In the book of Revelation, chapter 12, verses 1 to 6, we read a story about a Woman, a Dragon and a man child.

And there appeared a great wonder in heaven; a woman clothed with the sun, and the moon under her feet, and upon her head a crown of twelve stars: And she being with child cried, travailing in birth, and pained to be delivered. And there appeared another wonder in heaven; and behold a great red dragon, having seven heads and ten horns, and seven crowns upon his heads. And his tail drew the third part of the stars of heaven, and did cast them to the earth: and the dragon stood before the woman which was ready to be delivered, for to devour her child as soon as it was born. And she brought forth a man child, who was to rule all nations with a rod of iron: and her child was caught up unto God, and to his throne. And the woman fled into the wilderness, where she hath a place prepared of God, that they should feed her there a thousand two hundred and threescore days.

Revelation 12:1-6

Ok, at the verse 9, we are told that the Dragon is Satan, the Devil, the old Serpent. Therefore, no mistery about this character.

And the great dragon was cast out, that old serpent, called the Devil, and Satan [...]

The question

Once we know that the Dragon is Satan, I would like to know an overview of interpretations held by diferent christian traditions.

A good answer will contain at least one commentary reference per view.

A good answer may contain a list of diferent traditions observing the following pattern:

Tradition or denomination name

  • Woman: meaning
  • Man child: meaning

Explanation and commentaries, if needed.

  • Moderators, is this question too broad? If it would be better to create 4 questions out of this one, please, let me know. Dec 14, 2015 at 23:14
  • 1
    I'm curious now, since this is an important verse in Catholicism. Dec 15, 2015 at 0:49
  • I would suggest breaking it into 4 questions. The experts who answer may not be experts in all 4 areas.
    – Flimzy
    Dec 15, 2015 at 16:52
  • 2
    I think it is OK as is, as long you are fine with brief overviews of each view instead of in depth explanations.
    – ThaddeusB
    Dec 15, 2015 at 16:56
  • 1
    I agree with @TheFreemason; without specifying denominations/traditions this is too broad... I would go back to your original version, asking for four eschatological views, and limit to a particular tradition (perhaps Protestant, Catholic, or even Nicene Christianity). Dec 17, 2015 at 3:31

2 Answers 2


In orthodox traditions the Revelation is seen as a warning to be spiritually and morally ready for the end times, whenever they may come ("as a thief in the night"), but they will come at the time of God's choosing, not something that can be precipitated nor trivially deduced by mortals. This view is also held by many Catholics, although there is a diversity of opinion about the nature of the Apocalypse within Catholicism. Most denominations don't have an official interpretation of Revelation. Exceptions might be the Seventh Day Adventists, Mormons and Jehovah's Wittnesses.


Popular interpretations focus on the identity of the Woman of the Apocalypse. She may be understood as:

The Virgin Mary

The Church

The Nation of Israel

Dispensational Premillennialists, and Amillennialists who believe in multiple valid interpretations will often identify the woman as the nation of Israel.


The earliest Church Fathers understood the woman as the church.

Hippolytus (170-235)

“And there was seen a great sign in heaven. A woman clothed with the sun, and the moon under her feet, and on her head a crown of twelve stars. And being with child, she cried out travailing, and bearing torments that she might bring forth.”] The woman clothed with the sun, and having the moon under her feet, and wearing a crown of twelve stars upon her head, and travailing in her pains, is the ancient Church of fathers, and prophets, and saints, and apostles, which had the groans and torments of its longing until it saw that Christ, the fruit of its people according to the flesh long promised to it, had taken flesh out of the selfsame people. Moreover, being clothed with the sun intimates the hope of resurrection and the glory of the promise. And the moon intimates the fall of the bodies of the saints under the obligation of death, which never can fail. For even as life is diminished, so also it is increased. Nor is the hope of those that sleep extinguished absolutely, as some think, but they have in their darkness a light such as the moon. And the crown of twelve stars signifies the choir of fathers, according to the fleshly birth, of whom Christ was to take flesh.


Victorinus (died 303 or 304)

By the woman then clothed with the sun,” he meant most manifestly the Church, endued with the Father’s word, whose brightness is above the sun. And by the “moon under her feet” he referred to her being adorned, like the moon, with heavenly glory. And the words, “upon her head a crown of twelve stars,” refer to the twelve apostles by whom the Church was founded. And those, “she, being with child, cries, travailing in birth, and pained to be delivered,” mean that the Church will not cease to bear from her heart the Word that is persecuted by the unbelieving in the world. “And she brought forth,” he says, “a man-child, who is to rule all the nations;” by which is meant that the Church, always bringing forth Christ, the perfect man-child of God, who is declared to be God and man, becomes the instructor of all the nations. And the words, “her child was caught up unto God and to His throne,” signify that he who is always born of her is a heavenly king, and not an earthly; even as David also declared of old when he said, “The Lord said unto my Lord, Sit Thou at my right hand, until I make Thine enemies Thy footstool.” (Ps. cx. 1.)


Methodius (died 311) devoted several chapters to an extensive interpretation of Revelation 12.

Six brief points summarize his contribution concerning Revelation:

  1. Woman of Revelation 12 is the Church; the Child Represents the Saints.
  2. 1260 Days Precede New Dispensation.
  3. New Earth Follows Present Earth.
  4. Contends Against Origen on the Resurrection.
  5. Change of World to More Glorious Condition After the Conflagration.
  6. Bodies Received in the Resurrection Never Die.


  • Good job summarizing opinion about the woman, but what about the man child. The OP asked about both.
    – ThaddeusB
    Dec 17, 2015 at 18:26
  • Interpretation as the Virgin Mary, the Woman's seed is a reference to Jesus. Interpretation as the Church, the Woman's seed, then refers to the saints. The Nation of Israel, the Child is Christ. Dec 18, 2015 at 18:42
  • 1
    Can you incorporate this information abou the man child in the question? For future readers. Dec 19, 2015 at 1:44
  • Okay, done....... Dec 19, 2015 at 17:07
  • 1
    Just saw something, ironically, Methodius died in 311. Within years of when the Historicism interpretation would say the prophecy of chapter 12 was fulfilled. Your answer has great material.
    – Joshua
    Dec 20, 2015 at 4:56

The Historicism interpretation holds that the woman is the church. The dragon is Satan's pagan Rome seeking to destroy the church in the 3rd century AD. But the woman/church is divinely rescued. The man-child is Constantine. Constantine was protected until his time came to take control of the empire, stopping the persecution and establishing the political power (the sun and moon under the woman's feet) of the church and ruling with a "rod of iron".

The attempt to flood the woman represents the dragon attempt at deception and false teaching which then arose in the form of heresy such as Arianism.

You can find the commentary I have consulted here, The Final Prophecy of Jesus by Oral E. Collins.

For those possibly unfamiliar with the Historicism understanding, I suggest you check out this useful site: Historicism.com.

Historicism was a major view among Protestants for centuries but has largely been forgotten over the last several decades.

  • I fail to understand how one can get a down vote simply for representing one of the differing traditions that the OP asked for. Do you think I have misrepresented it? Please comment if you have a down vote. By the way, I knew Dr. Collins personally and took several courses taught by him, including apocalyptic prophecy. His commentary is the most recent major historicist interpretation that I know of. Also, for those who think this answer is just some crackpot theory, please research the historical interpretation model. It is a legitimate Protestant understanding.
    – Joshua
    Dec 20, 2015 at 1:37
  • 1
    I didn't DV, but the OP asked for an overview of (multiple) interpretations and you only provided one. That is probably the reason for the DV.
    – ThaddeusB
    Dec 20, 2015 at 15:21
  • @ThaddeusB I see, my mistake. Rereading the OP I see that I initially thought they said a good answer would include at least one tradition with commentary, but I see they just meant at least one commentary per tradition. The implication, which I missed, was that there were more traditions. I really just thought to add my answer as an addition to the already good answer given. But if the OP really wants a complete list of all traditions per answer then I agree with other comments that it is too broad.
    – Joshua
    Dec 20, 2015 at 18:02

You must log in to answer this question.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .