Wednesday, July 12, 2017
According to the Catechism of the Catholic Church:
“Mary, in whom the Lord himself has just made his dwelling, is the daughter of Zion in person, the ark of the covenant, the place where the glory of the Lord dwells. She is "the dwelling of God . . . with men." (CCC #2676)
One can find much information online, in articles, books and other literature from Catholics calling Mary (the mother of Jesus Christ) the “Ark of the New Covenant.” They call her this because she has “housed” the Savior in her womb, just as the Old Testament ark of the covenant was “housing” the presence of God.
But what exactly was the Old Testament ark of the covenant? It was basically a gold-plated wooden box, and it was one of several pieces of furniture placed in the Old Testament tabernacle (and later, in the temple). The tabernacle consisted of an “outer court” and two separate rooms. The furniture of the tabernacle included the brazen (brass) altar and the brazen laver sitting outside in the “outer court.” The first room, called the “holy place,” contained the table of showbread, the golden lampstand, and the altar of incense. And the last room, the “Most Holy Place” (also called the “Holy of Holies”) was the most sacred area in the whole tabernacle and it was separated from the holy place by a thick veil. The Most Holy place contained only one piece of furniture, and that was the ark of the covenant (on which sat the mercy seat), where the very presence of God dwelt on earth. No one could ever enter this place without dying, except for the high priest; and he could only enter it one day a year, on the Day of Atonement, to atone for his own sins and then to atone for the sins of all Israel. See this link for a good discussion on the tabernacle:
Catholics seem to see Mary as some kind of fulfillment of the Old Testament ark, since Jesus was in her womb. That’s why Catholics call her the “Ark of the New Covenant.” But should Mary be given this title? Is this proper? Is it biblical?
The Catholic Church claims that it is indeed biblical. They will point to passages in the Old Testament about the ark that seem to parallel certain aspects of Mary’s life. They try to demonstrate similarities between Mary’s discussion with the angel Gabriel, and with the glory of God “overshadowing” the tabernacle. Or they will see a parallel in Mary’s stay at Elizabeth’s house for three months and David’s moving of the ark to the house of Obed-edom for three months. Also, they will say that David’s dancing before the ark resembles Elizabeth’s child “leaping” in the womb. Or they will compare some of the language that David used with that of Elizabeth (John the baptist’s mom). Catholics will claim that the typology strongly suggests that Mary is now the ark. We do not deny that there seem to be some parallels in these accounts, but their typology is not as strong as Catholics claim. There are other things that happened with the ark that would also detract from the claim of Mary as the new ark:
For example, if Mary is truly and fully a type of the ark, then who did Uzzah represent? He was the one who touched the ark and died (2 Samuel 6:6-7). Had anyone touched Mary and died because of it? If Mary is the “new ark,” then can Catholics demonstrate that Mary was also captured and stolen by the Philistines, like the ark was in 1 Samuel 4:10-11? And who held up Mary (as the ark was) while the Jordan River parted (Joshua 3:14-17)?
Of course, Catholics may object and say, “Not every single thing that happened to the ark has happened to Mary. Typology has its limits, you know. All types have a breaking point, and you can’t just pick and choose what you want in typology. It can be subject to abuse.”
That’s exactly the reason we need to be careful with Catholic typology! Types simply help us to see the big picture, but some will try to force something into being a “type,” when it was never intended to be. And this Catholic insistence that Mary is the New Covenant Ark is one of those abuses.
But the Bible never says that Mary was the “Ark of the New Covenant.” If we’re going to follow this Catholic pattern, then who is now the “New Brazen Altar” or the “New Brazen Laver”? Or why is no one recognized as the “New Veil”? Who is the “New Table of Showbread”? These types are ALL fulfilled in Jesus, and not anyone else. They point to Him as their final fulfillment (Hebrews 9:1-11). Why would we think that one of those items (the most important one, no less) should be attributed to Mary? Was God saving the most important piece of furniture, the holiest one, to represent and honor HER above even her Son? Does anyone really think that this was God’s intent? If anyone is the “Ark of the New Covenant,” it is Jesus, Himself.
It is one thing to say that Mary was simply a type of the ark of the covenant for a short time, but it is another thing to give her the permanent status and glory of that holy item, especially when it points to Jesus as the true Ark and the true Temple, containing God’s presence (John 2:18-21). Remember, Jesus is not in her womb anymore!
The ark of the covenant is only mentioned twice in the entire New Testament (Hebrews 9:4; Revelation 11:19) and there is nothing at all about Mary becoming the “new ark” in either of these passages. The authors of Hebrews and Revelation had ample opportunity to mention this “important” Catholic concept at this point, but nothing of Mary is mentioned here.
We think that Mary, herself, would heartily disagree with Catholics concerning many of the things they believe about her. We believe that the biblical Mary, the humble handmaid of the Lord (Luke 1:38, 48), would admit to being a type of the ark at one point in her life (during her pregnancy), but she would never claim such an exalted title that Catholics try to give her. We believe that she, like every true Christian, would agree with John the baptist when he said, “He (Jesus) must increase, but I must decrease” (John 3:30). But Mary is in no way “decreasing” in the Catholic Church today! For example, in the Catholic rosary, there are many more prayers to Mary than there are to Jesus, or God the Father. As long as the Catholic version of Mary is around, Jesus just can’t seem to be “increasing” as He should. But once again, Mary is not the “New Ark.” Jesus Christ should be recognized as the fulfillment of every part of the tabernacle / temple. He is the center of all prophecy (Luke 24:27; Revelation 19:10), and He and His plan of redemption can be found on every page of Scripture.