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Mother of God: A History of the Virgin Mary Paperback – 25 Feb 2010

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Mother of God: A History of the Virgin Mary + Mary Through the Centuries: Her Place in the History of Culture + In Search of Mary: The Woman and the Symbol
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Product details

  • Paperback: 576 pages
  • Publisher: Penguin (25 Feb 2010)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0141019352
  • ISBN-13: 978-0141019352
  • Product Dimensions: 12.9 x 2.4 x 19.8 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 3.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (3 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 249,623 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Product Description


Miri Rubin [is] one of the most interesting and original of British medieval historians ... There is room for a whole book on this subject and Rubin is uniquely equipped to write it ... a capacious and vastly learned book ... a treasury (Rowan Williams Financial Times )

a wonderfully illuminating history of the mother of Jesus (Telegraph )

A remarkable, ambitious and wide-ranging account ... sympathetic and eloquent (Melanie McDonagh Evening Standard )


`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.' --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

8 of 8 people found the following review helpful By J. Hutchings on 5 April 2010
Format: Paperback
Goodness. What a book. Filled almost to bursting with facts, references and comparisons, this is perhaps one of the ultimate reference books for those with an interest in she who we call the Virgin Mary.

The book is sensibly laid out (chronological), and starts with the gospels (notably the Protogospel of St James) and the main text finishes around 1660; a finishing chapter titled "After Mary: a conclusion" deals with the modern reception of Mary.

One irritation is that facts are mentioned almost fleetingly and yet so often, that one spends half one's time in the (excellent) bibliography, and then searching images and references online. This is a book that is crying out for an exhibition, with images and literature references on display.

That said, those references which Rubin cleverly chooses to expand further (notably examples of hymns/devotional texts) offer a glimpse into the clearly enormous wealth of material available to those who wish for more; perhaps a anthology of Marian texts could be next.
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21 of 23 people found the following review helpful By D. M. Purkiss VINE VOICE on 17 Mar 2010
Format: Paperback
Despite rave reviews in the press, I found this incredibly disappointing in that while there is a mass of detail, there is very little analysis or discussion; one anecdote after another, in wobbling piles, most of which are familiar from other, earlier works. By page 200 I was wondering why we should care. Rubin seems to think the stories don't need contextualising, but they clearly do. Rather than digging to their heart, the tone is that of an anthropologist on Mars, with these strange little medieval people running around. There is better stuff about. Caroline Walker Bynum is a much much better guide to those very same strange little people and their stories. And Marina Warner's elegant, incisive Alone of All her Sex is by no means superseded by this ponderous, unsorted tome.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By Kokino on 15 Jan 2012
Format: Paperback
A good book in the style of a reference book. Well written and brilliantly detailed - it is a good choice for anyone interested in the way Mary, mother of Jesus has been venerated throughout the ages. If you are looking for a study about Mary herself, this is not the book for you.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on (beta) 4 reviews
45 of 52 people found the following review helpful
Flawed but the best available 15 Sep 2009
By C. J. Skamarakas - Published on
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.
23 of 36 people found the following review helpful
Big book -- "too" big 11 Nov 2009
By Edward M. Freeman - Published on
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. However, Rubin ignores the ambivalence present in these same hymns. For example, Amadeus's of Lausanne homilies to the Theotokos in the 12th century extol the Virgin's mercy toward her own people, thus providing a standard rationale from Tradition as to why the Mother of God remained in ministry long after Christ's Resurrection.
0 of 2 people found the following review helpful
Comprehensive. Follows the growth of Mary in the Christian ... 21 Sep 2014
By Linn Acree - Published on
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Comprehensive. Follows the growth of Mary in the Christian church through art, music, and philosophy.
6 of 100 people found the following review helpful
possibly adequate for a survey 2 Aug 2009
By Sorqaqtani - Published on
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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