- To understand the basic outlines of the New Testament’s witness to Mary.
- To appreciate how the Old Testament forms the essential background for what the New Testament teaches about Mary.
- To understand “typology” and its importance for reading the New Testament texts concerning Mary.
I. From Scripture to Creed
A. Mary of the New Testament
What the New Testament has to say about Mary fills only a few verses.
She is the focus of several passages in the Gospels and is referred to once in the Acts of the Apostles.
The Scriptures do depict Mary at every stage in her Son’s life - at His conception and birth; during His childhood; at the start of His ministry, at the foot of the Cross, and following His Resurrection and Ascension.
But in most of these cases, Mary’s presence amounts to little more than a mention.
Basically, this is what we learn from the Scriptures:
An angel announced that Mary would bear Jesus through the power of the Holy Spirit (see Luke 1:26-38). While pregnant with Him, she paid a long visit to her relative, Elizabeth (see Luke 1:39-56).
She bore Jesus in Bethlehem (see Matthew 1:18-25) and was by His crib as magi (see Matthew 2:11) and shepherds (see Luke 2:15-20) paid Him homage. Under threat of danger, she fled with her newborn and Joseph, her husband, into Egypt (see Matthew 2:14).
Mary presented Jesus in the Temple (see Luke 2:23,33-35), and later, when He was twelve, found Him there teaching (see Luke 2:48-51).
Mary was at the wedding in Cana where Jesus performed His first miracle (see John 2:1-11). She was there, too, at Nazareth when He was rejected by His own people (see Matthew 13:54-58; Mark 6:1-6).
She watched Him die on the Cross (see John 19:25-28), and was among those gathered with the Apostles in Jerusalem awaiting Pentecost and the sending of the Holy Spirit (see Acts 1:14).
There are also a few indirect mentions of Mary in the New Testament. An anonymous woman cries out to Jesus: "Blessed is the womb that carried you" (see Luke 11:27-28). Paul mentions her but not by name (see Galatians 4:4). And she is apparently the woman depicted in a fantastic vision in the Bible’s last book (see Revelation 11:19-12:18).
B. Mary of Doctrine and Devotion
Even counting indirect mentions, Mary is referred to just fourteen times in the New Testament. That’s far less than some of the Apostles - certainly less than Peter, who is mentioned about 155 times.
How then did she come to be one of only two people mentioned by name in the Apostles’ Creed ("...born of the Virgin Mary")? How did she come to inspire some of the Church’s earliest liturgies and prayers, as well as some of its most controversial and misunderstood dogmas?
These questions have long been sticking points for many Christians, who can find no basis in Scripture for what Catholics believe and pray about Mary.
At best, they look upon our Marian beliefs and devotions as products of a pious but misguided imagination. At worst, they call it "Mariolatry" - a false worship that undermines the perfect saving work of Christ and robs Him of His glory.
Unfortunately, many devout Catholics would be equally hard-pressed to explain the connection between the Mary of the Bible and the Mary of Catholic doctrine and devotion.
That’s why this course is important.
We’re going to discover that when it comes to Mary, there’s far more to Scripture than what first meets the eye. We’ll see why prayers such as the "Hail Mary" are composed largely of biblical words, and see how the Church’s Marian dogmas and doctrines are definitive interpretations of Scriptures concerning Mary.
In fact, through close study of the Bible, we’re going to find the seeds not only for Catholic devotions such as the Rosary, but for dogmas and doctrines such as Mary’s Immaculate Conception, her Assumption, and her crowning as Queen of Heaven.
Catholic devotion to Mary, rooted in the biblical witness of Christ’s first followers, is far from blasphemy or idolatry. At the end of this course, you may wonder whether it is blasphemy not to honor Mary - as God’s most perfect work, the human person who most truly conforms to the image of God (see Genesis 1:27; Romans 8:29; 1 Corinthians 15:49).
To appreciate the connections between the Mary of Scripture and the Mary of doctrine and devotion, we need to learn how to read the Scriptures as they were written. When we do, we’ll discover that, though the biblical data is scant, it is rich in divine meaning.
- From Scripture to Creed
- Reading Mary in Matthew
- Reading Mary in Luke
- Reading Like Jesus
- Study Questions
- Lesson Two: Wedding at Cana, Garden in Eden
- To appreciate the Old Testament symbolism that forms the deep background to the Gospel account of the wedding feast at Cana.
- To understand how Mary is depicted as a “New Eve” in this account.
- To appreciate the importance of the Old Testament marriage symbolism for John’s recounting of the “sign” at Cana.
- Lesson Three: The Ark of the New Covenant
- To see how Mary’s visit to Elizabeth parallels David’s bringing of the Ark of the Covenant to Jerusalem.
- To understand how the book of Revelation uses the startling image of the rediscovered Ark of the Covenant to introduce a vision of the Mother of Christ.
- To understand why the New Testament writers see Mary as the Ark of the New Covenant.
- Lesson Four: Mother Crowned in Glory
- To see the importance of the Queen Mother in the Davidic kingdom of the Old Testament.
- To understand the duties and privileges that came with the position of Queen Mother.
- To see how Mary fills the position of Queen Mother in the kingdom of Christ.
- Lesson Five: The All-Holy Mother of God
- To understand the relationship between Catholic teaching about Mary and the Scriptural portrayal of Mary.
- To understand the biblical foundations of the Dogma of the Immaculate Conception.
- To appreciate how Catholic belief in the Immaculate Conception flows from the New Testament portrait of Mary as the “New Eve”
- Lesson Six: The Queen Assumed into Heaven
- To understand the biblical foundations of the Dogma of the Assumption.
- To understand the deep Old Testament symbolism and imagery in Revelation 12, and its relation to Catholic beliefs about Mary.
- To appreciate how the biblical portrait of Mary is reflected and interpreted in the Church’s liturgy.