By Walid Shoebat
When it comes to the Bible, my gripe is always why didn’t God just speak plainly on certain issues to end all our arguments? At times we wrestle within ourselves over issues and doctrines and even with each other. At times I ask why didn’t God in Genesis just tell Cain “give me a blood offering”? Instead He simply says that one offered from his garden and the other offered from his flock and that God liked Abel’s offering and hated Cain’s. It was always that God liked the unusual choice. After all, to us a bowl of fruit makes more sense than an animal slaughtered and burnt whole on a fire pit.
God likes the unusual stuff.
While the Church and Israel agree on the necessity of animal sacrifice instead of fruit, we gripe over the virgin birth in Isaiah 7:14 where God chose the Hebrew word ‘alma,’ which could either mean “virgin” or simply “young woman”. Why not use the word bethulah, which meant “virgin” in the strictest of moral senses and proved us right and the Jews wrong? After all this way we could easily sway the Jews into salvation.
But no, God chose the unusual interpretation that a virgin must conceive. He chose not to speak plainly on such issues.
Even during Jesus’ trial, two were presented, one was Jesus while the other Barabbas (Son of Abbas) who also didn’t understand the unusual choices of God opted to revolt on Rome and Israel were also confused chose Barabbas over Jesus to even later choose Bar Kochba. Why didn’t God make Himself plain and say in the Old Testament that “His name will be called Jesus and His mother will be Virgin Mary”? Instead He said that “His name shall be called Wonderful, Counselor, Mighty God Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace”.
Even Mary, the angel never addressed her by her name. He never called her “Hail Mary” but instead called her “Hail full of Grace”. While some might think that God meant graceful as a ballet dancer, with God think of the unusual one: grace throughout the Bible is a loaded word which means freedom from sin to make her a fitting mother for His Son.
Why doesn’t God just make Himself plain!? After all this virgin birth is the salvation of the Jews. Yet nowhere is it made clear in the Old Testament? Yet strangely, the Jews translated Alma (young maiden) to “Virgin” in the Greek Septuagint centuries before Christ. They knew something we didn’t. Perhaps they knew that God will choose the unusual meaning over the usual expectations of man.
Even after the Jews. His Church in the nineteenth century became divided between two spheres arguing over the perpetual virginity of Mary. One side argues that the perpetual virginity of Mary is an invention of human tradition while the other side argues that it is in the Bible. Did Mary have relations with Joseph after the birth of Jesus? Is it usual that a husband and wife live together without sex?
As it seems, we should never discount the unusual choice.
Instead of speaking plainly God tells us that: “Now the birth of Jesus Christ took place in this way. When his mother Mary had been betrothed to Joseph, before they came together she was found to be with child of the Holy Spirit (Matthew 1:18).
The Greek word ‘sunerchomai’, translated as “came together” seems to refer to sexual relations until we find that ‘sunerchomai’ occurs 33 times in the New Testament, and only once (1 Cor. 7:5) is a sexual interpretation even possible. This becomes as unusual as the “alma” (maiden) and “bethulah” (virgin) controversy.
So why didn’t God plainly say whether Joseph “knew her” or “didn’t know her” and had His children live in harmony? But no, He’d rather watch us from above split, squabble, bicker and even kill each other.
Even in Matthew 1:24-25, which says that Joseph “had no relations with her until she bore a son, and he named him Jesus.” The word “until” seems to indicate that after the birth of Jesus there were normal marital relations. However, the Greek word heos which is translated as until, does not imply that anything happened after Jesus‘ birth, nor does it exclude it. In Luke 1:80, in reference to John the Baptist it states, “The child grew and became strong in spirit, and he was in the desert until the day of his manifestation to Israel.” Does this mean that once he appeared publicly he left the desert? No. The Baptist as we know from Scripture was a monastic who still lived in the desert after that. Therefore, Joseph, they say, had no relations with Mary even after she bore a Son. The Greek heôs, “until,” does not necessarily contrast “before” to “after.” It means that up to a certain moment, something happened or not, without considering what happened after that moment. For instance, the Greek text of the Septuagint says, in 2 Samuel 6:23, that “Mikal, daughter of Saul, had no children until (heôs) the days of her death.” This obviously does not suggest that she had children after her death.
Matthew is interested in underlining that Jesus’ birth and conception were carried out without the intervention of any man. So says one side of the argument.
The other side says that Mary had her “firstborn son” must imply that she had a “second” or even a “third”. But the term prôtotokos, “firstborn,” as applied to males is recognized to have a unique legal meaning. In Exodus 13:2, the Lord says: “Consecrate to me all the firstborn; whatever is the first to open the womb among the people of Israel, both of man and of beast, is mine.” Moses, in Exodus 13:12, adds: “You shall set apart to the Lord all that first opens the womb.” Firstborn does not necessitate there is, or there is not, a second born.
God just did not want to be plain. If Joseph and Mary never had sexual relations, why didn’t Matthew simply write, “He knew her not until the day of his death”? This way everyone will turn Catholic. Or why didn’t He say “He knew her after she bore a son”? This way two billion Catholics will turn Evangelical.
So the text isn’t that cut and dry. On such issues He does not speak plainly and nor does He accept phone calls for an interview to ask Him. Instead, He has us debate these issues ad nauseam while He laughs from above at the wrong foolish side that didn’t get it.
As it seems, in Gods ways, there is always two sides, one is right while the other is wrong. Cain got it wrong and Abel got it right and the one who got it right is always hated by the side that got it wrong. In Galatians 4:29 it says “the sons born according to the flesh persecuted the son born by the power of the Spirit”.
Then in Matthew 13, we think that God did make Himself plain when Scripture said: “Is this not the carpenter’s son? Is not His mother called Mary? And His brothers James, Joses, Simon, and Judas? And His sisters, are they not all with us”.
And from the plain English it seems that Mary did know Joseph. After all where did these “brothers” and “sisters” come from? So we think that finally God made Himself plain.
But then He throws a monkey wrench. The text was written in the socio-cultural milieu of the authors of the New Testament. In Judaism the use of the word “brother” (adelphos) could be referring to actual siblings or to non-siblings. And then we find in Mark 15:40, where they are said to be the sons of some Mary, one of the women watching the crucifixion who was never identified as the mother of Jesus.
Nowhere in the New Testament are these “brothers” of Jesus also identified as “sons of Mary”. James and Joses are two of the “brethren” of Jesus mentioned in Matthew 13:55, so this woman is clearly their mother, not the Mother of Jesus. This “other Mary” (Mt 28:1) is mentioned in John 19:25 as “Mary the wife of Cleophas”, the “sister” of Jesus’ mother Mary (“sister” here probably refers to a sister-in-law, since they are both called Mary).
Why couldn’t God make Himself plain and say “His brothers James, Joses, Simon, and Judas, the sons of Mary mother of Jesus“?
In Mark 6:3, the people of Nazareth identified Jesus as “the son of Mary.” Some argue that this is not necessarily to allude to Jesus’ virginal conception, but to possibly deny Jesus since people in Nazareth suspected or knew that Jesus was not Joseph’s child alluding he was illegitimate. Christian history argues that “the Son of Mary” in Mark 6:3 is a phrase which in that culture denoted the only child of a widow. And Mary is always called simply “the mother of Jesus”, never “the mother of Jesus, James, Joses, Simon, Judas and their sisters”.
The Bible itself seems to leave the issue open for speculation. But the question is why? Why didn’t God make it so plainly conclusive in the Bible?
What we do know is that the vast majority of the Fathers of the Church believed that Mary’s virginity remained post partum. Very few among the early Christian authors denied the perpetual virginity. There were few like Helvidian and Hegesippus, but these became extinct. Christians did not find it an obstacle to consider Jesus’ adelphoi as his cousins, step-brothers or half-brothers. All churches adopted that point of view–be it the Catholic one, the Orthodox one, or even the Reformation one (with Luther and Calvin).
What would shock most is that it was only until the nineteenth century, when people thought that they were smarter and so biblical scholars began to question the consensus in the name of the historical-critical method of interpretation.
Sounds surprising? It isn’t. But this is the truth. And here we are told to believe that the Church has always got it wrong for 20 centuries.
Such scholars got excited in October 2002, when the world that believed that Jesus had biological brothers heard of a new discovery proving Jesus had biological brothers. God finally spoke plainly. They said that an ancient ossuary had been unearthed near Jerusalem bearing the inscription “James/Jakob son of Joseph, brother of Jesus,” concluding a smoking gun that the box belonged to Jesus’ biological brother James.
Then, in June 2003, this inscription was proved to be fake. On December 2004, Oded Golan was charged with 44 counts of forgery, fraud and deception, including forgery of the Ossuary inscription.
The other choice to getting around all this issue is that we resort to some conspiracy theories that the inscription is legit and that the Jews in Israel wanted to coverup the truth. However, when the 2007 documentary claiming to find “The Lost Tomb of Jesus,” no Christian would approve. The documentary film written by a Jew named Simcha Jacobovici showing the supposed burial chamber with inscriptions of “Jesus son of Joseph,” “Mary” insinuating it was the tomb of Jesus and His family a claim that was completely rejected and debunked by most archaeologists and experts.
Critics like Amos Kloner, the Jerusalem district archaeologist at the time, essentially accused Mr. Jacobovici of jumping to conclusions to promote his movie. He was also the one to bust Oded Golan who supposedly found Jesus’s brother’s ossuary. That Jew (Kloner) by using evidence defended the Christian faith and exposed the bad Jew. He is no conspirator.
Things work in reverse fashion. The Shroud of Turin for example, is first accused of being a forgery then is acquitted in time while these other relics are hailed as true and turn out later to be false. The crowds rejected Jesus, the real deal, and ran after Bar Kochba, the fake, instead. With the foolish, the true one is accused of being fake, while with the wise they spot the true because the fool points to it as fake. Find the fools, reverse what they say and you got the truth.
And this is sort of why God did not make Himself plain. At times God says “I do not speak in secret” while in other times He keeps things unclear, He imbeds them in parables and allegories, so that the sons of darkness don’t get it. Christ even makes this plain in Matthew 13 when “he told them many things in parables …” (v.3) “The disciples came to him and asked, “Why do you speak to the people in parables?” (v.10) and He answered them:
“To you it has been given to know the secrets of the kingdom of heaven, but to them it has not been given. For to the one who has, more will be given, and he will have an abundance, but from the one who has not, even what he has will be taken away. This is why I speak to them in parables, because seeing they do not see, and hearing they do not hear, nor do they understand. Indeed, in their case the prophecy of Isaiah is fulfilled that says: “You will indeed hear but never understand, and you will indeed see but never perceive. For this people’s heart has grown dull, and with their ears they can barely hear, and their eyes they have closed, lest they should see with their eyes and hear with their ears and understand with their heart and turn, and I would heal them.” (Matt. 13:11-16)
From Genesis to Revelation, God always has two groups, one is in God’s Kingdom while the other thinks they are in His kingdom but they only deceive themselves since they are the sons of perdition. Jesus gives a similar scenario in Matthew 25, differentiating between the rebellious lazy servant where “even what he has will be taken away” and then that side is thrown into the abyss while the hard-working servants are recognized and rewarded.
While both “believe in Jesus” only one group makes it and is why many come to Christ saying “Lord Lord have we not healed in your name … cast devils …” and He replies “I never knew you”.
The ones who know Him understand His parables and His allegories similar to what the disciples did.
So it is in the parables and allegories that we find the missing keys and it is from these keys we apply the allegory with the literal in perfect harmony. God wants us to be gold-diggers while the lazy can settle for aluminum cans.
Christ had John to care for Mary and also gave Him the key to understand this whole issue about Mary. So while John was exiled on the island of Patmos, he wrote something that would have shocked any first-century Jew in the same fashion as discussing Mary being the lost Ark that the Evangelicals are looking for.
Decades of searching the Scripture ended me up finding the truth that was plainly hanging all over Mexico as I spent a year touring that land. In Revelation 11 while the ark of the Old Covenant had been lost for centuries—no one had seen it for about 600 years and John sees it and jots it in Revelation 11:19-12:1 where John gives the key to unlock the mystery:
“Then God’s temple in heaven was opened, and the ark of his covenant was seen within his temple. And there appeared a great wonder in heaven; a woman clothed with the sun, and the moon under her feet, and upon her head a crown of twelve stars”
Here we have an “ark” who is a “woman” “crowned” as a Queen stomping the devil.
We only have few choices. The worst choice was my first when I became Evangelical, it was my hunt for a literal Ark reading countless publications for possible locations in Aksum Ethiopia or in Jerusalem.
Why look for it on earth when especially that John says that it comes down from heaven?
And what could possibly come from heaven unless it was assumed into heaven?
This whole search for a physical ark is a wild goose chase especially that Scripture says regarding the physical Ark: “…they shall say no more, The ark of the covenant of the LORD: neither shall it come to mind: neither shall they remember it; neither shall they visit it; neither shall that be done any more.” (Jeremiah 3:16)
“Neither shall that be done anymore” is what it says. No more physical ark. Ever. Here God does not speak in secret.
The second choice is that the Ark of the Temple has always been an allegory that is speaking of Jesus in a strict sense. But here, John describes the very “Ark of his covenant” as a “woman” and a queen.
The third choice is that this woman is ‘only’ about Israel or it is strictly “the Church”. How so when Israel rejected the Messiah and in Revelation 12:5-6,17 it says: “the dragon angry with the woman, and went off to make war on the rest of her offspring, on those who keep the commandments of God and bear testimony to Jesus”?
Israel at this point does not keep the commandments of Jesus and applying a strict interpretation of only “the Church” as what is intended here flies in the face of how we interpret scripture.
For example, when the Jews insist that Isaiah 53:8 “the suffering servant” is strictly “Israel”. We would instantly all object saying the text is clear “he was cut off out of the land of the living, for the transgression of my people [Israel]”. And then we ask the Jew: How can Israel die for the sins of Israel?
Yet when it comes to Revelation 11-12, we apply the very same method the Jews use in Isaiah 53 to eliminate Mary’s role. So we ask: How can the dragon be angry at the woman [the Church] and then makes war on her offspring [the Church]?
While John uses rich symbolism and while the woman does in a way represent redeemed Israel and the Church to certain degree but it is obvious from the Bible itself that the woman is predominately Mary.
This woman is the mother of God’s children (her seed) just as in John 19, at the cross, and also in Revelation 12 where we read at verse 17 that Mary becomes by grace the mother of all of God’s children. Even Christ identifies the Church as His body (His children) and Mary is His Mother, then she is the Mother of the Church. Even John MacArthur, whose contra-Catholic ideas, wrote: “Believers should recognize that they participate in the crushing of Satan because, along with their Savior and because of His finished work on the cross, they also are of the woman’s seed.”
It was to John that he was rewarded with the Blessed Virgin Mary as his own mother; “Behold your son,” and the beloved disciple, “Behold your mother.” Mary in Luke 1 even links to Daniel 9 when Israel was given 490 years to deal with the sin of the nation and prepare for the coming of King Messiah. The annunciation by Gabriel to Zechariah and six months (180 days) later the annunciation by Gabriel to Mary, then nine months later Jesus is born (270 days), and thirty days later he is presented in the temple. You add up in the six months, in the nine months and the 40 days in the presentation and it adds up to 490 days.
And in 2 Samuel, the Ark of the Covenant is recorded as having remained for three months in the hill country after its return from the land of the Philistines. We are told, “David arose and went” to the hill country of Judah “to bring up from there the ark of God” (2 Samuel 6:2) and the ark of the Lord remained in the house of Obededom the Gittite for three months, and the Lord blessed Obededom and his whole house. Not accidentally, Luke notes that Mary “arose and went to the hill country of Judah” (Luke 1:39) where she (the Ark) remained with Elizabeth for “three months.”
In Luke 1:48 Elizabeth calls Mary “Mother of my Lord” or “Mother of my God”. Many cringe at calling Mary “Mother of God”. To all who cringe, few even focus on how God directly announces His Mother in an explicit clear sense:
“Listen, O coastlands, unto me [God]; and hearken, you people, from afar; The LORD has called me [The Son] from the womb; from the body of my mother has he made mention of my name.” (Isaiah 49:1).
This is so clear “the body of my [God’s] mother”. If Mary was just like any one of us or if she was simply an incubator, why would Luke describe her womb similarly as the Ark was described: “and he will be filled with the Holy Spirit even from his mother’s womb” (Lk 1:15)”.
The Holy Spirit was using Mary as His physical temple to carry Messiah symbolized in the Ark in Hebrews 9:4 as the “little urn” which “held the manna” (bread of life/Christ).
We should never read Scripture in a mechanical way to fathom it mathematically or restrict its themes to only history or allegorize where there is no allegory and literalize were there are no literals or ignore where there are allegories which speaks of multiple literals.
Even if one insist on Israel or the Church as the only interpretation of Revelation 11-12, or if they are still in doubt it is Mary, one cannot ignore Psalm 132: “Arise, O Lord, and go to your resting place, you and the ark of your might … For the Lord has chosen Zion; he has desired it for his dwelling place: This is my resting place forever; here I will dwell, for I have desired it.”
This Ark [Mary] was assumed up in heaven and is resting with Messiah after His ressurection “go to your resting place, you and the ark of your might” in “Zion” which is His “resting place forever”.
This “Zion” is the very “Mount Zion” where we approach God in Hebrews 12 and what we find in it baffles the mind on how we ought to approach God in our prayers:
“But you have come to Mount Zion and to the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem, and to innumerable angels in festal gathering, and to the assembly of the firstborn who are enrolled in heaven, and to God, the judge of all, and to the spirits of the righteous made perfect [saints], and to Jesus, the mediator of a new covenant, and to the sprinkled blood that speaks a better word than the blood of Abel.”
In Hebrews 12:1, he says, “Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses . . .”
What witnesses? The Saints. We are surrounded by a cloud of these witnesses, the holy Saints of God are present with us even now, not only present, but surrounding us, encouraging us as it were in our race which has been set before us and are assisting us. No where in Scripture do we find that the saints’s death means that they are not present with Christ in heaven (2 Cor 5:8) (Hebrews 2:14-15) (John 3:16).
Hebrews 12 cannot be undermined. In our prayers we ultimately come to Jesus the mediator through coming to Mount Zion. All verses must flow and match perfectly. While all prayer ultimately go to Christ but we approach “innumerable angels,” “assembly of the first born,” who already “enrolled in heaven,” and “spirits of the righteous made perfect”. This includes His Ark (Mary) who comes from heaven because she was assumed to heaven.
Shall we remind again of Psalm 132: “Arise, O Lord, and go to your resting place, you and the ark of your might … For the Lord has chosen Zion; he has desired it for his dwelling place: This is my resting place forever; here I will dwell, for I have desired it.”
We accept it because God “desired it”. There is no need to twist the Scriptures to fit a mindset that only came in the twentieth century.
It becomes impossible to avoid Mary since the same earthquake in Revelation 11:13 (similar to the seventh blow of the trumpet in Joshua 5) Christ stands on the earthly Mount of Olives (Zion) in Zechariah 14, which occurs as a result of the seventh trumpet “Then God’s temple in heaven was opened and within his temple was seen the Ark of the Covenant and there came flashes of lightning, rumblings, peals of thunder and earthquake and great hailstorm and a great and wondrous sign appeared in heaven.” (Revelation 11:19)
When Mary appears, many nay sayers will reject it as a satanic apparition to only end up in hell since when Jesus comes He too will confirm this and the nay sayers will combat against Him.
But this living Ark is used in the Battle of Armageddon just as it was used in battles in ancient Israel where it went before the army. This Ark was the same in Luke 1:35: “And the angel answering said to her, ‘The holy Spirit shall come upon thee and the power of the Most High shall overshadow thee.” This is similar to the Ark in Exodus 3:9 “The cherubim spread out their wings above, overshadowing the mercy seat with their wings …”
All this allegory is similar to that when Jesus spoke in parables intentionally to be misunderstood by the seed of the devil. Scripture in its typical eastern composition starts in Genesis 3:15 and completes the story in full circle in Revelation 11-12 with the same theme regarding this woman: Mary.
John throws a monkey wrench into the whole anti-Marian theology and renders it all useless. Denying Mary as “the Ark” is impossible. The two verses, one in Chapter 11 ends and chapter 12 begins was written when the Bible had no chapter divisions—these divisions were added by man in the 12th century. Does the tradition of man who imposed these chapter breaks decide when a theme begins or ends or does God decide?
If Mary is no queen, we would have to sweep under the rug so many passages (1) in the Old Testament where the queen mother of Israel interceded in behalf of the subjects of the kingdom. It is here where most miss the significance of the Queen Mother. If Christ is the legitimate Messianic King of the heavenly Zion (the Church/Heaven), then Mary is the Queen Mother while the Church is His bride.
Is this an insignificant issue? Mary in Revelation 11-12 described as a queen coming from heaven crowned with the sun participating in the act of destroying the devil. If she was “Hail, full of grace, the Lord is with you!” Luke 1:28, can we argue that she is also hail, Queen Mother?
It is always, Christ who is God’s right hand and we are the glove, so if the hand moved, so does the glove. “The God of peace will soon crush Satan under your feet” (Romans 16:20) is obviously Christ but also includes His body (the Church) and in Zechariah 14 it makes it quite clear that the saints will land with Christ on the battle of Armageddon to crush the devil “and all the saints [the church] with You”.
The main theme of Revelation 11-12 is to expound on the Mother of Christ, the man-child and the crescent “moon under her feet”.
Here, it’s the woman; “her feet”, not “His feet”.
In Revelation 12:9 the dragon “that ancient serpent,” ties with Genesis 3:15. The woman in this passage is Mary because she brings forth the one to rule all nations. And like ancient Israel fleeing through the “wilderness” to Egypt, Mary also fled to Egypt with Joseph (Mt 2:13-14).
In turn, Israel is the prefigurement of the Church of the new covenant (e.g. Jer 31:31-33). And coming full circle, Mary can be seen to strike the serpent’s head in her role as figure of the Church.
But indeed, it is also of Israel the nation which labored to bring forth the Messiah and is invaded by the dragon who is the beast, the devil and Antichrist. There is a “woman” who “labored” in “child birth”. Here we find the literal and the metaphor mingling in a way that the Almighty was hitting several birds with one stone. The Church is also involved, later in the same chapter we read that the devil went out to persecute the woman’s other offspring—Christians—which certainly seems to indicate that Mary is somehow the mother of the Church (Revelation 12:17).
The Bible, like a wonderful symphony, begins with a real man (Adam), a real woman (Eve), and a real serpent (the devil)—and it also ends with a real man (Jesus, the Last Adam [1 Corinthians 15:45]), a real woman (Mary, the New Eve [Revelation 11:19-12:2]), and a real serpent (the devil of old). All of this was foretold in Genesis 3:15. Here we have a completion of God’s writ, what it began with the loss it ended with the victory of Jesus over the devil and of Mary over Eve’s sin. It is impossible to avoid this theme throughout Scripture.
It is obvious that prior to Christ’s coming, we will have two groups; one that honors Mary where the women strive to emulate her while the other lessens her significance and sees it unnecessary to emulate Mary. The latter only began recently during the 19th and the 20th centuries as result of feminism. As my friend, the historian Alvin Schmidt stated that “It has become a widely held historical consensus that “the theology of the Virgin Mary has not altered woman’s inferior status within the Church” (2)
After all, how many women in the West today want to emulate Mary? They rather emulate Eve, daily gazing at forbidden fruits. Even many of the men submit to their wives while they both argue that all they want is to only emulate Jesus. But when you tell them that even Jesus obeyed His mother’s command, so why is emulating Mary not so hip in your Churches? They always give fragmented answers.
The real answer to this question becomes simple: they are subconsciously at enmity with the woman and they daily are busy fulfilling the oldest of all prophecies in Genesis 3:15 being at enmity with the woman who is Mary, since these are not of the seed of the woman, but are the seed of the devil.