Sunday, July 27, 2008

Mary Was Just A Vessel

In Candy's most recent post, on the 6th chapter of John, she included a note about the birth of Jesus.

Of course, in Jesus' case, He is not the son of Joseph. Joseph and Mary were the "adoptive" parents of Jesus while on this earth. Jesus’ Father is God.

She has now removed this, because she said it was being misunderstood. However, previously she wrote something similar:

Mary was just a chosen vessel to carry the flesh of Jesus, until he was born.

I was initially surprised at this, but I since learned that this is a common belief among some Fundamentalists. Catholic Answers writes:

A woman is a man’s mother either if she carried him in her womb or if she was the woman contributing half of his genetic matter or both. Mary was the mother of Jesus in both of these senses; because she not only carried Jesus in her womb but also supplied all of the genetic matter for his human body, since it was through her—not Joseph—that Jesus "was descended from David according to the flesh" (Rom. 1:3).

Since Mary is Jesus’ mother, it must be concluded that she is also the Mother of God: If Mary is the mother of Jesus, and if Jesus is God, then Mary is the Mother of God. There is no way out of this logical syllogism, the valid form of which has been recognized by classical logicians since before the time of Christ.

Although Mary is the Mother of God, she is not his mother in the sense that she is older than God or the source of her Son’s divinity, for she is neither. Rather, we say that she is the Mother of God in the sense that she carried in her womb a divine person—Jesus Christ, God "in the flesh" (2 John 7, cf. John 1:14)—and in the sense that she contributed the genetic matter to the human form God took in Jesus Christ.

To avoid this conclusion, Fundamentalists often assert that Mary did not carry God in her womb, but only carried Christ’s human nature. This assertion reinvents a heresy from the fifth century known as Nestorianism, which runs aground on the fact that a mother does not merely carry the human nature of her child in her womb. Rather, she carries the person of her child. Women do not give birth to human natures; they give birth to persons. Mary thus carried and gave birth to the person of Jesus Christ, and the person she gave birth to was God.

First, if Mary "was just a chosen vessel" does that really mean that there was nothing special about her? The Bible contains another account of a vessel which carried God, the Ark of the Covenant.

The Scripture Catholic website writes the Biblical parallels between the Ark of the Covenant and Mary:

Exodus 25:11-21 - the ark of the Old Covenant was made of the purest gold for God's Word. Mary is the ark of the New Covenant and is the purest vessel for the Word of God made flesh.

2 Sam. 6:7 - the Ark is so holy and pure that when Uzzah touched it, the Lord slew him. This shows us that the Ark is undefiled. Mary the Ark of the New Covenant is even more immaculate and undefiled, spared by God from original sin so that she could bear His eternal Word in her womb.

1 Chron. 13:9-10 - this is another account of Uzzah and the Ark. For God to dwell within Mary the Ark, Mary had to be conceived without sin. For Protestants to argue otherwise would be to say that God would let the finger of Satan touch His Son made flesh. This is incomprehensible.

1 Chron. 15 and 16 - these verses show the awesome reverence the Jews had for the Ark - veneration, vestments, songs, harps, lyres, cymbals, trumpets.

Luke 1:39 / 2 Sam. 6:2 - Luke's conspicuous comparison's between Mary and the Ark described by Samuel underscores the reality of Mary as the undefiled and immaculate Ark of the New Covenant. In these verses, Mary (the Ark) arose and went / David arose and went to the Ark. There is a clear parallel between the Ark of the Old and the Ark of the New Covenant.

Luke 1:41 / 2 Sam. 6:16 - John the Baptist / King David leap for joy before Mary / Ark. So should we leap for joy before Mary the immaculate Ark of the Word made flesh.

Luke 1:43 / 2 Sam. 6:9 - How can the Mother / Ark of the Lord come to me? It is a holy privilege. Our Mother wants to come to us and lead us to Jesus.

Luke 1:56 / 2 Sam. 6:11 and 1 Chron. 13:14 - Mary / the Ark remained in the house for about three months.

Rev 11:19 - at this point in history, the Ark of the Old Covenant was not seen for six centuries (see 2 Macc. 2:7), and now it is finally seen in heaven. The Jewish people would have been absolutely amazed at this. However, John immediately passes over this fact and describes the "woman" clothed with the sun in Rev. 12:1. John is emphasizing that Mary is the Ark of the New Covenant and who, like the Old ark, is now worthy of veneration and praise. Also remember that Rev. 11:19 and Rev. 12:1 are tied together because there was no chapter and verse at the time these texts were written.

You can read a more in depth study about Mary as the new Ark of the Covenant here.

Second, if she only carried the flesh of Jesus, then she did not carry his Divinity. The early church found the issue of whether Mary was "Christotokos" the Christ Bearer or "Theotokos" the God Bearer very important. Nestorius said, like Candy, that Mary only bore Jesus' humanity, but that God was not contained in her womb. This Rock has a good concise history of the Nestorian controversy.

If Mary only bore the flesh of Jesus, then where was the Divinity? When did Jesus become both fully human and fully Divine?

Martin Luther had no problem with the title "Mother of God."

She became the Mother of God, in which work so many and such great good things are bestowed on her as pass man's understanding. For on this there follows all honor, all blessedness, and her unique place in the whole of mankind, among which she has no equal, namely, that she had a child by the Father in heaven, and such a Child . . . Hence men have crowded all her glory into a single word, calling her the Mother of God . . . None can say of her nor announce to her greater things, even though he had as many tongues as the earth possesses flowers and blades of grass: the sky, stars; and the sea, grains of sand. It needs to be pondered in the heart what it means to be the Mother of God.

(Martin Luther, Commentary on the Magnificat, 1521; in Luther's Works, Pelikan et al, volume 21, 326)
Martin Luther is following in the footsteps of the early Christians by hailing Mary as the Mother of God. Here is a sampling:

"Many, my beloved, are the true testimonies concerning Christ. The Father bears witness from heaven of His Son: the Holy Ghost bears witness, descending bodily in likeness of a dove: the Archangel Gabriel bears witness, bringing good tidings to Mary: the Virgin Mother of God bears witness: the blessed place of the manger bears witness." Cyril of Jerusalem, Catechetical Lectures, X:19 (c. A.D. 350).

"If anyone does not believe that Holy Mary is the Mother of God, he is severed from the Godhead." Gregory of Nazianzus, To Cledonius, 101 (A.D. 382).

"And so you say, O heretic, whoever you may be, who deny that God was born of the Virgin, that Mary the Mother of our Lord Jesus Christ ought not to be called Theotocos, i.e., Mother of God, but Christotocos, i.e., only the Mother of Christ, not of God. For no one, you say, brings forth what is anterior in time. And of this utterly foolish argument whereby you think that the birth of God can be understood by carnal minds, and fancy that the mystery of His Majesty can be accounted for by human reasoning, we will, if God permits, say something later on. In the meanwhile we will now prove by Divine testimonies that Christ is God, and that Mary is the Mother of God." John Cassian, The Incarnation of Christ, II:2 (A.D. 430).

Also from Candy's previous writings:

Jesus holds believers more important that his mother - thankfully she is a believer also: "And it came to pass, as he spake these things, a certain woman of the company lifted up her voice, and said unto him, Blessed is the womb that bare thee, and the paps which thou hast sucked [blessed in Mary]. But he said, Yea rather, blessed are they that hear the word of God, and keep it." -Luke 11:27-28 Candy

I find this a very interesting quote. Notice that Jesus did not say "blessed are they that hear the word of God, and have faith alone." He said "and keep it," which sounds like works. While Catholics do not believe we are saved by works, the importance of works is reiterated time and time again in Scripture.

A verse which Candy did not quote:

Luke 1:28:
And the angel came in unto her, and said, Hail, thou that art highly favoured, the Lord is with thee: blessed art thou among women.

Highly favoured? Blessed among women? I thought Candy said that believers were more important than Mary?

Luke 1:30: And the angel said unto her, Fear not, Mary: for thou hast found favour with God.

Found favour with God? I thought she was just a chosen vessel, randomly plucked from the mass of humanity.

Luke 1:42: And she spake out with a loud voice, and said, Blessed art thou among women, and blessed is the fruit of thy womb.

There's that blessed among women thing again.

Luke 1:48: For he hath regarded the low estate of his handmaiden: for, behold, from henceforth all generations shall call me blessed.

All generations will call Mary blessed. But Candy says she is not blessed, not at all. And in that, she is contradicting the Word of God.

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unknown anon said...

But isn't it slick that she got the uproar over her "adoptive" comment, and away from her denial of Christ in the latter half of John 6, where she denies the clear language of 'eat, gnaw, consume' in terms of the Body of Christ in the Eucharist.....

Rose said...

You have a unique way of writing Kelly. Infact all you Ladies do!
I was finding it very hard to follow over there. A lot of it was very Mumbo Jumbo.
I'm glad you have took your time to explain it as it is. So much easier to follow and understand.

Elena said...

Also, as a reminder, we did spend a good part of the month of May 2008 focused on Mary. Please see those archives as well.

Kelly said...

But isn't it slick that she got the uproar over her "adoptive" comment

Why unknown anon, I'm not sure what you mean when you speak of an uproar. There were hardly any comments on the post at all when I looked, and most of them were supportive.

Yes, when I see a post that handles a controversial subject with very few comments, I can only conclude that Candy has handled it in such a way that everyone came to an agreement after reading her convincing argument. ;)

angie said...

I'm afraid that Candy will not be able to hold her tongue much longer. The last couple weeks has been so peaceful, and now here we go. When she disregards Mary the way she does, I literally feel so sick to my stomach I feel like I just might vomit. I tried to address this with her awhile back, and she just threw more disrespectful comments about Mary at me. I sincerely wonder what God will have to say to her on her day of judgement regarding these issues, but I do continue to pray for her enlightenment.

Thank you Kelly for the informational article. It's awesome to read the evidence put out there in such a clear and concise manner.

Angie said...

Very well done, Kelly - you and the other Ladies do an excellent job. I enjoy coming here. Each time I walk away with more insight to my Faith!
God bless!

Kelly said...

Just to clarify, do we have two Angie's now? Which one of you had the discussion with Candy?

unknown anon said...

Well, one can only surmise that she got a significant number of comments, since she changed her 'commentary' at least twice, and then completely deleted the part about 'adoption.' I know for sure that she got two comments which didn't get put up publicly...and there was at least one more comment which was posted and later deleted.

All I was saying is that she skillfully developed a 'new' controversy, so as to get people to ignore her errors on the Eucharist.

Moonshadow said...

I just finished a small group study on Joseph in Genesis and this question popped into my head:

Could God have used any Israelite to save Jacob and his sons?

My conclusion was, emphatically, "No."

Joseph was specially gifted to rise to prominence in Egypt to preserve his ailing father's family.

How many more times, then, does this go for Mary, that God specially gifted her as His Son's mother?!

Calling for some consistency!

Robin said...

I have never heard the 'vessel' theory in all my 39 years as a Southern Baptist. How ridiculous! There is no basis for this belief anywhere in the Scripture.

Kelly said...

Thanks for letting us know that, Robin. It's good to hear that Candy's beliefs don't always represent a large segment of Baptists.