Oftentimes when Christians (influenced by evangelicalism) who have a low view of Mary are confronted with the ancient Christians traditions, both East and West, that hold a much higher view of Mary they will mention how little the New Testament has to say about her. This is an indisputable fact. The primary focus on the New Testaments texts is Jesus Christ; not His mother. Nonetheless Mary isn’t entirely absent from the New Testament texts either. In fact some of the texts where she does appear actually have a lot to say about her. Arguably the most important Marian text of the New Testament is found in the beginning of the Gospel of St. Luke; beginning with the Annunciation and ending with the Magnificat. On the surface level of the text it seems that all we see is that the angel Gabriel announces to Mary that she will conceive a son, whom she is to name Jesus, and this son will receive the throne of David. Following the angelic annunciation Mary goes to visit her pregnant cousin Elizabeth and upon her arrival the child in Elizabeth’s womb, John the Baptist, leaps for joy. Mary then offers a song of praise to that God of Israel and then the text informs us that she remained with her cousin Elizabeth for three months before going home. For most modern readers there seems to be very little about the text that might suggest anything that resembles the high Mariology of the ancient Christian traditions (except for, possibly, in 1:48 when Mary herself announces that all generations will call her blessed) but this is because many modern readers are deaf to the Old Testament echoes that overflow from these pages. When these passages are read in light of the Old Testament echoes, images, allusions, and quotations found within we see that Mary is much more than a blessed virgin: she’s more honorable than the angels, the culmination of faithful Israel, the Queen Mother of the King of Heaven, the ark of the new covenant, the bearer of the salvation of God, the prophetic Woman who’s Seed will crush the head of the serpent, the perfect keeper of the Law; she is the new Hagar, the new Rahab, the new Hannah, the new Jael, and the new Eve.
The narrative begins with the the archangel Gabriel’s visitation to Mary. The theme of an angelic visitation figures quite frequently throughout the Old Testament. The significance of Gabriel’s visitation to Mary is found in how he addresses her, “Hail, full of grace, the Lord is with you!” (Lk. 1:28) A survey of the angelic encounters throughout the Old Testament frequently shows the men honoring their angelic visitors. In Genesis 18 when three angels visit Abraham by the Oak of Mamre it describes Abraham as running to meet them and bowing down to earth before them (Gen. 18:2). In Joshua 5 when the Angel of the Lord appears to Joshua it likewise describes Joshua as going out to meet him and bowing down to the earth (Josh. 5:13-14). In other instances the angels are simply messengers while other times they appear either to defend Israel or to defeat their enemies. Here we see then that the uniqueness of Mary’s visitation is that her angelic visitor, who receives honor from Israel’s patriarchs and heroes, honors Mary in his annunciation. The words he immediately speaks to Mary also come from the Old Testament and sheds further light on Mary’s identity. The first word spoken to Mary, “Hail” (or “Rejoice”) echoes a host of Old Testament passages that address Daughter Zion. Throughout the minor prophets an address is made to Mother Jerusalem announcing the her children will rejoice in the coming messianic age (see Joel. 2:23-24, Zeph. 3:14-17, and Zech. 9:9). By extending this same exhortation of joy to Mary the archangel Gabriel is identifying Mary as a personification of faithful Israel. The fact that the birth of Jesus is the beginning of Israel’s reception of the promises and blessings of God in His Kingdom means that Mary is herself the culmination of the history of Israel as well as the embodiment of Israel; since by receiving the Lord Jesus within her womb she is the image of faithful Israel receiving the promises of God to dwell within their mist (Ezk. 37:27). The angelic proclamation to Mary that the Lord is with her echoes the story of Gideon. In Judges 6 the Angel of the Lord appears to Gideon and says to him, “the Lord is with you, you mighty man of valor!” (Jdgs. 6:12) The dialogue between Gideon and the angel likewise parallels the annunciation narrative as Gideon righteously questions the angel about his message (Jdgs. 6:13, 6:15, 6:17-18) just as Mary righteously questions Gabriel about his works to her (Lk. 1:31) as well as Gideon asks for a sign to be given to him if he has found favor in the angel’s sight (Jdgs. 6:17 – and the fact that signs are given to Gideon reveals that he has indeed found favor) while Gabriel announces to Mary that she has found favor in the sight of the Lord (Lk. 1:30). The significance of this parallel is found in the calling of both Gideon and Mary. Gideon is called by God to bring deliverance to the house of Israel (Jdgs. 6:14) while Mary is called to bear a Son Who shall be named “Jesus” (Who’s name means “Yahweh saves”). While Gideon will bring national liberation from Gentile enemies Mary will bear, and by extension give to all mankind, the One Who will deliver Israel and all creation from sin, death, and hades.
Following the initial greeting and Gabriel announces to Mary that she will bear a son and is to call His name Jesus. This encounter echoes Genesis 16 when Sarai sends her pregnant maidservant Hagar away from her into the wilderness. In the wilderness Hagar is met by the Angel of the Lord at a spring of water who instructs her to return to her mistress. The Angel then promises to multiply her seed exceedingly and says to Hagar, “Behold, you are with child, and you shall bear a son. You shall call his name Ishmael, for the Lord has taken notice of your humiliation. He shall be a rustic man, and his hand shall be against every man, and every man’s hand against him. He shall dwell in the presence of all his brethren.” (Gen. 16:11-12). In both the Genesis and the Lukan narrative the angel announces to the woman that she will bear a son (Gen. 16:11 – Lk. 1:31), tells the woman what her son will be named (Gen. 16:11 – Lk. 1:31),and describes the future of the son (Gen 16:12 – Lk. 1:32-33). The connection between Hagar and Mary (and thus between Ishmael and Jesus) lies in the fact that Hagar is representative of Israel (see Gal. 4:24-25) and Ishmael is representative of the children of Israel. The parallels between these two annunciations therefore sets Mary in a position of assuming the identity of Hagar, summing up the identity of Israel in herself. Just as in the angel’s exhortation to rejoice Mary is being identified with Israel so here by echoing the annunciation of Hagar the text presents Mary as the summation of Israel.
Following the announcement to Mary that she will conceive a Son and name Him Jesus the archangel Gabriel describes to her the identity and vocation of this Son, “He will be great, and will be called the Son of the Most High; and the Lord God will give to him the throne of his father David, and he will reign over the house of Jacob forever; and of his kingdom there will be no end.” (Lk. 1:32-33) Mary is informed that she will bear the expected Messianic King; the One promised throughout the Old Testament to inherit the Davidic throne, to bring deliverance to Israel, and to usher in the coming Kingdom of God (Ps. 88:21-30 LXX, Is. 9:6-7, Ezk. 34:11-31). If Jesus is the expected King of Israel then this means that Mary will be the Queen Mother. The figure of the queen mother looms largely throughout the pages of the Old Testament. The importance of the Queen Mother is noted particularly in the lists of the kings of Israel throughout 1 and 2 Kings and 2 Chronicles. With the exception of two kings (Jehoram and Ahaz) all the other kings of Israel and Judah are listed together with their mothers. The most striking image of the queen mother is found in 1 King 2:19, “So Bathsheba went to King Solomon to speak to him for Adonijah. The king rose up to meet her and kissed her tenderly. He then sat down on his throne, and a throne was placed for the king’s mother; and she was seated at his right hand.” By virtue of being the mother of Solomon a royal dignity was given to Bathsheba which even her own son honored. Since Jesus is the exalted Davidic King Who’s throne is not on earth but at the right hand of the Father this makes Mary the exalted Queen Mother of Heaven. One of the roles of the queen mother is to intercede before the king (which is exactly what Bathsheba does in 1 Kings 2:20-21; compare with the fact that Mary intercedes before Jesus at the wedding of Cana in John 2:1-12, which is itself a royal scene – kings provide wine for people at banquets; see Esther 1:1-8). Since Mary is the exalted Queen Mother of Heaven, seated at the right hand of the King of Heaven and Earth, her Son Jesus, then as the Queen Mother of Heaven she is also a heavenly intercessor for the royal subjects of her Son.
As the archangel Gabriel finishes his first speech to Mary asks the question, “How will this be, since I do not know man?” (Lk. 1:34) The archangel Gabriel responds, “The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you; therefore the child to be born will be called holy, the Son of God.” (Lk. 1:35). The imagery of the Spirit overshadowing Mary alludes to how the Glory of God overshadowed the tabernacle and the temple. Exodus 40:28-32 describes how the Glory of God overshadowed and fulled the newly finished tabernacle. The tabernacle was the dwelling place of God and a holy place. Both the tabernacle and the temple were kept in high honor, as King David spoke, “But as for me, in the fullness of mercy I will come into Your house; In fear of You I will worship toward Your holy temple.” (Ps. 5:8) This identification of Mary with the temple is made further with the journey of Mary to her cousin Elizabeth (Lk. 1:39-56). Here the connection is made specifically with Mary and the ark of the covenant and echoes the story of 2 Samuel 6. Just as Mary arose and went to the hill country in Judah (Lk. 1:39) so likewise David arose and went with all the rulers of Judah to retrieve the ark of the covenant (2 Sam. 6:2). When Mary arrives Elizabeth cries out, “and why is this granted me, that the mother of my Lord should come to me?” (Lk. 1:43) just as David cried out, “In what possible way can the ark of the Lord come with me?” (2 Sam. 6:9) Just as John the Baptist leaped for joy at Mary’s arrival (Lk. 1:44) so David danced before the presence of the ark of the covenant upon it’s arrival to Jerusalem (2 Sam. 6:16). Mary stayed in the house of Zechariah for three months (Lk. 1:40, 56) just as the ark had remained in the house of Obed-Edom for three months (2 Sam. 6:11). By the overshadowing of the Holy Spirit Mary is consecrated as the Temple of God, the bearer of the divine Glory, and the Ark of the New Covenant.
Mary’s final words to Gabriel also are also found to be an echo from the book of Joshua. Prior to the crossing of the river Jordan two spies are sent by Joshua to inspect the land. Upon entering the land the spies head to the city Jericho where they are met by the prostitute Rahab. Rahab hides the Israelite spies in a pile of flax on the roof of her home as the men of Jericho search for them. As the men of Jericho search for the spies Rahab goes to them to ask that when the armies of Israel come to conquer Jericho that they might spare her and her family. The men then swear an oath with Rahab and instruct her to hang a scarlet cord out of her window so that when the city is conquered the army will know which house to spare. At the conclusion of their conversation Rahab said to the spies, “Let it be so according to your word.” (Josh. 2:21) Following the address of the archangel Gabriel Mary says the same words to him, “Behold, I am the handmaid of the Lord, let it be to me according to your word.” (Lk. 1:38) This association reveals that the salvation of the Lord will come through Mary. Rahab’s response lead to the deliverance of the entire household of her father (Josh. 6:24). Since Mary is the summation of Israel her response will lead to the deliverance of the household of her father Abraham. Just as in the case of the parallel with Gideon this echo of Rahab announces that the salvation of the Lord, given by Jesus, will come through Mary.
Having examined Mary’s journey to her cousin Elizabeth in light of the journey of the ark of the covenant in 2 Samuel it’s important to look at the details of this section of the narrative to see further echoes and allusions that deepen the identity of Mary. Upon Mary’s arrival the first words that Elizabeth says to her are, “Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the fruit of your womb!” (Lk. 1:42) Both of these phrases are drawn from the Old Testament. The blessing that Elizabeth bestows upon Mary is taken from Judges 5:24, “Jael is blessed among women, the wife of Heber the Kenite; Blessed is she from among the women in tents.” In Judges 4 the Israelites are handed over to the Canaanite king Jabin due to their evildoing in the sight of the Lord. As the chapter progresses the prophetess Deborah announces that the Lord will hand over the whole army of Jabin and his captain to the army of Israel. According to the word of Deborah the army of Israel, lead by Barak, goes up against the army of Jabin, lead by Sisera, and utterly destroys Jabin’s army. Having been defeated the captain of Jabin’s army Sisera flees to the tent of Jael, the wife of Heber the Kenite who is a friend of Sisera. Jael offers Sisera refuge but while Sisera is sleeping Jael drives a tent peg through the head of Sisera, killing him. This motif of the woman crushing the head of the enemy is a biblical theme that began in the Garden of Eden. Following the disobedience in the Garden the Lord utters a curse on the serpent, Eve, and Adam. In His address to the serpent the Lord says, “I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your seed and her seed. He shall bruise your head, and you shall be on guard for his heel” (Gen. 3:15) This theme continues throughout the Old Testament as various oppressors of the patriarchs, and of Israel, are depicted as symbolic serpents. Since the symbolic serpents are attacking the patriarchs and Israel, who are the seed of Eve, the conflicts are seen as conflicts between the seed of the serpent and the seed of the woman. Since the Sisera is representative of the oppressive rule of Jabin he is a symbolic serpent who attacks the seed of the woman, Israel. The fact that Jael, the woman, crushes the head of Sisera, reveals that she is representative of the prophetic woman who crushes the head of the serpent. This biblical theme reaches it’s climax in Mary. Mary is the definitive woman who’s seed will crush the head of the great serpent Satan. The promise in the Garden reaches it’s fulfillment in Mary and once again we see how the salvation of the Lord will come through Mary. Mary is in fact the great reversal of Eve; as Eve’s disobedience lead to all the cosmos being plunged into death and subjugation to the serpent so Mary’s obedience lead to the deliverance of the cosmos from death and the serpent. As Eve was called the mother of all living (Gen. 3:20) so is Mary truly the mother of all living; since true life is only given by her Seed Who crushed the head of the serpent.
The second phrase uttered by Elizabeth, “blessed is the fruit of your womb” (Lk. 1:42) alludes to one of the promises made by God in the book of Deuteronomy. In chapter 28 the Lord describes the blessings that will come upon Israel if they diligently keep all the commandments of the Law. One of the blessings is related to Israel’s offspring, “blessed shall be the offspring of your womb…the Lord shall increase you in good things; in the fruit of your womb.” (Deut. 28:4, 11). Looking at Elizabeth’s blessing of Mary’s womb in light of Deuteronomy 28 indicates the holiness of Mary. God’s blessing of the fruit of Israel’s womb wasn’t some arbitrary blessing but was rooted in Israel’s obedience to the Law. What this tells us is that according to the Mosaic Law itself Mary perfectly kept the law and in return for her personal holiness God granted her the most Blessed Fruit of the womb; the Son of God, Jesus the Christ.
The annunciation narrative ends with Mary’s song of praise to God, known as the Magnificat. The text of the Magnificat closely resembles the prayer of Hannah in 1 Samuel 2:1-10. Hannah offers this prayer in context of offering her son Samuel to the service of God. The son given by Hannah is the one who God used to bring an end to the current age of the judges, bringing an end to the current priesthood, the destruction of the tabernacle at Shiloh, and the ushering in of a new age; the age of the kings, a new priesthood, and a new place of worship. This too is brought to fulfillment by the Son of Mary Who brought the age of the old covenant to finality and initiated the age of His Messianic Kingdom, bringing judgment upon the temple and the levitical priesthood and establishing the new temple, the Church, and His own priesthood of Melchezidek. While the age of Israel’s kings was brought through Samuel yet he himself wasn’t the king of Israel, nor was he the new priest, nor did he establish the new place of worship. Since Jesus is Himself the King of Israel, the Great High Priest, and the New Temple this further emphasizes Mary’s identity as the Queen Mother and the new Temple (both by virtue of Jesus the Great High Priest entering her womb as a new Holy of Holies and by building the Temple of Jesus’ body from her own flesh and blood).
Far from the modern evangelical dismissal of a high Mariology as unbiblical a proper reading of the Marian texts of the New Testament, in light of their Old Testament backgrounds, reveals an exalted vision of Mary. Reading the New and the Old Testament together presents us with Mary as the culmination of the history of Israel as well as the embodiment, fulfillment, and summation of the nation. While the men of Israel gave honor to angels she is presented as being higher than the angels when Gabriel gives her honor at his visitation. She has a concrete role in the history and work of God’s salvation, just as Gideon and Rahab, by bearing in her womb of Salvation of God. She is the hallowed Temple, Holy of Holies, Ark of the New Covenant, and builder of the Temple. She is the intercessory Queen Mother of the King of Heaven and Earth, enthroned at the right hand of her Son. She is the prophetic fulfillment of the Woman who crushes the head of the serpent and a new Eve as the Mother of all the Living. She perfectly kept the Law and received the promised Blessed Fruit from God in her womb. All of this is presented to us from the Annunciation to the Magnificat and leads us to conclude that anything less than an exalted vision of Mary is an unbiblical position; to be fully biblical is to bless, honor, and exalt the Blessed Virgin Mary, the Mother of God, our intercessory Queen Mother of Heaven.