Monday, July 11, 2011

Setting the Stage, Part 2: Catholic Bible Stories

To be honest, Catholicism was not even on my radar as a viable Christian option.

I thought the Catholic Church was evil because it masqueraded itself as a form of Christianity but kept its people away from grace, away from the Scriptures, and away from God.  My most concrete experience with Catholicism had been Catholic school in the third grade, when I started a prayer group at recess in order to free my fellow third graders from praying the rosary.  I just wanted them to put all of that Mary worship behind them.

But ten years later I read a book by a Catholic author about Mary.  The author talked about Mary as the “New Eve,” a concept that had apparently existed within the Church since its earliest days.  Contemporaries of the Apostles coined the term, and they drew their ideas largely from the writings of the Apostle John.  But the idea itself seemed to have been planted by God, in the book of Genesis.

Christians are familiar with the idea of Christ as the New Adam, due to St. Paul’s writings on how death comes through Adam but life through Christ.  But Genesis 3:15 speaks of three parties in the coming redemption: the serpent, the man, and the woman.  “I will put enmity between thee and the woman, and between thy seed and her seed.”  The prophecy in Genesis makes it clear that it is the seed of the woman (Christ) that will “bruise the head” of the serpent; nevertheless, the woman herself will be involved in the battle for redemption—just as a woman had been involved in the Fall. 

It was significant to those in the early church that Mary, in John 2, is the one responsible for the beginning of Jesus’ ministry.  As the first Eve led the first Adam into sin, the new Eve led the new Adam to perform “the first of his signs.”  When Jesus calls his mother “Woman”, it is not a title of disrespect but rather an allusion to the name given to Eve in the Creation story: “Woman” (Gen 2:23).  John 2 is a “new” version of Genesis 3, in which the Man again submits to the Woman, but this time her request is pure.  The result of this submission is not death, but the manifestation of the glory of Life Himself (John 2:11).

Mary is the Woman spoken of in Genesis 3, whom the serpent would hate and whose Son would conquer evil; she is the Woman who appears in Revelation 12, who is “clothed with the sun” and sought by the dragon, but whose Son will “rule all nations with a rod of iron.”  She is neither above her Son nor equal to him, but due to Mary’s privileged place in the redemption story—prepared for her by God—all generations have called her blessed.

If it had been my ideas about Mary that kept me from Catholicism, it was the Catholic Church’s teachings about her that began to draw me in.


  1. Great overview of Mary's role - Thank you!

  2. Scott Hahn definitely introduced me to the Scriptural basis of the doctrines about Mary, but I also gathered these thoughts from Venerable John Henry Cardinal Newman, some of the Fathers, and a few documents written by the US Bishops.