Book Review: The Real Mary

With Mother’s Day just around the corner, a day where we all celebrate and honor our mothers, I thought I might post on a mother that lived some two thousand years ago. That’s right – I am speaking of Mary, the mother of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.

Sadly our Lord’s mother, Mary, has often been a lightning rod and source for controversy in the Church. However, the long “Cold War” between Catholics and Protestants over the subject of Mary seems to be largely a thing of the past. In fact, many Protestant and Evangelicals are coming more and more to reflect on and appreciate the Mother of the Lord. Whether in songs such as “Mary Did You Know?”, or films such as the 2006 movie “The Nativity Story,” Mary is no longer controversial (or as controversial) in evangelical circles. Over the last few years there have even been a couple of books written on Mary for both a protestant and evangelical audience. One was “Mary for Evangelicals” by Tim Perry, and the other “The Real Mary: Why Evangelical Christians Can Embrace the Mother of Jesus” by Scot McKnight. I have read both books, and the former I was not particularly fond of, not that the author wasn’t sincere, but I did not agree with many of the views and sentiments expressed. The latter I found to be a quick and easy read, and though I did not agree with some of the author’s word choice in places, i.e. referring to Roman occupied Judea as ‘Palestine’, and loose use of the term ‘gospel’, it was otherwise a very thought provoking book. Therefore in this post I will share a brief review of Scot McKnight’s book, “The Real Mary: Why Evangelical Christians Can Embrace the Mother of Jesus,” to which I will abbreviate as “The Real Mary” going forward.

In the book, “The Real Mary”, biblical scholar Scot McKnight first explains why he as a Protestant was compelled to write a book about Mary, then proceeds to explore Mary’s life, from the moment she learns that she will give birth and be the mother of the promised Messiah, to the climax and culmination of her son’s ministry on this earth. The book itself is very engaging, and fairly short so as to be more accessible to a wide audience. For anyone who has ever wondered about the real Mary: Who was she? How did she feel? What did she know? Then this would be a great book for you.

As to content, McKnight explores in detail the real Mary of the Bible, whom sadly has become lost in several centuries of theological controversies. As referenced earlier, historically Mary was a dividing line between Catholics and Protestants, due to the Catholic Churches high degree of Mariology (Mary devotion) which often leaves Protestants feeling uncomfortable. This discomfort has led to what McKnight calls a “reaction formation” by many Protestants, of which the end result was to view Mary as little more than a “resting womb” for the Son of God, and someone with whom we only drag out (or think about) once a year at Christmas time. However, this stereotype of a passive Christmas figure among Protestants, as well as Evangelicals, misses the real mother of our Lord. McKnight insists, that “the real Mary is no offense to Protestants, but rather a woman for us to honor,” envisioning her as a bold and courageous woman of strong faith. Once more, Mary is finally depicted as neither a ‘goddess’, nor a ‘saint’, but as the real human mother of Immanuel (God with us). Additionally, McKnight provides some interesting cultural context to the life and times of Mary, and has an interesting interpretation of the Magnificat, and discusses what we can derive of Mary’s character from it along with other scriptures. The real Mary, as portrayed in McKnight’s interpretation, was someone who struggled in coming to fully realize God’s plan for bringing salvation and deliverance to her people (and the world). After all, she, like her Jewish contemporaries, was not expecting a Messiah that would die. Once more, from scriptures we can see that Mary did not always have Jesus all figured out. But nevertheless, she continued to faithfully grapple with the reality of her son and his mission, trusted God, and remained faithful and obedient to his call for her life.

In the end, the book introduces us to a woman who is a model for faith, and who most importantly points us to her son, Jesus Christ. Let us never forget Mary’s bold words to God’s heavenly messenger some two thousand years ago, words that would begin to change the very tide of human history forevermore, “I am the Lord’s servant. May your word to me be fulfilled” (Luke 1:38).

That concludes today’s post. Thank you for reading. To my mom, and all the other mothers out there. Have a Happy Mother’s Day!

JDN

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