Who is the woman in Revelation 12?
Sadly, most biblical critics the past 100 years or so fail to see that the woman, indeed a polyvalent symbol, refers also to Mary.
Very quickly, we can establish this.
The woman is “with child”; she is about the bear “a son who is to rule the world with an iron rod”. Well, this is without question a reference to the Messiah. See Ps 2 for the connected imagery. The Messiah is a royal ruler on the throne of David. Further, as the expectation in the Old Testament increases, to the extent that the Messiah is to not just Judea but all the world. Rev. 12 thus refers really to the Messiah.
If the reference in the text is to a real son, one ought immediately to expect the woman to be a reference to a real woman. And thus, we have reference to Mary.
However, some critics hide behind another true reference in the text, as though truth could cancel truth. Some say that the woman symbolizes Israel, from whom the Messiah is to come (or to be born). Fine, let us accept this reference as well. We would then have a singular for the collective, a not unheard of Hebraism. But the singular standing for the collective does not cancel out the singular. Both can be held. And why not? What, is a village going to give birth to a particular man? What a monstrosity? How can Israel give birth to the Messiah without one particular woman doing so? How else can the Messiah come through Israel than through a “woman”? Ergo.
But wait, there is more.
The text continues, describing hostility between the woman’s offspring and the dragon. The dragon tries to get the son but the son is taken away. The dragon then is full of wrath towards the woman, who likewise is protected. (The flood does not touch her. Interesting, no?)
This woman then is described as mother of others, of “all who keep the commandments and bear testimony to Jesus.” Interesting. Here, many scholars, including Protestants, find a reference to the Church, which is mother of the Christian faithful. That’s great and true. Yet, these same take that truth to cancel out reference to Mary again.
In short, the critics can’t take truth. Not too much of it anyway.
But they are slain by the text itself, with its two-edged sword. For the text states that the dragon “went off to wage war on the rest of her offspring.”
Of whom could this predicate be said? Only of Mary.
Not of Israel, for Israel does not give birth to Christians, but perhaps (by collective standing for singular) Israel can be said to give birth to the Messiah, through the one woman.
Nor can the predicate be said of the Church, for the Church does not give birth to Jesus; Jesus institutes the Church.
Only of Mary can it be said that she is Mother of Christ and of all Christians.
How Mother of all Christians? First, she is “mother of John” (Jn 19) and we are all his brothers. This text is loaded in symbolism. Next, she is the New Eve, and Eve is “mother of all living”. Whereas Eve is physical mother, Mary is spiritual mother.
Indeed, if we deny that Mary is mother of all Christians, we have absolutely no one of whom this predicate “rest of her offspring” can be said.