What Does the Old Testament Say about Mary?

Mary, Rosary, Our Lady of the Rosary

Philippe De Champaigne, The Visitation, 1643

Adam and Eve distanced themselves from God through sin – what we know as Original Sin – and so our heavenly Father planned to restore humanity through a different man and woman: Jesus and Mary, his mother. Because of this, Jesus is often referred to as the New Adam and Mary as the New Eve. As Church Father, St. Irenaeus writes, “The knot of Eve’s disobedience was untied by Mary’s obedience.”

This is already mentioned in the book of Genesis (Gen 3:15) when God tells the serpent, “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.” This verse is called the Protoevangelium” or “first Gospel” because it’s God’s first promise to send the Redeemer and represents the struggle between Satan and Christ with Mary playing a leading role.

Throughout the following centuries, as God was preparing his people to bring forth our Redeemer, Mary was prefigured by many strong and holy women. For example, Sarah, Abraham’s wife, miraculously conceived Isaac in her old age (Gen 21) and Hannah bore the prophet Samuel after many years of barrenness (1 Sam 2:1). Hannah’s song of gratitude echoes the Magnificat that Mary would eventually speak upon visiting Elizabeth. Other heroines of the Old Testament that prefigure Mary include Judith, Esther, and Jael.

Old Testament prophets often described Israel as a bride who is called to belong to God, enjoy his protection, become fruitful through his power, and remain faithful to him just as a human bride would cling to her husband.

God spoke to Israel through the prophet Hosea when he said, “And I will betroth you to me forever; I will betroth you to me in righteousness and injustice, in steadfast love, and in mercy.” (Hos 2:19). This promise was realized in Mary who was a true daughter of Israel who lived in perfect dedicated vocation and brought forth the Son of God. Mary also is prefigured in the Song of Songs and in the Wisdom books, particularly Sirach.  Wisdom describes Mary who is the most perfect of all created beings.

And so when we pray the mysteries of the Rosary we are in fact meditating on the culmination of God’s promises throughout both the Old and New Testaments. Making our way through the “beads” is like a grace-filled history lesson in which we review our heritage as People of God.

The original cell of all redeemed mankind is Mary, in whom first took place the purification and sanctification through Christ and impregnation by the Holy Spirit.Before the Son of Man was born of the Virgin, the Son of God conceived of this very virgin as one full of grace, and he created the church in and with her. ~St. Teresa Benedicta of the Cross

One Comment

  1. In reflecting on Mary’s role in Christian theology, we cannot forget the fact that at Cana, Jesus calls her “woman” (Jn 2:4). The only reasonable explanation for this is that, as the New Adam (as he is called in the New Testament), he is pointing out the Mary is the New Eve and that they together are the beginning of a new humanity (symbolized by the new wine), and this new humanity is the Church. In Genesis, we see that Adam calls the new creature “woman” (Gn 2:23) because God has given him the insight to understand the reality of each creature. That is why after the sin he changes her name to Eve (Gn 3:20). Eve’s original dignity (immaculate, immortal) has been downgraded to being simply the mother of beings destined (by her fault) to death. As the new “Woman,” Jesus makes us understand that Mary is the New Eve, sinless from the first moment of her existence and free of the sin that brings death as its consequence. Jesus reaffirms her role at the cross when Jesus gives her to St. John as a mother (Jn 19:26), again calling her woman. In the light of this, St. Peter’s analysis of Psalm 16:8-11 is equally valid for the assumption of Mary. In Acts 2:25-28, Peter quotes the psalm, applying it to Christ, but it applies equally well to the virgin whom Jesus calls “woman”: “you will not abandon my soul to the nether world nor will you suffer your holy one to see corruption, you have made known to me the paths of life; you will fill me with joy in your presence.”

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