What the Bible says about
(From Forerunner Commentary)
A major area of doctrine that sets Roman Catholicism apart from the rest of this world's Christianity is its view of Mary, the mother of Jesus. Many weighty schools of thought and doctrine center on the person and function of Mary, and if one examines Roman Catholicism to any degree, the importance Catholics place on the mother of our Savior becomes readily apparent.
These beliefs are not just intellectual. They have led to applications and manifestations that literally fill volumes. For example, when a Catholic prays the rosary, the "Hail Mary" is said nine times as often as the Lord's Prayer. Every Catholic church boasts a statue of Mary, if not an outright shrine, and the graven images of Mary often have more prominence than those of Christ.
This emphasis on Mary caused Mark Twain to observe in The Innocents Abroad, Volume II:
In all seriousness—without meaning to be frivolous—without meaning to be irreverent, and more than all, without meaning to be blasphemous—I state as my simple deduction from the things I have seen and the things I have heard, that the Holy Personages rank thus in Rome:
First—"The Mother of God"—otherwise the Virgin Mary.
Fourth—Some twelve or fifteen canonized Popes and martyrs.
Fifth—Jesus Christ the Saviour—(but always as an infant in arms).
I may be wrong in this—my judgment errs often, just as is the case with other men's—but it is my judgment, be it good or bad.
Just here I will mention something that seems curious to me. There are no "Christ's Churches" in Rome, and no "Churches of the Holy Ghost," that I can discover. There are some four hundred churches, but about a fourth of them seem to be named for the Madonna and St. Peter. There are so many named for Mary that they have to be distinguished by all sorts of affixes, if I understand the matter rightly.
David C. Grabbe
Is Mary Worthy of Worship?
Not all presumption is careless drifting. Unfortunately, strong evidence exists to show that much of modern liberalism in religion was deliberately planned and executed. A Layman's Guide to Protestant Theology by William Hordern, p. 74, refers to this:
The method of liberalism includes the attempt to modernize Christianity. The world, liberals argue, has changed radically since the early creeds of Christendom were formulated; this makes the creeds sound archaic and unreal to modern man. We have to rethink Christianity in thought forms which the modern world can comprehend. Fosdick argued that we must express the essence of Christianity, its "abiding experiences," but that we must not identify these with the "changing categories" in which they have been expressed in the past. For example, says Fosdick, an abiding experience of Christianity has been its conviction that God will triumph over evil. This has been traditionally pictured in the category of Christ's second coming on the clouds to destroy evil and set up good. We can no longer retain the outworn category, but we can still believe the truth which this ancient thought form was trying to express. We can continue to work in the faith that, through His devoted followers, God is now building His Kingdom and that there will be a renewing of life, individual and social, to bring it into conformity with the will of God. The essence of the faith is thus retained, argues Fosdick, which the thought form in which it was once clothed has been abandoned.
A second aspect of the method of liberalism is its refusal to accept religious belief on authority alone. Instead, it insists that all beliefs must pass the bar of reason and experience. Man's mind is capable of thinking God's thoughts after Him. Man's intuitions and reason are the best clues that we have to the nature of God. The mind must be kept open to all truth regardless of from whence it comes. This means that the liberal must have an open mind; no questions are closed. New facts may change the convictions that have become hallowed by custom and time. The liberal will venture forth into the unknown, firmly believing that all truth must be God's truth. In this spirit, the liberal accepts the higher criticism of the Bible and the theory of evolution. He refuses to have a religion that is afraid of truth or that tries to protect itself from critical examination. (emphasis added)
Is it any wonder, when those who are supposed to be the primary protectors of religious purity think the way they do, that the laity behaves as they do? Does it really make any difference? Certainly, because the almighty God on high definitely thinks it makes a difference!
Hardly anything more clearly illustrates the self-deceived perverseness of human nature as its presumptuous additions of the observation of Christmas and Easter to the worship of the God of the Bible. That Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judea is indisputable, but among other things, He was not born on December 25, nor did anybody exchange gifts on that date. Scripture nowhere says there were three wise men, and it is clear they gave gifts only to Christ as King.
Regarding Easter, Jesus was not resurrected on a Sunday morning, nor was He crucified on a Friday afternoon. It is impossible to squeeze three days and three nights, which Jesus Himself said would be the length of time He would spend in the tomb (Matthew 12:40), between Friday afternoon and Sunday morning. Even so, fantastically detailed and emotionally appealing traditions have presumptuously been built around both these events and have been taught to a deceived public as though they were true.
Beyond what has been already mentioned regarding these days, where in God's Word does He command that we believe and do these commonly accepted practices? Men have presumptuously taken them upon themselves.
The addition of Christmas and Easter to Christianity happened so long ago that they have come to be accepted as part of the Christian religion, and most people celebrate them without thought. Nevertheless, adding to so-called Christian beliefs has not ended—in fact, it is still happening.
The late Pope John Paul II was an ardent ecumenist. He circled the globe many times in his travels and embraced in conference many non-Catholics in his effort to bring all into one fold. His successor, Pope Benedict XVI, has pledged to continue that effort. Recently, their representatives achieved a decisive victory in forging a much closer alliance with the Anglican Church. However, Anglican leaders could take this step only by abandoning the firm foundation of a former doctrine and thus joining Catholics in accepting a presumptuous addition that the latter already believe.
A headline in the Seattle Post Intelligencer, May 17, 2005, reads, "Catholics, Anglicans reach accord on Mary: Statement closes big gap between churches." The article explains:
The historical separation between Roman Catholics and Anglicans has narrowed after both found common ground on the position of Mary, mother of Jesus, according to a document conceived at the highest church levels. . . . Anglicans, already close to Catholics because of liturgy and traditions, have moved even closer through their understanding of Mary as outlined in the joint statement, which took five years and an international committee to complete.
Bringing back the departed brethren has been a strong focus of the Catholic Church since the Counter-Reformation that followed the Protestant Reformation, which had dealt Catholicism a powerful blow in the sixteenth century. However, it was not until the "New Age Movement" began in earnest during the mid-1970s—with its strong, insistent call for a paradigm shift toward greater tolerance and radical thinking in religious beliefs and values—that the stage was set for ecumenical efforts to succeed.
The following quotation from the same article publicly undressed, as it were, the Anglican Church:
The document seeks to transcend past controversies on Catholic dogma, including the Immaculate Conception and the Assumption of Mary. While not spelled out specifically in the Bible, such beliefs can be interpreted through Scripture, according to the 80-paragraph document.
The result might be an elevation, or at least a heightened acknowledgment, of the place of Mary—particularly for Anglicans, the denomination born in England during the Reformation and called the Episcopal Church in the United States.
Anglicanism is considered closest to Catholicism because it gives Mary a pre-eminent place among the saints, includes her in Communion prayers and holds six Marian feast days.
Among other matters, Catholics and Protestants disagree over the Catholic dogmas of the Immaculate Conception—the assertion that Mary lived a life free from sin from the moment she was conceived—and the Assumption, the belief that her body and soul were taken into heaven when her earthly life ended.
Those dogmas have "created problems not only for Anglicans but also for other Christians," the document said, largely because they are not explicitly supported by Scripture.
But those dogmas also "can be said to be consonant with the teaching of the Scriptures and the ancient common traditions," said the document, titled "Mary: Grace and Hope in Christ." (emphasis added)
How can either of these two doctrines be biblically derived? They cannot! The Catholic Church has long acknowledged that the role they give Mary cannot be supported by Scripture alone, so now both the Catholic and Anglican churches have admitted through the publication of this document that these teachings are based upon mere human tradition.
In the distant past, someone decided that honoring Mary in this way would be "nice," or perhaps he used the word "appropriate," because she was chosen by God to bear His Son in her womb, and besides, she seems to be such a good woman. However, the Scriptures call for no such elevation in status, and they certainly never claim that she lived a perfect, sinless life! Now the Roman Catholic Church has gone so far as to claim she is co-savior with Christ!
Such presumption seems beyond the bounds of honest, spiritual reasoning, but the Catholic Church has similarly declared Sunday to be the day of worship, replacing God's Sabbath. They have published articles openly admitting that, if one uses the Bible alone, then the Sabbath is the only acceptable day of worship. In those same articles, they have also been honest in stating that they have made this change from Sabbath to Sunday on their own authority. On these issues, their presumption is not hidden!
But this is arrogant and bold hubris on a massive scale, enabled only because Satan has managed to deceive the whole world (Revelation 12:9). The overwhelming majority of people calling themselves Christian are so unconcerned—that is, tolerant and careless—they live thinking that it does not matter to God.
John W. Ritenbaugh
Presumption and Divine Justice
This is the sole scriptural reference that even remotely suggests that Mary might be worthy of worship. While the angel gives Mary a number of high compliments, nothing indicates that she is worthy of worship, let alone being an intercessor between Jesus Christ and His followers, a Co-Redemptrix, sinless for her entire life, or given any other honor aside from being God's chosen vessel for the purpose of the Son of God being made flesh and blood. This is not to denigrate that role in the least, because truly it is a great honor, but God has throughout the ages chosen various people to fill different roles according to His will and purpose—and none of them are shown to be worthy of worship.
In verse 28, Gabriel tells Mary in his salutation that she is "highly favored," and in verse 30, that she "has found favor with God." The Greek word translated highly favored means "to grace," "to endue with special honor," or "to be accepted." The only other place it is used is Ephesians 1:6, where Paul says to the church at Ephesus and to the body of Christ generally, ". . . to the praise of the glory of His grace, by which He made us accepted in the Beloved." From this example, we can see that being "highly favored" is not synonymous with being worthy of worship. Everyone in the body of Christ is highly favored because God has accepted us through the justification brought about by Christ's sacrifice.
In verse 30, Gabriel tells Mary that she has found favor with God. "Favor" is the Greek word charis, which means "graciousness of manner or action." It indicates favor on the part of the giver and thankfulness on the part of the receiver. It is most often translated "grace" in the New Testament. Gabriel tells Mary that she is the recipient of charis, of grace and favor by God—the emphasis is on what God is doing. The type of grace bestowed on Mary is implied to be sweetness, charm, loveliness, joy, and delight. Again, we see nothing in this verse to give any indication that Mary should be worshipped. She simply received God's favor by being chosen to fulfill this role.
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?
Any modern newspaper editor would look at his opening salvo and say, "What a wonderful opening paragraph for this story!" Luke gives the who, what, where, and when right away, and gets to the why in short order. A complex scene is set out in order in just a few words.
Former Catholics will recognize verse 28 from the recitation of the rosary, "Hail, Mary, full of grace," taken from Jerome's Latin Vulgate, but the Greek does not read anything like that. Nor is there any authority to pray this to her. What the angel, Gabriel, really says to her is, "Rejoice, Mary, because you have found favor with God." She is so highly favored that the Lord blesses her, among all women on earth at the time, to be chosen for the honor of bearing and raising His Son.
Luke is actually suggesting, not that Mary should be adored for her favor with God, but that God should receive glory and adoration for bestowing such a blessing on her. He is the source of her favor; He gives it by grace to her, not because she was somehow qualified for it. She must have been a pretty good person, but she was not converted at the time. She was an ordinary Jewess of the line of David, though specially prepared for this blessing. Nevertheless, God displays His graciousness, not Mary's.
Most commentaries guess that she was about fourteen years old at the time, as that was the age when women commonly married then. Perhaps she was a little older. Tradition says that Joseph himself was an older man and might have desired a slightly older wife than was normal.
Verse 29 states that she was perplexed, agitated, or disturbed by what the angel said to her. She probably had no idea what to think, but to her credit, she did not become flighty or melt into a quivering mass. The Scriptures bring out that Mary was a serious thinker. In Luke 2:51, the evangelist tells us that she "kept all these things [concerning Jesus] in her heart," suggesting that she was patient, thoughtful, and wise. She did not jump to conclusions but let matters play out.
Richard T. Ritenbaugh
The Birth of Jesus Christ (Part One): Annunciation
Maybe the most blatant idolatry in Roman Catholicism is their adoration of Mary, the mother of Christ. On the basis of one scripture, Luke 1:28, Catholic theologians have built a major tenet of their faith: "And having come in, the angel said to her, 'Rejoice, highly favored one, the Lord is with you; blessed are you among women!'" With this, they elevate her nearly to a goddess (if not in fact), pray to her incessantly, claim to see her in visions and hear her in dreams and trances, and worship statues of her in their churches and cathedrals!
Two quotations from supposed saints of Catholicism will suffice to illustrate how far Mary worship goes:
? There is no one, O most holy Mary . . . who can be saved or redeemed but through thee. . . . (St. Germanius, quoted in St. Alphonsus de Liguori, The Glories of Mary, 1931, p. 171.)
? As we have access to the Eternal Father only through Jesus Christ, so have we access to Jesus Christ only through Mary. By thee we have access to the Son, O blessed finder of grace, bearer of life, and mother of salvation. . . . (St. Bernard, ibid.)
The Catholic Church has elevated Mary to divine status and given her titles and responsibilities reserved to God the Father and His Son! In fact, she becomes the third member of a trinity modeled after the pagan trinities of ancient times. These heathen trinities, found in most polytheistic religions, follow the Father-Mother-Son pattern: Osiris, Isis and Horus; Nimrod, Semiramis and Tammuz; Zeus, Diana, Dionysus; Jupiter, Venus and Cupid; etc.
In like manner, some Catholics attribute to Mary the position and characteristics of the third person of their unscriptural trinity, the Holy Spirit. The official publication of "The Blue Army of Our Lady of Fatima," boasting 22 million members, claims:
Mary is so perfectly united with the Holy Spirit that He acts only through His spouse. . . . All our life, every thought, word, and deed is in Her hands . . . at every moment, She Herself must instruct, guide, and transform each one of us into Herself, so that not we but She lives in us, as Jesus lives in Her, and the Father in the Son. (Soul Magazine, November—December 1984, p.4.)
If she has these powers and characteristics, then Mary must be God! There can be no doubt that this adoration of Mary is simply a modern manifestation of goddess worship that began over 4,000 years ago in Mesopotamia! In fact, one of her titles, as used by the present Pope, a devoted Marian, is "Queen of Heaven" (Jeremiah 7:18; 44:17-19, 25)!
Richard T. Ritenbaugh
The Woman Atop the Beast (Part 1)
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?
During Christ's ministry, a woman tries to draw special attention to Jesus' mother, and Christ puts things in the proper perspective for us.
Jesus agrees that, even though his mother was "happy and to be envied," as the Amplified Bible puts it, even more blessed is anyone who hears God's Word and obeys it. He acknowledges that, yes, His mother was a fine lady—but anyone focusing on the personage of Mary was really missing the point. Christ was interested in the attitude and conduct of people, not their veneration of any human being!
We see a similar phenomenon within mainstream Christianity. Protestants tend to twist the gospel into simply a message about the person of Jesus Christ, and they like to gloss over the message that He actually spoke: "Repent [hear and obey], so you can be in alignment with the soon-coming Kingdom of God!" (Matthew 3:2; 4:17; Mark 1:15). They are so in love with the personality that they cannot hear what He says.
David C. Grabbe
Is Mary Worthy of Worship?
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