Saturday, July 24, 2010

Mary According to the Bible

Since the rise of Protestantism, there has been a debate on the veneration of the Virgin Mary. Orthodox Christians argue that since Mary is the Mother of the Lord Jesus Christ, she is to be accorded proper veneration. As Orthodox Christians, we call her the Mother of God, the Ark of the New Covenant, the Queen of Heaven, the Mediatrix, the New Eve, Most Holy, and ever-virgin. It is my intention to prove that every single one of these roles is attributed to Mary in the Bible.


Mother of God

Mary’s most important role is her role as Theotokos, roughly translated “Mother of God”, but more precisely translated “God-bearer.” Is it proper to call the Virgin Mary the “Mother of God”? Yes! All Protestants acknowledge the biblical teaching of the deity of Christ, but, for the sake of completeness, let us review a key biblical passage.

For in him the whole fullness of deity dwells bodily. (Colossians 2:9)

Within the body of the Lord Jesus Christ, the fullness of God dwells. Thus, if Mary gives birth to the body of Jesus Christ, as all Protestants admit, what comes out of her womb is also God, because God indwells the body of Christ. Thus, it is proper to refer to her as the “God-bearer” or Theotokos, and, as a corollary, “Mother of God.”


Ark of the New Covenant

In fact, St. Elizabeth says to Mary:

And why is this granted to me that the mother of my Lord should come to me? (Luke 1:43)

The question before us is whether the “my Lord” here necessarily refers to the divine nature of Jesus Christ. Could it simply refer to the human nature? This leads directly into the discussion of Mary as the “Ark of the New Covenant”. When Elizabeth asks how it is that the mother of the Lord should come to her, she is directly alluding to these words spoken by the Prophet King David

And David was afraid of the Lord that day, and he said, "How can the ark of the Lord come to me?" (2 Samuel 6:9)

Ancient Jews memorized the Hebrew Bible. Similarities in wording would jump out at them. It is clear: when St. Elizabeth asks how the mother of the Lord should come to her, she is directly alluding to the Prophet’s words. It is important to note that in the Septuagint translation of the Hebrew Bible, YHWH would be replaced by “the Lord”

Thus, when Elizabeth calls Mary the “mother of my Lord”, in reference to David’s words, she is calling Mary the “Mother of YHWH”. Thus, it is absolutely proper to call Mary the Mother of God!

Furthermore, Elizabeth equates the Ark of the Covenant with the Blessed Virgin Mary. As the Old Ark was the dwelling place of God in the days of the Old Covenant, so the New Ark, the Virgin Mary, is the dwelling place of God the Word in our days, the days of the New Covenant. Let us look at some additional biblical passages which demonstrate her status as Ark of the New Covenant.

Then the cloud covered the tent of meeting, and the glory of the Lord filled the tabernacle. (Exodus 40:34)

The power of the Lord comes over the Ark of the Covenant. Similarly:

And the angel answered her, "The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you; therefore the child to be born will be called holy--the Son of God. (Luke 1:35)

The power of the Most High God overshadows the Blessed Virgin, just as it overshadowed the Ark of the Covenant.

Listen to what happens when the Ark of the Covenant is brought before David:

And David danced before the Lord with all his might. And David was wearing a linen ephod. (2 Samuel 6:14)

This linen ephod is a priestly vestment. Likewise, John the Baptist is part of the priestly line of Aaron, and just as David danced when he saw the Ark of the Covenant, so does John the Baptist:

And when Elizabeth heard the greeting of Mary, the baby leaped in her womb. And Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit. (Luke 1:41)

The child, John the Baptist leaps in her womb at hearing the Ark of the Covenant.

After David dances before the Ark of the Covenant, the ark remains three months:

And the ark of the Lord remained in the house of Obed-edom the Gittite three months, and the Lord blessed Obed-edom and all his household. (2 Samuel 6:11)

And after John the Baptist dances at hearing Mary, she remains three months:

And Mary remained with her about three months and returned to her home. (Luke 1:56)

Is it possible that all of this is a coincidence? As passage after passage is piled up, it becomes near impossible that it is. The evidence is clear that Luke is presenting Mary as the Ark of the New Covenant.

In addition, we hear of Mary as the Ark of the New Covenant in the Revelation of John:

Then God's temple in heaven was opened, and the ark of his covenant was seen within his temple. There were flashes of lightning, rumblings, peals of thunder, an earthquake, and heavy hail. (Revelation 11:19)

We see the Heavenly Temple, and we see the Ark of the Covenant. Would the Ark of the Old Covenant be of any significance? No. The Old Covenant is done away with, and the glory of God has left it's ark. But the New Covenant of Grace is in effect, and its Ark is something glorious. What is this Ark? St. John tells us in the very next passage:

And a great sign appeared in heaven: a woman clothed with the sun, with the moon under her feet, and on her head a crown of twelve stars. (Revelation 12:1)

Who is this woman?

She gave birth to a male child, one who is to rule all the nations with a rod of iron, but her child was caught up to God and to his throne. (Revelation 12:5)

And who rules the nations with a rod of iron? God the Word, Jesus Christ.

He is clothed in a robe dipped in blood, and the name by which he is called is The Word of God. And the armies of heaven, arrayed in fine linen, white and pure, were following him on white horses. From his mouth comes a sharp sword with which to strike down the nations, and he will rule them with a rod of iron. (Revelation 19:13-15)

So, the woman of Revelation 12 is the mother of Jesus Christ. Who is Christ’s mother? It is, of course, the Blessed Virgin Mary.

We see, therefore, that the Ark of the New Covenant is identified clearly as the Virgin Mary in the Apocalypse of John. Some Protestants, however, like to argue that the Woman is not Mary, but Israel, basing their exegesis here:

Then he dreamed another dream and told it to his brothers and said, "Behold, I have dreamed another dream. Behold, the sun, the moon, and eleven stars were bowing down to me." (Genesis 37:9)

This refers to Israel. So, is Israel a referent in John’s prophecy? Yes! In biblical prophecy it is not uncommon for a prophecy to have multiple referents. Let me give you an example from the famous prophecy of Isaiah:

Therefore the Lord himself will give you a sign. Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and shall call his name Immanuel. (Isaiah 7:14)

All Christians know that this is ultimately fulfilled in Jesus Christ. However, there is a temporary fulfillment, where an almah who is not a virgin gives birth to a child who is named Immanuel as a sign that God is with them.

and it will sweep on into Judah, it will overflow and pass on, reaching even to the neck, and its outspread wings will fill the breadth of your land, O Immanuel." (Isaiah 8:8)

There are some parts where Isaiah refers to both referents, and some parts where he refers to only one. Consider this passage:

For before the boy knows how to refuse the evil and choose the good, the land whose two kings you dread will be deserted. (Isaiah 7:16)

Was there ever a time when the Lord Jesus Christ did not know good and evil? Never. Thus, verse sixteen refers only to the first referent, and not the messianic referent.

Likewise, in Revelation 12, there are portions where John refers to Mary, portions where he refers to Eve, portions where he refers to the Church, and portions where he refers to Israel. Mostly, however, he refers to all four. So, with that said, let us look at the further implications of Revelation 12.


Queen of Heaven

And a great sign appeared in heaven: a woman clothed with the sun, with the moon under her feet, and on her head a crown of twelve stars. (Revelation 12:1)

Mary here is wearing a Crown of Twelve Stars. As we saw in Joseph’s dream, the stars are a symbol of Israel. Mary is wearing the Crown of Israel. However, the New Israel is the people of the Church, the Kingdom of Heaven. Christ says:

Jesus answered, "My kingdom is not of this world. If my kingdom were of this world, my servants would have been fighting, that I might not be delivered over to the Jews. But my kingdom is not from the world." (John 18:36)

The kingdom of New Israel is the kingdom of heaven. Thus, Mary is here presented as wearing the Crown of New Israel- she is the Queen of Heaven.

Another important fact is that Jesus is a king after the order of David- he is a Davidic king. Who were the queens of Davidic kings? Interestingly, it was not their wives. It was their mother. Consider this passage:

Say to the king and the queen mother: "Take a lowly seat, for your beautiful crown has come down from your head." (Jeremiah 13:18)


Mediatrix

So, Jesus, being the Davidic King of Heaven, has His Davidic queen, His Mother, Mary. What were the functions of the Queen Mother? Intercession before the King.

So Bathsheba went to King Solomon to speak to him on behalf of Adonijah. And the king rose to meet her and bowed down to her. Then he sat on his throne and had a seat brought for the king's mother, and she sat on his right. Then she said, "I have one small request to make of you; do not refuse me." And the king said to her, "Make your request, my mother, for I will not refuse you." (1 Kings 2:19-20)

The Davidic queen, Bathsheba, intercedes on behalf of Adonijah at his request, before the Davidic king, her son Solomon, and Solomon listens with special attention to the request of the queen. This is exactly parallel to the situation today with Orthodox Christians. Orthodox Christians ask for the intercession of our Queen, Mary. She intercedes before her son, Jesus Christ, the King, at our request and He listens with special attention.


New Eve

St. John writes:

In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things were made through him, and without him was not any thing made that was made. (John 1:1-3)

He opens by discussing the beginning of the world, opening with “in the beginning”. Remember that ancient Jews knew the Hebrew Bible from memory. They would immediately think of:

In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth. (Genesis 1:1)

Further parallels are drawn:

In him was life, and the life was the light of men. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it. (John 1:4-5)

And God said, "Let there be light," and there was light. And God saw that the light was good. And God separated the light from the darkness. (Genesis 1:3-4)

Thus, John is writing to parallel the opening chapters of Genesis. He counts the days:

Start with one in John’s opening.

The next day he saw Jesus coming toward him, and said, "Behold, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world! (John 1:29)

Two.

The next day again John was standing with two of his disciples. (John 1:35)

Three.

The next day Jesus decided to go to Galilee. He found Philip and said to him, "Follow me." (John 1:43)

Four.

On the third day there was a wedding at Cana in Galilee, and the mother of Jesus was there. (John 2:1)

Seven.

The wedding at Cana occurs on the seventh day. On the seventh day, Mary asks Him to do something:

When the wine ran out, the mother of Jesus said to him, "They have no wine." (John 2:3)

Jesus does a miracle:

When the master of the feast tasted the water now become wine, and did not know where it came from (though the servants who had drawn the water knew), the master of the feast called the bridegroom (John 2:9)

We know from the Scripture that Jesus is the New Adam:

Thus it is written, "The first man Adam became a living being"; the last Adam became a life-giving spirit. (1 Corinthians 15:45)

What does Eve do to Adam on the seventh day?

So when the woman saw that the tree was good for food, and that it was a delight to the eyes, and that the tree was to be desired to make one wise, she took of its fruit and ate, and she also gave some to her husband who was with her, and he ate. (Genesis 3:6)

On the seventh day after the opening of Genesis, Eve entices Adam to commit his first sin. On the seventh day after the opening of John, who is drawing our minds back to Genesis, Mary entices the New Adam to perform His first miracle. The conclusion is clear: Mary is the New Eve. One can consider also Mary’s obedience to Gabriel vs. Eve’s obedience to Satan:

But the serpent said to the woman, "You will not surely die. For God knows that when you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil." (Genesis 3:4-5)

So, Eve obeys the evil angel Satan, who entices her to bring death into the world.

And the angel said to her, "Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favor with God. And behold, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus. (Luke 1:30-31)

Who is Jesus?
Jesus said to him, "I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me. (John 14:6)

Jesus is the Life. Mary consents to the message of the good angel, Gabriel, in bringing Life into the world. Eve consents to the message of the evil angel, Satan, in bringing death into the world. It is clear what the Bible is doing. Mary is clearly the New Eve.


Most Holy

Orthodox Christians believe that by the grace of God, Mary was preserved from the stain of personal sin. We believe that she, in part because of this, is exalted above all the holy angels. What is the evidence for this? Most of it derives from Luke 1:28.

And he came to her and said, “Hail” (Luke 1:28)

The Greek used for "hail" here is "chairō", which is a title used for a superior, as seen in:

And he came up to Jesus at once and said, "Hail, (chairō) Master!" And he kissed him. (Matthew 26:49)

The Archangel Gabriel hails the Blessed Virgin Mary as a superior. What does this mean? Is a sinful one superior to an angel?

To continue:

“having been graced (charitoō), the Lord is with you!” (Luke 1:28)

So the Archangel Gabriel addresses Mary as a superior, and titles her "having been graced", she had received special grace from God. It is this grace which guided her and preserved her from the stain of personal sin.


Ever-Virgin

Finally, Orthodox Christians believe that Mary remained a virgin all of her life. The traditional Orthodox position is that the “brothers of Jesus” were actually step-brothers from Joseph’s earlier marriage (he was a widower). Does this position find any support in Scripture? Yes! Let us first address the two indications put forward by Protestants that Mary did not remain a virgin. First:

When Joseph woke from sleep, he did as the angel of the Lord commanded him: he took his wife, but knew her not until she had given birth to a son. And he called his name Jesus. (Matthew 1:24-25)

The key word put forward by Protestants is "until". The Greek is "heōs." Where else do we find this Greek word? Matthew 28:20.

Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, until (heōs) the end of the age." (Matthew 28:19-20)

So, if "heōs" implies an eventual change in action, it means that Jesus will eventually leave us.

Next:

Is not this the carpenter, the son of Mary and brother of James and Joses and Judas and Simon? And are not his sisters here with us?" And they took offense at him. (Mark 6:3)

Does it ever say that these other children are the children of Mary? No, it says that they are the "brothers of Jesus". Could this mean stepbrothers? Yes, it could, unless you want to argue that Joseph was actually Jesus' blood father.

And his father and his mother marveled at what was said about [Jesus]. (Luke 2:33)

So, what does Mark 6 actually teach? Why was Jesus called the son of Mary rather than the son of Joseph? As we have seen, it was perfectly acceptable to call Jesus the son of Joseph, so it's not referring to the virginal conception. Why then? Protestant scholar Richard Bauckham answers:

"...in Nazareth Jesus would have been known as ‘the son of Mary’ because this distinguished him from the children of Joseph by his first wife."

So Mark 6:3, far from being evidence against the traditional doctrine, actually is evidence for it! Finally, consider the words of Jesus to the Apostle John:

When Jesus saw his mother and the disciple whom he loved standing nearby, he said to his mother, "Woman, behold, your son!" (John 19:26)

Jesus commits the care of the Virgin Mary to the Apostle John. This would have been absolutely unacceptable if she had other children. If the oldest child dies, the care of the mother falls to the next oldest child. If the oldest child is the only child, it is his responsibility to appoint someone to care for his mother in the case that he dies. We can see that Jesus acts as if He is the only child of Mary.

As we can see, there is no indication from the Bible that Mary had other children than Jesus, and there are at least two strong indicators against it. From the Bible alone, we can conclude fairly safely that she is a perpetual virgin.

Mary needs to be given her due. The Church of Christ has done that for two-thousand years. We have remained faithful to the biblical, apostolic, and patristic teaching concerning the position and status of the Virgin. Protestants, through a careless reading of the Bible and a hatred for the tradition of the Church, have degraded her. It’s time for them to reject the traditions of men and get in line with the Bible.

13 comments:

Marlon said...

The Theotokos is indeed the Eve of the New Creation. This is the reason why our Lord, the Son of Man and Last Adam called His Mother "Woman". He typologically reveals this to us and would never disrepect her.

Gen 2:23 And Adam said, This now is bone of my bones, and flesh of my flesh; she shall be called Woman, because she was taken out of her husband.

franciscanmafia said...

Fantastic article, I'm linking to this on my blog.

Mary-Anne said...

Great post, thanks!

Maesa said...

This is excellent, I find this as I struggle right now to comprehend why we pray Mary...I come along way far from...my 2 sisters converted to this new movement and since they are my eldest I started to listen and believed that St Mary is not to be prayed...yet, I always had a struggle within me because as much as I respect a lot my mom, how one so called Christian cannot bow down to the One who carried our Saviour??? this was hard for me to comprehend but they confused me with one element: the Holy Spirit, because they pray in tongue and I saw people being delivered from demons...this is what drag me in and now I have my doubts because I also see many contradictory things in the pentecostal movement...my mom is an active firm orthodox and I thank her a lot , never enough, as I believe she is been praying for me...now can you as well maybe clarify what is the role of the holy Spirit? why are not praying in tongues like Jesus promised it to us - pentecostal have that praying in tongue, we don't why??? Thank you so much for such a great webpage, it is time to teach us properly.

Lvka said...

As Saint Paul wrote in 1 Corinthians 12:28-30: God hath set some in the church, first apostles, secondarily prophets, thirdly teachers, after that miracles, then gifts of healings, helps, governments, diversities of tongues. Are all apostles? are all prophets? are all teachers? are all workers of miracles? Have all the gifts of healing? do all speak with tongues? do all interpret? -- Or, in other words: even in Apostolic times, such gifts did not belong to all, but only to some.

In the fourth century, Saint Ephrem the Syrian went to Cesareea of Cappadocia to spy on Saint Basil the Great, because while he was praying to God in the wilderness to show him the glory of Saint Basil, he saw a pillar of fire reaching up to heaven, and a voice saying: "in this manner is Basil!" -- yet he could not understand how a man clad in so much worldly glory [not in poor rags like the monks], surrounded and admired by so many people [which might lead one to pride], living in a very crowded city [and not in the loneliness of the desert], could be so holy.. So he sat in the back of the Church and watched him serve the Holy Liturgy -and he went there (from the Syrian desert to the city of Cesareea) in secret: they've never met before, nor was Saint Basil informed of Saint Ephrem's visit-: and all of a sudden, a deacon is sent to the back of the Church to tell Saint Ephrem that the bishop is expecting him in the Altar! He tried to excuse himself through his translator, but the deacon insisted, and when he went into the Altar, Saint Basil asked him, through the translator (because Basil spoke Greek, and Ephrem Syrian) to read the Ectenia: again, he tried to excuse himself, saying that he couldn't read or speak Greek, but Saint Basil again insisted, and when he began to utter the prayer, it came out of his mouth in Greek(!), and this is how Saint Ephrem became convinced of the holiness of Basil the Great.

Maesa said...

where is the story of Basil and st Ephraim found? most people in the pentecostal congregation pray in tongue, does it mean they are just faking?? I would like to really understand all these so to help my 2 other sisters to come out of the pentecostal mouvement. whenever, I try to say something, they say "God has never asked us to pray the deads, and Mary is dead...or any other St you are invoking they are all dead...and God said that Jesus is the only to come to God.." what kind of a response could you give to that. Please give me biblical explanation if you could, thanks a lot.

Lvka said...

In the Lives of the Saints. The last thing that Orthodoxy lacks are miracles: it has plenty. Check out the "Lives and Miracles of the Saints" link in the "Resources" menu above: you'll find literally hundreds of posts there about ancient as well as present-day miracles. The Saints are not "dead", at least not according to Christ (Matthew 22:32-33; Mark 12:26-27; Luke 20:37-38) There's a link to an article about "Prayers to the Saints" in the "Topics"-list on the right-hand side of the blog.

Kabane52 said...

Remember, Maesa, biblical tongues are a person speaking a language they personally do not know, but a real language. For example, an authentic example of biblical tongues is if someone who only speaks English gets up in Mexico and suddenly starts preaching in Spanish.

Pentecostal tongues are just gibberish.

phyzics said...

Seraphim,

Great article. Do you mind if we link to it or use it as a reference?

Lvka said...

No.

phyzics said...

Lvka,

Excuse my neurotic behavior, but I'm assuming you mean "No, we don't mind", not "No, you may not"?

Lvka said...

Yes.

Amanuel Abi said...

thank you for sharing the Lord's Word with us and thank you for opening eyes. thank you very much.

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