Tuesday, June 13, 2017

Rahab and Kinism - Part 1


A Kinist argument I've come across recently is that Rahab was not a Canaanite, but one of Hebrew lineage (or, at the very least, a close kinswoman of the Hebrews genetically.) This is most expressly outlined in the online article Rahab the Hebrew: The Royal Genealogy Vindicated, written by Ehud Would. In this article, it is argued that Rahab is actually a close kinsman to the Hebrews, rather than a Canaanite or Gentile. It is likewise argued that Christ being one of mixed genetics would have invalidated His Messianic status, and given credence to His enemies.

Before we begin, let's offer some definitions regarding Kinism and its beliefs.

Kinism, simply defined, is a belief that Christians should emphasize ethnic and racial differences between people, and that a Christian is not at fault for having a preference for one's own people and culture over another. From one Kinist source:
The universal beliefs among Kinists are a recognition that ethnic and racial differences are real and Providential. A preference for one’s own people and culture is healthy and natural. [source]
Most Christians (at least those not affected by progressive thought) would probably have no problem with mere pride about one's identity. Whether one is a proud Brit, a proud American, or a proud Namibian won't be a big deal to them. Whether one wishes to "connect" (so to speak) with their lineage, such as embracing one's Hungarian ancestry or celebrate their Japanese culture, probably won't turn any heads, provided this does not usurp the Gospel or one's more important identity as a Christian.

Kinists, however, take this a step further, to the point that interracial marriage is seen as improper. Kinists claim "miscegenation is unnatural and works against God’s purposes," and hence "its default status is one of moral wrongness" (source). Within Kinism itself, there are two schools concerning this specific topic: Weak Kinism, and Strong Kinism. These two views are more properly outlined here:
Weak Kinism: a Weak Kinist believes that interracial marriage is at best very unwise. At worst, it is sinful if it involves disobedience to the father’s authority to veto specific suitors for his daughter (a father does not have the authority, however, to forbid his daughter to marry at all, or by implication to be so restrictive in approving suitors that marriage is nigh impossible). A Weak Kinist also believes that, whatever the moral or wisdom status of an interracial marriage, once formed it is a legitimate marriage and ought to be respected. The difficulties associated with such marriages, and any ill effects on children of the union, are simply the consequences of a sinful and/or foolish decision. Weak Kinists also believe that if the government passes an anti-miscegenation law, such a law should be respected as a lawful law in that it does not proscribe something God commands.

Strong Kinism: Strong Kinists take things a bit further, insisting that interracial marriage is always a sin based on their reading of OT law (Rushdoony, at least early in life, held to this position). The division between Weak and Strong Kinists is the most significant division. [ibid]
Some Kinists add to this list Stronger Kinism, which says married people in interracial marriage who become Christian should immediately "put away" their spouses, and that such marriage is seen as null and void in the Christian faith, similar to homosexual marriages.

(Little Aside: I pointed out these distinctions on Twitter, and received criticism for this from certain individuals - some of whom even went behind my back and told others I was a racist. However, to point out differences within the Kinist camp makes one no more a racist than pointing out differences in the King James Only camp makes one close-minded to translation history.)

As said before, love for one's people or culture is not in and of itself wrong. Kinists, however, take this a step forward, so that, in application, the love of one's ethnic or cultural people becomes paramount to the Law of God and the Christian's very doctrine. This will become even more clear here, as we continue on. It will especially be much more clear at the very end.

On a side note, all direct quotes from the article will be in purple.

Christ's Pure Genes

Here Ehud Would writes:
Christians were once content to say without reservation that the royal genealogies proved Christ’s hereditary claim to the throne. This claim rested by itself, for little more was needed on the subject. After all, if the genealogies didn’t prove His lawful descent from Jacob and claim to the heritage of David, their inclusion to that end in the text would be a work of sublime futility – undermining the whole of the gospel and, thereby, revelation in general. None save the first-century Pharisees seriously questioned the purity of Christ’s heritage … until recently. But the modern challenge to Christ’s genealogy comes, most shockingly, from many who actually claim to follow Him, otherwise known as Alienists. They allege that Rachab of the royal genealogy was no Hebrew, but a Canaanite.

At this point their argument is identical to that of the first-century Pharisees, who denied Jesus’s ethnic claim to the purple by alleging that His lineage did not conform to the national insularity codes, as found in Deuteronomy 1:13; 17:15; 23:2. The Pharisees accused Him of being a Samaritan (John 8:48), one of the “mixed-race peoples” (cf. Zech. 9:6) like those who settled in Samaria after being deported from Israel in the great restoration under Ezra and Nehemiah. Rather than upbraiding the Jews for their very “racist” interpretation of the law, Jesus replied that such an accusation of mixed blood “dishonored” Him (John 8:49). Rather than taking issue with their interpretation of the codes in question, He took umbrage with the falsity of their accusation itself. Rather than correcting their nomology or identifying any false assumption on this point, Christ rebuked their slander and called them liars (John 8:55, cf. v. 44). He rebuked them for their false witness, and even impugned their heritage as sons of the Father of Lies, the Devil.
Actually, Jesus doesn't refer to the mixed blood accusation at all, but rather the charge that he had a demon: "I do not have a demon; but I honor My Father, and you dishonor Me" (John 8:49). He seems to gloss over the Samaritan charge, not because it was true, but (like any good debater) to focus on the more important charge of demonic activity. Likewise, the charge of lying in verse 55 is not from a mixed-race accusation, but rather because of their claim to worship and honor God (see John 8:54-55 for the fuller context).

John 8:48 is, in fact, the only time where Jesus is ever referred to as a Samaritan, though the language of the Pharisees suggest that it had been going on for a while. Some commentators suppose it might have been a snide remark concerning his visit to Samaria earlier (John 4:4). More likely, it's a reference to a common rabbinical insult at the time. This insult, however, did not refer to one as a mixed-breed - it referred to someone as a heretic. John Gill, who quoted and cited Jewish traditions and writings in his biblical commentary, tells us:
...they meant by this expression, that he was an irreligious man, and one that had no regard to the law of Moses; or at least played fast and loose with religion and the law, and was for any thing, as times served: the Jews had a very ill opinion of the Samaritans, on these accounts and to call a man a Samaritan, was all one as to call him an heretic, an idolater, or an excommunicated person; for such were the Samaritans with the Jews; they charged them with corrupting the Scriptures, and with worshipping idols, which were hid in Mount Gerizim... And hence, because the Samaritans were had in such abhorrence by the Jews, they would not ask a blessing over food in company with them, nor say Amen after they had asked one; nor indeed, after the better sort of them had asked, unless the whole blessing was distinctly heard, that so they might be sure there was no heresy in it... [source]
This is spoken of in the Jewish Encyclopedia as well.
From the fifth century B.C. onward the relations between the Jews and the Samaritans were, as shown above, undoubtedly hostile. The opposition was, however, essentially political, the old rivalry between Israel and Judah persisting; personal relations must have been mutually tolerant, as appears from the Gospels, where, in spite of their contemptuous attitude, the disciples buy food in a Samaritan city (John iv. 8)... In the Mishnah it is evident that the differences have already become purely religious. [source]
This makes the accusation against Jesus make much more sense, and likewise connects the Samaritan insult with the rest of the dialogue. When the Pharisees accuse him of being a Samaritan and having a demon, they are saying (in Hebrew parallelism) that he is a heretic, and hence following demonic doctrine. This also explains why, in the verses that follow, Christ focuses solely on the demon charge, and keeps the matter strictly theological. Nowhere do we see the Pharisees attacking Christ's ethnic claim - He does not bring it up, they do not mention it specifically, and when He labels them liars, it is not based on any accusation stemming from his genealogy.

At this point, the entire basis for the argument presented in the article falls apart. The sole place cited where Christ's lineage is called into question is not even related to His genetic lineage; this is reading far too much into the use of the word "Samaritan," and then eisegeting it across the entire chapter. There is no evidence from the text that the Pharisees were attacking "Jesus's ethnic claim to the purple" (He wasn't making any) by "alleging that His lineage did not conform to the national insularity codes" (no such codes are ever brought up). One imagines we could therefore end the discussion at this point, but for the sake of touching upon this subject in greater depth, we will continue.

Let's now look at the "national insularity codes" mentioned before:
"Choose wise and discerning and experienced men from your tribes, and I will appoint them as your heads." [Deuteronomy 1:13]
This, however, is but one verse in a large section where Moses is explaining that he had appointed leaders over the various tribes of Israel, since he couldn't manage them all by himself (Deu 1:9-15). This is no way says that a leader of Israel must be a pure, 100% Jew.
You shall surely set a king over you whom the Lord your God chooses, one from among your countrymen you shall set as king over yourselves; you may not put a foreigner over yourselves who is not your countryman. [Deuteronomy 17:15]
This verse is part of a larger section dealing with God's rules for the eventual establishment of a Jewish monarchy (Deu 17:14-20), something that would be seen with Saul, though with much more fulfillment with the Davidic line. Certainly it commands the Jews to place in line a king from among their own people, rather than a foreign king (as would be experienced throughout the book of Judges). However, it does not necessarily put forward a strong case that a ruler must be a genetically 100% Jew, and hence cannot be considered a sedes doctrinae for a "national insularity code."
No one of illegitimate birth shall enter the assembly of the Lord; none of his descendants, even to the tenth generation, shall enter the assembly of the Lord. [Deuteronomy 23:2]
This passage presents a greater case in regards to the need for a pure line, although this would expand it out to the entire church, not merely church leadership. Because Mr. Would goes into this verse later on, we will forgo a response until then, and continue with the rest of the article.

Was Rahab a Hebrew?

Here, Mr. Would begins to argue that Rahab was actually a woman of Hebrew origin:
Linguistically, the name Rahab is definitively Hebrew. Of course, the Alienist will likely retort that the name might have found acceptance in Israel because of the precedent set by the woman herself; but this is proven false by the fact that the word rahab well predates its appearance in Joshua. In fact, it appears in the very oldest book of the Bible, Job:

God will not turn back His anger; beneath Him bowed the helpers of Rahab (Job 9:13).


By His power He stilled the sea; by His understanding He shattered Rahab (Job 26:12).

Due to its context above, the ancient Hebrews popularly regarded a rahab as a sea monster. King David would even go on to incorporate the word into Psalm 89:9-10, which reads: “You rule the raging sea; You still its swelling waves. You crush Rahab with a mortal blow; with Your strong arm You scatter Your foes.” Most commentators note that, aside from being a sea monster, the word rahab is emblematic of the seafaring empire of Egypt, and can be taken to mean “large,” “broad,” “haughty,” or “proud.” Remember now: this, we are told, is the name of one of David’s own ancestors. No, Rahab the harlot cannot be the origin of the word rahab in the Hebrew language, as the word far predates the convert herself, and its denotations of infamy, pride, and general malevolence only further prove that the word did not enter the language by reference to the virtuous woman. Really, it suggests the inverse – that she was a Hebrew woman appropriately named in keeping with the ignoble profession of her pre-conversion life.
It is true that the word rahab, and its similar renditions in the Hebrew, are used in Job 9:13 and 26:12, as well as Isaiah 30:7 (where it refers to a storm or sea monster). It can be found in other places as well: Psa 87:4; 89:10; Isa 51:9 (where it means "storm"); Psalm 138:3; Proverbs 6:3; Song of Songs 6:5; Isaiah 3:5 (where it means "to act boisterously, angrily").

However, to immediately presume the word to be of Hebrew origin, and hence Rahab the person must be a Hebrew, is a massive jump. Not only because the word itself has a broad range of meanings, based on its root, but for the reason that it's not uncommon for things not directly Hebrew in nature to have Hebrew connotations. For example, the very city Jericho, obviously a Canaanite, non-Hebrew city, has its Hebrew name (yeriho) name tied to the Canaanite term for "moon, month" (yerah). (Clines, 13) The meaning of Rahab's name may have similar Canaanite connotations.
The etymology of the name Rahab reflects a verb meaning "to open wide, to broaden." Originally, it might have been connected to a divine name or title (probably some Canaanite fertility god), for instance rahab'el, "the god has widened (the bosom?)." Other similar names would be Rehoboam, Solomon's son, and Rehabiah (1 Chr 23:17), the last one being a theophoric name derived from the same root. [Clines, 12]
In any case, to argue "Rahab was a native Hebrew" based merely on the fact that the root for her name is seen in other words in Hebrew, is a superfluous connection at best.

Continuing on:
Taking just this issue of her name into account, any assumption of her being a non-Hebrew seems quite a stretch. But we parenthetically note that while most commentators accept Rahab of Joshua chapter 2 to be the same Rachab of the royal genealogy, the altered form of her name in the genealogy and the conspicuous absence of her otherwise ubiquitous title, “the harlot,” do seem to leave the question of whether they are the same person as a matter of conjecture. The above linguistic evidence might tilt towards this conclusion as well, if we surmise that David would not purposefully utilize his grandmother’s name as a byword for God’s enemies. Assuming, however, that they are one and the same, it may be that she underwent a covenantal re-naming like Abram (Abraham), Sarai (Sarah), and Jacob (Israel). It is not a necessary implication for the Kinist, though possibly so for any who insists that Rahab the harlot and Rachab must be the same person.
The suggestion here is that Rahab's name in Matthew 1:5 is Ῥαχάβ, as opposed to the other spelling of Ῥαάβ (Heb 11:31; Jas 2:25). In the Septuagint, Rahab's name is likewise spelled Ρααβ. This, combined with Matthew leaving out the title of "the harlot" (ἡ πόρνη) as she's called by James and the author of Hebrews, makes Mr. Would suggest she underwent a covenantal renaming like Abram or Jacob, or she may not even be the same Rahab.

However, the fact that Rahab is at one point named Ῥαχάβ, and at another point named Ῥαάβ, can be no more a concern for us than the fact that other names in the Bible at times face different spellings. For example, the Salmon of Matthew 1:4 is likewise the same Salma of 1 Chronicles 2:11. Matthew may have been attempting to convey the light guttural sound in the original Hebrew pronunciation of Rahab's name. (Listen to this audio recording of the second chapter of Joshua to hear the sound.)

Likewise, that Matthew does not refer to her as "the harlot" does not diminish her identity any more than the fact Matthew does not refer to Ruth by her title "the Moabitess" (cf. Ruth 1:22; 2:2, 21; 4:5, 10). Bathsheba is not even directly named, but merely referred to in the original Greek as "she of Uriah" (τῆς τοῦ Οὐρίου) - yet there is no doubt here that Matthew is referring to Bathsheba, and not some other, heretofore unknown, wife of Uriah.

There is also the question as to why Matthew would mention other well known Old Testament names (Tamar, Ruth, Bathsheba) to his readers, and yet drop a name which no one would have known (not-Rahab), but this we will get to in an upcoming post. 

For now, we continue with the article, getting to the point where Mr. Would presents a supposed contention to Rahab's Hebrew origins:
In any case, the Alienist position raises the question: why would a Canaanitess (absent any connection to the patriarch, Heber) bear such a Hebrew name, even if a term of infamy? The Alienist here might argue that it were a mere coincidence, or that the name may have meant something entirely different in some Hamitic tongue. But that, then, would seem at odds with the fact that the Israelite spies enjoyed such easy conversation with her. Not only was her name Hebrew, she likely spoke Hebrew as well, which, in the linguistic sense at least, would make her a Hebrew.
That Rahab apparently spoke the language of the Hebrews, and hence must have been of Hebrew lineage, is reading far too much into an incidental part of the narrative. In other biblical narratives, it's almost taken for granted that two people can speak, or understand to some degree, the same language. For example, when Abram travels to Egypt, no one questions why he's able to converse with Pharaoh (Gen 12:18-19); certainly no one uses this to presuppose Abram was secretly Egyptian. In fact, it's very rare in scripture when linguisitic differences become a matter of concern; for example, when Rabshakeh is told to speak Aramaic rather than the Judean (2 Kings 18:22). Point being, that Rahab found it easy to converse with the Hebrew spies does not prove in any way she had Hebrew lineage.

We continue on:
Yet independently of this positive evidence that she bore a Hebrew ancestry, we have further negative evidence that she could not have been Canaanite. Hebrews 11:31 tells us directly that the reason Rahab and her house were spared was due to the fact that she “received the spies with peace.” But the terms of her clemency would be out of the question had she been a member of one of the seven Canaanite nations, because Israel was commanded to strike no covenant with Canaanites, and to neither seek nor accept their peace under any circumstances, showing absolutely no mercy (Deut. 7:1-3). Recall that it was the spies themselves who, without any reticence concerning the violation of this divine law, agreed to spare Rahab (Josh. 2:12-14). There is no sign of God’s rescinding His own commandment here, and hence every reason to believe that this law forbidding mercy unto Canaanites would have been operative and even at the forefront of the spies’ minds. Nor is there any attempt within Israel to prevent her integration or intermarriage, which we would expect at the very least if the spies’ allowance of her life were an absent-minded violation of the standing order to slay all Canaanites. Her assimilation is simply assumed to occur without obstacle.

Even on the occasion when Israel inadvertently found themselves in covenant with a Canaanite tribe, upon discovery that they were Gibeonites, Joshua enslaved them all (Josh. 9). None were ever allowed to intermarry with Israel; they remained forever a slave class within Israel’s borders – which is to say that the terms of Rahab’s clemency were expressly denied the Gibeonites. Though she was spared because she “received the spies with peace,” the desperate pursuit of peace on the part of the Gibeonites was not accepted so. (Indeed, if Rahab truly were a Canaanite, her story would be remembered with even more infamy than the Gibeonites, for at least the Israelites were deceived by the Gibeonites, not willfully neglectful of their ancestry.) This sort of covenantal consecration of Rahab’s family (father, brothers, and others) was not even extended to the surrogate family of Moses: “By faith Moses, when he came of age, refused to be called the son of Pharaoh’s daughter” (Heb. 11:24).
The passage regarding the forming of covenants with Canaanites we will look at here, but we will take it out to verse 6 for a broader context:
"When the Lord your God brings you into the land where you are entering to possess it, and clears away many nations before you, the Hittites and the Girgashites and the Amorites and the Canaanites and the Perizzites and the Hivites and the Jebusites, seven nations greater and stronger than you, and when the Lord your God delivers them before you and you defeat them, then you shall utterly destroy them. You shall make no covenant with them and show no favor to them. Furthermore, you shall not intermarry with them; you shall not give your daughters to their sons, nor shall you take their daughters for your sons. For they will turn your sons away from following Me to serve other gods; then the anger of the Lord will be kindled against you and He will quickly destroy you. But thus you shall do to them: you shall tear down their altars, and smash their sacred pillars, and hew down their Asherim, and burn their graven images with fire. For you are a holy people to the Lord your God; the Lord your God has chosen you to be a people for His own possession out of all the peoples who are on the face of the earth." [Deuteronomy 7:1-6]
The instructions regarding the seven nations that lived in Canaan had a few particulars.
  • The seven nations shall be destroyed, by the power of God (vv. 1-2a).
  • No covenant made and no favor shown to those seven nations (v. 2b).
  • They shall not intermarry with the men or women in those seven nations (v. 3), the reason being "they will turn your sons away from following Me to serve other gods," which will bring judgment upon the nation (v. 4).
  • In contrast to the idea of worshiping false gods, the Hebrews must take the idols and altars of the seven nations and burn them (v. 5), for the Hebrews are "a holy people to the Lord your God," and "the Lord your God has chosen you to be a people for His own possession" (v. 6).
The point of the command by God in this section of the Law is to ensure that the seven nations would be destroyed, and their idolatry would not continue, as the land and the Hebrews were a people set aside, with the land, for God. The agreement between the spies and Rahab does not violate these commands for two reasons:

First, Rahab was an individual, not one of the seven nations as whole. Mr. Would rightfully brings up the case of the Gibeonites as a contradiction of the Deuteronomy command, yet this was a covenant (as it is specifically said to be in Joshua 9:6-7, 11, 14, 16) made between the Hebrews as a people, and the Gibeonites as a people. Rahab was an individual who was not seeking to make a covenant between her people and the Hebrews, but rather was interceding for her family before God. Some might argue this was still showing favor to a Canaanite, yet nonetheless, it's quite obvious that this is a separate situation from how the Hebrews were to deal with the seven nations as a collective group.

Second, by intermarrying, Rahab did not promote idolatry. Rahab became a believer in God during the episode with the spies, for it is said "by faith" Rahab "did not perish along with those who were disobedient" (Heb 11:31). The banning of marrying the Canaanites was out of a theological fear, not a racial one. Consider the parallel passage in Exodus 34:11-16, which elucidates this further:
"Be sure to observe what I am commanding you this day: behold, I am going to drive out the Amorite before you, and the Canaanite, the Hittite, the Perizzite, the Hivite and the Jebusite. Watch yourself that you make no covenant with the inhabitants of the land into which you are going, or it will become a snare in your midst. But rather, you are to tear down their altars and smash their sacred pillars and cut down their Asherim —for you shall not worship any other god, for the Lord, whose name is Jealous, is a jealous God— otherwise you might make a covenant with the inhabitants of the land and they would play the harlot with their gods and sacrifice to their gods, and someone might invite you to eat of his sacrifice, and you might take some of his daughters for your sons, and his daughters might play the harlot with their gods and cause your sons also to play the harlot with their gods." [Exodus 34:11-16; emphases mine]
Again, the fear from marrying the Canaanite women was not to keep a Jewish bloodline pure, but to keep the influence of heathen wives from turning the Jewish men away from God. With Rahab, this was not a concern - any man who married her would not "play the harlot" with foreign gods.

Mr. Would appeals to the "covenantal consecration of Rahab's family," citing Hebrews 11:24 and saying such consecration wasn't even "extended to the surrogate family of Moses." This, however, forgets why scripture says Moses spurned being connected to Pharaoh's family.
By faith Moses, when he had grown up, refused to be called the son of Pharaoh’s daughter, choosing rather to endure ill-treatment with the people of God than to enjoy the passing pleasures of sin, considering the reproach of Christ greater riches than the treasures of Egypt; for he was looking to the reward. [Hebrews 11:24-26]
To be in the family of Pharaoh was to "enjoy the passing pleasures of sin" and embrace earthly riches. Moses shunned that and chose to "endure ill-treatment" with God's people instead. It was not over an issue of "covenantal consecration" regarding ethnic non-Jews.

While discussing the nature of whether or not Rahab was an ethnic Hebrew, and how this relates to her role in the Jericho narrative, let's also consider the speech Rahab gives to the spies:
"I know that the Lord has given you the land, and that the terror of you has fallen on us, and that all the inhabitants of the land have melted away before you. For we have heard how the Lord dried up the water of the Red Sea before you when you came out of Egypt, and what you did to the two kings of the Amorites who were beyond the Jordan, to Sihon and Og, whom you utterly destroyed. When we heard it, our hearts melted and no courage remained in any man any longer because of you; for the Lord your God, He is God in heaven above and on earth beneath." [Joshua 2:9-11]
How does Rahab speak? The Lord has given you the land. The terror of you has fallen on us. We have heard. When we heard it, our hearts melted, because of you, because of the authority of the Lord your God. Rahab identifies two groups: the Hebrews, and the Canaanites. She places herself alongside the Canaanites, and identifies herself along with them. (Other Kinists have a response to this, but we'll cover that in the second part.)

One might also consider the wording later on in Joshua, before the destruction of Jericho:
At the seventh time, when the priests blew the trumpets, Joshua said to the people, "Shout! For the Lord has given you the city. The city shall be under the ban, it and all that is in it belongs to the Lord; only Rahab the harlot and all who are with her in the house shall live, because she hid the messengers whom we sent. But as for you, only keep yourselves from the things under the ban, so that you do not covet them and take some of the things under the ban, and make the camp of Israel accursed and bring trouble on it. But all the silver and gold and articles of bronze and iron are holy to the Lord; they shall go into the treasury of the Lord." [Joshua 6:16-19]
And again, after the destruction of Jericho:
They burned the city with fire, and all that was in it. Only the silver and gold, and articles of bronze and iron, they put into the treasury of the house of the Lord. However, Rahab the harlot and her father’s household and all she had, Joshua spared; and she has lived in the midst of Israel to this day, for she hid the messengers whom Joshua sent to spy out Jericho. [Joshua 6:24-25]
In both of these instances are a clear reference to the instructions of the Lord in Deuteronomy - however, in both of these instances, Rahab is mentioned as an exception.

Note especially the wording "she has lived in the midst of Israel to this day" (Jos 6:25). To be "in the midst" of Israel is to in essence be made "in the presence of God's people." Origen, in his homilies on Matthew, saw Rahab's dwelling among Israel as a shadow of the eventual grafting in of the Gentiles (cf. Rom 11:17). (Origen, 7:5) Clement of Rome saw it as well, even identifying Rahab's story as a prophecy of the matter:
Moreover, they gave her a sign to this effect, that she should hang forth from her house a scarlet thread. And thus they made it manifest that redemption should flow through the blood of the Lord to all them that believe and hope in God. Ye see, beloved, that there was not only faith, but prophecy, in this woman. [First Epistle to the Corinthians, 12; source]
Cyril of Jerusalem likewise saw the metaphor here (although he erroneously attributes her name to a similar word in the psalms):
For inquire how she was saved: this only she said: For your God is God in heaven and upon earth [Psa 2:11]. Your God; for her own she did not dare to say, because of her wanton life. And if you wish to receive Scriptural testimony of her having been saved, you have it written in the Psalms: I will make mention of Rahab and Babylon among them that know me [Psa 87:4]. O the greatness of God’s loving-kindness, making mention even of harlots in the Scriptures: nay, not simply I will make mention of Rahab and Babylon, but with the addition, among them that know me. There is then in the case both of men and of women alike the salvation which is ushered in by repentance. [Lecture II; source]
Justin Martyr certainly thought so as well:
For the sign of the scarlet thread, which the spies, sent to Jericho by Joshua, son of Nave (Nun), gave to Rahab the harlot, telling her to bind it to the window through which she let them down to escape from their enemies, also manifested the symbol of the blood of Christ, by which those who were at one time harlots and unrighteous persons out of all nations are saved, receiving remission of sins, and continuing no longer in sin. [Dialogue with Trypho, Ch. 111; source; emphasis mine]
John Calvin, while not necessarily arguing like Origen and others did, likewise affirmed that Rahab's family dwelling among Israel meant she was a Gentile now considered, spiritually, a Hebrew:
For it is added shortly after, that they dwelt in the midst of the people; in other words, having been purged from their defilement’s, they began to be regarded in the very same light as if they had originally belonged to the race of Abraham. In short, the meaning is, that after they had made a confession of their previous impurity, they were admitted indiscriminately along with others. By this admission, Rahab gained one of the noblest fruits of her faith. [John Calvin, Commentary on Joshua; source; emphasis mine]
In fact, it might be worth detracting here a moment to point out that, besides Clement of Rome, Justin Martyr, Origen, Cyril of Jerusalem, and John Calvin, many other Church Fathers and great theologians considered her a Gentile. Irenaeus outright said she was a Gentile:
...and by means of the Ethiopian bride, the Church taken from among the Gentiles was made manifest; and those who do detract from, accuse, and deride it, shall not be pure. For they shall be full of leprosy, and expelled from the camp of the righteous. Thus also did Rahab the harlot, while condemning herself, inasmuch as she was a Gentile, guilty of all sins, nevertheless receive the three spies, [sic] who were spying out all the land, and hid them at her home... And when the entire city in which she lived fell to ruins at the sounding of the seven trumpets, Rahab the harlot was preserved, when all was over [in ultimis], together with all her house, through faith of the scarlet sign... [Against Heresies, Book IV, 20:12; source; emphasis mine]
Augustine identified her as being originally outside Israel:
And Rahab, indeed, delivered out of Jericho, made transition into the people of God, where, being proficient, she might attain to eternal and immortal prizes which are not to be sought by any lie. [Against Lying, 33; source; emphasis mine]
In his commentary for Psalm 87 Augustine (like other Church Fathers) erroneously applies the harlot Rahab to the use of the word rahab in verse 4, and adds "Rahab belongs not to the Jewish people." (source) The writer of the Incomplete Commentary on Matthew, also known as Pseudo-Chrysostom (and believed to have lived about the fifth century), likewise identified her as a Gentile (Kellerman, 9). The Glossa Ordinaria agrees:
Christ Himself espouses Rahab, i.e. the Gentile Church; for Rahab is interpreted either ‘hunger’ or ‘breadth’ or ‘might;’ for the Church of the Gentiles hungers and thirsts after righteousness, and converts philosophers and kings by the might of her doctrine [quoted from Thomas Aquinas' Golden Chain; source]
This goes beyond Patristics. Besides John Calvin, the belief that Rahab was a Gentile was likewise upheld by Martin Luther (Luther, 22), John GillAdam Clarke, Jonathan EdwardsGeorge HaydockJoseph BensonAlbert Barnes, John Darby, Charles Ellicott, William BarclayArno Gaebelein, John MacArthur (MacArthur, 1119), and David Guzik.

Remember earlier that Mr. Would said "none save the first-century Pharisees seriously questioned the purity of Christ’s heritage...until recently." Yet as we've just seen, this was a belief upheld among the earliest Church Fathers (Irenaeus, Justin Marytr) all the way through the Reformation and into today. One might say that to believe Rahab was a Gentile has as much basis in historical Christianity as does belief in the deity of Christ or the Trinity. Therefore, it would seem that nearly everyone throughout church history has inadvertently "questioned the purity of Christ's lineage," which means nearly everyone - until the rise of Kinism, that is - questioned the purity of Christ's lineage.

The Prohibition of Interracial Marriage

Our author continues:
The denial of all mercy to Canaanites obviously entails the denial of any intermarriages as well, as Deuteronomy 7:2-3 attests. But remarkably, this marital prohibition not only made all such couplings sinful to enact, but rendered all such unions entirely invalid. Israelite-Canaanite marriages were not truly albeit sinfully formed; rather, they were impossible to form. According to Ezra, any intermarriage with Canaanites (9:1-2) required the annulment of the families via the expulsion of the wives and the mixed children (10:3-5, 10-11). The infallible prophetic application of these laws forbidding Canaanite amalgamation required the annulment of invalid Israelite-Canaanite unions, not simply repentance for marriages sinfully formed but nevertheless binding. Moreover, this prophetic law was evidently ethnic, as it was applied along national lines as such; it cannot be assigned purely religious, non-ancestral grounds. Contrast it with St. Paul’s teachings concerning the abiding validity of interreligious marriages between Christians and unbelievers (1 Cor. 7:12), whom he elsewhere likens to followers of Belial (2 Cor. 6:15). Paul explicitly describes the children of these marriages as holy (1 Cor. 7:14), no matter the religious affiliation of the unbelieving spouse, yet he does not command their expulsion, while Ezra does. Hence the ethnic basis for this law is both momentous and severe: if Jesus were, as these Alienists allege, of Canaanite admixture, both the law and the prophets would conclusively rule Him out as a legal citizen, let alone King.
We went over the section in Deuteronomy 7, and showed why it wasn't a complete denial of any intermarriages for Israel.

The case in Ezra 9:1-2, and 10:3-5, 10-22 present a stronger case for us to deal with. We will look at those passages in detail:
Now when these things had been completed, the princes approached me, saying, “The people of Israel and the priests and the Levites have not separated themselves from the peoples of the lands, according to their abominations, those of the Canaanites, the Hittites, the Perizzites, the Jebusites, the Ammonites, the Moabites, the Egyptians and the Amorites. For they have taken some of their daughters as wives for themselves and for their sons, so that the holy race has intermingled with the peoples of the lands; indeed, the hands of the princes and the rulers have been foremost in this unfaithfulness.” [Ezra 9:1-2]
Note that the people, priests, and Levites were said to have "not separated themselves" from, in addition to this marriage with the Canaanites: "according to their abominations" (NASB); "with their abominations" (ESV); "who practice detestable things" (NET); "with their detestable practice" (NIV); "whose detestable practices are like those of" (HCSB); "they have taken up the detestable practices" (NLT); "doing according to their abominations" (KJV; ASV). It is clear from this detail that the crime of marriage with these Gentiles was not based upon genetic lines, but rather theological. These is seen later on in the chapter, with Ezra's prayer to God.
"Now, our God, what shall we say after this? For we have forsaken Your commandments, which You have commanded by Your servants the prophets, saying, ‘The land which you are entering to possess is an unclean land with the uncleanness of the peoples of the lands, with their abominations which have filled it from end to end and with their impurity. So now do not give your daughters to their sons nor take their daughters to your sons, and never seek their peace or their prosperity, that you may be strong and eat the good things of the land and leave it as an inheritance to your sons forever.’ After all that has come upon us for our evil deeds and our great guilt, since You our God have requited us less than our iniquities deserve, and have given us an escaped remnant as this, shall we again break Your commandments and intermarry with the peoples who commit these abominations? Would You not be angry with us to the point of destruction, until there is no remnant nor any who escape?" [Ezra 9:10-14; emphases mine]
The issue was not merely that these were non-Jewish peoples, but that these were non-Jewish peoples committing abominations - toebah in Hebrew. (Keep in mind that this word is used for such abominations as homosexuality in Leviticus 18:22.) It was not an "ethnic basis," as Mr. Would argues, which caused Ezra to be disturbed and demand an end to the marriages, but a theological one tied into the ethnic identity. Hence Mr. Would's contention that this annulment "cannot be assigned purely religious, non-ancestral grounds" is completely erroneous according to the text.

Continuing on with the passage, Mr. Would reminds us that they are not seeking simply to "locate a Bible verse which happens to deny that Rahab could have been a Canaanite," but rather a "principle by which Canaanite ancestry could not enter Christ's bloodline" without completely tainting it.
Nehemiah directly cites Deut. 23:3-6 in separating all Ammonites and Moabites from Israel (Neh. 13:1-3), but the more fundamental law around which this entire exchange principally revolves is Deuteronomy 23:2: “A bastard shall not enter into the congregation of the Lord; even to his tenth generation shall he not enter into the congregation of the Lord.” [...] “[B]astard” is, in the Hebrew (Masoretic) text, the word mamzer, which is a compound of mum (defect) and zar (strange/alien). It is the same word which appears in Zechariah 9:6, where our modern Bible translators routinely render the term “mixed people,” “mongrel people,” “mongrel race,” “mixed race,” etc. The standard works of lexicography affirm the same: namely, Strong’s Exhaustive Concordance lists this Hebrew term as coming from “a root meaning to alienate; a mongrel.” The Brown-Driver-Briggs Lexicon confirms it as a reference to a “mixed population.”
Nehemiah 13:1-3 likewise presents a stronger case for the Kinist position, which they argue was used by Nehemiah to expel "the entirety of the mixed multitude – children included...from Israel." Hence the Kinist position is that the word "bastard" in Deuteronomy 23:2 ("one of illegitimate birth" in the NASB and NET) was part of the expulsion of the Ammonites and Moabites from Israel.

Here is the quotation from Nehemiah in full:
On that day they read aloud from the book of Moses in the hearing of the people; and there was found written in it that no Ammonite or Moabite should ever enter the assembly of God, because they did not meet the sons of Israel with bread and water, but hired Balaam against them to curse them. However, our God turned the curse into a blessing. So when they heard the law, they excluded all foreigners from Israel. [Nehemiah 13:1-3]
Since it is relevant to the discussion, here we will return to Deuteronomy 23 passage, but will look at verses 1-8 for fuller context:
"No one who is emasculated or has his male organ cut off shall enter the assembly of the Lord. No one of illegitimate birth shall enter the assembly of the Lord; none of his descendants, even to the tenth generation, shall enter the assembly of the Lord. No Ammonite or Moabite shall enter the assembly of the Lord; none of their descendants, even to the tenth generation, shall ever enter the assembly of the Lord, because they did not meet you with food and water on the way when you came out of Egypt, and because they hired against you Balaam the son of Beor from Pethor of Mesopotamia, to curse you. Nevertheless, the Lord your God was not willing to listen to Balaam, but the Lord your God turned the curse into a blessing for you because the Lord your God loves you. You shall never seek their peace or their prosperity all your days. You shall not detest an Edomite, for he is your brother; you shall not detest an Egyptian, because you were an alien in his land. The sons of the third generation who are born to them may enter the assembly of the Lord." [Deuteronomy 23:2-8]
In this section, various groups of people are spoken of an told about entering the congregation of the Lord.
  • Eunuchs (v. 1) - They were banned from entering the assembly. A practice which was practiced often in pagan practices. Obviously if someone lost their private parts in an accident, this law wouldn't apply to them.
  • Those "of illegitimate birth" (v. 2) - Or, people born from "illegitimate marriages" (NET). They also were banned from entering the assembly.
  • Ammonites and Moabites (v. 3) - They were banned from entering the assembly; the phraseology "to the tenth generation" simply means forever, or for a long, long time. The reason given was their cruelty against the Jews and their conspiring with Balaam (vv. 4-6).
  • Edomites and Egyptians (v. 7) - They were not banned from entering the assembly after "the sons of the third generation" (v. 8), the reasons given being that the Edomites are kin to the Israelites, and the Egyptians were once their hosts.
The mention of those born of "illegitimate birth" is worth discussing, as Mr. Would argues that this term refers to a racial "mongrel." In fact, the word refers more so to someone born from an immoral relationship. From the Keil and Delitzsch Old Testament Commentary:
So also with the ממזר, i.e., not persons begotten out of wedlock, illegitimate children generally (lxx, Vulg.), but, according to the Talmud and the Rabbins, those who were begotten in incest or adultery (cf. Ges. thes. p. 781). The etymology of the word is obscure. The only other place in which it occurs is Zechariah 9:6; and it is neither contracted from מוּם and זר (according to the Talmud, and Hitzig on Zechariah 9:6), nor from זר מעם (Geiger Urschr. p. 52), but in all probability is to be derived from a root מזר, synonymous with the Arabic word "to be corrupt, or foul." [source]
And likewise from John Gill, quoting Jewish traditions and interpretations:
That is born of whoredom, as the Targum of Jonathan; and for the sake of avoiding whoredom and deterring from it was this law made, according to Maimonides, that adulterers might see, as he observes, that they affect their whole family with an irreparable stain, should they commit such an infamous action; though the Jews commonly interpret it of one that is born of any of those incestuous copulations forbidden in Leviticus 18:1 which they gather from this following upon, and being near unto one of those incests mentioned in the last verse of the preceding chapter; and it is a rule with them, that persons born of such copulations were reckoned bastards; now such an one, according to Jarchi, might not marry an Israelitish woman, or rather might not be admitted into the assembly of elders, or bear any public office. Jephthah may seem to be an objection to this, who was the son of an harlot, Judges 11:1 which might be owing to the badness of the times, the laws of God being neglected, or to the providence of God so ordering it, who is not bound by his own laws, though men are; nor was he the son of a common harlot, nor of an incestuous person, but of his father's concubine; besides some think such only are intended who were born of strangers and not Israelites [source]
And likewise, from the Jewish Encyclopedia:
The mamzer, rendered "bastard" in the A. V., is something worse than an illegitimate child. He is the offspring of a father and mother between whom there could be in law no binding betrothal: issuing either from adultery between a married woman and a man other than her husband, or from incest within the forbidden degrees of kinship or affinity defined in Lev. xviii. and xx. The child of a marriage simply forbidden, as that between a cohen and a divorced woman, is legitimate but "profane"; that is, a son can not officiate as a priest, a daughter is not eligible to marry a priest. But a mamzer, according to Deut. xxiii. 3, must not "enter the congregation of the Lord," that is, marry an Israelite woman, "nor shall his tenth generation enter," etc., which includes also the female mamzer (Ḳid. iii. 12; Mak. iii. 1). The older Halakah, however, was more rigorous, Akiba declaring any child of a forbidden connection a mamzer (Yeb. iv. 12, 13; Yer. ib. 6b; Bab. ib. 44a, 49a). [source]
In fact, the Jewish Encyclopedia contends whether or not the word accurately applies to those born in an interracial marriage.
Whether the child of a daughter of Israel and of a Gentile or bondman is a mamzer or not, was hotly disputed both among the early sages, down to Rabbi Judah the Patriarch, and among the later teachers in Palestine and in Babylonia (Yeb. 23a, 45a). But the rule finally adopted is that such a child is not a mamzer, even when the mother is a married woman. This is the decision in the modern code (Shulḥan 'Aruk, Eben ha-'Ezer, 4. 19), though it is admitted that the child is unfit for the priesthood. Maimonides decides to the same effect (Issure Biah, xv. 3). [ibid]
And again, from the same source:
Where incest or adultery takes place among Gentiles, and the offspring embraces Judaism, the flaw in his descent is ignored. He is not deemed a mamzer (Shulḥan 'Aruk, Eben ha-'Ezer, 4, 21). The child of an Israelite by an unconverted Gentile mother is a Gentile, and when converted becomes an Israelite to all purposes, without regard to his father. [ibid]
From another source:
Mamzer, pl. mamzerim (Ashkenazi: Mamzer, pl. mamzerim)
Offspring of gravely illicit relationship; son of a ____ [Glinert]
And another:
MAMZER (Hebrew 'Bastard'). The child of an adulterous or incestuous union. Children of unmarried mothers are not manzerim. [Cohn-Sherbok, 89]
And another
BASTARDS, children begotten out of the state of matrimony. The law forbade the admission of bastards into the congregation of Israel, to the tenth generation, Deut. xxiii. 2. The rabbins distinguish bastards into three kinds; (1.) those born in marriage, of parents contracted in cases prohibited by the law; (2.) those born from a criminal conjunction, punishable by the judges, as are the children of adulterers; (3.) those born in incest, and condemned by the law. They also distinguish between bastards certain and uncertain. The first are those whose birth is notoriously corrupted, and who without difficulty are excluded from the congregation of the Lord. Doubtful bastards are those whose birth is uncertain. These could not be excluded in strictness, yet the Scribes would not admit them, for fear that any certain bastards should slip in among them. But the Vulgate, the LXX, and the authors of the canon law, take the Hebrew mamzer, (Deut. xxiii, 2.) for the child of a prostitute; while some interpreters take it for a generic term, which signifies illegitimate children, whose birth is impure in any manner whatever. [Calmet, 151]
In fact, around the time of Christ, some interpreters considered children from lusting after other women to be mamzer, as one account from the time period tells us:
R' Eliezer ben Hyrcanos, a 1st/2nd century CE Palestinian sage, is having intercourse with his wife in the middle of the night. He is anxious, the text informs us through the wife, and behaves as if possessed by a demon! Why such anxiety, the wife asks? The answer to this question is most fascinating. The rabbi, a known strict interpreter of Jewish Law, is afraid that he may be tempted to imagine another woman while having coitus with his wife and thus his children born from such a union would be legally bastards (Hebrew mamzer)! He, therefore, chose to have intercourse during the time when there would be the least amount of distraction, in the middle of the night. [Michaelides, 200]
Hence the mamzer of Deuteronomy 23:2, which Mr. Would believes refers to someone of a mixed lineage is, in fact, more broadly to mean someone descended from an illegitimate relationship.

(A brief aside. In a footnote, Mr. Would contends against an appeal by John Gill and Matthew Henry to rabbinical traditions for non-ethnic explanations, as the rabbinical traditions often utilize "unintended contrasts to permit various loopholes which the text's spirit forbids." While this can be true, we must remember that the crux of Mr. Would's argument rested upon the opinion of first century Jewish teachers (the Jews in John 8); hence, if it can be demonstrably proven what the first century Jewish beliefs regarding topics such as how Samaritans were viewed or the word mamzer was understood can be found to be actually contradictory to the Kinist interpretation, then rabbinical interpretation becomes very relevant to the discussion.)

A fair question might be why, then, Zechariah 9:6 is interpreted by many translators as something similar to "mixed children." It's especially important as Zechariah 9:6 is the only other use of the word mamzer in the Old Testament. The verse in full reads:
And a mongrel race will dwell in Ashdod, and I will cut off the pride of the Philistines. [Zechariah 9:6]
This verse is part of a larger series of prophecies regarding God's judgment on nations surrounding Israel, pointing to the various conquests, including those of Alexander the Great, over the course of the next few centuries. Many commentators have suggested that the idea that mamzer will dwell in Ashdod is merely to emphasize that strangers or foreigners will dwell there instead of its natural inhabitants. Certainly the Assyrians, under Nebuchadrezzar, deported both the Philistine rulers and people, and repopulated it with a variety of cultures from across the empire. This not only robbed the Philistines of their independence, but took away the long-time Philistine identity from the region (Baldwin, 161).

In either case, it is not a very strong sedes doctrinae passage for Kinists to appeal to. Certainly it is not enough to read backwards into the use of mamzer into Deuteronomy, and conclude first century opinion regarding the word as a "mongrel" when contemporary sources do not even collude with this.

Returning to the Law, Mr. Would argues that Deuteronomy 23 has "racialist implications" because "whether every group was banned for racial reasons or not," the "effect" of ban is racial. It's true that, because these groups were identified as a whole, or were to be treated corporately, the effect might be racial. However, something being ethnicity-based as a consequence is different than something being ethnicity-based as a premise. The dilemma for the Kinist is that he wishes to appeal to the former in order to justify the latter. In the case of scripture's plain teachings, Israel was not to ban the Ammonites or the Moabites simply because weren't ethnic Jews (otherwise the Egyptians would have been banned), nor because God didn't want Ammonite or Moabite genes in their lineage; rather, it was because of what the Ammonites and Moabites had done against Israel, and hence God had passed judgment. This is similar to the case with the Canaanites: God did not order their deaths because He saw them as a sub-species, nor because He didn't want any Jewish blood to be mixed with them; rather, it was because of their idolatry and the sins they had committed in the land.

One must also point out that no ban like that placed on the Moabites or Ammonites was placed on the Egyptians. According to both Jewish rabbinical tradition and the works of Christ's contemporaries (see my post here), the Egyptians were descendants of Mizraim, who was a son of Ham, and hence the Egyptians were far from being genetic siblings with Hebrews like the Edomites were. Yet the reason given for the lack of any ban on the Egyptians is because the Egyptians were once the hosts of Israel, referencing the time between Joseph and Moses. Again, we see that genetics or racial purity are not on the mind of God with the verses in Deuteronomy 23. Hence Mr. Would's appeal to a "racial effect" of the ban runs into problems, both on the grounds of being logically fallacious, and likewise on the grounds that a plain reading of the passage's context contradicts this.

With all this in mind, let's now return to the Nehemiah 13 passage. Was it strictly race-based, because they didn't want the Ammonites and Moabites to intermix? Actually, it was, once again, a matter of sin and idolatry. See this passage later on, after the expulsion of the Ammonites and Moabites:
So I contended with them and cursed them and struck some of them and pulled out their hair, and made them swear by God, "You shall not give your daughters to their sons, nor take of their daughters for your sons or for yourselves. Did not Solomon king of Israel sin regarding these things? Yet among the many nations there was no king like him, and he was loved by his God, and God made him king over all Israel; nevertheless the foreign women caused even him to sin." [Nehemiah 13:25-26; emphasis mine]
Fittingly enough, some Jewish traditions interpret this to mean Ammonite or Moabite men, and not a believing Ammonitess and Moabitess. As John Gill writes in his commentary, this was seen in the Jarchi and Targum, as well as some rabbinical sources:
Or marry an Israelitish woman, as Jarchi, and so the Targum of Jonathan,"the male Ammonites and Moabites are not fit to take a wife of the congregation of the Lord;''for the Jews restrain this to men, because it is, as Aben Ezra observes, an Ammonite, not an Ammonitess, a Moabite, not a Moabitess; they allow that females of those nations might be married to Israelites, that is, provided they were proselytesses, as Ruth was... [source]
On the other hand, the Jewish Encyclopedia suggests that the Jews interpreted it, over time, into a "priestly restriction":
Since the Moabites had opposed the invasion of Palestine, they, like the Ammonites, were excluded from the congregation unto the tenth generation (Deut. xxiii. 3-4; comp. Neh. xiii. 1-3). This law was violated during the Exile, however; and Ezra and Nehemiah sought to compel a return to the ancient custom of exclusion (Ezra ix. 1-2, 12; Neh. xiii. 23-25). The exilian usage had had royal sanction; the harem of Solomon included Moabite women (I Kings xi. 1). On the other hand, the fact that the marriages of the Beth-lehem-judah Ephrathites Chilion and Mahlon to the Moabite women Orpah and Ruth (Ruth i. 2-4), and the marriage of the latter, after her husband's death, to Boaz (ib. iv. 10, 13), who was the great-grandfather of David, are mentioned with no shade of reproach, shows that the law had fallen into abeyance at a comparatively early period and had become a mere priestly restriction. [source]
An amusing section sees Mr. Would quote Matthew Henry in favor of his argument:
Matthew Henry contends that Deuteronomy 23 is the legal basis for Ezra and Nehemiah’s deportation of the mixed children from Israel, and that their prophetic adjudication of the matter, amounting to an infallible enactment, grants us a flawless interpretation of the law and its appropriate administration: 
1. Some think they [non-Israelites] are hereby excluded from communicating with the people of God in their religious services. . . . 2. Others think they are hereby excluded from bearing office in the congregation: none of these must be elders or judges, lest the honour of the magistracy should thereby be stained. 3. Others think they are excluded only from marrying with Israelites. Thus the learned bishop Patrick inclines to understand it; yet we find that when this law was put in execution after the captivity they separated from Israel, not only the strange wives, but all the mixed multitude, see Neh. xiii. 1-2. [italics and emphasis in original]
Cross-examining sources will show that Mr. Would has changed some of the wording around a bit. Here is the quote from Matthew Henry in full:
Interpreters are not agreed what is here meant by entering into the congregation of the Lord, which is here forbidden to eunuchs and to bastards, Ammonites and Moabites, for ever, but to Edomites and Egyptians only till the third generation. 1. Some think they are hereby excluded from communicating with the people of God in their religious services. Though eunuchs and bastards were owned as members of the church, and the Ammonites and Moabites might be circumcised and proselyted to the Jewish religion, yet they and their families must lie for some time under marks of disgrace, remembering the rock whence they were hewn, and must not come so near the sanctuary as others might, nor have so free a communion with Israelites. 2. Others think they are hereby excluded from bearing office in the congregation: none of these must be elders or judges, lest the honour of the magistracy should thereby be stained. 3. Others think they are excluded only from marrying with Israelites. Thus the learned bishop Patrick inclines to understand it; yet we find that when this law was put in execution after the captivity they separated from Israel, not only the strange wives, but all the mixed multitude, see Neh. 13:1-2. With the daughters of these nations (though out of the nations of Canaan), it should seem, the men of Israel might marry, if they were completely proselyted to the Jewish religion; but with the men of these nations the daughters of Israel might not marry, nor could the men be naturalized otherwise than as here provided. [source]
Note firstly Matthew Henry did not say "non-Israelites," but rather eunuchs and bastards, Ammonites and Moabites, Edomites and Egyptians; he recognized that there were different laws applied to different groups - some of them non-Israelites, some of them possibly Israelites. Note also at the very end that he believed there were ways Ammonite and Moabite men and women could be a part of Israel. (Mr. Would actually admits this in a footnote, but shrugs it off as a "curious" belief of Matthew Henry's.) The point is, we do not see Matthew Henry applying Deuteronomy 23:2 into Nehemiah 13:1-2. Consider that in Matthew Henry's commentary on Nehemiah 13:1-3, he cites Deuteronomy 23:3-5 as the cause - without mentioning Deuteronomy 23:2. (See here.) In Matthew Henry's mind, a "mongrel" law wasn't the inspiration for Israel's expulsion of the Ammonites and Moabites, but rather the injustice done to them in the past - just as we saw earlier when we examined the passages.

Concluding Thoughts

We have seen a few claims examined and refuted:

It was argued that the Pharisees questioned Christ's pure lineage. In fact, we see the Pharisees did no such thing. This was taught by distorting John's gospel and abusing the meaning of the insult "Samaritan." Neither would the Pharisees of Christ's time have seen mamzer in the way pushed for by Kinists, as seen from contemporary sources.

It was argued that, for Christ to be Messiah, he had to fulfill "national insularity codes." In fact, the so-called "national insularity codes" were shown to not be codes pushing for a pure, undefiled genetic lineage at all; this had been read into the texts.

It was argued that Rahab was most likely of Semitic lineage. As we saw, this was based on flimsy arguments, whether it be "her name might have Hebrew origins, therefore she must be Hebrew," or "there weren't any problems with her and the spies interacting, therefore she must be Semitic."

It was argued that scripture forbid intermarrying Canaanites and Moabites, and the actions of Ezra and Nehemiah show that such unions were forbidden. What we discovered, from within the texts themselves - whether by order in the Law or by application through the prophets - was that the ban on intermarrying came from theological than racial grounds. Whenever marriage betwen Hebrews and non-genetic Hebrews happened, the shock from others came not from the mere fact that such a marriage had taken place at all, but that the marriage had produced hypocrisy in the life of the believer. Rahab marrying a Hebrew man did not violate these principles, as there were no danger of Rahab turning her future husband away from the true God.

I post here the final thoughts from Mr. Would:
If there is no necessity for the Alienist interpretation of Rahab as a Canaanite, but rather every reason to regard it as an impossibility, the Alienist’s position can only be regarded as a willful distortion of the royal genealogy at the expense of Christ’s honor. This evinces something significant: in their zeal to supplant the Christian World Order in exchange for the Marxian New World Order, they swear service to a different gospel – a nebulous gospel of equality. For they regard Christ as essentially beholden to egalitarianism, and will accept no Christ who does not bow the knee to what is, in their minds, the ultimate good. They unequivocally reject the blood-heir, Jesus Christ, in favor of a bastard-christ, a usurper, little different from the Idumean Herods who usurped the throne in the first century. They have little else to say of the biblical Christ, it seems, but, “Crucify Him!” We traditional Christians continue to reply in the words of St. Paul, that “we could wish that we ourselves were accursed from Christ for the sake of our kinsmen according to the flesh” (Rom. 9:3). May God open their eyes.
I want to likewise hearken back to one quote of Mr. Would's earlier:
...if the genealogies didn’t prove His lawful descent from Jacob and claim to the heritage of David, their inclusion to that end in the text would be a work of sublime futility – undermining the whole of the gospel and, thereby, revelation in general.
These are all dramatic, strong words to charge against Non-Kinist Christians. If we accept that Rahab was a Gentile, then we reject the "blood-heir" Christ in favor of a "bastard-Christ," and hence we are like those who screamed "Crucify Him!" Also, to deny a pure, "undefiled" lineage of Christ is not only to worship a false Christ, but to "undermine the whole of the gospel"?

This is shown even further from another Kinist article, where this is extended even to the doctrine of the incarnation:
It is impossible to deny the purity of Christ’s pedigree and yet retain any Christian doctrine of the Incarnation. Christ, quite simply, had to be the pure-blood heir apparent in order to be the prophesied Messiah without spot or blemish. [source]
Let's take a look at one of the clearest expositions of what the Gospel is, as found in scripture:
Now I make known to you, brethren, the gospel which I preached to you, which also you received, in which also you stand, by which also you are saved, if you hold fast the word which I preached to you, unless you believed in vain. For I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received, that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, and that He was buried, and that He was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures, and that He appeared to Cephas, then to the twelve. After that He appeared to more than five hundred brethren at one time, most of whom remain until now, but some have fallen asleep; then He appeared to James, then to all the apostles; and last of all, as to one untimely born, He appeared to me also. [1 Corinthians 15:1-8]
The Gospel rests upon the death, burial, and resurrection of Christ, performed before witnesses, and all for the purpose of the redemption of sins, in fulfillment of the scriptures. Nowhere is it ever implied that, if Christ were to take an Ancestry DNA test and find he was 1% Gentile, the entire Gospel would crumble and fall apart. I would hence put forward that it is actually the Kinist (at least the "hard" versions of it) that are teaching another Christ, and by extension, another Gospel entirely. They are teaching a Christ that will have no Gentile blood - not one droop - within His blood. They are teaching a Gospel which is reliant not upon sinlessness of our Lord on the cross, but upon the genetic purity of our Lord human nature. This is what is so dangerous about Kinism, and why it is a heresy. Those who may be considering it, or maybe even might consider themselves "weak" or "soft" Kinists, I urge and exhort to turn away and realize what scripture truly teaches. One side can simply quote scripture and church history and not play games; the other side must ignore the entirety of church history and play fast and loose with scripture. Which side is truly honoring He who is Truth?

We will, God willing, touch upon other contentions which Kinists make regarding Rahab, in a following blog post. God bless.


Work Cited

Baldwin, Joyce. Haggai, Zechariah, and Malachi: An Introduction and Commentary. Downers Grove: Inter-Varsity Press, 1972. Print.

Calmet, Augustin. Calmet's Dictionary of the Holy Bible. New York: Crocker and Brewster, 1835. Print.

Clines, David J. A., J. K. Aitken, Jeremy M. S. Clines, and Christl M. Maier. Interested Readers: Essays on the Hebrew Bible in Honor of David J.A. Clines. Atlanta: Society of Biblical Literature, 2013. Print.

Cohn-Sherbok, Lavinia, and Dan Cohn-Sherbok. A Popular Dictionary of Judaism. Richmond: Curzon, 1997. Print.

Glinert, Lewis. The Joys of Hebrew. New York: Oxford U Press, 1993. Print.

Kellerman, James A., and Thomas C. Oden. Incomplete Commentary on Matthew. Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 2010. Print.

Luther, Martin and Helmut T. Lehmann. Luther's Works: Lectures on Genesis; Vol. 7. Concordia Publishing House, 1986. Print.

MacArthur, John. The MacArthur Bible Commentary. Nashville: Thomas Nelson Inc, 2005. Print.

Michaelides, D. Medicine and Healing in the Ancient Mediterranean. London: Oxbow , 2014. Print.

Origen, Barbara J. Bruce, and Cynthia White. The Fathers of the Church: Origen, Homilies on Joshua. Washington, D.C: Catholic U of America Press, 2002. Print.

Saturday, May 13, 2017

Noah's Family Tree and Nations

I thought for fun I would organize how Jewish traditions identify where the sons of Noah and their descendants settled. I will be taking information from Josephus' account here, as well as the page from the Jewish Encyclopedia here. Josephus' opinion will be in red. Rabbinical traditions will be in purple. This post will probably be updated in the future.

It's interesting to note that, while the opinions often differ wildly, there seems to be an agreeing trend: the sons of Shem went eastward, into the Middle East, Persia, and beyond; the sons of Japheth traveled westward, into Asia Minor, Greece, and beyond; and the sons of Ham traveled southward, into Arabia, Africa, and beyond.
  • Shem (His sons are not identified conclusively in rabbinical literature)
    • Elam - Persians
    • Asshur - Assyrians
    • Arpachshad - Chaldeans
      • Shelah - N/A
        • Eber - Hebrews
          • Peleg - N/A
          • Joktan - (All sons settled towards the Kabul River)
            • Almodad
            • Sheleph
            • Hazarmaveth
            • Jerah
            • Hadoram
            • Uzal
            • Diklah
            • Obal
            • Abimael
            • Sheba
            • Ophir
            • Havilah
            • Jobab
    • Lud - Lydians (Anatolia) 
    • Aram - Syrians 
      • Uz - Southern Syria 
      • Hul - Armenians 
      • Gether - Bactrians (Central Asia) 
      • Mash - Around Tigris/Euphrates Rivers 
  • Japheth
    • Gomer - Galatians / Carthage
      • Ashkenaz - Rheginians(?) / Asia(?)
      • Riphath - PaphlagoniansAdiabene (N Iraq)
      • Togarmah - Phrygians / Germanicia (S Asia Minor)
    • Magog - Scythians / Germania
    • Madai - Media / Media
    • Javan - Ionia (and all Grecians) / Macedonia (or Ephesus)
      • Elishah - Aeolians / Aeolians
      • Tarshish - Tarsus/Cilicia / Tarsus/Cilicia
      • Kittim - Cypriots / S Italy
      • Dodanim - N/A / Dardania (W Asia Minor)
    • Tubal - Georgians / Bithynia (N Asia Minor)
    • Meschech - Cappadocia / Mysia (NW Asia Minor)
    • Tiras - Thracians / Thracians
  • Ham
    • Cush - Ethiopians / Arabia
      • Seba - N/ASyene (S Egypt)
      • Havilah - N/A / India (S Egypt)
      • Sabtah - N/ALembritæ (N Sudan)
      • Raamah - N/A / Libya
        • Sheba - N/AMons Samaragdus (SE Egypt)
        • Dedan - N/AMazaces (Egypt)
      • Sabteca - N/A / E Coast of Africa
    • Mizraim - Egyptians / Egyptians
      • Ludim - N/ANomos Neut.(?)
      • Anamim - N/AMareotæ(?)
      • Lehabim - N/ANomos (N Egypt)
      • Naphtuhim - N/APentascoimen(?)
      • Pathrusim - N/A / N/A
      • Casluhim - PhilistinesPentapolis (E Libya)
      • Caphtorim - N/ACappadocia
    • Put - N/AMarmarica (E Libya)
    • Canaan - Canaanites / Canaanites

Tuesday, April 18, 2017

The Woman of Revelation 12


A common claim by some modern Roman Catholics, especially within Catholic apologetic circles, is that the woman of Revelation 12 is the Virgin Mary. Pope John Paul II stated in a 1987 encyclical that she has an "ecclesial identification" as the woman clothed in the sun (Redemptoris Mater, 47; source). Indeed, the Roman Catholic Catechism identifies her with the woman.
"Recapitulated in Christ," these are the ones who take part in the service of the praise of God and the fulfillment of his plan: the heavenly powers, all creation (the four living beings), the servants of the Old and New Covenants (the twenty-four elders), the new People of God (the one hundred and forty-four thousand), especially the martyrs "slain for the word of God," and the all-holy Mother of God (the Woman), the Bride of the Lamb, and finally "a great multitude which no one could number, from every nation, from all tribes, and peoples and tongues." [source; emphasis mine]
In the early twelfth century, Bernard of Clairvaux identified the Virgin Mary as the woman in Revelation 12 in his sermons, saying "the twelve stars [are] the twelve privileges of grace that constitute Mary's unique adornment" (source). The famous priest Louis de Montfort (late seventeenth, early eighteenth century) said that "according to biblical commentators, this woman is the Blessed Virgin" (source).

Pope Paul VI wrote in a 1967 letter:
The great sign which the Apostle John saw in heaven, "a woman clothed with the sun," is interpreted by the sacred Liturgy, not without foundation, as referring to the most blessed Mary, the mother of all men by the grace of Christ the Redeemer. [Signum Magnum; source]
More recently, in 2006, Pope Benedict XVI stated:
We read today in the verse from Apocalypse proposed by the Church for our meditation: "And a great portent appeared in heaven, a woman clothed with the sun, with the moon under her feet, and on her head a crown of twelve stars" (12: 1). In this woman, resplendent with light, the Fathers of the Church have recognized Mary. In her triumph the Christian people, pilgrims in history, catch a glimpse of the fulfilment of its longing and a certain sign of its hope. [Angelus; source]
The interpretation is seen in the spiritual life of Roman Catholicism as well. In 1648, Miguel Sanchez took the vision of Our Lady of Guadalupe and connected it to Revelation 12 in order to justify the Spanish invasion of the Americas (source). The Little Crown of the Five Stars (also known as the Twelve-Star Devotion) is a special rosary devotion dedicated to the Virgin Mary, using a special chaplet, and was inspired by the "twelve stars" seen with the woman in Revelation 12 (source). One Roman Catholic mass - The Blessed Virgin Mary, Image and Mother of the Church - draws on Revelation 12 for its wording (source).

Some even state that Revelation 12 displays a literal conflict between the Virgin Mary and Satan. John Corapi, the (former) priest who used to say to Roman Catholics of the Virgin Mary "your mama wears combat boots," drew this from Revelation 12. Regarding this section, he has said:
The church throughout the ages - many of the Fathers, Doctors, and Saints have interpreted that to mean that's the Blessed Mother, that's involved in war with the enemy - the devil. [transcribed; source]
A similar opinion, from another source:
With the miracle of the sun at Fatima, one cannot help but think of Revelation 12 in which we see the heavenly reality underlying our current earthly battle, “A woman clothed with the sun, with the moon under her feet, and on her head a crown of twelve stars . . . and behold a great red dragon . . .” This is the real war we see being played out the in the world today . . . and in every human heart. That is why Mary, the Queen Mother of Jesus Christ, is being sent to us today. She is her Son’s last resort for a rebellious world, for nobody ever held the hearts of a king’s people more than a loving and solicitous queen. [source]
Likewise, in reference to verses 6 and 14:
In that "place prepared by God for her" the woman is both with God in total safety and security, and nevertheless is the object of persecution on the part of the dragon. In plain words, this may be a reference to the fact that after Christ's Ascension, Mary too was removed to safety in the mansions of the Father above, yet continues to be an object of Satan's fury in the Church which she embodies in her person and for which she stands. In persecuting the Church, Satan vents his wrath and hatred on Mary. [LeFrois, pg. 93]
And yet again:
In an analogous way, we Christians pray the rosary and ask Mary, the Ark of the New Covenant, to intercede on our behalf and use her prayers as a weapon of grace against the evil one, the Red Dragon spoken of in Revelation 12. Mary and her Church are the "woman" who does battle with the Dragon... [Madrid]
Still others use the passage to defend her title as the "Queen of Heaven."
...once we see that this woman is Mary, the mother of Jesus, it is important to note how she is portrayed as queen in this passage. Her royal office is hinted at by the imagery of the sun, moon, and twelve stars, which recalls the Old Testament story of Joseph’s dream in which the sun, moon, and stars bow down before him, symbolizing his future authority (Gen. 37:9–11). Her queenship is made even clearer by the crown of twelve stars on her head. Just like the queen mother in Jeremiah 13:18, here Mary is wearing a crown, symbolizing her royal office in the kingdom of heaven. In sum, Revelation 12 portrays Mary as the new queen mother in the Kingdom of God, sharing in her son’s rule over the universe. [source]
Other Roman Catholic apologists say it proves the bodily assumption of Mary into Heaven. In 1950, Pope Pius XII cited the woman in Revelation as evidence for the Bodily Assumption of Mary:
Moreover, the scholastic Doctors have recognized the Assumption of the Virgin Mother of God as something signified, not only in various figures of the Old Testament, but also in that woman clothed with the sun whom John the Apostle contemplated on the Island of Patmos. [Munificentissimus Deus, 27; source]
Another quote, from Roman Catholic apologist Patrick Madrid:
The following passage [Revelation 12:1-8] shows us that Mary, Ark of the New Covenant, is truly the mother of all Christians (even of those who refuse to acknowledge her as their mother). This passage also shows us a vision of Mary, queen of heaven, and hints at her Assumption. [Madrid]
Another quote from Joel Peters, another Roman Catholic apologist, mocking Sola Scriptura:
One example of this interpretive memory involves Revelation 12. The Early Church Fathers understood the "woman clothed with the sun" to be a reference to the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary. For someone to assert that this doctrine did not exist until 1950 (the year Pope Pius XII formally defined the doctrine) represents ignorance of ecclesial history. [Peters]
And another quote:
The fourth infallible Marian dogma is her Assumption, body and soul, into the glory of heaven. Since Patristic times, the "woman clothed with the sun" of Revelation 12:1 was identified with Mary reigning with her Son in heaven." [Coulter, 195]
And another quote regarding the passage, affirming that this belief goes all the way back to the earliest patristic sources:
I don't care whatever interpretation your pastors must have told you that this Woman is, but what was received from the Apostles and held and believed for over 1500 years by all Christians before the birth of the impious Martin Luther is that this Woman is MARY! [ObiMaria]
From here it's clear that many doctrines, practices, and beliefs within Roman Catholicism seem to rely, either partially or fully, on the interpretation of the woman in Revelation 12 as the Virgin Mary.

Revelation 12 Reviewed

Obviously, to comment on the entire chapter would be a serious undertaking, given the breadth of interpretations (and misunderstandings) regarding Revelation. Martin Luther himself remarked that "some have brewed into [Revelation] many stupid things out of their own heads." Many people have been long influenced by past explanations of Revelation, therefore I recognize there will be many reading this blog post who will not agree with every single thing I have to write on the subject. However, we will, for the sake of discussion, cover the sections dealing specifically with the woman in the twelfth chapter, and I hope that I can present as coherent a case for my explanations as I can with my limited knowledge. Thomas Paine, in his Age of Reason, quipped that Revelation is a "book of riddles that requires a revelation to explain it." Hopefully, I can avoid needing any personal revelation, and show how Revelation, in light of scripture and John's time, would have been understood by the original audience.

Below is the chapter from Revelation in full.
A great sign appeared in heaven: a woman clothed with the sun, and the moon under her feet, and on her head a crown of twelve stars; and she was with child; and she cried out, being in labor and in pain to give birth.

Then another sign appeared in heaven: and behold, a great red dragon having seven heads and ten horns, and on his heads were seven diadems. And his tail swept away a third of the stars of heaven and threw them to the earth. And the dragon stood before the woman who was about to give birth, so that when she gave birth he might devour her child.

And she gave birth to a son, a male child, who is to rule all the nations with a rod of iron; and her child was caught up to God and to His throne. Then the woman fled into the wilderness where she had a place prepared by God, so that there she would be nourished for one thousand two hundred and sixty days.

And there was war in heaven, Michael and his angels waging war with the dragon. The dragon and his angels waged war, and they were not strong enough, and there was no longer a place found for them in heaven. And the great dragon was thrown down, the serpent of old who is called the devil and Satan, who deceives the whole world; he was thrown down to the earth, and his angels were thrown down with him. Then I heard a loud voice in heaven, saying,

“Now the salvation, and the power, and the kingdom of our God and the authority of His Christ have come, for the accuser of our brethren has been thrown down, he who accuses them before our God day and night. And they overcame him because of the blood of the Lamb and because of the word of their testimony, and they did not love their life even when faced with death. For this reason, rejoice, O heavens and you who dwell in them. Woe to the earth and the sea, because the devil has come down to you, having great wrath, knowing that he has only a short time.”

And when the dragon saw that he was thrown down to the earth, he persecuted the woman who gave birth to the male child. But the two wings of the great eagle were given to the woman, so that she could fly into the wilderness to her place, where she was nourished for a time and times and half a time, from the presence of the serpent. And the serpent poured water like a river out of his mouth after the woman, so that he might cause her to be swept away with the flood. But the earth helped the woman, and the earth opened its mouth and drank up the river which the dragon poured out of his mouth. So the dragon was enraged with the woman, and went off to make war with the rest of her children, who keep the commandments of God and hold to the testimony of Jesus. [Revelation 12:1-17]
John has a vision where "a great sign appeared in heaven," meaning something clearly meant to be symbolic or represent something greater. What he sees is a woman "clothed in the sun, and with the moon under her feet, and on her head a crown of twelve stars" (v. 1). This woman is in labor, crying out and in pain (v. 2) - a stark contradiction to the popular notion among some Roman Catholics that the Virgin Mary experienced no labor pains (but that will be covered later).

Obviously, we must immediately recognize that John is dealing with a symbol - a "great sign." This is not meant to be a literal representation of anything or anyone. Even if, for the sake of discussion, the woman is supposed to be the Virgin Mary, we cannot expect this to mean she literally has a crown of twelve stars on her head anymore than we can believe Christ appears in heaven as a giant lamb with seven horns and seven eyes (Rev 5:6). We must likewise seek to avoid reading anything backward into the text, but read forward - that is, remembering that John is using prophetic language, and is drawing heavily from the Old Testament. Much of the more insane interpretations of Revelation (the locusts are helicopters, Obama is the antichrist, etc.) could be avoided if one studied the Old Testament and the symbolism found therein. Ethelbert William Bullinger, in his own commentary on Revelation, estimated that the book contains "no less than 285 references to the Old Testament" (source).

The symbolism around the woman, and the woman herself, is certainly worth pondering over. The sun, with which she is clothed, is used by John to represent God's glory (cf. Rev 1:16, 10:1). The moon is seen by some to be the Jewish Law, which made use of the moon for the timing of its ceremonies (cf. 2 Chr 8:13); the Law also led us towards the gospel, hence being a "lesser light" of sorts. The twelve stars are most likely the twelve tribes of Israel, similar to the dream seen by Joseph regarding him and his other brothers (Gen 37:9). In fact, many have pointed to that dream, which also included the sun and moon, to show that all the symbolism around the woman points towards believing Israel as a whole. The possibility of a female representation of God's church, or the Old Testament Israel (both of which would be accurate and convey the same meaning), is not entirely unheard of, even for John's time. In scripture, the church under the old covenant was often portrayed as a woman: for example, Isaiah referred to Jerusalem as the "virgin daughter of Zion" (2 Ki 19:21); another example is seen in God's references to unrepentant Israel as an adulterous wife (Jer 3:1, 20; Eze 16:32-35; Hos 2:2). Jewish commentators of antiquity commonly saw the Song of Solomon's bride and groom as an allegory for Israel and God. Adam Clarke, in his commentary for this chapter, presents yet another interesting notion from Jewish tradition regarding the symbolism of a woman for the church:
In Sohar Exod., fol. 47, col. 187, we find a mystical interpretation of Exodus 21:22 : If men strive, and hurt a woman with child, so that her fruit depart - he shall be surely punished, as the woman's husband will lay upon him. "If men strive, i.e. Michael and Samael, and hurt a woman with child, i.e. the Israelitish Church, so that her fruit depart, hoc fit in exilio, he shall surely be punished, i.e., Samael. As the woman's husband, that is, the holy and blessed God." [source]
That the woman was in labor and crying out in pain is most likely a reference to repeated language throughout scripture that speaks of a struggling church crying out to God for redemption (cf. Mic 4:10, 5:3; Isa 26:17-18, 66:7). Christ Himself employed the use of labor pains to describe the anguish of the disciples during the period of His passion, contrasting it with the joy they would feel after the resurrection (John 16:21). The strongest passage is perhaps seen in Isaiah 26:16-19, in which the people of God cry out for deliverance and resurrection, only to find nothing; by contrast, Revelation 12 sees the positive fulfillment of this longing.

Certainly the identity of the child can be without a doubt Christ. He is said to be one who will "rule all the nations with a rod of iron" (v. 5), a reference to language used about Christ (cf. Psa 2:9; Rev 2:27, 19:15). In the same verse, the child is said to be taken (literally "snatched away" in the Greek) up to God and His throne, as Christ went post-ascension. In the case of the woman in the midst of delivery, a redeemer is quite literally "delivered" to God's people.

The next "sign" that John witnesses is a "great red dragon" with "seven heads and ten horns," and on each of his heads is a diadem (v. 3). This dragon uses his tail to sweep away "a third of the stars of heaven," which are thrown down "to the earth." This dragon then stands before the woman and prepares to devour her child (v. 4).

The dragon is universally understood to represent the devil, given he is later on referred to as "the serpent of old who is called the devil and Satan" (v. 9); he will again be identified as such later on in the book (Rev 20:2). The Greek word δράκων is often used for giant, lizard-like monsters, but is likewise used in reference to evil kings (cf. Isa 27:1, 51:9; Ez 29:3). The use of the color red is often used in scripture to allude to war and bloodshed (cf. Zec 1:8; Rev 6:14). When it says that the dragon swept away a third of the stars with his tail, this comes from an ancient belief that dragons held as much strength in their tails as they did in their mouths. The stars are most likely angels (cf. Rev 1:20), and this is a description of the first rebellion by Satan. (Similar language regarding spiritual beings can be found in Job 38:7 and Isa 14:13.) John is in essence seeing a vision of Satan's backstory, both in his rebellion against God and in his hostility towards the coming Messiah.

Some have drawn here allusions between the dragon attempting to devour the child and Christ's nativity, and that's certainly understandable given the hostility towards Christ from Herod (Matt 2:16). The problem is that the "ascension" of the child is seen immediately after he is born (v. 5), therefore it is more likely that the birth of the child is a representation of the incarnation and Christ's life in general. The dragon's hostility to the child is Satan's general hostility towards Christ during His earthly ministry. Referring back to the description of the dragon (v. 3): if the seven heads are to be understood as earthly power, the horns military or superior power (cf. Dan 7:7-8), and the diadems as high authority, then it is very similar to the hostility Christ experienced, both from the Roman occupational forces under Pilate, the civil government under King Herod, and the religious government of the Jewish Sanhedrin. In the end, however, Christ is not destroyed, but ascends to His throne.

After this ascension, the woman flees "into the wilderness where she had a place prepared by God, so that she would be nourished for one thousand two hundred and sixty days" (v. 6), which is the same amount of time given to the two witnesses to testify (Rev 11:3). This is clear language used in reference to God's preservation of His church (cf. Ez 20:33-38, 34:25).

Verses 7-9 detail a battle between Michael and the angels against Satan and minions, after which Satan is cast down to the earth. Verses 10-12 is a song of praise for God for the defeat of Satan and the triumph of Christ.

The narrative then returns to the events of verse 6. Having been cast down to earth, the dragon "persecuted the woman" (v. 13). The woman, however, is given the wings of a "great eagle" so that she could fly to the wilderness. Wings, especially eagle wings, are used in scripture to reference God's protection (cf. Exo 19:4; Deu 32:11-12; Isa 40:31). The woman is taken to the wilderness "for a time and times and half a time" (v. 14), language taken from wording regarding the fourth beast of Daniel 7:25, who will "speak out against the Most High and wear down the saints of the Highest One." In other words, this is in reference to Satan using his powers to persecute the church.

Verses 15-16 give the curious imagery of the dragon pouring from its mouth "water like a river" hoping to sweep the woman away "with the flood," but the earth "opened its mouth and drank up the river." Rushing waters are seen as symbols elsewhere in scripture (cf. Pro 18:4; Isa 59:19; Jer 47:2); however, this passage may be best understood if we remember rushing waters are at times used to represent persecution and external threats (cf. Psa 124:1-5). Therefore, these two verses are merely a visual extension of verse 14, signifying just how serious Satan was with his intent to persecute the church.

The final verse in the chapter tells us "the dragon was enraged with the woman," and so went to make war "with the rest of her children," who are those that "keep the commandments of God and hold to the testimony of Jesus." Given this latter trait, these "children" can be no one else but believers, who are referred to with such terminology throughout John's book (cf. Rev 1:2, 9; 14:12; 20:4). The Greek word for "children" here is σπέρμα, similar to our own word "sperm" - which, as one might infer, means these children are the literal "seed" of the woman. Obviously this doesn't mean there was a woman who gave birth to a huge amount of children, but, given the woman has constantly been used in reference to God's church, these are most likely those produced by the woman - that is, believers under the new covenant, stemming from the coming of Christ and the fulfillment of the Law and Prophets. Similar language is seen in regards to those who followed "Jezebel" in Thyatira (Rev 2:23). Christ likewise made a similar reference to old covenant followers, contrasting with their corrupt rulers, in his lament over Jerusalem (cf. Matt 23:37).

The narrative will then roll into the next chapter, where the dragon will summon the Beast from the Sea, who will be given the power "to make war with the saints and to overcome them" (Rev 13:7). He will likewise summon the Beast from the Earth, who will institute the infamous marking of 666 (Rev 13:18). In other words, the two beasts summoned by the dragon are the an extension of his desire "to make war with the rest of [the woman's] children" (Rev 12:17).

Some concluding thoughts, after this exegesis:
  • What John is witnessing here is a visual representation of the coming of Christ, who was born in the flesh, and within the midst of God's promises in the prophets and testimony - "born of a woman, born under the Law" (Gal 4:4). The devil, who had already revolted against God, now seeks to undo the coming of the one who would step on the head of the serpent. Having failed this, Satan turns against the church. Unable to destroy God's elect as a whole, he seeks to destroy them individually, in various forms of persecution and oppression.
  • There is no combat happening between the woman and the dragon. While the dragon is indeed attempting to harm the child, and later pursues woman, the only person to directly fight back against the dragon in this chapter is Michael. The woman is taking a passive role in this conflict. Any notion that the woman is "at war" or "making war" with the dragon is read into the text.
  • Any connection made between the Virgin Mary and the woman in Revelation 12 cannot be immediately derived from the text, save for the fact that this is a woman in labor, and the child born is quite clearly pointing to Christ. Given the rest of the passage, however, this is a superficial connection at best.

Roman Catholic Interpretations of Revelation 12

Some Roman Catholics have attempted to argue scripturally that the Virgin Mary can be the woman in Revelation 12. A review of some of these arguments will be done here.

The ark is mentioned in Revelation 11:19; then appears the woman, who is the Virgin Mary, who is the ark

Some Roman Catholics will hearken back to the previous chapter, and the mention of "the ark of His covenant" appearing "in His temple"; they will then argue that the woman, who appears in the next chapter, is the Virgin Mary, as Mary is perceived by Roman Catholics as the new ark. Roman Catholic apologist Tim Staples argues as such:
Let’s first take a look at the text of Rev. 11:19:
Then God’s temple in heaven was opened, and the ark of his covenant was seen within in his temple; and there were flashes of lightning, loud noises, peals of thunder, an earthquake, and heavy hail.
In order to appreciate the identity of “the ark,” let’s first take a look at the identity of “the temple” that St. John sees as housing the ark. John 2:19-21 and Rev. 21:22 tell us quite plainly that the temple St. John speaks of is not a temple made of brick and mortar.
Jesus answered them, “Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up.”. . . But he spoke of the temple of his body (Jn. 2:21).

I saw no temple [in heaven], for its temple is the Lord God the Almighty and the lamb (Rev. 21:22).
When St. John views the temple in heaven, he is not viewing the Old Testament temple. He is viewing the true temple, which is Christ’s body. In the same way, St. John is not seeing the Old Covenant ark. He sees the new and true Ark of the Covenant. And remember: this would not just be talking about Mary but Mary’s body! It was Mary’s body that housed the Son of God, the fulfillment of the various types of Christ that were contained in the Old Covenant ark.

The conclusion is inescapable. Where is Mary’s body? In heaven, according to the Book of Revelation! [source]
Readers might be forgiven for being utterly confused by Tim Staples logic here, which tells us that, not only did Mary (the ark) house Christ's body (the manna), but Christ's body (the temple) apparently also housed Mary's body (the ark), which in turn housed Him (the manna).

Putting this aside, this argumentation is begging the question in numerous ways.

First, it presupposes the Roman Catholic belief that the Virgin Mary is the new ark, and reads this into the text, as if every representation of the ark must be expected to reference or represent Mary. Scripture points more so towards the idea that Christ is the new ark of the covenant. This is seen, for example, in John's language in John 1:14a: "and the Word became flesh, and dwelt among us"; the word rendered "dwelt" is literally "tabernacled," drawing towards the language of the tabernacle. Within Revelation itself, the temple in heaven, where the ark is located, ties itself more in with the judgments of God found within the book, rather than any direct female symbolism (cf. Rev 14:15, 17; 15:5; 16:17).

Second, it presumes the vision of the woman in labor is tied to the vision of the ark in the previous chapter. Given John's wording at the start of chapter twelve (describing the appearance of a new vision), the two visions have more of a disconnect. This doesn't even cover the fact that there is no apparent connection made within the text itself between the ark and the woman - that is read into the chapter by Roman Catholic apologists. Consider, for example, that the vision with the ark is on the tail end of a vision of the seventh trumpet, while the woman in labor ties itself more with the narrative of the two beasts. This is most likely why, for many commentators and scholars alike, Revelation 12 represents a division within the book as a whole; or at the very least, the start of a brand new series of visions.

Any supposed connection between the vision in the twelfth chapter and the end of the eleventh chapter is, at best, a weak case to make, unless presented with a stronger case that takes into consideration the flow of the events and symbols.

The crown of stars signifies royalty, and hence points to the Virgin Mary, the Queen of Heaven

Some Roman Catholics have pointed to the crown of stars on the woman's head as carrying significance. One example:
In the book of Revelation, the symbol of the crown is never a superfluous decoration, but connotes a real reign. It often refers to the share the saints have in Christ's kingship and the reward they receive for victorious perseverance during times of persecutions and temptations. [...] Thus, the woman having a crown of her own shows that she, too, has a royal status. [Sri, pg. 101]
And from another source:
Revelation 12 presents a royal woman (12:1) giving birth to the messiah-king (12:5). Although corporate interpretations often view the woman as a symbol for God's people, no Old Testament or Jewish text speaks of a queenly figure personifying the collective people of God and giving birth to the messiah. [Burke, pg. 483; italics in original]
It is certainly true that the woman is said to have a "crown of twelve stars" on her head, or στέφανος ἀστέρων δώδεκα in the original Greek. The word στέφανος, used for "crown," is indeed used elsewhere in Revelation: regarding believers (Rev 2:10; 3:11); regarding the elders before the throne (Rev 4:4, 10); on the head of the first horseman (Rev 6:2); upon the head of the locusts (Rev 9:7); and in a vision of Christ (Rev 14:14).

Nonetheless, this argumentation still runs into dilemmas. Of course, the immediate issue is that it takes the modern Roman Catholic belief of Mary as the Queen of Heaven and reads it backwards into the text. A more important dilemma involves the connection made between bearing a crown and having "a royal status." This is backed up by referencing the uses where there is a share the saints have "in Christ's kingship and the reward they receive for victorious perseverance during times of persecutions and temptations." We surely cannot expect, however, that, in all references made of a στέφανος, those who wear them have the same power allotted by Roman Catholics to the Virgin Mary as "Queen of Heaven." Do the locusts who bear the στέφανος on their heads hold as much power as the "Queen of Heaven" holds? Will all believers granted a στέφανος by Christ hold the same power that Mary does as the "Queen of Heaven"? Even if "the woman having a crown," as is argued, "shows that she, too, has a royal status," we would have to conclude it is one similar to the fellow believers she is equated with. Hence, by this exegetical logic, Mary is glorified as just another believer, and not as the "Queen of Heaven."

Likewise, to argue that there is no metaphor of a "queenly" woman in labor is to argue semantics; it's quite clear throughout scripture (as seen before) that a woman in labor is often used to denote great stress or suffering, let alone is a woman used to represent Israel. Likewise, the idea that a queenly representation of a woman is foreign to representations of Israel, or God's church, is simply untrue. The woman in Song of Solomon, the wife of the king, has, as previously stated, been seen as far back as Christ's time as a representation of God's people. Likewise, Psalm 45 describes the marriage of the king's daughter, a metaphor for the church and the Messiah.

The situation (a dragon attacking a woman and her child) is similar to the Messianic prophecy in Genesis 3:15; as Mary is the new Eve, she fits this identification

There is no denying that many commentators, even among Protestants, associate this imagery with Genesis 3:15a, which reads: "and I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your seed and her seed." For example, Bullinger writes:
The promise of Gen. iii. 15, as to the coming "seed" of the woman to crush the head of the great Dragon, was fundamental to the ground of Israel's faith. This chapter, therefore, takes us back to the beginning of evil wrought by Satan, and carries us right forward to the great crises of human history. It shows how "the mystery of God" and "the mystery of Iniquity" will be finished; and take some 6,000 years to work out. The birth of that "seed" became, therefore, the object of Israel's hope; the subject of Israel's prophets; and the "joy" of Israel's mothers when a man was born into the world (John xvi. 21). [source]
The issue with Roman Catholics who wish to tie Revelation 12 and Genesis 3 with the Virgin Mary is that, in declaring this curse to Eve, God placed the curse upon all her seed, which included all mankind, who sprung from her. As the NET commentary explains, the "her offspring" is a "collective singular." The point is that it was from a fallen humanity from which a Savior would be born, and from among God's people and promises would Christ arise - hence it is said by the apostle Paul that Christ was one "born of a woman, born under the Law" (Gal 4:4). Can one tie the Virgin Mary in with the prophecy regarding Eve and her seed? Certainly...but one can likewise exegetically tie in everyone. This is why most commentators (even Roman Catholic ones, as we'll soon see), when tying this passage in with Genesis 3:15, do not associate it uniquely with the Virgin Mary herself, but humanity, or specifically ancient Israel, as a whole.

Hence, any connection made between the Virgin Mary, Genesis 3:15, and Revelation 12 is superficial at best, but weak when considering everything in context.

The labor pains the woman suffers from in verse 2 are figurative, and cannot mean the Virgin Mary suffered during labor; hence it could still be her

Earlier we made mention of the Roman Catholic belief that the Virgin Mary suffered no labor pains during her birth; yet here, in Revelation 12, the woman is suffering labor pains. The answer for many Roman Catholic apologists, in regards to this supposed contradiction, is to say that those pains are metaphorical. For example, Jimmy Akin argues, "Mary did not experience literal pain when bringing forth the Messiah, but she suffered figuratively (the prophecy that a sword would pierce her heart at the Crucifixion)" (source). Likewise, Tim Staples writes:
Mary’s “labor pains” began at the Annunciation and would continue from the cradle to the cross, where she suffered with her Son as prophesied in Luke 2:34-35 and as painfully fulfilled in John 19. Mary’s deep love for and knowledge of her divine Son brought with it pains far deeper than any physical hurt could ever cause. [ibid]
The issue here is that, if we can argue that the labor pains are figurative, why, therefore cannot anything else be read as figurative? This is especially interesting as Mr. Akin disputes the idea that the woman could be the church giving birth to Christ, as if it is apparently impossible to imagine a figure of Christ arising from the old covenant church and the prophecies of the Law and Prophets. Why are the pains of labor figurative, but the labor itself is not? There's no denying that the apostle John is using imagery and symbols, but when one creates a symbol from a symbol, things become complicated.

The bigger issue is in regards to the original Greek for "and in pain to give birth" (NASB), which is καὶ βασανιζομένη τεκεῖν. The verb βασανίζω ("pain," "torment," etc.) is in participle form, affecting the verb τίκτω ("to produce," "bear fruit," "beget," etc.). In other words, the pain and torment is directly tied to the giving birth: the reason she was in pain is because she was giving birth; she was giving birth, therefore she was in pain. It is therefore completely nonsensical for Roman Catholic apologists like Mr. Akin or Mr. Staples to argue for a "metaphorical" pain to be interpreted here when the apostle John quite clearly ties the pain in with the childbearing. Like it or not, the woman giving birth was experiencing the pains of labor - and if one is supposed to believe that the Virgin Mary did not suffer pains during labor, then that same person cannot believe that this woman is the Virgin Mary. Even if one wishes to argue that these aren't supposed to be literal labor pains that happened in a point in history, the fact remains that, within the imagery itself, they are still pains of labor; to separate the labor from the pain itself is absurd thinking.

In either case, we must remember that the apostle John is hearkening back to Old Testament language. As we saw earlier, there is a far stronger scriptural case that the woman in labor pains is in reference to a suffering people in need of a redeemer, and the redeemer finally being delivered.

As the woman flees into the wilderness, so Mary fled into Egypt

Some Roman Catholics have attempted to tie the woman being carried into the wilderness to Mary fleeing with Joseph into Egypt (Matt 2:14). Tim Staples writes:
Though we could discover many spiritual levels of meaning for the flight of “the woman” in 12:6, 14, Mary and the Holy Family literally fled into Egypt in Matt. 2:13-15 with divine assistance. [ibid]
This leads us into two dilemmas:

First, the flight of Mary and Joseph into Egypt happened shortly after Christ was born, but before the ascension. In Revelation, the woman going into the wilderness happens after the ascension and Satan being cast down onto earth.

Second, the woman's time in the wilderness happens for an extended length of time ("one thousand two hundred and sixty days"), during which the devil persecutes believers (seen in Revelation 13 onward); therefore, it cannot be referencing the temporal incident with Mary and Joseph. Again, any connection is completely superficial.

The child is identified as Christ; the dragon is identified as Satan; the archangel Michael is clearly named; therefore, it's only sensible to conclude that the woman can be the Virgin Mary

To again quote Tim Staples:
There are four main characters in the chapter: “the woman,” the devil, Jesus, and the Archangel Michael. No one denies that the other three mentioned are real persons. It fits the context exegetically to interpret “the woman” as a person (Mary) as well. [ibid]
This is a common argument for Roman Catholics to make, and it's a fair one. Certainly scripture itself specifically identifies the child as Christ, the dragon as Satan, and the archangel Michael as himself. However, the argument ultimately works against the positive, for the simple fact that, while the child, the dragon, and Michael are identified, the woman is not. One would think, if the woman was indeed the Virgin Mary (and John held as high a view of her as Roman Catholics today), then John would have taken some effort to have her identified more clearly as such. The very fact that John did not must lead us to conclude that he either did not think it was important enough (in which case, his view of the Virgin Mary may have been minimal compared to modern Marian dogma), or he did not have the Virgin Mary in mind at all, and the symbolism of the woman was meant to portray something more abstract.

In fact, we must not forget that John calls this vision of the woman in labor a "great sign" (σημεῖον μέγα); in other words, it's a symbolic act, meant to point to something else. Hence Christ says of that generation, and referencing His death and resurrection, "a sign will not be given it, except the sign of Jonah" (Mt 16:4). Christ was not saying that He would literally do what Jonah did (ie., spend time in the belly of a fish), nor that Jonah's action represented something that would happen literally in the future; rather, Christ was illustrating that Jonah being in the belly of the fish three days and nights before being released was a shadow - a "great sign" - of the coming death, burial, and resurrection of the Messiah. Similarly, when John sees a "great sign" of a woman in labor, giving birth to the Messiah, it's not intended to be a literal person, but pointing us to a greater meaning.

The reference to the woman as simply "woman" hearkens back to John's references to the Virgin Mary as "woman" in his gospel

An example of this argumentation:
And it shouldn't surprise us that John simply calls her "woman" and doesn't use the name "Mary." In the Fourth Gospel, John never mentions Mary's name, but usually refers to her as "woman" (Jn. 2:4; 19:6). [Barber, 149]
And yet Christ also used "woman" for the Samaritan woman (John 4:21) and Mary Magdalene (John 20:13, 15), but no one would put forward that either the Samaritan or Mary Magdalene are the "woman" in Revelation 12. The actual fact of the matter is "woman" was simply a title of respect in those times when speaking to a female; even in ancient Greek and Roman literature, it can be seen used when speaking to queens or women of high authority. When Christ called someone "woman" - whether it be the Virgin Mary, the Samaritan woman, or Mary Magdalene - it was merely out of politeness, not to hint towards any kind of larger Marian dogma.

Likewise, John not only refers to Mary as "woman," but also simply "the mother of Jesus." In fact, he refers to her by that far more times (John 2:1, 3, 5, 12; 19:25-26) than he does "woman" (John 2:4; 19:26).

Thus, for Roman Catholics to misinterpret this use of "woman" to mean some great form of prophetic idolization is just as off the mark as those Evangelical preachers who misinterpret "woman" to mean our modern context of "Woman, get me a beer!"

Early Patristics and the Woman

Did the early Church Fathers believe that the woman of Revelation 12 was meant to symbolize the Virgin Mary? Obviously, it would be unfair to expect that every single Church Father made a comment on this, let alone that every single Church Father wrote a commentary on Revelation. Nonetheless, within their writings, many Church Fathers did speak on the symbolism found within this part of Revelation, or made reference to it. We'll now analyze the comments by various Church Fathers throughout the early part of the church in regards to the woman in Revelation 12.

Hippolytus of Rome (second-to-third century) interpreted the passage quite clearly as the church:
By "the woman then clothed with the sun," he meant most manifestly the Church, endued with the Father’s word, whose brightness is above the sun. [Treatise on Christ and Antichrist, 61; source]
Methodius of Olympus (late third century), in a work concerning virginity, referenced the section from Revelation, and identified the woman with the church.
The woman who appeared in heaven clothed with the sun, and crowned with twelve stars, and having the moon for her footstool, and being with child, and travailing in birth, is certainly, according to the accurate interpretation, our mother, O virgins, being a power by herself distinct from her children; whom the prophets, according to the aspect of their subjects, have called sometimes Jerusalem, sometimes a Bride, sometimes Mount Zion, and sometimes the Temple and Tabernacle of God. [Concerning Chastity, Thekla, Ch. 5; source]
Victorinus of Pettau (late third century), who actually wrote a commentary on the book, identified the woman with the church of the Old Testament and apostolic period:
The woman clothed with the sun, and having the moon under her feet, and wearing a crown of twelve stars upon her head, and travailing in her pains, is the ancient Church of fathers, and prophets, and saints, and apostles, which had the groans and torments of its longing until it saw that Christ, the fruit of its people according to the flesh long promised to it, had taken flesh out of the selfsame people. [Commentary on the Apocalypse of the Blessed John; source]
Epiphanius of Salamis (fourth century) is said by some to have been "the first known example of a writer who interprets the Woman of the Apocalypse" (source). This however, is misunderstanding what he originally wrote regarding the identification of the woman. Elucidating on the subject of the Virgin Mary - and whether or not she died (he was apparently ignorant of her bodily assumption) - Epiphanius wrote:
For I dare not say - thought I have my suspicions, I keep silent. Perhaps, just as her death is not to be found, so I may have found some traces of the holy and blessed Virgin. In one passage Simeon says of her, "And a sword shall pierce through thine own soul also, that the thoughts of many may be revealed." And elsewhere the Revelation of John says, "And the dragon hastened after the woman who had born the man child, and she was given the wings of an eagle and was taken to the wilderness, that the dragon might not seize her." Perhaps this can be applied to her; I cannot decide for certain, and am not saying that she remained immortal. But neither am I affirming that she died. [Against Antidicomarians, 11:3-4; pg. 609]
Epiphanius states the possibility that the Virgin Mary might be found as the woman in Revelation 12, but cannot himself affirm it. Far from interpreting the passage as such, he merely entertains the idea.

Gregory the Great (sixth century), mentions the passage in Revelation in a commentary on Job, and likewise applies it to the church.
Holy Scripture often so mixes up past and future times, as sometimes to use the future for the past, sometimes the past for the future. For it uses the future for the past, when there is pointed out to John a woman, who is about to bring forth a male child, to rule the Gentiles with a rod of iron. For since this had already taken place by the coming of the Lord in the flesh, an event which had occurred was being announced. [...] Whence also John says; A woman clothed with the sun, and the moon under her feet. For by the ‘sun’ is understood the illumination of truth, but by the moon, which wanes and is filled up every month, the changeableness of temporal things. But Holy Church, because she is protected with the splendor of the heavenly light, is clothed, as it were, with the sun; but, because she despises all temporal things, she tramples the moon under her feet.  [Moralia in Job, 34:12, 25; source]
Rabanus (eighth century) saw within the symbolism of twelve stars as referencing the church.
Rabanus, and cf. Tertullian, cont. Marc. iv, 13: This number is typified by many things in the Old Testament; by the twelve sons of Jacob, by the twelve princes of the children of Israel, by the twelve running springs in Helim, by the twelve stones in Aaron’s breastplate, by the twelve loaves of the shew-bread, by the twelve spies sent by Moses, by the twelve stones of which the altar was made, by the twelve stones taken out of Jordan, by the twelve oxen which bare the brazen sea. Also in the New Testament, by the twelve stars in the bride’s crown, by the twelve foundations of Jerusalem which John saw, and her twelve gates. [quoted from Thomas Aquinas' Golden Chain; source]
The testimony of the earliest Patristic sources and documents appears to be that the woman in Revelation 12 was not seen as the Virgin Mary, but as the church. While the words from Epiphanius may hint that it existed in some circles, or in some minds, the belief did not have the "ecclesial identification" which John Paul II claimed it did.

While we won't be covering many Church Fathers or Roman Catholic "saints" after the time of the early church, one big name is worth mentioning: Thomas Aquinas, considered one of the Latin Doctors of the Roman Catholic Church, and the patron saint of universities. In his famous Summa Theologica (written in the thirteenth century), he brings up an objection that makes reference to Revelation 12:6, and speaks of "the woman who represents the Church." While Thomas Aquinas disagrees with the contention that the time of our resurrection is not hidden, Aquinas does not contradict the idea that the woman represents the church, or bring up the Virgin Mary. In fact, he affirms it speaks of the church, and her time in the wilderness as the time of its persecution.
The thousand two hundred sixty days mentioned in the Apocalypse denote all the time during which the Church endures, and not any definite number of years. The reason whereof is because the preaching of Christ on which the Church is built lasted three years and a half, which time contains almost an equal number of days as the aforesaid number. Again the number of days appointed by Daniel does not refer to a number of years to elapse before the end of the world or until the preaching of Antichrist, but to the time of Antichrist's preaching and the duration of his persecution. [source]
Thomas Aquinas does not see the woman as the Virgin Mary, but - like the objector he is disagreeing with - sees her as the church. On top of this, he does not see the time in the wilderness as reflecting Mary's flight to Egypt (as Tim Staples does), but rather, as we showed earlier, a time of persecution for the church.

Contrary to Pope Benedict's claim that "the Fathers of the Church have recognized Mary" in this passage, it appears that the notion of the woman being the Virgin Mary is nearly absent from the minds of the earliest learned men who analyzed the passage. Earlier, we saw Joel Peters say "the Early Church Fathers" interpreted the woman in Revelation 12 to mean the "Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary," and yet we've just seen that not only did the earliest Church Fathers not teach the bodily assumption of Mary, but they didn't even see Mary herself in the passage. The "ignorance of ecclesial history" is not among Protestants, but rather with Joel Peters and other Roman Catholics who argue like him.

Roman Catholic Scholarship and Defenses

The Scholarship

More scholarly circles within Roman Catholicism confess the difficulty in applying the identity of the woman to Mary from patristics or Holy Tradition. For example, the Catholic Encyclopedia admits that "commentators generally understand the whole passage as applying literally to the Church, and that part of the verses is better suited to the Church than to Mary" (source). The Hadock New Testament, a Roman Catholic commentary done by the priest George Leo Haydock (late eighteenth, early nineteenth century), likewise affirmed (in contrast with Louis de Montfort's claim, seen earlier) that the general opinion among Bible commentators was that the woman was the church.
By this woman, interpreters commonly understand the Church of Christ, shining with the light of faith, under the protection of the sun of justice, Jesus Christ. [source]
Roman Catholic scholar Raymond Edward Brown sees in the imagery of the woman a symbol of the Old Testament church:
Certainly some of the imagery of Gen 3:15-16 and the struggle between the serpent and the woman and her offspring are part of the background for chap. 12 (see 12:9). The woman clothed with the sun, having the moon under her feet and on her head the crown of twelve stars, represents Israel, echoing the dream of Joseph in Gen 37:9. [...] In Rev the woman brings forth her child the Messiah (Ps 2:9) in pain; this is an instance of Jewish expectations of birth pangs of the Messiah, meaning the wretchedness of thew orld situation that becomes a signal for the coming of God-sent deliverance (Micah 4:9-10). [Brown, 293]
The commentary notes for the New American Bible (Revised Edition) likewise see Israel, or the church, in view with the woman.
[12:1–6] The woman adorned with the sun, the moon, and the stars (images taken from Gn 37:9–10) symbolizes God’s people in the Old and the New Testament. The Israel of old gave birth to the Messiah (Rev 12:5) and then became the new Israel, the church, which suffers persecution by the dragon (Rev 12:6, 13–17); cf. Is 50:1; 66:7; Jer 50:12. This corresponds to a widespread myth throughout the ancient world that a goddess pregnant with a savior was pursued by a horrible monster; by miraculous intervention, she bore a son who then killed the monster. [source]
Jan Fekkes mentions, in a footnote of his book:
It is widely acknowledged that the woman clothed in the sun, moon and stars is the anti-image of another collective figure in Rev. 17 - the Harlot-Babylon - and symbolizes Mother-Zion, the persecuted messianic community, or some similar idea. Even Catholic interpreters have generally come to accept this conclusion and accord to Mary only a secondary allusion... [Fekkes, 180]
In fact, Roman Catholic scholarship admits this application of Mary as the woman of Revelation 12 did not become popular until much later in the church's history.
From the earliest times, it was this image of the Church which predominated the exegesis of the pastoral theologians of the first five or six centuries. After Oecumenius of the sixth century, the interpretation of the exegetes and theologians chose Mary as the woman. St. Bonaventure [thirteenth century] was most explicit among them, saying that in its literal meaning chapter 12 refers to Mary, the Mother of Jesus. [Buby]
The Jerome Biblical Commentary agrees, likewise affirming that this chapter better suits the church rather than Mary:
a woman: Most of the ancient commentators identified her with the Church; in the Middle Ages it was widely held that she represented Mary, the Mother of Jesus. Modern exegetes have generally adopted the older interpretation, with certain modifications.

In recent years several Catholics have championed the Marian interpretation. Numerous contextual details, however, are ill-suited to such an explanation. For example, we are scarcely to think that Mary endured the worst of the pains of childbirth (v. 2), that she was pursued into the desert after the birth of her child (6, 13ff.), or, finally, that she was persecuted through her other children (v. 17). The emphasis on the persecution of the woman is really appropriate only if she represents the Church, which is presented throughout the book as oppressed by the forces of evil, yet protected by God. Furthermore, the image of a woman is common in ancient Oriental secular literature as well as in the Bible (e.g., Is 50:1; Jer 50:12) as a symbol for a people, a nation, or a city. It is fitting, then, to see in this woman the People of God, the true Israel of the OT and NT. [quote taken from here]
Other Roman Catholic scholars agree that "the meaning of that chapter [Revelation 12] and its relation to Mary are far from clear" (Achtemeier, 218), and any connections "have dissimilarities as well as similarities" (Achtemeier, 238). They go so far as to question whether or not such an ancient tradition, upheld by popes and others as true and real, is an "open question."
Whether, in fact, an ancient tradition existed in which Mary was symbolically identified with the church either in reference to scriptural passages or independently must remain an open question. [Achtemeier, 281]
Wilfrid Harrington, a Dominican priest and Roman Catholic biblical scholar, not only affirmed that this passage referred to ancient Israel, but also confessed that the Marian interpretations occurred later on, completely separate from the apostle John's original intent.
The woman, though first seen in a setting of splendor, is with child and close to delivery. Her birth-pangs may be those of Eve (Gen 3:16); they are, more immediately, the birth-pangs of travailing Israel. See Mic 4:10, "Writhe and groan, O daughter of Zion, like a woman in travail." In rabbinical literature "the birth-pangs of the Messiah" is a familiar phrase. Verses 5-6 identify the woman more closely. Whatever his background, and whatever the later use of the text (in Mariology), for John this woman is the heavenly Israel, depicted in terms of the woman in Gen 3. [...] She is, all the while, the people of God who gives birth to the Messiah and the messianic age. [Harrington, 130; emphasis mine]
Clearly within Roman Catholic scholarship, those who have dealt critically with the text, the original language, and the development of history do not find within this chapter a clear vision of the Virgin Mary.

The Defenses

The famous Anglican-Catholic convert John Henry Newman was himself well aware of the problems with applying the woman of Revelation 12 to the Virgin Mary, precisely because it was poorly supported by the Fathers. Nonetheless, his contention was:
Christians have never gone to Scripture for proof of their doctrines, till there was actual need, from the pressure of controversy; if in those times the Blessed Virgin's dignity was unchallenged on all hands, as a matter of doctrine, Scripture, as far as its argumentative matter was concerned, was likely to remain a sealed book to them. [Anglican Difficulties, taken from the Catholic Encyclopedia; source]
This, however, is a poor contention, in part because, whenever the earliest Church Fathers did deal with this passage, they never attributed it to the Virgin Mary, hence the notion of her "dignity" seemed to have been completely lost on them. Likewise, the idea that "Christians have never gone to Scripture for proof of their doctrines, till there was actual need," is simply refuted by a cursory reading of the works of the Church Fathers. Even when not dealing with heretics, the works of the Fathers are rife with quotations from Holy Writ. The contention that scripture "was likely to remain a sealed book to them" is simply erroneous.

Newman likewise attempted to appeal from a philosophical standpoint:
Now I do not deny of course, that under the image of the Woman, the Church is signified; but what I would maintain is this, that the Holy Apostles would not have spoken of the church under this particular image, unless there had existed a blessed Virgin Mary, who was exalted on high, and the object of the veneration of all the faithful. No one doubts that the "man-child" spoke of is an allusion to our Lord: why then is not "the Woman" an allusion to His Mother? [Anglican Difficulties, taken from The Quotable Newman, pg. 237]
Newman's conclusions run into some difficulties. First, nowhere in Revelation 12 is the woman venerated by the faithful. Second, Newman's argument rests on the presupposition that the Virgin Mary could have been the only possible influence for this imagery; as shown before, during our exegesis, to represent God's people as a woman, especially as a woman in labor, was quite common among the Jews. Furthermore, as we have seen with a review of history, the idea that the Virgin Mary could be portrayed in such a glorious fashion came after misinterpretations of this verse were spread, not before. Of this, Roman Catholic scholars are in agreement.

Another contention is that the woman in Revelation 12 represents both the Virgin Mary and the church. This is seen both in modern Roman Catholic apologetics and documentations. A "mysterious" unity is seen between the Virgin Mary and the Roman Church, both connected together and in essence being "mother of believers." Pope John Paul II wrote in a 1995 encyclical:
The "woman clothed with the sun"--the Book of Revelation tells us--"was with child" (12:2). The Church is fully aware that she bears within herself the Saviour of the world, Christ the Lord. She is aware that she is called to offer Christ to the world, giving men and women new birth into God's own life. But the Church cannot forget that her mission was made possible by the motherhood of Mary, who conceived and bore the One who is "God from God", "true God from true God". Mary is truly the Mother of God, the Theotokos, in whose motherhood the vocation to motherhood bestowed by God on every woman is raised to its highest level. Thus Mary becomes the model of the Church, called to be the "new Eve", the mother of believers, the mother of the "living" (cf. Gen 3:20). [Evangelium Vitae, 103; source]
Likewise, from another source:
If the Church brings forth Christ amid the sufferings of her temporal vocation, it is in reality Mary sharing her spiritual Motherhood which brought forth each and every member in the birthpangs of Golgotha. If the Church is open to the attack of the Dragon with all his fury and venom, it is really Mary on whom he is venting his venom and whom he is trying to defy. [LeFrois, pg. 94]
And here, from Pope Benedict XVI:
Without any doubt, a first meaning is that it is Our Lady, Mary, clothed with the sun, that is, with God, totally; Mary who lives totally in God, surrounded and penetrated by God's light. [...] Yet, this woman who suffered, who had to flee, who gave birth with cries of anguish, is also the Church, the pilgrim Church of all times. In all generations she has to give birth to Christ anew, to bring him very painfully into the world, with great suffering. Persecuted in all ages, it is almost as if, pursued by the dragon, she had gone to live in the wilderness. [Homily from August 15, 2007; source]
This analogy gets somewhat confusing when it's taken to its logical conclusion - that is, when it is argued by some Roman Catholic scholars that, not only is Mary the mother of the child seen in Revelation 12, but likewise is she the bride of the Lamb in Revelation 21. In other words, Mary is portrayed by the apostle John as both Christ's mother and wife.
Behold, the Woman of chapter 12, the Mother of the Christ, has become the Spouse of the Lamb. There is nothing contradictory or repellent in this statement. Mary is the Mother of the Incarnate Divine Word and Mother of the Mystical Christ. As such she is the archetype for the Church, which is her family of children. [LeFrois; 103-104]
Hence Roman Catholics, much like Hyper-Charismatics attempting to read modern events into Messianic passages, attempt to argue their position from an appeal to "dual-prophecy." While it certainly won't be denied that many times scripture can portray a symbol with more than one meaning, or can prophesy or represent something that has two fulfillments, one has to first present that this is the case. For example, Psalm 2 is about David's own contemporary conflicts, and yet it quite clearly shows (especially in the latter half of the psalm) that David foresaw it as a Messianic prophecy as well.

Nonetheless, when a dual-prophecy is argued, it is a burden upon the person making the argument to show, first, that such a dual-prophecy is even possible, and, second, such a dual-prophecy would have been expected by the biblical readers, whether contemporaries or those in a later date. We return back to the example of Psalm 2: it was clearly seen as both a present and future prophecy in David's time, and was seen as such by the apostles of Christ (Acts 4:25-28). If we are to expect the woman in Revelation 12 to be seen as both the Virgin Mary and the church, then it must be seen in the context of the passage itself, or by the original readers. As we have seen, not only is any connection with the Virgin Mary superficial at best (and contradictory to Roman Catholic doctrine about her), but the earliest Church Fathers did not even mention her when speaking on the passage.

This sort of argumentation likewise leads into logical problems, in which the Roman Catholic apologist must play a game of selective allegorization. In other words, we must pick and choose what we find to be more allegorical, and what we interpret to be more literal. The woman clothed in the sun and crowned with stars is supposed to be a literal depiction of the Virgin Mary, but the wings given her are allegorical. The birthing is literal, but the birth pains are allegorical. The woman clothed with the sun is the Virgin Mary now, but her running from the dragon is the Virgin Mary shortly after the nativity. In the end, one has to in essence compartmentalize their thinking when it comes to this. It's similar to Muslims who have to find Muhammad in various parts of the Bible, and engage in selective allegorization to force Muhammad in passages where he clearly is not.

Most of all, we must also remember the words of the Church Fathers from earlier: the woman in Revelation 12 is "most manifestly" the church (Hippolytus), and this is "according to the accurate interpretation" (Methodius). Even if it might be possible it could be the Virgin Mary, such a claim is one we "cannot decide for certain" (Epiphanius). Even Gregory the Great, an early pope, saw the woman in Revelation as representing the church, with no mention of Mary. Hence, this is not a mere argument from silence; the testimony of history, affirmed by even Roman Catholic sources, says that the idea Mary was even on the table as representing the woman didn't appear until more than six hundred years after the time of Christ. This is affirmed even on the Roman Catholic side, among their scholars.

Concluding Thoughts

It would be erroneous to give any kind of definitive assertion that the Virgin Mary is the woman of Revelation 12. Contrary to the words of Pope Benedict XVI, many of "the Fathers of the Church" have not "recognized Mary" in these passages, and those that did came much later in the church's history. Contrary to the words of Pope Paul VI that Mary can be referenced to the woman "not without foundation," there is very little foundation for doing so.

As stated earlier, any true scriptural connection between the Virgin Mary and the woman of Revelation 12 is superficial at best. Roman Catholic lay apologists have to jump through logical hurdles and connect about twenty dots before they can try to interpret the passage, whereas an honest examination of the text, and its connection with previous symbolism or scriptural language, comes out much more clearer. We likewise see here not only a conflict between the teachings of modern Roman Catholicism and what Christians of the past have said, but a conflict between the more passionate circles of Roman Catholic apologetics and the more scholarly circles of Rome. While the more passionate lay Roman Catholics will say that identifying the woman as Mary was "received from the Apostles and held and believed for over 1500 years" before Luther, the more scholarly and knowledgeable Roman Catholics will readily confess that John's intent with the woman in Revelation 12 was to represent the church or ancient Israel, and that the Marian interpretations and applications came much later.

Hence we see that the various doctrines and dogmas, created by Roman Catholic leadership and defended by Roman Catholic apologists, which are grounded upon an understanding of the Virgin Mary being the woman in Revelation 12, are on shaky ground, and have to rely upon an external authority - even above and beyond the apostle John himself - to validate them. In the end, any application between the two rests on shaky ground, and cannot be taken seriously.


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