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Mary—Ark of the New Covenant?

Protestants might be missing out on some interesting parallels related to Mary

Mary - Ark of the New Covenant?

Have you heard this term before? If you are not Catholic, then you may not have. I am a Protestant and the term is not one I have heard in Church before. I do not know if Catholics are typically aware of this or not but Protestants seem to avoid it.

It is an interesting concept and one that Christians have considered from very early on. The idea is that Mary performs the same role in the Church that the Ark performed in the Old Testament. She is the fleshly 'container' of the incarnation just as the Ark was the container in the Old Testament.

The Ark of the covenant contained the following items»
         1) the word of God written on stone tablets (Ex 25:8-16)

2) manna placed in it (Ez 16:32-35)

3) shepherd's staff of Aaron (high priest)

4) contained Aaron's rod
In parallel, Mary carried the following» 
  1) carried in her womb the Incarnate Word of God to be written on people's hearts (Heb 8:10)

2) carried Jesus, the Bread of Life (Jn 6:58)

3) carried Jesus, the eternal High Priest

4) carried Jesus who will "rule the nations with a rod of iron" (Rev 12:5)

Here are some other parallels»
  • the Ark is on a journey (2 Sam 6:2) / Mary is on a journey (Lk 1:39)
  • David dances before the ark (2 Sam 6:14) / John leaps in the womb of Elizabeth (Lk 1:41)
  • David asks, "How shall the ark of the Lord come to me"? (2 Sam 6:9) / Elizabeth asks, "how is it that the mother of my Lord should
    come to me?" (Lk 1:43)
  • The ark stayed in the house of Obededom for three months (2 Sa 6:11) / Mary stayed with Elizabeth for 3 months (Lk 1:56)
    In the tent of meetings (Exo 40:34-35), Then the cloud covered the tent of meeting, and the glory of the LORD filled the tabernacle.
    this is analogous to Mary being overshadowed by the Holy Spirit (Luke 1:35) The angel replied, "The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you. Therefore the child to be born will be holy; he will be called the Son of God.

The idea of the Ark of the new Covenant is not something that evolved over time, it was considered pretty early on.

            Athanasius of Alexandria (c. 296–373) was the main defender of the deity of Christ against the second-century heretics. He wrote: "O noble Virgin, truly you are greater than any other greatness. For who is your equal in greatness, O dwelling place of God the Word? To whom among all creatures shall I compare you, O Virgin? You are greater than them all O Ark of the Covenant, clothed with purity instead of gold! You are the ark in which is found the golden vessel containing the true manna, that is, the flesh in which divinity resides" (Homily of the Papyrus of Turin).
  Gregory the Wonder Worker (c. 213–c. 270) wrote: "Let us chant the melody that has been taught us by the inspired harp of David, and say, ‘Arise, O Lord, into thy rest; thou, and the ark of thy sanctuary.’ For the Holy Virgin is in truth an ark, wrought with gold both within and without, that has received the whole treasury of the sanctuary" (Homily on the Annunciation to the Holy Virgin Mary).

Of course, none if this makes Mary sinless but it puts Mary in a very special position. Many Protestant's today expect that Jesus had brothers and sisters (for some good reasons). Matthew 1:25 may allude to the fact that Mary's virginity was temporary. However, it is interesting that early Protestants did not necessarily take this view.

   I firmly believe that Mary, according to the words 
of the gospel as a pure Virgin brought forth for us the Son of God 
and in childbirth and after childbirth forever remained a pure, intact Virgin.

Ulrich Zwingli (Corpus Reformatorum v. 1, p. 424)
   He, Christ, our Savior, was the real and natural fruit of Mary's virginal womb 
. . . This was without the cooperation of a man, and she remained a virgin after that." 

Martin Luther (Sermons on John, chapters 1-4, 1537-39)
   There have been certain folk who have wished to suggest from 
this passage (Matt 1:25) that the Virgin Mary had other children 
than the Son of God, and that Joseph had then dwelt with her later
; but what folly this is! For the gospel writer did not wish to record 
what happened afterwards; he simply wished to make clear Joseph's obedience
 and to show also that Joseph had been well and truly assured 
that it was God who had sent His angel to Mary. He had therefore 
never dwelt with her nor had he shared her company
... And besides this Our Lord Jesus Christ is called the first born. 
This is not because there was a second or a third, but because 
the gospel writer is paying regard to precedence. 
Scripture speaks thus of naming the first-born whether or not 
there was any question of the second." 

John Calvin(Sermon on Matthew)

You might be asking so what? I guess my point is that we should not throw away the babies mother with the bathwater.


Categories: Theology
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Steve SchlichterSteve Schlichter

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