It is a curious fact that some seem to have a major problem with the Virgin Mary. It is a problem that goes far beyond theological reason and debate. In some quarters there seems to be a major antipathy, almost hatred, directed at one of the key figures in the story of redemption. In fact a few protestant apologists write of the Mother of the Redeemer almost as if she were the enemy of God. How can this unhealthy state of affairs have come about?
Perhaps it has something to do with the misogynistic tendencies that were evident in many of the Reformers, although most actually maintained Marian doctrines that would surprise their modern-day followers. There is also a great deal of ignorance among modern-day protestants as to the Scriptural and other ancient support for most of the Marian doctrines. It is the fundamentalist move away from Mary that has been the recent aberation. Yet even many Protestant Christians who are not so extreme still believe that Catholic and Orthodox doctrines on the Virgin Mary are unscriptural and are inventions of the Medieval Church, being unknown to the early Christians.
How true is this?
To find out, we must examine the doctrines about the Virgin Mary which Evangelical Protestants claim to be unscriptural
This is quite simply explained. The main puzzle is why any Christian should object to this title. All Christians believe that Jesus is the Son of God, and also IS God, being the 2nd Person of the Trinity, along with the Father and the Holy Spirit. Jesus is also the son of Mary. Now many Protestants are quite prepared to say "Mary, Mother of Jesus," but balk at saying "Mary, Mother of God." Why?
There is probably an element of cultural conditioning here. Giving Mary such a title seems too grand to many protestants. For centuries most protestants have tried to ignore Mary, and have avoided all talk and discussion of her - except perhaps to condemn Catholic "excesses". But this is a serious matter. To call Mary the "Mother of Jesus" and yet refuse to call her "Mother of God" is to diminish Jesus as well as Mary, for it is a denial that Jesus is truly or fully God.
It was this sort of thinking that led to the formal definition of the title Mother of God at the Council of Ephesus in 431AD. Patriarch Nestorius had preached that Mary was not Mother of God, being only the mother of Jesus's physical body, which was then indwelt by God the Word. This was condemned as Heresy, since the Gospels tell us that the Word did not unite with man, but was made man. The Word became flesh and dwelt among us.." (John 1.14). This is a crucial difference. Jesus was not two persons: the Son of God, and the Son of Mary, but one person, the Son of God and Mary. If this were not so, his death could not have saved us.
THE NATURE OF JESUS
1. To be our Saviour, Jesus needed to be both fully God, and fully man, descended from Adam. He could not be a counterfeit, or someone who just looked human..
2. God the Word has existed as spirit from the beginning of time.
3. At the Incarnation, through the action of the Holy Spirit, God the Word took flesh and full humanity from the Virgin Mary. Both His Human Nature and His human body came from Mary, These united with His Divine Nature in Jesus.
4. This produced one person with one consciousness, both fully God and fully man, who is truly both Son of God and Son of Mary.
5. . The Virgin Mary is therefore the Mother of ALL of the PERSON of Jesus Christ, and is therefore truly Mother of God the Son.
Nestorius did not recant, and founded his own church - which is no longer with us. In effect, in saying that Mary was the Mother of Jesus, but not the Mother of God, he was denying the reality of the incarnation. Attempts to downgrade Mary seem always lead to a downgrading of the full divinity of Jesus.
BUT DOESN'T CONCENTRATING ON THE VIRGIN MARY DISTRACT US FROM GOD AND FROM JESUS?
This is a common complaint of Protestants, but one I really fail to understand. Does admiring any part of God's creation distract you from God? When you walk through a forest of tall, ancient trees and you admire their beauty, does it distract you from God? When you look at a sunset or a towering mountain, does that turn you away from God? Of course not. For most people such things draw them closer to God.
Similarly when you admire people like St Francis, Mother Theresa, or other Christians who have given up their lives to serve God. Does that make you turn away from God - or is it more likely to make you think of the greatness of the God who inspired such people? So it is also with Mary.
An evangelical Christian once retorted indignantly to me "Mary isn't my Mother." To which I was forced to respond. "Then what you're really saying is that Jesus is not your Brother." And in truth it is as simple as that. If we as Christians are brothers of Jesus, then, as with Jesus, God is our Father and Mary is our Mother.
The bible also teaches, that all Christians become part of the body of Christ. Again this re-emphasises the fact that as Christians become one with Jesus they share with Him, the Fatherhood of God and also, the motherhood of Mary.
The New Testament has two further passages which confirm Mary's motherhood of Christians:
John 19.25: Near the cross of Jesus, stood his mother, his mother's sister, Mary the wife of Clopas and Mary Magdalene. 26 When Jesus saw his mother there, and the disciple whom he loved standing near by, he said to his mother, "Dear woman, here is your son," 27 and to the disciple, "Here is your mother." From that time on the disciple took her into his home.
This is not just a personal bequest of his Mother to John, but, being from the cross itself, has a greater significance. First of all, if Jesus were merely asking John to take care of Mary, He would have made His first request to John. But if you look at the passage, you will see that His first statement is to Mary. The emphasis is therefore upon Mary being Mother to John, not John "looking after" Mary. John here represents all the disciples of Jesus, and hence all Christians, who are given Mary as their Mother.
Revelation 12.17: Then the dragon was enraged at the woman and went off to make war against the rest of her offspring - those who obey God's commandments and hold to the testimony of Jesus.
This passage shows the Dragon (Satan), making war on the Woman (Mary)'s offspring, following the birth of Jesus. (see Queen of Heaven for more on Revelation 12) These offspring, clearly represent the community of Christians, who are "the rest of" Mary's children.
HERE TOO TYPOLOGY COMES TO OUR AID.
The Old Testament contains many "Types" or precursors of New Testament figures or events. Adam is accepted as a "type" of Jesus, who is sometimes called "the 2nd Adam". Adam, as the first man, sinned, and brought death to all. Jesus, as the second Adam, did not sin, and brought life. So too as Eve brought death to us through disobedience, " Mary as "the Second Eve", brought life through her obedience. So how is the first Eve described?
Gen 2:20: "The man called his wife's name Eve because she was the mother of all living."
And so the Second Eve became the mother of all who live in Christ.
I find it strange that Protestant Evangelicals never seem to wonder where Mary is now, or what her role might be. If they do chance to wonder, they generally keep it to themselves. Raise too many of the wrong topics, and questions may start being asked about whether you really are "one of the group". Therefore it is quite common for Protestant evangelicals who are quite certain that Uncle Fred is in heaven, wearing his kingly crown, or that they themselves are heaven bound, to question Mary's presence there.
So, let's scotch that one straight away. If the Virgin Mary isn't in heaven, then there's very little chance that anyone else will ever get there. Mary is the supreme example, or prototype, of what happens to a person who fully places trust and faith in God. Everything we hope to become in Christ, She already is. . Out of the millions of "decisions" made for Christ, Mary's was the first. Therefore, whatever promises the Holy Scriptures hold for us, Mary already possesses.
BUT WHY DO PEOPLE SAY THAT MARY WAS TAKEN BODILY TO HEAVEN - IT'S NOT WRITTEN IN THE BIBLE?
The problem with showing Mary's Assumption, (or the deaths of Mary or most of the Apostles, for that matter), in the Bible, is that the Gospel record ends before any of these events occurred. The Assumption is, however, implicit in Revelation Chapter 12 (see Queen of Heaven).
Mary's Bodily Assumption is also a long-standing teaching of the Ancient Churches. The celebratory festival in August dates from at least the 400s in Palestine, and had reached Gaul by the 500s. The setting of a Festival Day for a doctrine is evidence not only of a strong and almost universally-held belief in that doctrine, but also of a long-standing belief - since it is rare for Festival to be celebrated for a belief or incident for which there is not some long attestation. As a comparison, the date of December the 25th for the celebration of Christmas was set only in 354 AD by Pope Julius I.
Early references to the Assumption of Mary include Timothy of Jerusalem in around 380 AD, who wrote: "Wherefore the Virgin is immortal up to now, because He who dwelt in her took her to the regions of the Ascension,"
Gregory of Tours in 580 wrote: "Mary, the glorious Mother of Christ, who, we believe, was a virgin before and after childbirth, was, as we have said before, carried to Paradise preceded by the Lord amidst the singing of angelic choirs."
Apocryphal writings detailing the Assumption have been dated back to the 200s. Although other early references are few, the fact that the Celebration of Mary's Assumption into Heaven was not opposed in what was a highly disputatious age, argues strongly for a general acceptance and belief in the doctrine.
BUT ISN'T IT WRONG TO SAY THAT ANYONE BUT JESUS ASCENDED INTO HEAVEN? THAT IS HIS PRIVELEGE ALONE.
This point is quite often made by Protestant apologists. But they are mistaken. The Old Testament tells us that both Enoch and Elijah were assumed (taken) bodily into heaven. So Mary's Assumption, far from being unbiblical, in fact follows a strong Biblical pattern. Furthermore, it appears from the New Testament, (Jude 9), that Moses too may have been assumed into heaven, even though no record of this appears anywhere in the Old Testament. This, incidentally, provides a biblical record of an important teaching that was passed down over an extremely long period purely by Oral Tradition.
ISN'T MARY'S ASSUMPTION A NEW DOCTRINE?
No. As we have already seen, it is a very old belief in the Church. What happened in 1950 was that the Pope "defined" it as a Catholic dogma. This did not make it a new doctrine - it simply reinforced its status.
The fact that the Christian Community has believed from the earliest days that Mary was taken bodily into heaven can also be proved from the fact that no-one ever claimed to have her relics.
From the times of the persecutions, relics of the Saints had an immense value. Christians would often risk their lives to collect the remains of martyrs from the Arena and preserve their relics. In later days, having the body of a holy Saint in your church could make your city wealthy. St Peter's body has the greatest church in the world built on top of it. Thomas a Becket drew enormous pilgrim crowds to Canterbury. St James drew millions to Compostella. Any Church or city that could have claimed to hold Mary's body, or even a single bone from her finger would have at once become one of the richest and most popular places of pilgrimage in the world. In fact about 400 AD the Emperor Marcian asked the Patriarch of Jerusalem to bring the relics of Mary to Constantinople to be enshrined in the capitol. He was informed that there were no relics of Mary.
So valuable were relics that many were accused of fraudulently manufacturing them just to draw pilgrims and create wealth. Yet from the earliest days no-one has claimed to have the body of the Virgin Mary - or even as much as a single small bone. Why not? Because her body was hard to find? Not really. Plenty claimed to own part of the True Cross or even the Crown of Thorns. So why did no-one claim to have Mary's body? There is one reason. Quite simply because no-one would have believed them. From the earliest days of the Church everyone KNEW that Mary's body was not on earth. Every Christian knew that she had been assumed bodily into heaven. If there had been room for any argument about that fact, if there had been room for the slightest doubt, then some church somewhere would have claimed to have had Mary's body.
Another doctrine many Protestants object to is that Mary is the Queen of Heaven. So what Biblical justification is there for this?
Rev 12: 1-5: A great and wondrous sign appeared in heaven; a woman clothed with the sun, with the moon under her feet and a crown of twelve stars on her head. She was pregnant and cried out in pain as she was about to give birth. Then another sign appeared in heaven; an enormous red dragon with seven heads and ten horns and seven crowns on his heads. His tail swept a third of the stars out of the sky and flung them to the earth. The dragon stood in front of the woman who was about to give birth so that he might devour her child the moment it was born. She gave birth to a son, a male child, who will rule all the nations with an iron sceptre. And her child was snatched up to God and to his throne.
Here is a Bible passage that shows Mary crowned in heaven. She wears a heavenly crown of twelve stars. A crown plainly denotes Queenship. How much more clearly could Mary's honour be illustrated?
BUT THERE ARE OTHER INTERPRETATIONS OF THIS PASSAGE. THE WOMAN MAY NOT BE MARY.
I once read this passage to a group of born-again fundamentalists who had not been pre-prepared with an acceptable Protestant "interpretation". Their reaction? A shocked "but that's Mary!" It was quite obvious to all of them.
However Protestant Bible scholars, realising the implications of recognising the figure here to be Mary often simply just deny it. For some reason fundamentalist Protestants looking for a female image in Revelation, prefer the scarlet woman of Revelation 17. Revelation 12 makes them squirm, and they strain to find another interpretation. The main two are:
1. The Woman in this Passage represents the Church. The twelve stars are the twelve Apostles.
2. The Woman represents Israel. The stars are the twelve tribes.
BOTH INTERPRETATIONS SUFFER FROM SEVERAL MAJOR FLAWS.
1st. If the Woman is taken to represent the Church, then we face the immediate paradox of the Church giving birth to Jesus! This is clearly nonsense.
2nd If the Woman is taken as Israel, we have an exalted Israel. Yet Israel was not exalted at the time of Jesus's birth. Most of Israel was astray.
3rd. Neither interpretation is a simple, literal reading of the text. If Protestant scholars have agreed on one thing it is that we must look for the clear, obvious interpretation of a bible text. Who is the woman who gave birth to Jesus? Jesus's Mother. Simple.
4th. Both alternative interpretations are contextually wrong. For all the other figures in this passage represent individuals, not ideas or classes of people. The Child is clearly Jesus, the Dragon is clearly Satan, each star swept out of the sky is one of the rebel angels who followed Satan. Later in the passage, we find Michael and his angels, and also the Beast - the Antichrist. The Woman is the only figure in the passage who, according to some, is not the individual stated in the text, but a collective representation.
5th. Conversely, when Israel, Christians or the Church appear elsewhere in Revelation, they do not appear as personifications. They appear in literal form, as groups of individuals. See Rev 7.4: 144,000 from all the tribes of Israel; Rev 7.9: ..a great multitude that no-one could count...; Rev 12.17: ..the rest of her offspring - those who obey God's commandments.... Even where the Church appears as the Bride of Christ, and a female personification would be expected, we do not get one. Instead of appearing as a woman, the Church appears as a City - the new Jerusalem. Rev 21: 9-10.
6th. If there is any doubt as to what a symbolic personage in Revelation might represent, or if a veiled meaning is intended, that meaning is immediately explained in the text. The Lamb is defined as the Lord of Lords, the Dragon is Satan. The Heads of the Beast are Kings. However no such explanation is given with respect to the Woman, underlining that the obvious meaning is the one that is intended.
7th. If we look at the reference to the Sun, Moon and Stars in this passage, we can compare it with Joseph's dream in Genesis, which so angered his brothers. In the dream the Sun, Moon and Stars represented his father, Isaac, his mother, and his eleven brothers. Together with Joseph, this gives us the total of 12 stars which appear in the Revelation vision. Since Joseph and his brothers were the forebears of Israel, the Sun, Moon and stars can indeed be taken to represent Israel. BUT in Revelation the Sun, Moon and Stars are not the subjects of the Vision. They instead form the adornments of the woman. This indicates that although the Woman is linked with Israel, she is quite clearly NOT Israel.
8th. The Woman of Revelation 12 is introduced as a great sign in Heaven. Where else in the bible can we see a Woman announced as a great sign. Look at Isaiah 7:14 "Therefore the Lord himself will give you a sign. The virgin will be with child and will give birth to a son." We can see that this is exactly the same sign as in Revelation 12, confirming that the Woman in both occurences is Mary.
THE ONE WHO FITS PERFECTLY
It is possible that there are subsidiary meanings to the figure of the Woman - as there are to some other figures in Revelation. But the obvious primary meaning - that the woman giving birth to Jesus is actually Jesus's mother - must be accepted. The only reason that Protestant scholars fight so hard against it, is that it conflicts with their deep-seated anti-Mary bias.
Subsidiary meanings then fit in and harmonise. Mary, although Mother of Jesus is also part of the church and Mother of all Christians (Rev 12:17). Hence the 12 stars representing the twelve apostles. Mary is also true Daughter of Israel and of the royal line of David. The twelve stars therefore also represent the twelve tribes of Israel. Mary thus forms a key transition, and link, between Israel and the Church. Neither of the Protestant interpretations fully links the parenthood of Jesus, the parenthood of Christians, the twelve Apostles and the twelve tribes. Only Mary fulfils all the requirements of this passage.
DOES THE BIBLE ENDORSE THE CONCEPT OF A HEAVENLY CROWN?
2 Tim 4:8 - Now there is in store for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous judge, will award to me that day.....
James 1:12 - Blessed is the man who perseveres under trial, because when he has stood the test he will receive the crown of life.
1 Peter 5:4 - And when the Chief Shepherd appears, you will receive the crown of glory that will never fade away.
Rev. 2:10 ."..Be faithful even unto death and I will give you the crown of life."
A CROWN YES. BUT WHERE DOES MARY'S QUEENSHIP COME FROM?
As we have seen, a crown indicates kingship. Jesus promises crowns of Glory, Life and Righteousness to all who persevere and endure with him to the end. This is certainly the case with Mary. And looking to Timothy, we read:
2 Timothy 2:12 - If we endure, we will also reign with Him...
This is a promise made to all who endure to the end with Christ, as Mary did. They will have a share in Jesus's Kingship.
And Mary's Queenship has still more bases in Scripture. She was the "God-bearer", and as such has a unique relationship with God the Father, Son and Holy Spirit. As the first to say "Yes" to God's plan, she is also the First Christian. She is also Mother of the Church. for as Brethren of Jesus, Christians are Children of Mary.
OLD TESTAMENT QUEENSHIP - MARY PREFIGURED
When we look into the Old Testament, we find even more support for the Queenship of Mary. Jesus is the Messianic King. This Messianic Kingship is pre-figured in the ancient and Godly Kingship of David and Solomon. At the time of the historic Israel, next to the throne of the King was a second throne. Many would assume that the second throne belonged to the wife of the King, but in Israel it belonged to the mother of the king. In Aramaic the word "Gebirah" means Queen Mother. Gebirah was the official title of the Queen Mother, and was a position of authority and honour. Her roles were advisor to the king, and advocate of the people; anyone who had a petition or sought an audience with the King did so through her. This was so when Adonijah cunningly sought a high-ranking bride from Solomon:
1 Kings 2: 17-21: So he continued, "Please ask King Solomon - he will not refuse you - to give me Abishag the Shunammite as my wife. "Very well," Bathsheba replied, "I will speak to the king for you." When Bathsheba went to King Solomon to speak to him for Adonijah, the king stood up to meet her, bowed down to her and sat down on his throne. He had a throne brought for the king's mother, and she sat down at his right hand.
The special status of the Queen Mother remained throughout the time that the Kingdoms of Israel and Judah endured:
Jeremiah 13:18: Say to the king and to the queen mother, "Come down from your thrones for your glorious crowns will fall from your heads." The cities of the Negev will be shut up and there will be no-one to open them. All Judah will be carried into exile, carried completely away.
The Gebirah was a trusted advisor to the King:
Proverbs 31.1: The sayings of King Lemuel - an oracle his mother taught him: " Verses 2 to 9 continue with specific advice on being a good ruler.
See also 1 Kings 15.13 and 2 Kings 10:13; 12:1; 14:2; 15.33; 22.1
In Scriptural terms therefore, just as Jesus's Messianic Kingship is prefigured in the role of King of Israel, so Mary's role is prefigured in that of the Gebirah. The existence of this rare and unusual institution in Israel and Judah is providential. It reflects and prefigures the Messianic order. Mary is Heavenly Queen Mother, because her son Jesus is the Heavenly King.
BUT SURELY "QUEEN OF HEAVEN" WAS A PAGAN TITLE, USED OF ISIS AND ISHTAR. IT'S USE MUST BE UNCHRISTIAN.
This is a thoroughly bogus argument. There are a great many Pagan titles, and most make use of common forms of words. "King of Kings" was a title used by many Pagan Gods. So was "Son of God" and "Lord". Jupiter was titled King of Heaven.
Many anti-Christian theorists argue that Jesus took the style and powers of Helios, the pagan Sun God. Others suggest that Dionysus, who was born of a virgin, raised from the dead, and gave his followers bread and wine, was transformed into the biblical jesus by Early Christians. You will not have to look far in a major bookshop or library to find arguments of this sort. Countless books are in existence that equate Jesus with any number of pagan deities from Krisna and Buddha to Shamanistic spirits. The number grows almost daily. Protestants would instantly condemn these books and the arguments they contain as thoroughly dishonest, and as crude attempts to tarnish Jesus by false association. It is unfortunate that some then go on to use these self-same dishonest tactics to try to malign Mary.
There is, however, as we have seen, an abundance of biblical proof that Mary's Queenship is both proper, and scripturally based
Quite simply this doctrine states that the Virgin Mary was preserved free of Original Sin from the moment of her conception, and so was made sinless.
WHAT IS THE POINT OF THIS DOCTRINE?
It has to do with the Holiness of God. God cannot tolerate Sin. Mary as the God-bearer in Jesus had to be sinless in order to be in such close proximity to God Himself. The whole Bible teaches that God's presence demands and imparts holiness. (Ex 3:5; Deut 23:14; 1 Cor 3:17; 1 Jn 3:5-6; Rev 21:27). The Jewish high priest entered the Holy of Holies only once a year, under threat of death if God's instructions were violated (Lev 16:2-4,13). The Ark itself was so holy that only a few were allowed to touch it (Num 4:15; 2 Sam 6:2-7). Thus, Mary, due to her physical and spiritual relationship with God, necessarily had to be granted the grace of sinlessness.
In other words, since Jesus took flesh in and from Mary's body, and also obtained His Human Nature from Her, she had to be perfectly sinless. The only question that then arises is when and how Mary was made sinless.
Protestants are quite willing to admit that we are cleansed of our sins at baptism. Yet Mary could not have been baptised at the time of the Annunciation, or even Jesus's birth. For this reason her sinlessness had to come in a special and unique manner. To be pure and free from all sin as God required, she had not only to be free of sin at one point in time, (as one is immediately after baptism,) but to remain sinless throughout her life.
JUST A MINUTE. DIDN'T MARY HERSELF ADMIT THAT SHE NEEDED A SAVIOUR? HOW COULD SHE BE SINLESS?
Mary did indeed agree she needed a Saviour:
Luke 1.46: And Mary said "My soul glorifies the Lord 47 and my spirit rejoices in God my Saviour,"
But this presents no difficulty. We have seen that Mary needed to be perfectly sinless in order to bear Jesus. Did she attain that sinlessness through her own human efforts? No. She was redeemed by her son - as was all the rest of humanity. She needed God's Grace. And in order to be, and remain, sinless she needed that grace before her own birth.
We can see that in Luke 1.46 Mary speaks of God as her Saviour, but she speaks in the present tense. She does not say "God, who will be my Saviour." She has already been redeemed.
If we look at one of the Old Testament passages that Mary bases her words upon, we see this more clearly.
Isaiah 51.10 I will greatly rejoice in the Lord, my soul shall exult in my God; for he has clothed me with the garments of salvation, he has covered me with the robe of righteousness, as a bridegroom decks himself with a garland, and as a bride adorns herself with her jewels.
As virtually every educated 1st Century Jew would have recognised, in echoing this passage, Mary clearly considered that God had already clothed her with the garments of salvation, and covered her with the robe of righteousness. Her sin had already been wiped away.
This is supported by the angel's greeting to Mary:
Luke 1.28: The angel went to her and said, "Hail, you who are full of grace (Literally: you who have been and remain filled with Grace). The Lord is with you."
Grace in the New Testament is seen as the antidote to sin. (Rom 3:24, 5:15-17, 6:14 11:6) So being filled with Grace strongly implies sinlessness. And since Mary required the grace of redemption before her own birth, it is quite fitting that this happened at her conception. Is this a problem for God? No. Jesus is the perfect Redeemer. Therefore he must have redeemed one person perfectly. That person is Mary, having been redeemed by Jesus from Original Sin from the moment of her own conception.
BUT I'VE BEEN TOLD THAT "FULL OF GRACE" IS A MISTRANSLATION. MY BIBLE SAYS "HIGHLY-FAVOURED".
I'm afraid that those who translate the angel's greeting as "highly-favoured" have been guilty, for whatever motive, of making a false and rather misleading distinction. The Greek word used by the angel is Kecharitomene. The root of this word is Charis, meaning Grace. The prefix Ke means that the grace was already perfectly present before the angel appeared. The suffix mene means that Mary was the recipient of this grace.
Now Charis can also be translated simply as favour. So Highly-favoured could be a conceivable translation - but this would only be acceptable if the word "favour" were used as a translation for "Charis" everywhere else in the New Testament. But THIS DOES NOT HAPPEN. Even those bibles which translate "Charis" as Favour" when referring to Mary, translate it as "Grace" everywhere else. This is highly misleading because in the New Testament the word "Grace" has a particular meaning distinct from "Favour". In the New Testament "Grace" is a gift of God that saves from sin and its effects. So translating the word any differently is wrong. The correct translation is rightfully "Full of Grace".
BACK TO TYPE
To back this up, let's look again at Adam and Eve as "types" of Jesus and Mary. Paul wrote of "..Adam, who was a pattern of the one to come." (Rom 5.14.) The Church fathers spoke of: "Death through Eve, Life through Mary."
In A.D.155, Justin
We know that the First Adam and the First Eve both started their lives in an immaculate state, there being no Original Sin before the Fall. We also know that the Second Adam started his life in an immaculate state -- Christ had no Original Sin or its stain -- and so we should expect the Second Eve to also start her life in an immaculate state. If the First Adam and the First Eve were immaculate, and if the Second Adam was also immaculate, then the Second Eve will be immaculate as well.
ONE OTHER OBJECTION
It is difficult to see why some Protestants object to the Immaculate Conception. Martin Luther himself accepted it (see below.) But the following verse is sometimes raised in an attempt to disprove the doctrine.
Rom 3:23: "for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God..."
The problem with
this is that the word 'ALL' here is the Greek word, 'PAS',
which can have different meanings to the absolute that we immediately
think of - as shown in other verses of Holy Scripture.
Luke 2:1 "And
an order went out from caesar Augustus that ALL the world should be counted."
A final quotation
on this subject:
Much of the devotion to Mary shown by Christians of the Catholic and other Ancient Churches depends upon Mary's mediation. This mediation is seen in terms of Mary's assistance in prayer and in obtaining grace.
Many Protestants oppose prayer to Mary and the Saints, citing this verse:
"For there is one God and one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus; " (I Timothy 2:5).
SO IF JESUS IS THE ONE MEDIATOR, WHY PRAY TO MARY?
As in other cases, Protestant fundamentalists often tend to quote just one verse completely out of context. So let's look at the whole passage.
urge then, first of all, that requests, prayers, intercession and thanksgiving
be made for everyone - for kings, for all those in authority, that we
may lead a quiet and peaceful life in all godliness and holiness. This
is good and pleases God our Saviour, who wants all men to be saved and
come to the knowledge of the truth. For there is one God and one mediator
between God and men, the man, Christ Jesus."
From this full text of the passage we can see three important things:
1. Paul is asking fellow Christians to pray and intercede with God for those in authority and for other third parties.
2. These prayers and intercessions are being made on behalf of other people, and to God. This is a mediation of prayer. Christians are being asked to mediate between all people, Christian and non-Christian, and God.
3. Since this is all one passage, it is absolutely clear that when Paul refers to there being only one mediator between God and men, he is not referring to the mediation of prayer. Jesus's unique mediation is a different mediation - the mediation of our salvation.
Jesus is the one Mediator of our salvation, our only Saviour. But He is not our only intercessor, as the whole passage above clearly indicates. So the one passage that fundamentalists have used to deny intercessionary prayer, when read in context, actually backs up intercessionary prayer.
YES. BUT WHY SHOULD I ASK MARY OR ANYONE ELSE TO PRAY TO GOD FOR ME WHEN I CAN PRAY TO HIM MYSELF?
When we are ill,
or someone we care for needs prayer, we ask other people to pray to God
for us. Why do we do this if our own prayer is enough?
James 5: 16-18 " ...The fervent prayer of a righteous person is very powerful. Elijah was a human being like us; yet he prayed earnestly that it might not rain, and for three years and six months it did not rain upon the land. Then he prayed again, and the sky gave rain and the earth produced its fruit."
So we see that intercession strengthens prayer. And the more righteous and faithful the intercessor is, the more powerful the prayer.
BUT THAT IS PRAYER ON EARTH. I'VE BEEN TOLD THAT PEOPLE IN HEAVEN CAN NEITHER SEE US OR PRAY FOR US.
That is a recent, man-made doctrine, with no authority behind it.
Hebrews 12.1 speaks
great cloud of witnesses"
who surround us, and who consist of the faithful holy ones of God. Many
examples of these witnesses are given in the preceding Chapter 11 of Hebrews.
Revelation 4.4: Surrounding
the throne were twenty four other thrones, and seated on them were twenty
four elders. They were dressed in white and had crowns of gold on their
The twenty-four elders are shown offering the prayers of Christians to God; which is a mediatory role.
WHY MARY IN PARTICULAR?
The basic creed of Christianity, the Nicene Creed, accepted by all Trinitarian Christian Churches, refers to the Communion of Saints. All Christians in heaven and on earth are together (i.e. in communion) through Christ. As we have seen, those in heaven can witness what goes on on earth and offer prayers to God. This intercession is powerful, because those in heaven are truly "righteous".
Of all creatures in heaven, Mary is closest to God, being the God-bearer. As a fellow Christian, and indeed the first Christian, she has access to the throne of grace through Jesus. As the Mother of all Christians, she cares and intercedes for her children. As the Heavenly Queen Mother (see above) it is her office to make requests of the King of Kings. Therefore Mary's intercessionary prayer is the most powerful and effective.
Seeking Mary's intercession probably dates back to the earliest Christians. One of the oldest Christian prayers recorded in writing, the Sub Tuum, from the 200s AD, is a prayer to Mary:
BUT I DON'T NEED MARY WHEN I CAN GO DIRECTLY TO GOD.
Why not say "I don't need the rest of my family as long as I have my father"? The Church is a single body; the different members interelate and rely on one another: "The eye cannot say unto the hand, "I don't need you!" And the head cannot say to the feet, "I don't need you!" (I Co 12:21).
WHY DO WE NEED MARY?
Mary has a vital
part in the entire work of redemption. The Lord does not want to
save us without our participation. He seeks our voluntary acceptance of
stands at the door, knocks and waits.
The extent of Mary's act of faith is often overlooked. She was a single virgin, betrothed to Joseph, and giving birth to a fatherless child would place her in dire peril of disgrace, abandonment and possibly much worse, in a society that customarily stoned adulterers to death. Nor did she know what Joseph's or her family's personal reaction would be. Yet she did not hesitate to accept God's commission. Her trust in God made her the first Christian believer and the first among the redeemed. As the Mother of God, the girl from Galilee became the highest created being. When she said "yes" to God her answer was on behalf of the whole human race. Just as Eve's disobedience was on behalf of the whole human race. In this way, the Virgin Mary's significance in the work of our salvation is of the first order.
St. Irenaeus Against Heresies (circa 189 A.D.) :
In reference to the
Blessed Virgin, St. Ephraem (373) said: "With
the Mediator, you are the Mediatrix of the entire world"
Antipater of Bostra, a Father of the Council of Ephesus (AD 431), wrote:
you who acceptably intercede as a Mediatrix for mankind."
Having been given to all Christians by Jesus as their heavenly Mother, Mary is always there for the help of her children.
The traditional belief of all the Ancient churches is that the Virgin Mary remained a virgin all her life.
"For neither did Mary, who is to be honoured and praised above all others, marry anyone, nor did she ever become the Mother of anyone else, but even after childbirth she remained always and forever and immaculate virgin." (Didimus the Blind, The Trinity. 381 AD)
Many Protestants choose to argue with this, quoting the following text:
Matt 1.24-25: And being aroused from sleep, Joseph did as the angel of the Lord had commanded him and took Mary home as his wife, and did not know her until she bore her son, the Firstborn. And he called his name Jesus.
There are two
points here. 1. The word "until", sometimes
taken to imply that Joseph "knew" Mary after the birth of
Jesus; and 2. "Firstborn", sometimes taken
to imply other children.
Matt 28.20: "..and surely I am with you always, until the end of the age."
John 21.22: Jesus answered. "If I want him to remain alive until I return, what is that to you?"
2 Sam 6.23: "no son was born to Michol, the daughter of Saul until her dying day."
In all these examples, the word "until" does not mean that Jesus will cease to be with us after the end of the age, that John was intended to die should he still be alive when Jesus returned, or that Michol had a son after death. The word "until" shows that the writer is concerned primarily to inform us what happens before a specific event - not after.
For the rest, let us allow a very unexpected defender of Marian doctrine to answer the points:
have been certain folk who have wished to suggest from this passage
[Matt 1:25] that the Virgin Mary had other children than the Son of
God, and that Joseph had then dwelt with her later; but what folly
this is! For the gospel writer did not wish to record what happened
afterwards; he simply wished to make clear Joseph's obedience and
to show also that Joseph had been well and truly assured that it was
God who had sent His angel to Mary. He had therefore never dwelt
with her nor had he shared her company... And besides this, Our Lord
Jesus Christ is called the first born. This is not because there was
a second or a third, but because the gospel writer is paying regard
to precedence. Scripture speaks thus of naming the first-born whether
or not there was any question of the second."
BUT WHAT ABOUT JESUS' BROTHERS MENTIONED IN THE BIBLE?
There are several gospel references to Jesus having "brothers and sisters". This is the most specific:
Matthew 13:55. "Isn't this the carpenter's son? Isn't his mother's name Mary, and aren't his brothers, James, Joses, Simon and Judas? 56 Aren't all his sisters with us?"
One traditional response is that these may have been children of Joseph from an earlier marriage. Joseph is traditionally held to be much older than Mary.
Another important factor here is that the language used in the Palestine of Jesus's time was Aramaic. In the Aramaic language used at that time, there was no word in existence to denote cousin. The Jews therefore had to use the word brother where they meant to describe any close male relative. This is so even today in many languages and cultures, particularly where there is an extended family system. The loose term "brother" or "sister" is used to cover the children of ones uncles and aunts as well as those of ones own parents.
WHAT PROOF IS THERE OF THIS?
Gen 14:14 "And when Abram heard that his Brother was taken captive, he armed his trained servants, born in his own house, three hundred and eighteen, and pursued them unto Dan."
The "brother" referred to here is Lot. Lot was the son of Aran, Abram's own dead brother (Gen 11:26-28). He was therefore Abram's Nephew, even though the text refers to him as a "brother".
BUT THE NEW TESTAMENT WAS WRITTEN IN GREEK, WHICH DOES HAVE A WORD FOR COUSIN.
This is a bit of a red-herring for two reasons. Firstly, there is evidence from the Early Church Fathers that the Book of Matthew, at least, was originally written in Aramaic, and so was translated into Greek. Secondly, we know that the people of Palestine in Jesus's time spoke in Aramaic, and it is therefore in Aramaic in which the oral stories which were later written down to form the Gospels, were transmitted. So it is likely that the Aramaic word "brother", meaning not only sibling, but any kinsman, was translated into the Greek word "brother", which has the tighter meaning of sibling only. This is clearly what has happened in Genesis 14.14 above.
SO WHO WERE THESE "BROTHERS OF JESUS?"
While James and Joses are mentioned as Jesus's brothers
in Matthew 13:55, it is made clear in Mathew 27:56 and Mark 15:40
that their mother was another Mary.
This "other Mary" at the Cross, is revealed in John 19:25 to be the wife of Cleophas. Mary of Cleophas is therefore revealed as the mother of two of Jesus's so-called "brothers", James and Joses.
B. In John 19:25, the original Greek states. "But by he cross of Jesus were the Mother of Him AND the sister of the Mother of Him, Mary the wife of Cleopas AND Mary the Magdalene." The precise positioning of the ANDs makes it clear that Mary the Wife of Cleopas, is also referred to as the Virgin Mary's sister. Since we know no-one has two daughters and calls them BOTH Mary, we know that sister here does not mean sister. The same would apply to "brother" with reference to Jesus.
C. In the introduction to the Book of Jude, Jude introduces himself as: Jude, a servant of Jesus Christ, and a brother of James. If Jude/Judas were truly the brother of Jesus, why wouldn't he say so? He identifies himself in his letter as brother of James, but significantly as servant of Jesus. To have identified himself as Jesus's blood brother would have added enormous weight to his epistle, but he doesn't so identify himself here. We know the reason, because James and Joseph have already been revealed to be sons of the other Mary in Matthew 27 and Mark 15. Judas then must also be a son of this other Mary. Mary wife of Cleophas. So another of Jesus's so-called "brothers" is eliminated.
D. James "Brother of Jesus" is referred to as one of the APOSTLES by Paul in Galatians 1:19. . We know that neither of the Apostles named James was actually a Son of Mary. So James, "brother of Jesus" cannot be a Son of Mary. He is actually James, Son of Alphaeus (thought to be another form of Cleophas)! James is a kinsman of Jesus, but not a sibling.