Mary in the Church and in the Bible
MANY, even in Catholic circles, have criticized the increase in the number of titles being attributed to Mary, and some fear that the present pope, after his recent encyclical letter, will define a new dogma on “Mary, mediatrix of all graces.” Many Catholic scholars acknowledge that over the centuries, as the cult of Mary grew, her titles correspondingly increased. (See center column.)
However, in the book La Vergine Maria (The Virgin Mary), French theologian René Laurentin, considered to be the foremost expert on Mariology, affirms that during the whole of the second century C.E., Mary is virtually never mentioned and that in the ancient world, before the third century, there is no trace of festivities or prayers in her honor. Further, the various Catholic doctrines concerning her appeared rather late in history and have no Biblical foundation.
The Church teaches that Mary is the Theotokos (“God-bearer,” or “Mother of God”), a title given her only after the fourth century. It does not appear in the Bible.
The Church claims she was always virgin. While the Bible itself specifically states that Mary was “a virgin” before giving birth to Jesus, “virginity after childbirth is not indicated in the New Testament,” writes Catholic theologian Laurentin. The Bible clearly indicates she had children by Joseph.—Luke 1:27; Matthew 13:53-56, The Jerusalem Bible.
As for the dogma of the Immaculate Conception, Laurentin points out that in ancient times there were “numerous [Church] Fathers who had no difficulty in finding . . . sins in the Mother of Jesus.” During the 17th century, even the Roman Inquisition found this doctrine suspect. “The dogma of the immaculate conception of Mary was proclaimed without any Biblical proof,” remarks Jesuit John McKenzie.
Concerning the dogma of the Assumption, Laurentin maintains that, like the preceding one, it has ‘no explicit Biblical foundation.’ This teaching is based on “the idea of the immortality of the rational soul, which is of Platonic origin,” affirms the magazine Concilium.
But what is the Bible’s viewpoint? Should Mary be considered an ‘unattainable model’? The apostle Peter says that the model Christians should follow is Christ. (1 Peter 2:21) The Bible describes Mary as a faithful woman, ready to listen to God, to put spiritual interests first. She appreciated moral cleanness and was most scrupulous in teaching the Word of God to her children.—Luke 1:26-38; 2:41, 42, 46-49; Acts 1:14.
However, she cannot be described as the “Mother of God” for the simple reason that Jesus was not “God the Son,” but “the Son of God.” The Trinity doctrine was no part of ancient Hebrew belief and is not taught in the Bible.—1 John 4:15; Luke 1:35; John 14:28; 1 Corinthians 11:3; 15:27, 28.
Is it correct to speak of Mary’s perpetual virginity? The Bible makes mention of Jesus’ “brothers” and “sisters.” (Matthew 13:53-56) The Catholic Church claims they were his cousins. But Catholic writer Jean Gilles points out that the Christian Greek Scriptures use the same terms in referring to the brothers and sisters of other Bible characters, such as Peter and Andrew, as well as Lazarus, Martha, and Mary, and that “they were real brothers and sisters. The Church has never presented them differently.” Why, then, should they be called Jesus’ cousins when the Scriptures speak of “brothers” and “sisters”?
Was Mary immaculate, or without sin, at the time of her conception? Theologians explain that this was possible because of her “advanced redemption.” In other words, the benefits of Christ’s ransom were applied to her in advance, even before Jesus was conceived and sacrificed. But this conflicts with the Bible teaching that “unless blood is poured out no forgiveness takes place.” (Hebrews 9:22) It is therefore incorrect to speak of an “advanced redemption.” (Romans 5:12; compare Luke 2:22-24 with Leviticus 12:1-8.) This dogma, concludes Laurentin, “is not Biblical.”
Was Mary taken up bodily into heaven? ‘The Scripture does not affirm the Assumption of Mary,’ says the Nuovo dizionario di teologia, and neither could it do so since it categorically states that “flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God.”—1 Corinthians 15:50, JB.
[Box/Picture on page 11]
Some of Mary’s Titles
Mother of God
Queen of Heaven
Queen of Martyrs
Queen of the World
Queen of Mercy
Queen of Angels
Queen of Paradise
Queen of the Universe
Our Blessed Lady
Blessed Virgin Queen
From Ed Sibbett, Jr.’s Cathedral Stained Glass Coloring Book/Dover
[Pictures on page 12]
Jesus’ mother and brothers came looking for him