By Keith Thompson
It is claimed by modern Rome that the Ark of the Covenant which housed God’s presence and the Tabernacle (which was a tent sanctuary housing the Ark of the Covenant) are shadow types of Mary who allegedly fulfilled them by housing Jesus Christ in her womb. Since, in their false view, Mary is the Ark and the Ark was “perfect in every detail,” (Patrick Madrid, Where is that in the Bible?, [Our Sunday Visitor, 2001], p. 70) as Roman apologist Patrick Madrid argues, Mary must have been as well. She must have been sinless and immaculately conceived or perfect in that sense. Pressing this opinion in a similar way is Dave Armstrong who claims, “The ark of the old covenant was constructed according to meticulous instructions from God (Exod. 25:9; 39:42-43). How much more perfect must the ‘God-bearer’ be who would carry in her womb God made flesh, the eternal Logos, or ‘Word’ of God, the Second Person of the Blessed Trinity?” (Dave Armstrong, A Biblical Defense of Catholicism, [Sophia Institute Press, 2003], p. 179). Likewise, in reference to the Holy of Holies, which was the inner sanctuary of the Tabernacle housing the Ark, Armstrong claims “Mary, as Theotokos [God-bearer], becomes, in effect, the new temple and holy of holies, where God dwelt in a special, spatially located fashion” (Dave Armstrong, A Biblical Defense of Catholicism, [Sophia Institute Press, 2003], p. 179 brackets mine). However, the Roman arguments used in the attempt to prove the New Testament teaches Mary is the anti-type of the Ark and Tabernacle are weak and full of difficulties.
For example, it is argued by Catholics that Luke 1:35’s statement “The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you” is drawn from Old Testament texts where God’s cloud of glory overshadows or settles on the tabernacle in the desert since the same Greek word for “overshadow” or “settles” (episkiasei) is used (e. g. Exod. 40:35). As Armstrong posits, “when the ark and its surrounding sacred items were completed, the glory cloud of God descended and ‘covered’ the tabernacle, in which the ark was kept, and Moses could not even enter (Exod. 40:34-35)” (Dave Armstrong, A Biblical Defense of Catholicism, [Sophia Institute Press, 2003], p. 179). However, there are two major problems with this argument. 1) Exodus 40:35 does not speak of the Holy Spirit or power of the Most High overshadowing the tabernacle as Luke 1:35 does in regards to what happens with Mary, but instead: “the cloud settled on it, and the glory of the LORD filled the tabernacle” (Exodus 40:35). In Luke 1:35 the Greek for “Holy Spirit” is hagion Pneuma and “power” of the Most High is dynamis. However, in Exodus 40:35 the LXX Greek for “cloud” is nephelē and “glory” is doxēs. Since the Greek in regards to what does the overshadowing or settling is different in the two passages, it is strenuous and specious to argue allusion is being made. 2) Luke’s theology of God not dwelling in houses made with hands, as indicated in Stephen’s talk in Acts 7:44-49, shows it would not be a positive thing for Luke to compare Mary carrying Jesus to the Ark or God’s cloud of glory settling above the Tabernacle since, again, according to Luke, God does not dwell in those places. This is why the Roman Catholic scholars such as Raymond Brown, Joseph Fitzmyer and others in their book Mary in the New Testament say, in regards to Luke’s thinking, such “a comparison between Mary and the Tabernacle might not be favorable to her” (Raymond Brown, Karl Donfried, Joseph Fitzmyer, John Reumann, Mary in the New Testament, [Paulist Press, 1978], p. 133 n. 298).
Another argument used in order to connect Mary with the Ark is brought out by Armstrong: “as David leapt for joy when the ark was brought to Jerusalem (2 Sam. 6:14-16; cf. 1 Chron. 15:29), so did John the Baptist in Elizabeth’s womb when the ark of the New Covenant was near (Luke 1:44)” (Dave Armstrong, A Biblical Defense of Catholicism, [Sophia Institute Press, 2003], p. 179). However, as Roman Catholic scholars such as Raymond Brown, Joseph Fitzmyer and others in their book Mary in the New Testament note, “This parallelism approaches fantasy when David’s dancing before the Ark (2 Sam 6:14) is compared to the baby’s leaping in Elizabeth’s womb as she greets Mary (Luke 1:41, 44)” (Raymond Brown, Karl Donfried, Joseph Fitzmyer, John Reumann, Mary in the New Testament, [Paulist Press, 1978], p. 133 n. 296). These Catholic scholars are correct since in Luke 1:41 where we read, “the baby leaped in her womb,” and Luke 1:44 where we read, “the baby in my womb leaped for joy,” the Greek word for “leaped” in both instances is eskirtēsen. However, in the LXX Greek the word in 2 Samuel 6:14 is anekroueto and it refers to David “sounding” or “playing music,” not leaping. In 1 Chronicles 15:29 the Greek word is orchoumenon which means “dance,” not “leap for joy.”
Another supposed parallel is brought out by the Romanist apostate Scott Hahn who mentions, “David’s travels as he brought the ark of the covenant to Jerusalem. The story begins as David ‘arose and went’ (2 Sam 6:2). Luke’s account of the visitation begins with the same words: Mary ‘arose and went’ (1:39)” (Scott Hahn, Hail, Holy Queen: The Mother of God in the Word of God, [Random House Digital, Inc., 2006], p. 64). First, Eric Svendsen notes how it is inconsistent to parallel Mary with the Ark and then switch to paralleling her to David in order to make the alleged Mary/Ark connection work:
“We are told that Mary is paralleled with David (both ‘arise’ and ‘set out’), while other times Mary is paralleled with the Ark. Moreover, the statement of David in 2 Sam 6:9, ‘How can the ark of the LORD come to me?,’ changes the parallelism from Mary/David to David/Elizabeth . . . The fluctuation of the parallelism from Mary/Ark to Mary/David to David/Elizabeth to Elizabeth/Obed-Edom seems too capricious to be valid, and is for that reason alone rightly rejected by most scholars” (Eric Svendsen, Who is my Mother? The Role of and Status of the Mother of Jesus in the New Testament and Roman Catholicism, [Calvary Press, 2001], p. 168).
Second, to address the alleged parallelism advanced by Hahn, every person has to get up and walk in order to go somewhere. Therefore, this comparison really is a sign of desperation. There are about 20 instances in the New Testament alone, never mind the LXX, with similar language where people are said to “arise” (Gk. anistēmi) and go (or have gotten up and “went”) places etc; or something to that effect (Matt. 9:9; Mk. 1:31; 7:24; Luk. 4:38; 5:28; 15:18, 20; 17:19; 22:45; 24:12, 33; Acts 8:26, 27; 9:6, 11; 10:20, 23; 14:10; 22:10). Hence, just because Mary and David are both said to do this common thing all people do pretty much every day, this does not establish a meaningful parallel.
Another alleged parallel to examine is explained by Armstrong as the “parallel of three-month stays in the hill country of Judea, of the ark of the old covenant (2 Sam. 6:10-12) and of Mary, the ark of the New Covenant (Luke 1:39-45, 56)” (Dave Armstrong, A Biblical Defense of Catholicism, [Sophia Institute Press, 2003], p. 179). Armstrong is inaccurate when he says Elizabeth’s house Mary visited was in the hill country of Judea. As Leon Morris notes, “The hill country of Judah ‘Judah’ not Judeaa (emphasizes the connection with the great patriarch) does not locate the home of Zechariah and Elizabeth with any precision, but it does make it clear that they were country folk. Attempts to identify the place have not been successful” (Leon Morris, Luke: An Introduction and Commentary, The Tyndale New Testament Commentaries, [Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing, 1988], p. 82). Luke 1:39 refers to Mary being in a hill country in Judah. 2 Samuel 6:10 on the other hand says David went to “the house of Obed-edom the Gittite.” This, as Old Testament scholar Ronald F. Youngblood notes, is “probably located ‘somewhere on the southwestern hill of Jerusalem” (Ronald F. Youngblood, 1, 2 Samuel, ed. Frank E. Gaebelein, The Expositor’s Bible Commentary with the New International Version, [Zondervan, 1992], p. 872). Thus, Mary travels somewhere in the hill country of Judah which is a pretty large stretch of land. But David travels to the southwestern hill of Jerusalem; Jerusalem being a small city. The conclusion is that it is disingenuous to imply the same exact location is in view in both passages.
In sum we must agree with Brown, Fitzmyer and the other Roman Catholic editors of the book Mary in the New Testament when they conclude, “in our judgement there is no convincing evidence that Luke specifically identified Mary with . . . the Ark of the Covenant” (Raymond Brown, Karl Donfried, Joseph Fitzmyer, John Reumann, Mary in the New Testament, [Paulist Press, 1978], p. 134).