Mysteries Of The Bible: What Does The Nature Of Christ Have To Do With The Virgin Mary?

At first glance, the nature of Christ would not have anything to do with the virgin Mary.  Yet when we look at the distinctive and unbiblical doctrines of the Roman Catholic Church relating to the Virgin Mary, one finds that those distinctive doctrines serve in much the same role that the unbiblical laws and commentaries of the Jewish oral law have concerning the matter of God’s written laws.  It would be fair to say, in other words, that the Roman Catholic Church’s views of Mary are not merely the importation of unbiblical views about the Queen of Heaven (although they are this too), but they also serve as a hedge to Christological concerns about the nature of Jesus Christ, seeing as the humanity in Jesus Christ springs from Mary, and thus if one has concerns about the nature of that humanity, those concerns go through Mary from humanity at large.  It is for this reason, for example, that unbiblical views about the perpetual virginity of Mary, the immaculate conception of Mary, and Mary’s role as a mediatrix between God and the Savior have such importance to Catholics despite the fact that they are not biblical.  When one has such serious views on the impassibility of Jesus Christ’s divine nature, obviously one looks for ways to distant Jesus Christ from the hustle and bustle of ordinary humanity without adopting to monophysitism.

Let us therefore contrast the biblical position on these three matters with the Catholic one.  Let us first note that the Bible makes no position that Mary is in some way a mediatrix between God and Jesus Christ or between God and man.  Rather, Luke 1:46-49 is very plain that Mary was herself aware of her need for a savior:  ““My soul magnifies the Lord, and my spirit has rejoiced in God my Savior.  For He has regarded the lowly state of His maidservant; for behold, henceforth all generations will call me blessed.  For He who is mighty has done great things for me, and holy is His name.”  Mary was not somehow specially conceived in order to make her a Godbearer without human nature.  She was, rather, a godly young woman in need of a savior who was blessed by God as the womb through which the Savior was to enter into a world in dire need of a Savior.  The Bible is equally clear that Mary was not always privy to the plans of Jesus Christ, as it is written in Luke 2:43-50:  “When they had finished the days, as they returned, the Boy Jesus lingered behind in Jerusalem. And Joseph and His mother did not know it; but supposing Him to have been in the company, they went a day’s journey, and sought Him among their relatives and acquaintances.  So when they did not find Him, they returned to Jerusalem, seeking Him.  Now so it was that after three days they found Him in the temple, sitting in the midst of the teachers, both listening to them and asking them questions.  And all who heard Him were astonished at His understanding and answers.  So when they saw Him, they were amazed; and His mother said to Him, “Son, why have You done this to us? Look, Your father and I have sought You anxiously.”  And He said to them, “Why did you seek Me? Did you not know that I must be about My Father’s business?”  But they did not understand the statement which He spoke to them.”  This passage demonstrates that when Jesus Christ had matters to accomplish of importance to His heavenly purpose that His mother and stepfather were not privy to them, and were not always even told where he would be or what business he was about.  Obviously, then Mary was not given privileged knowledge or a privileged place to mediate Jesus’ behavior with others.

The Bible is equally decisive when addressing the subject of Mary’s perpetual virginity.  Matthew 1:24-25 tells us rather plainly:  “Then Joseph, being aroused from sleep, did as the angel of the Lord commanded him and took to him his wife, and did not know her till she had brought forth her firstborn Son. And he called His name Jesus.”  And lest people believe that the marriage that Mary and Joseph had was a celibate one (despite the fact that the expectation of the two spouses not having sex until Jesus was born would be for them to have sex as soon as it was ceremonially proper for them to do so), the Bible is equally clear that Jesus had a large family, indicative of a healthy sex life between Mary and Joseph.  Several passages point out Jesus’ family.  Acts 1:14 tells us:  “These all continued with one accord in prayer and supplication, with the women and Mary the mother of Jesus, and with His brothers.”  Mark 3:31 tells us:  “Then His brothers and His mother came, and standing outside they sent to Him, calling Him.”  Matthew 13:53-57a gives quite a lot of detail about Jesus’ half-siblings:  “Now it came to pass, when Jesus had finished these parables, that He departed from there.  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?  Is this not the carpenter’s son? Is not His mother called Mary? And His brothers James, Joses, Simon, and Judas?  And His sisters, are they not all with us? Where then did this Man get all these things?”  So they were offended at Him.”  Here we see, in rather typical fashion, that Jesus’ half brothers, two of whom became noted leaders in the Church of God and writers of books of the Bible (James and Judas/Jude) were named but that the sisters were not named, only that “all” of them were known to the audience of Jesus’ neighbors, suggesting that there was at least three of them.  Considering that Jesus had at least seven half-siblings born to Joseph and Mary in the years after Jesus was born, it is pretty obvious that Jesus’ mother did not remain a virgin after his birth but rather had a large family, even if it was not a family that was privileged to be a Christian dynasty.

Seeing, then, that there is a wise gulf between the misguided doctrines concerning Mary by the Roman Catholic Church and the Bible, what does this have to do with the nature of Jesus Christ Himself?  What does privileging Mary do when it comes to shoring up beliefs about Jesus’ nature?  Quite a lot, in fact.  If one wants to make sure that Jesus Christ is immune from the taint of original sin, then it would make sure that one way to do this would be to argue that Jesus’ mother was perpetually virgin (which would avoid dealing with the question of sex with regards to the savior) and that she herself was born free of original sin rather than being a godly but fallen human being in need of a savior herself.  Likewise, if one wants Jesus Christ to be impassible, which makes sense in light of concerns about the Trinity, then having Mary be the one who urges mercy on the part of sinners to a just Jesus removes Jesus from being the sympathetic high priest, where the sympathy might bleed from Jesus human experience to His divine nature, something that is intolerable when one believes in a Trinity of three interpenetrating hypostases.

Again, though, it must be noted that the Bible does not give one that out.  One cannot put a hedge around Jesus’ nature any more than one can put a hedge around the Sabbath by trying to prevent someone (like Christ) from doing good on the Sabbath by healing, or by preventing hungry people from picking bits of grain to eat on the Sabbath, or any other such prohibition that springs from oral tradition rather than the Word of God.  Since Mary was an ordinary young woman when Jesus was born, and that she became the mother to at least seven (if not more) children born in the ordinary way through her marital intercourse with her husband Joseph, we cannot free Jesus’ family life from its ordinary nature.  Likewise, it is Jesus’ own human experience that gives Him compassion on humanity (see Hebrews 4), rather than Mary’s urging him to reflect upon the teats from which he drank milk during His infancy as various Catholics are prone to imagine.  This may make Jesus’ family far more mundane than we might wish, but it is at least honest to the Bible, which views Jesus’ birth as mysterious and miraculous but which places Him in an ordinary family full of fallen people.  After all, as Mark 3:33-35 tells us:  “But He answered them, saying, “Who is My mother, or My brothers?” And He looked around in a circle at those who sat about Him, and said, “Here are My mother and My brothers!  For whoever does the will of God is My brother and My sister and mother.”

About nathanalbright

I'm a person with diverse interests who loves to read. If you want to know something about me, just ask.
This entry was posted in Bible, Biblical History, Christianity, Church of God, History, Maternal Lines, Musings and tagged , . Bookmark the permalink.

6 Responses to Mysteries Of The Bible: What Does The Nature Of Christ Have To Do With The Virgin Mary?

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