Archive for the ‘Veneration’ Category

Papal Priorities: Biblical Study or Saint Veneration?

September 12, 2016

Roman Catholics often raise the topic of authority and claim that we need an infallible interpreter to interpret Scripture.  This, they say, means we need the papacy.  But what does the papacy actually do or care about?

When pressed, however, Roman Catholic apologists typically acknowledge that an allegedly infallible interpretation has been provided for fewer than 20 verses (see this document from Roman Catholic apologist and pilgrimage promoter Steve Ray).  Moreover, when you dig into the claims about those verses, most of the interpretations are actually the alleged interpretations of ecumenical councils, rather than popes.

On the other hand, the Roman Catholic church also teaches that infallibility is exercised in the designation of a deceased person as a “saint.”  How often is this alleged gift of infallibility exercised? John Paul II canonized 482 saints in 26 years (apparently a record number).  Benedict XVI canonized 45 saints in 7 years.  Francis has canonized 29 saints plus 812 companions of one of those, in his three years so far as pope.

I think it’s fair to say that papal priorities are revealed by papal actions. In this case, the priority of the papacy is clearly on the veneration of the deceased, rather than on the study and interpretation of Scripture.  In the lifetime of most of my readers, the popes have never once infallibly interpreted Scripture but have allegedly infallibly canonized saints literally hundreds of times.

Roman Catholic apologists may say we need the popes to understand the Scriptures, but Roman Catholic practice demonstrates that announcing saints for veneration is far more central to the actual papal role.

St. Josaphat aka Buddha

April 9, 2013

At page 88 of The Myth of Persecution, Dr. Moss drew attention to a particularly glaring case of false saints in the case of St. Josaphat. The story of “Barlaam and Josaphat” became popular in Europe after being translated into Greek, probably around the 11th century.

The name “Josaphat,” as it turns out, is derived from Arabic Yūdhasaf or Būdhasaf, which is derived from the title Buddha (enlightened one) and refers to Siddhartha Gautama (c. 563-483 B.C.).  The story is essentially a retelling of the life story of the Buddha.

The story was popular and eventually Josaphat managed to get assigned a day in the calendar not only in the Roman church, but also in the Greek and Slavic churches.

You have to wonder if the Serpent was laughing at professing Christians unwittingly asking Buddha to “ora pro nobis.”  While the fact that Josaphat = Buddha was not discovered until the 19th century, the Reformers warned against the veneration of saints, not only on the general grounds that such veneration is wrong, but also on the specific ground that many of the saints were not true believers.

Thomas Newton, in the 18th century, expressed it this way (source):

It is impossible to relate or enumerate all the various falsehoods and lies which have been invented and propagated for this purpose; the fabulous books forged under the names of apostles, saints, and martyrs; the fabulous legends of their lives, actions, sufferings, and deaths; the fabulous miracles ascribed to their sepulchres, bones, and other relics; the fabulous dreams and revelations, visions and apparitions of the dead to the living and even the fabulous saints who never existed but in the imagination of their worshippers. And all these stories the monks the priests the bishops of the church have imposed and obtruded upon mankind it is difficult to say whether with greater artifice or cruelty with greater confidence or hypocrisy and pretended sanctity, a more hardened face or a more hardened conscience.


Further Response to Mr. Albrecht Regarding Debate on Veneration of Images

December 24, 2010

In a new video (audio + slideshow only), Mr. Albrecht has responded to the comments in my post (link to post) regarding the debate. This is in addition to the comments he submitted to me by email, and which are already addressed in the original post via an update to that post. I’ve provided the following written response and a largely-overlapping video response (just audio), below.

Mr. Albrecht responded to the comments on my blog by way of video. He stated that I didn’t heavily emphasize the Old Testament prohibition on the veneration of images – his justification for this claim was simply his assertion that the Old Testament doesn’t prohibit the veneration of images. This assertion is patently false. I highlighted many passages which specifically prohibit the veneration of images, such as Exodus 20:5, which states: “Thou shalt not bow down thyself to them, nor serve them.”

Or Leviticus 26:1, which states: “Ye shall make you no idols nor graven image, neither rear you up a standing image, neither shall ye set up any image of stone in your land, to bow down unto it: for I am the LORD your God.”

In point of fact, Mr. Albrecht barely engaged the text of Scripture. Instead he focused his time in other areas.

One of his main arguments to attempt to distinguish away the Old Testament texts was to assert that “There is, however, a clear distinction between idolatry and veneration.”

Can Mr. Albrecht show us this distinction in the Bible? No, he cannot.
Can Mr. Albrecht show us this distinction from the fathers of the first century? No, they don’t make that distinction.
What about the fathers of the second century? No, they too say nothing helpful to him.
He basically has to jump forward in time many hundreds of years to find anything like this distinction being brought out.

He refers to the latria/dulia distinction that Rome is fond of making. He and I debated that topic some time ago. He could not find the distinction in Scripture then – and he still cannot find it now. Even if he could find that distinction eventually enunciated in some father or other after some time, as we brought out in the debate the 2nd Council of Nicaea did not make the distinction that he would like to see.

Mr. Albrecht again appeals to Dura Europos. He states: “There was much stronger evidence to prove the early Christian church venerated images, statues. The Dura Europos is a clear-cut example of this.” During the debate we exposed this error. Nobody knows what sect worshiped in that church. Nobody knows how the images were used – whether just for decoration, for teaching, or for (as Mr. Albrecht claims) veneration. In fact, no one knows even whether the church was ever used.

He claims it is a Christian church from earlier than the mid-200’s. His assertion is empty and untrue.

He claims that I “have to fall back on the assertion that this church is not typical.” Listen to the debate. First he asked me whether I knew of Dura Europos, then he asked me whether it was typical. I told him it was not. That’s hardly me “falling back” on that position.

He then asks who am I to make an assertion that Dura Europos is not typical. Well, he asked me – so I told him. Why would anybody think that Dura Europos was typical? Mr. Albrecht does not give us any good reasons to think so.

He then states that he’s not aware of any scholars who say that unorthodox people worshiped there. I’m not sure what his ignorance of the subject is supposed to prove. Are there any scholars who claim orthodox Christians worship there? If so, who are these scholars? What is there basis for the claim? Mr. Albrecht can’t tell us, because Mr. Albrecht doesn’t know.

Mr. Albrecht claims that he showed that not a single father interpreted the key Biblical texts in the same way in which I interpreted them. There was not time for Mr. Albrecht to show anything remotely resembling that. All Mr. Albrecht did was assert such a thing. He did quote a small handful of fathers who neither explicitly supported nor explicitly condemned the position I took.

Then Mr. Albrecht tries to explain why his unproven assertion is true. His proposed reason why is “the fathers knew the difference between idolatry and true religious veneration.” But, of course, Scripture does not make that distinction and Mr. Albrecht cannot identify any church fathers that make that distinction. It’s another assertion on Mr. Albrecht’s part, but not one he can support with facts.

Mr. Albrecht tried to argue that Ancient Judaism is not on my side. This was another one of his blunders. He quotes Jacob Milgrim who indicates that in the mid-third century there starts to appear in Judaism a “grudging recognition of Jewish art” and that people began to paint pictures on the walls in that time. This just proves my very point. (Read the article for yourself!)

Mr. Albrecht then cites to a pseudographic Jewish Targum that specifically permits for carved stone columns as long as they are not worshiped. This Targum, however, dates to somewhere between the eighth century and the 15th century. It’s hardly representative of ancient Judaism.

And even if it were, it is simply distinguishing between having the images and venerating them.

Mr. Albrecht claims that his quotation from Basil is a “contested quotation.” That’s not true. It’s a spurious quotation. The consensus of scholarship agrees – both among Roman Catholic scholars and non-Roman Catholic scholars.

I pointed out that Mr. Albrecht was relying on a secondary source. I probably should have mentioned that his comments about Judaism were similarly drawn from a secondary source, which is probably why he didn’t realize the pseudographic Targum he quoted was so late.

Mr. Albrecht asserted that he relied on as secondary source “just as everything else Turretinfan relies on in scholarly works on the Biblical or patristic texts are secondary sources.” I’m not sure why this is particularly relevant. There’s no scholarly source that Mr. Albrecht has turned to that says anything other than what I’ve said – his quotation from Basil is spurious.

Mr. Albrecht goes on to argue with one of the patristic scholars who notes that the term “theotokos” became popular later than Basil. Mr. Albrecht misunderstands what the scholar wrote and goes off on a diatribe about how the term theotokos was used early.

Mr. Albrecht makes a serious blunder by alleging that the term theotokos was used “close to two centuries before Basil’s time” by citing a prayer found in a papyrus that was “dated by papyrologists to the mid-200’s.” The mid-200’s would be about 100 years before Basil (330-379). And frankly, given Mr. Albrecht’s numerous mistakes about dates and so forth, I would want to see what his source was regarding this prayer as well rather than just accepting it (though it may be correct).

Mr. Albrecht points out that work was probably not written by the Greek iconoclasts. One of the works that I quoted from does say “It has been attributed to the Greek Iconoclasts,” which is clearly wrong. So, Mr. Albrecht is quite right to point out the editor’s mistake in using the word “Iconoclast” instead of “Iconodule.” I’m not sure if Mr. Albrecht read the other notes, which indicated what this quotation obviously meant, which was that the work had been created during the Iconoclastic controversy. Nevertheless, I fully agree with Mr. Albrecht that it was not the iconoclasts, but the iconodules, who forged this particular letter.

Mr. Albrecht also suggests that many more “m s s” (as he calls them) have been discovered at a later date. I don’t know of any scholarly support for Mr. Albrecht’s assertion, and he does not provide any.

Mr. Albrecht then tries to bolster his position regarding Basil by quoting Basil’s statement that the honor paid to the image passes on to the prototype. This is very interesting, of course, because Basil is talking about worship of Jesus passing on to the Father. I’m not sure if Mr. Albrecht grasps the impact of his seizing on this phrase from Basil. Is his worship of Jesus the same as his worship of images? Does he really want to compare his worship of man-made images to his worship of the true image of the Father?

Basil certainly did not make that comparison. Basil was simply pointing out that by worshiping Jesus was are not becoming tritheists – we remain monotheists, because the worship given to Jesus is not only given to Jesus but to the Father. Basil did not compare the worship of Jesus to the worship of painted boards or statues.

Mr. Albrecht speaks with great emphasis on the word “Image” but he doesn’t seem to realize that Basil is speaking of the Son of God, not some carved stone column or other lifeless idol. I will grant him this – the veneration of Jesus is perfectly acceptable. There is no problem worshiping Jesus. It is man-made images that are the problem. Remember that Scriptures “thou shalt not make unto thyself any graven image or any likeness,” it does not prohibit us from worshiping the image of God in the person of Jesus Christ.

Mr. Albrecht says that in the authentic Basil quotation, the use of “icon” in its proper Christian usage is shown. I heartily agree. The one icon we can worship is Jesus himself. Not a picture of Jesus, but Jesus himself, the image of the Father. That’s the proper Christian worship of an icon – and it is the only worship of an icon supported by Basil.

Mr. Albrecht again repeats his statement that “Christianity has always been able to distinguish between proper religious veneration and idolatry.” Yet, as we’ve noted each time – Mr. Albrecht’s assertion is just not supported by any evidence.

Mr. Albrecht next turned to the issue of the Vienna Genesis. He admitted he made a mistake in saying that the Vienna Genesis was dated to the 300’s, and asserted that it was dated to the 400’s. Actually, while some people have placed it in the late 400’s, it appears that the consensus is for the early 500’s.

Mr. Albrecht then claims that he really meant to refer to the “Cotton Genesis.” But Bruce Metzger (who Mr. Albrecht cited during the debate) also tells us that the “Cotton Genesis” is from the 500’s and John Lowden tells us that some scholars (citing Weitzmann and Kessler) date this to the late 400’s (John Lowden, “The Beginnings of Biblical Illustration” in “Imaging the Early Medieval Bible,” John Williams editor), p. 15. The same work indicates the sixth century for the Vienna Genesis (p. 17).

Mr. Albrecht tries to argue that he has provided positive evidence for the veneration of images in the early church, but he has not. The most he has done is to point out that in some instances some of the ancient churches had images in the churches.

Transcript of Veneration of Mary Debate

August 6, 2009

The following is a transcript of the “Veneration of Mary” Debate that Mr. William Albrecht (GNRHead) and I conducted with Mr. Lane Chaplin moderating (the audio may be found here). Thanks very much to Matthew Lankford for providing this transcript. I’ve tried to smooth out irregularities of speech as much as possible without deviating from what the speakers were saying. If anyone notes any problems with this transcript, please let me know. The subtitle of the debate is my own creation, not an “official” subtitle to the debate.

Veneration of Mary Debate: Does the Bible Command Hyper-Dulia of Mary?

Lane: Welcome to today’s debate. Today’s debate is entitled: Does the Bible Teach Veneration of Mary? We have two debaters today: Mr. William Albrecht, who will be taking the affirmative position. He’s a Roman Catholic Apologist who runs And TurretinFan who will be taking the negative position. He runs and also — he’s also a contributor to We will now begin the debate.

Mr. Albrecht you now have seven minutes for your first affirmative constructive, you may begin.

William: Today my goal is one that is quite simple. My goal is to simply see what the Bible says about the blessed Virgin Mary and repeat it. Today my goal is not to attempt to prove any of the Marian dogmas, but merely to show that true veneration, true honor, is due to the Mother of God and that such can be found within the New Testament.

While it is clear that Jesus Christ definitely honored his mother, since being a faithful Jew he would have not of broken the commandment to honor your father and your mother, we come to the question if it is the Christian’s duty to honor his mother Mary.

Today I will make an attempt to come to the Scriptures as one who merely picks up the Bible and reads it and attempt to understand its plain meaning. There will be no hearkening to Church Fathers, Church Councils, or Papal encyclicals, or anything of the sort. Rather we will see that no matter what denomination you come from, that you can see the plain truth of Mary in Scripture.

Our first passage of examination is that of Luke chapter one verse twenty-eight (Luke 1:28). And the passage reads “And coming in he said to her, hail having been graced, the Lord is with you.”

What we have here is a Greek word kecharitōmenē, which is a Greek perfect passive participle. Kecharitōmenē is from the Greek word charitoō. Mary is called having been graced, or woman who has been graced, since the gender is that of the feminine type. Whereas we may find the usage of this term in other places, it is only used in the titular form for Mary in all of Scripture, even including that of the Septuagint. This is what makes its appearance in Luke chapter one verse twenty-eight so unique. The Lord is with Mary. God is in Mary’s womb.

We are told that Mary is the mother of our Messiah, our Savior, our God, in this direct address from the angel. This is quite significant. The goal of the Holy Spirit is to show us that God has chosen Mary for this special role in salvation history. Mary is chosen is chosen to bring our great God and Savior into the world and it is because of this that she has been graced. She is called kecharitōmenē because God’s grace is in her. God is in her womb. She’s blessed because of Christ and Christ alone. We must be quite clear: without Jesus Christ in Mary’s womb, Mary would not be called kecharitōmenē.

Our next passage of examination is commonly called Mary’s “Magnificat.” And we’ll be examining Luke chapter one, verse forty-six to forty-nine. Starting off with forty six. “And Mary said ‘My soul glorifies the Lord and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior, for he has been mindful of the humble state of his servant. From now on all generations will call me blessed, for the Mighty One has done great things for me-holy is his name.'”

It is clear the New Testament shows us that we are to honor and venerate Mary for all generations, because, as Mary tells us, the Mighty One has done great things for her. It is because of this very reason that we can call Mary blessed and any other Christian that the Lord has done great things for. Mary is special, though, because she alone brought forth our Messiah and our God, Jesus Christ. We’re told that all generations will call Mary “blessed.” The actual Greek word — Greek uses the word makariousin from makarizō, meaning just what our English translations tell us: that Mary was to be called blessed.

Of particularly interest is that even in the beatitudes — where we can find those that are called blessed — are the listener followers of Christ called blessed. The Greek word makarioi (from makarios) can be found used in the Gospel of Matthew. But there is a great variance of degree when we compare those in the beatitudes and Mary. Mary in verse forty-nine in the first chapter of Luke’s Gospel tells us “for the Mighty One has done great things for me” and it is because of these great things that have been done for Mary, Christians are to honor and venerate her and to call her blessed for all generations.

Mary is blessed because of Christ and Christ alone. Be not mistaken: none of the grace and favor that have fallen upon Mary came to her through her own will. Nor are we honoring Mary and Mary alone. Our honor and respect for the Virgin Mary is because of the great things that have been done for her. From what is clearly shown in the Scriptures it is right to show veneration to Mary. No mere human ordained such honor or respect to be given to the blessed Virgin, but God Himself.

The Bible tells us in Galatians chapter five at verses thirteen to fourteen (Gal. 5:13-14), that we should serve one another in love. Here we find the plural from douleuo used. A loving service is to be given to fellow Christians. As we have examined in a previous debate, this veneration can and is used in a religious context, when its referring to the worship of God. But in such passages as these, with a strict order to serve your fellow Christians in Christ is given, we must also yield to the fact that such a religious context is ever so present. We are to honor one another in love, and in Mary’s case we are to honor and call her blessed for all time.

The care and respect and love that Jesus also expressed for His mother on the cross should be emulated by all Christians. Remember those precious words of our Lord and God, when He said in John chapter nineteen, verses twenty-six to twenty seven (John 19:26-27). And the verses read: “When Jesus then saw his mother, and the disciple whom he loved standing near by, He said to his mother, ‘Woman, behold, your son!’ Then he said to the disciple, ‘Behold, your mother!’ From that hour the disciple took her to his own household.”

His words to the beloved disciple forever reverberate in the hearts of all Christians. “Behold, you mother,” he says, “Behold, your mētēr.” In this particular instance, His great and deep love and care for His mother is so tremendous that He entrusts her care to that of the beloved disciple. Shouldn’t we imitate Christ and show His mother a mere ounce of the profound love and respect that God has shown her? I believe, as a Bible-believing Christian, that it is our obligation for all generations.

Lane: Ok, TurretinFan you now have three minutes to cross examine Mr. Albrecht. You may begin.

TurretinFan: Thanks very much.

My first question for you: You spoke about Luke 1:28, and you said that there the term that’s translated by the King James Version as “highly favored” is a titular form of that particular word, and that this is the only place its mentioned. I wonder whether you’ve considered Ephesians 1:6?

William: Absolutely I have. And it is not used in the titular form in Ephesians 1:6. And just to be clear, I wasn’t saying that this kecharitōmenē only appears in Luke 1:28 — I’m also aware that it appears in Sirach 18:17 and, I believe, in 2 Maccabees. But I’m contending that the difference is that it is used as a title for Mary. I understand that the verbal form that it comes from (charitoō) can be found in other places, but I’m contending that the difference is that it is used as a titular form for Mary.

TurretinFan: What makes you conclude that it’s a titular form in Luke 1:28 and not in Ephesians 1:6?

William: I believe in Ephesians 1:6 in the way it is being used — I don’t find any usage of anybody calling somebody “having been graced” or using it as a title, replacing it for somebody’s name. And in Luke Chapter one Verse twenty-eight (Luke 1:28) we find just that. We find the greeting, “Hail having been graced” or we could use, “highly favored” — I prefer “having been graced” as the translation. And as we see, the angel comes in and he says, “Hail having been graced” “chaire kecharitōmenē” That’s quite different from the usage in Ephesians chapter one, verse six [Eph. 1:6].

TurretinFan: My second question has to do with the comment about Mary’s own statement that all generations will call her blessed. What makes you conclude that that’s a command, rather than simply a statement of fact?

William: I don’t quite understand, whether its a command or a statement of fact, don’t you believe that all generations should call her blessed? Regardless, of whether its a command or statement of fact, it’s the truth of Scripture that all generations are to call Mary blessed.

TurretinFan: Well, you said you were going to prove your case from the Bible. So, I was trying to get whether this verse actually says that it is a command or whether that was something you had sort of imposed on the text.

William: Well, I don’t think I’m imposing anything on the text. Whether it be a command — it’s a fact of Scripture that all generations are to call Mary blessed.

TurretinFan: Ok, well, my next comment was very similar — when it says “Behold your mother” was that a command to John or to all Christians? In the text.

William: In the text, was it a command to John or to all Christians? I believe specifically when He says “Behold your mother” it is a command specifically to John in that context. He is entrusting her to John’s care, therefore, I believe it would be a command to John in that context, since He calls her his mother. He entrusts her care to the beloved disciple.

Lane: Ok, that’s time. Ok, thank you for that. Turretin[Fan] you now have your negative constructive, which consists of eight minutes.You may begin when you’re ready.

TurretinFan: My presentation today is going to be on the veneration of Mary and the Bible — what does it have to say about it? The Roman Catholic Church gives Mary worship in the form of hyper-dulia. Whether or not that should be called worship is a separate debate. The question today is whether this is Biblical. And I would tell you the answer is “no.” And I’ll try to explain why in three parts today. The first part will be Mary as she is portrayed in the Bible. Number two, what the Bible says about the veneration of Mary. And then the third section will be responding to what Mr. Albrecht has said.

So, the first part: Mary’s portrayal in the Bible. She’s portrayed in the Bible as a relatively minor character. She’s only mentioned by name once outside of the Gospels and that’s right at the beginning of the book of Acts. She’s only mentioned once by name in the Gospel of Mark. And she’s never mentioned by name in the Gospel of John. Now, of course, she is mentioned in John, but just not by name. And then there’s no real mention of Mary by the Apostle Paul in any of his epistles. There’s only one verse of the Old Testament that clearly relates to Mary and that’s a single verse prophesying that Jesus would be born of a virgin. And so, in general Mary has a fairly minor role in Scripture.

What’s her character like? She’s portrayed as modest and humble. She’s described as being highly favored by God. And the way in which she is highly favored is that she is the one who gives birth to Jesus Christ. This term means “highly favored,” which is essentially how Mr. Albrecht has translated it, not “full of grace” as the Vulgate mistranslated it.

Another aspect of Mary is that she’s a witness to Jesus’ earthly life at a number of critical points. For example, at the conception, the birth, and the miracle at Cana, and the death of Christ. She’s in all of these and we see that she was interviewed by Luke in the preparation of his Gospel and possibly also by Matthew as well. And the other sort of interconnection she has with the Apostles in addition to appearing with the Apostles after Jesus’ ascension, in that one place in Acts, is that she was cared for by John, although John doesn’t actually mention her by name anywhere in his Gospel (although, of course, John doesn’t mention himself by name in his Gospel either).

The second section that I’d like to deal with here now is now: what does the Bible actually have to say about veneration of Mary? Since, you know, generally describing her is one thing, but what about the issue of veneration. There’s sort of three general positive areas where someone might think that there’s an inclination in that direction. The first is the angel’s greeting to Mary. The second is Elizabeth’s greeting of Mary. And then the third is some general principles of love of the brethren. As for the third, there’s no call, just because there’s a general love of the brethren and service to the brethren, for us to create a special cult of Mary, or a cult of Albrecht, or a cult of Lane, or a cult of anybody in particular. And when we talk about the veneration of Mary, we’re not just talking about, you know, bringing her a cup of water when she’s thirsty. We’re talking about something that’s especially particular to Mary — in a special reverence that’s shown to her — that’s different from just the ordinary reverence we show to other people in following the law of God. The greetings are interesting, but mostly they just show politeness. We’ll come to the argument that Mr. Albrecht presented earlier from the idea that this was some kind of titular form of the word for saying that the person is highly favored, in just a minute.

Moving on from the positives to the negatives, there are actually three of the Gospels, the synoptic Gospels, they each relate an account that show that Mary is really nothing special in the Kingdom of God. Those are: Matthew 12:46-50; Mark 3:31-35; and Luke 8:19-21. They may all be the same account, they may be two or more accounts, but in these three accounts, which may or may not be more than one event, the situation is someone is trying to give Mary special attention — Mary and Jesus’ brethren special attention. And Jesus turns it around and says ‘Look, anyone who believes in me, that’s my mother, that’s my brethren.’ He’s basically saying that there’s an equality within the Kingdom of God among all the believes, such that His mother and His brethren are nobody special. That seems to be the point that’s raised in each of those; in Matthew, and Mark, and Luke — John doesn’t have that same one, but that’s fairly normal, John often doesn’t include events that the synoptics include.

There’s a second aspect in which we can see veneration of Mary is undone by the Scriptural evidence. This second area is when Paul talks about the mother of us all. Now recall that there’s an argument that’s made that Mary is our mother and, therefore, in some sense she’s our mother, because we’re in Christ and, therefore, we need to honor her. But when Paul talks about who’s our mother, he says the mother of us all is the heavenly Jerusalem. He doesn’t view it as Mary at all, but as the heavenly Jerusalem.

And then the third aspect is this title that’s sometimes given in Roman Catholicism — “The Mother of God” is given to Mary. But the author of Hebrews describes Jesus in this way: he says that He was “without mother.” And now, of course, that can’t refer to His humanity, since Jesus was the son of Mary. So, it must be referred to His divinity. And, so, therefore, in view of Hebrews, its inappropriate to call Mary by such exalted titles as “The Mother of God.”

Now we’ll turn to the third section, which is responding specifically to the points that Albrecht has raised. The first point he raised is this idea that the titular form of the word is used in Luke 1:28. But, on being pressed upon this, what we see is that it’s simply a statement that when the participle essentially used as a reference to the person. In other words, this is a person who is highly favored. It’s not that it’s being used as a title — like that it has a special capital letter in Greek — of course, they didn’t have that type of mechanism in Greek (in the original). Rather, what it is, is the fairly rare word is used only a couple of times. It’s only used, maybe, in a similar way, only two times in the New Testament — in this place and in Ephesians 1:6. And in Ephesians 1:6 of course its not used as a title. There’s not any particular reason to view it as a title here, except for a desire to use it as a title later. No one ever else calls her by that title and we’re not suggested in that passage to use that as a title. Let me move on to the second argument.

The second argument is that “all generations will call her blessed.” This argument, again, is actually a statement of fact, that all generations will call her blessed — its not a command to do so.

The third argument was an argument from Galatians, I believe it was, chapter five, verses thirteen and fourteen (Gal. 5:13-14)… perhaps it was chapter three. In any event, the idea was that we serve one another in love. Well, the idea is not that we shouldn’t give Mary a glass of cold water if we see her and she’s thirsty. The question is whether or not we are supposed to give some kind of special cultus — in the terms that the Roman Catholic Church would use to describe the worship.

Then, the fourth argument was, “behold your mother,” but as we brought out during the cross-examination this is not a command for all Christians, just a command for John. And, of course, John, in his Gospel, never commands us to worship Mary, or to venerate her in any way.

Lane: Ok, Mr. Albrecht, you now have three minutes to cross-examine TurretinFan, you may begin when you’re ready.

William: Ok, that sounds good. TurretinFan, due to the fact that the Bible tells us that, “all generations,” and literally in the Greek, “pasai geneai,” all generations will call Mary blessed, and the fact that the Bible clearly shows us that Mary has been graced and will always continue to have that grace within her person, even after the birth of Christ, does this not entail that there is clear Biblical proof that honor and respect is due to Mary?

TurretinFan: There’s a premise in there, that you stated, which was that the Scriptures suggest that she continues to have some special role beyond the giving birth to Jesus. Which is a questionable premise. And without that premise, of course, the conclusion doesn’t follow — that she has some continued desert of being called … or … of being given special reverence.

William: Well, what my contention basically is, is that she will continue to have that grace within her person even after the birth of Christ. That’s all that I’m really contending. Moving on to another question now, I’ll ask, I guess, I’ll try and phrase this in a different way. Since God has preordained that we are to forever call Mary blessed, due to the fact that she is the woman who has been graced, called kecharitōmenē by the angel of the Lord, does the Greek of Luke 1:28 then entail that we’re to give her true honor and respect, because she is continually one who is graced?

TurretinFan: No. When it says that “all generations will call her blessed” — it just simply means that all generations will, indeed, call her blessed. And one way in which that can be the case, is that all generations will realize that she was given a special favor from God in that she was given the privilege of carrying in her womb, incarnate God.

William: Alright, I suppose I’ll try and continue this a little bit more with you. I guess my question is pretty much since Luke 1:28 pretty much shows us that Mary will continue to be graced, I guess my question was whether it was/is alright to continue showing Mary honor and respect? I understand calling Mary blessed is not anything that we cannot call for other Christians, but wouldn’t this be different in the case of Mary, since she will continually be graced even after birthing Christ?

TurretinFan: Yes, it doesn’t say that she will continually be graced even after birthing Christ. That’s an important, underlying, mistaken premise in your assertions that you’re throwing at me.

William: So, the usage of kecharitōmenē in the perfect passive participle in the Greek, does not have the connotation that Mary will continue to have grace even after the birth of Christ?

TurretinFan: The idea of a perfect passive participle, as you should know, implies a past action that has continuing effects (William interjecting: Absolutely) at the present time, which is the time when the angel was speaking to Mary.

William: Yes, and is there anything in the verse that shows us that since she is continually being graced at that current present moment that the grace will cease to be after she births Christ?

TurretinFan: Oh, no, I’m not trying to make an argument from silence. I was leaving that up to your side, which was asserting that, in fact, it was continuing on — which, of course, you could never get from that particular verb.

Lane: Ok, that’s time. Ok, Mr. Albrecht you now have your first affirmative rebuttal. You have four minutes for it. You may begin when you’re ready.

William: Alright, great. I think we can clearly see that the Scriptures are far from muddled when it comes to the subject of the Virgin Mary. Is honor and respect due to the Virgin Mary? We can clearly see that the answer is yes. Mary’s “Magnificat” is the precious song of God’s blessings bestowed upon a human being. When the earth was created, when the heavens were created, when the first human beings were created, never was such grace known to be given to a creature of the Lord. Yet we can clearly see that Mary was one who was found to have favor from God. Such favor that all generations are to forever recognize what God has done for her. All generations are to forever recognize the mighty things that God has done for her. The Scripture shows us that it is because of God, and God alone, that we are to give honor to Mary. God is the one that Mary tells us has done great things for her. Holy Writ shows us that God, being one who has given her the grace and blessings, then entails that we offer true honor and respect to Mary.

Examining the Bible clearer we can see in Luke chapter eleven verses twenty-seven to twenty-eight [Luke 11:27-28]. We read: “And it came to pass, as he spake these things, a certain woman of the company lifted up her voice, and said to them, Blessed is the womb that bore thee, and the paps which thou hast sucked. But He said, “Yea rather, blessed are they that hear the word of God, and keep it.” To be clear, Christ says “Yea rather, blessed are they that hear the word of God, and keep it.” In the Greek, Christ responds with “menounge makarioi.” “Indeed blessed,” He says, “are those who hear the word of God and keep it.” With this comment He isn’t saying that Mary is not blessed and that those who hear the word are instead. Instead He answers in the affirmative that Mary’s very body was blessed and then reinforces that which is of greater blessedness is that His word be heard and obeyed and kept. Mary did hear the word of God and did obey it. And actually bore the Word incarnate in her womb.

TurretinFan says he would not like to argue from silence, yet his mere assertion that kecharitōmenē is not special is fallacious on its very face. We are shown that Mary has been graced in the past and that its effects continue and never are we told that it ceases; rather we have indications that it doesn’t. The very fact that Mary is forever to be called blessed is an indication of her enduring grace and favor in the eyes of God. And as a Christian we should honor and we should respect that.

Lane: Ok, TurretinFan, you can now set forth your negative rebuttal. You may begin when you’re ready.

TurretinFan: Thanks very much. It’s been a pleasure to debate today. I’d like to thank Mr. Albrecht for his participation and for bearing with my questions and answers.

Now I’d like to sort of summarize the debate. The debate was over the question of whether or not the Bible promotes the veneration of Mary, and although we saw that Mary is praised in the Scriptures — she’s called blessed — she’s described as having been highly favored — she’s described as a modest and humble woman, and (as Mr. Albrecht pointed out) she was greatly privileged to have the incarnate Son of God at her breast. Nevertheless, there’s nothing in Scripture that commands any Christian to give her any special reverence or honor. And so the Roman Catholic view of hyper-dulia is completely unbiblical, as we’ve discovered.

Remember, the first section that we talked was the fact that Mary’s portrayal in Scripture relatively minor. She’s only mentioned once outside of the Gospels by name. And only mentioned once by name in Mark, never by name in John, and never by Paul. In fact, as we discussed in the second section, when Paul talks about who’s the mother of us all, he doesn’t point, as many might expect, to Mary, but, instead, he points to the heavenly Jerusalem. She doesn’t have a specific role that is taught by Scripture, as far as having any maternal relationship to us, such that the Fifth Commandment, that we should honor our father and mother, would apply in some sense, so that we would have to honor her using that sort of maternal honor, which would still not be hyper-dulia. But lets continue on.

We also saw that the Scriptures describe her as a witness to Jesus’ life and that, as well as a great privilege that we can’t experience because we’re not around during Jesus’ earthly ministry; and that she was cared for by the beloved disciple John, and interviewed by Luke, who was in the process of preparing the Gospel of Luke. All these things said, we also saw that there are three passages which may all be the same event, in which, far from suggesting that Mary is to be specially praised, it’s suggested that she’s simply just the same as any other believer. And Mr. Albrecht himself brought this out in his last speech, when he pointed out, pointed to the verse, which says, that, ‘indeed, truly is blessed the person who believes.’ See, all believers are equally blessed with Mary — there’s nothing particularly special about her and that’s really the point to those verses.

We also saw as well, and this wasn’t disputed at all by Mr. Albrecht, that when the author of Hebrew describes Jesus, he calls Him “without mother.” And really, this undermines this special title, among many exalted titles, that the Roman Catholic Church uses. This title “Mother of God” is not only unbiblical, it’s contrary to the Bible, in that it falls afoul of Hebrews 7:3, which describes Jesus as being like Melchizedek — being without father or mother: “without father” as to His humanity, “without mother” as to His Divinity.

Then, when we investigated the arguments that Mr. Albrecht made, we didn’t hear what you would expect — we didn’t hear any verses where there was a command to honor Mary or an example even of someone giving special honor, or special reverence, to Mary. Aside from the greeting of the angel and the greeting of Elizabeth, that we already talked about, there’s no examples of anyone giving her special attention; and the one case where we saw something close to giving her special attention is the point where Jesus took the opportunity to say, ‘Oh, no, no, she’s nothing special, she’s just the same as all the other believers.’

Mr. Albrecht tries to make an argument from silence on Luke 1:28. He says ‘well, she was given this privilege in the past and it had a continuing effect at the time the angel spoke to her and there’s nothing that ever tells us it stopped.’ Well, indeed, there’s nothing that tells us whether it stopped or it continued — and it’s just simply an argument from silence on that point.

He makes a point about something being in a titular form only in Luke 1:28, but it’s hardly ever used throughout Scripture. The word itself is hardly ever used throughout Scripture — and its not particularly rare to have people described in terms of characteristics; and in this case the characteristic that was salient was the fact that she had been privileged with having the Son of God come and be in her womb.

The next argument that we heard was one about all generations calling her blessed, which Mr. Albrecht continually seemed to try to convert from a simple statement of fact, that all generations will, indeed, call her blessed, to a command that we must — as though this were an order: you must call her blessed. It doesn’t say that. I think we tried to bring that out in the cross-examination. And, instead, we got a: ‘well, but… shouldn’t we?’ You know, that… It’s not in the text. It doesn’t say that we are to do so — it just says that people will call her blessed. And the reason why we call her blessed, of course, is that she received an enormous blessing from God. Its quite true, it was an immense privilege for her to be the mother of Jesus, to have the incarnate Son of God in her womb. It was an extraordinary blessing. And she is blessed. And we call her blessed. But that’s a far cry from giving her hyper-dulia.

The next argument was one from Galatians — about how we serve one another in love. But, of course, again, that’s not hyper-dulia. That’s not veneration in the sense of a cultus, and the sense of what we talk about religious veneration in theology, we’re not talking simply about obeying the second table of the Law.

The fourth argument was this argument from, “Behold your mother,” but, as we discovered, that was specifically made to John and there’s no where in Scripture that suggests, or implies, or states that this is to have any broader application than John. Of course, John himself, while he did care for Mary, he never mentions her by name in his Gospel (although, of course, he does mention her without using her name).

We hear from Mr. Albrecht that Scriptures are very clear on this issue. He started his initial speech with that, he mentioned in his last one, and I wouldn’t be surprised if he mentions it in his final speech. But, what they’re clearly here, is clearly silent. They never give any examples of people venerating Mary in any special way, without Jesus coming and saying, ‘Wait a minute, she’s just the same as anyone else.’ And, we never have any commands, or instructions, or exhortations, to venerate Mary in any particular way.

And, instead of that, and instead of those commands, instead of those instructions, we have a relegation of Mary essentially to the Gospels — with a brief mention at the very beginning of Acts. No mention throughout Paul’s epistles. She’s not this central figure next to Jesus. She’s not described as the “Queen of Heaven” or any of these other exalted titles that are given in Roman Catholicism today. In short, what we see is that the entire cult of Mary, the entire worship in the form of hyper-dulia of Mary that we see in Roman Catholicism today — is unbiblical.

And consequently, when Christians are seeking to follow the Bible and to follow what the Apostles taught, which we know through Scriptures — we are not to worship Mary, we’re not to give her special reverence, special attention, and we’re not to treat her any different from any other believer — although she was greatly privileged and although she was given great favor from God.

Lane: Ok, Mr. Albrecht, you now have four minutes for your second affirmative rebuttal. You may begin when you’re ready.

William: I think that anyone that comes to the Scriptures without any pre-conceived notions or bias will find that Mary was special, because of God and God alone. They will find that Mary is called ‘forever blessed’ and ‘the one who has been graced’. We find a mighty angel of the Lord even greeting her with a unique title that no other creature in all the Scripture is addressed with.

If anyone has noticed, they will see that I came to this debate with one goal — not to appeal to any doctrines, not to appeal to the authority of any church, any denomination, or any church council. I didn’t quote an Catholic scholars, Protestant scholars, Church Fathers, or even Protestant Reformers for that matter. I presented passages from the Bible and put them forth and examined their relevant portions in the Greek. I didn’t attempt to yank any doctrines from the Scriptures. My goal was to merely present that the mother of Christ, the mother of our Savior, the Mother of our God (a term which TurretinFan is clearly confused about) was due religious veneration and that such a fact was present in the New Testament.

The religious veneration of Mary clearly differs from that of other creatures. Only Mary had the favor to carry God in her womb and to bring God the Second Person of the Trinity into this world. With that clear examination of Scripture we find that only Mary has been graced with this type of gratia from God. Mary’s “Magnificat” is evidence enough for those that are faithful to the word of God, that it is right and good to call her blessed forever. The very word of God, which Christians should cherish as inerrant, tells us that her grace is enduring and shows us a precious and loving image of our Lord giving His mother into the care of the disciple whom He loved dearly.

The Scripture continues to show us Mary’s special role in Luke chapter one, verses forty-one to forty-four (Luke 1:41-44). Upon reading this, we see that Elizabeth has recognized that Mary is carrying her Lord, and her Messiah, and her God, in her womb. After that, being filled with the Holy Spirit, Elizabeth says that Mary is blessed among women and blessed is the Messiah that she carries in her womb. And, indeed, Mary was more blessed than any other woman and more special than any other woman that we see in the Bible, because of the love and grace of God.

TurretinFan further says that the Apostle Paul doesn’t point to Mary as mother of us all, yet his usage, Paul’s usage, in the passage of Jerusalem is not in a maternal connotation. Furthermore, this isn’t a debate about Mary’s heavenly motherhood, but rather a debate about veneration that is due to Mary.

TurretinFan also points to some verses in which it is argued that Jesus replaces His biological family for His spiritual family. This argument holds no water at all. If Jesus were replacing His family for His spiritual family, then we would have to exclude His family from what Jesus says. Jesus says, “Whoever does God’s will is my brother, and sister, and mother.” And we know that Mary did, indeed, do God’s will. Her very “Magnificat” shows us that her soul rejoices in her Lord, because of the great things God has done for her. Jesus never has the intention to remove His familial bond from His mother or he wouldn’t have his continual care for His mother shown in the Scripture.

Furthermore, we are told that Mary is portrayed as a minor character in the New Testament, in the Bible. Yet if we examine the Old Testament (we’ll relegate ourselves to the Old Testament), there is no explicit, notice how I say explicit, description of the Trinity; yet, we wouldn’t claim that the Trinity plays a minor role at all. Arguments from silence are quite weak.

Furthermore, TurretinFan also says the Vulgate mistranslates by saying, “full of grace,” in Luke 1:28. Brother Jerome’s usage of, “full of grace,” is a viable translation. If we realize that the gratia that Mary has been given to her is by God and God alone, Mary is, indeed, full of grace, since Christ is in her womb and has bestowed this grace on her. Just as we can call Mary, ‘highly favored,’ — yet the ‘favoring’ is not intrinsic in the text, but, rather, the grace is. And, as the Greek title kecharitōmenē shows us, Mary’s grace endures forever, because all generations will called her blessed, all generations will recognize her grace and her favor, and as such we should honor and respect and venerate the Mother of our God.

Lane: Ok, that now concludes our debate. Mr. Albrecht your contact information is: and TurretinFan has and

Thank you both for being with us at today’s debate and thank you everyone for listening.

Veneration of Mary Debate – Thoughts on Reflection – Part 8

May 17, 2009

In this eighth section of my reflections on my recent debate with Mr. William Albrecht on the veneration of Mary, I respond to a video that Mr. Albrecht put out (link to Albrecht’s video). Since he put out a video, I’ve also provided this response in video form.

Mr. Albrecht’s video, after an introduction section, plunges into a few areas that Mr. Albrecht felt he couldn’t cover during the debate:

1) “Turretinfan’s LACK of Preparedness When it Came to Luke 1:28” (all-caps to show spoken emphasis)

Mr. Albrecht’s support for this contention was that I allegedly simply don’t realize that the word κεχαριτωμένη (kecharitomeneh) is used as a title for Mary. He supports his position that this is a title by saying that this isn’t him reading into the text, this is just a basic fact that “anyone familiar with even the basic level of New Testament Greek – Biblical Greek – would know this fact.” He continued: “In fact, I don’t know a single Protestant that would deny this.”

I have to chuckle a bit. Ironically, before seeing this video, I had already gone on in a previous post into much greater detail about what the best possible arguments are for the word being a title, and disposed of them (link to previous post). Mr. Albrecht offers us absolutely nothing except his own assertion as a basis for accepting his position. If it were such a “basic fact” as he claims, you’d think that he’d be able to find at least one person who agreed with him, but instead he resorts to a negative assertion: he claims he doesn’t know of any Protestant who would deny this. The next step, no doubt, is for him to ask me to find some scholar who rejects his unusual view – rather than him having to prove his own point. Is this really the best that he can do even without the pressures of the debate? Amazing.

2) “He’s [TurretinFan is] also Confused about Ephesians 1:6”

Mr. Albrecht’s support for his contention that I am confused is that Ephesians 1:6 doesn’t use the same exact word.

Again, this was rather amusing. It is the exact same verb, just a different conjugations of the verb in each case. Mr. Albrecht reads off the two different conjugations, seemingly intending to give the listener the impression that these are two different Greek words, rather than two different conjugations of the same Greek word. What’s even more amusing is that, during the debate, Mr. Albrecht had acknowledged that it is the same word in Ephesians 1:6.

There is an important difference between the two conjugations as it pertains to the word being used as a title, as I have already explained in my previous post. Unfortunately, if you watch the video, you’ll see that Mr. Albrecht gives you no argument in this regard, just assertions. In fact, he puts it well when he says “The fact – not even an argument – is that kecharitomeneh is used as a name for Mary. And that’s not even an argument, that’s just something he was confused about.” Well, yes, Mr. Albrecht tries very hard to present it as though it were a fact, Mr. Albrecht does try to persuade people that I was confused, and Mr. Albrecht does so without making an actual argument, just a string of assertions.


Veneration of Mary Debate – Thoughts on Reflection – Part 7

May 16, 2009

This is the seventh section of my reflections on my recent debate on the veneration of Mary with Mr. William Albrecht. This one may discuss a few different miscellaneous points as I try to round up the last of my thoughts on the debate itself.

I. No Logical Link Between Mary’s Being Blessed and Mary’s Being Venerated

About 4 minutes into the debate, Mr. Albrecht makes the claim that Mary is called blessed in a different degree. Mr. Albrecht refers to the beatitudes where the followers of Jesus are called blessed. Then, Mr. Albrecht says: “But there is a great variance in degree when we compare those in the beatitudes and Mary.” He doesn’t really go on to support this, except to note that great things were done for Mary, and (according to Albrecht) because of these great things people are supposed to honor and venerate Mary.

First, there’s no real logical connection between this being a matter of degree as opposed to simply a different kind of blessing. Second, there is no real reason to go from someone simply recognizing that God has blessed Mary to a person honoring or venerating Mary.

I didn’t really go after this in the debate and perhaps I ought to have spent a few seconds explaining the fact that there is no comparison of degrees and no logical link between someone being blessed by God and someone deserving (or mandating) honor and veneration of men.

II. No Logical Link Between Loving the Brethren and Venerating Mary

Another odd argument that Mr. Albrecht used was one that basically said, that because Paul tells us to serve one another in love in the Epistle to the Galatians, that consequently we should venerate Mary. There’s really no logical link there. The way in which we serve one another in love is not by engaging in any sort of religious veneration, such as offering up prayer or lighting candles and incense, but by meeting their needs. But Mary has passed into glory. She no longer has needs – or at least she certainly has no needs that we on Earth can meet. I mentioned this briefly in the debate, but perhaps I should have insisted that Mr. Albrecht justify himself more fully in this regard.

III. “Continue to be Graced”

There was an odd line that Mr. Albrecht took during his cross-examination questions, in which he asked about Mary continuing to be “graced.” Mary was given a great honor, namely to be the mother of the Lord. But this was not like wearing a coat made from a shiny material called “grace” or something like that. The verb employed (as we have already discussed) relates to a past event that had (at the time the statement was being made) continuing effects. The past event was the dispensation of an enormous favor to Mary, namely the conception of our Lord in her womb. That had a continuing effect at the time the angel announced her pregnancy, namely that Jesus was in her womb. Mr. Albrecht appeared to be trying to suggest that the action of receiving favor from God was a continuing action, which it is not.

Well – that’s about all for miscellaneous thoughts. Next up, I’m going to review what Mr. Albrecht has to say about the debate, as he’s posted a video regarding the debate.


Veneration of Mary Debate – Thoughts on Reflection 5a

May 15, 2009

One Eastern Orthodox reader (he calls himself “orthodox” – we’ll just call him “O”) has provided five points against part 5 of my thoughts on reflection. He may be the only one to think this way, but just in case it may be edifying to others, here are some brief responses to his points:

orthodox has left a new comment on your post “Veneration of Mary Debate – Thoughts on Reflection…”:

1) O’s First Point: “Lack of an imperative only helps you if you want to argue that Mary is bemoaning the fact she will be called blessed instead of rejoicing in it.”

My response:

a) O seems to have forgotten that the Romanist in this debate argued the verse as an imperative, suggesting that it is a command to call Mary “blessed” – or something to that effect. That’s far from the meaning of the verse as has already been demonstrated.

b) Mary is clearly happy. Why on earth O thinks that anyone would need to think otherwise is totally obscure.

c) Mary’s happiness is expressed, in part, by her comment about all generations considering her happy. It’s not the other way around: she’s not happy because other people will consider her to be happy. What an absurd concept that would be! Yet it is, apparently, the position that O wants to take, as though Mary were not rejoicing in Christ but in other people considering Mary happy.

2) O’s second point: “How can a single word μακαριοῦσιν be an idiom? Idioms are characterised by a set of words.”

I answer:

Idioms don’t have to be more than one word. There are lots of counter-examples. One example in English is the use of “heart” for the seat of emotions. Another, and a more germane, example of a single-word idiom is the potential one previously discussed in Luke 1:28. One idiomatic usage of χαῖρε (Chaire) is as a greeting. As previously noted, it can convey either a literal sense of “Rejoice” or it can serve in an idiomatic capacity as a greeting.

3) O’s third point: “You say “Solomon’s being considered blessed “by all nations” was primarily fulfilled by the respect he received from nations”…. Errr, isn’t respect and veneration synonyms? Isn’t that the exact point?”

I answer:

What an amusing attempt to equivocate. If saying, “Wow, that king is really lucky to be so wise and rich” is veneration then I guess everybody who says “Wow, Mary was really lucky to have borne Jesus in her womb” is also venerating Mary, and we all venerate the winners of Lottery Jackpots when we call them happy too. What silliness!

While there certainly may be some semantic hopscotch that can be played among the words, people recognizing the wisdom and riches of Solomon is not religious veneration of Solomon.

4) O’s fourth point: “The Magnificat is not inspired?! Wow, are we grasping at straws today. How do you know if any of Luke is inspired for that matter? So Mary botched up this one, eh?”

I answer:

a) Luke’s inspiration is beyond question.

b) Not ever conversation and speech recorded in the inspired Scriptures is itself inspired. To take an obvious example, the inspired book of Job relates Satan’s words to God. Nevertheless, no one in their right minds would think that Satan was inspired.

c) Why should it be shocking that Mary’s monologue of happiness be uninspired? When Luke wants to tell us that Elizabeth was inspired, he does so. With Mary he makes no similar claim. And Elizabeth isn’t a one-off instance for Luke: he also tells us the same thing about John the Baptist (Luke 1:15); Zacharias (Luke 1:67); the disciples at Pentecost (Acts 2:4); Peter (Luke 4:8); the disciples after Peter and John opposed the elders of Israel (Acts 4:31); Paul (Acts 9:17); and again Paul (Acts 13:9).

d) The term “botched” is so pejorative. Just because someone is not inspired and expresses their joy in hyperbolic language, we wouldn’t normally say that they “botched” anything.

5) O’s fifth point: “The rest of the article is straw man, since the debate was not about whether Mary is “shining little beams of blessing”, but whether scripture teaches veneration of Mary. And your statement about Psalm 72:17 indicates that you just conceded this debate.”

I answer:

If all that were involved in the Romanist veneration of Mary were recognizing (as Reformed believers do) that she was greatly blessed by God, then we wouldn’t be having the debate in the first place. But the meaning of words is important, despite attempts by certain folks to equivocate their way to victory.

And that’s also true of the term “blessed.” It is important to distinguish between a view of Mary as “blessed” in the sense of irradiating a sort of spiritual energy, and Mary as “blessed” in the sense of happy, fortunate, or the like. The latter sense is Biblical, the former sense is a common (but unbiblical) superstition.


UPDATE: Mr. Burgess has chimed in with similar comments. He stated:

Who inspired Mary to say what she did? Who inspired Luke to write it? Why do you deny that the statement is an imperative command from God given the (known) answers to the above questions? Why bifurcate? It’s pedantically disingenuous of you.

I respond line by line:

“Who inspired Mary to say what she did?”

People speak without inspiration all the time. See the discussion above.

“Who inspired Luke to write it?”

The Holy Spirit.

“Why do you deny that the statement is an imperative command from God given the (known) answers to the above questions?”

The statement is plainly not an imperative command to anyone who can parse the Greek word used. It is a simple indicative statement declaring what will happen (perhaps, as already discussed, merely by way of hyperbole) not what should, ought, or must happen.

“Why bifurcate?”

To bifurcate is to split into two. In context, it’s a little unclear what Mr. Burgess is trying to suggest. If he is noting that I have distinguished between Luke being inspired to write Scripture and the people he records not being inspired themselves, it’s actually an important distinction. Otherwise, you end up with absurdities like Satan being inspired, simply because his words are recorded in Scripture.

“It’s pedantically disingenuous of you.”

To be pedantic is to focus on trivial details and to be disingenuous is not to be open and frank. I guess Mr. Burgess’ clumsily worded criticism is intended to suggest that whether or not Mary was inspired or the word is actually imperative is simply a trifling detail, and that by focusing on trifling details I’m somehow masking my real position. Well, despite Mr. Burgess’ thoughts, it’s neither a trifling detail (for the reasons already explained above) nor is it an attempt to hide my position (I’ve been candid about the position I advocate throughout this discussion). And, of course, if Mr. Burgess himself were sincerely interested in understanding what the text of Scripture said, he would not be inclined to characterize issues of inspiration and grammar as trifling details.


Veneration of Mary Debate – Thoughts on Reflection – Part 6

May 15, 2009

This is the sixth part of some reflections on the recent debate conducted with Mr. Albrecht on the subject of the veneration of Mary. One of the topics that came up briefly in the debate was the subject of calling Mary, the mother of Jesus, “Mother of God.” As I noted, such a title is not Biblical and is actually somewhat against the Biblical description of Jesus as being motherless with respect to his divinity. Connected with this, someone has recently asked me directly two questions, which help to explore this issue a bit more.

Someone asked: “Do you believe that Mary was the MOTHER OF GOD?”

I believe that Mary is the mother of Jesus, who is both God and Man, in two distinct natures and one person. Mary thus had, in her womb, the God-man and she is properly called Theotokos (the God-bearer). Mary, however, was only mother to Jesus’ humanity, since only his humanity was derived from her. Thus, Mary was not the mother of the divinity of Christ, and consequently although the phrase “Mother of God” could be interpreted in an orthodox way, it is misleading title that requires clarification.

I think Theodoret put it well in his letter to Ireneaus (Letter 16 – obviously, this is not to the famous Irenaeus, but to another bishop of the same name), when he wrote:

What does it matter whether we style the holy Virgin at the same time mother of Man and mother of God, or call her mother and servant of her offspring, with the addition that she is mother of our Lord Jesus Christ as man, but His servant as God, and so at once avoid the term which is the pretext of calumny, and express the same opinion by another phrase?

It is not a Biblical term and it is not a term favored by many of the fathers before the 5th century. Thus, for example, I cannot find any place in Augustine’s genuine works where the term is used, nor likewise among Origen’s authentic works. It is not a term used (to my knowledge) by any of the fathers of the first three centuries, including the Apostolic fathers.

Although I have noted above that I could not find the term in any of Augustine’s genuine works, I did find a single usage of it among a work of Pseudo-Augustine, De Assumptione Beatae Mariae Virginis (probably 9th century) (Augustinini … Opera Omnia, Volume 6, 1147). It also used in other ancient forgeries, including the Apocalypse of the Virgin, the Protoevangelium of James, the Revelation of Paul, the Gospel of Nicodemus, and Pseudo-Peter-of-Alexandria.

The same person also asked: “Also, do you believe this title is appropriate to be used towards Mary?”

Hopefully the discussion above has largely answered this question. As a description of the fact that Mary bore Jesus and Jesus is divine, it is descriptive. However, it has a tendency to be understood in a very exalted way, a way designed to treat Mary as particularly special or important. It leads toward the worship of Mary, which is one reason it is inadvisable. Another reason it is inadvisable is that it suggests that Mary is the mother of the Godhead (and of both the human and divine natures of Jesus’ person), and not simply of Jesus and particularly his human nature.

It is important to remember what Theodoret wisely noted, namely that with respect to Jesus’ humanity, Mary was His mother, but with respect to Jesus’ divinity, Mary was His handmaid by her own confession. Is the title potentially ok? I think Turretin put it well when he said:

The “Son of the living God” cannot be called the son of Mary according to that in which he is the Son of God. But because he assumed the human nature from her into unity of person, he is rightly and truly called also the son of Mary in this respect. Thus Mary can truly be called theotokos or “mother of God,” if the word “God” is taken concretely for the total personality of Christ consisting of the person of the Logos (Logou) and the human nature (in which sense she is called “the mother of the Lord,” Lk. 1:43), but not precisely and abstractly in respect of the deity. Thus she is called the mother of God specificatively (i.e., of him who is God), but not reduplicatively (as he is God).

Turretin, Institutes of Elenctic Theology, 13:5:18 (p. 310 in the Dennison edition).


Veneration of Mary Debate – Thoughts on Reflection – Part 5

May 14, 2009

This is the fifth segment of my thoughts about the recent debate I had with Mr. William Albrecht on the subject of the veneration of Mary. In this section, I’ll be discussing the issue of “all generations shall call me blessed” (Luke 1:48), which came up during the debate.

One reason that this came up was because Mr. Albrecht seemed to suggest, well, to state, that the comment about all generations calling Mary blessed was actually a command to all generations to call Mary blessed. As I brought up in the debate, it is not a command.

The wording of the KJV is a little bit ambiguous: in English “shall” can be an imperative verb or it can simply be a future indicative. However, in Greek there is no ambiguity: μακαριοῦσίν (makariousin) is a future active indicative (i.e. it describes, it does not command) verb. It means to “consider blessed” or “count as fortunate.”

This, of course, leads to the second part of this post. As with the “highly favored” issue I dealt with in the previous part, there seemed to be a view either that the verb means “shall call [me] ‘blessed'” as though “blessed” were a nickname, or that the verb conveys a sense that people will somehow bless Mary. Neither of these two views is right.

In fact, both miss the point of Mary’s comment entirely. Mary is excited and happy. She is speaking exuberantly. There is no particular reason to read Mary’s comment literally rather than hyperbolically. After all, this is a reported statement of Mary’s: not commentary by the inspired author.

Furthermore, we have other similar statements in Scripture, which suggest that this Greek word is essentially conveying a Hebrew idiom:

Psalm 72:17 His name shall endure for ever: his name shall be continued as long as the sun: and men shall be blessed in him: all nations shall call him blessed.

Malachi 3:12 And all nations shall call you blessed: for ye shall be a delightsome land, saith the LORD of hosts.

And sure enough, the Greek word in the LXX translation of these verses is “μακαριοῦσιν.” Psalm 72 is a Psalm for Solomon (title), it is the last of David’s psalms (last verse), and it is a Messianic Psalm like so many others. The preliminary fulfillment of the Psalm was David’s son, Solomon (and he was greatly blessed by God). The major fulfillment was in the Messiah, David’s son, Jesus – who was also greatly blessed by God.

Solomon’s being considered blessed “by all nations” was primarily fulfilled by the respect he received from nations as far away as Ethiopia. It’s not really that literally every nation considered Solomon blessed, but that he was considered blessed far and wide.

But whether Mary’s statement should be taken literally or not, it’s worth noting that Mary’s statement of praise (sometimes taken to be a song) is reported to us, but is not identified as being inspired. Elizabeth’s statement is described as inspired, but not Mary’s.

Nevertheless, even if we assumed that Mary was also inspired, and even assumed that she should be taken literally, the statement is simply declaring that all generations will count or consider Mary as a person who has received something good from God. She received an enormous blessing. This is certainly true.

For some reason, though, people seem to take this as though the blessing were radiation and Mary were sort of glowing with blessing, shining little beams of blessing in every direction. Nothing of the sort is suggested from the word employed. It just means something great happened to her. We consider her a happy person. That’s the approximate sense conveyed.

None of that would, could, or should lead one toward a veneration of Mary, the mother and handmaiden of the Lord.


Veneration of Mary Debate – Thoughts on Reflection – Part 4

May 11, 2009

This is the fourth part of a series of some reflections of mine on a recent debate with Mr. William Albrecht on the veneration of Mary. The issue I’d like to deal with in this post is the issue of Mary’s being highly favored. This is an issue I would have liked to have addressed more fully during the debate.

There was some back-and-forth on the issue of the properly translation of the term κεχαριτωμένη (kecharitomeneh). Mr. Albrecht himself gave several renderings of it in his opening statement, I went with the KJV’s rendering of it in my opening statement and criticized the Vulgate’s mistranslation of the term. Then, later in the debate, Mr. Albrecht argued that the Vulgate’s mistranslation is actually acceptable.

Here are some (But certainly not all) translations that are out there (words have been adjusted to their American spellings):

“highly favored” – American Standard Version, King James Version, Revised Version, Webster’s Bible, International Standard Version, New International Version, 21st Century King James Version, Today’s New International Version, World English Bible, Third Millenium Bible,

“favored one” – English Majority Text Version, English Standard Version, John Nelson Darby Bible, New Testament in Modern Speech, Young’s Literal Translation, New American Standard Bible, Amplified Bible (primary reading), Rotherham, New English Translation, Revised Standard Version, New Revised Standard Version,

“highly favored one” – New King James Version

“favored by the Lord” – God’s Word to the Nations Bible

“favored woman” – New Living Translation, Holman Christian Standard Bible

“who enjoy God’s favour” – Jerusalem Bible

“freely beloved” – Bishops’ Bible, Geneva Bible

“truly blessed” – Contemporary English Version

“full of grace” – Douay-Rheims Bible, Murdock’s Translation of the Peshitta, Younan’s Translation of the Peshitta

“[one] having been bestowed grace [or, shown kindness]!” – Analytical-Literal Translation

“to whom special grace has been given” – Bible in Basic English

“one having received grace!” – Literal Translation of the Holy Bible

“one receiving grace” – Modern King James Version

“The Lord … has greatly blessed you” – Good News Bible

“The Lord has given you special favor” – New International Reader’s Version

“You’re beautiful with God’s beauty, Beautiful inside and out!” – The Message

“The Lord has blessed you” (or possibly omitted) – New Century Version

(apparently omitted) – Worldwide English (New Testament)

What should be taken away from all of this? The only versions that translate the word as “full of grace” are those that are based on the Vulgate, either directly or by way of the Peshitta. None of the English translations that are based on the Greek come close to “full of grace” because that’s simply not what is being conveyed by the participle.

Instead, the sense of the participle is that some special favor or blessing has been shown to Mary. In this case, the special favor or blessing is that Jesus is in her womb. Furthermore, this is not a favor that is deserved, it is a gracious favor. It is not as though Mary somehow was more holy than other women, and consequently obtained this blessing by merit, but instead it was according to the grace of God.

The mistranslation “full of grace” as well as several confused comments by Mr. Albrecht during the debate treat Mary as though she were an urn into which some stuff called “grace” had been poured. That’s not what the text is conveying at all. Instead, it is simply indicating that something wonderful had happened to Mary, a great blessing had been given to her by God.

This is reflected in virtually all of the major English translations, as I’ve outlined above. Furthermore, as was mentioned during the debate, the verb is a perfect passive participle. That means that the participle is conveying information about a past act (in this case the conception of Jesus in Mary’s womb) with continuing effects (her pregnancy).

Of course, after nine months, Jesus emerged from Mary’s womb. At that point, the act of bearing Jesus in her womb was over. Mary continued to have an important role in Jesus’ upbringing (breast-feeding and so forth), but eventually even that ceased as Jesus was weaned and grew from being a boy to a man.

So, as an historical matter, it will always be the case that Mary was the Theotokos – the God-bearer – the one who had in her womb the second person of the Trinity. It was truly an amazing and unforgettable experience.

But it is not as though grace was a powder that was sprinkled on Mary or that grace was in an IV drip that was given to Mary. It wasn’t a golden dress she wore. Such an idea of κεχαριτωμένη (kecharitomeneh) misses the point.

Mary was highly favored. Mary was given an enormous privilege. Mary was given a tremendous blessing, she got to be the womb from which our Savior sprung. Children are always a gift from God, but this child was a more wonderful gift than any other woman has ever received from God.

Thus we should understand κεχαριτωμένη (kecharitomeneh) – not as suggesting that Mary was an urn full of grace, or a vending machine loaded up with grace, but as a woman who was given an amazing gift from God.


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