The Virgin Goddess: Studies in the Pagan and Christian Roots of Mariology

The Virgin Goddess: Studies in the Pagan and Christian Roots of Mariology

The Virgin Goddess: Studies in the Pagan and Christian Roots of Mariology

The Virgin Goddess: Studies in the Pagan and Christian Roots of Mariology


The contemporary search for the feminine face of God is requiring a re-examination of the relationship of Christianity to the pagan world in which it came to birth. Stephen Benko approaches this study as both an historian and a Christian believer. Inquiring into extra-biblical sources of Marian piety, belief and doctrine, he proposes that there is a direct line, unbroken and clearly discernible, from the goddess-cults of the ancients to the reverence paid and eventually the cult accorded to the Virgin Mary. Chapter by chapter he seeks to establish his conclusion that in Mariology the Christian genius preserved and transformed some of the best and noblest ideas that paganism developed. Rather than being a regression into Paganism, Mariology is a progression toward a clearer and better understanding of the feminine aspect of the divine and the role of the female in the history of salvation. This publication has also been published in hardback, please click here for details."


During the sixteenth century Reformation, Protestants accused the Roman Catholic Church of harboring ideas and practices which had been taken over from the Greco-Roman world. This was considered to be a serious charge, since the goal of Christianity, so the accusers claimed, was to replace paganism with the vera religio (true religion), not to continue it under a different name. The often crude and aggressive attacks by Protestants, especially during the era when polemics was a favorite discipline, were strongly countered by Roman Catholic scholars. No area of Roman Catholic theology has received more attention in this debate than the role accorded and the devotion paid to the Virgin Mary. The literature on this topic is so extensive that it is nearly unmanageable, but even a casual acquaintance with Protestant criticism of Mariology reveals that it is in this particular area that the charge of “paganism” is most often heard. However, according to the learned professor R. J. Zwi Werblowsky, every religion is many religions. Therefore, the discovery of elements

One example may be Karl von Hase, Handbuch der Protestanlischen
Polemik gegen die Romisch Katholische Kirche
, 6th ed., Leipzig: Breitkopf und
Hartel, 1894. This is a very scholarly but quite aggressive and often sarcastic
book. For a brief review of Roman Catholic criticism of Protestantism, see
Franz J. Leenhard, Der Protestantismus im Urleil der romisch kalholischen Kirche,
Zurich: Zwingli Verlag, 1943. Although written by a Protestant, with an
introduction by no less a person than Emil Brunner, this book is still a fair
and representative collection of sources. To pursue the literature of polemics
any further would be an amusing but outdated exercise.

Those interested may look at the bibliography of Stephen Benko, Protes
tants, Catholics and Mary
, Philadelphia: Judson Press, 1969, and S. Benko,
“An Intellectual History of Changing Protestant Attitudes Towards Mario
logy Between 1950 and 1967,” Ephemerides Mariologicae 24 (1974) 211–226. An
excellent bibliography is also given in Walter Delius, Geschichte der Marien
, München/Basel: Reinhardt, 1963. The list of publications con

R. J. Zwi Werblowsky, “Synkretismus in der Religionsgeschichte,” in
Synkretismus in den Religionen Zentralasiens, Wiesbaden: O. Harrassowitz, 1987,
p. 2, with reference to the famous Dutch scholar, the late Gerardus Van Der
Leeuw. See also W. K. C. Guthrie, The Greeks and Their Gods, Boston: Beacon . . .

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