Eric Giunta
Review: "Mary in Early Christian Faith and Devotion," by Stephen J. Shoemaker
FacebookTwitter
By Eric Giunta
September 20, 2019


If you're unfamiliar with the pioneering scholarship of Stephen J. Shoemaker, everything you know about the origins of Christian devotion to Mary, Mother of Jesus, is likely incorrect.

It has long been a commonplace in popular and non-specialist scholarly discussions of Marian devotion to assert that it is a relatively late development in Christianity, more or less kicked-off by the Council of Ephesus's dogmatization of her title "Theotokos" (God-bearer, or Mother of God) in A.D. 431, and owing much more to Mediterranean traditions of goddess worship than to anything distinctly Christian.

Despite some limitations discussed herein, Shoemaker's monograph Mary in Early Christian Faith and Devotion (Yale University Press) blows this narrative to smithereens. It appears to be the most comprehensive historical review of the development of the cult of the Blessed Virgin Mary from the first to the fifth centuries, and one to which all future work will necessarily refer (whether in agreement or dissent).

This study is something of a synthesis of all of Shoemaker's previous scholarly contributions, and a follow-up to his magisterial study of the earliest surviving narrative accounts of Mary's miraculous death and bodily assumption into Heaven, Ancient Traditions of the Virgin Mary's Dormition and Assumption, published by Oxford University Press in 2006. Therein, Shoemaker argued that our earliest such account is a quasi-Gnostic text of the third century, the Book of Mary's Repose, the underlying traditions of which probably go back even earlier, at least to the second century. Shoemaker summarizes this book's thesis in chapters two and three of the present work.

To be clear, Mary in Early Christian Faith and Devotion is not a history of the development of Mariology, but of one aspect of it: the cult of Mary, or prayerful devotion to her person. Shoemaker's book should put to rest, once and for all, the popular mythology referred to above and exposes it for what is is: a myth informed by traditional Protestant presuppositions that devotion to the Virgin represents a heterodox Christianization of Greco-Roman paganism and is foreign to the Biblical worldview. . . .

Catch the rest of the story over at Eric Giunta's blog, Laboravi Sustinens!

© Eric Giunta

 

The views expressed by RenewAmerica columnists are their own and do not necessarily reflect the position of RenewAmerica or its affiliates.
(See RenewAmerica's publishing standards.)

 

Stephen Stone
The most egregious lies Evan McMullin and the media have told about Sen. Mike Lee

Siena Hoefling
Protect the Children: Update with VIDEO

Stephen Stone
Flashback: Dems' fake claim that Trump and Utah congressional hopeful Burgess Owens want 'renewed nuclear testing' blows up when examined

Jerry Newcombe
Does truth matter?

Timothy Buchanan
Lying in the name of love

Steve A. Stone
The true purpose of stochastic crime theory

Selwyn Duke
If the mentally ill 'mustn’t own guns,' what about 'trans' people?

Cliff Kincaid
Banning TikTok won’t save America

Pete Riehm
Stumbling into war unaware and unprepared

Rev. Mark H. Creech
Revelation Chapter 11: The Temple and its Place in the Divine Economy

Peter Lemiska
An epidemic of gender dysphoria

Selwyn Duke
Ben Stein is right (sort of): Black Americans have 'never had it so good'

Cliff Kincaid
Arrest communists, not Trump

Jerry Newcombe
A walking miracle

Victor Sharpe
An unholy alliance – Saudi Arabia and Iran
  More columns

Cartoons


Click for full cartoon
More cartoons

Columnists

Matt C. Abbott
Chris Adamo
Russ J. Alan
Bonnie Alba
Chuck Baldwin
Kevin J. Banet
J. Matt Barber
Fr. Tom Bartolomeo
. . .
[See more]

Sister sites