February 7, 2019

Jesus and the Jewish Roots of Mary

Jesus and the Jewish Roots of Mary by Brant Pitre gives Christians from all backgrounds a better understanding of the biblical view of the Mother of Christ.

Published by Image, who kindly sent me a copy to review, the book begins with the author’s questioning the church’s teaching about Mary in his attempt to answer his own questions and those often asked by non-Catholics.

As the Introduction says, “This book is written for anyone who has ever wondered what the Bible really teaches about Mary, the mother of Jesus.”

Then, “Eventually, it dawned on me that the reason I had begun to consider Catholic beliefs about Mary ‘unbiblical’ was that I was not paying enough attention to the Old Testament.”

Does this matter? As the Introduction goes on to say, “When it comes to the mother of Jesus, the stakes are high. Mary is a dividing line between Christians. And the issues involved are serious. If Protestants are right about Mary, then both Catholic and Orthodox Christians – more than half of the world’s Christian population – are committing idolatry on a regular basis. If Catholics and Orthodox are right about Mary, then Protestant Christians – a little less than half of the world’s Christians – are missing out on what the Bible as a whole reveals about the mother of Christ.”

As a Christian who sees where both sides are coming from, I was not interested in who's right but in God’s ongoing command to honor our parents. And, my honoring the mother of my Savior seems like the respectful, responsible thing to do. In addition, I’ve often heard – in the early church and onward –  peoples of all faiths have been drawn to Mary, who then draws them to Christ.

After reading this book with interest, I highly recommend it to anyone who would like to know more about Jesus’ mother and the biblical parallels between her and various women in the Hebrew Bible. In the chapter, “The New Eve,” for instance, the author draws parallels between Mary and Eve, the latter of whom was referred to in Genesis as “woman” before the Fall and only given a proper name afterwards. Since I’d never noticed that distinction before, I could at last see why Jesus referred to His mother as “woman” a couple of times – not out of disrespect but as making a connection between her and the first woman. For, as the New Testament calls Jesus the “New Adam,” Mary can well be considered the New Eve.

Another biblical parallel occurs between Mary and the “Queen Mother” of the Old Testament. For example, the wife (or wives) of a king was not referred to as the Queen Mother, but his biological mother had that particular title. And so, with her Son Jesus as the King of Kings, Mary would understandably be placed in that royal category.

Other parallels can be found in the Ark of the Covenant that contained the Word of God and with Rachel, who weeps for her lost children. But, Dr. Pitre - a graduate of Notre Dame and present Research Professor of Scripture and Theology at the Augustine Institute - explains far better and more knowledgeably than I in this thought-provoking, easy-to-read, engaging book that, I pray, will help to heal the Marian rifts among us.

1 comment:

Mary Harwell Sayler said...

After posting this review, I learned that Jewish liturgy treats Shabbat as a "bride" and "queen." Does anyone know how long that's been observed? I'd especially like to know if this occurred during Jesus' earth days.