The Downward Spiral: 6 Quick Catholic Lessons on the Book of Judges

Listers, the Historical Books are paramount in understanding salvation history. The Historical Books of the Old Testament are Joshua, Judges, Ruth, I & II Samuel, I & II Kings, I & II Chronicles, Ezra, Nehemiah, Tobit, Judith, Esther, and I & II Maccabees. The Historical Books capture the story of how Israel gains the Promise Land through obedience to the covenant but also how they eventually lose the Promise Land through their disobedience. There are seven major dates within the narrative of the Historical Books.

  • c. 1200 BC – Conquest, then Judge’s Period
  • c. 1030 BC – The United Kingdom: Saul, David, & Solomon
  • 931 BC – Divided Kingdom: Northern Kingdom of Israel & Southern Kingdom of Judah
  • 722 BC – Assyrian Exile of the Northern Kingdom
  • 586 BC – First Temple Destroyed as Babylon Conquers the Southern Kingdom
  • 516 BC – The Dedication of the Second Temple
  • 165 BC – The Rededication of the Second Template under the Maccabees

The theological significance of the Historical Books is exemplified by their alternative title: theFormer Prophets. While the Latter Prophets represent the minor and major prophets (Isaiah, Jeremiah, Amos, etc.), the Former Prophets mark the beginning of the prophets appearing in the history of Israel. Furthermore, they record a prophetic history insofar as they point toward the coming of Jesus Christ. The internal text of the Historical Books or Former Prophets testifies to the distinction between prophetic history and general history when it utilizes the phrase are not the other works of the King written in the books of… and similar statements denoting that certain historical narratives belong in the records of prophetic history and some do not. A foundational understanding of the theological significance of the Former Prophets as a whole is found in the book of Deuteronomy. The seminal chapter is chapter twenty-eight, which records the blessings of following the covenant and the curses of breaking the covenant. Arguably the entire theme of the Historical Books is the unfolding of Deuteronomy twenty-eight: whether or not Israel is faithful to the covenant.

For a discussion of the first Historical Book, please visit The Conquest: 9 Catholic Lessons from the Book of Joshua. The list contains short discussions on the morality of the military conquest of the Promise Land, the Hexateuch, typological scenes of Mary, and much more.


The Book of Judges


1. Judges as a Downward Spiral

The Book of Judges should have been a continuation of the success of Joshua. Instead, Israel suffered a series of cycles from fidelity to failure.1

1. Sin—People did what was evil in the sight of the Lord
2. Suffering—God sends suffering, e.g., defeated by enemies, etc.
3. Supplication to God—apologies
4. Salvation—God sends a savior
5. Shalom—a period of peace
6. Repeat (repeated a cycle of seven times)

The cycles actually represent a downward spiral – each cycle being progressively worse than the one before. Note also that the text echoes a threefold repetition: at that time, there was no king in Israel, and everyone did what was good in his or her own eyes, i.e., massive confusion and evil; note that it is connected to there being no king. The author or editor wants it to be known that they need a king to keep them faithful to the covenant.2


2. The Prophecy of Eve & the Serpent

In Genesis, our first parents suffered a curse due to their fall into sin. One condition of the Fall was that God would place enmity between the woman and the serpent – but the phrase explaining the enmity and what will happen due to that enmity has been a matter of much debate. To wit, should it read he shall crush thy head or she shall crush thy head or even they shall crush thy head? Notice older translation below from the Douay-Rheims Bible:

And the Lord God said to the woman: Why hast thou done this? And she answered: The serpent deceived me, and I did eat. And the Lord God said to the serpent: Because thou hast done this thing, thou art cursed among all cattle, and beasts of the earth: upon thy breast shalt thou go, and earth shalt thou eat all the days of thy life. I will put enmities between thee and the woman, and thy seed and her seed: she shall crush thy head, and thou shalt lie in wait for her heel. Douay-Rheims Bible3

Modern Catholic texts read he shall crush your head:

I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your seed and her seed; he shall bruise your head, and you shall bruise his heel. RSV-CE

I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your offspring and hers; He will strike at your head, while you strike at his heel. NAB4

Proponents of the prophecy reading and she shall crush often cite the strong biblical typology of women killing men by “crushing” their head. The debate is pertinent to the Book of Judges due to the story of Jael as a type cast of the woman “crushing” the head:

Sisera, in the meantime, had fled on foot to the tent of Jael, wife of the Kenite Heber, since Jabin, king of Hazor, and the family of the Kenite Heber were at peace with one another. Jael went out to meet Sisera and said to him, “Come in, my lord, come in with me; do not be afraid.” So he went into her tent, and she covered him with a rug.

He said to her, “Please give me a little water to drink. I am thirsty.” But she opened a jug of milk for him to drink, and then covered him over. “Stand at the entrance of the tent,” he said to her. “If anyone comes and asks, ‘Is there someone here?’ say, ‘No!'”

Instead Jael, wife of Heber, got a tent peg and took a mallet in her hand. While Sisera was sound asleep, she stealthily approached him and drove the peg through his temple down into the ground, so that he perished in death. Then when Barak came in pursuit of Sisera, Jael went out to meet him and said to him, “Come, I will show you the man you seek.” So he went in with her, and there lay Sisera dead, with the tent peg through his temple.5

The typological pattern of a woman killing a man via “crushing” their head occurs three times in the Historical Books and five times overall in the Old Testament. The fulfillment of the prophecy comes with Mother Mary standing on Golgotha – the mount Christ was crucified upon named the skull.6 Thus, you have a woman crushing the head of the serpent through the victory of Christ.7


3. The Story of Gideon

Chapter seven contains the famous narrative of Gideon leading the army of the Lord. First, Gideon is commanded to tell all the soldiers in the army that if they are afraid they can go home. As a result, twenty-two thousand left and ten thousand remained. Second, the army is led to water and some drank by lapping up the water like dogs and others knelt and drank by cupping the water in their hand. The Lord commands Gideon to only keep those men who lapped the water – 300 soldiers. Third, the army of three hundred win a military victory by holding trumpets in one hand and lamps in the other (no weapons in hand). The principle here is that the victory belonged to the Lord. The victory came through obedience and liturgy.8

In chapter eight, Gideon is asked to rule as King and he declines and says the Lord should rule; however, Gideon uses his clout to ask for the spoils of war – especially gold. He then makes a golden ephod – a priestly garment – and leads the people of God into idolatry. Once again, Israel plays the harlot and there is liturgical confusion.


4. Jephthah’s Vow

During the sixth cycle, Jephthah makes a vow to sacrifice to God the first thing that exits his house. His vow is the first of two brash and ill fated vows in the Book of Judges. As the story goes, Jepthah’s daughter is the first thing to exit the house. Holy Scripture does not record whether or not the sacrifice was ever carried out; however, scripture does record his daughter taking a time to mourn she will die a virgin. The pericope of Jephthah’s vow serves as another example of liturgical confusion during the Judges period.9


5. Samson & Sight

In chapter thirteen the seventh cycle in Judges contains the Samson narrative. The story of Samson has a subtle motif of “sight.” In chapter fourteen, Samson desires a Philistine woman over any woman in Israel. He tells his parents, “Get her for me, for she pleases me” or literally, “she is good in my eyes.”10 The attitude of Samson serves as a microcosm of the current idolatrous disposition of Israel. The motif of sight characterizes the entire Judges narrative: “In those days there was no king in Israel; every man did what was right in his own eyes.”11 The motif continues with Samson’s demise as Samson’s eyes are plucked out after he submits to Delilah the secret to his strength.


6. The Concubine Raped, Cut Up, & Mailed

The Israelite discovers his concubine, dead on his doorstep - by Gustave Doré, Circa 1880. Wiki.
The Israelite discovers his concubine, dead on his doorstep – by Gustave Doré, Circa 1880. Wiki.

Judges ends with a narrative that shows exactly how deep Israel has spiraled. In chapter nineteen, a Levite and his concubine (the first clue something is wrong) go to a town within the tribe of Benjamin. Despite being among his kin, no one in the town is hospitable save one old man. The man takes the Levite and the concubine into his home for the night. During the night, the men of the city demand that the Levite priest come out so they can rape him. Instead, the old man offers his virgin daughters and the priest’s concubine. Ultimately, the concubine is thrown out to the men and she is raped throughout the night and dies.

Upon finding her dead outside, the Levite priest cuts the concubine into pieces and sends one piece to each tribe to show the wickedness that has manifested in the tribe of Benjamin. The other tribes turn against the Benjaminites and war against them. The other tribes then make the second ill fated vow of the Book of Judges – they make a covenant not to give their daughters to Benjaminite men in marriage. The error here is that this means the tribe of Benjamin will either die out or have to seek pagan wives. The narrative shows the depravity and confusion found at the bottom of the spiral.

The most telling sign of how far the tribes have fallen is comparing how the book begins to how the book ends. The first verse of the book states, “After the death of Joshua the Israelites consulted the LORD, asking, “Who shall be first among us to attack the Canaanites and to do battle with them?”12 Yet, at the end of the book the tribes of Israel are asking, “who will go with us against the tribe of Benjamin?” The People of God have gone from warring for the Promise Land to civil war – the bottom of the downward spiral of the Book of Judges.

  1. Cycle: See 2:11-17 as an example. []
  2. King David and the Jebusites: Notice in 1:19 the Jebusites are still present in the Promise Land. The Jebusites occupy what will later become Jerusalem. It is King David that will conquer the Jebusites and raise Jerusalem to the center of political and spiritual power in the Kingdom. Interestingly, after a young David slew Goliath, he places Goliath’s head outside of the Jebusite controlled Jerusalem – a foreshadowing of the coming conquest. []
  3. Note on v. 15 from DRB commentary – [15] She shall crush: Ipsa, the woman; so divers of the fathers read this place, conformably to the Latin: others read it ipsum, viz., the seed. The sense is the same: for it is by her seed, Jesus Christ, that the woman crushes the serpent’s head. []
  4. Notes on v. 15 NAB – “He will strike . . . at his heel: since the antecedent for he and his is the collective noun offspring, i.e., all the descendants of the woman, a more exact rendering of the sacred writer’s words would be, “They will strike . . . at their heels.” However, later theology saw in this passage more than unending hostility between snakes and men. The serpent was regarded as the devil (⇒ Wisdom 2:24; ⇒ John 8:44; ⇒ Rev 12:9; ⇒ 20:2), whose eventual defeat seems implied in the contrast between head and heel. Because “the Son of God appeared that he might destroy the works of the devil” (⇒ 1 John 3:8), the passage can be understood as the first promise of a Redeemer for fallen mankind. The woman’s offspring then is primarily Jesus Christ.” []
  5. 4:17-22 []
  6. Golgotha: ORIGIN from late Latin, via Greek from an Aramaic form of Hebrew gulgoleth ‘skull’ (see Matt. 27:33). []
  7. Women of the Gen. 3:15 Prophecy: in Judges you have Jael and the woman who drops the millstone on Abimelech in chapter nine; the head of Seba in II Samuel 20:16; it occurs again with Judith and in the book of Esther. []
  8. Gideon: Gideon’s victory shows that victory belongs to the Lord and the glory belongs to him, which will later serve as a comparison to King Saul. It also adds to a motif of proper liturgy. []
  9. Jephthah’s Vow see chapter eleven. []
  10. 14:2-3. []
  11. 21:25. []
  12. NAB. []

4 Biblical Reasons Mary Is The New Ark of the Covenant

An in depth biblical approach to Mary as the “New Ark of the Convenant.”

Listers, as with all Marian doctrine, a better understanding of Mary only serves to illuminate Christ Our Lord, because every grace she received and every role she held within salvation history  is rooted in Christ. Her role as the New Ark of the Covenant serves to reveal the true nature of Jesus Christ – one person with two natures: divine and human – and illuminate the purpose of the Incarnation within salvation history. The Old Testament is perfected by the New, and Mother Mary is the perfection of the old Ark of the Covenant.

“We never give more honour to Jesus than when we honour his Mother, and we honour her simply and solely to honour him all the more perfectly. We go to her only as a way leading to the goal we seek – Jesus, her Son.”
Saint Louis Marie de Montfort, True Devotion to the Blessed Virgin, #94

Credit & Notable Marian Works
Those looking for a deeper understanding of the Virgin Mary should consult the following works: for an academic but spiritual treatment within the dominican tradition SPL suggests Mother of the Saviour: And Our Interior Life by the keen mind of Fr. Garrigou-Lagrange, O.P., and for a seminal Marian devotional we suggest The True Devotion to the Blessed Virgin by one of the most famous proponents of mariology, St. Louis de Montfort, and finally, for a biblical and basic introduction to the Blessed Virgin – and an excellent primer for protestants – SPL suggests Hail, Holy Queen:The Mother of God in the Word of God by Scott Hahn. Overall, Hahn’s works offer Catholics and non-Catholics alike a wide-range of excellent theological primers, and his Hail, Holy Queen text greatly contributed to the last two points of this list.1

“The ark is verily the holy Virgin, gilded within and without, who received the treasure of universal sanctification. Arise, O Lord, from the Father’s bosom, to raise up again the ruined race of our first parent” (Orat. in Deip. Annunciat. Int. Opp. S. Greg. Thaumaturg) (Blessed Virgin, p. 89). St. Gregory Thaumaturgus (c. 213-c. 270)

“As Christ our priest was not chosen by hand of man, so neither was His tabernacle framed by men, but was established by the Holy Ghost; and by the power of God is that tabernacle protected, to be had in everlasting remembrance, Mary, God’s Virgin Mother” (S. Dionysius of Alexandria, Respons. ad Quoest. v. Pauli Samos) (Blessed Virgin, p. 81). St. Dionysius (died 264)

Both the Old Ark and the New Ark were “overshadowed” by the Holy Spirit. “The Annunciation” – Andrea del Sarto

1. Hail, Full of Grace

The Old Ark Was the Physical Dwelling Place of the Shekinah Glory
The New Ark Was the Physical Dwelling Place of the Word Incarnate

The Ark of the Covenant was the point of contact for the presence of God within the Holy of Holies.2

And the LORD said to Moses, “Tell Aaron your brother not to come at all times into the holy place within the veil, before the mercy seat which is upon the ark, lest he die; for I will appear in the cloud upon the mercy seat.

At the Annunciation, the Archangel Gabriel told Mother Mary she would be the Mater Dei, the Mother of God. In her womb God’s physical presence would dwell in a way never before seen: the second person of the Trinity was to take upon human nature, and become Incarnate.

And [the Archangel Gabriel] came to [Mary] and said, “Hail, full of grace, the Lord is with you!” But she was greatly troubled at the saying, and considered in her mind what sort of greetings this might be. And the angel said to her, “Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favor with God. And behold, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus.

How is Mary a More Perfect Ark?
The New Testament perfects the Old, and whereas the old Ark of the Covenant had been lost, God provided a new and more perfect one – an immaculate woman. The Ark moves from being a human artifact of wood and gold, to a the highest honored and highest human creature3 The presence of God is perfected insofar as the Second Person of the Trinity becomes Incarnate, and his mission is the forgiveness and satisfaction of mankind.

Why does the Angel say “Full of Grace?”
Entire bulwarks of the Catholic tradition are built upon this phrase, but a brief sketch is necessary to understand Mary’s unique role in salvation history. Grace – as we know it – did not exist before the victory of Christ; moreover, the Old Testament sacrifices forgave sins, but they could not offer proper satisfaction for them – they left man in an infinite debt due to sin. The angel stating “full of grace” points to Mary as Immaculate, the pure vessel of Christ’s Incarnation, the virgin and sinless flesh from which Christ would draw his human nature. Mary was “full of grace” because the was born without original sin and had remained sinless in order to be the New Ark of the Covenant, the Mother of God. It is important to note that Mary’s grace is still rooted in Christ, and is orientated toward the mission of salvation. Both Mary’s biblical roles as the New Ark of the Covenant and of the New Eve articulate a need for her to be perfect in relationship to Christ, not to mention the greatest need of all – it was from her Christ drew his humanity.

Tabernacle and Sacred Vessels 1728, Gerard Hoet (1648-1733), Wikicommons

2. The Contents of the Arks

Ark Contained the Commandments, Manna, & Aaron’s Rod
New Ark Contained Christ Our Lord: Logos, Bread of Life, King/Priest

The Old Testament Ark was said to contain three things: the stone tablets of the Ten Commandments carved by the finger of God, the priestly rod of Moses’ brother Aaron, and the heavenly manna that sustained Israel in post-Egyptian wandering.

While the old Ark is acacia wood wrapped in gold, the New Ark of the Covenant is the Immaculate Woman Mary. Since being overshadowed by the Holy Spirit, her womb became the dwelling place of God on Earth until the birth of Christ. As the New Testament is a perfection and fulfillment of the Old, so too is Christ’s Incarnation in the Virgin Mary a perfection of the Old Ark of the Covenant. The contents of the New Ark perfect the contents of the Old Ark insofar as Christ the Lord takes upon himself the roles of the former objects: Word of God, Bread of Life, & Eternal Priest.

Old & New Contents

The Word of God in the Stone Tablets 4
The Word of God Incarnate

And he took the [tablets of the] covenant and put it into the ark, and put the poles on the ark, and set the mercy seat above on the ark;

Christ’s perfection of the Tablets of the Covenant or more commonly called the Tablets of the Ten Commandments is multifaceted. The most complete perfection is the overall understanding the the primary “Word of God” is not Scripture, but Christ. Christ is the Living Word, the Logos.5

In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. […] And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, full of grace and truth.

Moreover, the Tablets of the Covenant represented the old convenant and its laws. Christ comes and perfects those laws, most notably during his Sermon on the Mount.6 Changing the Laws requires the proper authority, and to change divine laws requires divine authority. Christ, as the Logos, the Second Person of the Trinity, obviously had the divine authority and he demonstrated it both as the Eternal King in the lineage of King David and as the Eternal Priest in the lineage of Melchizedek.7


Manna, the Life-giving bread of Heaven
Jesus Christ, the “Bread of Life”

It is fitting that the Book of Hebrews, which has at its core the goal to demonstrate the relationship between the Old Testament and the New Testament – especially in articulating Christ as our High Priest – would highlight the contents of the Old Ark.8

Behind the second curtain stood a tent called the Holy of Holies, having the golden altar of incense and the ark of the covenant covered on all sides with gold, which contained a golden urn holding the manna, and Aaron’s rod that budded, and the tables of the covenant.

Concerning the Old Ark and manna, Christ our Lord is the perfect “Bread of Life.” In the Gospel of John, Christ gives his famous “Eucharistic Discourse.” The entire latter half of the chapter is an in depth discussion on the Eucharist and Christ’s body and blood as the life giving sacrament.9

I am the living bread which came down from heaven; if any one eats of this bread, he will live for ever; and the bread which I shall give for the life of the world is my flesh. […] So Jesus said to them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of man and drink his blood, you have no life in you; he who eats my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life, and I will raise him up at the last day. For my flesh is food indeed, and my blood is drink indeed. He who eats my flesh and drinks my blood abides in me, and I in him.

Christ’s “Eucharistic Discourse” paves the way for the Institution of the Eucharist at the Last Supper. In speaking to his disciples, Christ says the following:10

Now as they were eating, Jesus took bread, and blessed, and broke it, and gave it to the disciples and said, “Take, eat; this is my body.”

Biblically, it is very clear that the manna of the OT is perfected by the Bread of Life, Jesus Christ, which is for us today the source and summit of the Catholic life, the Sacrament of the Eucharist.


Aaron’s Rod, the Sign of the Ancestral Priesthood
Christ, the Eternal Priest in the Order of Melchizedek

As in the aforesaid Hebrew’s verse, Aaron’s rod was placed within the Ark of the Covenant. The rod of Aaron was a sign of the priesthood. The book of Hebrews takes up as a main focus the eternal priesthood of Christ Jesus.11

So also Christ did no exalt himself to be made a high priest, but was appointed by him who said to him,

You are my Son, today I have begotten you;
As he says also in another place,

“You are a priest for ever, according to the order of Melchizedek.”

The subject of Christ as the Eternal Priest is exhausted by the book of Hebrews, and it speaks directly to the argument of how Christ’s priesthood could have perfected the ancestral lineage of the Old Testament priesthood – especially since Christ was not born into that lineage. The author highlights the High Priest Melchizedek, and the legitimacy of Christ’s eternal priesthood being rooted in the Order of Melchizedek.

King David plays the Harp before the Ark of the Covenant, source unknown.

3. Joy Before the Ark

King David & the Ark
Elizabeth & the New Ark

One intriguing aspect of Hebrew literature is the fact it does not give unnecessary details. Understanding this facet can illuminate certain passages, especially when one notes that the Hebrews were not concerned with many of the attributes the modern western mind expects of stories and history. Along this note, the Catholic tradition observes several OT passages and NT passages that utilize the same details and phrases. The Early Church fathers were quick to extract many of these comparisons, especially in the more broad sense of parallel ideas, e.g., St. Augustine seeing the Creation in Genesis allegorically as the new birth of a Christian soul from “formless and void” to the abundant earth. Other comparisons are more nuanced and exist on noticing exact repetitions of words or phrases within similar circumstances. One such detailed pericope contains the story of when King David received the Ark of the Covenant.12

And David arose and went with all the people who were with him from Ba’ale-judah, to bring up from there the ark of God, which is called by the name of the LORD of hosts who sits enthroned on the cherubim.

The passage then recounts the unfortunate story of Uzzah, the man who amongst the merriment put his hand on the Ark after an oxen stumbled. Uzzah was smitten by God, and David became afraid. However, Scripture records the detail of how much time David spent waiting after the death of Uzzah, and that time was three months.

And David was afraid of the LORD that day; and he said, “How can the ark of the LORD come to me?” So David was not willing to take the ark of the LORD into the city of David; but David took it aside to the house of O’bed-e’dom the Gittite. […] So David went and brought up the ark of God from the house of O’bed-e’dom to the city of David with rejoicing; and when those who bore the ark of the LORD had gone six paces, he sacrificed an ox and a fatling. And David danced before the LORD with all his might; and David was girded with a linen ephod. So David and all the house of Israel brought up the ark of the LORD with shouting, and with the sound of the horn. As the ark of the LORD came into the city of David, Michal the daughter of Saul looked out of the window, and saw King David leaping and dancing before the LORD; and she despised him in her heart.

In the Gospel of Luke, the evangelist records the story of when Mary went to visit Elizabeth. The passage utilizes some of the exact phrasing from the pericope in I Samuel, and even replaces the term “ark” with “mother of my Lord” when Elizabeth asks why Mary has come to her, as David did with the Ark.13 The similar language in both selections have been emboldened.

In those days Mary arose and went with haste into the hill country, to a city of Judah, and she entered the house of Zechari’ah and greeted Elizabeth. And when Elizabeth heard the greeting of Mary, the babe leaped in her womb; and Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit and she exclaimed with a loud cry, “Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the fruit of your womb! And why is this granted me, that the mother of my Lord should come to me? For behold, when the voice of your greeting came to my ears, the babe in my womb leaped for joy. And blessed is she who believed that there would be a fulfillment of what was spoken to her from the Lord.

After Mary delivers her famous Magnificat, the passage ends telling the reader how much time has elapsed.

And Mary remained with her about three months, and returned to her home.

The similarities between these two passages demand attention. Both begin with the same phrase “arose and went,” both dwelt in the hill country of Judah, David speaks of his unworthiness before the Old Ark as Elizabeth does before the New Ark (even replacing the work ark with “mother of my Lord”), David dances and leaps before the presence of the Lord and John the Baptist leaps in joy within Elizabeth’s womb (often seen as Christ’s presence anointing John to be a prophet), and both remain the same amount of time: three months.14 While comments on Mary as the New Ark abound in Early Church literature, the following quote by Ambrose is especially insightful.

“The prophet David danced before the Ark.  Now what else should we say the Ark was but holy Mary?  The Ark bore within it the tables of the Testament, but Mary bore the Heir of the same Testament itself.  The former contained in it the Law, the latter the Gospel.  The one had the voice of God, the other His Word.  The Ark, indeed, was radiant within and without with the glitter of gold, but holy Mary shone within and without with the splendor of virginity.  The one was adorned with earthly gold, the other with heavenly” (Serm. xlii. 6, Int. Opp., S. Ambrosii) (Blessed Virgin, p. 77). St. Ambrose (c. 339-397)

“Our Lady of the Sign-Ark of Mercy” offers no middle ground between protestant and Catholic theology. St. Stanislaus, Chicago.

4. The Apocalypse of St. John

The Old Was Lost
The New Ark is Found

Many are under the false impression that the Ark of the Covenant was in the Temple during the time of Christ. Commenting on this misunderstanding, biblical scholar and popular writer Scott Hahn states, “around 587 B.C., the prophet Jeremiah concealed the ark in order to preserve it from defilement when Babylonian invaders came to destroy the temple.15

And Jeremiah came and found a cave, and he brought there the tent and the ark and the altar of incense, and he sealed up the entrance. Some of those who followed him came up to mark the way, but could not find it. When Jeremiah learned of it, he rebuked them and declared: “The place shall be unknown until God gathers his people together again and shows his mercy. And then the Lord will disclose these things, and the glory of the Lord and the cloud will appear, as they were shown in the case of Moses, and as Solomon asked that the place should be specially consecrated.”

It would be difficult to overestimate the importance of the Ark within Old Testament Judaism. Given its central role in worship and the fact it was lost, any mention of the Ark of the Covenant during the time it was lost was sure to be noteworthy. In St. John’s Revelation, he mentions the ark at the end of chapter eleven.16

Then God’s temple in heaven was opened, and the ark of his covenant was seen within his temple; and there were flashes of lightning, voices, peals of thunder, an earthquake, and heavy hail.

Scott Hahn delivers several astute observations regarding the mentioning of the Ark and the Jewish historical context in which St. John was writing. He says, “imagine you are a first -century reader, raised as a Jew. You have never seen the ark, but all your religious and cultural upbringing has taught you to long for its restoration in the temple… the dramatic tension [in John’s writing] becomes nearly unbearable. The reader wants to see the ark, as John sees it.”17 However as Hahn notes, St. John does not then go on to speak of the OT Ark (the switch in chapter from 11 to 12 should not import any concern, considering the original texts had no such distinctions). What John does begin to describe is a woman:

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.

As with all Marian doctrine, Christ is the center and he is the key to understanding Revelation 12. Christ is the child born unto the woman.

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,

The child is brought to God and his throne, which must be Christ. Moreover, the child rules with a “rod of iron,” which is a reference to King David, and Christ is the “Son of David” that will sit upon the Davidic throne forever.

The “Our Lady of the Sign-Ark of Mercy” is the largest Monstrance in the World.

Could the Woman be Israel?
While there could be certain traits – even beneficial ones – to understanding the woman as Israel, the Marian readings harmonizes best with the text and would still remain the primary reading. The latter half of St. John’s Revelation chapter reveals more about the woman.

And when the dragon saw that he had been thrown down to the earth, he pursued the woman who had borne the male child. […] 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.

Revelation 12 is an exhaustive Marian text, because Mary is the New Ark of the Covenant, the New Eve, and the New Queen of the Davidic Kingdom – and all three of those roles are demonstrated within the chapter as a whole. Within the given pericope, a special enmity is seen between the woman and the dragon, which recalls the reader’s mind to God’s words in Genesis regarding the enmity between Eve and the serpent. A “Israel” reading becomes confusing; Israel could be seen as the mother of Christ – though Mary has historically held the role of Mater Dei, Theotokos, the Mother of God without question – but it is a stretch to see Israel as the mother of Christians. If it is the “New Israel,” the Church, that could present an option, but again, the Church has never been referred to as the Mother of God – she is the Bride of Christ. Biblically speaking, Mother Mary fits the roles within Revelation 12, and for our purposes here, shows herself to be the New Ark of the Covenant.

“Be mindful of us, most holy virgin, who after childbirth didst remain virgin; and grant to us for these small words great gifts from the riches of they graces, O thou full of grace. Accept them as though they were true and adequate praises in they honor; and if there is in them any virtue and any praise, we offer them as a hymn from ourselves and from all creatures to thee, full of grace, Lady, Queen, Mistress, Mother of God, and Ark of sanctification” (Orat. In Deip. Annuntiat, nn. 13, 14. Int. Opp. S. Athanasii) (Blessed Virgin, p. 80). St. Athanasius (c. 296-373)

Mother Mary, New Ark of the Covenant, pray for us.

  1. Early Church Quotes on Mary as the New Ark of the Covenent: SOURCE []
  2. The Old Ark: Lev 16:2, RSV; Ex 25:10-22 – dimensions, look of the ark []
  3. Mary as the Highest Created Human: Often times protestants will errnoneously reject this claim based on Christ as the highest created human – this view is a heresy. The personhood of Christ already existed as the Second Person of the Trinity, and he took upon himself human nature; moreover, Christ’s personhood was not created. []
  4. Ex 40:20 []
  5. John 1:1, 14a []
  6. Matthew 5, 6, 7 []
  7. Christ as “Son of David” – Matt 1:1-2; 9:27-29; Mk 10:47, 48; Promise to King David –  I Chron 17:14; Ps 89:35-36; Luke1:31; Christ in the order of Melchizedek – Heb 4:14-5:10; 7; The ability, as the new Priest, to change the law: Heb 7:12 []
  8. The Contents of the Ark: Hebrews 9:4 (Tablets, Aaron’s Rod, Manna), however, I Kings 8:9 says only the tablets were inside the Ark. Contradiction theories aside, the discrepancy is easily explained by the fact I Kings was written early in the history of the People of Israel, and the rod and manna were simply added later. []
  9. Eucharistic Discourse: John 6:22-71 – There are protestant objections to this passage, which primarily try to state why Christ was not being literal. Outside the irony that this is one of the only passages the protestant tradition does not advocate a literal reading, the insistence of Christ and his disciples’ reaction to it is clear enough for a literal reading. Every time the disciples misunderstood a teaching, Christ scolded them, but he did not let them leave confused. At the end of this passage, many disciples leave Christ, and Christ not only lets them leave unhindered, but further presses the issue on his disciples. []
  10. Matthew 26:26 []
  11. Christ the High Priest: Hebrews 5:5,6 – 7:1-28 []
  12. King David and the Ark: II Sam 6:2-16 []
  13. Mary Visits Elizabeth: Gospel of Luke 1:39-56 []
  14. Comparison Credit: the comparison between II Sam 6 and Luke 1 is described in Scott Hahn’s work Hail Holy Queen (p.63-64), which is an excellent introduction to understanding the biblical roles of Mary, especially for those of the protestant ecclesial communities. []
  15. The Ark is Hidden: 2 Mac 2:5-8 []
  16. The Ark & Mary as the New Ark in Revelation: Revelation 11:19 – 12:17 []
  17. Hahn, 54 []

6 Biblical Reasons Mary Is the “New Eve”

“The knot of Eve’s disobedience was loosed by the obedience of Mary.” – Bishop Irenaeus. Lyon, France. 2nd Century

Listers, Mother Mary is the New Eve. Through St. Paul, Holy Scripture tells us that Christ is the New Adam, and where all died in Adam, all may be made alive in Christ. The comparison between Adam and Christ revealed a parallel in salvation history between the story of humanity’s first parents and the story of humanity’s salvation. Within this parallel, the Virgin Mary plays a role that rightfully entitles her the New Eve.

4 Teachings: The Immaculate Conception
Rejoice Ye Angels: 19 More Rosary Quotes
All SPL Lists on Mother Mary

An SPL Introduction: The Necessity of a New Adam & New Eve

The New Adam and the New Eve are not poetic titles given to express a certain biblical view. They are necessary roles in salvation history that speak to the recreation of mankind and offering of salvation to all men.

Why did the sin of the First Parents affect humanity?
Many often ask why the seemingly simple sin of eating of a tree has condemned humanity to suffering in a fallen world. The truth is that humanity is one body, and Adam is the head of that body – and as the head goes, the body must follow. In being one body, all humans share the same human nature, and that human nature has been suffering a privation ushered in by the First Parents. Sin is nothing more than a privation of the good: it is a corruption, a lacking, a malformation of God’s good creation – and since the First Parents’ betrayal, humanity has had to deal with this privation in all human nature, this Original Sin.

What is recapitulation?
Here we arrive at St. Anselm’s Dilema: humanity is responsible to repay and satisfy the debt of sin, however, only God, as the Creator, has the power to pay the debt. In this light, the Incarnation of God as fully man and fully God was the perfect answer: Christ as a man was a valid sacrifice for the sin debt owed, and Christ as God granted him the perfection, power, and authority to do so. Still, the Incarnation of God did not immediately solve everything. What humanity needed was a “new head” or a recapitulation. Humanity needed to be brought out from under the original sin of Adam and placed under a new head with a new body. Here we see the “body of Christ” and Christ as the “New Adam.” Christ’s death offers forgiveness to humanity, satisfies the debt owed, allows humanity to become “new creatures,” baptism removes the stain/guilt of Original Sin, and the Church becomes the Body of Christ.

A simple comparison of Adam and Christ is incomplete. What is needed is a holistic comparison between the original creation and the recreation: Adam to Christ, Eve to Mary, Fall to Salvation, and Tree to Cross. The following list explores the role of Eve in the Fall to the role of Mother Mary – the New Eve – in the Salvation of the World.

The Creation of Eve – Michelangelo, The Sistine Chapel

1. An Intimate Relationship

Eve From Adam
New Adam from New Eve

In the story of Creation, Eve is pulled from the flesh of Adam.1

“So the LORD God caused a deep sleep to fall upon the man, and while he slept took one of his ribs and closed up its place with flesh; and the rib which the LORD God had taken from man he made into a woman and brought her to the man.”

In the story of the Recreation, the New Adam comes from the New Eve.2

“And while they were there, the time came for her to be delivered. And she gave birth to her first-born son and wrapped him in swaddling cloths, and laid him in a manger, because there was no place for them in the inn.”

Why is the order reversed? 
The most logical answer is that it follows the natural progenitorial method of human reproduction. However, it is also noted that in the Jewish tradition women were often mistrusted due to the belief that Eve had sinned first and had tempted Adam to sin as well. Allowing Mary to come first and be the virgin vessel of God’s Incarnation removes that traditional mistrust. The Early Church thinker Tertullian (c. 160) comments on how Eve – a female – sinned and brought about the Fall; thus, there is a certain justice in God’s providence allowing someone of the same sex – Mary – usher in the salvation of humanity. In his own words:

Into a virgin’s soul, in like manner, must be introduced that Word of God which was to raise the fabric of life; so that what had been reduced to ruin by this sex might be the selfsame sex be recovered to salvation.

Moreover, Mother Mary did not simply undo the sin of Eve. In a full understanding of her biblical roles in salvation history – the New Eve, the New Ark of the Covenant, and the Queen of the Eternal Davidic Kingdom – Mary is seen as the highest created being. She was the pure and perfect vessel for Christ’s Incarnation, i.e., the Theotokos, the Mother of God. No other created human being will ever have such an elevated role.3

Why the difference in relations?
Another notable difference beside the progenitorial order is the difference in relation between Adam and Eve and Christ and Mary. A quick answer would be that Adam and Eve’s romantic/sexual relationship had nothing to do with the Fall. Most all Early Church commentators hold that sexual relations occurred after the Fall, and the biblical tradition – at least as far as bearing children – supports this claim; thus, the need for a recapitulation focuses the roles played in the overall context of the Fall and Recreation.

“The Annunciation” by Henry Ossawa Tanner, an early African American Artist, 1898

2. Recipients of Supernatural Messengers

A Virgin Listens to the Serpent
A Virgin Listen to the Angel

Leading up to the Fall of Mankind, Eve listens to the sordid words of the serpent.4

“But the serpent said to the woman, ‘You will not die. For God knows that when you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.’ So when the woman saw that the tree was good for food, and that it was a delight to the eyes, and that the tree was to be desired to make one wise, she took of its fruit and ate.”

Paving the way for the Recreation and Salvation of Mankind, the New Eve is visited by the Angel Gabriel.5

“In the sixth month the angel Gabriel was sent from God to a city of Galilee named Nazareth, to a virgin betrothed to a man whose name was Joseph, of the house of David; and the virgin’s name was Mary. And the angel came to her and said, “Hail, full of grace, the Lord is with you!” But she was greatly troubled at the saying, and considered in her mind what sort of greetings this might be. And the angel said to her, “Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favor with God. And behold, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus.”

Mary Untied the Knot of Eve’s Disobedience:
The Early Church Father and Bishop of Lyon, France, Irenaeus (d. 202) wrote the following famous phrase:

The knot of Eve’s disobedience was loosed by the obedience of Mary. The knot of which the virgin Eve tied by her unbelief, the Virgin Mary opened by her belief.

The Virgin Mary is the Advocate of the Virgin Eve:
It was Bishop Irenaeus who more fully developed St. Paul’s concept of recapitulation. He goes on to say:

If the former [Eve] disobeyed God, the latter [Mary] was persuaded to obey God, so that the Virgin Mary became the advocate of the virgin Eve. And thus, as the human race fell into bondage to death by means of a virgin, so it is rescued by a virgin.

An Edifice of Death, An Edifice of Believing:
Further exploring the Early Church, the western thinker of North Africa, Tertullian (c. 160)  states:

For it was while Eve was yet a virgin that the ensnaring word had crept into her ear which was to build the edifice of death. Into a virgin’s soul, in like manner, must be introduced that Word of God which was to raise the fabric of life; so that what had been reduced to ruin by this sex might be the selfsame sex be recovered to salvation. As Eve believed the serpent, so Mary believed the angel. The delinquency which the one occasioned by believing, the other effaced by believing.

“Hail, full of grace, the Lord is with you!” – Gabriel, the Archangel

3. Bearers of Universal Change

Eve Gives Birth to Sin & Death
New Eve Gives Birth to Grace & Salvation

Eve listens the words of the serpent and sins against God: sin and death enter the world. It should be noted here that Eve’s sin did not immediately cause the Fall, but rather she was able to find Adam – who had presumably not been standing there the entire time – and offer him the fruit as well.

Mother Mary, the New Eve, literally gives birth to the Incarnate God, Jesus Christ, who is the grace and salvation of humanity. Again, the point of interest here is that Christ’s Incarnation did not immediately resolve the problem of a fallen humanity. Humanity was under the sinful head of Adam, and a recapitulation was needed to usher in grace and the New Creation.

The Words of a Serpent & of an Angel:
In AD 135, the Early Church Father Justin Martyr said the following in a diloague with a rabbi in Ephesus.6

For Eve, who was a virgin and undefiled, having conceived the world of the serpent, brought forth disobedience and death. But the Virgin Mary received faith and joy when the angel Gabriel announced the good tidings to her that the Spirit of the Lord would come upon her, and the power of the Highest would overshadow her: wherefore also the Holy Thing begotten of her is the Son of God.

Expulsion from the Garden. Milton’s Paradise Lost

4. Together They Change Creation

Eve & Adam Together Cause the Fall
New Eve and New Adam Together Cause Salvation

Creation does not fall until both Adam and Eve have taken of the fruit. Here, under the shadow of the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil, Creation falls.7

“Then the eyes of both were opened, and they know that they were naked.”

The Recreation of the world, the recapitulation of mankind, also did not happen immediately, but rather happened when the New Eve, the New Adam, and the Tree – the Cross – were together. Though all the disciples eventually abandoned Christ, the New Eve did not. She remained at his side as he offered forgiveness and satisfaction for humanity. Christ, being the New Adam, became the head of a new humanity of a redeemed and recreated world.

Was Mary necessary? 
Still, Mary’s partnership in salvation goes beyond simply remaining by Christ’s side. As shown by Anselm’s dilema, the Savior of Mankind needed to be fully human and fully divine. Christ being born of a woman was a necessary step in his Incarnation and validity in being the Savior; thus, Mary, as the New Eve, as the Theotokos, the Mother of God, the Mater Dei, was the necessary perfect and pure vessel of Christ’s Incarnation. Just as the Ark of the Covenant was where God came down in the Old Testament to speak to his people, so too was Mother Mary the Ark of the New Convenant where God came down to his people.

The Pieta in St. Peter’s Basilica, Rome

5. Universal Maternity

Eve Becomes the “Mother of All the Living”
New Eve Becomes the “Mother of All Who Live in Christ”

Before the Fall, Adam simply referred to Eve as Woman. However, after the Fall, Adam names his wife Eve, because she is the “mother of all living.”8

It follows that if Mary is the New Eve, then she would be the “Mother of All Who Live in Christ,” or the “Mother of All Who Truly Live.” There are however several biblical traits to support this logical assumption. The first is that like Adam, Christ does not refer to Mary as “Mary” or even “Mother,” but refers to her as “Woman.”9 The most important circumstance in which this title “Woman” was used was when Christ was on the Cross.

When Jesus saw his mother, and the disciple whom he loved standing near, he said to his mother, “Woman, behold you son!” Then he said to the disciple, “Behold your mother!” And from that hour the disciple took her to his own home.

It is extremely important to observe that when Christ refers to his relationship with Mary he says “Woman,” which invokes Adam’s pre-Fall title for Eve, but when he refers to the disciple’s relationship with Mary he uses the title “Mother.” Tradition tells us that St. John took Mother Mary into his home in Ephesus and cared for her until the Assumption. Christ called the disciples “brothers,” he told them that God was their “Father,” and he gave Mary to them as their “Mother.” Though popular, it is absurd to believe that Christ gave us a Father, gave himself as the Son or our Brother, and completely left out any maternal figure.10

Mary is often depicted with the Serpent under her right foot.

6. Enmity

Enmity Between Eve & the Serpent
Enmity between the New Eve and Satan

After the Fall, the first messianic promise is given to humanity:11

“I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your seed and her seed; he shall bruise your head, and you shall bruise his heel.”

The latter part of the verse is certainly referring to the penultimate bruising of Christ upon the cross, and then the ultimate bruising of Satan and his roaming spirits by the Harrowing of Hell and the Resurrection. As the New Eve, Mary gains enmity between her and the serpent even more so than Eve, because she is the very vessel by which the victorious “seed” becomes Incarnate. While the enmity between Mary and Satan is certainly not an outrageous claim, it should be noted that Scripture is much clearer about the enmity between her “seed” and Satan. However in St. John’s book of Revelation12, a certain pericope grasps speaks to this special:

The Woman Bears a Son:

Then God’s temple in heaven was opened, and the ark of his covenant was seen within his temple; and there were flashes of lightning, voices, peals of thunder, an earthquake, and heavy hail.

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. And another portent appeared in heaven; behold, a great red dragon, with seven heads and ten horns, and seven diadems upon his heads. 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; 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, 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.

Traditionally the “ark of the covenant” and the “woman” are considered the same portent. During Christ’s time on the earth, the Ark of the Covenant was not in the Temple; in fact, it had been missing for a few hundred years. As aforementioned, Mary was seen as the New Ark of the Covenant, because like the old ark, she was the vessel wherein heaven and earth met. The “woman” is obviously Mary, as she gives birth to the “male child” that is hostile to the “red dragon,” and that child “is to rule all nations with a rod of iron” – which is a allusion to King David who ruled with a “rod of iron.” At the end of this passage, the woman, Mary, is safeguarded from the dragon by God.13

Enmity Between the Woman and the Dragon:
The next passage describes a war in heaven between the Archangel Michael and the Dragon.14 The passage invokes the notion of Satan being thrown from heaven. However, it is the following passage that returns to the aforesaid woman:

And when the dragon saw that he had been thrown down to the earth, he pursued the woman who had borne the male child. 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. The serpent poured water like a river out of his mouth after the woman, to sweep her away with the flood. 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. 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.

After failing to conquer her son, the dragon then turns to the woman, Mary. The specifics of the hostility between Mary and Satan have always been a point of intrigue for biblical scholars, but it is clear the woman is protected by God. Foiled by God’s protection of Mary, the dragon then turns to her “offspring,” i.e., Christians.

Mother to All Christians: Why Mary Is Important to All Believers in Christ

Every single unique grace and role given to Mother Mary is anchored in Jesus Christ. All her honor and due veneration rests on understanding Jesus Christ as the Savior of Mankind. Due to this connection, the Marian doctrines of the Church help articulate the truths of Christ, e.g., the Theotokos or Mater Dei shows Christ to be God and Man, the New Eve shows Christ to be the New Adam, the New Ark of the Covenant proclaims Christ’s divinity, the Queen of Heaven title calls to mind Christ as the Son of David and his eternal Davidic throne, and much more. As the scholar and popular author Scott Hahn has intimates, Mary, like all good mothers, continually points to her Son.

  1. Gen 2:21, 22 []
  2. Luke 2:6, 7 []
  3. Christ not the “highest created being”? – Christ’s human nature was created, but Christ the person, the second person of the Trinity, certainly existed before the creation of his human nature; thus, his mother, Mary, the Mater Dei, is considered the highest created being. []
  4. Gen 3:4-6a []
  5. Luke 1:28-31 []
  6. Dialogue with Trypho; For further reading on this document, Hail Holy Queen by Scott Hahn, 40. []
  7. Gen 3:7a []
  8. Gen 3:20 []
  9. Mary as Woman: cf. the Wedding at Cana & Christ on the Cross, St. John 2:1, 19:26, 27 []
  10. Protestant Error on “Woman” – The fact that Christ calls his own mother “woman” is not common. In fact, it can be considered rude. However, it is beyond comprehension that Christ would dishonor his own mother while telling others to honor theirs. Protestant scholarship has attempt to use the title “woman” as a way of Christ belittling his own mother and thus belittling her role. Again, to assert Christ would diminish his own mother’s role in salvation history by criticizing her is absurd. In the greater context, the term “woman” is referring to her role as the “New Eve” in salvation history. []
  11. Gen 3:15 []
  12. Rev 11:19; 12 []
  13. The Woman as Israel: Interpreting the “woman” as a generic Israel is not necessarily wrong, but it is a more ambiguous interpretation that does not itself exclude a more specific reading of the woman as Mary; especially considering the dragon then goes after “her children” which are not the Jews, but the followers of her child, Christ. []
  14. The War of the Child and the Dragon: Now war arose in heaven, Michael and his angels fighting against the dragon; and the dragon and his angels fought,but they were defeated and there was no longer any place for them in heaven. 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. 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. 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. 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!” []