The Real Mary, by Scot McKnight (Paraclete Press, 2007)
Christian tradition, one startling change has been a new
Protestant openness to honoring Mary, the mother of Christ. So
long the domain of the Catholic Church, veneration of Mary is
now accepted, in degrees, as biblical scholar Scot McKnight
explains in The Real Mary.
(If a fairly dogmatic protestant believer has trouble accepting
this change, it is well to remember that traditional veneration
of Christ is often accompanied by a focus on early disciples and
church leaders, especially Paul. And, if this is acceptable, it
becomes difficult to defend that idea that the mother of Christ
could be any less important.)
Scot McKnight has given new depth to our understanding of Mary
in much the same way that Gibson’s The Passion of the Christ and
Margaret Montreuil’s God in Sandals let us learn to mistrust the
meek and mild statuettes of Christ. He presents Mary as a strong
and courageous woman, and skillfully uses historical documents
to support his position.
The virgin birth of Jesus is a prime example. In this context,
it illustrates Mary’s terrible risk in saying “Let it be!” when
the angel Gabriel let her know that God would place Jesus in her
womb even though she was betrothed to Joseph. In our western way
of thinking, she thus risked Joseph’s anger, losing him as a
husband, and perhaps some degree of embarrassment. But McKnight
explains to us what we try to forget, despite today’s arcane
reminders from the world of terror, that her pregnancy could
easily have required her to “drink the bitter waters,” to be
taken to a public area for public humiliation in torn clothing,
and possibly to be stoned to death.
McKnight documents the somewhat sparse record that we have about
Mary in historical records of the times – including the early
church - and shows that Mary had to be strong in supporting her
son in many ways. For example, she was one of only two followers
who remained with him during the gruesome and tragic
crucifixion, and few of us will forget the portrayal of her at
the cross in The Passion.
McKnight contrasts this with the scene today where believers sit
in air conditioned churches singing “The Old Rugged Cross,” and
asks what Mary would think of the Christian church today. What a
McKnight has done a masterful job, mixing scholarship with
today’s perspectives, in a fresh look at Mary that anyone would
- Bruce Cook, Ph.D.
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