A series of articles born out of critically thinking on the works of several Catholic Apologists and comparing their work with Scripture.
The treatment of Mary by many in the Catholic Church is a most significant fruit that, for me, raised a red flag that caused me to want to look deeper into not only this doctrine, but what else was being taught also. Catholic apologists would deny that they "worship" Mary. Many of the laity deny because they have been told that "they don't worship her", but a cursory look at some of the verses in some of the more popular hymns sung to Mary seem to indicate otherwise. Hymns that I used to sing...:
Hail, Holy Queen : Hail holy queen enthroned above, hail queen of mercy and of love,
V2 Our hope in sorrow and in woe
V3 As exiles all to you we cry, Come, soothe with hope our misery
She is the queen enthroned above, the queen of mercy, our hope, the provider of hope in times of misery. Mercy is needed when someone has been wronged. Mary has not been wronged, but rather, God has been wronged and it is He who bestows mercy upon those who have wronged Him... not Mary. He that is our hope: not Mary. Mary is not referred to anywhere in Scripture as a queen. None of the Apostles are recorded as treating her as a queen.
Salve - according to Webster's - 1. To save from loss, salvage, 2. Hail : literally , be well.
If it's meaning in this hymn is definition 1, then the hymn implies that Mary saves. Jesus is the only Savior spoken of in Scripture (Act 4:12). If it's meaning is definition 2, then I'm not sure why people sing to Mary to be well or say hello. She is in the presence of God. She is as well as she can possibly be. With either definition, it puts a stumbling block (Romans 14:21) in front of anyone who is unsure of what the meaning is since it could clearly be definition 1 as it fits with other songs and teachings about Mary.
Immaculate Mary: Immaculate Mary your praises we sing.
Your praises we sing?
If this is not worship, it appears to be very borderline. I know we praise children and other people to motivate them to do good from time to time, but we don't usually sing praises to and about them. That should be reserved for God.
Mary was certainly the most blessed of all women. This is true:
Luke 1:28 And the angel came to her, and said, Hail, [you that are] highly favored, the Lord [is] with you: blessed [are] you among women.
The word "blessed" is sometimes misunderstood. It is sometimes used to consecrate something (bless the food before a meal). It is sometimes used to praise (Bless the Lord, O my soul). It is sometimes used to describe bestowing favor upon. I believe that the later use of the term is being used in the verse above. It is God who bestows the favor on Mary. Mary was blessed not because of anything that she did, but rather because God blessed her. Some people back in Jesus' time tried to elevate Mary to a place where she shouldn't be elevated to just like many do nowadays:
Luke 11:27 And it came to pass, as he spoke these things, a certain woman of the company lifted up her voice, and said unto him, Blessed is the womb that bare you, and the breasts which you have sucked.
What was Jesus' response?
Luke 11:28 But he said, Yea rather, blessed are they that hear the word of God, and keep it.
Jesus knew Mary was blessed. Jesus says that those who hear and keep the sayings in the Bible are blessed rather than Mary. Mary was certainly blessed, but so are any of God's children. According to Jesus, His answer downplays Mary's being blessed in favor of the blessing received by those who hear and keep His Word.
Some Catholics point out that Evangelicals "do not talk about Mary very much." Concerning conservative Evangelicals, they are correct. It is not that we have something against Mary, but rather, Mary is not a central theme in God's Word. The Father, Son and Holy Spirit are. Evangelicals focus on Biblical content and passages…not on personalities of people, except when it comes to Our Lord Jesus when He took on the form of a man. Saints like Mary and Joseph and James and John are not the important thing, they are just fellow servants. The important thing is God, and His Word.
As much as some would like to elevate Mary by insisting that she was ever virgin, the Bible insists otherwise. A plain reading of plain Scripture reveals this in several places:
Matthew 13:54 And when he came into his own country [His hometown], he taught them in their synagogue, so that they were astonished, and said, Where did this man get this wisdom, and these mighty works?
Matthew 13:55 Is this not the carpenter's son? is his mother not called Mary? and his brethren, James, and Joses, and Simon, and Judas?
Matthew 13:56 And his sisters, are they not all with us? Where then does this man get all these things?
For the purposes of this discussion, I am going to take the liberty of boiling this statement down a bit. The people from His own country (His neighbors from His home town) said "Is not this the carpenter's son? is not his mother called Mary? and his brethren, James, and Joses, and Simon, and Judas? And his sisters, are they not all with us?" This is a quote of what these people said. These were people who knew Jesus and His earthly family all of their lives. God recorded for us the quote that was actually spoken by the neighbors of Jesus and His family. These people who knew Him and His family thought that Jesus had brothers and sisters. How can God possibly get any more clear than this? God even repeats this for us in the book of Mark:
Mark 6:3 Is this not the carpenter, the son of Mary, the brother of James, and Joses, and of Juda, and Simon? and are his sisters not here with us? And they were offended at him.
This is probably one of the most blatant contradictions between Roman Catholic teaching and Scriptures. One cannot possibly not notice it unless one is unwilling.
Some then try and point out some language problems in the Aramaic language that could have caused confusion. Thanks God He skirted the whole issue in His wisdom in that He had the New Testament written in Greek where these problems don't exist. He did not write it in Aramaic. God wrote exactly what He meant. It is not our option to speculate about the spoken language of the original words used. God made sure that the meaning of the words were as He recorded in the language He decided to write it in… in this case, Greek.
God did use a Greek term for relatives outside of immediate family that is translated into English in the bold words in the verses below:
Luke 1:36 And, behold, your cousin Elisabeth, she has also conceived a son in her old age: and this is the sixth month with her, who was called barren.
Luke 1:58 And her neighbors and her cousins heard how the Lord had showed great mercy upon her; and they rejoiced with her.
Luke 2:44 … they sought him among their kinsfolk and acquaintance.
Luke 14:12 a dinner or a supper, do not call your friends, nor your brethren, neither your kinsmen, nor your rich neighbors;...
Luke 21:16 And you shall be betrayed both by parents, and brethren, and kinsfolks, and friends; and some of you shall they put to death.
John 18:26 One of the servants of the high priest, being his kinsman whose ear Peter cut off, said, Did I not see you in the garden with him?
Acts 10:24...had called together his kinsmen and near friends. And others.
Some Catholic apologists also try and explain away the natural reading of the following verses:
Luke 2:7 And she brought forth her firstborn son, and wrapped him… - This verse does not say that Mary had more children, but one could argue that it strongly implies it through the natural interpretation of the words. One would have to bend the natural meaning of the sentence to make it say that she had no second born son as opposed to the firstborn. If she did not have any other children, why even bother to mention that He was firstborn, why not just say she brought forth her son?
Matthew 1:25 And did not knew her till she had brought forth her firstborn son: and he called his name JESUS. - The natural reading of this verse implies that Joseph consummated the marriage after Jesus was born. He waited per angelic instruction. Once again, one really has to bend the natural reading of Scriptures to come to the conclusion that Joseph did not "know" (a synonym for knowing someone sexually in the Bible - see Luke 1:34) Mary. The natural reading of this verse is like telling a child that he has to wait until after dinner to have desert. Does he never get desert? No, he gets it, but not until after dinner.
Someone once told me that Mary would have no need to have relations with Joseph since it couldn't possibly be as fulfilling as giving birth to the Savior. That may be the case, however, we have no evidence that this is the case. It is pure speculation. The Scriptures indicate that she did have relations with Joseph and did have boys and girls after Jesus. And what about Joseph? He most likely had needs that were natural and totally acceptable within marriage. God commands:
Corinthians I 7:5 Do not deprive one another, except it be with consent for a time, that you may give yourselves to fasting and prayer; and come together again, so that Satan does not tempt you for your lack of self control. I realize Paul wrote this after the fact, but being godly people, this may well have been well understood by Mary and Joseph; not to mention Jesus' preaching on marriage as well as many OT references on marriage. It would seem sinful of Mary to deprive Joseph.
A well meaing invention?
The whole concept of being ever virgin seems to have been an invention by someone(s) with seemingly good intentions trying to keep Mary as a spotless virgin. By keeping her ever virgin, there is not even the hint of a sexual impurity about her. She was pure about her sexual nature in that she kept it within the confines of marriage as God intended.
God will not share His glory.
The concept of Mary being a queen, ever virgin, a mediatrix, etc.) seems to have been conceived by those who wanted to elevate her to a place above where she belongs. God is a jealous God who will not share His Glory with a "queen of heaven".
Joshua 24:19…for he is an holy God; he is a jealous God…
Isaiah 48:11 For mine own sake, even for mine own sake, will I do it: for how should my name be polluted? and I will not give my glory unto another.
Isaiah 42:8 I am the LORD: that is my name: and my glory will I not give to another, neither my praise to graven images.
Again, I am not insulting Mary or saying that Mary was not blessed; I am saying that the Catholic Church has raised her to a point where she should not be.
I can easily see how Mary could be elevated in our minds with the affections most of us have for our own mothers. Our affections can easily lead us astray from the Truth…like I believe has happened with many people's view of Mary.
Another proposal to under gird the doctrine of Mary's perpetual virginity has been offered by an author that I was reading. He wondered why Jesus left Mary in the care of John the Apostle [John 19:26] instead of one of His brothers or sisters…if, in fact they really were His brothers or sisters. I can offer two observations related to his theory.
When one looks at the ridicule Jesus received from His own brothers and sisters, is it any wonder Jesus entrusted the care of Mary to one of the people that was closest to Him during His earthly ministry? It would be akin to me stating in my will that I would want my children left in the hands of my "evil step sister" (i.e. Cinderella's step sisters) vs. leaving them in the hands of my beloved friend. It would be a pretty easy decision.
Most Catholics are taught that Mary lived her entire life without sinning, but this did not mean Mary did not need a Savior. If Mary was sinless, what did Mary need saved from then? A savior is one who saves someone from something. Or why did she need redeemed? What about these passages where God tells us:
Luke 1:47 And my spirit has rejoiced in God my Savior. [Mary speaking]
John I 1:8 If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. - Mary clearly stated that she needed a Savior above, and from that, it would be safe to say the she realized that she too was a sinner in need of grace. It is not Mary who made the proclamation that "she had no sin", it is those who say that she didn't. Mary was way too humble and aware that she also was a sinner in need of a Savior to have made such an outrageous statement. The problem is not with Mary, but with those who hoisted this concept onto her. God continues in first John:
John I 1:10 If we say that we have not sinned, we make him a liar, and his word is not in us.
We see that all have gone astray (sinned). How can Mary be considered sinless when we examine the plain teachings of God, Himself:
Psalm 14:2 The LORD looked down from heaven upon the children of men, to see if there were any that did understand, and seek God.
Psalm 14:3 They are all gone aside, they are all together become filthy: there is none that does good, no, not one.
Matthew 19:17 And he [Jesus] said unto him, Why do you call me good? there is none good but one, that is, God:... (repeated 3 times in the N.T.) - Note that it is never stated two are good (Mary and Jesus), but rather, only one…Jesus.
Luke 2:22 And when the days of her purification according to the law of Moses were accomplished, they brought him to Jerusalem, to present him to the Lord;
Luke 2:23 (As it is written in the law of the Lord, Every male that opens the womb shall be called holy to the Lord;)
Luke 2:24 And to offer a sacrifice according to that which is said in the law of the Lord, A pair of turtledoves, or two young pigeons.
Leviticus 12:2 Speak unto the children of Israel, saying, If a woman has conceived, and has born a male child: then she shall be unclean seven days; according to the days of the separation for her infirmity shall she be unclean.
Leviticus 12:3 And in the eighth day the flesh of his foreskin shall be circumcised.
Leviticus 12:4 And she shall then continue in the blood of her purifying thirty three days; she shall touch no concecrated thing, nor come into the sanctuary, until the days of her purifying be fulfilled.
Leviticus 12:5 But if she bears a female child, then she shall be unclean two weeks, as in her separation: and she shall continue in the blood of her purifying sixty six days.
Leviticus 12:6 And when the days of her purifying are fulfilled, for a son, or for a daughter, she shall bring a lamb of the first year for a burnt offering, and a young pigeon, or a turtledove, for a sin offering, to the door of the tabernacle of the congregation, to the priest:
Leviticus 12:7 Who shall offer it before the LORD, and make an atonement for her; and she shall be cleansed from the issue of her blood. This is the law for her that has born a male or a female.
Why the sin offering?
Please note of the words in bold print. If Mary was sinless, why did they need to make "a sin offering"? Why did they need to "make an atonement for her"? Some would try to compare this with Jesus's sacrifice on the cross fulfilling the OT laws demanding a sacrifice for sin, but the difference is that Jesus fulfilled the law on behalf of His people... Mary did not fulfill, but offered sacrifice in accordance with the law to make atonement for her.
Crushing of the head of Satan.
Many Catholic apologists try and fit Mary into the Genesis passage below by turning the woman being spoken of in the passage into Mary:
Genesis 3:13 And the LORD God said unto the woman [plainly clear that it was Eve], What is this that you have done? And the woman said, The serpent deceived me, and I did eat.
Genesis 3:14 And the LORD God said unto the serpent, Because you have done this, you are cursed above all cattle, and above every beast of the field; upon your belly you shall go, and dust shall you eat all the days of your life:
Genesis 3:15 [God still speaking to the serpent] And I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your seed and her seed; it shall bruise your head, and you shall bruise his heel.
Genesis 3:16 Unto the woman he said, I will greatly multiply your sorrow and your conception; in sorrow you shall bring forth children; and your desire shall be to your husband, and he shall rule over you.
All seem to agree that this is a Messianic prophecy. But it should be obvious that Eve was standing there while this whole conversation was taking place and Eve was the woman being addressed. Mary was not born yet. It was Eve who would give birth to the human race. Jesus was to dwell with us via the human race as a baby in the womb. He would be considered one of the seed of Abraham, David, and ultimately, yes, Eve. Eve was the only woman standing there listening to God speak. Eve was the woman God was not only speaking to, but He was talking about her to Satan who was there with them. The "woman" in this passage is unquestionably Eve. It would take a severe twisting of plain language to make the woman here Mary.
Jesus calling Mary "Woman".
I once heard someone teaching that Jesus' addressing of Mary as woman in John 2, and again in Rev12 (they make the assumption that Rev12 is speaking of Mary, but the text never says the woman of Rev12 is Mary - see the section below) is evidence that their logic in stating that Mary is the woman being spoken of in Genesis3:13-16 (verses referenced in the previous section) is correct.
John 2:4 Jesus said unto her, Woman, what have I to do with you? my hour has not yet come.
This teacher pointed out that this was a term used for a woman of great respect. This is pure nonsense. The word here for woman is the Greek word "gune" and is used some 112 times in the N.T. In the book of John alone, Jesus uses this term to address not only Mary, but He also uses this term to address the Samaritan woman at the well (John 4:21), the woman caught in adultery (John 8:10), and Mary Magdalene (John 20:13,15). It seems to be the generic Greek term for a woman. It apparently meant anything from a harlot, like the woman caught in adultery, to Lydia, the rich seller of purple in Acts. Using this term to try and justify some special meaning only to Mary is ridiculous.
Queen of Heaven.
The queen of heaven is a favorite name that many attribute to Mary. One Catholic parish near where I live even calls itself by the very same title. Many may think that it is a Biblical name for Mary. They may be surprised to find out how that term was used in the O.T. book of Jeremiah. It would be treading on thin ice to use a term like "queen of heaven" as it was used in a not so positive way by the rebellious children of Israel did in Jeremiah's time:
Jeremiah 7:18 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 7:19 Do they provoke me to anger? says the LORD: do they not provoke themselves to the confusion of their own faces?
Jeremiah 44:16 As for the word that you have spoken unto us in the name of the LORD, we will not listen to you.
Jeremiah 44:17 But we will certainly do whatsoever thing comes forth out of our own mouths, to burn incense unto the queen of heaven, and to pour out drink offerings to her, as we have done, we, and our fathers, our kings, and our princes, in the cities of Judah, and in the streets of Jerusalem: for then had we plenty of food, and were well, and saw no evil.
Jeremiah 44:18 But since we left off to burn incense to the queen of heaven, and to pour out drink offerings unto her, we have lacked all things, and have been consumed by the sword and by the famine.
Jeremiah 44:19 And when we burned incense to the queen of heaven, and poured out drink offerings unto her, did we make her cakes to worship her, and pour out drink offerings unto her, without our men?
Jeremiah 44:25 Thus says the LORD of hosts, the God of Israel, saying; You and your wives have both spoken with your mouths, and fulfilled with your hand, saying, We will surely perform our vows that we have vowed, to burn incense to the queen of heaven, and to pour out drink offerings unto her: you will surely accomplish your vows, and surely perform your vows.
Jeremiah 44:26 Therefore hear the word of the LORD, all Judah that dwell in the land of Egypt; Behold, I have sworn by my great name, says the LORD, that my name shall no more be named in the mouth of any man of Judah in all the land of Egypt, saying, The Lord GOD lives. - a dreadful curse
The New American Bible (Catholic translation) uses the same term "queen of heaven" as the KJV. I would not consider this a safe term to use if it were me using the term.
Woman of Revelation 12.
Revelation 12 and following is parabolic language. There are authors who teach that the woman was Mary. The woman spoken of is the bride of Christ … the external church (see my article on external/eternal church for further explanation here). The Old Testament "church" was Israel. Israel was called a virgin in numerous places in the Old Testament (Jeremiah 31:4, Isaiah 37:22, Jeremiah 18:13, Jeremiah 31:21, Amos 5:2 to name a few). Jesus came from the O.T. bride of Christ. That is, His human ancestry was Jewish. Even if we were to say this woman in Rev 12 was Mary, how do we explain the woman going into the wilderness in Rev12:6,14, and then mutating into a harlot in Rev17:3 and the verses following that. Rev 17 is describing the decay and apostasy of the external church at the end before Christ returns.
Let us look at a few specific verses:
Revelation 12:6 And the woman fled into the wilderness, where she has a place prepared of God, that they should feed her there a thousand two hundred and sixty days. - I'm guessing the Catholic interpretation of this is to be an account of Joseph, Mary, and Jesus fleeing to Egypt. Could it also mean that the church got some spiritual relief from Satan when he was bound at the cross? Or even some temporary physical relief when they fled Jerusalem?
Revelation 12:13 And when the dragon saw that he was cast unto the earth, he persecuted the woman which brought forth the man child. - Did Mary get persecuted? I know the church has been and will continue to be.
Revelation 12:17 And the dragon was enraged with the woman, and went to make war with the remnant of her seed, which keep the commandments of God, and have the testimony of Jesus Christ.
The remnant of her seed is the remnant (eternal church) which is found within the external church. And if Mary was a perpetual virgin, then how could she have a remnant of seed? Remnant usually means a small number of people. If she had only Jesus, then why wouldn't this verse only say "make war with her seed"? Whomever the woman of Rev12 is, she is clearly not Mary.
Pointing to Jesus.
One Catholic author looks at John 2:5 and makes the observation that "She (Mary) is always pointing Christians to Jesus; she is always telling us to obey Him." I've also heard it said that in all the apparitions and visions of Mary, she points us to Jesus. Any Christian who is a real Christian will point anyone who is in need of a Savior to Jesus. Why is Mary so different in this aspect than any other Christian? If you are a Christian, and not "always telling everyone [as opportunity arises] to obey Him"- especially to someone who is seeking, then I'd question if you really are a Christian. Where else would a Christian point people to? To the local psychiatrist? To Buddha? To Allah? I would expect not.
Fatima, the Rosary, and the like.
Concerning the visions and apparitions, I can only say that I am vaguely familiar with Fatima. If I recall correctly, the vision pleaded with people to say the Rosary more often. Does the Rosary indeed point us to Christ? Examine the makeup of the Rosary. It consists of approximately 53 Hail Mary's and 6 Our Fathers. Who gets more attention at a ratio of approximately 53 to 6 (or about 8.8 to 1). With all due respect, let us consider the possibility that these visions are not from God, or Mary. Scripture tells us that Satan comes as an angel of light:
Corinthians II 11:14 And no wonder; for Satan himself is transformed into an angel of light.
An angel of light would be an angel (or messenger) that impersonates the real light of the world… Jesus, Himself, or as His light is reflected by His saints :
Matthew 5:14 You (saints) are the light of the world. A city that is set on an hill cannot be hid.
John 8:12 Then spoke Jesus again unto them, saying, I am the light of the world: he that follows me shall not walk in darkness, but shall have the light of life.
John 9:5 As long as I am in the world, I (Jesus) am the light of the world.
Does this vision really point us to Jesus? Or to something other than Jesus? Like the "queen of heaven", or the rosary? God has made Himself known to us in His Word. He is not sending additional messages to people through visions or the like. He has finished His revelation to mankind. See Revelation 22:18-19.
The Ascension of Mary.
It is a common teaching that Mary did not die on earth, but rather was ascended into Heaven. It would appear that it is believed that this ascension was similar to Jesus' ascension in Acts1. There is absolutely no Scriptural authority is used in proclaiming this doctrine. It would appear that Scripture actually argues against this doctrine:
John 3:13 And no man has ascended up to heaven, but he that came down from heaven, even the Son of man which is in heaven.
In the end, it is not important whether or not Mary ascended into Heaven or not, what is important is that those who teach this doctrine teach it as if it were an absolute truth. It is pure speculation at very best. Serious issues arise when doctrines are presented as truth and reality when they may be no more than politically correct fables. A probable result is that they are leading astray followers by teaching tradition as truth.
While the story of Veronica is not related to Mary as far as I know, I found this section to be the most appropriate place to mention her. During a good portion of my adult life as well as my entire childhood, I attended the service (in school and at church) known to Catholics as the Stations of the Cross. I don't know if the Veronica story is an official doctrine of the Church, but as a Catholic, I don't remember ever thinking that it wasn't. It is an accepted belief by the Catholic churches that I used to attend. It was an event that occurred every year during Lent. Most of the time during Lent I attended several Stations of the Cross sessions. Fourteen stations are observed. I never doubted that these were all factual… until I started reading the Scripture for myself. Several of the stations are in question in my mind, but the station that absolutely sticks out in my mind as coming totally from somewhere other than Scripture, is the station where Veronica wipes the face of Jesus and is rewarded with a print of His face on the cloth. To my surprise, Veronica was nowhere to be found on the pages of Scripture. No wiping of Jesus' face is recorded as having taken place. And yet it is presented as truth to millions of unsuspecting followers every season of Lent. I have no problem with fictional stories if they are presented as fiction. The whole Veronica story was not presented to me as fiction. I remember being 100% sure that it was a historical fact. It may be "tradition" that Veronica did this, but that does not make it fact. Tradition and truth are blurred so that one is the same as the other. This is the most serious problem that I have with the Catholic Church. However well intentioned they are, they not only deceive themselves, but their millions of members as well.
I have spent a considerable amount of time and space writing about Mary. Why? In my opinion, this is one of the most strongest and most obvious signs of serious theological problems between the Roman Catholic Church and the pages of the Bible. The treatment of Mary demonstrates the inconsistency between a number of Biblical teachings with the Church's. It also clearly reveals the Church's propensity to rely more on their Tradition, than on the Scriptures themselves. I cannot make you check the Bible out for yourselves, but I certainly encourage it as strongly as I can.