THE DECEMBER 30TH issue of Time magazine featured an article about the Virgin Mary. It reported a world-wide renewal of interest in her supposed powers to affect the lives of people, and to alter circumstances here on the earth. This is a grass-roots revival, it was pointed out, attending claims made for her which go beyond what the official Church tenets hold to, and in some instances has proven an embarrassment to the clergy. Reporting a sighting of the Virgin, in the words of one of the Church Fathers, is “all the fashion,” and happens repeatedly in many parts of the world. Attendance at some of the largest of the traditional Church shrines has increased phenomenally in recent years—Lourdes of France reporting a jump of 10% in the past two years.

It was stated that many of the turning points of history are now attributed to the intercession of Mary. The most recent of these was the rise and fall of Mikhail Gorbachev in the former USSR, and the attending defeat of Communism.

Controversy has been rekindled concerning the claims that the mother of Jesus remained ever a virgin, that like her son, Jesus, she, too, was born without sin, and that “her sufferings at the crucifixion were so great that she participated with her son in the redemption of humanity.” So stated the cover story of Time magazine.

In the year 1950, the dogma of the bodily assumption of Mary was proclaimed. In plain words, this meant that it was now necessary for all Roman Catholics to profess their belief that Mary ascended to heaven as a human being, and is now there in the flesh to intercede for those who pray to Christ through her. This had been taught and believed by some in the Church for a long time, but it was not mandatory that all should accept it until 1950. But with this proclamation, Catholics had to believe it in order to remain in favor with the Church.

What Say the Scriptures?

Whether Catholics or Protestants, it is fitting when a certain viewpoint is made so important a part of alleged Christian belief, to reexamine the Word of God to determine what authority, if any, it might contain for such a dogma. Just what does the Bible say about Mary? Was she venerated in the Early Church? Were the early disciples taught by Jesus, or by others, to use her name in their prayers? Is she ever referred to as the “mother of God”? Is there any hint that when she died she was taken directly to heaven in the flesh, or in any other manner?

The first mention of Mary in the Bible is in connection with the circumstances which led up to the birth of Jesus. The last reference to her is recorded in Acts 1:14. Here we are told of a little gathering of Jesus’ disciples who were waiting in an upper room in Jerusalem for the fulfillment of his promise to send them the Holy Spirit. “These all continued with one accord in prayer and supplication,” we are told. In this group were “the women, and Mary the mother of Jesus.”—Acts 1:14

This was just before Pentecost, and while the Book of Acts and the various epistles written by the apostles of Jesus reveal much concerning the viewpoints and activities of the Early Church over a period of many years after Pentecost, not one other reference is made to Mary in any of these writings. Even the Apostle Peter, who is claimed to have been the first Pope of the Catholic Church, does not mention Mary’s name, although he wrote two important epistles setting forth many vital points of faith and practice.

The apostles’ complete silence concerning any special position occupied in the church by Mary is quite understandable when we take into consideration the fact that Jesus himself likewise failed to indicate that his followers should in any way ascribe special honor to his mother. On one occasion there seemed to be an excellent opportunity to impress upon the minds of his disciples the importance of honoring his mother, but instead of doing this, he used the circumstance to impress a contrary lesson upon their hearts and minds.

This incident is recorded in Matthew 12:46-50. While Jesus was discoursing to the people, his mother and brothers—that is, the younger children of Mary—came to that place, and indicated that they would like to speak to him. One of the listeners told Jesus about this, saying, “Behold, thy mother and thy brethren stand without, desiring to speak with thee.” What was Jesus’ reply? He raised the question, “Who is my mother? and who are my brethren?”

Jesus then answered his own question. The account reads that “he stretched forth his hand toward his disciples, and said, Behold my mother and my brethren! For whosoever shall do the will of my Father which is in heaven, the same is my brother, and sister, and mother.” No other meaning can be given to these words than the fact that Jesus did not want his disciples to hold his mother in higher esteem than any others who believed on him and became his footstep followers. His lesson was: that the fact that she was his mother did not entitle her to receive special honor and veneration from his other disciples.

Jesus did respect and love his mother, and as a son felt a due responsibility toward her welfare. This is evidenced by the command he gave to the Apostle John while dying on the cross. His mother was standing there, near enough, apparently, to hear what the Master said. John was also nearby. Addressing the apostle, Jesus said, “Behold thy mother!” and to Mary he said concerning John, “Behold thy son!” (John 19:26,27) This has been seized upon by some Catholic teachers as proof that all the followers of Jesus should venerate Mary as “mother.” But there is nothing in the. account to indicate that Jesus had anything of the kind in mind. It was simply a beautiful way of impressing upon John that Jesus was giving him the responsibility of caring for his mother, and indicating to her that she was to look to John for such care as she might need—that, in this respect, John would take his place in her life.

These are the only instances recorded in the Bible in which Mary’s association with Jesus and his disciples are definitely mentioned, and instead of revealing that the Master wants his people to venerate her as is done in the Roman Catholic Church, the very opposite is true. This, we think, is very significant. But sometimes even greater importance can be attached to what is not said on a certain subject, and this is especially true of Mary’s position in the church.

When Jesus taught his disciples to pray, he instructed them to open their prayers by saying, “Our Father which art in heaven.” Note that nothing is said about petitioning God through the ‘sacred heart’ of Mary. On another occasion Jesus instructed his disciples to use his own name when approaching God in prayer, but he said nothing about using the name of Mary for such a purpose. Must we conclude from this that Jesus was unfamiliar with the true art of praying, and that he failed to give his disciples proper instructions on the subject? We think not!

With this in mind, it is most revealing to note the many prayers referred to and sometimes quoted in the Book of Acts, and in the various epistles of the New Testament. The apostles and others prayed while in prison, and on other occasions, yet the name of Mary is never mentioned. In several of the epistles, the writers urge Christians to be “instant in prayer,” and to pray fervently, but they never say that Mary’s name should be used in prayer.

The Apostle John—the apostle to whom Jesus entrusted his mother for her physical care—wrote that if any man sin he has an Advocate with the Father, and he tells us that this Advocate is Jesus—not Mary. (I John 2:1,2) This was not an oversight on his part, for his care of Mary would keep him reminded of any special place she might have occupied in God’s arrangements.

James writes that we “ask, and receive not,” because we ask “amiss.” (James 4:3) This certainly would have been an excellent time to impress upon the minds of his readers that effective prayer can be offered only by using the name of Mary. But he did not. His only explanation of prayers that are not in harmony with God is that they are selfish prayers, requests for things which we want to “consume” upon our “lusts.”

As we have already noted, no mention at all is made of Mary after Pentecost. She was with the disciples who waited in the upper room at Jerusalem for the Holy Spirit to endue them with authority to be the ambassadors of Christ in the world, but what happened to her after that, the Scriptures do not reveal. Nothing at all is said about her death.

Several women in the Early Church are mentioned, and honorably so, but not Mary. Dorcas is one of these. She is cited for her unselfish labors on behalf of others, and when she died, Peter awakened her from the sleep of death. (Acts 9:36-41) Priscilla was another. She was the wife of Aquila, and together they labored in the Gospel—sometimes by themselves, and at other times in association with the Apostle Paul. (Acts 18:2,18,26; Rom. 16:3; I Cor. 16:19) Lydia, the seller of purple, is most favorably referred to in the New Testament. She first came in contact with the Gospel through the ministry of the Apostle Paul, and was among the first in Philippi to become a disciple. For a time the Church at Philippi held their meetings in her home. (Acts 16:14,15,40) Yes, sisters in Christ were loved and honored in the Early Church, but where was Mary?

When Mary received the invitation from the angel telling her that she was being offered the great honor of bearing a son who would “reign over the house of Jacob forever” (Luke 1:33), and of whose kingdom there would be no end, she greatly rejoiced, and accepted, saying to the angel: “Behold the handmaid of the Lord; be it unto me according to thy word.” (vs. 38) She then went to visit her cousin, Elizabeth—soon to be the mother of John the Baptist—who prophesied concerning Mary’s unborn child, saying, “Blessed art thou among women, and blessed is the fruit of thy womb.” Mary answered her, “My soul doth magnify the Lord, and my spirit hath rejoiced in God my Saviour.”—Luke 1:42,46,47

She attributed the title, Savior, to Jehovah because she knew that he was the author of the great plan of salvation. He is properly referred to as the Savior because he sent his Son to accomplish the work of salvation. Mary continued her prayer, saying, “He hath regarded the low estate of his handmaiden: for, behold, from henceforth all generations shall call me blessed.”—Luke 1:33,46-48

It is quite proper that all Christians appreciate the wonderful manner in which Mary was used in the divine plan. But what she said about ‘all generations calling her blessed’ certainly cannot properly be construed as justification for the Roman Catholic viewpoint concerning her. We are confident of this because of what the Master later said on an occasion when he was speaking to a group: “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.”

Whether or not this certain woman was Mary, or whether it was someone else endeavoring to honor Mary and sing her praises, we do not know. In either case, Jesus’ reply is significant, for he said, “Yea, rather blessed are they that hear the Word of God, and keep it.” (Luke 11:27,28) It is clear from this answer that Jesus did not intend, nor was it his Heavenly Father’s will, that Mary be given a special position of honor and power in the true church. Certainly she is not to be worshiped.

Moved by the Holy Spirit, Elizabeth referred to Mary as the mother of her “Lord.” (Luke 1:43) But this does not mean that Mary was the mother of God. In Psalm 110:1 we read, “The Lord said unto my Lord, Sit thou at my right hand, until I make thine enemies thy footstool.” Here Jehovah, the Creator, the Heavenly Father, is addressing his Son, and calling him Lord. But the Hebrew word used, simply denotes ‘a mighty one’, not Jehovah.

Christ, the Messiah, the Son of God, is indeed a mighty one, and in fulfillment of this promise has, since his resurrection, been highly exalted to the right hand of God. So Elizabeth’s prophetic reference to him as ‘Lord’ was quite proper, but does not mean that he was God, or that Mary was the mother of God. Let us endeavor to give Mary her proper place in our respect, but let us worship God, in the name of Christ. Thus we will be worshiping him “in Spirit and in truth” as the Scriptures indicate.—John 4:24

Dawn Bible Students Association
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