Old Testament Marian Themes

Guidelines for Reflection an Old Testament Themes and Mary

– Father Johann G. Roten, S.M.

1. In studying the Hebrew Testament or Scriptures (Old Testament) Mariologists first interpret the texts in their historical setting. The date, the author, and the location of the writing are important. Social location and anthropological studies supplement the study of the text.

2. The theological perspective of each book is important and will help to reflect on the person of Mary when she is considered in the light of these perspectives. She is a daughter of Israel, and these are the Scriptures with which she would have familiarity.

3. The place and the role of women in the Hebrew Scriptures are important for the background of understanding Mary in the light of her heritage as a Jewess of the first century.

4. Certain biblical themes are important for theological accommodations in the Marian dimension. For example, Daughter of Zion, Jerusalem, Ark of the Covenant, Eve and the matriarchs of Israel.

5. There are certain windows of opportunity in the New Testament which reveal parallels to the Old Testament and theological reflection on these texts which are presented in the Gospels in reference to Mary. For example, the Magnificat has many of its passages and words that are found in the Old Testament, Psalms, Prophets, and Pentateuch.

6. Certain themes in the New Testament are considered foundational in many Marian studies, for example the Promised Woman of Genesis 3:15; the highly discussed Isaiah 7:14, and some of the praises of Wisdom in Proverbs and the Book of Wisdom and the Canticle of Canticles.

7. The earliest Christian literature both post-apostolic and then the Patristic literature up to the time of and including John Damascene are valuable as early Christian thought about Mary. Often these writer-theologians and pastors develop Marian insights and themes, for example, the "New Eve" theme essential to the first Mariologist, Irenaeus.

8. The early Councils refer to Mary and use some of the Hebrew texts to speak of her. This is the beginning of Magisterial teaching the development of dogmas about Mary. There are four such dogmas: The Immaculate Conception, the Virginity of Mary, The Divine Motherhood (Theotokos), and the Assumption of Mary. These start from the New Testament texts and go into the modern period up to 1950. The theological research necessary to develop and explain these dogmas in up to date terms remains the task of the marian theologians.

9. Rabbinic writings can also assist in the study of the more specific texts that are taken from the Old Testament and then accommodated to Mary. This helps the student to reread the texts in the light of Jewish reflection and often to discover meaningful insights in and from the texts. This is akin to knowing what Tradition hands on both for the Jewish Community and the Christian Community.

10. Finally, the way of esthetics through poetry, art, iconography and creative narrative and commentaries aids the student in enjoying the role of Mary in the history of Judaic-Christian thought.

11. Since there are over forty references to Mary in the Qur'an, another dimension of this study would be to research the sources and background of the Islamic texts about Mary. Some may stem from the Hebrew Scriptures as well as from New Testament texts and Apocryphal texts.

The Marian student needs to reflect also on how these texts are then used by way of accommodation in the liturgy. Often they are put to song or used as clues to the other Scriptures used for the lectionary.

Another suggestion for the student is to read the few doctoral works done on texts used in Lumen Gentium in reference to Mary and the Old Testament. It is prudent for the student to reread chapter 8 of Lumen Gentium when starting a Marian research or project. Going hand in hand with this, since we are primarily concerned with the Scriptures, is to reread the decree of Vatican II on Revelation. This will provide a good perspective on the relation between Scripture and Tradition within the Church.

A great store of Marian treasure in this area of study are the Masses in honor of the Blessed Virgin Mary. These have many of the accommodated Marian texts from the Old Testament. The introductory notes and the prefaces for the Masses are excellent theological and pastoral reflections on the mysteries of Christ and his relationship to Mary.

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