The Woman in Revelation 12 March 8, 2007Posted by Ninja Clement in Theology.
Para. 28. In highly symbolic language, full of scriptural imagery, the seer of Revelation describes the vision of a sign in heaven involving a woman, a dragon, and the woman’s child. The narrative of Revelation 12 serves to assure the reader of the ultimate victory of God’s faithful ones in times of persecution and eschatological struggle. In the course of history, the symbol of the woman has led to a variety of interpretations. Most scholars accept that the primary meaning of the woman is corporate: the people of God, whether Israel, the Church of Christ, or both. Moreover, the narrative style of the author suggests that the ‘full picture’ of the woman is attained only at the end of the book when the Church of Christ becomes the triumphant New Jerusalem (Revelation 21:1-3). The actual troubles of the author’s community are placed in the frame of history as a whole, which is the scene of the ongoing struggle between the faithful and their enemies, between good and evil, between God and Satan. The imagery of the offspring reminds us of the struggle in Genesis 3:15 between the serpent and the woman, between the serpent’s seed and the woman’s seed.4
Para. 29. Given this primary ecclesial interpretation of Revelation 12, is it still possible to find in it a secondary reference to Mary? The text does not explicitly identify the woman with Mary. It refers to the woman as the mother of the “male child who is to rule all the nations with a rod of iron”, a citation from Psalm 2 elsewhere in the New Testament applied to the Messiah as well as to the faithful people of God (cf. Hebrews 1:5, 5:5, Acts 13:33 with Revelation 2:27). In view of this, some Patristic writers came to think of the mother of Jesus when reading this chapter.5 Given the place of the book of Revelation within the canon of Scripture, in which the different biblical images intertwine, the possibility arose of a more explicit interpretation, both individual and corporate, of Revelation 12, illuminating the place of Mary and the Church in the eschatological victory of the Messiah.
 The Hebrew text of Genesis 3:15 speaks about enmity between the serpent and the woman, and between the offspring of both. The personal pronoun (hu‘) in the words addressed to the serpent, “He will strike at your head,” is masculine. In the Greek translation used by the early Church (LXX), however, the personal pronoun autos (he) cannot refer to the offspring (neuter: to sperma), but must refer to a masculine individual who could then be the Messiah, born of a woman. The Vulgate (mis)translates the clause as ipsa conteret caput tuum (“she will strike at your head”). This feminine pronoun supported a reading of this passage as referring to Mary which has become traditional in the Latin Church. The Neo-Vulgate (1986), however, returns to the neuter ipsum, which refers to semen illius: “Inimicitias ponam inter te et mulierem et semen tuum et semen illius; ipsum conteret caput tuum, et tu conteres calcaneum eius.”
 Cf. Epiphanius of Salamis (†402), Panarion 78.11; Quodvultdeus (†454) Sermones de Symbolo III, I.4-6; Oecumenius (†c.550) Commentarius in Apocalypsin 6.