Friday, July 20, 2012

Roman Catholicism versus the Biblical View of Mary, the mother of Jesus

Luke 1:47 And my spirit has rejoiced in God my Savior.

Since Roman Catholicism places such an emphasis on the role of Mary in its theology, we want to consider what the Bible teaches about Mary, the mother of Jesus.

What the Bible presents to us about Mary
Mary is the mother of Jesus with regards to his humanity.  Anyone who is either Roman Catholic or a reader of its history, theology and practice, may be surprised to note that Mary is only mentioned in five places in the Bible.  Furthermore, of the 27 books of the New Testament, Mary only appears in the first five.  Below is a summary of those biblical references:

1. Mary and the Infancy narratives of Matt 1:18-25 and Luke 1-2. 
In Matthew's account, even though Christ is described as being conceived in her virgin womb as a fulfillment of Isaiah 7:14; yet we read nothing of Mary herself have been conceived without sin (what Catholics call "the immaculate conception). 

Luke's account gives us statements that point to the inportance of Mary, but certainly not to the degree that Roman Catholicism ascribes her.1  Even in Luke 1:42-43, where we see Elizabeth refer to Mary as "mother of my Lord", that term is in reference to her as the carrier of the Messiah, God made in human flesh. 

Furthermore, in Luke 1:47 Mary's response to Elizabeth's song records these words: "And my spirit hath rejoice in God my Saviour".  Mary is acknowledging Christ as her Savior, clearly indicating that she was in need of the Savior as much as anyone else - negating the notion that she was sinless.    

2. Mary at Jesus' First Miracle - John 2:1-11 
In Jesus' first miracle or "sign", Mary has accompanied Jesus to the wedding  of Cana.  In this scene, Mary's role is secondary, and Christ's primary.  Within the episode Jesus gives Mary a respectful but firm admonition to not interfere, since "his time had not yet come". (John 2:4)  If Mary was the "co-mediatrix" as claimed by the Roman Catholic Church, surely her appeal to help out at the wedding would had moved Christ to instant action.  Yet it was not Mary's suggestion that moved Jesus to aid in the need for wine. (John 2:3-4)  Jesus Himself chose to help in obedience to the timing and leading of His heavenly Father. 

3. Mary and the family of Jesus - Matthew 12:46; Mark 3:21,31
Throughout the course of Jesus' life and minstry, Mary would play an diminishing role.  Unlike the Roman Catholic Church, who has given Mary an increasingly exalted title and position, the scriptures tend to go in the opposite direction.  In this third mention of Mary,  Jesus' earthly family is numbered among the rest of Jesus' disciples.  As He goes further into his mission, you begin to see Mary's influence decrease even more.

4. Mary at the cross - John 19:25 
If there was any chance for Mary to function as a sharer in the redemption of humanity, as so claimed by the Catechism of the Catholic Church, surely this episode in the Gospels would be it.  Jesus on the cross assigns the care of His mother in the flesh to the Apostle John.  Certainly despite her decreasing role throughout the Gospel accounts, Jesus still gives her the respect and dignity befitting her.  However, there is no exalted status or assigning of near-divine devotion like we see in Roman Catholic teaching.Jesus went to the cross all alone and bore the wrath of God alone. 

5. Mary on the day of Pentecost - Acts 1:14
In this final appearance of Mary, the mother of Jesus, we see her numbered among the 120 gathered in the upper room following Jesus' ascension.  In this text she is viewed no higher than the others, aside from the honorable mention out of respect.  After this verse, Mary's role in the early church is never mentioned again.  Unlike the Roman Catholic System, we see no evidence whatsoever of the Apostles nor the early church leaders of the first two centuries advocating devotion to Mary.3  It wasn't until the second to third century that we begin to see feasts dedicated to her. 

Having now surveyed the biblical record on Mary, the mother of Jesus, we can draw some definite conclusions:

A. First, Mary was never an exalted figure, but was shown respect due to her carrying the humanity of the Lord. 

B. Second, despite her special role, Mary's influence diminishes with every appearance in the Biblical record. 

C. Third, Mary passes off the Biblical record in quiet obscurity. 

D. Fourthly, the Apostles and early church leaders never sanctioned feasts, celebrations or devotion to Mary.  Thus when compared to Roman Catholicism, the Bible once again paints a different picture from the teaching and theology espoused by the Roman Catholic System. 
End Notes_________________________
1. The early church had called Mary by the more biblical title "Christ-bearer".  However the title "God-bearer" was officially sanctioned by the Council of Ephesus in 431 A.D.  Although meant to preserve the humanity and Deity of Christ, the title came to be used very shortly as a springboard into the growing formation of the Marian Cult.  By the days of this council, much of the Catholic system was celebrating feasts of Mary.

2. In the Catechism of the Catholic Church, paragraph #971, we read the following sample of the over-the-top devotion associated with Mary:
"All generations will call me blessed": "The Church's devotion to the Blessed Virgin is intrinsic to Christian worship." The Church rightly honors "the Blessed Virgin with special devotion. From the most ancient times the Blessed Virgin has been honored with the title of 'Mother of God,' to whose protection the faithful fly in all their dangers and needs.... This very special devotion ... differs essentially from the adoration which is given to the incarnate Word and equally to the Father and the Holy Spirit, and greatly fosters this adoration." The liturgical feasts dedicated to the Mother of God and Marian prayer, such as the rosary, an "epitome of the whole Gospel," express this devotion to the Virgin Mary.

3. Three modern day examples will suffice to show the over-the-top view of Mary's role in contrast to the Apostles treatment of her.  First, the Roman Catholic Church convened a council called "Vatican I" 1869-1870, wherein they asserted the doctrine of Mary's immaculate conception (her sinlessness from conception).  In that council the Catholic church also asserted that when the Pope sat on his throne in the Vatican, and made authoritative statements (along with the College of Cardinals - the Majesterium), he was termed to be speaking forth infallible truth.  Thus in 1950, the Pope issued a declaration of Mary's bodily Assumption in Heaven (in simlitude to ther ascension of Jesus).  In the Vatican II council of 1967, as well as the current Catechism of the Catholic Church, we see no alteration to the affirmation of these two doctrines held by Roman Catholicism.  Both doctrines of course are alien to scripture, and were never championed by the apostles. 

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