Seller: highrating_lowprice (20,649) 100%, Location: Rego Park, New York, Ships to: Worldwide, Item: 231077144731 Item: i36138 Authentic Ancient Coin of: Byzantine - Manuel I , Comnenus - Byzantine Emperor: 8 April 1143 - 24 September 1180 A.D. Electrum aspron trachy 27mm (3.24 grams) Constantinople 1143-1180 A.D. Reference: Sear 1961 Christ, bearded, seated facing on throne with back, wearing nimbus crown, pallium and colobium, Holds book of Gospels. MANγHΛ ΔΕCΠΟΤ, The Virgin, nimbate (on right) and Manuel (on left), both standing facing; the Virgin wears pallium and mpahorium, and with Her right hand crowns the emperor, who wears divitision and chlamys, and holds labarum and globe cross. You are bidding on the exact item pictured, provided with a Certificate of Authenticity and Lifetime Guarantee of Authenticity. Mary variously called Saint Mary, Mother Mary, the Virgin Mary, the Theotokos , the Blessed Virgin Mary , Mary, Mother of God , and, in Islam , as Maryam , mother of Isa ', was an Israelite Jewish woman of Nazareth in Galilee who lived in the late 1st century BC and early 1st century AD, and is considered by Christians to be the first proselyte to Christianity . She is identified in the New Testament and in the Qur'an as the mother of Jesus through divine intervention . Christians hold her son Jesus to be Christ (i.e. the messiah ) and God the Son Incarnate (see Trinitarian monotheism ), whereas Muslims regard Jesus as the messiah and the most important prophet of God sent to the people of Israel (and the second-most-important prophet of all, lesser than Muhammad alone). The canonical gospels of Matthew and Luke describe Mary as a virgin (Greek παρθένος, parthénos). Traditionally, Christians believe that she conceived her son miraculously by the agency of the Holy Spirit . Muslims believe that she conceived by the command of God. This took place when she was already betrothed to Saint Joseph and was awaiting the concluding rite of marriage, the formal home-taking ceremony. She married Joseph and accompanied him to Bethlehem , where Jesus was born. In keeping with Jewish custom, the betrothal would have taken place when she was around 12, and the birth of Jesus about a year later. The New Testament begins its account of Mary's life with the Annunciation, when the angel Gabriel appeared to her and announced her divine selection to be the mother of Jesus. Church tradition and early non-biblical writings state that her parents were an elderly couple, Saint Joachim and Saint Anne . The Bible records Mary's role in key events of the life of Jesus from his conception to his Ascension. Apocryphal writings tell of her subsequent death and bodily assumption into heaven. Christians of the Catholic Church , the Eastern Orthodox Church , Oriental Orthodox Church , Anglican Communion , and Lutheran churches believe that Mary, as mother of Jesus, is the Mother of God and the Theotokos , literally Bearer of God. Mary has been venerated since Early Christianity . Throughout the ages she has been a favorite subject in Christian art, music, and literature. There is significant diversity in the Marian beliefs and devotional practices of major Christian traditions. The Catholic Church has a number of Marian dogmas , such as the Immaculate Conception of Mary the Perpetual Virginity of Mary , and the Assumption of Mary into Heaven. Catholics refer to her as Our Lady and venerate her as the Queen of Heaven and Mother of the Church ; most Protestants do not share these beliefs. Many Protestants see a minimal role for Mary within Christianity, based on the brevity of biblical references. In ancient sources New Testament The Annunciation by Eustache Le Sueur , an example of 17th century Marian art . The Angel Gabriel announces to Mary her pregnancy with Jesus and offers her White Lillies The New Testament account of her humility and obedience to the message of God have made her an exemplar for all ages of Christians. Out of the details supplied in the New Testament by the Gospels about the maid of Galilee, Christian piety and theology have constructed a picture of Mary that fulfills the prediction ascribed to her in the Magnificat (Luke 1:48): "Henceforth all generations will call me blessed." — "Mary." Web: 29Sep2010 Encyclopædia Britannica Online. The Icon of Our Lady of the Sign (Greek: Panagia or Παναγία; Old Church Slavonic : Ikona Bozhey Materi "Znamenie"; Polish : Ikona Bogurodzicy "Znak" ') is the term for a particular type of icon of the Theotokos (Virgin Mary), facing the viewer directly, depicted either full length or half, with her hands raised in the orans position, and with the image of the Child Jesus depicted within a round aureole upon her breast. Our Lady of the Sign (18th century, iconostasis of the Transfiguration church, Kizhi monastery, Karelia, Russia). The icon depicts the Theotokos during the Annunciation at the moment of saying, "May it be done to me according to your word."(Luke 1:38). The image of the Christ child represents him at the moment of his conception in the womb of the Virgin. He is depicted not as a fetus, but rather vested in divine robes, and often holding a scroll, symbolic of his role as teacher. Sometimes his robes are gold or white, symbolizing divine glory; sometimes they are blue and red, symbolizing the two natures of Christ (see Christology ). His face is depicted as that of an old man, indicating the Christian teaching that he was at one and the same time both a fully human infant and fully the eternal God, one of the Trinity. His right hand is raised in blessing. The term Virgin of the Sign or Our Lady of the Sign is a reference to the prophecy of Isaiah 7:14 : "Therefore the Lord himself shall give you a sign; Behold, a virgin shall conceive, and bear a son, and shall call his name Immanuel ". Such an image is often placed in the apse of the sanctuary of an Orthodox church above the Holy Table (altar). As with most Orthodox icons of Mary, the letters ΜΡ ΘΥ (short for ΜΗΤΗΡ ΘΕΟΥ, "Mother of God") are usually placed on the upper left and right of the head of the Virgin Mary. This type of icon is also sometimes called the Platytéra (Greek: Πλατυτέρα, literally wider or more spacious); poetically, by containing the Creator of the Universe in her womb , Mary has become Platytera ton ouranon (Πλατυτέρα των Ουρανών): "More spacious than the heavens". The Platytéra is traditionally depicted on the half-dome that stands above the altar . It is visible high above the iconostasis , and facing down the length of the nave of the church. This particular depiction is usually on a dark blue background, often adorned by golden stars. History The depiction of the Virgin Mary with her hands upraised in prayer ("orans") is of very ancient origin in Christian art . In the mausoleum of St Agnes in Rome is a depiction dating to the 4th century which depicts the Theotokos with hands raised in prayer and the infant Jesus sitting upon her knees. There is also an ancient Byzantine icon of the Mother of God "Nikopea" from the 6th century, where the Virgin Mary is depicted seated upon a throne and holding in her hands an oval shield with the image of "Emmanuel". Icons of the Virgin, known as "The Sign", appeared in Russia during the 11th to 12th centuries. The icon became highly venerated in Russia because of what Orthodox Christians believe to be the miraculous deliverance of Novgorod from invasion in the year 1170. Among the more famous variants of this genre are the Icons of the Mother of God of Abalatsk , Kursk-Root , Mirozh , Novgorod , Sankt Petersburg , Tsarskoye Selo and Vologda . The Church of St. Stanislaus Kostka , one of Chicago 's famed Polish Cathedrals , is home to a 9-foot-wide (2.7 m) Iconic Monstrance of Our Lady of the Sign as part of the planned Sanctuary of The Divine Mercy that is being constructed adjacent to the church. The Monstrance will be found within the sanctuary's adoration chapel which will be the focus of 24-hour Eucharistic Adoration and where there will be no liturgies or vocal prayers, either by individuals or groups as the space will be strictly meant for private meditation and contemplation. The English name "Mary" comes from the Greek Μαρία, which is a shortened form of Μαριάμ. The New Testament name was based on her original Hebrew name מִרְיָם or Miryam . Both Μαρία and Μαριάμ appear in the New Testament. Specific references Luke's gospel mentions Mary most often, identifying her by name twelve times, all of these in the infancy narrative. Matthew's gospel mentions her by name five times, four of these in the infancy narrative and only once outside the infancy narrative. Mark's gospel names her only once (6:3) and mentions her as Jesus' mother without naming her in 3:31 . John's gospel refers to her twice but never mentions her by name. Described as Jesus' mother, she makes two appearances in John's gospel. She is first seen at the wedding at Cana of Galilee which is mentioned only in the fourth gospel. The second reference in John, also exclusively listed this gospel, has the mother of Jesus standing near the cross of her son together with the (also unnamed) "disciple whom Jesus loved. John 2:1-12 is the only text in the canonical gospels in which Mary speaks to (and about) the adult Jesus. In the Book of Acts, Luke's second writing, Mary and the "brothers of Jesus" are mentioned in the company of the eleven who are gathered in the upper room after the ascension. In the Book of Revelation,[12:1,5-6] John's apocalypse never explicitly identifies the "woman clothed with the sun" as Mary of Nazareth, the mother of Jesus. However, some interpreters have made that connection. Family and early life The New Testament tells little of Mary's early history. The 2nd century Protoevangelium of James is the first source to name her parents as Joachim and Anne . According to Luke, Mary was a cousin of Elizabeth , wife of the priest Zechariah of the priestly division of Abijah , who was herself part of the lineage of Aaron and so of the tribe of Levi. Some of those who consider that the relationship with Elizabeth was on the maternal side, consider that Mary, like Joseph, to whom she was betrothed, was of the House of David and so of the tribe of Judah, and that the genealogy of Jesus presented in Luke 3 from Nathan, third son of David and Bathsheba , is in fact the genealogy of Mary, while the genealogy from Solomon given in Matthew 1 is that of Joseph. (Aaron's wife Elisheba was of the tribe of Judah, so all his descendents are from both Levi and Judah.) The Virgin's first seven steps mosaic from Chora Church , c. 12th century. Mary resided in "her own house" in Nazareth in Galilee , possibly with her parents, and during her betrothal – the first stage of a Jewish marriage – the angel Gabriel announced to her that she was to be the mother of the promised Messiah by conceiving him through the Holy Spirit. After a number of months, when Joseph was told of her conception in a dream by "an angel of the Lord", he was surprised; but the angel told him to be unafraid and take her as his wife, which Joseph did, thereby formally completing the wedding rites. Since the angel Gabriel had told Mary that Elizabeth - having previously been barren - was then miraculously pregnant, Mary hurried to see Elizabeth, who was living with her husband Zechariah in "Hebron, in the hill country of Judah". Mary arrived at the house and greeted Elizabeth who called Mary "the mother of my Lord", and Mary spoke the words of praise that later became known as the Magnificat from her first word in the Latin version. After about three months, Mary returned to her own house. According to the Gospel of Luke, a decree of the Roman emperor Augustus required that Joseph return to his hometown of Bethlehem to be taxed . While he was there with Mary, she gave birth to Jesus; but because there was no place for them in the inn, she used a manger as a cradle. After eight days, he was circumcised according to Jewish law, and named "JESUS" in accordance with the instructions that the angel had given to Mary in Luke 1:31 , and Joseph was likewise told to call him Jesus in Matthew 1:21 . After Mary continued in the "blood of her purifying" another 33 days for a total of 40 days, she brought her burnt offering and sin offering to the temple, so the priest could make atonement for her sins, being cleansed from her blood. They also presented Jesus – "As it is written in the law of the Lord, Every male that openeth the womb shall be called holy to the Lord" . After the prophecies of Simeon and the prophetess Anna in Luke 2:25-38 concluded, Joseph and Mary took Jesus and "returned into Galilee, to their own city Nazareth.". Sometime later, the "wise men" showed up at the "house" where Jesus and his family were staying, and they fled by night and stayed in Egypt for awhile, and returned after Herod died in 4 BC and took up residence in Nazareth. Mary in the life of Jesus Stabat Mater in the Valle Romita Polyptych by Gentile da Fabriano , c. 1410-1412 Mary is involved in the only event in Jesus' adolescent life that is recorded in the New Testament. At the age of twelve Jesus, having become separated from his parents on their return journey from the Passover celebration in Jerusalem , was found among the teachers in the temple. After Jesus' baptism by John the Baptist and his temptations by the devil in the desert, Mary was present when, at her suggestion, Jesus worked his first Cana miracle during a marriage they attended, by turning water into wine . Subsequently there are events when Mary is present along with James , Joseph, Simon, and Judas , called Jesus' brothers, and unnamed "sisters". Following Jerome , the Church Fathers interpreted the words translated as "brother" and "sister" as referring to close relatives. There is also an incident in which Jesus is sometimes interpreted as rejecting his family. "And his mother and his brothers arrived, and standing outside, they sent in a message asking for him[Mk 3:21] ... And looking at those who sat in a circle around him, Jesus said, 'These are my mother and my brothers. Whoever does the will of God is my brother, and sister, and mother.'" Mary is also depicted as being present among the women at the crucifixion during the crucifixion standing near "the disciple whom Jesus loved" along with Mary of Clopas and Mary Magdalene ,[Jn 19:25-26] to which list Matthew 27:56 adds "the mother of the sons of Zebedee", presumably the Salome mentioned in Mark 15:40 . This representation is called a Stabat Mater . Mary, cradling the dead body of her Son, while not recorded in the Gospel accounts, is a common motif in art, called a "pietà" or "pity". After the Ascension of Jesus In Acts 1:26, especially v. 14, Mary is the only one to be mentioned by name other than the eleven apostles , who abode in the upper room , when they returned from mount Olivet. (It is not stated where the later gathering of about one hundred and twenty disciples was located, when they elected Matthias to fill the office of Judas Iscariot who perished.) Some speculate that the "elect lady" mentioned in 2 John 1:1 may be Mary. From this time, she disappears from the biblical accounts, although it is held by Catholics that she is again portrayed as the heavenly woman of Revelation . Her death is not recorded in the scripture. However, Catholic and Orthodox tradition and doctrine have her assumed (taken bodily) into Heaven . Belief in the corporeal assumption of Mary is universal to Catholicism , in both Eastern and Western Catholic Churches , as well as the Eastern Orthodox Church . Coptic Churches , and parts of the Anglican Communion and Continuing Anglican Churches . Later Christian writings and traditions The Dormition : ivory plaque, late 10th-early 11th century (Musée de Cluny). According to the apocryphal Gospel of James Mary was the daughter of Saint Joachim and Saint Anne . Before Mary's conception Anna had been barren. Mary was given to service as a consecrated virgin in the Temple in Jerusalem when she was three years old, much like Hannah took Samuel to the Tabernacle as recorded in the Old Testament . Some apocryphal accounts state that at the time of her betrothal to Joseph Mary was 12–14 years old, and he was ninety years old, but such accounts are unreliable. According to Sacred Tradition , Mary died surrounded by the apostles (in either Jerusalem or Ephesus ) between three days and 24 years after Christ's ascension . When the apostles later opened her tomb, they found it to be empty and they concluded that she had been assumed into Heaven . Mary's Tomb , an empty tomb in Jerusalem, is attributed to Mary. The Roman Catholic Church teaches Mary's assumption , but does not teach that she necessarily died. Hyppolitus of Thebes claims that Mary lived for 11 years after the death of her Son, dying in 41 AD. The earliest extant biographical writing on Mary is Life of the Virgin attributed to the 7th century saint, Maximus the Confessor which portrays her as a key element of the early Christian Church after the death of Jesus. In the 19th century, a house near Ephesus in Turkey was found, based on the visions of Anne Catherine Emmerich , an Augustinian nun in Germany It has since been visited as the House of the Virgin Mary by Roman Catholic pilgrims who consider it the place where Mary lived until her assumption. The Gospel of John states that Mary went to live with the Disciple whom Jesus loved identified as John the Evangelist . Irenaeus and Eusebius of Caesarea wrote in their histories that John later went to Ephesus, which may provide the basis for the early belief that Mary also lived in Ephesus with John. Christian devotion 2nd to 5th centuries Christian devotion to Mary goes back to the 2nd century and predates the emergence of a specific Marian liturgical system in the 5th century, following the First Council of Ephesus in 431. The Council itself was held at a church in Ephesus which had been dedicated to Mary about a hundred years before. In Egypt the veneration of Mary had started in the 3rd century and the term Theotokos was used by Origen , the Alexandrian Father of the Church. The earliest known Marian prayer (the Sub tuum praesidium , or Beneath Thy Protection) is from the 3rd century (perhaps 270), and its text was rediscovered in 1917 on a papyrus in Egypt. Following the Edict of Milan in 313, by the 5th century artistic images of Mary began to appear in public and larger churches were being dedicated to Mary, e.g. S. Maria Maggiore in Rome. Middle Ages The Middle Ages saw many legends about Mary, and also her parents and even grandparents. Since the Reformation Over the centuries, devotion and veneration to Mary has varied greatly among Christian traditions. For instance, while Protestants show scant attention to Marian prayers or devotions, of all the saints whom the Orthodox venerate, the most honored is Mary, who is considered "more honorable than the Cherubim and more glorious than the Seraphim ." Orthodox theologian Sergei Bulgakov wrote: "Love and veneration of the Blessed Virgin Mary is the soul of Orthodox piety. A faith in Christ which does not include his mother is another faith, another Christianity from that of the Orthodox church." Although the Catholics and the Orthodox may honor and venerate Mary, they do not view her as divine, nor do they worship her. Catholics view Mary as subordinate to Christ, but uniquely so, in that she is seen as above all other creatures. Similarly Theologian Sergei Bulgakov wrote that although the Orthodox view Mary as "superior to all created beings" and "ceaselessly pray for her intercession" she is not considered a "substitute for the One Mediator" who is Christ. "Let Mary be in honor, but let worship be given to the Lord" he wrote. Similarly, Catholics do not worship Mary, but venerate her. Catholics use the term hyperdulia for Marian veneration rather than latria that applies to God and dulia for other saints. The definition of the three level hierarchy of latria, hyperdulia and dulia goes back to the Second Council of Nicaea in 787. Devotions to artistic depictions of Mary vary among Christian traditions. There is a long tradition of Roman Catholic Marian art and no image permeates Catholic art as does the image of Madonna and Child . The icon of the Virgin is without doubt the most venerated icon among the Orthodox. Both Roman Catholics and the Orthodox venerate images and icons of Mary, given that the Second Council of Nicaea in 787 permitted their veneration by Catholics with the understanding that those who venerate the image are venerating the reality of the person it represents, and the 842 Synod of Constantinople established the same for the Orthodox. The Orthodox, however, only pray to and venerate flat, two-dimensional icons and not three-dimensional statues. The Anglican position towards Mary is in general more conciliatory than that of Protestants at large and in a book he wrote about praying with the icons of Mary, Rowan Williams , the Archbishop of Canterbury said: "It is not only that we cannot understand Mary without seeing her as pointing to Christ; we cannot understand Christ without seeing his attention to Mary". Titles Eleusa Theotokos with scenes from the life of Mary, 18th century Titles to honor Mary or ask for her intercession are used by some Christian traditions such as the Eastern Orthodox or Catholics , but not others, e.g. the Protestants . Common titles for Mary include Mother of God (Theotokos), The Blessed Virgin Mary (also abbreviated to "BVM"), Our Lady (Notre Dame, Nuestra Señora, Nossa Senhora, Madonna) and the Queen of Heaven (Regina Caeli). Specific titles vary among Anglican views of Mary , Ecumenical views of Mary , Lutheran views of Mary , Protestant views on Mary , and Roman Catholic views of Mary , Latter Day Saints' views of Mary , Orthodox views of Mary . In addition to Islamic views on Mary . Mary is referred to by the Eastern Orthodox Church , Oriental Orthodoxy , the Anglican Church , and all Eastern Catholic Churches as Theotokos, a title recognized at the Third Ecumenical Council (held at Ephesus to address the teachings of Nestorius , in 431). Theotokos (and its Latin equivalents, "Deipara" and "Dei genetrix") literally means "Godbearer". The equivalent phrase "Mater Dei", (Mother of God) is more common in Latin and so also in the other languages used in the Western Catholic Church , but this same phrase in Greek (Μήτηρ Θεοῦ), in the abbreviated form of the first and last letter of the two words (ΜΡ ΘΥ), is the indication attached to her image in Byzantine icons. The Council stated that the Church Fathers "did not hesitate to speak of the holy Virgin as the Mother of God". Some titles have a Biblical basis, for instance the title Queen Mother has been given to Mary since she was the mother of Jesus, who was sometimes referred to as the "King of Kings" due to his lineage of King David. The biblical basis for the term Queen can be seen in the Gospel of Luke 1:32 and the Book of Isaiah 9:6, and Queen Mother from 1 Kings 2:19-20 and Jeremiah 13:18-19 . Other titles have arisen from reported miracles, special appeals or occasions for calling on Mary, e.g. Our Lady of Good Counsel , Our Lady of Navigators or Our Lady of Ransom who protects captives. The three main titles for Mary used by the Orthodox are Theotokos , i.e., Mother of God (Greek Θεοτόκος), Aeiparthenos , i.e. Ever Virgin (Greek ἀειπαρθὲνος), as confirmed in the Fifth Ecumenical Council 553, and Panagia , i.e., All Holy (Greek Παναγία). A large number of titles for Mary are used by Roman Catholics, and these titles have in turn given rise to many artistic depictions, e.g. the title Our Lady of Sorrows has resulted in masterpieces such as Michelangelo 's Pietà . Marian feasts The earliest feasts that relate to Mary grew out of the cycle of feasts that celebrated the Nativity of Jesus . Given that according to the Gospel of Luke (Luke 2:22-40), forty days after the birth of Jesus, along with the Presentation of Jesus at the Temple Mary was purified according to Jewish customs, the Feast of the Purification began to be celebrated by the 5th century, and became the "Feast of Simeon " in Byzantium . Village decorations during the Feast of the Assumption in Għaxaq , Malta. In the 7th and 8th centuries four more Marian feasts were established in the Eastern Church . In the Western Church a feast dedicated to Mary, just before Christmas was celebrated in the Churches of Milan and Ravenna in Italy in the 7th century. The four Roman Marian feasts of Purification, Annunciation, Assumption and Nativity of Mary were gradually and sporadically introduced into England by the 11th century. Over time, the number and nature of feasts (and the associated Titles of Mary ) and the venerative practices that accompany them have varied a great deal among diverse Christian traditions. Overall, there are significantly more titles, feasts and venerative Marian practices among Roman Catholics than any other Christians traditions. Some such feasts relate to specific events, e.g. the Feast of Our Lady of Victory was based on the 1571 victory of the Papal States in the Battle of Lepanto . Differences in feasts may also originate from doctrinal issues – the Feast of the Assumption is such an example. Given that there is no agreement among all Christians on the circumstances of the death, Dormition or Assumption of Mary , the feast of assumption is celebrated among some denominations and not others. While the Catholic Church celebrates the Feast of the Assumption on August 15, some Eastern Catholics celebrate it as Dormition of the Theotokos , and may do so on August 28, if they follow the Julian calendar . The Eastern Orthodox also celebrate it as the Dormition of the Theotokos , one of their 12 Great Feasts . Protestants do not celebrate this, or any other Marian feasts. Christian doctrines There is significant diversity in the Marian doctrines accepted by various Christian churches. The key Marian doctrines held in Christianity can be briefly outlined as follows: Mother of God : holds that Mary, as mother of Jesus is therefore Theotokos (God-bearer), or Mother of God. Virgin birth of Jesus : states that Mary miraculously conceived Jesus by action of the Holy Spirit while remaining a virgin. Dormition : commemorates Mary's "falling asleep" or natural death shortly before her Assumption. Assumption : the doctrine which states that Mary was taken bodily into Heaven either at, or before, her death. Immaculate Conception : states that Mary herself was conceived without original sin . Perpetual Virginity : holds that Mary remained a virgin all her life, even after the act of giving birth to Jesus. The acceptance of these Marian doctrines by Christians can be summarized as follows: Doctrine Church action Accepted by Mother of God First Council of Ephesus , 431 Roman Catholics, Eastern Orthodox, Anglicans, Lutherans, Methodists, Virgin birth of Jesus First Council of Nicaea , 325 Roman Catholics , Eastern Orthodox , Anglicans , Lutherans , Protestants , Latter Day Saints Assumption of Mary Munificentissimus Deus encyclical Pope Pius XII , 1950 Roman Catholics, Eastern Orthodox, some Anglicans, some Lutherans Immaculate Conception Ineffabilis Deus encyclical Pope Pius IX , 1854 Roman Catholics, some Anglicans, some Lutherans, early Martin Luther Perpetual Virginity Council of Constantinople , 533 Smalcald Articles , 1537 Roman Catholics, Eastern Orthodox, Some Anglicans, Some Lutherans, Martin Luther , John Wesley The title "Mother of God" (Theotokos) for Mary was confirmed by the First Council of Ephesus , held at the Church of Mary in 431. The Council decreed that Mary is the Mother of God because her son Jesus is one person who is both God and man, divine and human. This doctrine is widely accepted by Christians in general, and the term Mother of God had already been used within the oldest known prayer to Mary, the Sub tuum praesidium which dates to around 250 AD. The Virgin birth of Jesus has been a universally held belief among Christians since the 2nd century, It is included in the two most widely used Christian creeds , which state that Jesus "was incarnate of the Holy Spirit and the Virgin Mary" (the Nicene Creed in what is now its familiar form) and the Apostles' Creed . The Gospel of Matthew describes Mary as a virgin who fulfilled the prophecy of Isaiah 7:14 . The authors of the Gospels of Matthew and Luke consider Jesus' conception not the result of intercourse and assert that Mary had "no relations with man" before Jesus' birth. This alludes to the belief that Mary conceived Jesus through the action of God the Holy Spirit, and not through intercourse with Joseph or anyone else. The doctrines of the Assumption or Dormition of Mary relate to her death and bodily assumption to Heaven . While the Roman Catholic Church has established the dogma of the Assumption, namely that Mary went directly to Heaven without a usual physical death, the Eastern Orthodox Church believes in the Dormition, i.e. that she fell asleep, surrounded by the Apostles. Roman Catholics believe in the Immaculate Conception of Mary , as proclaimed Ex Cathedra by Pope Pius IX in 1854, namely that she was filled with grace from the very moment of her conception in her mother's womb and preserved from the stain of original sin. The Latin Rite of the Roman Catholic Church has a liturgical feast by that name , kept on 8 December. The Eastern Orthodox reject the Immaculate Conception principally because their understanding of ancestral sin (the Greek term corresponding to the Latin "original sin") differs from that of the Roman Catholic Church. The Perpetual Virginity of Mary, asserts Mary's real and perpetual virginity even in the act of giving birth to the Son of God made Man. The term Ever-Virgin (Greek ἀειπάρθενος) is applied in this case, stating that Mary remained a virgin for the remainder of her life, making Jesus her biological and only son, whose conception and birth are held to be miraculous. Perspectives on Mary Blessed Virgin Mary Annunciation , Philippe de Champaigne , 1644 West: Mother of God , Queen of Heaven , Mother of the Church East: Theotokos Honored in Catholicism , Eastern Orthodoxy , Oriental Orthodoxy , Anglicanism , Lutheranism Canonized Pre-Congregation Major shrine Santa Maria Maggiore (See Marian shrines ) Feast See Marian feast days Attributes Blue mantle, crown of 12 stars, pregnant woman, roses, woman with child Patronage See Patronage of the Blessed Virgin Mary Christian perspectives on Mary Christian Marian perspectives include a great deal of diversity. While some Christians such as Roman Catholics and Eastern Orthodox have well established Marian traditions, Protestants at large pay scant attention to Mariological themes. Roman Catholic , Eastern Orthodox , Oriental Orthodox , Anglican , and Lutherans venerate the Virgin Mary. This veneration especially takes the form of prayer for intercession with her Son, Jesus Christ. Additionally it includes composing poems and songs in Mary's honor, painting icons or carving statues of her, and conferring titles on Mary that reflect her position among the saints. Anglican view The multiple churches that form the Anglican Communion and the Continuing Anglican movement have different views on Marian doctrines and venerative practices given that there is no single church with universal authority within the Communion and that the mother church (the Church of England ) understands itself to be both "catholic" and "Reformed". Thus unlike the Protestant churches at large, the Anglican Communion (which includes the Episcopal Church in the United States) includes segments which still retain some veneration of Mary. Mary's special position within God's purpose of salvation as "God-bearer" (Theotokos) is recognised in a number of ways by some Anglican Christians. All the member churches of the Anglican Communion affirm in the historic creeds that Jesus was born of the Virgin Mary, and celebrates the feast days of the Presentation of Christ in the Temple . This feast is called in older prayer books the Purification of the Blessed Virgin Mary on 2 February. The Annunciation of our Lord to the Blessed Virgin on March 25 was from before the time of Bede until the 18th century New Year's Day in England. The Annunciation is called the "Annunciation of our Lady" in the 1662 Book of Common Prayer . Anglicans also celebrate in the Visitation of the Blessed Virgin on May 31, though in some provinces the traditional date of July 2 is kept. The feast of the St. Mary the Virgin is observed on the traditional day of the Assumption, August 15. The Nativity of the Blessed Virgin is kept on September 8. The Conception of the Blessed Virgin Mary is kept in the 1662 Book of Common Prayer, on December 8. In certain Anglo-Catholic parishes this feast is called the Immaculate Conception . Again, the Assumption of Mary is believed in by most Anglo-Catholics, but is considered a pious opinion by moderate Anglicans. Protestant minded Anglicans reject the celebration of these feasts. Prayers and venerative practices vary a great deal. For instance, as of the 19th century, following the Oxford Movement , Anglo-Catholics frequently pray the Rosary , the Angelus , Regina Caeli , and other litanies and anthems of Our Lady that are reminiscent of Catholic practices. On the other hand, Low-church Anglicans rarely invoke the Blessed Virgin except in certain hymns, such as the second stanza of Ye Watchers and Ye Holy Ones . The Anglican Society of Mary was formed in 1931 and maintains chapters in many countries. The purpose of the society is to foster devotion to Mary among Anglicans.The high-church Anglicans espouse doctrines that are closer to Roman Catholics, and retain veneration for Mary, e.g. official Anglican pilgrimages to Our Lady of Lourdes have taken place since 1963, and pilgrimages to Our Lady of Walsingham have gone on for hundreds of years. Historically, there has been enough common ground between Roman Catholics and Anglicans on Marian issues that in 2005 a joint statement called Mary: grace and hope in Christ was produced through ecumenical meetings of Anglicans and Roman Catholic theologians. This document, informally known as the "Seattle Statement", is not formally endorsed by either the Catholic Church or the Anglican Communion, but is viewed by its authors as the beginning of a joint understanding of Mary. Catholic view Madonna of humility by Domenico di Bartolo , 1433; one of the most innovative Marian images from the early Renaissance . In the Catholic Church , Mary is accorded the title "Blessed," (from Latin beatus, blessed, via Greek μακάριος, makarios and Latin facere, make) in recognition of her ascension to Heaven and her capacity to intercede on behalf of those who pray to her. Catholic teachings make clear that Mary is not considered divine and prayers to her are not answered by her, they are answered by God. The four Catholic dogmas regarding Mary are: Mother of God , Perpetual virginity of Mary , Immaculate Conception (of Mary) and Assumption of Mary. The Blessed Virgin Mary , the mother of Jesus has a more central role in Roman Catholic teachings and beliefs than in any other major Christian group. Not only do Roman Catholics have more theological doctrines and teachings that relate to Mary, but they have more festivals, prayers, devotional, and venerative practices than any other group. The Catholic Catechism states: "The Church's devotion to the Blessed Virgin is intrinsic to Christian worship." For centuries, Roman Catholics have performed acts of consecration and entrustment to Mary at personal, societal and regional levels. These acts may be directed to the Virgin herself, to the Immaculate Heart of Mary and to the Immaculata . In Catholic teachings, consecration to Mary does not diminish or substitute the love of God, but enhances it, for all consecration is ultimately made to God. Following the growth of Marian devotions in the 16th century, Catholic saints wrote books such as Glories of Mary and True Devotion to Mary that emphasized Marian veneration and taught that "the path to Jesus is through Mary". Marian devotions are at times linked to Christocentric devotions, e.g. the Alliance of the Hearts of Jesus and Mary . The chapel based on the claimed House of Mary in Ephesus Key Marian devotions include: Seven Sorrows of Mary , Rosary and scapular , Miraculous Medal and Reparations to Mary . The months of May and October are traditionally "Marian months" for Roman Catholics, e.g. the daily Rosary is encouraged in October and in May Marian devotions take place in many regions. Popes have issued a number of Marian encyclicals and Apostolic Letters to encourage devotions to and the veneration of the Virgin Mary. Catholics place high emphasis on Mary's roles as protector and intercessor and the Catholic Catechism refers to Mary as the "Mother of God to whose protection the faithful fly in all their dangers and needs" Key Marian prayers include: Hail Mary , Alma Redemptoris Mater , Sub Tuum Praesidum , Ave Maris Stella , Regina Coeli , Ave Regina Coelorum and the Magnificat . Mary's participation in the processes of salvation and redemption has also been emphasized in the Catholic tradition, but they are not doctrines. Pope John Paul II 's 1987 encyclical Redemptoris Mater began with the sentence: "The Mother of the Redeemer has a precise place in the plan of salvation." In the 20th century both popes John Paul II and Benedict XVI have emphasized the Marian focus of the Church. Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger (later Pope Benedict XVI) wrote: It is necessary to go back to Mary if we want to return to that "truth about Jesus Christ," "truth about the Church" and "truth about man". when he suggested a redirection of the whole Church towards the program of Pope John Paul II in order to ensure an authentic approach to Christology via a return to the "whole truth about Mary". Orthodox view Our Lady of Vladimir , one of the holiest medieval representations of the Theotokos Orthodox Christianity includes a large number of traditions regarding the Ever Virgin Mary, the Theotokos . The Orthodox believe that she was and remained a virgin before and after Christ's birth. The Theotokia (i.e. hymns to the Theotokos ) are an essential part of the Divine Services in the Eastern Church and their positioning within the liturgical sequence effectively places the Theotokos in the most prominent place after Christ. Within the Orthodox tradition, the order of the saints begins with: The Theotokos, Angels, Prophets, Apostles, Fathers, Martyres, etc. giving the Virgin Mary precedence over the angels. She is also proclaimed as the "Lady of the Angels". The views of the Church Fathers still play an important role in the shaping of Orthodox Marian perspective. However, the Orthodox views on Mary are mostly doxological , rather than academic: they are expressed in hymns, praise, liturgical poetry and the veneration of icons. One of the most loved Orthodox Akathists (i.e. standing hymns ) is devoted to Mary and it is often simply called the Akathist Hymn . Five of the twelve Great Feasts in Orthodoxy are dedicated to Mary.The Sunday of Orthodoxy directly links the Virgin Mary's identity as Mother of God with icon veneration. A number of Orthodox feasts are connected with the miraculous icons of the Theotokos. The Orthodox view Mary as "superior to all created beings", although not divine. The Orthodox venerate Mary as conceived immaculate and assumed into heaven, but they do not accept the Roman Catholic dogmas on these doctrines. The Orthodox celebrate the Dormition of the Theotokos , rather than Assumption. The Protoevangelium of James , an extra-canonical book, has been the source of many Orthodox beliefs on Mary. The account of Mary's life presented includes her consecration as a virgin at the temple at age three. The High Priest Zachariah blessed Mary and informed her that God had magnified her name among many generations. Zachariah placed Mary on the third step of the altar, whereby God gave her grace. While in the temple, Mary was miraculously fed by an angel, until she was twelve years old. At that point an angel told Zachariah to betroth Mary to a widower in Israel, who would be indicated. This story provides the theme of many hymns for the Feast of Presentation of Mary , and icons of the feast depict the story. The Orthodox believe that Mary was instrumental in the growth of Christianity during the life of Jesus, and after his Crucifixion, and Orthodox Theologian Sergei Bulgakov wrote: "The Virgin Mary is the center, invisible, but real, of the Apostolic Church" Theologians from the Orthodox tradition have made prominent contributions to the development of Marian thought and devotion. John Damascene (c 650─c 750) was one of the greatest Orthodox theologians. Among other Marian writings, he proclaimed the essential nature of Mary's heavenly Assumption or Dormition and her mediative role. It was necessary that the body of the one who preserved her virginity intact in giving birth should also be kept incorrupt after death. It was necessary that she, who carried the Creator in her womb when he was a baby, should dwell among the tabernacles of heaven. From her we have harvested the grape of life; from her we have cultivated the seed of immortality. For our sake she became Mediatrix of all blessings; in her God became man, and man became God. More recently, Sergei Bulgakov expressed the Orthodox sentiments towards Mary as follows: Mary is not merely the instrument, but the direct positive condition of the Incarnation, its human aspect. Christ could not have been incarnate by some mechanical process, violating human nature. It was necessary for that nature itself to say for itself, by the mouth of the most pure human being: "Behold the handmaid of the Lord, be it unto me according to Thy word." Protestant view Protestants in general reject the veneration and invocation of the Saints. Protestants typically hold that Mary was the mother of Jesus, but was an ordinary woman devoted to God. Therefore, there is virtually no Marian veneration, Marian feasts, Marian pilgrimages, Marian art, Marian music or Marian spirituality in today's Protestant communities. Within these views, Roman Catholic beliefs and practices are at times rejected, e.g., theologian Karl Barth wrote that "the heresy of the Catholic Church is its Mariology ". Some early Protestants venerated and honored Mary. Martin Luther wrote that: "Mary is full of grace, proclaimed to be entirely without sin. God's grace fills her with everything good and makes her devoid of all evil". However, as of 1532 Luther stopped celebrating the feast of the Assumption of Mary and also discontinued his support of the Immaculate Conception . In the text of the Magnificat (recorded in Luke 1:46-55 ), Mary proclaims "My soul rejoices in God my Savior". The personal need of a savior is seen by Protestants as expressing that Mary never thought herself "sinnless". John Calvin said, "It cannot be denied that God in choosing and destining Mary to be the Mother of his Son, granted her the highest honor. However, Calvin firmly rejected the notion that anyone but Christ can intercede for man. Although Calvin and Huldrych Zwingli honored Mary as the Mother of God in the 16th century, they did so less than Martin Luther. Thus the idea of respect and high honor for Mary was not rejected by the first Protestants; but, they came to criticize the Roman Catholics for venerating Mary. Following the Council of Trent in the 16th century, as Marian veneration became associated with Catholics, Protestant interest in Mary decreased. During the Age of the Enlightenment any residual interest in Mary within Protestant churches almost disappeared, although Anglicans and Lutherans continued to honor her. Protestants acknowledge that Mary is "blessed among women" but they do not agree that Mary is to be venerated. She is considered to be an outstanding example of a life dedicated to God. In the 20th century, Protestants reacted in opposition to the Catholic dogma of the Assumption of Mary . The conservative tone of the Second Vatican Council began to mend the ecumenical differences, and Protestants began to show interest in Marian themes. In 1997 and 1998 ecumenical dialogs between Catholics and Protestants took place, but to date the majority of Protestants pay scant attention to Marian issues and often view them as a challenge to the authority of Scripture . Lutheran view Stained glass of Jesus leaving his mother in a Lutheran Church , South Carolina. Despite Martin Luther 's harsh polemics against his Roman Catholic opponents over issues concerning Mary and the saints, theologians appear to agree that Luther adhered to the Marian decrees of the ecumenical councils and dogmas of the church. He held fast to the belief that Mary was a perpetual virgin and the Theotokos or Mother of God . Special attention is given to the assertion that Luther, some three-hundred years before the dogmatization of the Immaculate Conception by Pope Pius IX in 1854, was a firm adherent of that view. Others maintain that Luther in later years changed his position on the Immaculate Conception, which, at that time was undefined in the Church, maintaining however the sinlessness of Mary throughout her life. For Luther, early in his life, the Assumption of Mary was an understood fact, although he later stated that the Bible did not say anything about it and stopped celebrating its feast. Important to him was the belief that Mary and the saints do live on after death. "Throughout his career as a priest-professor-reformer, Luther preached, taught, and argued about the veneration of Mary with a verbosity that ranged from childlike piety to sophisticated polemics. His views are intimately linked to his Christocentric theology and its consequences for liturgy and piety." Luther, while revering Mary, came to criticize the "Papists" for blurring the line, between high admiration of the grace of God wherever it is seen in a human being, and religious service given to another creature. He considered the Roman Catholic practice of celebrating saints ' days and making intercessory requests addressed especially to Mary and other departed saints to be idolatry . His final thoughts on Marian devotion and veneration are preserved in a sermon preached at Wittenberg only a month before his death: Therefore, when we preach faith, that we should worship nothing but God alone, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, as we say in the Creed: 'I believe in God the Father almighty and in Jesus Christ,' then we are remaining in the temple at Jerusalem. Again,'This is my beloved Son; listen to him.' 'You will find him in a manger'. He alone does it. But reason says the opposite: "What, us? Are we to worship only Christ? Indeed, shouldn’t we also honor the holy mother of Christ? She is the woman who bruised the head of the serpent. Hear us, Mary, for thy Son so honors thee that he can refuse thee nothing. Here Bernard went too far in his Homilies on the Gospel: Missus est Angelus. God has commanded that we should honor the parents; therefore I will call upon Mary. She will intercede for me with the Son, and the Son with the Father, who will listen to the Son. So you have the picture of God as angry and Christ as judge; Mary shows to Christ her breast and Christ shows his wounds to the wrathful Father. That’s the kind of thing this comely bride, the wisdom of reason cooks up: Mary is the mother of Christ, surely Christ will listen to her; Christ is a stern judge, therefore I will call upon St. George and St. Christopher. No, we have been by God’s command baptized in the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit, just as the Jews were circumcised. Certain Lutheran churches such as the Anglo-Lutheran Catholic Church however, continue to venerate Mary and the saints in the same manner that Roman Catholics do, and hold all Marian dogmas as part of their faith. Methodist view The Black Madonna of Częstochowa , Poland. The United Methodist Church , as well as other Methodist churches, have no official writings or teachings on the Virgin Mary except what is mentioned in Scripture and the ecumenical Creeds, mainly that Christ was conceived in her womb through the Holy Spirit and that she gave birth to Christ as a virgin . John Wesley , the founder of the Methodist Movement within the Church of England , which later led to the Methodist Church , believed that the Virgin Mary was a perpetual virgin , meaning she never had sex. Many Methodists reject this concept, but some Methodists believe it. The church does hold that Mary was a virgin before, during, and immediately after the birth of Christ. John Wesley stated in a letter to a Roman Catholic friend that: "The Blessed Virgin Mary, who, as well after as when she brought him forth, continued a pure and unspotted virgin." Article II of the Articles of Religion of the Methodist Church states that: The Son, who is the Word of the Father, the very and eternal God, of one substance with the Father, took man's nature in the womb of the blessed Virgin; so that two whole and perfect natures, that is to say, the Godhead and Manhood, were joined together in one person, never to be divided; whereof is one Christ, very God and very Man, who truly suffered, was crucified, dead, and buried, to reconcile his Father to us, and to be a sacrifice, not only for original guilt, but also for actual sins of men. From this, the Virgin Mary is believed to be the Theotokos , or Mother of God, in the Methodist Church, although the term is usually only used by those of High Church and Evangelical Catholic tradition. Article II of The Confession of Faith from The Book of Discipline states: “We believe in Jesus Christ, truly God and truly man, in whom the divine and human natures are perfectly and inseparably united. He is the eternal Word made flesh, the only begotten Son of the Father, born of the Virgin Mary by the power of the Holy Spirit. As ministering servant he lived, suffered and died on the cross. He was buried, rose from the dead and ascended into heaven to be with the Father, from whence he shall return. He is eternal Savior and Mediator, who intercedes for us, and by him all persons are to be judged.” From this statement, Methodists reject the Catholic ideas of Mary as a Co-Redemptrix and Mediatrix of the Faith. The Methodist Churches disagree with veneration of saints , of Mary, and of relics; believing that reverence and praise are for God alone. However, studying the life of Mary and the biographies of saints is deemed appropriate, as they are seen as heroes and examples of good Christians. The Methodist churches reject the doctrines of the Immaculate Conception and the Assumption of Mary , stating that Christ was the only person to live a sinless life and to ascend body and soul into Heaven. Latter Day Saints In the first edition of the Book of Mormon (1830), Mary was referred to as "the mother of God, after the manner of the flesh," a reading that was changed to "the mother of the Son of God" in all subsequent editions (1837–). Nontrinitarian view Nontrinitarians , such as Unitarians , Christadelphians and Jehovah's Witnesses consider Mary as the mother of Jesus Christ . Because they do not consider Jesus as God, they do not consider Mary as the Mother of God or the Theotokos. Since Nontrinitarian churches are typically also mortalist , the issue of praying to Mary, whom they would consider "asleep," awaiting resurrection, does not arise. Swedenborg says God as he is in himself could not directly approach evil spirits to redeem those spirits without destroying them (Exodus 33:20, John 1:18), so God impregnated Mary, who gave Jesus Christ access to the evil heredity of the human race, which he could approach, redeem and save. Islamic perspective Mary, the mother of Jesus, is mentioned as Maryam, more in the Qur'an than in the entire New Testament . She enjoys a singularly distinguished and honored position among women in the Qur'an . A Sura (chapter) in the Qur'an is titled "Maryam" (Mary), which is the only Sura in the Qur'an named after a woman, in which the story of Mary (Maryam) and Jesus (Isa) is recounted according to the Islamic view of Jesus. Maryam (Mary) with her son Isa (Jesus), Persian miniature. She is mentioned in the Qur'an with the honorific title of "our lady" (syyidatuna) as the daughter of Imran and Hannah. She is the only woman directly named in the Qur'an; declared (uniquely along with Jesus) to be a Sign of God to mankind; as one who "guarded her chastity"; an obedient one; chosen of her mother and dedicated to God whilst still in the womb; uniquely (amongst women) Accepted into service by God;cared for by (one of the prophets as per Islam) Zakariya (Zacharias); that in her childhood she resided in the Temple and uniquely had access to Al-Mihrab (understood to be the Holy of Holies ), and was provided with heavenly 'provisions' by God. Mary is also called a Chosen One a Purified One;] a Truthful one; her child conceived through "a Word from God"; and "exalted above all women of The Worlds/Universes (the material and heavenly worlds)". The Qur'an relates detailed narrative accounts of Maryam (Mary) in two places Sura 3 and Sura 19 These state beliefs in both the Immaculate Conception of Mary and the Virgin birth of Jesus. The account given in Sura 19 of the Qur'an is nearly identical with that in the Gospel according to Luke , and both of these (Luke, Sura 19) begin with an account of the visitation of an angel upon Zakariya (Zecharias) and Good News of the birth of Yahya (John), followed by the account of the annunciation. It mentions how Mary was informed by an angel that she would become the mother of Jesus through the actions of God alone. In the Islamic tradition, Mary and Jesus were the only children who could not be touched by Satan at the moment of their birth, for God imposed a veil between them and Satan. According to author Shabbir Akhtar, the Islamic perspective on Mary's Immaculate Conception is compatible with the Catholic doctrine of the same topic The Qur'an says that Jesus was the result of a virgin birth. The most detailed account of the annunciation and birth of Jesus is provided in Sura 3 and 19 of The Qur'an wherein it is written that God sent an angel to announce that she could shortly expect to bear a son, despite being a virgin. Other views Pagan Rome From the early stages of Christianity, belief in the virginity of Mary and the virgin conception of Jesus, as stated in the gospels, holy and supernatural, was used by detractors, both political and religious, as a topic for discussions, debates and writings, specifically aimed to challenge the divinity of Jesus and thus Christians and Christianity alike. In the 2nd century, as part of the earliest anti-Christian polemics, Celsus suggested that Jesus was the illegitimate son of a Roman soldier named Panthera. The views of Celsus drew responses from Origen , the Church Father in Alexandria, Egypt who considered it a fabricated story. How far Celsus sourced his view from Jewish sources remains a subject of discussion. In Judaism The issue of the parentage of Jesus in the Talmud affects also the view of his mother. However the Talmud does not mention Mary by name and is considerate rather than only polemic. The story about Panthera is also found the Toledot Yeshu , the literary origins of which can not be traced with any certainty and given that it is unlikely to go before the 4th century, it is far too late to include authentic remembrances of Jesus. The Blackwell Companion to Jesus states that the Toledot Yeshu has no historical facts as such, and was perhaps created as a tool for warding off conversions to Christianity. The name Panthera may be a distortion of the term parthenos (virgin) and Raymond E. Brown considers the story of Panthera a fanciful explanation of the birth of Jesus which includes very little historical evidence. Robert Van Voorst states that given that Toledot Yeshu is a medieval document and due to its lack of a fixed form and orientation towards a popular audience, it is "most unlikely" to have reliable historical information. 4th-century Arabia According to the 4th century heresiologist Epiphanius of Salamis the Virgin Mary was worshipped as a Mother goddess in the heretical Christian sect Collyridianism , which was found throughout Arabia sometime during the 300s AD. Collyridianism was made up mostly of women and even had women priests. They were known to make bread offerings to the Virgin Mary, along with other practices. The group was condemned as heretical by the Roman Catholic Church and was preached against by Epiphanius of Salamis , who wrote about the group in his writings titled Panarion . Study of the historical Jesus To date, scholars continue to debate the accounts of the birth of Jesus from several perspectives, including textual analysis, historical records and post-apostolic witnesses. Bart D. Ehrman has suggested that the historical method can never comment on the likelihood of supernatural occurrences (meaning that miracles can never be considered historical facts). The statement in Matthew 1:25 that "Joseph did not know Mary until she has given birth to a son" has been debated among scholars, some suggesting that she did not remain perpetually virgin . Other scholars contend that the Greek word hoes (i.e. until) denotes a state up to a point, but does not mean that the state ended after that point, and that Matthew 1:25 does not confirm or deny the virginity of Mary after the birth of Jesus. Other biblical verses have also been debated, e.g. that the reference in Romans 1:3 of Jesus coming "of the seed of David according to the flesh" may be hypothesized as St. Joseph being the father of Jesus. However, most scholars reject this interpretation in the context of virgin birth given that Paul used the Greek word genomenos (i.e. becoming) rather than the word gennetos and the reference to "seed of David" is likely to Mary's lineage. Jesus of Nazareth (c. 5 BC/BCE – c. 30 AD/CE), also referred to as Jesus Christ or simply Jesus, is the central figure of Christianity. Most Christian denominations venerate him as God the Son incarnated and believe that he rose from the dead after being crucified . The principal sources of information regarding Jesus are the four canonical gospels, and most critical scholars find them, at least the Synoptic Gospels, useful for reconstructing Jesus’ life and teachings. Some scholars believe apocryphal texts such as the Gospel of Thomas and the Gospel according to the Hebrews are also relevant . Most critical historians agree that Jesus was a Jew who was regarded as a teacher and healer , that he was baptized by John the Baptist, and was crucified in Jerusalem on the orders of the Roman Prefect Judaea, Pontius Pilate, on the charge of sedition against the Roman Empire . Critical Biblical scholars and historians have offered competing descriptions of Jesus as a self-described Messiah, as the leader of an apocalyptic movement, as an itinerant sage, as a charismatic healer, and as the founder of an independent religious movement. Most contemporary scholars of the Historical Jesus consider him to have been an independent, charismatic founder of a Jewish restoration movement, anticipating an imminent apocalypse. Other prominent scholars, however, contend that Jesus' "Kingdom of God" meant radical personal and social transformation instead of a future apocalypse. Christians traditionally believe that Jesus was born of a virgin :529–32 performed miracles ,:358–59 founded the Church , rose from the dead , and ascended into heaven,:616–20 from which he will return .:1091–109 Most Christian scholars today present Jesus as the awaited Messiah promised in the Old Testament and as God, arguing that he fulfilled many Messianic prophecies of the Old Testament . The majority of Christians worship Jesus as the incarnation of God the Son, one of three divine persons of a reject Trinitarianism Trinity, wholly or partly, believing it to be non-scriptural. Comnenus , or Manuel I Komnenos (Greek: Μανουήλ Α' Κομνηνός, Manouēl I Komnēnos, November 28 , 1118 – September 24 , 1180) was a Byzantine Emperor of the 12th century who reigned over a crucial turning point in the history of Byzantium and the Mediterranean . Eager to restore his empire to its past glories as the superpower of the Mediterranean world, Manuel pursued an energetic and ambitious foreign policy. In the process he made alliances with the Pope and the resurgent west, invaded Italy , successfully handled the passage of the dangerous Second Crusade through his empire, and established a Byzantine protectorate over the Crusader kingdoms of Outremer . Facing Muslim advances in the Holy Land , he made common cause with the Kingdom of Jerusalem and participated in a combined invasion of Fatimid Egypt . Manuel reshaped the political maps of the Balkans and the east Mediterranean, placing the kingdoms of Hungary and Outremer under Byzantine hegemony and campaigning aggressively against his neighbours both in the west and in the east. However, towards the end of his reign Manuel's achievements in the east were compromised by a serious defeat at Myriokephalon , which in large part resulted from his arrogance in attacking a well-defended Seljuk position. Called ho Megas (Greek: ὁ Μέγας, translated as "the Great") by the Greeks , Manuel is known to have inspired intense loyalty in those who served him. He also appears as the hero of a history written by his secretary, John Kinnamos , in which every virtue is attributed to him. Manuel, who was influenced by his contact with western Crusaders, enjoyed the reputation of "the most blessed emperor of Constantinople " in parts of the Latin world as well. Modern historians, however, have been less enthusiastic about him. Some of them assert that the great power he wielded was not his own personal achievement, but that of the dynasty he represented; they also argue that, since Byzantine imperial power declined so rapidly after Manuel's death, it is only natural to look for the causes of this decline in his reign. Labarum of Constantine I, displaying the "Chi-Rho" symbol above. The labarum was a vexillum (military standard) that displayed the "Chi-Rho" symbol ☧ , formed from the first two Greek letters of the word "Christ" — Chi and Rho . It was first used by the Roman emperor Constantine I . Since the vexillum consisted of a flag suspended from the crossbar of a cross, it was ideally suited to symbolize the crucifixion of Christ . Later usage has sometimes regarded the terms "labarum" and "Chi-Rho" as synonyms. Ancient sources, however, draw an unambiguous distinction between the two. Etymology Beyond its derivation from Latin labarum, the etymology of the word is unclear. Some derive it from Latin /labāre/ 'to totter, to waver' (in the sense of the "waving" of a flag in the breeze) or laureum [vexillum] ("laurel standard"). According to the Real Academia Española , the related lábaro is also derived from Latin labărum but offers no further derivation from within Latin, as does the Oxford English Dictionary. An origin as a loan into Latin from a Celtic language or Basque has also been postulated. There is a traditional Basque symbol called the lauburu ; though the name is only attested from the 19th century onwards the motif occurs in engravings dating as early as the 2nd century AD. Vision of Constantine A coin of Constantine (c.337) showing a depiction of his labarum spearing a serpent. On the evening of October 27, 312, with his army preparing for the Battle of the Milvian Bridge , the emperor Constantine I claimed to have had a vision which led him to believe he was fighting under the protection of the Christian God . Lactantius states that, in the night before the battle, Constantine was commanded in a dream to "delineate the heavenly sign on the shields of his soldiers". He obeyed and marked the shields with a sign "denoting Christ". Lactantius describes that sign as a "staurogram", or a Latin cross with its upper end rounded in a P-like fashion, rather than the better known Chi-Rho sign described by Eusebius of Caesarea . Thus, it had both the form of a cross and the monogram of Christ's name from the formed letters "X" and "P", the first letters of Christ's name in Greek. From Eusebius, two accounts of a battle survive. The first, shorter one in the Ecclesiastical History leaves no doubt that God helped Constantine but doesn't mention any vision. In his later Life of Constantine, Eusebius gives a detailed account of a vision and stresses that he had heard the story from the emperor himself. According to this version, Constantine with his army was marching somewhere (Eusebius doesn't specify the actual location of the event, but it clearly isn't in the camp at Rome) when he looked up to the sun and saw a cross of light above it, and with it the Greek words Ἐν Τούτῳ Νίκα . The traditionally employed Latin translation of the Greek is in hoc signo vinces — literally "In this sign, you will conquer." However, a direct translation from the original Greek text of Eusebius into English gives the phrase "By this, conquer!" At first he was unsure of the meaning of the apparition, but the following night he had a dream in which Christ explained to him that he should use the sign against his enemies. Eusebius then continues to describe the labarum, the military standard used by Constantine in his later wars against Licinius , showing the Chi-Rho sign. Those two accounts can hardly be reconciled with each other, though they have been merged in popular notion into Constantine seeing the Chi-Rho sign on the evening before the battle. Both authors agree that the sign was not readily understandable as denoting Christ, which corresponds with the fact that there is no certain evidence of the use of the letters chi and rho as a Christian sign before Constantine. Its first appearance is on a Constantinian silver coin from c. 317, which proves that Constantine did use the sign at that time, though not very prominently. He made extensive use of the Chi-Rho and the labarum only later in the conflict with Licinius. The vision has been interpreted in a solar context (e.g. as a solar halo phenomenon), which would have been reshaped to fit with the Christian beliefs of the later Constantine. An alternate explanation of the intersecting celestial symbol has been advanced by George Latura, which claims that Plato's visible god in Timaeus is in fact the intersection of the Milky Way and the Zodiacal Light, a rare apparition important to pagan beliefs that Christian bishops reinvented as a Christian symbol. Eusebius' description of the labarum "A Description of the Standard of the Cross, which the Romans now call the Labarum." "Now it was made in the following manner. A long spear, overlaid with gold, formed the figure of the cross by means of a transverse bar laid over it. On the top of the whole was fixed a wreath of gold and precious stones; and within this, the symbol of the Saviour’s name, two letters indicating the name of Christ by means of its initial characters, the letter P being intersected by X in its centre: and these letters the emperor was in the habit of wearing on his helmet at a later period. From the cross-bar of the spear was suspended a cloth, a royal piece, covered with a profuse embroidery of most brilliant precious stones; and which, being also richly interlaced with gold, presented an indescribable degree of beauty to the beholder. This banner was of a square form, and the upright staff, whose lower section was of great length, of the pious emperor and his children on its upper part, beneath the trophy of the cross, and immediately above the embroidered banner." "The emperor constantly made use of this sign of salvation as a safeguard against every adverse and hostile power, and commanded that others similar to it should be carried at the head of all his armies." Iconographic career under Constantine Coin of Vetranio , a soldier is holding two labara. Interestingly they differ from the labarum of Constantine in having the Chi-Rho depicted on the cloth rather than above it, and in having their staves decorated with phalerae as were earlier Roman military unit standards. The emperor Honorius holding a variant of the labarum - the Latin phrase on the cloth means "In the name of Christ [rendered by the Greek letters XPI] be ever victorious." Among a number of standards depicted on the Arch of Constantine , which was erected, largely with fragments from older monuments, just three years after the battle, the labarum does not appear. A grand opportunity for just the kind of political propaganda that the Arch otherwise was expressly built to present was missed. That is if Eusebius' oath-confirmed account of Constantine's sudden, vision-induced, conversion can be trusted. Many historians have argued that in the early years after the battle the emperor had not yet decided to give clear public support to Christianity, whether from a lack of personal faith or because of fear of religious friction. The arch's inscription does say that the Emperor had saved the res publica INSTINCTV DIVINITATIS MENTIS MAGNITVDINE ("by greatness of mind and by instinct [or impulse] of divinity"). As with his predecessors, sun symbolism – interpreted as representing Sol Invictus (the Unconquered Sun) or Helios , Apollo or Mithras – is inscribed on his coinage, but in 325 and thereafter the coinage ceases to be explicitly pagan, and Sol Invictus disappears. In his Historia Ecclesiae Eusebius further reports that, after his victorious entry into Rome, Constantine had a statue of himself erected, "holding the sign of the Savior [the cross] in his right hand." There are no other reports to confirm such a monument. Whether Constantine was the first Christian emperor supporting a peaceful transition to Christianity during his rule, or an undecided pagan believer until middle age, strongly influenced in his political-religious decisions by his Christian mother St. Helena , is still in dispute among historians. As for the labarum itself, there is little evidence for its use before 317.In the course of Constantine's second war against Licinius in 324, the latter developed a superstitious dread of Constantine's standard. During the attack of Constantine's troops at the Battle of Adrianople the guard of the labarum standard were directed to move it to any part of the field where his soldiers seemed to be faltering. The appearance of this talismanic object appeared to embolden Constantine's troops and dismay those of Licinius.At the final battle of the war, the Battle of Chrysopolis , Licinius, though prominently displaying the images of Rome's pagan pantheon on his own battle line, forbade his troops from actively attacking the labarum, or even looking at it directly. Constantine felt that both Licinius and Arius were agents of Satan, and associated them with the serpent described in the Book of Revelation (12:9). Constantine represented Licinius as a snake on his coins. Eusebius stated that in addition to the singular labarum of Constantine, other similar standards (labara) were issued to the Roman army. This is confirmed by the two labara depicted being held by a soldier on a coin of Vetranio (illustrated) dating from 350. Later usage Modern ecclesiastical labara (Southern Germany). The emperor Constantine Monomachos (centre panel of a Byzantine enamelled crown) holding a miniature labarum Frequently Asked Questions How long until my order is shipped? Depending on the volume of sales, it may take up to 5 business days for shipment of your order after the receipt of payment. How will I know when the order was shipped? After your order has shipped, you will be left positive feedback, and that date should be used as a basis of estimating an arrival date. After you shipped the order, how long will the mail take? USPS First Class mail takes about 3-5 business days to arrive in the U.S., international shipping times cannot be estimated as they vary from country to country. I am not responsible for any USPS delivery delays, especially for an international package. What is a certificate of authenticity and what guarantees do you give that the item is authentic? 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