Virgin, Mother, Daughter, or Bride?: Mary as an embodiment of the old and new people of God

In both the Old and New Testament, the people of God are frequently personified collectively as a woman. In the prophetic books, this character is often referred to as the “Daughter of Zion.” Her presentation varies significantly: she is at times a faithless harlot, barren, a virgin, a mother in labor. She is not only gendered but spatial, also representing the city of Jerusalem and its temple. She represents both the best and the worst of Israel, the people of God’s lowest and highest points emotionally. In the New Testament, the personified people of God maintains her gendered and spatial elements, but takes on bridal imagery alongside the spatial body and temple metaphors.

The bridal metaphor, though thoroughly biblical, at times presents challenges for the modern interpreter, introducing frames of sexuality and/or authority. This article will propose a possible remedy for those interpretive challenges through Mary, the mother of Jesus.

Within Mariology, Mary the mother of Jesus is widely affirmed as a type of the Daughter of Zion, based in part on theological assumptions, but also in part on correspondences within the Lukan text. Despite the possible textual echoes, the Daughter of Zion is rarely considered as context for the Lukan infancy narratives or as a possible figuration of Mary within Biblical studies.

This paper will consider the evidence for reading Mary as an embodiment of the Daughter of Zion figure and a segue between Israel and the Church. Evidence includes textual echoes between the Lukan text and Isaiah, Joel, Zephaniah, and Zechariah as well as thematic correspondence further developed in Ezekiel and Hosea. This paper will then suggest potential implications for a reading of the female collective personification of the people of God based on its embodiment in Mary. The non-sexuality of the infancy narratives renders implausible a divine consort reading of the Old Testament Daughter of Zion while also narrowing the metaphorical reading of the church as bride of Christ in Ephesians 5. Further implications include Mary as a model for the Church’s relationship to God as based on hearing and doing the Word of God.

6 thoughts on “Virgin, Mother, Daughter, or Bride?: Mary as an embodiment of the old and new people of God”

  1. Caroline Smiley’s Proposal
    This paper promises to bring a balanced discussion of the two extreme views that either venerate Christ’s mother through Mariology or deny her any role at all.

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