Mary in the Old Testament

Sep 30th, 2010 | By | Category: Blog Posts

Over the past two weeks Dr. Lawrence Feingold of the Institute for Pastoral Studies at Ave Maria University, has presented two teachings on Mary in the Old Testament, as part of a longer teaching series on Mariology for the Association of Hebrew Catholics.


Madonna (1410)
by Lorenzo Monacho
Palazzo Davanzati Florenz

At the beginning of the first talk (see below), given on September 22, Dr. Feingold introduces the whole series, by discussing the importance of Mariology, and briefly surveying the Protestant objections to Mariology. He explains that Mary is present in the Old Testament in three ways: in prophecy concerning the mother of the Redeemer, in Old Testament figures of Mary, and in the ultimate mission of Israel, which is to prepare for the birth of the Redeemer. In this third way Mary sums up in herself the ultimate mission of the Jewish people.

In the second part of this first talk, Dr. Feingold brings out the parallelism between Mary and Israel, and the way in which Israel realizes her mission only through Mary. This mission required preparation, and the whole of the Old Testament is a record of this preparation, a preparation that culminates in Mary as the perfect and holy Daughter of Zion, who by God’s election would bring forth the Redeemer into the world.

In the second talk, given on September 29, Dr. Feingold explains how Mary is present typologically in various female figures in the Old Testament. (For a brief explanation of the justification of biblical typology, see here.) Christ, the Church, the sacraments, and Mary are all prefigured in the Old Testament, in much the way a human author foreshadows future events in a novel. Mary is foreshadowed in the person of Eve, in that both are mothers of all the living, yet in different ways. Eve is the mother of all those living with natural life, while Mary is the mother of all those living with supernatural life, though in other ways they are opposites, for Mary’s obedience undoes the knot of Eve’s disobedience. Drawing from Cardinal Ratzinger’s book Daughter Zion: Meditations on the Church’s Marian Belief, Dr. Feingold shows how Sarah, Hannah, Judith, Esther, and the woman of Proverbs 31 are types of Mary. Sarah and Hannah foreshadow Mary by way of their faith and miraculous fertility in the context of barrenness. Judith and Esther prefigure Mary by way of their beauty and their intercession on behalf of the people of God and as instruments of divine protection from their enemies. Each of these Old Testament women prefigure Mary through their humility, as God demonstrates the distinction between nature and grace.

Dr. Feingold explains how the liturgy of the Church recognizes the Old Testament references to the “Daughter of Zion” (and “Daughter of Jerusalem”) as references to Mary, because she sums up in herself the mission of the Jewish people. All Israel is the betrothed bride, but Mary is that bride most perfectly and without blemish; she is the model of Israel as bride, as daughter of Zion. Drawing from the prophets Zechariah, Zephaniah, Jeremiah, and Isaiah, Dr. Feingold shows how Mary is the daughter of Zion par excellence, in whom God comes to dwell physically. From the Wisdom literature and especially the Song of Songs, he shows how Mary is the exemplar of perfect created wisdom, which is Israel’s perfect response to the divine and uncreated Wisdom. The femininity of wisdom (in Hebrew and Greek) is not accidental; it stands on the side of creation, as the created answer to God’s own uncreated Wisdom (i.e. the eternal Logos). Mary is the perfect answer to the Word of God, and thus she is the exemplar of the created wisdom spoken of in the wisdom literature of the Old Testament.

Mary in the Old Testament: Part 1
 

Question and Answer
 

Mary in the Old Testament: Part 2
 

Question and Answer
 

The audio files can be downloaded as mp3s here.

Tags: ,

8 comments
Leave a comment »

  1. Bryan,

    Thanks for these links. I intend to listen to Dr. Feingold’s lectures, but I have a question re. typology after watching the clip you linked to. The clip defends the legitimacy of typological interpretation. I’ve always been nervous about this. The following questions/comments assume that typological interp. is a legitimate method, in principle. I’m wondering about the ‘rules’ for doing so in practice. It is the [apparent lack of] rules that bothers me so much about typological interpretation. How are we to be confident that we’re not just making things up? Are we limited to the set of typological interpretations that one finds int the early church fathers? How can one judge the reliability of a typological interpretation? Why favor one over another, even if they aren’t contradictory?

  2. I’ve always found your articles interesting. Are you planning to do one on the early church’s take on eternal security anytime soon?

  3. In the Q and A following Part 2 some of those in attendance seem to misunderstand Dr. Feingold’s explanation of Our Lady’s incredulity at the Angel’s news that she shall have a child. I am confused by their objection(s). If Mary understood the Angel’s message to be something like “You ARE pregnant,” then certainly she’d respond by saying “How can this be since I AM a virgin.” (Which is what those in attendance seem to be saying).

    Dr. Feingold, however, suggests that the Angel’s message “You shall have a child” confounds Our Lady because there was a permanent vow of virginity standing between her and her ever conceiving a child. In other words, since she NEVER plans on having a physically intimate relationship with any man, the Angel’s words are shocking to her.

    So, if the Angel’s news was indeed speaking of some future conception, only if Mary had already taken a vow of virginity would her incredulity seem to make any sense. Otherwise, she’d simply understand the message to mean that she and her husband would soon come together conjugally and conceive a child.

    The problem that I see lies in the fact that Mary responds by saying “How will this be since I AM a virgin.” In other words, though the Angel seems to indicate a future conception, Mary seems to reference her current virginal state as the thing that makes the Angel’s message so inconceivable to her (pardon the pun)…

    So it seems like the Angel’s foretelling a future event… and Mary questions it, not according to her future state, but her current state (that of being a virgin). And that’s where I get really confused.

    If anyone out there would like to help me out, I’d certainly appreciate it!
    herbert

  4. @herbert:

    The problem that I see lies in the fact that Mary responds by saying “How will this be since I AM a virgin.” In other words, though the Angel seems to indicate a future conception, Mary seems to reference her current virginal state as the thing that makes the Angel’s message so inconceivable to her (pardon the pun)…

    The puzzle is created by translators who seem to be inclined to toning down anything supernatural.

    Mary does not say, “because I am a virgin.” Mary says, “because I do not know a man.” The Greek present tense is what is used. It is ambiguous, in a way that English is not. The English equivalent could either be, “since I am not knowing a man” (present progressive), or “since I do not know a man” (present habitual). Of course the first possibility is absurd; she must mean the second.

    I find somewhat annoying translations that, by trying to clarify, are in reality also interpretations – exegesis, and not good exegesis at that.

    Mary could as easily have said the Greek for “I am a virgin” (‘eimi parthenos) – but she did not. Now of course she spoke (if actual words are behind this) in Aramaic. Nevertheless, the Greek writer – Luke, presumably – has her say something in Greek which cannot mean “I am a virgin.”

    jj

  5. Ryan (re: #1)

    I think your question arises within a uniquely Protestant paradigm, because for a Protestant there is no assurance that the Holy Spirit is guiding the visible Church and protecting her from error in her interpretation and explication of the Apostolic deposit. So there is a deep worry, and I would say even suspicion, of misinterpretation, and hence a perceived need for objective rules to distinguish legitimate from illegitimate interpretations. And one of the problems for Protestants is that there is no clear set of objective hermeneutical rules. All the various sets of hermeneutical rules are loaded with various philosophical and theological assumptions and presuppositions that are brought to the interpretive process. And this leaves the Protestant in an epistemic quandary regarding what is the authentic interpretation of Scripture regarding many doctrines.

    But, for Catholics, the faith is something received and handed down within and by the Church Christ founded, and we can rest with assurance that within the Church the deposit of faith has been preserved and explicated faithfully, in what has been accepted and believed by the Church universally. We don’t have to figure it all out for ourselves, or critically weigh and evaluate each teaching by the Church Fathers, determining which interpretations are legitimate and which are not. The Church has a continual shepherd in her magisterium, not just in the Apostles in the first century, but also in their successors in union with the successor of St. Peter. And so when the Church Fathers were in agreement regarding the interpretation and meaning of the Apostolic deposit, and their teachings concerning the deposit of faith were accepted by the Church universal, we do not feel any nervousness or anxiety about such teachings, because we know that the Holy Spirit was protecting and guiding the Church as she developed and deepened her understanding of the Apostolic deposit. Of course this doesn’t mean that every Father was right about everything. But, the Church Fathers are our Fathers in the faith, and so we receive the faith from them, and honor them as our spiritual Fathers in the faith. By their teachings they show us how the Scripture is to be interpreted. This the difference between using one’s own interpretation of Scripture to judge and evaluate the Fathers (that’s the Protestant approach), and letting the teaching of the Fathers inform and shape one’s interpretation of Scripture (that’s the Catholic approach, characterized in the Fr. Kimel’s “Third Law“). So there is no complete set of rules by which legitimate typological interpretation is distinguished from illegitimate typological interpretation. The gospel is a family story handed down by the family of God (i.e. brothers and sisters of Christ), and what this divine family approves and accepts as an authentic explication of its story is what we accept as an authentic explication of this story, and what this divine family rejects, is what we reject. We’re not left alone staring at a book, waiting for a bosom-burning or for another book providing us with a set of scientific rules by which valid interpretations may be logically deduced, verified, or in some way objectively distinguished from invalid interpretations. This is in part what I was trying to explain in “The Tradition and the Lexicon.”

    In the peace of Christ,

    – Bryan

  6. Bryan:

    We’re not left alone staring at a book, waiting for a bosom-burning or for another book providing us with a set of scientific rules by which valid interpretations may be logically deduced, verified, or in some way objectively distinguished from invalid interpretations.

    Yes, this is the heart of the matter. Ultimately, the choices for Protestants are rationalism, “enthusiasm,” or some combination of the two. “The Church” then becomes simply the set of people who, by some such means, have reached conclusions similar to one’s own. But that doesn’t succeed in distinguishing divine revelation from human opinion. For if, as Protestants insist, no given interpretation is preserved from error, then none are distinguishable from opinion—and hence the Bible, the alleged medium of divine revelation, cannot establish doctrinal conclusions that command the assent of faith as distinct from opinion.

    When I point that out, as I often do, the most common Protestant response is: “Well, that’s just your opinion.” Which makes my case for me.

    Best,
    Mike

  7. “…a preparation that culminates in Mary as the perfect and holy Daughter of Zion, who by God’s election would bring forth the Redeemer into the world.”

    Can somebody, when they have the chance, throw out some Bible verses from the Old Testament that say that the Daughter of Zion is perfect? I’d like to compile and examine as many as I can.

    Thanks.

  8. Dr. Lawrence Feingold – Mary Prefigured in the Old Testament – 2015 Steubenville:

Leave Comment

Subscribe without commenting