The Past Her Prelude: Marian Imagery in the Old Testament | Sandra Miesel | Ignatius Insight
St. Augustine said that "the New Testament lies hidden in the Old and the Old is fulfilled in the New." Like other Church Fathers he distinguished between the outer "literal" and the inner "spiritual" meaning of Holy Scripture. And like the others, he often preferred spirit to letter.
The categories into which various Fathers divided the spiritual sense need not concern us here, only their zealous attempts to read the figurative meanings of the Bible. They saw the New Testament foreshadowed in the Old through several devices. Types are persons, things, or events taken as historical (Adam is a Type of Christ); prophecies are predictions (the Messiah will be born of a virgin); and allegories are poetic comparisons, not limited to strict personifications (Holy Wisdom is a gracious woman). Our discussion will move freely across all these categories.
The Fathers saw every part of the Scriptures as linked to every other part. They believed that God had encoded patterns of similarities and contrasts into his Word to produce flashes of illumination. Making cross-comparisons rounds out our picture of what Salvation is--and is not. For instance, innocent, devout Abel is a Type of Christ while jealous, murderous Cain his Antitype.
Mary entered this web of associations early, when St. Justin Martyr (d. 165) contrasted her obedience with Eve's disobedience immediately after referring to Christ's symbolic titles in prophecy. His insight was repeated a generation later by St. Irenaeus of Lyons (d. ca. 200): "What the virgin Eve had bound in unbelief, the Virgin Mary loosed through faith." Thus Mary came to be called the New Eve and the Latin pun Eva/Ave for the reversal entered Christian lore.
Eve is the mother of all according to the flesh, but Mary according to the spirit. As universal spiritual mother and first Christian, Mary is also a Type of the Church, a parallel first noted by St. Irenaeus. Therefore, the same Biblical imagery used for the Church can also apply to Mary: she is the living Ark of the Covenant, the ultimate Temple, the new Jerusalem, and the perfected Israel as Bride of God.
These Old Testament prefigurations are brought forward into the Book of Revelation and amplify the Woman Clothed in the Sun (Rev 12:12), the "great sign" manifested immediately after the scene of the Ark in the celestial Temple. The pregnant Woman's body carries the Messiah as the Ark once held the Divinely sent Tablets of the Law, Aaron's rod that flowered, and a pot of manna Moreover, she is also the mother of all Christians. But this Woman flees from the threatening Satanic Dragon, unlike Eve who fatally lingered when the Serpent spoke.
The Woman does not, however, grapple directly with the Dragon, though some Marian devotees wish it were otherwise. Direct engagement with the Foe is left to other Marian Types. Deborah rallies the Israelite army (Jgs 4:4-16), Jael smashes the head of an enemy general (Jgs 4:17-22), Judith beheads Holofernes (Jdt 13), and Esther maneuvers Haman onto the gallows (Est 7), in each case saving their people from certain destruction.
Besides the typology of specific characters, Messianic Psalm 45 has been traditionally taken to represent Christ as the king with Mary as the queen who stands beside him adorned "in gold of Ophir". This Psalm is often quoted in the liturgy, including texts of Marian feasts such as the Assumption. There it refers to Our Lady's entrance into heaven and justifies showing her enthroned beside her Son.
The queen in the Psalm is the king's bride but the normal structure of a Semitic court gave the king's mother far more power than any wife. This situation, demonstrated by the relationship between Solomon and his mother Bathsheba (1 Kgs 2:12-25) does fit Mary, so Bathsheba was used as a Type of Mary. In the incident shown, however, Bathsheba's intercession gets the petitioner executed. The only other queen mothers shown in action, idolatrous Maacah (1 Kgs 15: 18) and murderous Athalia (2 Kgs 11), could be called Antitypes of Mary.
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