An Experiment in Allegorical Interpretation
Right around Christmas time, we Protestant Christians like to rush right through the Incarnation, spit on the idea that YHWH arrived here on Earth as a baby, and start talking about Easter. It happens in Protestant pulpits, and you know it! One of the common talking points in all of the Crucifixion talk is the idea that Mary, the mother of Jesus, as Eve 2.0. Now, for people who continue to affirm Original Sin as something that is biologically inherited, this allegorical interpretation of the text fits quite nicely. For others, such as myself, who do not affirm Original Sin as something transmitted through our bodies, this view remains a problem in that women remain the scapegoat for human wickedness on a large scale.
The thing about allegorical interpretation is that it is not absolute, and there can be other paradigms used within reason (I would say measured by the Canon and Tradition). In some forms of Judaism, there are four types of interpretation, and one of the being REMEZ, that uses “patterns and models [that] allude to all experiences […] of the past, and intimate the gamut of possibilities of the future.” (Mihaly, Eugene. The Passover Haggadah as PaRaDiSe. page 18). Many historians have noted that in the Medieval Ages, Scripture (alluding to the image of Ezekiel’s Chariot) was seen as having four senses of interpretation. Among these are the literal sense, the moral sense, the anagogical sense (the hope for the future), and the allegorical sense. I believe that this was the Scriptural project taken up by Gregory the Great (I am going by memory here). Now, there is no mistaken that there are some forms of allegorical interpretation that are harmful (one can look no further than Augustine’s terrible readings of Judges 6 and Romans 8-9). Augustine’s allegorical reading of Judges 6 is an example of why it is important to take the original context of Scripture seriously; interpretation is no light task. The only way that Judges 6 could be used as an anti-Judaic text is if the interpreter himself has a vendetta against Judaism (I.e., Augustine).
Being a fanboy of the Alexandrian school of theology (including it’s High Christology, Mariology, and preference for allegorical interpretation ) in Early Christian history, I am also well aware of some of it’s blind spots. I see no reason why conservative Christians like Joel want to have “Mary as Eve 2.0” be the final interpretation for Mary as Theoktos. No one argues that Joseph is Adam 2.0, I mean, why not? Adam was married to Eve, makes logical sense, yes? There is no allusion of a garden in the Nativity story, no forbidden fruits or trees.
Mary as Noah 2.0
I would suggest that, through the use of the Synoptic Gospels (specifically Luke & Mark), the stories of Mary & Joseph, as well as Elizabeth & Zechariah could be read allegorically as a Noah story 2.0. That is, to clarify, that Mary and Elizabeth inhabit the Noahide prophetic tradition. An typological understanding of Revelation 11:19-12:17, primarily Catholic in origin, understands Mary as the Ark of the Covenant. Like Hannah in 1st Samuel 1 & 2, Mary is living in the midst of religious and political crisis. Just as the story of the prophet Samuel involves the movement of the Ark of the Covenant, so does Mary’s story. Noah’s Ark is an Ark of Covenant (Genesis 6:18), that God covenants with Noah before and after (Genesis 8:20-22). At this point of the narrative, it is obvious that the author of Genesis 6-8 is very familiar with the sacrificial system put in place during the days of Moses (thus the allusion to clean and unclean animals).
Typologically speaking, I would like to suggest that Jesus is the Ark of the Covenant (since Peter does recognize the Ark as an early vision of baptism–1st Peter 3:18-22). Just as the oppressive Philistines forced the Ark of the Covenant into Exile, so does the Roman government in Mary’s day force Joseph and Mary into Exile in Egypt. Noahide imagery appears in Mark’s introduction of John the Immerser and Jesus. Jesus is left in the wilderness with animals (Mark 1:13), while John is clothed with animal skins (Mark 1:6). The Immersion into water of Jesus by John the Immerser is an inversing of the flood; water and animals are being used to save human beings rather than displaying YHWH’s wrath towards their sinfulness. The image of the dove (the idea that the Holy Spirit anoints Christ) has some covenantal significance, for in Genesis 8, Noah sends out a dove to see whether what God has spoken is true (the flood ending after 40 days or so); in Luke, Mary and Joseph are so poor they can only offer a dove or pigeon according to the Law of the Covenant (Leviticus 5 & 12, Luke 2:24).
If this be this case, then I submit that the Virgin Mary and her cousin Elizabeth fit the role of Noah/Hannah, as prophets of righteousness (2nd Peter 2:5), who remind us of God’s magnificence and our limitations in our creatureliness (see the Magnificats: 1st Samuel 2:1-10/Luke 1:46-56).
“The Lord makes poor and makes rich; he brings low, he also exalts. He raises up the poor from the dust; he lifts the needy from the ash heap, to make them sit with princes and inherit a seat of honor. For the pillars of the earth are the Lord’s, and on them he has set the world.”– 1st Samuel 2:7-9, NRSV
Let Heav’n and Nature Sing!