Woman of Revelation 12 By Ed de Vera
Who is the Woman in Revelation 12? As Catholics we readily say Mary, Mother of Jesus. Yet, other Christian traditions disagree, contending that the Woman represents the collective people of God—either Israel in the Old Testament or the Church in the New.
Scripture is polyvalent, that is, there can be several layers of interpretation. On the principal level, the Woman cannot be a corporate entity as an icon of God’s people since, in the context of John’s vision, the male child “to rule the nations” is a singular entity. So is the Red Dragon (with seven crowns on seven heads and ten horns) waiting to devour her child, later identified as Satan, likewise singular.
The first level of interpretation points to the Woman as Mary Mother the Messiah; the Woman spoken of at Genesis 3:15. A secondary exegesis may symbolize her as an image of the collective people of God, while the Red Dragon also personifies entities against God. Seven heads with seven crowns represent the Herodian dynasty—Herod the Great; following his death, the four Tetrarchs Archaeleus, Aristobolus, Herod Philip, and Antipas; and lastly, Agripas I and Agripas II—all of whom derived authority from the Roman Empire. Horns signified authority. Allegorically, therefore, the ten horns are the ten Caesars, emperor-gods who propped up the Herodian dynasty. Herod the Great was a fake ruler—a non Jew Edomite (Edom means “red,” thus the Red Dragon), a usurper of the Davidic throne and puppet king installed by Rome who acted as though he was legitimate heir to the kingdom of David. His fakery extended to the Jerusalem Temple he had refurbished and became known as Herod’s Temple.
The crown of twelve stars the Woman wears denotes she is a queen. The stars represent the tribes of Israel in the Davidic kingdom where the Queen Mother reigned alongside the king. Solomon had instituted the office of Gebirah—Queen Mother of the kingdom—in installing his mother as queen
(1 Kings 2:19). In the fulfillment of the Old in the New, Mary is the Queen Mother of Christ the King, the messianic Son of David. Her twelve-star diadem symbolizes the Apostolic Church of which Christ is the cornerstone (cf. Ephesians 2:19-22).
She is “clothed with the sun,” enshrouded in God’s glorious presence, the eternal light and shekinah that overshadowed the tent of meeting where the Ark of the Covenant was kept, and much later, the Jerusalem Temple built by Solomon. Yet God’s glory was absent in the rebuilt temple of Ezra’s time following the Babylonian Exile, since the Ark of the Covenant was missing from the Holy of Holies. What made the Ark holy were its contents: the Decalogue, rod of Aaron, and urn of manna.
Prior to the temple’s destruction by the Babylonians, Jeremiah had hidden the Ark. He prophesied it was to remain unknown until God gathered His people and showed them His mercy (2 Maccabees 2:5-8). This is fulfilled at Calvary: the Woman—the New Covenant Ark who bore the Word made flesh, Eternal High Priest, and Eucharistic Manna in her womb—stands at the foot of the Cross. She is clothed with God’s glory at Christ’s victory over sin and death. Her pangs of childbirth in Revelation are metaphoric of pain at the world’s opposition to her Son and in birthing the Church at Calvary.
*This article taken from Kerygma Magazine September 2019 issue*
Featured image is from Unsplashed.com.