 and 2 Kings, so Mary is frequently mentioned alongside her royal son, Jesus, in Matthews infancy narrative (Matt. 1:18; 2:11, 13, 14, 20, 21).
We find Mary portrayed against the background of Davidic kingdom motifs in Lukes Gospel as well, especially in his accounts of the Annunciation and Visitation. First, the angel Gabriel is said to appear to a virgin betrothed to a man "of the house of David" (1:27). Then the angel tells Mary, "And behold, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus. He will be great, and will be called Son of the Most High; and the Lord God will give to him the throne of his father David, and he will reign over the house of Jacob forever; and of his kingdom there will be no end" (Luke 1:3133).
Hear the strong Davidic overtones describing Mary and her royal son: a woman from the house of David giving birth to a son who will be the new king whose reign will never end. With echoes from the queen mother tradition of the Davidic kingdom and the mother-son prophecy of Isaiah 7:14, we can conclude that Mary is being given the vocation of queen mother.
Marys royal office is made even more explicit in Lukes account of the Visitation. Elizabeth greets Mary with the title "the mother of my Lord" (Luke 1:43). This title is charged with great queenly significance. In the royal court language of the ancient NearEast, the title "Mother of my Lord" was used to address the queen mother of the reigning king (who himself was addressed as "my Lord"; cf., 2 Sam. 24:21). Thus with this title Elizabeth is recognizing the great dignity of Marys role as the royal mother of the king, Jesus.
Finally, Marys queenship can be seen in the great vision described in Revelation 12: "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; she was with child and she cried out in her pangs of birth, in anguish for delivery" (Rev. 12:12). Who is this newborn child? He is described as the messianic king exercising his dominion. In verse 5, the author of Revelation chose the messianic Psalm 2 to describe how this child will "rule all the nations with a rod of iron" (Rev. 12:5, Ps. 2:9). This royal son is taken up to heaven to sit on a throne (Rev. 12:5), and he ushers in the kingdom of God by defeating the devil: "Now the kingdom of our God has come, for the accuser has been throne down" (12:10). Certainly, this newborn child is the royal Messiah, King Jesus.
In this light it is clear who this woman is who gave birth to the messiah: It is Mary. Some people have interpreted this woman in Revelation 12 as merely a symbol either for the Old Testament people of Israel or for the New Testament Church and therefore have concluded that the woman cannot be an individual (i.e., Mary). However, this "either-or" proposition is foreign to the biblical worldview, in which individuals often symbolically represent collective groups. For instance, Adam represented all humanity (Rom. 5:19), and Jacob stood for all of Israel (Ps. 44:4). Given this biblical notion called "corporate personality," the woman in Revelation 12 should be understood as both an individual (Mary) and a symbol for the people of God.
But for our purposes, once we see that this woman is Mary, the mother of Jesus, it is important to note how she is portrayed as queen in this passage. Her royal office is hinted at by the imagery of the sun, moon, and twelve stars, which recalls the Old Testament story of Josephs dream in which the sun, moon, and stars bow down before him, symbolizing his future authority (Gen. 37:911). Her queenship is made even clearer by the crown of twelve stars on her head. Just like the queen mother in Jeremiah 13:18, here Mary is wearing a crown, symbolizing her royal office in the kingdom of heaven. In sum, Revelation 12 portrays Mary as the new queen mother in the Kingdom of God, sharing in her sons rule over the universe.
We have seen how the Old Testament queen mother tradition serves as an important background for understanding Marys royal office. Indeed, the New Testament portrays Mary as the queen mother par excellence. Thus, prayers, hymns, and art giving honor to Marys queenship are most fitting biblical responses for Christians. In honoring her as queen mother we do not take anything away from Christs glory, but rather we exalt him even more by recognizing the great work he has done in her and through her.
Understanding Mary as queen mother sheds light on her important intercessory role in the Christian life. Just like the queen mother of the Davidic kingdom, Mary serves as advocate for the people in the Kingdom of God today. Thus, we should approach our queen mother with confidence, knowing that she carries our petitions to her royal son and that he responds to her as Solomon did to Bathsheba: "I will never refuse you."
Edward P. Sri is assistant professor of Religious Studies at Benedictine College in Atchison, Kansas. He holds a Licentiate in Sacred Theology from the Angelicum in Rome, where he is currently a doctoral candidate.
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The first sentence:
“Marys title as “Queen of Heaven and Earth” is a great scandal to many non-Catholic Christians.”
makes the whole thing not worth reading. Denominations such as Episcopalians are Catholic Christians, just not Roman Catholic Christians. But the professor seems to imply that the only Catholics are Roman Catholics, which goes along with the Roman Catholic tendency (as least in my experience) to pooh pooh ‘lesser denominations’. eh
I’ve never understood the problem. If Protestants believe that Mary was the mother of Jesus, both God and man, then why can they not think that his mother - who is not dead, but lives in Christ (who happened to be her son) - has a special connection with Our Lord?
The biggest problem that Protestants have is that they do not believe in the Communion of Saints (meaning, essentially, that the dead are part of our community, because God is eternal and if you are part of the Body of Christ, you are still part of the community, whether living or dead).
Very interesting. Thanks for posting this.
Salvation, thanks for posting the article to highlight our Lady's feast day! God bless,
15 Then all the men which knew that their wives had burned incense unto other gods, and all the women that stood by, a great multitude, even all the people that dwelt in the land of Egypt, in Pathros, answered Jeremiah, saying,
16 As for the word that thou hast spoken unto us in the name of the LORD, we will not hearken unto thee.
17 But we will certainly do whatsoever thing goeth forth out of our own mouth, to burn incense unto the queen of heaven, and to pour out drink offerings unto her, as we have done, we, and our fathers, our kings, and our princes, in the cities of Judah, and in the streets of Jerusalem: for then had we plenty of victuals, and were well, and saw no evil.
18 But since we left off to burn incense to the queen of heaven, and to pour out drink offerings unto her, we have wanted all things, and have been consumed by the sword and by the famine.
19 And when we burned incense to the queen of heaven, and poured out drink offerings unto her, did we make her cakes to worship her, and pour out drink offerings unto her, without our men?
20 Then Jeremiah said unto all the people, to the men, and to the women, and to all the people which had given him that answer, saying,
21 The incense that ye burned in the cities of Judah, and in the streets of Jerusalem, ye, and your fathers, your kings, and your princes, and the people of the land, did not the LORD remember them, and came it not into his mind?
22 So that the LORD could no longer bear, because of the evil of your doings, and because of the abominations which ye have committed; therefore is your land a desolation, and an astonishment, and a curse, without an inhabitant, as at this day.
23 Because ye have burned incense, and because ye have sinned against the LORD, and have not obeyed the voice of the LORD, nor walked in his law, nor in his statutes, nor in his testimonies; therefore this evil is happened unto you, as at this day.
Because Jesus personally rejected the concept of a "special" relationship. We see in Luke 11:27 that Jesus denies any special nature because of Mary's role as his mother, and says that she is not blessed because she bore Him, but that she would be blessed if she followed His words.
In fact, we are as close to Jesus as His mother, by his own words! See:
Jesus makes it explicit: whomever follows His commandments is His family, equal to any "earthly" family He had. And she lives in Christ no more or less than any believer, per Jesus' words.
See Jeremiah 7:18; 44:17; 44:18; 44:19; 44:25shalom b'SHEM Yah'shua HaMashiach
I am the Lord, that is My name; I will not give My glory to another, nor My praise to graven images. Isaiah 42:8
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Obama Says A Baby Is A Punishment
No special connection. Mary was a sinner born of a sinner. Both needed a Savior. Mary was chosen by God to be the human mother of Jesus. Jesus loved her but proscribed her special valuation in the Kingdom by iterating that his mother and sister and brother were those who did the will of God.
Mary had additional children and died and was buried on this earth.
She is neither the “Queen of Heaven.” which was a false idol in the book of Jeremiah. Nor is she the mother of God. Nor is she, more than others, the wife of God.
She was a wonderful and blessed woman. But she is not to be worshiped. And she is not the intercessor between God and men.
“Denominations such as Episcopalians are Catholic Christians, just not Roman Catholic Christians.”
No. Only the Catholic Church is Catholic. The Episcopalians are Protestants as their old name in the USA, Protestants Episcopal Church, shows.
“But the professor seems to imply that the only Catholics are Roman Catholics,...”
Only Catholics are Catholics. Melkite Catholics are Catholics. Byzantine Catholics are Catholics. So-called Roman Catholics are Catholics. Protestants are NOT Catholic. No denomination can be Catholic. Only the Catholic Church is Catholic.
“...which goes along with the Roman Catholic tendency (as least in my experience) to pooh pooh lesser denominations. eh”
And why shouldn’t they be pooh-poohed? Hang out a shingle and you can claim to be a Christian denomination founded today. Christ was our founder, in AD 33. Not some guy in whatever city of the US in 2009. That matters. You can’t be Catholic if your church was founded by some John Doe sometime last week.
where’d they go?
Catholics believe Mary should be honored, because she is the vessel who bore our Redeemer, and helped bring about our salvation. Jesus revered her, so we should do no less.
That is a very common misinterpretation of that verse.
I've never seen any evidence of that, have you?
She certainly IS the Queen of Heaven, she's just not the false idol in the book of Jeremiah. That was a different personage, not the Mother of God, Queen of Heaven, the Blessed Virgin Mary.
...and died and was buried on this earth.
Neither claim is even Scriptural.
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