The Catholic Southern Front

Revelation 12: Who Is the Woman Clothed with the Sun?


Revelation 12: Who Is the Woman Clothed with the Sun?

by Jimmy Akin

in +Religion, Apologetics, Bible, Eschatology, Prophecy


The book of Revelation contains a passage in which St. John sees a great sign in the sky. He wrote:

And a great portent appeared in heaven, a woman clothed with the sun, with the moon under her feet, and on her head a crown of twelve stars.

She brought forth a male child, one who is to rule all the nations with a rod of iron, but her child was caught up to God and to his throne [Rev. 12:1, 5].

Who is this mysterious Woman clothed in the sun?

In the following video–and the accompanying audio (see the bottom of the post)–we explore that question and look at different theories that have been proposed.

In particular, we look at the view advanced by Pope Benedict XVI, both in his personal writing and in his teaching as pope.

The answer may surprise you!

Is She the Virgin Mary?

Note that the Woman gives birth to a male child who is to rule the nations with a rod of iron. That’s a reference to the Messianic prophecy in Psalm 2, where we read:

Ask of me, and I will make the nations your heritage,
and the ends of the earth your possession.
You shall break them with a rod of iron [Ps. 2:8-9].

Jesus fulfilled this Messianic prophecy.

The fact that the male child is caught up to the throne of God is a reference to Jesus’ Ascension into heaven, so we have another confirmation that the male child is Jesus.

And since the Woman who gives birth to him is his Mother, we could infer that the Woman here is Jesus’ mother, the Virgin Mary.

But there is more to the story.

Is She Israel . . . or the Church?

The symbolism connected with the Woman is drawn from the book of Genesis, where the patriarch Joseph has a dream involving the sun, the moon, and the stars.

Then he dreamed another dream, and told it to his brothers, and said, “Behold, I have dreamed another dream; and behold, the sun, the moon, and eleven stars were bowing down to me.”

But when he told it to his father and to his brothers, his father rebuked him, and said to him, “What is this dream that you have dreamed? Shall I and your mother and your brothers indeed come to bow ourselves to the ground before you?” [Gen. 37:9-10].

The symbolism of the sun, moon, and twelve stars comes from Genesis, where it refers to the family of Jacob and the twelve patriarchs, who headed the twelve tribes of Israel.

That has led some to say that the Woman in Revelation 12 is Israel.

You could go further and note that the Church is the spiritual Israel. So some have suggested that the Woman as the Church.

Figuring out Which View is True

Which view is true?

  • Is the Woman Mary?
  • Is the Woman Israel?
  • Is the Woman the Church?

You could try to solve this problem by making some of the symbols primary and some secondary.

For example, you could make the Woman’s role as the mother of Jesus primary, so she’s his literal mother, Mary, and the sun, moon, and stars imagery only means that Mary was a Jewish woman.

Or you could make the sun, moon, and stars imagery primary and say that she’s Israel, and the fact that Mary was the particular Jewish woman who gave birth to Jesus is secondary.

Either/Or Vs. Both/And

We don’t have to make that choice, because if you study the way symbolism is used in the book of Revelation,  it often uses a single symbol points to more than one thing.

For example, Revelation 17 tells us what the seven heads of the beast represents:

This calls for a mind with wisdom: the seven heads are seven mountains on which the [Whore of Babylon] is seated; they are also seven kings (Rev. 17:9-10).

If the seven heads can be seven mountains and seven kings then the Woman clothed with the sun might be the Virgin Mary and Israel and the Church.

Pope Benedict’s View

That’s what Pope Benedict suggests. In his book Jesus of Nazareth, volume 2, he writes:

When the Book of Revelation speaks of the great sign of a Woman appearing in heaven, she is understood to represent all Israel, indeed, the whole Church. . . .

On the basis of the “corporate personality” model—in keeping with biblical thought—the early Church had no difficulty recognizing in the Woman, on the one hand, Mary herself and, on the other hand, transcending time, the Church, bride and mother, in which the mystery of Mary spreads out into history [Benedict XVI, Jesus of Nazareth 2:222].

On another occasion, Pope Benedict said:

This Woman represents Mary, the Mother of the Redeemer, but at the same time she also represents the whole Church, the People of God of all times, the Church which in all ages, with great suffering, brings forth Christ ever anew [General Audience, Aug. 23, 2006].

As Pope Benedict shows us, we don’t have to make a forced choice between the possible meanings of what the Woman represents.

In keeping with the richness of the way Revelation uses symbolism, to use Pope Benedict’s phrases, she can be Mary and “all Israel” and “the whole Church” in different ways.






  1. After 6 or more years of searching for answers to some very odd things I have seen, I think you have finally helped me see at least some of what I have been searching for. And I’m fairly certain that I have figured out who (more what) Rev 12 is talking about. It was actually you explaining that the bible uses a singular thing to show multiple things. You are right about the stars! The woman wearing the sun with the moon under her feet and 12 stars on her head isn’t even a woman. It’s 3 constellations : Virgo (the Mother Mary) Cassiopeia, that happens to be seated next to the King (represents Israel) and Andromeda (the church, the Lord’s people, the sinners and ugliness only true love can over look) I have this program that shows pretty much every star, planet nebula, etc that we know of so far. You can use images to represent the constellations..which is what I did last night, and there she was all lit up..Virgo, almost lined up with the sun. So, I changed the date and moved it forward to December 21, 2012 and there was the king, Cassiopeia and Andromeda. The interesting part was Draco’s position, it’s above them (the Dragon in heaven?) So, there is going to be a significant alignment of some planets and stars along with the Dark Rift that will be passing our sun (which by the way makes the sun appear to be “reborn” 3 times) might have everything to do with Revelations. I found your site very informative, and even more enlightening! Thank you for taking the time in making it.

    Comment by Cindy Osborn — September 15, 2012 @ 4:52 pm | Reply

    • In Revelation it says ‘woman’ but what the woman means was recently commented upon by Pope Benedict who attributes it both to ‘Israel’ and the Church and the woman as being the Blessed Virgin. Now I think that the key to this lies in the meaning of the word ‘Israel’ – God created a people for His revelation, according to Christianity the Lord revealed Himself further when He sent Jesus as the Messiah. I am not going into the discussion on whether Jesus is the Messiah for modern Jews, but what I am trying to say is that, who exactly are the people of God? who has accepted the invitation for salvation? If God’s plan was indeed extended to all humanity then whoever accepts His plan becomes Israel and the Church could very well be part of it. The constellations should be looked at as figurative meanings, the real business goes on in our daily lives. Do we accept salvation or not? Also, God’s Kingdom is not an earthly one – so if – for imagination’s sake – on the 21/12/12 a man had to rise in politics and be crowned King and Messiah of humanity and incorporates all religions in one, I would immediately say he is no Messiah but an imposter (for God’s Kingdom is not an earthly one). Draco is never far behind and the world is his.

      Comment by Conservative — September 16, 2012 @ 9:58 am | Reply

    • I wouldn’t bother about dark rifts, buddhic moons, wiccan and new age material, only if I want to take Christianity seriously that is – there is no deeper meaning than the most obvious meanings and understandings, no hidden chambers, no magic numbers, no solomons treasures, no ring to control demons, – Christianity must be looked at dogmatically or ‘catmatically’ (i invented this word cause ‘dogma’ seems to scare people) if u will, ie, death, judgement, heaven or hell – no angel above in the skies or on land will save our souls, just Jesus Christ – not Satan, not Lucifer, nor a new age christ, nor Baphomet nor Lilith… neither Legion or the countless angels and spirits we bathe in on a daily basis…

      Comment by Conservative — July 24, 2014 @ 3:23 pm | Reply

  2. sorry, need to correct something.
    *dark hole meaning worm hole

    Comment by Cindy Osborn — September 23, 2012 @ 9:23 pm | Reply

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