Revelation 12:1

A great sign (shmeion mega). The first of the visions to be so described ( Revelation 13:3 ; Revelation 15:1 ), and it is introduced by wpqh as in Revelation 11:19 ; Revelation 12:3 , not by meta tauto or by eidon or by eidon kai idou as heretofore. This "sign" is really a tera (wonder), as it is so by association in Matthew 24:24 ; John 4:48 ; Acts 2:22 ; Acts 5:12 . The element of wonder is not in the word shmeion as in tera, but often in the thing itself as in Luke 21:11 ; John 9:16 ; Revelation 13:13 ; Revelation 15:1 ; Revelation 16:14 ; Revelation 19:20 . A woman (gunh). Nominative case in apposition with shmeion. "The first 'sign in heaven' is a Woman--the earliest appearance of a female figure in the Apocalyptic vision" (Swete). Arrayed with the sun (peribeblhmenh ton hlion). Perfect passive participle of periballw, with the accusative retained as so often (9 times) in the Apocalypse. Both Charles and Moffatt see mythological ideas and sources behind the bold imagery here that leave us all at sea. Swete understands the Woman to be "the church of the Old Testament" as "the Mother of whom Christ came after the flesh. But here, as everywhere in the Book, no sharp dividing line is drawn between the Church of the Old Testament and the Christian Society." Certainly she is not the Virgin Mary, as verse Revelation 17 makes clear. Beckwith takes her to be "the heavenly representative of the people of God, the _ideal Zion, which, so far as it is embodied in concrete realities, is represented alike by the people of the Old and the New Covenants." John may have in mind Isaiah 7:14 Matthew 1:23 ; Luke 1:31 ) as well as Micah 4:10 ; Isaiah 26:17 ; Isaiah 66:7 without a definite picture of Mary. The metaphor of childbirth is common enough ( John 16:21 ; Galatians 4:19 ). The figure is a bold one with the moon "under her feet" (upokatw twn podwn auth) and "a crown of twelve stars" (stepano asterwn dwdeka), a possible allusion to the twelve tribes ( James 1:1 ; Revelation 21:12 ) or to the twelve apostles ( Revelation 21:14 ).