The Crowning of Mary
Queen of Heaven:

Definition of Terms:

  • Gebirah: term referring to the queen mother in ancient Israelite monarchy. She held a significant and influential position as the mother of the reigning king. The Gebirah played a key role in the royal court and often served as an advisor and advocate for her son, the king. This concept is seen in the Bible and ancient Near Eastern history.

Mary is often referred to as the “Queen of Heaven” within Catholic and some other Christian traditions. This title symbolizes her unique and exalted role within the faith. The title Regina Caeli, or “Queen of Heaven,” is bestowed upon the Virgin Mary not only by the Catholic Church but also to a lesser extent by Anglican, Lutheran, and Eastern Orthodox Churches. This title finds its roots in Mary’s profound connection to her son, Jesus Christ the King. Like many Marian doctrines, it emphasizes Mary’s role in relation to her son.

Mary’s designation as the Queen of Heaven is rooted in biblical passages, theological concepts, and centuries of tradition. Mary’s Queenship is a Share in Jesus’ Kingship: Mary’s queenship is not a standalone concept but a reflection of her son Jesus’ kingship. In Luke 1:32, the archangel Gabriel announces that Jesus will be called the Son of the Most High and will inherit the throne of his father David. Jesus, who is the King of Kings, was truly born of His natural mother, Mary. In ancient Israel, this would naturally lead to the mother of the king becoming the queen mother.

In Jewish monarchies, the mother of the king holds the title of queen mother or queen dowager, signifying her special status and role. In a spiritual sense, Mary’s motherhood to Jesus elevates her to a royal position. In the ancient Near-Eastern context, including during the reign of Davidic kings, polygamy was common. In such situations, it was the king’s mother who held the title of queen, not one of his many wives. For example, Bathsheba, as the spouse of King David, displayed humility and respect in his presence (1 Kgs. 1:16–17, 31). However, her dignity and majesty as the mother of the next king, Solomon, was evident (1 Kgs. 2:19–20). This transition from a humble attitude to a regal one reflects the concept of the queen mother in the Old Testament.

In Luke 1:43, Elizabeth greets Mary with the title “the mother of my Lord.” In the Old Testament, the mother of the king was referred to as the gebirah, meaning “Great Lady” or “Queen Mother.” She held significant power as an advocate with the king and was seated at the right hand of the king, a position of utmost honor (1 Kings 2:19-20). The queen mother was also described as wearing a crown, emphasizing her royal status (Jer. 13:18, 20). In Revelation 12:1-5, John has a vision of a woman crowned with twelve stars, clothed with the sun, and standing on the moon who gives birth to a child. The fact that the child clearly represents Christ has led many Christians to view the woman as Mary. Throughout 1 & 2 Kings, whenever Judean kings are listed, it’s always with their mothers. (1 Kings 15:1-2, 2 Kings 8:25-26, 12:1, 14:1-2, 15:1-2, 18:1-2, 22:1). The mention of Mary at the end of Christ’s genealogy and phrases like “the child and his mother” in Matthew’s Gospel (Matt 1:18, 2:11, 13, 14, 20, 21) underline this unique relationship.

Additionally, the Gebirah served as an advocate for the people, bringing their petitions before the king (1 Kings 2:17-20). Just as 1 Kings 2:17-20 demonstrates how the queen mother served as an advocate for the people, carrying petitions to the king, so also Mary’s role as an advocate is evident in various instances, such as at the wedding in Cana (John 2:2-5), where she intercedes with Jesus on behalf of others. Her queenship in heaven is symbolically represented in Revelation 12, where a woman clothed with the sun, with the moon under her feet, and a crown of twelve stars, is seen. While this symbol also represents the Church, the presence of the child clearly identifies the woman as Mary, crowned.

It’s worth noting that the prophet Jeremiah referred to a “queen of heaven” (Jer. 7 & 44) in the context of idolatry. This title was probably given to Asherah, a Canaanite idol and goddess worshipped in ancient Israel or possibly the Mesopotamian goddess Astarte. It is clear, however, that this text is unrelated to Mary as the Queen of Heaven. The fact that pagan cultures believed in fictitious gods and sometimes presented stories that have a superficial resemblance to Christ does not discount the fact of the resurrection or that the one true God exists. Similarly, the fact that a title was given to a fictitious goddess does not discount Mary’s relationship to her Son, who is King of Heaven.

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Bible Verses:

1 Kings 1:16–17, 31 (NRSVCE):
“16 Bathsheba bowed and did obeisance to the king, and the king said, ‘What do you wish?’ 17 She said to him, ‘My lord, you swore to your servant by the Lord your God, saying: Your son Solomon shall succeed me as king, and he shall sit on my throne. 31 Then Bathsheba bowed with her face to the ground, and did obeisance to the king, and said, ‘May my lord King David live forever!'”

1 Kings 2:19–20 (NRSVCE):
“19 So Bathsheba went to King Solomon, to speak to him on behalf of Adonijah. The king rose to meet her, and bowed down to her; then he sat on his throne, and had a throne brought for the king’s mother, and she sat on his right. 20 Then she said, ‘I have one small request to make of you; do not refuse me.’ And the king said to her, ‘Make your request, my mother; for I will not refuse you.'”

Jeremiah 13:18, 20 (NRSVCE):
“18 Say to the king and the queen mother: ‘Take a lowly seat, for your beautiful crown has come down from your head.’ 20 Lift up your eyes and behold those who come from the north. Where is the flock that was given you, your beautiful flock?”

1 Kings 15:1-2 (NRSVCE):
“Now in the eighteenth year of King Jeroboam son of Nebat, Abijam began to reign over Judah. He reigned for three years in Jerusalem. His mother’s name was Maacah daughter of Abishalom.”

2 Kings 8:25-26 (NRSVCE):
“In the twelfth year of King Joram son of Ahab of Israel, Ahaziah son of King Jehoram of Judah began to reign. Ahaziah was twenty-two years old when he began to reign, and he reigned one year in Jerusalem. His mother’s name was Athaliah, a granddaughter of King Omri of Israel.”

2 Kings 12:1 (NRSVCE):
“In the seventh year of Jehu, Jehoash began to reign; he reigned forty years in Jerusalem. His mother’s name was Zibiah of Beersheba.”

2 Kings 14:1-2 (NRSVCE):
“In the second year of King Joash son of Joahaz of Israel, King Amaziah son of Joash of Judah, began to reign. He was twenty-five years old when he began to reign, and he reigned twenty-nine years in Jerusalem. His mother’s name was Jehoaddin of Jerusalem.”

2 Kings 15:1-2 (NRSVCE):
“In the twenty-seventh year of King Jeroboam of Israel, King Azariah son of Amaziah of Judah began to reign. He was sixteen years old when he began to reign, and he reigned fifty-two years in Jerusalem. His mother’s name was Jecoliah of Jerusalem.”

2 Kings 18:1-2 (NRSVCE):
“In the third year of King Hoshea son of Elah of Israel, Hezekiah son of King Ahaz of Judah began to reign. He was twenty-five years old when he began to reign; he reigned twenty-nine years in Jerusalem. His mother’s name was Abi daughter of Zechariah.”

2 Kings 22:1 (NRSVCE):
“Josiah was eight years old when he began to reign; he reigned thirty-one years in Jerusalem. His mother’s name was Jedidah daughter of Adaiah of Bozkath.”

1 Kings 2:17-20 (NRSVCE):
“He said, ‘Please ask King Solomon—he will not refuse you—to give me Abishag the Shunammite as my wife.’ Bathsheba said, ‘Very well; I will speak to the king on your behalf.'”

Luke 1:32 (NRSVCE):
“He will be great, and will be called the Son of the Most High, and the Lord God will give to him the throne of his ancestor David.”

Isaiah 7:13–14 (NRSVCE):
“Then Isaiah said: ‘Hear then, O house of David! Is it too little for you to weary mortals, that you weary my God also? Therefore, the Lord himself will give you a sign. Look, the young woman is with child and shall bear a son, and shall name him Immanuel.'”

Matthew 1:23 (NRSVCE):
“‘Look, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and they shall name him Emmanuel,’ which means, ‘God is with us.'”

Matthew 1:16 (NRSVCE):
“and Jacob the father of Joseph the husband of Mary, of whom Jesus was born, who is called the Messiah.”

Luke 1:43 (NRSVCE):
“And why has this happened to me, that the mother of my Lord comes to me?”

Revelation 12:1–2 (NRSVCE):
“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. She was pregnant and was crying out in birth pangs, in the agony of giving birth.”

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Church Father Quotes:

Ephraim the Syrian
“Girl, empress and ruler, queen, lady, protect and keep me in your arms, lest Satan, who causes evil, exult over me” –Oratrio ad SS. Dei Matrem, Opera Omnia, ed. Assemani, t. III (Rome, 1747), 546.)

“Queen of all after the Trinity, Consoler after the Paraclete, Mediatrix of the whole world after the Mediator.” –J. Carol, 1:232.

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Non-Catholic Quotes:

Martin Luther, Father of the Protestant Reformation
“She, the Lady above heaven and earth, must…have a heart so humble that she might have no shame in washing the swaddling clothes or preparing a bath for St. John the Baptist, like a servant girl. What humility! It would surely have been more just to have arranged for her a golden coach, pulled by 4,000 horses, and to cry and proclaim as the carriage proceeded: ‘Here passes the woman who is raised far above all women, indeed above the whole human race.’” –Luther’s Works, 21:327. A sermon Luther preached on July 2, 1532, the Feast of the Visitation

“She was not filled with pride by this praise…this immense praise: ‘No woman is like unto thee! Thou art more than an empress or a queen…blessed above all nobility, wisdom, or saintliness!’” –Lutheran Works 36:208, 45:107.

“The veneration of Mary is inscribed in the very depths of the human heart.”-Sermon, September 1, 1522 [Martin Luther, Weimar edition of Martin Luther’s Works].

“Is Christ only to be adored? Or is the holy Mother of God rather not to be honoured? This is the woman who crushed the Serpent’s head. Hear us. For your Son denies you nothing.” –Martin Luther, Weimar edition of Martin Luther’s Works, English translation edited by J. Pelikan [Concordia: St. Louis], Volume 51, 128-129]. Luther made this statement in his last sermon at Wittenberg in January 1546.

“She is the highest woman and the noblest gem in Christianity after Christ. ..She is nobility, wisdom, and holiness personified. We can never honor her enough. Still honor and praise must be given to her in such a way as to injure neither Christ nor the Scriptures.” –Sermon, Christmas, 1531

“No woman is like you. You are more than Eve or Sarah, blessed above all nobility, wisdom, and sanctity.” –Sermon, Feast of the Visitation. 1537

“One should honor Mary as she herself wished and as she expressed it in the Magnificat. She praised God for his deeds. How then can we praise her? The true honor of Mary is the honor of God, the praise of God’s grace.. .Mary is nothing for the sake of herself, but for the sake of Christ…Mary does not wish that we come to her, but through her to God.” –Explanation of the Magnificat, 1521

“It is the consolation and the superabundant goodness of God, that man is able to exult in such a treasure. Mary is his true Mother, Christ is his brother. God is his father.” –Sermon. Christmas, 1522

“Mary is the Mother of Jesus and the Mother of all of us even though it was Christ alone who reposed on her knees…If he is ours, we ought to be in his situation; there where he is, we ought also to be and all that he has ought to be ours, and his mother is also our mother.” –Sermon, Christmas, 1529

“Whoever possesses a good (firm) faith, says the Hail Mary without danger! Whoever is weak in faith can utter no Hail Mary without danger to his salvation.” –Sermon, March 11, 1523

“Our prayer should include the Mother of God.. .What the Hail Mary says is that all glory should be given to God, using these words: “Hail Mary, full of grace. The Lord is with thee; blessed art thou among women and blessed is the fruit of thy womb, Jesus Christ. Amen!” You see that these words are not concerned with prayer but purely with giving praise and honor.. .We can use the Hail Mary as a meditation in which we recite what grace God has given her. Second, we should add a wish that everyone may know and respect her…He who has no faith is advised to refrain from saying the Hail Mary.” –Personal Prayer Book, 1522

Heinrich Bullinger, Swiss Protestant Reformer, Cranmer’s brother-in-law and Zwingli’s successor
“She can hardly be compared with any of the other saints, but should by rights be elevated above all of them.”(Quoted in Max Thurian, Mary, Mother of All Christians (New York: Herder and Herder, 1964), 89.)

“For this reason we believe that the Virgin Mary, Begetter of God, the most pure bed and temple of the Holy Spirit, that is, her most holy body, was carried to heaven by angels.” -Bullinger’s 1539 polemical treatise against idolatry, De origine erroris, Caput XVI (Chapter 16), p. 70

Danish Lutheran theologian K. E. Skydsgaard
“Mary’s name shall not disappear in anonymity, but shall be recalled in every age and praised as holy. Evangelical Protestantism must also learn to sing this song.” -K. E. Skydsgaard, One in Christ, Protestant and Catholic (Philadelphia: Muhlenberg, 1957)

Norm Geisler and Ralph MacKenzie, Protestant theologians
“There are many things Catholics and Protestants hold in common on the doctrine of Mary. These include her being the most blessed among women, her virgin conception of Christ the God-man, and by virtue of that her being in this sense ‘the Mother of God.” –Roman Catholics and Evangelicals: Agreements and Differences

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