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The Mary of Scripture

by Jeff Wehr

WHILE millions flock to view an apparition of Mary, thousands believe that unification between the Catholic Church and the rest of the world will come through "Mary." She is known throughout devoted circles as the Queen of Heaven, the Lady of Fatima, the Mother of God, the Co-mediatrix, the Lady of the Good Death, and so on. However, is there any basis for this worldwide adoration of "Mary"? Can "Mary" bring the world into unification with the Catholic Church?

Perhaps the first question that must be asked is, Who is Mary? According to Scripture, we find that Mary was "a virgin espoused to a man whose name was Joseph, of the house of David," and that she lived in a "city of Galilee, named Nazareth." Luke 1:27. While she was engaged to Joseph she became pregnant with Jesus by the power of the Holy Spirit. See Matthew 1:20. Then for three months Mary lived with her cousin Elizabeth, who, with her husband Zacharias, was expecting the birth of their son John the Baptist, the forerunner of Christ. See Luke 1:13-15.

Mary gave birth to Jesus in a manger in Bethlehem. That same night of the Saviour's birth, shepherds came to glorify and honor the child. Later, there came wise men from the east to worship the newborn babe. Then Joseph was warned in a dream to escape from Bethlehem and to go to Egypt because King Herod sought to destroy Jesus. After Herod's death, Joseph and Mary returned to Palestine to the city of Nazareth. It was there that Jesus grew up and lived until He entered upon His ministry. See Matthew 2:1-23; Luke 2:1-20.

When Mary understood that God had chosen her from among all women to give birth to the Saviour, she rejoiced and said, "My soul doth magnify the Lord, and my spirit hath rejoiced in God my Saviour. For he hath regarded the low estate of his handmaiden: for, behold, from henceforth all generations shall call me blessed. For he that is mighty hath done to me great things; and holy is his name. And his mercy is on them that fear him from generation to generation." Luke 1:46-50. (All emphasis supplied unless otherwise noted.)

In these few words spoken by Mary we find (1) that she magnified God and God alone, (2) that she too was in need of a Saviour, and (3) that she considered herself blessed that God had chosen her to bear the Christchild.

Thus far, Mary is described as a dedicated Jewish woman who is engaged to a man named Joseph. Before they had any marital relations, Mary became pregnant with the world's Redeemer by the power of the Holy Spirit. She rejoiced, not simply that she was chosen of God to give birth to the Messiah, but also that she indeed had a Saviour for her own sins.

The Scriptures are silent concerning Mary during Christ's childhood, except that she still did not quite understand His mission. When Joseph and Mary lost sight of the twelve-year-old Jesus at the Passover service, they finally found Him after a diligent search. Upon finding Him, Mary said, "Son, why hast thou thus dealt with us? behold, thy father and I have sought thee sorrowing." Jesus answered, "How is it that ye have sought me? wist ye not that I must be about my Father's business?" Luke 2:48-49. Luke informs us that neither Joseph nor Mary understood those profound words of Jesus. However, Mary kept His words in her heart. See Luke 2:50-51.

While Mary was indeed a very spiritual Jewish woman, she did not fully understand the ministry of Jesus. One example of this was at the wedding in Cana. See John 2:1-11. At this wedding the wine had run out. Then Mary requested that Jesus do something about it, saying, "They have no wine." Jesus answered her, "Woman, what have I to do with thee? mine hour is not yet come."

Mary had made the request that Jesus perform a miracle. However, Jesus did not immediately perform the miracle of turning the water into wine. He first implied to Mary that she was not to interfere with His ministry.

The Spirit of Prophecy comments on it, saying, "This answer, abrupt as it seems to us, expressed no coldness or discourtesy. The Saviour's form of address to His mother was in accordance with Oriental custom. It was used toward persons to whom it was desired to show respect. Every act of Christ's earthly life was in harmony with the precept He Himself had given, 'Honour thy father and thy mother.' Exodus 20:12. On the cross, in His last act of tenderness toward His mother, Jesus again addressed her in the same way, as He committed her to the care of His best-loved disciple. Both at the marriage feast and upon the cross, the love expressed in tone and look and manner interpreted His words.

"At His visit to the temple in His boyhood, as the mystery of His lifework opened before Him, Christ had said to Mary, 'Wist ye not that I must be about my Father's business?' These words struck the keynote of His whole life and ministry. Everything was held in abeyance to His work, the great work of redemption which He had come into the world to accomplish. Now He repeated the lesson. There was danger that Mary would regard her relationship to Jesus as giving her a special claim upon Him, and the right, in some degree, to direct Him in His mission. For thirty years He had been to her a loving and obedient son, and His love was unchanged; but He must now go about His Father's work. As Son of the Most High, and Saviour of the world, no earthly ties must hold Him from His mission, or influence His conduct. He must stand free to do the will of God. This lesson is also for us. The claims of God are paramount even to the ties of human relationship. No earthly attraction should turn our feet from the path in which He bids us walk." The Desire of Ages, 146-147.

When Mary and Jesus' brothers tried to interrupt His preaching so that they could speak with Him, someone said to Jesus, "Behold, thy mother and thy brethren stand without, desiring to speak with thee." But Jesus answered, saying, "Who is my mother? and who are my brethren? . . . For whosoever shall do the will of my Father which is in heaven, the same is my brother, and sister, and mother." Matthew 12:46-50. In the eyes of Heaven, Christ's mother, brother, and sister have no special consideration because of any physical relationship, but only because they do the will of God.

When a certain woman said to Jesus, "Blessed is the womb that bare thee, and the paps which thou hast sucked," Jesus answered, saying, "Yea rather, blessed are they that hear the word of God, and keep it." Luke 11:27-28. In the eyes of Jesus, those who hear the Word of God and obey it, are the most blessed.

After the death of Jesus, information concerning Mary is very scarce. There are no accounts of Mary being present at the numerous appearings of Jesus before His ascension into heaven. The implication is that Mary did not figure prominently in the early church mission. After Acts 1:14, we completely lose sight of Mary in the Scriptures.

Nearly all traditional sources agree that Mary was buried in a new grave in Cedron, in a garden called Gethsemane on the Mount of Olives. In other words, Mary was not translated into heaven, but was buried. The Bible says, "But every man in his own order: Christ the firstfruits; afterward they that are Christ's at his coming." 1 Corinthians 15:23. Those who obey God's Word will be raised to life at His Second Coming.

Festivals celebrating the false doctrine of the Assumption of Mary--that Mary was taken body and soul to heaven without seeing death--did not begin until the sixth century. It was not until November 1, 1950, that Pope Pius XII defined it as a dogma. However, the Catholic world, without any Scriptural support or any example in the early church, celebrates the Assumption of Mary into heaven every year on August 15.

Unfortunately, this adoration of Mary as the Mother of God has even developed into referring to Mary as the Mother of the human race. In other words, she is called the second Eve. To find some Biblical basis for such a teaching, some turn to John 19:26-27. In this passage, Jesus is hanging on the cross. He sees His mother and one of His disciples, namely, John. He said to Mary, "Woman, behold thy son!" Then He said to John, "Behold thy mother!" Thus Jesus chose to leave the care of His mother in the hands of John, and from that time on Mary lived in his home.

Catholic theologian L. Ott commented on this passage which some say concerns Mary being the mother of all believers, "Specific scriptural proof does not exist. Theologians look for Biblical support for Christ's words in John 19:26: 'Woman, behold thy son!' but according to its literal meaning, these words only refer to those to whom they were directed: Mary and John." Fundamentals of Catholic Dogma, Cork, 1966, p. 214.

The concept that Mary is the universal mother of all believers did not appear until the 11th century. Yet this completely unscriptural teaching is finding acceptance throughout the world.

Worship of Mary

What is most alarming about the Marian movement is the adoration, the worship of, and the praying to Mary. But the Bible is clear that we are not to worship any image or any other being. Furthermore, through the prophet Jeremiah, the Lord forbids the worship of any woman as the queen of heaven: "The children gather wood, and the fathers kindle the fire, and the women knead their dough, to make cakes to the queen of heaven, and to pour out drink offerings unto other gods, that they may provoke me to anger." Jeremiah 7:18. We are to worship God alone. There is a spiritual Father, but there is no spiritual mother in the Scriptures.

So what did Mary pass on? She passed on the only thing she could pass on--namely, fallen human nature--not divinity. Yet, at the Vatican II Council they recorded that: "The Virgin Mary . . . is recognized and honored as the true Mother of God and the Redeemer." Cesar Vidal, The Myth of Mary, 92.

In the 19th chapter of Acts there is a description of Paul's visit to Ephesus. As a result of Paul's evangelistic work, many ceased their worship of idols and accepted Jesus Christ as their Saviour. However, there was a tremendous complaint against Paul's work. A silversmith named Demetrius said, "Sirs, ye know that by this craft we have our wealth. Moreover ye see and hear, that not alone at Ephesus, but almost throughout all Asia, this Paul hath persuaded and turned away much people, saying that they be no gods, which are made with hands; so that not only this our craft is in danger to be set at nought; but also that the temple of the great goddess Diana should be despised, and her magnificence should be destroyed, whom all Asia and the world worshippeth." Acts 19:25-27. Truth leads people away from the worship of idols and images. It matters not who the image is patterned after, for only the true and living God is worthy of our worship.

What is often included in the worship of, and the praying to Mary, is the use of the rosary. October 7 is the day dedicated by the Catholic Church to honor the rosary. The rosary consists of a series of fixed beads on a string that helps the individual to keep in mind a sequence of Hail Marys, interposed with the Lord's Prayer, and the Gloria.

This practice within the Catholic Church did not begin to appear until the Middle Ages. However, the rosary was used centuries before in eastern religions, such as the Brahmanist Hindus. By the ninth century the rosary found its way within Islam. There are a number of problems with the rosary in addition to its heathen beginnings.

First, Jesus makes it very plain that repetitious prayers are not acceptable with God. He said, "But when ye pray, use not vain repetitions, as the heathen do: for they think that they shall be heard for their much speaking. Be not ye therefore like unto them: for your Father knoweth what things ye have need of, before ye ask him." Matthew 6:7-8.

Second, the Bible teaches us that all our prayers are to be directed to God alone. "Be careful for nothing; but in every thing by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known unto God. And the peace of God, which passeth all understanding, shall keep your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus." Philippians 4:6-7.

Third, the Bible makes it plain that there is only one Mediator between God and man. Paul said, "For there is one God, and one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus." 1 Timothy 2:5. Jesus said, "And whatsoever ye shall ask in my name, that will I do, that the Father may be glorified in the Son. If ye shall ask any thing in my name, I will do it." John 14:13-14.

Some teach that Mary was immaculately conceived--namely, that Mary was born in a different state than you and I--that she was born without sin and never committed sin. However, as Catholic priest J.M. Carda has noted, "The Holy Scriptures do not mention the historical origin of Mary nor do they expressly allude to any privilege to her conception." J.M. Carda Pitarch, Oc, 55.

Although we, of course, do not believe in the Catholic doctrine of original sin, it is interesting to note that the thirteenth century Catholic scholar Thomas Aquinas wrote, "Certainly (Mary) was conceived with original sin, as is natural. . . . If she would not have been born with original sin, she would not have needed to be redeemed by Christ, and, this being so, Christ would not be the universal Redeemer of men, which would abolish the dignity of Christ." Chapter CCXXXII bis. Thomas Aquinas, Compendio do Teologia, Barcelona, 1985.

Augustine himself had commented that if Mary had been free from the power of sin, it was not because of her birth, but because of her rebirth by God's grace. Yet, in A.D. 1439, a council meeting in Basel, Switzerland, established the immaculate conception of Mary as a dogma.

At the Council of Trent, in 1546, the new dogma was affirmed with these words, "We do not wish to enclose in the decree in which original sin is dealt with, the blessed and immaculate Virgin Mary, Mother of God." Cesar Vidal, The Myth of Mary, 138.

Then on December 8, 1854, the dogma of the immaculate conception was formulated in the following way: "The doctrine that sustains that the most blessed virgin Mary was preserved immune from any stain of original sin in the first moment of her conception, by the singular grace and privilege of Almighty God, in foresight of the merits of Jesus Christ, Saviour of the human race, this doctrine revealed by God should be, therefore, firmly and constantly believed by all the faithful." Ibid., 145.

Finally, at the Vatican II Council it was declared that Mary was "preserved immune from every stain of original sin." Ibid., 149.

The Bible, speaking of the Jews and Gentiles, says they "are all under sin. As it is written, There is none righteous, no, not one." Romans 3:9-10. Jesus is the only exception. He was "without sin." See Hebrews 4:15. The teaching that Mary committed no sin is as foreign to the New Testament church and the Scriptures as is the teaching that Mary plays any part in the salvation of men.

Yet, some teach that there are two pathways to heaven. In his book, The Glories of Mary, Alfonso Liguori wrote, "If my redeemer should reject me, I will throw myself at Mary's feet." Ibid., 143.

Such statements are not only a misrepresentation of God's mercy but also of His justice. For example, in the book, Miracles of Our Lady, 13th century Spanish monk Gonzalo de Berceo wrote about a greedy man who loved the land more than he loved the Creator. However, it was said that he had one virtue, namely, "He loved, though he was evil--very much Holy Mary. He would hear of her miracles--and all did he believe." According to Berceo, this man's belief in Mary had merit. When the man died, the demons wanted to capture his soul, but because he had called upon Mary the angels took him to heaven.

This story teaches that one might be an unrepentant sinner and still receive eternal life because of his devotion to Mary. Such a teaching is dangerous. It is bad enough that one is encouraged to call upon the name of Mary and consequently bypass Jesus as the "way, the truth, and the life" (John 14:6), but it is sacrilegious to teach that covetousness, fornication, and the many other practices condemned by Scripture are not obstacles to heaven. Paul said, "Know ye not that the unrighteous shall not inherit the kingdom of God? Be not deceived: neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor effeminate, nor abusers of themselves with mankind, nor thieves, nor covetous, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor extortioners, shall inherit the kingdom of God." 1 Corinthians 6:9-10.

The only name whereby man may be saved is Jesus Christ, "neither is there salvation in any other; for there is none other name under heaven given among men, whereby we must be saved." Acts 4:11-12. We do have an Advocate in heaven to plead our sinful case. John said, "My little children, these things write I unto you, that ye sin not. And if any man sin, we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous: and he is the propitiation for our sins: and not for ours only, but also for the sins of the whole world." 1 John 2:1-2.

Tragically, to the misleading of millions, some teach that Mary is our advocate. Pope Pius X, in his Enciclica Ad Diem Illum, wrote that Mary is "the principal party in the distribution of graces." Ibid., 144.

Pope Benedict XV affirmed that " Mary . . . is the mediator with God of all the graces. . . . Not without divine design, she was present, suffered and almost died with her Son who was suffering and dying, she abdicated her maternal rights over the Son for the salvation of men and, as far as she could, immolated Him to satisfy the justice of God; therefore, it can be said with good reason that she redeemed, with Christ, the human race." Ibid., 144, 146.

Pope Leo XIII wrote that when Mary "offered herself to God as a servant for the office of Mother, and when she made a complete surrender of herself with the Son in the temple, she became associated already with Him in the painful expiation on behalf of the human race." Ibid., 146.

At Vatican II it was said that "Mary, the Mother of God . . . is united with indissoluble bonds to the saving work of her Son," and that Mary "suffered intensely with her only begotten Son and, giving her loving consent to the immolation of the victim to whom she had given birth, she connected with a mother's heart to His sacrifice. . . . Because after her assumption into heaven she has not set aside this saving function, but continues to obtain for us, with her multiple intercession, the gifts relative to eternal salvation. With her maternal love, she cares for the brothers of her Son that still journey and move among dangers and distresses until they reach the happy homeland." Because of this, Mary is "called on in the Church with the titles of Advocate, Assistant, Helper, Mediator." Ibid., 150.

Of course, such an erroneous slant on the role of Mary has increased the worship and devotion to Mary. According to Vatican II, the church "asks all the sons of the Church to enthusiastically promote the worship of the blessed Virgin, especially in liturgical worship; that they should hold the practice in great esteem and exercise devotion to her, recommended by teaching throughout the centuries, and that they fulfill religiously what was established in times past regarding the worship of images." Ibid., 151.

In the most recent Catholic Catechism of 1992, under the pontificate of Pope John Paul II, it is promoted that Mary was united to the Son "in the work of salvation . . . from the moment of the virginal conception of Christ until his death." Then when she was taken to heaven she was "elevated to the throne by the Lord as Queen of the Universe." Consequently, the worship of Mary "is an intrinsic element of Christian worship" and that "the most holy Virgin is honored with reason by the Church with a special worship." Ibid., 152.

There is no Biblical basis for this adoration of Mary, even if she had been raised in a special resurrection. The Bible is clear that Enoch and Elijah were translated to heaven and that Moses received a special resurrection. But nowhere do the Scriptures support the idea that Mary was taken to heaven. She is resting in the grave awaiting the Resurrection like all the other saints who died believing in His saving grace.

As far as answering the question, "Can Mary unify the world with the Catholic Church?" The answer is, "No. She is not even alive to do so." However, demons impersonating Mary can speak to the living, and their intent is to unify the whole world with the Catholic Church.

Already millions around the world are flocking to see the apparitions of Mary. Her devotees number at least into the tens of millions, making the Marian movement the fastest growing element within Christianity.

How tragic that her devotees know so little about the Mary of Scripture, the resurrection of the dead, and the Word of God!

What can we do? We must spread the three angels' messages far and wide before it is too late. Let us choose to be used of God every day to reach out to these precious souls.

 

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