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Mother of God: A History of the Virgin Mary Paperback – March 16, 2010

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Mother of God: A History of the Virgin Mary + Mary, Mother and Warrior: The Virgin in Spain and the Americas (Hall, Linda) + The Life of the Virgin: Maximus the Confessor
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 560 pages
  • Publisher: Yale University Press (March 16, 2010)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0300164327
  • ISBN-13: 978-0300164329
  • Product Dimensions: 9.3 x 6.1 x 1.4 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.8 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (4 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #981,582 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

At first glance, it would seem that attempts to write histories of biblical characters must be hampered by the sparsity of extracanonical writings that inform our understandings of the Bible's people. But sometimes an individual rises from the pages of Scripture to take on a role so central, so important to Christendom's self-understanding that legend and devotion supersede historical verities. Rubin, professor of history at Queen Mary University of London, brings to this work a panoramic view of Mary's impact on the evolution and growth of Christianity, especially Catholic Christianity. Mary emerges in this study as a multifunctional Swiss army knife of spirituality, variously used as a model of motherhood, an object of devotion and a focal point of conflict among Christian believers. But she also serves as a useful tool to help all believers reflect on the uses of the feminine in private yearnings and public supplications. In the end, Mary is as complex as is Christianity itself. Rubin's study goes a long way toward helping readers understand Mary and deserves a wide readership. 32 color, 8 b&w illus. not seen by PW. (Apr.)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved. --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.


"Miri Rubin's Mother of God is an intellectually exuberant tour-de-force. Like the great cloak that in some medieval images billows out from the Virgin, enclosing her rapt worshipers, this book reaches out to embrace a startling range of human dreams, fears, and hopes across many centuries."—Stephen Greenblatt, Harvard University
(Stephen Greenblatt)

“This is a book to fascinate the social historian. Here is wide learning, elegantly expressed. A brilliant and enlightening study of the religious imagination.”—Sr. Wendy Beckett, author of Sister Wendy on Prayer

(Sr. Wendy Beckett)

Mother of God is a breathtaking work of scholarship, surely the finest account of Mary’s impact on world culture from biblical up to modern times. Miri Rubin captures Mary’s profound appeal—as mother and virgin, chaste and fertile, chosen and modest, life-giver and mourner—and as an inspiration to countless artists, writers, and believers. It’s a remarkable achievement by one of the most gifted historians at work today.”—James Shapiro, Columbia University
(James Shapiro)

“Rubin is adept at keeping the reader turning the pages. She has a gift of the bon mot.”—History Today
(History Today)

"In this magisterial work . . . Rubin traces Mary's rise to global prominence from the time of the early Christian empire to the 16th century. . . . [D]epict[s] the shift in representations of Mary through history. . . . Extensively researched and written for a wide audience."—From the citation for the April Selection of the Catholic Book Club
(Catholic Book Club America)

“Miri Rubin captivatingly elucidates the history of one of the world’s greatest narratives.”—The Rumpus 

"The most comprehensive and detailed account of the devotional response to the Virgin Mary at varying social and cultural levels through the centuries. . . . Unparalleled in scope, clarity, and scholarly reach, the book immerses readers in many forms of private and public veneration. . . . The story and history of Mary's unique holiness, her sacred and emotional presence, the awe and mystery of her, has never been told so well."—Timothy C. Miller, Magill's Literary Annual 2010
(Timothy C. Miller Magill's Literary Annual 2010)

"This book is an important new landmark in the study of Marian piety."--Stephen J. Shoemaker, American Historical Review
(Stephen J. Shoemaker American Historical Review)

"Rubin's book takes its place as primus inter pares among a handful of general and magisterial studies. . . .Rubin's book is and will long be indispensable to future work on this most prominent of global religious figures."—Cleo McNelly Kearns, Speculum 
(Cleo McNelly Kearns Speculum)

"The strength of her volume lies chiefly in those well-chosen texts, reinforced by her ability to sketch brief profiles of major contributors to doctrine in each period. . . . Rubin's fuller scholarly analysis and richer references will provide firmer grounding."—Larry Silver, Sixteenth Century Journal
(Larry Silver Sixteenth Century Journal)

"Rubin uses a wide range of sources. . . painting a much more detailed and vivid picture of the figure of Mary than has been available until now. Rubin also sets the Marian figures she discusses in cultural context more adequately than we have formerly seen. . . . Mother of God is a highly readable and informative book. With a topic so vast, Rubin has organized her copious material in a way that assists the reader in comprehending the enormously varied—even contradictory—roles and meanings ascribed to this figure."—Margaret R. Miles, Journal of Religion
(Margaret R. Miles Journal of Religion) --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

44 of 51 people found the following review helpful By C. J. Skamarakas on September 14, 2009
Format: Hardcover
Miri Rubin's "Mother of God" is the only work that I have come across that lays out most of the history of Mary in the Catholic Church. For that reason alone, it is an essential work. Rubin's book presents the facts, is well researched, and readable. I would not be surprised if it becomes the first book researchers go to on the subject of Mary. It is that good. But is it good? To my mind, it is the best that's out there, but that is not saying much. Rubin fails repeatedly to pursue important lines of thought. She notes the absence of Mary in the earliest Church writings, the existence of the Egyptian Isis cult, and the influence of Constantine's mother Helena at Nicea, to give three examples, but never pursues these lines. Likewise, Rubin's book gives the briefest mention to the First Vatican Council and the papal decree on the Immaculate Conception, and so does not examine the politics surrounding those events. Rubin has done a commendable job gathering and presenting the facts. Then she stops.
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23 of 36 people found the following review helpful By Edward M. Freeman on November 11, 2009
Format: Hardcover
Professor Rubin has earned accolades for her blending of cultural, gender, and historical studies on themes from early to late medieval events in western theatres. In this most recent monograph, Mother of God traces the history of Theotokos in the east from varied third-to-fifth century presentations in art, poetry, liturgy, sermons, music, and pseudepigraphal writings all the way to a fragmented veneration of Mary in western sources around 1600 with which Rubin concludes investigation. Mary as pre-Christian female deity extends the laudable scholarship of Marina Warner (Alone of All Her Sex) and Jaroslav Pelikan (Mary through the Centuries).

Clearly Rubin tries but fails to mix divergent sources extolling the Mother of God as Co-Redemptrix from medieval Cictercian and Franciscan hagiographies, yet orphans ancient traditions concerning the Theotokos. In that way, Rubin confuses Syriac, Greek, Coptic, and Jacobite views of the Dormition with Carolingian tales of the Assumption well grounded as early as the 11-th century in the west. She fancies a singular road to the history of Mary while ignoring Hermetic markers to the contrary. Relying upon secondary sources for hefty topics as Luther's ecclesiology, the author fumbles over at least this one Reformer's record concerning the "Christotokos." Examples of her scholarly blunders make it plausible that Rubin bit off more than she can chew, which heralded a jaundiced conclusion by Rowan Williams's in his review last spring in The Guardian.

Xenophobic encroaches of anti-Semitic sentiment in western medieval poems and hymns to the Mother of God appear in sufficient detail to warrant Rubin's conclusions about late medieval political pogroms against Jews in Spain, France, and and German principalities.
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0 of 2 people found the following review helpful By Linn Acree on September 21, 2014
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Comprehensive. Follows the growth of Mary in the Christian church through art, music, and philosophy.
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6 of 100 people found the following review helpful By Sorqaqtani on August 2, 2009
Format: Hardcover
Thanks to this book, I now have a more solid understanding of how tightly veneration of Mary and antisemitism were linked in Europe. Representations of violence against Jews describe the acts in almost approving terms. Assertions of violence by Jews are never described as the slanders the historical record often proves them to be. Apparently this is required to maintain the respectful tone toward Mary that the book establishes.
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