Those looking for a starting place for a thoughtful modern Protestant reclamation of Mary may wish to browse Blessed One: Protestant Perspectives on Mary, a compact set of scholarly essays on the subject edited by Beverley Roberts Gaventa & Cynthia L. Rigby, eds. (Westminster John Knox, 2002). For those wishing to cut straight to the most highly contested points of Marian doctrine, a stimulating read is Mary: A Catholic-Evangelical Debate (Brazos Press, 2003), by an articulate and sometimes passionately opposed pair, Dwight Longenecker & David Gustafson.

Four historical explorations

There is no better place to start an in-depth study of Mary's place in the historic church than Jaroslav Pelikan's magisterial Mary Through the Centuries (Yale University Press, 1996). Every chapter brims with insights—a few of our favorites are "The Second Eve and the Guarantee of Christ's True Humanity," "The Face That Most Resembles Christ's," and "The Model of Faith in the Word of God." Pelikan's interpretation of Mary in the history of faithful art and devotion—East as well as West—brings the subject alive in a way familiar to readers of that author's Jesus Through the Centuries.

What did the Fathers think about Mary? Did they plant the seeds of devotion that would grow up around her? Luigi Gambero has served well those readers seeking an accessible, comprehensive collection of the Father's sayings about Mary, with his Mary and the Fathers of the Church: The Blessed Virgin in Patristic Thought (Ignatius, 1991). Arranged in chronological order, this 400-plus page book begins with the apostolic age of Ignatius of Antioch and ends with John of Damascus (d. ca. 750), providing brief introductions and salient quotes for each figure.

Rachel Fulton's ...

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