Vs. James White #12: Mary the Woman of Revelation 12

Vs. James White #12: Mary the Woman of Revelation 12 November 7, 2019

Anti-Catholic polemicist Bishop “Dr.” [???] James White, among many other childish potshots at Catholic apologists and the Catholic Church, mocked the interpretation of Revelation 12 and the “woman clothed with the sun” as the Blessed Virgin Mary, in his post entitled, “And So They Trudge on in Defense of Mother Church” (8-12-09). His words will be in blue.

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Revelation 12 (complete: RSV) 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; [2] she was with child and she cried out in her pangs of birth, in anguish for delivery. [3] And another portent appeared in heaven; behold, a great red dragon, with seven heads and ten horns, and seven diadems upon his heads. [4] 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; [5] 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, [6] 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. [7] Now war arose in heaven, Michael and his angels fighting against the dragon; and the dragon and his angels fought, [8] but they were defeated and there was no longer any place for them in heaven. [9] And the great dragon was thrown down, that ancient serpent, who is called the Devil and Satan, the deceiver of the whole world — he was thrown down to the earth, and his angels were thrown down with him. [10] And I heard a loud voice in heaven, saying, “Now the salvation and the power and the kingdom of our God and the authority of his Christ have come, for the accuser of our brethren has been thrown down, who accuses them day and night before our God. [11] And they have conquered him by the blood of the Lamb and by the word of their testimony, for they loved not their lives even unto death. [12] Rejoice then, O heaven and you that dwell therein! But woe to you, O earth and sea, for the devil has come down to you in great wrath, because he knows that his time is short!” [13] And when the dragon saw that he had been thrown down to the earth, he pursued the woman who had borne the male child. [14] But the woman was given the two wings of the great eagle that she might fly from the serpent into the wilderness, to the place where she is to be nourished for a time, and times, and half a time. [15] The serpent poured water like a river out of his mouth after the woman, to sweep her away with the flood. [16] But the earth came to the help of the woman, and the earth opened its mouth and swallowed the river which the dragon had poured from his mouth. [17] Then the dragon was angry with the woman, and went off to make war on the rest of her offspring, on those who keep the commandments of God and bear testimony to Jesus. And he stood on the sand of the sea.

. . . the argument is but one of many to be raised against Rome’s abuse of the apocalyptic imagery of Revelation 12. But it is a perfectly valid issue to raise, since it is Rome, not the objector, who is forcing the imagery to “walk on all fours” and to serve as one of the few texts the Roman Catholics can use as support of its clearly unbiblical complex of Marian dogmas. . . . 

There are numerous reasons, biblically and historically, to reject Rome’s later identification of Mary in this text. No one is saying, “Oh, I grant all that, but look at this one objection.” It is part of a complex of problems Rome’s eisegesis creates with the apocalyptic text. And if you want another example of the “context doesn’t matter, Rome does” method of biblical manhandling (shades of Harold Camping!), the beginning of birth pangs in the destruction of Jerusalem is somehow related to this imagery in Revelation, so that the term “birth” becomes the valid means of connection? Ah, the glory of Rome’s “interpretation” of the Bible. . . . 

I’m still waiting for that official list of infallibly interpreted texts. Aren’t you?

No. I provided this list in a paper of mine dated 9-14-03 (by my math almost six years since White’s paper I am presently refuted). I cited a tract from Catholic Answers which must have been earlier than that. Yet White was still seeking this answer six years later. There are seven passages for sure; possibly two more. That’s it. This passage is not among them, so we simply look at it and use our heads and utilize other scriptural knowledge to interpret it (just as Protestants do). There is a strong exegetical tradition in Catholicism, of course, that it is about Mary, as well as the Church.

But back to our topic.  First of all, as just alluded to, most Catholic exegetes and commentators hold to a dual application in their interpretation of Revelation 12: i.e., Mary and the Church. This is a not-uncommon motif in interpretation of prophecy in Scripture. Thus, we have no problem in someone applying several portions of the passage to the Church; we only object to a denial that it has anything to do with the Blessed Virgin Mary. The following are some of the considerations I would bring forth, in arguing that it does apply at least partially to Mary the Mother of God (Jesus):

Psalm 2:7-9 I will tell of the decree of the LORD: He said to me, “You are my son, today I have begotten you.[8] Ask of me, and I will make the nations your heritage, and the ends of the earth your possession. [9] You shall break them with a rod of iron, and dash them in pieces like a potter’s vessel.” (cf. Rev 12:5)

Revelation 19:13-16 He is clad in a robe dipped in blood, and the name by which he is called is The Word of God. [14] And the armies of heaven, arrayed in fine linen, white and pure, followed him on white horses. [15] From his mouth issues a sharp sword with which to smite the nations, and he will rule them with a rod of iron; he will tread the wine press of the fury of the wrath of God the Almighty. On his robe and on his thigh he has a name inscribed, King of kings and Lord of lords. (cf. Rev 12:5)

Psalm 2:7-9 is a messianic passage, which Christians believe refers to Jesus. Revelation 19:13-16 clearly refers to Jesus, from the description of “Word of God” (John 1) and reference to Psalm 2. “Rule them with a rod of iron” (19:15) is almost identical to 12: 5. We also know for sure it is Jesus by a comparison with Revelation 17:14: “they will make war on the Lamb, and the Lamb will conquer them, for he is Lord of lords and King of kings, . . .” “Lamb” is used many times in the book of Revelation, with clear reference to Jesus, referring to a “slain” Lamb (5:6, 12; 13:8), “blood of the Lamb” (7:14: 12:11), worship of the Lamb (5:8, 12-13), “twelve apostles of the Lamb” (21:14), etc.

The next seemingly undeniable clue is the phrase “caught up to God and to his throne” (12:5). The association of the Lamb (Jesus) and His sitting on or being near God’s “throne” occurs in nine passages in the book of Revelation 12 (5:6, 13; 6:16; 7:9-10, 17 [the latter verse states “the Lamb in the midst of the throne”]; 22:1, 3).  

If we’re talking about Jesus’ mother, that has to be Mary, because Jesus wasn’t born of the Church; He set up the Church (Matthew 16). Jesus was not a product of the Church, since He preceded it and initiated it. Therefore, that part is specifically talking about Mary. The Bible never uses a terminology of Jesus being a “child” (Rev 12:5) of the Church. He is the child of God the Father (His Divine Nature) and of Mary (as a person with both a Divine and human nature). The Church is “of Christ”; Christ is not “of the Church”; let alone its “child.” Those categories are biblically ludicrous and indeed almost blasphemous. 
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“Caught up to God and to his throne” (12:5) can’t mean “the twelve thrones” referred to in Matt 19:18 (cf. Lk 22:30; Rev 4:4; 11:16) because it says “His [i.e., God’s] throne.” Only Jesus is connected directly with that, because He is God. And so we see Jesus (unlike any created men) sitting on God’s throne (Matt 19:28; 25:31; Heb 1:8; Rev 7:17; 22:1, 3).
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I can cite many Protestant commentators regarding Revelation 12:5, too. Baptist A. T. Robertson (Word Pictures in the New Testament – six volumes), says of Rev. 12:5: “There is here, of course, direct reference to the birth of Jesus from Mary”. Eerdmans Bible Commentary likewise states: “the ‘catching up’ is sufficiently similar to the victorious ascension of Jesus to make plain its real meaning in this context.” Jamieson, Fausset, and Brown Commentary states: “rod of iron . . . ch. 2:27; Psalm 2:9, which passages prove the Lord Jesus to be meant. Any interpretation which ignores this must be wrong.” It also notes the reference to the ascension.
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Ellicott’s Commentary for English Readers states: “There can be no doubt that this man child is Christ. The combination of features is too distinct to admit of doubt, it is the one who will feed His flock like a shepherd (Isaiah 40:12), who is to have, not His own people, but all nations as His inheritance (Psalm 2:7-9), and whose rule over them is to be supreme and irresistible.”
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Meyer’s NT Commentary: “These words taken from Psalm 2:9 (LXX.), which are referred also to Christ in Revelation 19:15, make it indubitable that the child born of the woman is the Messiah; but the designation of Christ by these words of the Messianic Psalm is in this passage the most appropriate and significant, since the fact is made prominent that this child just born is the one who with irresistible power will visit in judgment the antichristian heathen.”
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Cambridge Bible for Schools and Colleges: “This designation of the Son proves beyond question who He is, see Revelation 2:27 as proving, if there could be any doubt about it, how Psalm 2:9 is understood in this book.”
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Pulpit Commentary: “This reference and Psalm 2:9 leave no doubt as to the identification of the man child. It is Christ who is intended. The same expression is used of him in Revelation 19, where he is definitely called the “Word of God.” And her child was caught up unto God, and to his throne. The sentence seems plainly to refer to the ascension of Christ and his subsequent abiding in heaven, from whence he rules all nations.” 

Coffman’s Commentaries on the Bible“These two clauses open and close this verse; and the whole biography of the earthy life, ministry, death, burial, and resurrection of the Son of God is here compressed into nineteen words! The critics have really had a fit about this. Some have even denied that the birth of Christ is mentioned here. . . . Despite such views, the pregnant woman, the travailing in birth, and the delivery of a man child in this passage can mean nothing else except the birth of Christ; and the compression of Jesus’ whole biography into such a short space is perfectly in harmony with what the author did by presenting the entire Old Testament history in a single verse (Revelation 12:4). To suppose that the birth is not included here would make the passage mean that the woman brought forth his death and resurrection; because the emphatic statements of her pregnancy and her being delivered clearly makes her the achiever of whatever happened in Revelation 12:5. This therefore has to be a reference to Jesus’ physical birth in Bethlehem.”

Richard Lenski also agrees. 

All of this (which White will ignore, as he always does), yet the good “Dr.” [???] states “There are numerous reasons, biblically and historically, to reject Rome’s later identification of Mary in this text.” I got news for Jimbo: it ain’t just Rome making the claim . . . And we wait with baited breath for him to overturn and refute all of this Protestant (not just Catholic) exegesis of Revelation 12.
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Photo credit: Madonna in Glory (c. 1670), by Carlo Dolci (1616-1686) [public domain / Wikimedia Commons]
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