(More Bible studies available @ www.marktabata.com)
It is written:
Luke 1:41-45-And it happened, when Elizabeth heard the greeting of Mary, that the babe leaped in her womb; and Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit. 42 Then she spoke out with a loud voice and said, “Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the fruit of your womb! 43 But why is this granted to me, that the mother of my Lord should come to me? 44 For indeed, as soon as the voice of your greeting sounded in my ears, the babe leaped in my womb for joy. 45 Blessed is she who believed, for there will be a fulfillment of those things which were told her from the Lord.”
1 Timothy 2:5-For there is one God and one Mediator between God and men, the Man Christ Jesus,
A few years back, James White wrote a book regarding the Roman Catholic viewpoint of Mary, the mother of Jesus. Let me share a little bit with you from his book.
“A small booklet tucked in the fold of a chair in the corner caught my eye. It was sticking out just enough, or I may not have seen it. Intrigued, I pulled it out. The blue-and-white cover bore the title Devotions in Honor of Our Mother of Perpetual Help. I scanned through a few of the prayers. In one of them I spotted the words “my eternal salvation,” so I backed up and started from the beginning: O Mother of Perpetual Help, thou art the dispenser of all the goods which God grants to us miserable sinners, and for this reason he has made thee so powerful, so rich, and so bountiful, that thou mayest help us in our misery. Thou art the advocate of the most wretched and abandoned sinners who have recourse to thee. Come then, to my help, dearest Mother, for I recommend myself to thee. In thy hands I place my eternal salvation and to thee do I entrust my soul. Count me among thy most devoted servants; take me under thy protection, and it is enough for me. For, if thou protect me, dear Mother, I fear nothing; not from my sins, because thou wilt obtain for me the pardon of them; nor from the devils, because thou art more powerful than all hell together; nor even from Jesus, my Judge himself, because by one prayer from thee he will be appeased. But one thing I fear, that in the hour of temptation I may neglect to call on thee and thus perish miserably. Obtain for me, then, the pardon of my sins, love for Jesus, final perseverance, and the grace always to have recourse to thee, O Mother of Perpetual Help. At first I could not believe what I had just read. So I ran back through the last few lines. Was this prayer really saying that the petitioner did not fear his or her sins, the devils, nor Jesus? That’s what it said. I shook my head in disbelief. A few years later I found myself in a radio studio in Boston, Massachusetts, doing a radio discussion with a former Protestant turned Roman Catholic named Gerry Matatics. The topic was Mary and the saints. Mr. Matatics and I were scheduled to do two public debates at Boston College over the course of the next week.[ 1] But that day we were live on the air taking calls on the subject of prayers to Mary and the saints. As I packed for the trip, I found the little blue-and-white booklet and decided to bring it along. Now I reached into my bag and brought it out. Surely quoting this prayer would bring a strong reaction from Mr. Matatics. Surely he’d deny that such a prayer is proper, and that the people who had written it were simply going overboard in their piety. The talk-show host gasped involuntarily as I read the final lines, and as I put down the booklet, I looked across to my opponent, waiting for the expected reaction. The host, likewise, turned to Mr. Matatics. He was quiet for a moment, and then he spoke. “Mr. White,” he began, “I can only hope that someday you, too, will pray that prayer.” And so it was pressed home to me once again how deeply entrenched is devotion to Mary in Roman Catholic belief and practice. I also realized afresh how utterly unlike my own Christian experience such devotion to anyone other than Christ really is. The prayer offended me, and yes, years later, after reading dozens more books on Marian doctrine and piety, it still offends. But now I know why the prayer exists as it does, as well as the foundation upon which such devotion is placed. A Little Book in the Mail My trek as a non-Catholic into the world of Marian devotion and doctrine has often been impacted by little books. One such book arrived in the mail one day from a correspondent in Washington State. It was titled Mary: Coredemptrix, Mediatrix, Advocate by Mark I. Miravalle, S.T.D., and was associated with a group called Vox Populi Mariae Mediatrici, which means “Voice of the People for Mary Mediatrix.” Tucked inside the front and back covers I discovered small tear-out postcards addressed to “His Holiness Pope John Paul II” in Rome, Italy. The text on the card caught my attention: With filial love, we the faithful wish to humbly petition you, the Vicar of Christ, to solemnly define as Christian dogma the Church’s constant teaching on Mary’s coredemptive role with Christ the Redeemer of humanity. It is our belief that such a definition will bring to light the whole truth about Mary, Daughter of the Father, Mother of the Son, Spouse of the Spirit, and Mother of the Church. Therefore, it is our prayer that the Holy Spirit will guide you, Holy Father, to define and proclaim the Blessed Virgin Mary as Coredemptrix, Mediatrix of all graces and Advocate for the people of God. Again I found myself taken aback. “Spouse of the Spirit”? “Coredemptrix, Mediatrix of all graces and Advocate for the people of God”? The terminology is like speaking a foreign language to a Protestant, and phrases like “Spouse of the Spirit” are so strange that one hardly knows where to start in responding to them. At the time I was not aware of the depth and breadth of the movement seeking to have the Pope define these doctrines as infallible Christian teaching. However, according to recent claims by the group,[ 2] as of June 1997, 4.5 million petitions from 155 countries have been signed and turned in to the Pope. The drive has also garnered the endorsement of more than 500 bishops, including 42 Cardinals.” (James R. White, Mary–Another Redeemer? 33-71 (Kindle Edition): Bloomington, Minnesota: Bethany House Publishers)
Christians are often surprised to learn how seriously and devoutly Roman Catholics venerate Mary. However, there are some amazing differences between the Bible teaching of Mary and the Roman Catholic version.
Let’s notice some of those differences.
The first doctrine we will consider is known as the doctrine of the Perpetual Virginity. Roman Catholics believe that Mary remained a virgin for her entire life-both before and after her marriage. As such, they deny that she and Joseph had any other children.
Matthew was very clear that Joseph and Mary had sexual relations after the birth of Jesus:
Matthew 1:24-25-Then Joseph, being aroused from sleep, did as the angel of the Lord commanded him and took to him his wife, 25 and did not know her till she had brought forth her firstborn Son. And he called His name JESUS.
Indeed, all through the New Testament, we find references to the brothers and sisters of Jesus:
Matthew 12:46-47-While He was still talking to the multitudes, behold, His mother and brothers stood outside, seeking to speak with Him. 47 Then one said to Him, “Look, Your mother and Your brothers are standing outside, seeking to speak with You.”
Matthew 13:53-57-Now it came to pass, when Jesus had finished these parables, that He departed from there. 54 When He had come to His own country, He taught them in their synagogue, so that they were astonished and said, “Where did this Man get this wisdom and these mighty works? 55 Is this not the carpenter’s son? Is not His mother called Mary? And His brothers James, Joses, Simon, and Judas? 56 And His sisters, are they not all with us? Where then did this Man get all these things?” 57 So they were offended at Him. But Jesus said to them, “A prophet is not without honor except in his own country and in his own house.”
Mark 3:31-34-Then His brothers and His mother came, and standing outside they sent to Him, calling Him. 32 And a multitude was sitting around Him; and they said to Him, “Look, Your mother and Your brothers are outside seeking You.” 33 But He answered them, saying, “Who is My mother, or My brothers?” 34 And He looked around in a circle at those who sat about Him, and said, “Here are My mother and My brothers!
Mark 6:1-3-Then He went out from there and came to His own country, and His disciples followed Him. 2 And when the Sabbath had come, He began to teach in the synagogue. And many hearing Him were astonished, saying, “Where did this Man get these things? And what wisdom is this which is given to Him, that such mighty works are performed by His hands! 3 Is this not the carpenter, the Son of Mary, and brother of James, Joses, Judas, and Simon? And are not His sisters here with us?” So they were offended at Him.
Luke 8:19-21-Then His mother and brothers came to Him, and could not approach Him because of the crowd. 20 And it was told Him by some, who said, “Your mother and Your brothers are standing outside, desiring to see You.” 21 But He answered and said to them, “My mother and My brothers are these who hear the word of God and do it.”
John 2:12-After this He went down to Capernaum, He, His mother, His brothers, and His disciples; and they did not stay there many days.
John 7:1-10-Now the Jews’ Feast of Tabernacles was at hand. 3 His brothers therefore said to Him, “Depart from here and go into Judea, that Your disciples also may see the works that You are doing. 4 For no one does anything in secret while he himself seeks to be known openly. If You do these things, show Yourself to the world.” 5 For even His brothers did not believe in Him. 6 Then Jesus said to them, “My time has not yet come, but your time is always ready. 7 The world cannot hate you, but it hates Me because I testify of it that its works are evil. 8 You go up to this feast. I am not yet going up to this feast, for My time has not yet fully come.” 9 When He had said these things to them, He remained in Galilee. 10 But when His brothers had gone up, then He also went up to the feast, not openly, but as it were in secret.
Acts 1:14-These all continued with one accord in prayer and supplication, with the women and Mary the mother of Jesus, and with His brothers.
1Corinthians 9:5-Do we have no right to take along a believing wife, as do also the other apostles, the brothers of the Lord, and Cephas?
Galatians 1:19-But I saw none of the other apostles except James, the Lord’s brother.
The Bible is clear regarding the fact that Jesus had brothers and sisters. Yet our Catholic friends are often taught that these brothers and sisters of Jesus were actually His cousins.
What are the facts?
“Third, there are clear references to Jesus’ brothers and sisters in the context of his immediate family (namely, his legal and actual mother), which almost always indicate they were actual brothers, not cousins, as many Catholics believe. For example, Matthew 13:55 declares: “Is he not the carpenter’s son? Is not his mother Mary and his brothers James, Joseph, Simon, and Judas? Are not his sisters all with us?” (cf. Matt. 12:46 and Gal. 1:19). There are several reasons why this text almost certainly indicates that Mary had other children after Jesus. For one thing, “brothers” and “sisters” are mentioned in the context of the family with the “carpenter’s son” and “mother,” which clearly indicates they are immediate blood brothers. For another, the Greek term for “brother” (adelphos) here is the normal word for “blood brother.” In fact, there is not a single example where adelphos is used for “cousin” in the New Testament.12 There is a word for “cousin” (anepsios), as in Colossians 4:10, where Mark is described as “the cousin fanepsios] of Barnabas.” But this word is not used in Matthew 13 or in any passage referring to Jesus’ brothers and sisters. Finally, the words “brother” and “sister” are used many other times in the New Testament in a family connection, always meaning a literal blood brother or sister (Mark 1:16, 19; 13:12; John 11:1-2; Acts 23:16; Rom. 16:15). Even Ott calls implausible the suggestion that these “brothers” and “sisters” of Jesus were Joseph’s children from another marriage. If this were so then Joseph’s oldest son would have been heir to David’s throne and not Jesus, but the Bible affirms that Jesus was the heir (Matt. 1:1).” Fourth, Matthew 1:25 seems to imply that Mary had sexual relations with Joseph after Jesus was born. Even the natural meaning of the Catholic translation (NAB) supports this idea when it says of Joseph, “He had no relations with her until she bore a son, and he named him Otherwise, why not say clearly that she never ever had sex with Joseph?15 In view of all this biblical evidence, there seems to be no real scriptural basis for the Catholic belief in Mary’s perpetual virginity.” (Norman L. Geisler & Ralph E. MacKenzie, Roman Catholics and Evangelicals: Agreements and Differences, 3661-3680 (Kindle Edition): Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Books)
Another teaching of the Catholic church regarding Mary is known as the Immaculate Conception. It claims that Mary was conceived without the stain of original sin.
Of course, there is no problem with this idea, since the doctrine of original sin is not in the Bible and was an invention of the Catholic church’s adoption of pagan religion! Indeed, the Bible is clear that people do not inherit the sins of their fathers.
Ezekiel 18:20-The soul who sins shall die. The son shall not bear the guilt of the father, nor the father bear the guilt of the son. The righteousness of the righteous shall be upon himself, and the wickedness of the wicked shall be upon himself.
Ezekiel 28:15-You were perfect in your ways from the day you were created, Till iniquity was found in you.
Sometimes Catholics will claim that Mary never even sinned. However, the Bible is clear that she was a sinner like every person who has ever chosen to do wrong.
“The testimony of Mary harmonizes with the teaching of Scripture. If we could ask her, “Do you believe you are sinless?” she would dismiss such a thought as a contradiction of God’s Word. Why do I say that? Because of Mary’s own words. First, when Mary visited her cousin Elizabeth and was greeted as the mother of the Lord, Mary responded by saying, “My soul glorifies the Lord and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior” (Luke 1:46-47). Notice that Mary called Jesus “my Savior.” Now, who needs a Savior? Sinners do! Mary was in the best position to know whether she was a sinner, and she said she was. Second, Mary’s actions after Jesus’ birth show that she believed herself to be a sinner. After the birth the time of her purification arrived, and she went to the temple and offered the sacrifices commanded in the law of Moses. This offering of the sacrifices made Mary ceremonially clean and also identified her as a sinner, a fact she did not deny. More specifically, Moses wrote, “These are the regulations for the woman who gives birth to a boy or a girl. If she cannot afford a lamb, she is to bring two doves or two young pigeons, one for a burnt offering and the other for a sin offering” (Leviticus 12:7-8; cf. Luke 2:22-24). Mary complied with the law of Moses and offered as in offering because she was a sinner. I realize that Catholics mean well when they say they want to honor Mary. But in reality, they dishonor her by attributing to her a sinless life. Mary herself declared her need of a Savior and offered a sacrifice that was necessary for sinners to offer.” (Tony Coffey, Answers to Questions Catholics Are Asking, 2195-2206 (Kindle Edition): Eugene, OR: Harvest House Publishers)
Joanne Howe was a Roman Catholic nun who eventually became a member of the church of Christ. Her books, A Change Of Habit and From Nun To Priest, describe the struggle that her mother had in reconciling the Bible portrayal of Mary with the Catholic teaching.
“Because of her exemplary life, Mary is a shining model for all Christian’s hope and can be a unifying example for both Catholics and non-Catholics in this context. However all must recognize and accept that Jesus alone is the “Mediator,” “Savior,” “Intercessor,” and “Redeemer” for all mankind. Jesus is the one who opens his arms to those who are despondent, guilt-ridden, and hopeless and says, “Come to Me, all you who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest” (Matthew 11: 28). Once I devoted myself to the study of God’s Word, the scales of tradition that blurred my sight fell away. I then began to see God’s glory, to know His wisdom, and to feel the refreshment and assurance this knowledge brings. I shared the teachings from God’s Word with my dear mother. She could see how much obedience to the Scriptures had changed my life. My mother has always been a deeply religious woman with a receptive heart. From childhood, she had been taught in the Russian Orthodox faith to form a strong religious bond with the Virgin Mary. This bond increased in strength when she became a Roman Catholic upon her marriage to my father. Consequently, her loyalty to Mary took on an urgency that overshadowed the need she felt for baptism. One day she said to me, “Joanne, I know I need to be baptized, but I can’t give up Mary! She has helped the entire family in our times of deepest needs.” Her devotion to Mary had become so intense, that it superseded her devotion to Jesus’ command to put Him on in baptism. We continued to study the Bible together out of devotion to God. Our souls were riveted to understanding the powerful messages of God’s Word. Finally, God helped my mother realize that she was wrong to pray to or through Mary rather than her Son. Before making her final confession before the congregation of believers, she wrote these words: My deep faith in God and Jesus compelled me to be properly baptized. Because I was a Roman Catholic, it was a difficult decision for me. I always called upon Mary, the mother of Jesus, to help me in raising my children. The decision was: either to continue viewing Mary as my intercessor, or to be baptized into Christ. For several years I longed to be baptized. I have read the Bible many times, but my love for Mary was so great. Although, Joanne kept reminding me, it was Jesus who heard my requests. When I heard, “Do you realize you are insulting Mary by going to her instead of her Son?”—that finally did it. 18 Mary, a young Nazarene handmaiden chosen by God to bear His Son, is a role model for all Christians who desire to excel in humility and submissiveness. To understand her role as the mother of Jesus is to understand her place in God’s plan for life. The Bible is silent regarding Mary’s perpetual virginity, freedom from personal sins, and bodily assumption into heaven. I believe that if Mary were to return to earth today, her plea to all believers in her Son would be the same request she made to the servants at the wedding feast in Cana, “Whatever He [Jesus] says to you, do it” (John 2: 5). The Bible emphasizes Jesus as possessing the preeminence in all things and being all sufficient in leading men and women to God: And He is the head of the body, the church, who is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead, that in all things He may have the preeminence. For it pleased the Father that in Him all the fullness should dwell, and by Him to reconcile all things to Himself, by Him, whether things on earth or things in heaven, having made peace through the blood of His cross … For in Him dwells all the fullness of the Godhead bodily; and you are complete in Him, who is the head of all principality and power (Colossians 1: 18-20; 2: 9-10).” (Joanne Howe, From Nun To Priest: Hope For Those Bound By Tradition, 1213-1244 (Kindle Edition): Nashville, TN: Gospel Advocate Company)
The Bible portrayal of Jesus’ mother serves as an example for all of us to follow. May we be willing to likewise submit to the will of God as revealed by His Son through Holy Scripture.
Luke 11:27-28-And it happened, as He spoke these things, that a certain woman from the crowd raised her voice and said to Him, “Blessed is the womb that bore You, and the breasts which nursed You!” 28 But He said, “More than that, blessed are those who hear the word of God and keep it!”
The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, and the love of God, and the communion of the Holy Spirit, be with you all. Amen.