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The Queen Mother & the Bible (vs. James White)

The Queen Mother & the Bible (vs. James White) October 8, 2021

This is a reply to an article by Bishop “Dr.” [???] James White: More on a Roman Catholic Argument (7-17-05). Bishop White is, in my opinion, the most influential, well-known, and able Protestant anti-Catholic apologist / sophist / polemicist of our time: and certainly the most published and “heard”: through his podcasts and oral debates. His words will be in blue.

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Next, our Catholic correspondent referred to the “Queen Mother” in the Davidic kingdom. Of course, there was no “Queen Mother” in David’s kingdom. Instead, early on in Solomon’s reign, his mother came to him to make a request of him. The story is found here:

1 Kings 2:19-20 So Bathsheba went to King Solomon to speak to him for Adonijah. And the king arose to meet her, bowed before her, and sat on his throne; then he had a throne set for the king’s mother, and she sat on his right. Then she said, “I am making one small request of you; do not refuse me.” And the king said to her, “Ask, my mother, for I will not refuse you.”

Now, notice immediately that Solomon had to have a throne set for his mother: one was not already there, showing that this is not some established Davidic position. What is more, if you read the rest of the story, not only did Solomon refuse Bathsheba’s request, but he had the man who made the request through her executed! Hardly an auspicious start to this alleged defining characteristic of the Davidic king.

Next, our correspondent makes reference to the “giberah,” the queen mother. A quick study of this term likewise does not lead one to thinking that the Church of Jesus Christ needs a giberah. For example, this term appears in 1 Kings 15:13: “He also removed Maacah his mother from [being] queen mother, because she had made a horrid image as an Asherah; and Asa cut down her horrid image and burned [it] at the brook Kidron.” Seems the giberah was a force for evil here. Shall we attempt to parallel this to something in the church? Surely not.

Indeed, there is no reason, whatsoever, to think the “queen mother” is definitional of a Davidic king at all; there is likewise no reason to think that the New Testament writers viewed any relationship at all between the ancient queen mothers and the church of Jesus Christ.

So Bishop White denies that the queen mother “is definitional of a Davidic king at all.” Okay. Really? The International Standard Bible Encyclopedia (1915): a standard and respected Protestant source, takes no such negative position towards it. It’s article on “Queen Mother” is quite extensive. I cite it in full:

(gebhirah, literally, “mistress,” then a female ruler, and sometimes simply the wife of a king (“queen,” 1 Kings 11:19); in Daniel 5:10 the term malketha’ “queen,” really means the mother of the king):

It stands to reason that among a people whose rulers are polygamists the mother of the new king or chief at once becomes a person of great consequence. The records of the Books of Kings prove it. The gebhirah, or queen mother, occupied a position of high social and political importance; she took rank almost with the king. When Bath-sheba, the mother of Solomon, desired “to speak unto him for Adonijah,” her son “rose up to meet her, and bowed himself unto her, and sat down on his throne, and caused a throne to be set for the king’s mother; and she sat on his right hand” (1 Kings 2:19). And again, in 2 Kings 24:15, it is expressly stated that Nebuchadnezzar carried away the king’s mother into captivity; Jeremiah calls her gebhirah (29:2). The king was Jehoiachin (Jeconiah, Jeremiah 29:2), and his mother’s name was Nehushta (2 Kings 24:8). This was the royal pair whose impending doom the prophet was told to forecast (Jeremiah 13:18). Here again the queen mother is mentioned with the king, thus emphasizing her exalted position. Now we understand why Asa removed Maacah his (grand?)mother from being queen (queen mother), as we are told in 1 Kings 15:13 (compare 2 Chronicles 15:16). She had used her powerful influence to further the cause of idolatry. In this connection Athaliah’s coup d’etat may be briefly mentioned. After the violent death of her son Ahaziah (2 Kings 9:27), she usurped the royal power and reigned for some time in her own name (2 Kings 11:3; compare 2 Chronicles 22:12). This was, of course, a revolutionary undertaking, being a radical departure from the usual traditions.

And finally, the political importance of the gebhirah is illustrated by the fact that in the Books of Kings, with two exceptions, the names of the Jewish kings are recorded together with those of their respective mothers; they are as follows:

Naamah, the Ammonitess, the mother of Rehoboam (1 Kings 14:21; compare 14:31, and 2 Chronicles 12:13); Maacah, the daughter of Abishalom (1 Kings 15:2) or Absalom (2 Chronicles 11:20) the mother of Abijah; Maacah, the daughter of Abishalom, the mother (grandmother?) of Asa (1 Kings 15:10; compare 2 Chronicles 15:16); Azubah, the daughter of Shilhi, the mother of Jehoshaphat (1 Kings 22:42; compare 2 Chronicles 20:31); Athaliah, the grand-daughter of Omri, the mother of Ahaziah (2 Kings 8:26; compare 2 Chronicles 22:2); Zibiah of Beersheba, the mother of Jehoash (2 Kings 12:1; compare 2 Chronicles 24:1); Jehoaddin (Jehoaddan, 2 Chronicles 25:1) of Jerusalem, the mother of Amaziah (2 Kings 14:2); Jecoliah (Jechiliah, 2 Chronicles 26:3) of Jerusalem, the mother of Azariah (2 Kings 15:2) or Uzziah (2 Kings 15:13,30, etc.; compare 2 Chronicles 26:3); Jerusha (Jerushah, 2 Chronicles 27:1), the daughter of Zadok, the mother of Jotham (2 Kings 15:33); Abi (Abijah, 2 Chronicles 29:1), the daughter of Zechariah, the mother of Hezekiah (2 Kings 18:2); Hephzibah, the mother of Manasseh (2 Kings 21:1); Meshullemeth, the daughter of Haruz of Jotbah, the mother of Amon (2 Kings 21:19); Jedidah, the daughter of Adaiah of Bozkath, the mother of Josiah (2 Kings 22:1); Hamutal, the daughter of Jeremiah of Libnah, the mother of Jehoahaz (2 Kings 23:31); Zebidah, the daughter of Pedaiah of Rumah, the mother of Jehoiakim (2 Kings 23:36); Nehushta, the daughter of Elnathan of Jerusalem, the mother of Jehoiachin (2 Kings 24:8); Hamutal (Hamital), the daughter of Jeremiah of Libnah, the mother Of Zedekiah (2 Kings 24:18). The exceptions are Jehoram and Ahaz.

“Dr.” White also denies any New Testament connection to the queen mother. Dr. Edward Sri is professor of theology and Scripture at the Augustine Institute’s Master’s in Catechetics and Evangelization program in Denver, Colorado. He is the author of numerous books, including Queen Mother: A Biblical Theology of Mary’s Queenship. I’ll cite him from two similar articles. He shows how the queen mother motif also has relevance to the New Testament:

[T]he 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 son’s rule over the kingdom. . . .

[M]any New Testament passages refer to the right-hand imagery of Psalm 110 to show Christ’s divinity and his reign with the Father over the whole universe (e.g., Hebrews 1:13). Thus, the queen mother sitting at the king’s right hand symbolizes her sharing in the king’s royal authority and illustrates how she holds the most important position in the kingdom, second only to the king. . . .

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 Mary’s role as the royal mother of the king, Jesus. (“Is Mary’s Queenship Biblical?”, Catholic Answers, 8-19-19)

In Matthew 1–2, Mary is portrayed in the queen-mother tradition. Matthew examines Mary’s position alongside her royal Son when the magi pay Him homage (Matt 2:11). As mentioned above, this scene involves a number of Davidic kingdom themes: Jesus is called the “king of the Jews” (2:2). The star guiding the magi recalls the star in Balaam’s oracle about the royal scepter rising out of Israel (Num 24:17). The narrative centers on the city of Bethlehem, where David was born (1 Sam 17:12) and out of which the future Davidic King would come (Mic 5:2). And the magi bringing gifts and paying the child Jesus homage recall the royal Psalm 72:10–11 (cf. Is 60:6).

Within this Davidic kingdom context, Matthew singles out Mary as being with the child when the three magi come to honor the newborn King. Notice how Joseph is conspicuously not even mentioned: “. . . going into the house, they [the three Magi] saw the child with Mary his mother, and they fell down and worshipped him” (Matt 2:11). Why does Matthew focus on Jesus and Mary, leaving Joseph out of the picture at this point? All throughout the narrative in Matthew 1–2, Joseph is much more prominent than Mary. Matthew traces Jesus’ genealogy through Joseph. The angel appears to Joseph three times. It is Joseph who leads the Holy Family to Bethlehem, to Egypt, and back to Nazareth. However, in this particular scene of the magi coming to honor the newborn King, Mary takes center stage, and surprisingly, Joseph is not mentioned at all in the entire pericope. As Aragon notes, “Her mention in this moment, along with the omission of Joseph, underlines that Mary is a person especially important for the narrator, and that is why he puts her in this very high position.” (“Understanding Mary as Queen Mother”, St. Paul Center for Biblical Theology, 10-11-19)

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Photo credit: Solomon and Bathsheba (1718-1719, Rijksmuseum) [public domain / Picryl]

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Summary: Bishop “Dr.” [???] James White denies that the queen mother is a feature of the Davidic line of kings, & that it has any relevance to the NT. Wrong on both counts!

 

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