"Ave Maria": Old Testament Allusions In The Magnificat -- By: Amy Smith Carman

Journal: Priscilla Papers
Volume: PP 031:2 (Spring 2017)
Article: "Ave Maria": Old Testament Allusions In The Magnificat
Author: Amy Smith Carman


Ave Maria: Old Testament Allusions In The Magnificat

Amy Smith Carman

Amy Smith Carman is pursuing her PhD in New Testament Studies at Brite Divinity School in Fort Worth, Texas. She holds a BA in Biblical Studies from Hope International University, an MA in NewTestament Studies from Pepperdine University, and an MDiv from Emory University. She focuses her studies on women in the ancient world and is a speaker against sexual assault on college campuses.

Luke 1:46-55 is both a beautiful hymn sung to glorify God and an interpretive puzzle. This text, widely known as the Magnificat, is one of several songs Luke uses at a crucial moment in the birth narratives in order for characters to explain the amazing ways in which God is moving. Luke includes it in his narrative to foreshadow the ministry of reversal Jesus will bring, first to Israel and eventually to all people. It is a praise hymn made up of a combination of OT allusions—more specifically, allusions to the Greek translation of the OT commonly referred as the Septuagint and abbreviated LXX.1 What follows is a study of the LXX allusions that combine to make up this praise hymn—allusions which have the cumulative effect of presenting Mary as a key character in the continuation of God’s OT promises and plan.

Narrative Setting

In the narrative surrounding the Magnificat, Luke weaves the birth stories of John and Jesus into a tapestry of joyful songs and hope for the oppressed. When Gabriel announces the pregnancy to Mary, she shows obedience by hurrying to Elizabeth’s house (Luke 1:39). When Mary first speaks to Elizabeth, the baby in Elizabeth’s womb leaps; Elizabeth is able to interpret her baby’s movement like Rebekah does in Gen 25:21 (Luke 1:41, 44). Elizabeth and Mary are the first to realize the significance of the child Mary is carrying (Luke 1:41-45). Elizabeth is then filled with the Holy Spirit and blesses Mary. Though John’s birth is significant enough to merit an angelic announcement, Elizabeth acknowledges Mary’s superiority in the situation (Luke 1:42-45).2 Elizabeth’s words prompt from Mary a ballad praising God for blessing her and for bringing about the hopes of Israel. Luke’s narration halts the movement of the story when Mary meets with Elizabeth. This deliberate slowing highlights the angel’s proclamation and ensures that the audience...

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