Mary's cousin Elizabeth is inspired to recognize that Mary's baby is not just an ordinary baby, and she calls both Mary and her unborn Son "blessed." Blessed literally means "to speak well of." It signifies celebrating with praises and invoking blessings upon a person. The New Testament uses it frequently, sometimes in relation to Christ, but often in relation to inanimate objects such as fish and loaves of bread. The Amplified Bible translates it as "favored of God." Again, nothing in the wording indicates that Mary is worthy of worship.
Mary is not the only woman to be given the title of "blessed" in the Bible. In the Song of Deborah, Jael—the woman who invited the fleeing Sisera into her tent, encouraged him to sleep, and then drove a tent peg through his skull—is accorded this same honor: "Most blessed among women is Jael, the wife of Heber the Kenite; blessed is she among women in tents" (Judges 5:24). Here, she is lauded as "blessed"—even "most blessed"—but there is no record of a shrine dedicated to her or of anybody worshipping her. She is simply recognized with a very honorable mention for the part she played in carrying out God's plan.
David C. Grabbe
Is Mary Worthy of Worship?
The references to Mary in Luke 1 are the core scriptures that Catholic scholars use to try to prove that Mary is worthy of our worship. It is evident that the verses say little more than that Mary was given grace and favor by God, as we all have. They simply cannot be used as a starting point for establishing a doctrine of worship.
Aside from the little that the Bible says about Mary, there are other significant biblical principles that directly contradict a doctrine of Mary-worship. We could examine a whole host of scriptures relating to human death and resurrection to show that Mary is in the same condition as the rest of the dead in Christ—awaiting the resurrection, without consciousness, and not in heaven (Psalm 146:3-4; Ecclesiastes 9:5; Job 14:12; John 3:13; Acts 2:29-34; I Corinthians 15:12-55; see also Is Heaven the Reward of the Saved?). We could look at a vast array of scriptures that show that Mary-worship is indeed idolatry, because only God the Father and Jesus Christ are worthy of our worship (Exodus 34:14; Matthew 4:10). We could delve into the singular role that Jesus Christ plays as Mediator of the New Covenant—a role in which He does not need any help (Hebrews 8:6; 9:15; 12:24). These are not difficult concepts. Nevertheless, there is a vital lesson to be learned from this obviously erroneous doctrine.
The veneration of Mary, like many pagan practices, has its origin in the heathen religious system created by Nimrod and Semiramis, and more specifically, from the worship of the "Mother and Child." Through the millennia, the symbol of the "Mother and Child" has been endlessly repeated; one can find evidence of Mother-and-Child worship in all of the nations in ancient times. Though her characteristics varied from culture to culture, the common element is that the Mother was the Queen of Heaven, and she bore fruit even though a virgin.
In China, Semiramis became known as the "Holy Mother." The Germans named her "Hertha." The Scandinavians called her "Disa." Among the Druids, the "Vigo-Paritura" was worshipped as the "Mother of God." To the Greeks, she was "Aphrodite." To the Romans she was known as "Venus," and her son was "Jupiter." The Canaanites, and sometimes even the Israelites, worshipped "Ashtoreth" (Judges 2:13; 10:6; I Samuel 7:3-4; 12:10; I Kings 11:5, 33; II Kings 23:13), who was also known as "the queen of heaven" (Jeremiah 7:18). In Ephesus, the Great Mother was known as "Diana." T.W. Doane in his book Bible Myths sums it up this way: "Thus we see that the Virgin and child were worshipped in pagan times from China to Britain . . . and even in Mexico the 'Mother and child' were worshipped."
This false worship, having spread from Babylon to the various nations, finally became established at Rome and throughout the Roman Empire. James George Frazer in his The Golden Bough observes:
The worship of the Great Mother . . . was very popular under the Roman Empire. Inscriptions prove that the [Mother and the Child] received divine honors . . . not only in Italy and especially at Rome, but also in the provinces, particularly in Africa, Spain, Portugal, France, Germany, and Bulgaria. (vol. 1, p. 356)
One of the repeated patterns of the Roman church is syncretism, bringing pagan beliefs and practices into the church to keep certain groups happy. This is the same mechanism by which Christmas, Easter, Sunday-worship, and the pagan trinity-god were brought into the Roman church—and which most of mainstream Christianity has accepted without question. The church allowed the pagans within it to continue their practices—in this case, the worship of the Great Mother—only in a slightly different form and with a new name. Many pagans had been drawn to Christianity, but so strong in their mind was the adoration for the Mother-goddess, that they did not want to forsake her. Compromising church leaders saw that, if they could find some similarity in Christianity with the Mother-goddess worship of the pagans, they could increase their numbers by bringing many pagans into their fold. Of course, Mary fit the bill perfectly. So the pagans were allowed to continue their prayers and devotion to the Mother-goddess, but her name was changed to Mary. In this way, the pagan worship of the Mother was given the appearance of Christianity, and the course was set.
Scripture cannot be used as a starting place for attempting to prove that Mary is worthy of worship. The true beginning for this practice lies with Semiramis and the Babylonian system begun by Nimrod. When the Catholic Encyclopedia presents as proof the historical fact that early Catholics venerated and worshipped Mary, it conveniently leaves out the fact that this adoration started in paganism and was shifted to the personage of the mother of Christ. Once the Roman Church adopted this practice, support had to be found for it, so it "interpreted" Scripture in a way that would lend credence to this practice. However, in these explanations it is apparent that Catholics start with a conclusion and then attempt to find support for it.
David C. Grabbe
Is Mary Worthy of Worship?
Other Forerunner Commentary entries containing Luke 1:41: