Christians, Muslims, and Mary

A History

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Rita George-Tvrtkovic
  • Mahwah, NJ: 
    Paulist Press
    , May
     272 pages.
     For other formats: Link to Publisher's Website.


Recent work in Muslim-Christian relations has, understandably, been preoccupied with a certain sense of urgency and so too have some forms of contemporary comparative theological reflection. Christians, Muslims, and Mary, by Rita George-Tvrtković, offers a well thought out and well-paced account of a mode of reflection that attempts to sketch out the liminal position of Mary within both traditions. Also, crucially, it details the way that this concept has functioned throughout the shared history of the two traditions as both a bridge and a barrier to interreligious communication.

This approach offers something new to previous work on the relationship of Mary to the Islamic tradition. George-Tvrtković structures this broad view through eight chapters. Chapter 1 briefly examines the scriptural basis of the sharing of Mary as a figure of popular religious appreciation. Chapter 2 begins the historical narrative and examines the early eastern Christian view of Mary as both bridge and barrier to the Islamic tradition. The next three chapters explore the way that the figure of Mary functioned within each tradition during the medieval period. This historical narrative is then brought up to date with chapters on the missionary use of Mary and current Catholic conceptualizations of the role that Mary could play in interfaith dialogue with Islam.

George-Tvrtković concludes with two chapters that merit particular attention. The first, “Model of Dialogue? Contemporary Challenges,” is an analytical reframing of the author’s initial questions, and helps to illuminate his conclusions in a more critical and challenging light. George-Tvrtković does this by questioning the viability of the figure of Mary as a point of connection for dialogue, identifying intra-Christian issues such as Mary’s decline in relevance within contemporary Christian belief, feminist difficulties with her role, and differing ecumenical positions on her relevance as potential points of difficulty.

This chapter leads neatly onto the epilogue, which elucidates the consistently visible distinction made in the work between Mary as a topicof dialogue and Mary as a model of dialogue. While George-Tvrtković is somewhat more enthusiastic about the potential of Mary as a topic for dialogue than as a model for dialogue, he offers a series of possible proposals that would allow for a centering of Mary within inter- and intra- faith discussions. This dual aspect is a useful way of exploring the difficulties expressed regarding variations in Marian beliefs and customs within particular traditions as well as between differing ones.

George-Tvrtković’s work offers a highly interesting and original approach to a complex and historically vast area of study. The author presents this complex area clearly, holding tightly to the original aims outlined at the outset of his project. This strengthens the analysis given, but can sometimes leave potential further areas unexamined. The book necessarily leaves the question of Mary’s place as a bridge and/or barrier to interfaith understanding unanswered, yet it presents this as an intriguing and still-developing potentiality.

About the Reviewer(s): 

Angus Slater is Lecturer in Theology & Religious Studies at Trinity St. David's at the University of Wales.

Date of Review: 
August 16, 2018
About the Author(s)/Editor(s)/Translator(s): 

Rita George-Tvrtkovic is Professor of Theology at Benedictine University.



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