Perhaps the most noticeable divergence between Orthodox and Protestant piety is the regard both respective parties have for Mary. The Theotokos, a title for Mary which means “God bearer” in Greek, is popularly venerated by every corner of Christendom spanning from the Christians of Kerala, Ethiopia, Russia, to Ireland. In fact, there was no popular opposition to her veneration until the Protestant Reformation.
Protestants object to Marian veneration due to it being, allegedly, a late innovation that wormed its way into Christian practice. Nevertheless, strictly opposing the practice on literal Biblical grounds would be overly simplistic. Most reasonable people realize that a plethora of pious practices, such as going to worship on Sunday or celebrating Easter (what Orthodox call “Pascha”), do not have explicit Biblical warrant. This is not a stumbling block for most, because these practices are documented in the first and second centuries of Church history. This adds credibility to Biblical inferences interpreters draw when justifying their observance.
In this article, the veneration of the Theotokos will be historically delineated from the Scriptures themselves and the earliest known Christian documents pertaining to the matter. Perhaps, if Protestants understood the implicit Biblical basis for the Theotokos’ veneration and its popularity in early Christian Church, they would be less judgmental of the Orthodox tradition and set a more skeptical eye upon their own traditions.
The Latria-Dulia Distinction
Before assessing the aforementioned evidence, it is important to quickly review a few important principles.
First, Orthodox do not “worship” the Theotokos as God or a god. It is important clarify what the term “worship” has meant in recent centuries. The term is derived from the word “worthy” and it originally applied to men as well as God. (Francis and Kay 1997, 77) Kings would have been addressed as “Your Worship” due to their perceived worthiness and even today some may use the word for dramatic effect in contexts such as, “I worship the Beatles.” However, in any case, the literal worship of a deity is not always implied and the term in English is simply not precise enough to permit the interpreter to infer as such.
To the contrary, Greek is considerably more precise. This is providential, as God preserved the teachings of Christ’s Apostles in that language. In the New Testament, as well as the Septuagint (the Old Testament translated into Greek which is frequently quoted ad verbatim by both Jesus Christ and the Apostles), the Greek terms “latria” (λατρεύειν) and “dulia” (δουλεύειν) are used to portray the worship of God. The key difference is, however, that “latria” in every single one of its usages only refers to the worship of a deity while “dulia” is similar to the English term “worship” in that it can be in reference to both man (Phil 2:22, Gal 5:13, and 1 Tim 6:2) and deity (Luke 16:13, Rom 7:25, Gal 4:8).
Saint Augustine provides a short summary of the Latria-Dulia distinction:
[W]e are commanded to serve one another by love, which is in Greek δουλεύειν [dulia], but in that in which God alone is served, which is in Greek λατρεύειν [latria]. From whence they are called idolaters who tender that service to images which is due to God. For it is this service concerning which it is said, “You shall worship the Lord your God, and Him only shall you serve.” [Deut 6:13 LXX] For this is found also more distinctly in the Greek Scriptures, which have λατρεύσεις [latria]. (On the Trinity, Book 1, Par 13)
While Deut 6:13 is an extremely clear example of latria being performed only to God, we also have a good example of dulia being paid to man. Saint Paul teaches that when a servant works for his master, paying him due honor, the servant in so doing pays honor to (i.e. “worships”) God:
Bondservants, be obedient to those who are your masters according to the flesh, with fear and trembling, in sincerity of heart, as to Christ…with goodwill doing service (dulia), as to the Lord, and not to men (Eph 6:5, 7).
In the preceding, one can perceive that men can be served as to the Lord, depending upon the context. This is basic common sense, after all, as veneration is often paid to men in secular contexts.
It is true that God is sometimes simply venerated and not explicitly worshipped. For example, we may honor God and memorialize what He has done for us, such as on Pascha. Yet, we do the same with men. Many fondly remember their loved ones and we have holidays in memory of great men like George Washington or Martin Luther King. One may perceive that the preceding fails to meet the bar for what we popularly consider “worship.”
So, what is undistilled worship which is given only to God and clearly different than simple veneration? Sacrifice.
God alone is presented with sacrifice, whether it is the sacrifice of one’s complete devotion or one’s partaking in blood sacrifice, specifically the sacrifice of Jesus Christ to the Father (something that Orthodox believe we share a part in every liturgy by communing). Because many Protestants do not have a sacrificial understanding of Christianity, their bar of “worship” can be described as an elevated sense of honor. They praise God, pray to Him, and sing about Him. These things are all good, the Orthodox do this as well, but men are likewise honored with praise, petitione, and song. Because Orthodox have an actual sacrifice which cannot be confused with mere honor, they do not confuse veneration (dulia) with worship (latria). Orthodox can more naturally make the distinction, because they actually practice it.
The Biblical Basis for Performing Dulia to the Theotokos
Being that we already accept the principle of paying honor to men, then there should be no question that the Church’s saints are paid the highest veneration.
Not surprisingly, there is a clear, Biblical example of veneration being paid to the Theotokos—provided one takes a Christological interpretation of Ps 44 (LXX)/45 (MT). Take a moment to open your Bible so you can follow along.
The Psalm itself, at least on the surface, is about a King and his Queen. We must have a Christological interpretation, however. Ps 45:6-7 is clearly identified as pertaining to Jesus Christ by Saint Paul in Heb 1:8-9. So, the King is Jesus Christ.
Who is the Queen? Let’s start unpacking the Psalm:
The King has at His “right hand…the Queen.” (Ps 45:9) He also is surrounded by other kings’ “daughters” (potentially a euphemism for wives in a harem). These are clearly in reference to different people. We know that standing at both Jesus Christ’s left and right hands is not for Him to grant, but the Father. (Mark 10:40) So, for the Queen to be at the King’s right hand is a serious position to be in. A simple interpretation, that the Queen is solely the Church, is insufficient.
Who is actually at God’s right hand? Orthodox tradition has taught that it is the Theotokos. This Queen is “greatly desired” for her spiritual “beauty.” (Ps 45:11) This is highly similar to Mary who is “blessed among women” (Luke 1:28), which means due to her exceptional holiness she “found favor with God” (Luke 1:30). It is reasonable to presume the one who is blessed among women will have a special standing with God.
The Psalm then addresses the Queen directly: “[T]he daughter of Tyre will come with a gift, the rich among the people will seek your favor.” (Ps 45:12) If the Queen is merely the Church, why is she being paid homage and sought for favor herself? In the Scriptures, the nations are usually bringing gifts to God. (cf Is 66:20) The most likely explanation is that “the daughter of Tyre” represents the gentiles paying dulia (“a gift”) and “the people” seeking favor are the faithful asking for Mary’s intercession in prayer.
As a brief aside, asking a glorified saint for prayer is not idolatry anymore than asking any righteous person for prayer. The Scriptures are clear that the saints pray for the living in heaven, such as the martyrs praying to God for an end of persecution. (Rev 6:10; cf Rev 8:3) Furthermore, the saints hear our prayers, as evidenced by Elisha knowing what Gehazi was up to when he asked for money from Naaman: “Did not my heart go with you when the man turned back from his chariot to meet you?” (2 Kings 5:26) There is no Biblical precedent for not asking a saint for intercession, which is perhaps why the Jews legitimately confused Jesus Christ quoting Ps 21 LXX/PS 22 MT as calling upon the Prophet Elijah for intercession. (Matt 27:47) Not surprisingly, third and fourth century AD Talmudic sources make clear that Jews had veneration practices including prostrations at the grave sites of the patriarchs and asking for the deceased for prayer. (Bar-Llan 2004)
And so, the Psalm can easily be read in the preceding light in verse 12 as well as other verses. Verse 14 states, “The virgins, her companions who follow her, shall be brought to You.” Clearly, if the Queen is merely the Church, this passage does not make sense as the virgins (cf Rev 14:1-4) are clearly the Church as they are brought to God. Interestingly, they “follow her.” This seems to be another obvious reference to the Church’s veneration of the Theotokos bringing them closer to God—literally “brought” into “the King’s palace.” (Ps 45:15)
The Psalm ends with God promising the Queen:
I will make your name to be remembered in all generations; Therefore, the people shall praise you forever and ever. (Ps 45:17)
Due to Hebrew and Greek lacking capitalization, some may conjecture verse 17 switches its subject from the Queen back to the King. However, this Psalm appears to be echoed by the Theotokos’ own lips:
For behold, henceforth all generations will call me blessed. (Luke 1:48)
In any event, being that Ps 45 was understood as typological and prophetic in the first century, it would make sense that the references to the Queen would be typologically understood to apply to the Theotokos—as this would be the simplest explanation of the Psalm if one were to try to maintain consistency between the types.
Earliest Historical Evidence of the Theotokos’ Veneration: An Overview
Identifying first to third century historical evidence of Marian veneration is supposedly elusive. For example, some point out that the New Testament does not have any explicit mention of her veneration.
However, there is good reason for this, as when the New Testament was written high praise would have predictably be restrained, because she was still alive. Excessive praise to the humble may present an occasion for stumbling. Furthermore, based upon the Biblical evidence, one may infer that the Theotokos is often treated considerably more positively than other saints.
In fact, the saints are often quite tough on one another. For example, Saint Paul speaks somewhat frankly (to put it nicely) about the Apostles Peter, James, and John (the “so-called pillars” in Gal 2:9). He also gets into a heated exchange with Saint Barnabas over Saint Mark (Acts 15:39). It seems to have been a two-way street, as Saint James and others seems to view Saint Paul as too anti-Jewish, compelling him to publicly correct the record in Acts 21:20-25. So, while there are less “mentions” of the Theotokos (she is last mentioned in the Scriptures as being present during Pentecost, Acts 1:14), one may infer that the absence of critical mentions is indicative of her high repute. This is because the Apostles in their authentic humility and honesty were often not deferential to one another.
Another issue that opponents of Marian veneration invoke is that there are not a lot of sources invoking her veneration. But this is not as much of an issue as people think. This is because before the Council of Nicea in the early fourth century, there exists relatively little extant hymns and prayers about God, let alone the Theotokos. Sadly, these are the precisely the sort of sources that are used in veneration that we would need to have documented proof of a historical practice.
Why? The Church was persecuted and apparently many of its prayers and hymns were of a highly local nature, probably committed to memory due to their shortness and musical nature. Paper itself in today’s currency cost thousands of dollars back then. So, we should not expect to find many prayers or hymns written down until the Church became quite a bit more wealthy, particularly through patronage. What one would expect is that precious resources were dedicated to chiefly copying and re-copying the Scriptures themselves. Furthermore, the writing of apologetics works in response to persecutors and heretics would have been a more pressing need than copying hymns that people have memorized.
The Theotokos’ Veneration in Early Hymnography
This does not mean we do not have any extent early hymns. A mid-20th century hymnographic scholar, Messenger (1942), identified nearly every Christian hymn that can be potentially dated to before the Council of Nicea:
-One short hymn in the Didache.
-Two hymns in the Apostolic Constitutions, one including the Phos Hilaron which is still sung every Saturday in Orthodox churches.
-Two hymns in the Liturgy of Saint James.
-Two hymns in the (Gnostic) Acts of Thomas
-One hymn in the (Gnostic) Acts of John
-One Nassene (Gnostic) hymn quoted in Saint Hippolytus’ Refutation of All Heresies
-One extant hymn from Valetinus (Gnostic).
-One extant Gnostic hymn in Coptic.
-41 Odes of Solomon
-The Hymn of Thekla within Banquet of the Virgins by Saint Methodius of Olympus
Messenger failed to identify in her treatment two other early hymns:
-The Oxyrhynchus hymn and Fragment 17 (Bodmer Papyrus) ascribed to Saint Melito of Sardis.
Of all the preceding hymns and prayers, it is of some interest that only the Liturgy of Saint James’ one hymn (and its prayers), the Banquet of the Virgins and its hymn, and the two in the Apostolic Constitutions were extent before the year 1800. This means, if one were to be looking at this issue approximately 200 years ago, there would be a grand total of four hymns preserved from the earliest of times.
In the last 200 years, another 51 have been discovered. One of these (Ode of Solomon 19) is about the Theotokos and is probably dated to the early half of the second century. It gives the Theotokos titles such as “the Virgin” and “a mother of great mercy.” It invokes the doctrine of her painless birth (which implies that birth did not violate her virginity) stating that “she labored, but not in pain” and “she bore Him as if He were a man, openly, with dignity.” It also states that “she loved Him, swaddled Him, and revealed His majesty.” The hymn clearly exalts the Theotokos. Another fragment ascribed to Melito states:
You saints sing hymns to the Father, you maidens sing hymns to the mother [Mary?], we hymn them, we saints lift them high. You have been exalted to be brides and bridegrooms, for you have found your bridegroom Christ.
To sum up the hymnographic evidence as of present, about about six percent of all hymns before the Council of Nicea include the veneration of saints—one being about Thekla and two others which contain veneration of the Theotokos. These numbers must be taken with a grain of salt because this is admittedly still a scanty amount, perhaps minimizing or exaggerating how much veneration of the saints existed. Additionally, the numbers are affected by about 80 percent of the hymns coming from a single source.
The Theotokos’ Veneration in Early Prayers
Similar to early hymnography, we have early prayers mainly preserved in liturgies and in passing in apologetic and other works. Due to the difficulty of dating some of the liturgical evidence, and liturgies themselves being very long prayers, counting these is far more difficult than the hymns.
For the sake of simplicity, one can estimate that there were approximately 150-200 separate “Christian”* authors who wrote befor the Council of Nicea whose works are extent, not including the writers of the New Testament or hymns (covered above). (Kirby 2020) These authors often focused on very specific controversies and their writings usually have nothing directly to do with prayer, let alone the Theotokos or a given saint. Despite all of this, we still have six pre-Nicene authors writing something, somewhere, containing explicit Marian prayers/veneration.
*The above number also includes Gnostic authors.
The Sub Tuum Praesidium petitions: “O Mother of God: do not despise our petitions in time of trouble: but rescue us from dangers, only pure, only blessed one.”
The Anaphoras of Coptic/Egyptian Basil in its oldest Sahidic manuscript has the following within a Litany: “…the holy and glorious Mary, Theotokos (Mother of God), and by her prayers have mercy on us all…” This work is dated by Anglican scholars to be “at least three hundred years older” than the mid-seventh century (Cuming and Jasper 1990, 67) and “the early fourth century” by the most recent scholarly treatment of the subject. (Shoemaker 2016, 231)
The Gospel of Bartholomew contains a short prayer in an apocryphal context: “Bartholomew raised his voice and said thus: ‘O womb more spacious than a city, wider than the spreading of the heavens, that contained him whom the seven heavens contain not, but thou without pain didst contain sanctified in thy bosom!’” (4:17 in Vienna Manuscript)
The Grotto of Jerusalem has a graffiti that has survived the test of time which states, “Under the holy place of M[ary?] I wrote there the [names?], the image I adorned of her.” One source states that “the grotto can be interpreted, according to Bagatti, as an indication of an image of Mary.” (Bigham 2004, 101)
If one presumes the aforementioned graffiti pertains to the Theotokos (which is the most likely interpretation of the archaeological evidence) and includes to two hymns from the preceding section, there are six separate Christian authors invoking prayers to the Theotokos out of a total of approximately 200 known pre-Nicene authors whose writings we have. This means about three percent of the extent authors venerated the Theotokos according to the written evidence–a proportion half that of the hymnographic evidence, but within the same ballpark.
This may seem tiny, but in reality this is pretty high considering the Theotokos was not a subject of any specific pre-Nicene controversy. Furthermore, as stated previously, the Church had limited resources at this point to commit to writing works which were not Scriptural or apologetic in nature.
Doctrines Concerning the Theotokos in Early Sources
On top of hymnography and prayers, historians also have a few pre-Nicene historical sources which convey a high Mariology. These include:
Protoevangelicum of James, which teaches that the Theotokos maintained uncorrupted Virginity (Par 19-20) and was implicitly sinless.
Hegesippus (n.d.) in a fragment wrote, “There still survived of the kindred of the Lord grandsons of Jude, who according to the flesh was called His brother.” The obvious implication is that Jude was not Jesus Christ’s actual brother, which is an oblique reference to the Theotokos’ perpetual virginity.
Ascension of Isaiah 11:12-14, which teaches that the Theotokos’ had no pain in childbirth. It should be noted that this work is Docetist (a first and second century Christological heresy which posits Jesus Christ only appeared to be incarnate and did not have a physical body).
The Book of Mary’s Repose, which states in its conclusion that “those who decided to be saved will receive assistance from her. And if they receive the image of light, they will receive her rest and her blessing.” (Shoemaker 2016, 121) It should be noted that this work is a highly developed Gnostic work and is heretical in several respects.
The preceding demonstrates that there are yet another four sources that evidence a high Mariology in the early Church on top of the prayers. One may perceive that Christians believed in her perpetual virginity, sinlessness, and heavenly intercession. Hence, when added to the prayers, we have a total of about five percent of pre-Nicene authors (excluding hymnographic sources) that ascribed to a Mariology consistent with Orthodoxy.
It should be noted that the last two of the cited sources are heretical. While one would be quick to discount these, this should not be done haphazardly. One must consider that if Orthodox sources contain similar doctrines as anti-Trinitarian and Gnostic authors, this reveals that a high-Mariology transcends sectarian lines. It was something in common among all within Christendom, which belies a common origin—an Apostolic practice.
Furthermore, the fact that Gnostics were syncretists which borrowed ideas from Christianity, Greek philosophy, and mystery religions should exclude them from the honor of having invented the Marian doctrines. They always borrowed and combined ideas from various sources. Only their cosmologies were perhaps original, peculiar to their specific teachers.
As for the Marian doctrines in the Ascension of Isaiah, a source which may very well be from the first century, this tells the interpreter one of two things. If Trinitarian theology is a “later development,” something that many liberal theologians and historians accept, then this source preserves for us an extremely early proof of high-Mariology among early Christians before such a development. However, if one maintains the traditional perspective that the Church was always Trinitarian, the dating of the passage in question does not change. In any event, there is an obvious first century record of Marian veneration.
Due to other early Christian works, even popular ones such as the Shepherd of Hermas, likewise having similarly suspect Christology and Pneumatology, this would seem to suggest that heretical works were tolerated to an extent within Orthodox Christendom. Those who are undiscerning may have believed the Ascension of Isaiah contained authentic prophecy from Isaiah or some other prophet, similar to the Shepherd. Consequently, the work was preserved.
Interestingly, its teaching on the Theotokos is not really its emphasis—the work is far more concerned with laying out an angelic hierarchy eerily similar to Saint Dionysius the Areopogite in On Heavenly Hierarchy. It also explains how Christ became incarnate without a physical body.
So, the fact that this work in passing says something Mariological gives interpreters a good indication of how average Christians would have viewed the issue. It is likely that it invoked commonly accepted things about Mary to add credibility to its angelology as well as to explain why the Theotokos’ birth was painless. Hence, the existence of the Marian doctrines appears to precede the heresy of Docetism itself (which may have existed when 1 John 4 was penned), as opposed to the doctrine originating in the Docetist heresy. Adding weight to this perspective is the fact that Orthodox sources from roughly the same period, such us the Protoevangelicum and Odes of Solomon, also invoke the Theotokos’ painless labor.
From the preceding, one may conclude that the Orthodox Mariological doctrines are consistent with Biblical distinctions between worship and veneration (latria and dulia), that Ps 45 provides a Biblical basis for venerating the Theotokos herself, and early documented evidence (though understandably scanty) is still prevalent enough to leave little doubt that she was venerated in the earliest documented periods of Christian history. For all of of the preceding reasons, the burden of proof should be on those who oppose the solid hermeneutical and historical grounds for Orthodox Marian veneration.
Bar-Llan, Meir. 2004. “Prayers of Jews to Angels and Other Intermediaries during the First Centuries CE.” In Saints and Role Models in Judaism and Christianity, by M. Poorthuis and J. Schwartz, 79-95. Boston: Brill.
Bigham, Steven. 2004. Early Christian Attitudes toward Images. Rollinsford, New Hampshire: Orthodox Research Institute.
Cuming, G J, and R.C.D. Jasper. 1990. Prayers of the Eucharist: Early and Reformed. Collegeville, MN: Liturgical Press.
Francis, Leslie J., and William K. Kay. 1997. Religion in Education. Wiltshire: Gracewing Publishing.
Hegesippus. n.d. Fragments from His Five Books of Commentaries on the Acts of the Church. Accessed October 23, 2020. http://www.tertullian.org/fathers2/ANF-08/anf08-165.htm.
Kirby, Peter. 2020. Early Christian Writings. Accessed October 23, 2020. http://www.earlychristianwritings.com/.
Messenger, Ruth Ellis. 1942. Christian Hymns of the First Three Centuries. New York: The Hymn Society of America.
Shoemaker, Stephen J. 2016. Mary in Early Christian Faith and Devotion. New Haven, CT: Yale University Press.
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“she was venerated in the earliest documented periods of Christian heresy.”
I presume you mean “history.”
yes, let me fix that lol
If she was venerated in the documented earliest periods of Christian heresy, we probably ought to reject it.
I will not be so hasty as to dismiss the honour due to Virgin Mary. It was God who found her worthy to bear Jesus and called her Blessed among all women. With many misgivings in a protestant chuch, my heart and my inner most thoughts never could place her on the same platform as I or any other woman . Who is Jesus? The Son of God and the express visible image of the invisible God. “he that hath seen me hath seen the Father……” (John 14:9) Surely the Father chose a woman who was holy and worthy for the “Word” to become flesh.
I appreciate your comment Helen Tavares. I feel much of historical protestant and evangelical opposition to Mary is based on nothing more than an aversion to appearing too Catholic. You say aright that Mary cannot be placed on the same platform as other women; Gabriel said: “Blessed are you among women.” The divide between Churches on Mary seems insurmountable not because we disagree on certain Marian doctrines. But rather because most western Churches do not have any field of study about Mary. After explaining a Marian doctrine even if open minded protestants do drop the heresy label, they could never agree with it themselves. As you said, “with many misgivings in a protestant church”. I doubt you could easily share your perspective with your co-religious without serious backlash. Am I right?
It’s because they don’t have a wider theological background on Mary. It’s hard to make an apples to apples comparison but the best way to describe the issue I can think of is this. It’d be like having a theology completely uninfluenced by the significance of Adam, Abraham, and David together. Mary’s role in the economy of salvation is enormous. I’m getting ready to present a paper on this very issue at an upcoming Pentecostal conference. So I appreciate coming across your reaction to this post. May both our Churches grow from each other’s pollination. God bless you.
I meant Elizabeth…not Gabriel
I’m a Protestant, but I have a great love for the early church fathers, and I would be open to Marian devotion if I felt the evidence supported it. But there does not seem to be any evidence for prayer or devotion to Mary prior to the third century, with the Sub tuum praesidium prayer (usually dated to the third century) representing the earliest documentation of the practice.
First, your claim that “about four percent of all hymns before the Council of Nicea are about saints—one being about Thekla and another about the Theotokos” is inaccurate. The “hymn of Thekla” is a hymn to God spoken by Thekla (Thekla appears as a character throughout Methodius’ dialogue). Thekla herself is not the object of praise, although many Old Testament figures are mentioned. see chapter 2 here: https://www.newadvent.org/fathers/062311.htm
Likewise, Odes of Solomon 19 merely mentions Mary and the virgin birth; no praise or prayer is directly offered to Mary. Although you claim the text “clearly exalts the Theotokos,” I don’t see how it exalts her any more than the Song of Deborah exalts Jael or the aforementioned Hymn of Thekla exalts Judith by mentioning her deeds.
Although texts like the Protoevangelium and Ascension of Isaiah are probably evidence of early belief in Mary’s perpetual virginity, they do not provide any evidence of organized devotion or prayer to her. (as an aside I’m not aware of any argument that Ascension of Isaiah is gnostic or that it is any earlier than the second century; there are however arguments that Odes of Solomon is gnostic).
Again, I would be open to Marian devotion if I felt the evidence supported it, but I’m left with the conclusion that sub tuum praesidium in the third century is the earliest documentation of the practice. Admittedly the third century is relatively early in two thousand years of Christianity, but it’s also two hundred years after Jesus walked the earth.
If you are interested in Mary, I have an article on my blog you might be interested to read: https://wordpress.com/post/waterandthespiritapologetics.wordpress.com/43
The dogma of the Trinity was only formulated by Tertullian in the third century and promulgated as a dogma by the Council of Nicea in 325 A.D.
“The Psalm ends with God promising the Queen:”
I haven’t seen any commentary that thinks it is a promise to anything but the King, the discussion has only been about is it Solomon or is it Christ
“Is Venerating Mary an Early Christian Practice?”
Well, it’s nowhere mentioned in the book of Acts, nor in the epistles, nor in the gospels, nor in the Apocalypse. The whole NT is silent about it, whereas it in detail describes essential Christian orthodoxy and orthopraxis. After Acts 1, the NT doesn’t even mention her explicitly at all.
So, no, it’s not an early Christian practice.
She may have been still alive when these were written
So? In the article the worship (dulia) of masters by slaves is mentioned, with the obvious assumption that the masters are still alive.
It could be grounds for pride, she was still able to sin. So your point is irrelevant. We don’t slack off at work in order to enhance the humility of our boss. Different situations.
Hello. Not Orthodox nor RC my question about Mary’s sinlessness and perpetual virginity concerns the High Priesthood of the Savior. Since we’re told in Hebrews Jesus endured every category of trial and suffering so as to sympathize with us in our weaknesses and trials, how could anyone relate to someone raised as an only child with a sinless mother and parents who had no relations?
Christ can relate with human weakness without sin. He could not relate with sin, like sexual desire. I hope that helps.
I agree that Jesus is the sinless Christ, that’s not what my question is about.
The Hebrews 4 Scripture is about us approaching the Throne of Grace boldly because Jesus has been tempted in the same ways we were. So, to restate my question, If He lived @90% of his earthly life in a family environment that no one ever has or ever will live in how can anyone relate to him as the Scripture leads us to understand?
Christ was tempted in every way we are, but without sin.
Yes sinless, and tempted in every way as we are which is why it seems right, and of his Heavenly Father that Jesus was sent to live in a typical family with siblings born of his mother Mary and his step-father Joseph, experiencing all the various trials families go through, like the rest of us without Himself ever sinning.
This is kind of arbitrary. It’s like asking why Christ was not incarnate in Antarctica so He could struggle with the cold more.
What’s arbitrary is to claim the married parents of Jesus remained celibate without any such NT testimony. Whereas the natural reading of various Gospel passages indicates the position I have stated in my previous reply.
I’m not quite sure what your point is here, Orthodox have married priests.
I’m merely saying that the natural reading of the NT shows that Joseph and Mary had other children after Jesus. That’s all.
But I don’t wish to belabor this point on your blog which holds the perpetual virginity view if you’re not inclined to further the discussion.
If so, thank you for your time.
I appreciate the points you’ve made Craig but Stannj51’s point is somewhat different. Jesus endured all the same trails of human life as we did. His issue is that if Mary was sinless as well, than it is a point of difference. To make his point, that would be an incredible blessing and so would make him no longer like us “in all” things but sin. Regarding this, I would say it is a difference, but what matters is whether it is a categorical difference. For Mary it certainly is, but for Jesus it wouldn’t be so different from having any very saintly mother. A child never seeing his mother do anything but things filled with grace and love is not different from the most blessed families among us nor categorically different from any of us.
About her perpetual virginity again that obviously doesn’t make him particularly different from other children, most of whom are unaware of their parent’s sexual relations anyway. Biblical evidence can’t absolutely answer the question about Mary and Joseph’s intimate relations. If we assume they had a typical marriage than it’s hard to see his brothers and sisters as anything but children of Mary. But that’s an assumption we are left when one limits themselves to only biblical evidence, modern paradigms, and reason. We don’t have to treat ancient Church witness with the same authority as Scripture to allow it to inform our interpretations.
So the issue is less about Mary than about the authority of Scripture. About that there is a small hint in the bible about that issue. I can’t add that now because I have to run and it’s better not to put too much into one post. I’m curious Stannj51 how these points land on you. Thanks for reading.
Heb 4:15 is that Christ was tempted in every sort of sinless temptation (i.e. blameless passions). “Tempted in every way we are, but without sin.” We are tempted in every way including sin, such as lust, murderous hatred, and the like. Christ was never tempted with these–He was made in the likeness of sin (Rom 8:3) He had no real sin.
In short, the issue is with a misinterpretation of Heb 4:15.
I suppose I see your point. The exact wording of 4:15 has to do with temptations so doesn’t refer to “all the various trials families go through, like the rest of us…” We have to concede that family trails can elicit temptations. Still I agree with you because even if Jesus encountered fewer of these types of temptation, he would have still encountered them outside of the home.
Still I think you are discounting the value of his argument. It is an important Christological principal that Jesus was like us in all things except sin. If there is a way Jesus’ human life was unique unto himself, it poses a problem. Even if Hebrews 4:15 can’t be used to make the point, it’s still a valid one.
That’s why I disagree with you that Jesus could not relate with sin, like sexual desire. Even for an unmarried man, by itself sexual desire like anger is never a sin. I doubt Jesus had “murderous” thoughts but violent ones don’t seem ruled out to me. I say that because only when we decide to brood over our anger or given into thinking about a sexual fantasy does it become sinful. Because he was tempted in all the ways we are, I think it’s important to acknowledge that included sexual ones.
Jesus absolutely did not have sexual desire as lust only comes *after* the Fall. Your premises are wrong.
Two points to make. First, I gather we agree that sexual desire is not a sin by itself? So if Jesus did have that, it would not be a sin, since he would not also indulge in lustful thinking.
Second, there is an unjustified leap in your reasoning regarding the connection between the Fall and the first appearance of sexual desire in Adam and Eve. Their eyes “were opened” to see what God had created in their bodies. Our organs proof that the sexual act was always intended by God, which necessitates humans having sexual desire. The appearance of sexual desire *correlates* with the Fall from grace. That Fall *causes* the corruption of sexual desire, not the desire itself. The four basic drives of humans: Fight Flight Feeding, and Mating are integral to human nature. Even if Adam and Eve only experienced a desire to eat before the Fall, it does not mean they never had those basic drives inscribed into their DNA. They just never encountered them prior to the Fall. Yes, subsequently those emotions became threatened by sinful desire. But it did not created the desires themselves.
To say Jesus did not have sexual desire is the same as saying he was less than fully human. My Roman Catholic background leads me to observe that your reasoning is very Augustinian. Not a bad thing, but as you might guess, I depart from him on some issues.
Nor again did He abolish all desire, but only that which is unlawful, for he saith, “Nevertheless, because of desires, let every man have his own wife.” But to lay up treasure He allowed not, either with cause or without. For those passions were implanted in our nature for a necessary end; desire, for the procreation of children, and anger, for the succor of the injured, but desire of money not so. (Chrysostom, Homily 23 on 2 Corinthians)
The Orthodox have taken the Bible and in a blasphemous way have spun it with false logic and false deductive reasoning. Mary said that she magnified Christ and Christ only. She as a blessed and humble servant of God would never want others to magnify herself.
Maybe you are blaspheming.
The truth can be interpreted in different ways if one’s ears are full of wax. Read the Word of Jesus as he said there are no mediators to God, the Father, other than Himself
I appreciate dedication to the word of God, but 1 Tim2:5 is just a proof text misapplied and misunderstood.
If it is wrong for those in heaven to intercede on for people BECAUSE this makes them mediators between God and man, then it is wrong for anyone to pray for others because that’s not relying on the one mediator between God and man. There is no way to make this verse apply only to the saints in heaven without it equally applying to the saints on earth. Paul even says:
“I urge, then, first of all, that petitions, prayers, intercession and thanksgiving be made for all people” -1Tim 2: 1 . St. Paul is urging us to pray for the salvation of all people because they cannot be saved by anyone but the one mediator, Jesus Christ. It has everything to do with Jesus’ double nature and nothing to do with the act of mediating a prayer to God on behalf of someone else.
Secondly, honoring Mary for her blessedness, being blessed above all women, and as the Mother of God are all found in Luke’s first chapter.
Elizabeth says: “Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the child you will bear! But why am I so favored, that the mother of my Lord should come to me?” Luke 1: 42-3. And Mary she also says: “From now on all generations will call me blessed,” Luke 1:48.