Skip to comments.Ark of the new covenant
Posted on 04/27/2008 6:33:53 PM PDT by markomalley
His face stiffened, and his eyes narrowed to slits. Until now the Calvary Chapel pastor had been calm as he "shared the gospel" with me, but when I mentioned my belief in Marys Immaculate Conception, his attitude changed.
"The problem with you Roman Catholics," he said, thin forefinger stabbing the air a few inches from my face, "is that youve added extra baggage to the gospel. How can you call yourselves Christians when you cling to unbiblical traditions like the Immaculate Conception? Its not in the Bible--it was invented by the Roman Catholic system in 1854. Besides, Mary couldnt have been sinless, only God is sinless. If she were without sin she would be God!"
At least the minister got the date right, 1854 being the year Pope Pius IX infallibly defined the doctrine of Marys Immaculate Conception, but thats as far as his accuracy went. His reaction was typical of Evangelicals. He was adamant that the Catholic emphasis on Marys sinlessness was an unbearable affront to the unique holiness of God, especially as manifested in Jesus Christ.
After wed examined the biblical evidence for the doctrine, the anti-Marianism hed shown became muted, but it was clear that, at least emotionally if not biblically, Mary was a stumbling block for him. Like most Christians (Catholic and Protestant) the minister was unaware of the biblical support for the Churchs teaching on the Immaculate Conception. But sometimes even knowledge of these passages isnt enough. Many former Evangelicals who have converted to the Catholic Church relate how hard it was for them to put aside prejudices and embrace Marian doctrines even after theyd thoroughly satisfied themselves through prayer and Scripture study that such teachings were indeed biblical.
For Evangelicals who have investigated the issue and discovered, to their astonishment, the biblical support for Marian doctrines, there often lingers the suspicion that somehow, in a way they cant quite identify, the Catholic emphasis on Marys sinlessness undermines the unique sinlessness of Christ.
To alleviate such suspicions, one must understand what the Church means (and doesnt mean) by the doctrine of the Immaculate Conception. Pope Pius IX, in his constitution Ineffabilis Deus (issued December 8, 1854), taught that Mary, "from the first instance of her conception, by a singular privilege and grace granted by God, in view of the merits of Jesus Christ, the Savior of the human race, was preserved exempt from all stain of original sin." The doctrine includes the assertion that Mary was perpetually free from all actual sin (willful disobedience of God, either venial or mortal).
Several objections are raised by Protestants.
First, if only God is sinless, Mary couldnt have been sinless or she would have been God.
Second, if Mary was sinless, why did she say, "My spirit rejoices in God my savior" (Luke 1:47)? If only sinners need a savior, why would Mary, if free from sin, include herself in the category of sinners? If she were sinless, she would have had no need of a savior, and her statement in Luke 1 would be incoherent.
Third, Paul says in Romans 3:10-12, 23, "There is no one just [righteous], not one, there is no one who understands, there is no one who seeks God, all have gone astray; all alike are worthless; there is not one who does good, not even one. . . . all have sinned and are deprived [fallen short] of the glory of God." In Romans 5:12 he says, "Therefore, just as through one person sin entered the world, and through sin, death, and thus death came to all, inasmuch as all sinned . . . ." These verses seem to rule out any possibility that Mary was sinless.
The Immaculate Conception emphasizes four truths: (1) Mary did need a savior; (2) her savior was Jesus Christ; (3) Marys salvation was accomplished by Jesus through his work on the Cross; and (4) Mary was saved from sin, but in a different and more glorious way than the rest of us are. Lets consider the first and easiest of the three objections.
The notion that God is the only being without sin is quite false--and even Protestants think so. Adam and Eve, before the fall, were free from sin, and they werent gods, the serpents assertions to the contrary notwithstanding. (One must remember that Mary was not the first immaculate human being, even if she was the first to be conceived immaculately.)
The angels in heaven are not gods, but they were created sinless and have remained so ever since. The saints in heaven are not gods, although each of them is now completely sinless (Rev. 14:5; 21:27).
The second and third arguments are related. Mary needed Jesus as her savior. His death on the Cross saved her, as it saves us, but its saving effects were applied to her (unlike to us) at the moment of her conception. (Keep in mind that the Crucifixion is an eternal event and that the appropriation of salvation through Christs death isnt impeded by time or space.)
Medieval theologians developed an analogy to explain how and why Mary needed Jesus as her savior. A man (each of us) is walking along a forest path, unaware of a large pit a few paces directly ahead of him. He falls headlong into the pit and is immersed in the mud (original sin) it contains. He cries out for help, and his rescuer (the Lord Jesus) lowers a rope down to him and hauls him back up to safety. The man says to his rescuer, "Thank you for saving me," recalling the words of the psalmist: The Lord "stooped toward me and heard my cry. He drew me out of the pit of destruction, out of the mud of the swamp; he set my feet upon a crag" (Psalm 40:2-4).
A woman (Mary), approaches the same pit, but as she began to fall into the pit her rescuer reaches out and stops her from falling in. She cries out, "Thank you for saving me" (Luke 1:47). Like this woman, Mary was no less "saved" than any other human being has been saved. She was just saved anticipatorily, before contracting original sin. Each of us is permitted to become dirtied with original sin, but she was not. God hates sin, so this was a far better way.
Pauls statements in Romans chapters 3 and 5 (no one is righteous; no one seeks God; no one does good; all have sinned) should not be taken in a crassly literal and universal sense--if they are, irreconcilable contradictions will arise. Consider Luke 1:6. Common sense tells us whole groups of people are exempt from Pauls statement that "all have sinned." Aborted infants cannot sin, nor can young children or severely retarded people. But Paul didnt mention such obvious exceptions. He was writing to adults in our state of life.
If certain groups are exempt from the "all have sinned" rubric, then these verses cant be used to argue against Marys Immaculate Conception, since hers would be an exceptional case too, one not needing mention given the purpose of Pauls discussion and his intended audience.
Now lets consider what the Bible has to say in favor of the Catholic position. Its important to recognize that neither the words "Immaculate Conception" nor the precise formula adopted by the Church to enunciate this truth are found in the Bible. This doesnt mean the doctrine isnt biblical, only that the truth of the Immaculate Conception, like the truths of the Trinity and Jesus hypostatic union (that Jesus was incarnated as God and man, possessing completely and simultaneously two natures, divine and human, in one divine person), is mentioned either in other words or only indirectly.
Look first at two passages in Luke 1. In verse 28, the angel Gabriel greets Mary as "kecharitomene" ("full of grace" or "highly favored"). This is a recognition of her sinless state. In verse 42 Elizabeth greets Mary as "blessed among women." The original import of this phrase is lost in English translation. Since neither the Hebrew nor Aramaic languages have superlatives (best, highest, tallest, holiest), a speaker of those languages would have say, "You are tall among men" or "You are wealthy among men" to mean "You are the tallest" or "You are the wealthiest." Elizabeths words mean Mary was the holiest of all women.
The Church understands Mary to be the fulfillment of three Old Testament types: the cosmos, Eve, and the ark of the covenant. A type is a person, event, or thing in the Old Testament which foreshadows or symbolizes some future reality God brings to pass. (See these verses for Old Testament types fulfilled in the New Testament: Col. 2:17, Heb. 1:1, 9:9, 9:24, 10:1; 1 Cor. 15:45-49; Gal. 4:24-25.)
Some specific examples of types: Adam was a type of Christ (Rom. 5:14); Noahs Ark and the Flood were types of the Church and baptism (1 Peter 3:19-21); Moses, who delivered Israel from the bondage of slavery in Egypt, was a type of Christ, who saves us from the bondage of slavery to sin and death; circumcision foreshadowed baptism; the slain passover lamb in Exodus 12: 21-28 was a symbol of Jesus, the Lamb of God, being slain on the Cross to save sinners. The important thing to understand about a type is that its fulfillment is always more glorious, more profound, more "real" than the type itself.
Marys Immaculate Conception is foreshadowed in Genesis 1, where God creates the universe in an immaculate state, free from any blemish or stain of sin or imperfection. This is borne out by the repeated mention in Genesis 1 of God beholding his creations and saying they were "very good." Out of pristine matter the Lord created Adam, the first immaculately created human being, forming him from the "womb" of the Earth. The immaculate elements from which the first Adam received his substance foreshadowed the immaculate mother from whom the second Adam (Romans 5:14) took his human substance.
The second foreshadowing of Mary is Eve, the physical mother of our race, just as Mary is our spiritual mother through our membership in the Body of Christ (Rev. 12:17). What Eve spoiled through disobedience and lack of faith (Genesis 3), Mary set aright through faith and obedience (Luke 1:38).
We see a crucial statement in Genesis 3:15: "I will put enmity between you [Satan] and the woman, between your seed and her seed; he will crush your head, and you will strike at his heel." This passage is especially significant in that it refers to the "seed of the woman," a singular usage. The Bible, following normal biology, otherwise only refers to the seed of the man, the seed of the father, but never to the seed of the woman. Who is the woman mentioned here? The only possibility is Mary, the only woman to give birth to a child without the aid of a human father, a fact prophesied in Isaiah 7:14.
If Mary were not completely sinless this prophesy becomes untenable. Why is that? The passage points to Marys Immaculate Conception because it mentions a complete enmity between the woman and Satan. Such an enmity would have been impossible if Mary were tainted by sin, original or actual (see 2 Corinthians 6:14). This line of thinking rules out Eve as the woman, since she clearly was under the influence of Satan in Genesis 3.
The third and most compelling type of Marys Immaculate Conception is the ark of the covenant. In Exodus 20 Moses is given the Ten Commandments. In chapters 25 through 30 the Lord gives Moses a detailed plan for the construction of the ark, the special container which would carry the Commandments. The surprising thing is that five chapters later, staring in chapter 35 and continuing to chapter 40, Moses repeats word for word each of the details of the arks construction.
Why? It was a way of emphasizing how crucial it was for the Lords exact specifications to be met (Ex. 25:9, 39:42-43). God wanted the ark to be as perfect and unblemished as humanly possible so it would be worthy of the honor of bearing the written Word of God. How much more so would God want Mary, the ark of the new covenant, to be perfect and unblemished since she would carry within her womb the Word of God in flesh.
When the ark was completed, "the cloud covered the meeting tent and the glory of the Lord filled the dwelling. Moses could not enter the meeting tent, because the cloud settled down upon it and the glory of the Lord filled the dwelling" (Ex. 40:34-38). Compare this with the words of Gabriel to Mary in Luke 1:35.
Theres another striking foreshadowing of Mary as the new ark of the covenant in 2 Samuel 6. The Israelites had lost the ark in a battle with their enemies, the Philistines, and had recently recaptured it. King David sees the ark being brought to him and, in his joy and awe, says "Who am I that the ark of the Lord should come to me?" (1 Sam. 6:9).
Compare this with Elizabeths nearly identical words in Luke 1:43. Just as David leapt for joy before the ark when it was brought into Jerusalem (2 Sam. 6:14-16), so John the Baptist leapt for joy in Elizabeths womb when Mary, the ark of the new covenant, came into her presence (Luke 1:44). Johns leap was for precisely the same reason as Davids--not primarily because of the ark itself, but because of what the ark contained, the Word of God.
Another parallel may be found in 2 Samuel 6:10-12 where we read that David ordered the ark diverted up into the hill country of Judea to remain with the household of Obededom for three months. This parallels the three-month visit Mary made at Elizabeths home in the hill country of Judea (Luke 1:39-45, 65). While the ark remained with Obededom it "blessed his household." This is an Old Testament way of saying the fertility of women, crops, and livestock was increased. Notice that God worked this same miracle for Elizabeth and Zachariah in their old age as a prelude to the greater miracle he would work in Mary.
The Mary/ark imagery appears again in Revelation 11:19 and 12:1-17, where she is called the mother of all "those who keep Gods commandments and bear witness to Jesus" (verse 17). The ark symbolism found in Luke 1 and Revelation 11 and 12 was not lost on the early Christians. They could see the parallels between the Old Testaments description of the ark and the New Testaments discussion of Marys role.
Granted, none of these verses "proves" Marys Immaculate Conception, but they all point to it. After all, the Bible nowhere says Mary committed any sin or languished under original sin. As far as explicit statements are concerned, the Bible is silent on most of the issue, yet all the biblical evidence supports the Catholic teaching.
A last thought. If you could have created your own mother, wouldnt you have made her the most beautiful, virtuous, perfect woman possible? Jesus, being God, did create his own mother (Col. 1:16; Heb. 1:2), and he did just that--he created her immaculate and, in his mercy and generosity, kept her that way.
Still not convinced. The Scriptual “support” seems very strained to me.
Guess we’ll find out when we get there. :)
Amen, thanks for quoting that one.
Joseph was not her husband and all the children they had were not theirs, they were cousins. Or so says the gospel of Mary.
It all goes back to Mary being defined as "Theotokos" ("God bearer") and the fear that early and medieval Christians had about Jesus as the "judge". He was a harsh, threatening, judgmental, kingly figure that scared them - how could one possibly talk to Jesus? So they turn to the soft, feminine, non-threatening, mother figure of Mary. Combine that psychology with a bunch of pagans who are joining the "religion of the Empire" because its the thing to do - pagan people used to worshipping goddesses like Artemis and Aphrodite - and you can easily see where this whole Marian thing crept into the Church.
There's absolutely nothing in any of the writings of the early Church (say, pre-4th century, or so) about Mary. Nothing about her as anything other than the mother of the Lord, and showing her great respect and honor. But there's no prayers, nothing about prayers, no speaking of her as an intercessor, or an advocate, or anything else like that.
No, Marian doctrine doesn't seem to take hold and really get going until after Christianity becomes the religion of the Empire and all the pagans start joining in great numbers. The early church fathers writings don't indicate anything like what the later Marian doctrines contain.
Therefore the Marian stuff seems to be a later invention of the Church itself, with no basis in history, Scripture or early tradition from the early Church fathers.
If something is full, there is no room for anything else; a soul full of grace has no room for even original sin you see.
"Mercy" is God not giving you what you deserve.
"Grace" is God giving you what you do not deserve.
Does that clear things up a bit?
This doctrine is merely one piece of the puzzle that shows the RCC to be encouraging people to worship a human being. Why contrive extra-Biblical dogmas unless ye be idolaters?
I guess you missed all those Scripture references in there.
The lemma (root word) for κεχαριτωμένη (kecharitomene) is χαριτόω (charitóō). It is interesting that the word charitóō is used in only two places in the Scriptures. One is in Luke 1:28 (highly favored); the other is in Ephesians 1:6 (made us accepted).
It's curious how God, who inspired St. Paul to use those words to describe what He did for us, inspired St. Luke to record the words of the angel when he saluted Mary. And that these words would be used nowhere else in Scripture.
Nope - I read them. But by the admission of the author of the article, the Scripture cited as support do not establish this doctrine. They must be construed with the doctrine in mind - that is called “eisegesis” (reading into) as opposed to “exegesis” (reading from) of Scripture.
There were lots of references, but no actual quoting. We are suppose to take as gospel their loose paraphrasing.
You know what is even more curious is that God never inspired St. Paul to write any of the Mary doctrine to all these churches. It was almost as if these Mary doctrines were not all that important. That is what is real curious.
That is an interesting point. Of course, in them using this point to advance their heresy, implicit is the fact that this was widely accepted prior to their attempt...else it would make no sense for them to use it in the first place.
It's interesting that you would cite Vincent of Lerins. Here's what he actually wrote:
Shun profane novelties of words, which to receive and follow was never the part of Catholics; of heretics always was. In sooth, what heresy ever burst forth save under a definite name, at a definite place, at a definite time? Who ever originated a heresy that did not first dissever himself from the consentient agreement of the universality and antiquity of the Catholic Church? That this is so is demonstrated in the clearest way by examples. For who ever before that profane Pelagius attributed so much antecedent strength to Free-will, as to deny the necessity of Gods grace to aid it towards good in every 150single act? Who ever before his monstrous disciple Clestius denied that the whole human race is involved in the guilt of Adams sin? Who ever before sacrilegious Arius dared to rend asunder the unity of the Trinity? Who before impious Sabellius was so audacious as to confound the Trinity of the Unity? Who before cruellest Novatian represented God as cruel in that He had rather the wicked should die than that he should be converted and live? Who before Simon Magus, who was smitten by the apostles rebuke, and from whom that ancient sink of every thing vile has flowed by a secret continuous succession even to Priscillian of our own time,who, I say, before this Simon Magus, dared to say that God, the Creator, is the author of evil, that is, of our wickednesses, impieties, flagitiousnesses, inasmuch as he asserts that He created with His own hands a human nature of such a description, that of its own motion, and by the impulse of its necessity-constrained will, it can do nothing else, can will nothing else, but sin, seeing that tossed to and fro, and set on fire by the furies of all sorts of vices, it is hurried away by unquenchable lust into the utmost extremes of baseness?
A few pages later, he wrote:
[64.] Here, possibly, some one may ask, Do heretics also appeal to Scripture? They do indeed, and with a vengeance; for you may see them scamper through every single book of Holy Scripture,through the books of Moses, the books of Kings, the Psalms, the Epistles, the Gospels, the Prophets. Whether among their own people, or among strangers, in private or in public, in speaking or in writing, at convivial meetings, or in the streets, hardly ever do they bring forward anything of their own which they do not endeavour to shelter under words of Scripture. Read the works of Paul of Samosata, of Priscillian, of Eunomius, of Jovinian, and the rest of those pests, and you will see an infinite heap of instances, hardly a single page, which does not bristle with plausible quotations from the New Testament or the Old.
[65.] But the more secretly they conceal themselves under shelter of the Divine Law, so much the more are they to be feared and guarded against. For they know that the evil stench of their doctrine will hardly find acceptance with any one if it be exhaled pure and simple. They sprinkle it over, therefore, with the perfume of heavenly language, in order that one who would be ready to despise human error, may hesitate to condemn divine words. They do, in fact, what nurses do when they would prepare some bitter draught for children; they smear the edge of the cup all round with honey, that the unsuspecting child, having first tasted the sweet, may have no fear of the bitter. So too do these act, who disguise poisonous herbs and noxious juices under the names of medicines, so that no one almost, when he reads the label, suspects the poison.
Now, you mention St. Augustine. Let's take a little look at some of what he wrote:
We must except the holy Virgin Mary, concerning whom I wish to raise no question when it touches the subject of sins, out of honour to the Lord; for from Him we know what abundance of grace for overcoming sin in every particular was conferred upon her who had the merit to conceive and bear Him who undoubtedly had no sin. Well, then, if, with this exception of the Virgin, we could only assemble together all the forementioned holy men and women, and ask them whether they lived without sin while they were in this life, what can we suppose would be their answer? Would it be in the language of our author, or in the words of the Apostle John? I put it to you, whether, on having such a question submitted to them, however excellent might have been their sanctity in this body, they would not have exclaimed with one voice: If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us? But perhaps this their answer would have been more humble than true! Well, but our author has already determined, and rightly determined, not to place the praise of humility on the side of falsehood. If, therefore, they spoke the truth in giving such an answer, they would have sin, and since they humbly acknowledged it, the truth would be in them; but if they lied in their answer, they would still have sin, because the truth would not be in them.
On Nature and Grace, 42
He only was born without sin whom a virgin conceived without the embrace of a husband,not by the concupiscence of the flesh, but by the chaste submission of her mind. She alone was able to give birth to One who should heal our wound, who brought forth the germ of a pure offspring without the wound of sin. (emphasis mine)
The Good of Marriage; Four Different Cases of the Good and the Evil Use of Matrimony
You also cite Pope St. Leo the Great. It is really late and so I don't have the energy to dig too much up from him. One thing that is repeated in his sermons and letters is the perpetual virginity of Mary, including after giving birth to Christ:
Therefore, when the time came, dearly beloved, which had been fore-ordained for mens redemption, there enters these lower parts of the world, the Son of God, descending from His heavenly throne and yet not quitting His Fathers glory, begotten in a new order, by a new nativity. In a new order, because being invisible in His own nature He became visible in ours, and He whom nothing could contain, was content to be contained: abiding before all time He began to be in time: the Lord of all things, He obscured His immeasurable majesty and took on Him the form of a servant: being God, that cannot suffer, He did not disdain to be man that can, and immortal as He is, to subject Himself to the laws of death. And by a new nativity He was begotten, conceived by a Virgin, born of a Virgin, without paternal desire, without injury to the mothers chastity: because such a birth as knew no taint of human flesh, became One who was to be the Saviour of men, while it possessed in itself the nature of human substance. For when God was born in the flesh, God Himself was the Father, as the archangel witnessed to the Blessed Virgin Mary: because the Holy Spirit shall come upon thee, and the power of the most High shall overshadow thee: and therefore, that which shall be born of thee shall be called holy, the Son of God. The origin is different but the nature like: not by intercourse with man but by the power of God was it brought about: for a Virgin conceived, a Virgin bare, and a Virgin she remained. Consider here not the condition of her that bare but the will of Him that was born; for He was born Man as He willed and was able. If you inquire into the truth of His nature, you must acknowledge the matter to be human: if you search for the mode of His birth, you must confess the power to be of God. For the Lord Jesus Christ came to do away with not to endure our pollutions: not to succumb to our faults but to heal them. He came that He might cure every weakness of our corruptness and all the sores of our defiled souls: for which reason it behoved Him to be born by a new order, who brought to mens bodies the new gift of unsullied purity. For the uncorrupt nature of Him that was born had to guard the primal virginity of the Mother, and the infused power of the Divine Spirit had to preserve in spotlessness and holiness that sanctuary which He had chosen for Himself: that Spirit (I say) who had determined to raise the fallen, to restore the broken, and by overcoming the allurements of the flesh to bestow on us in abundant measure the power of chastity: in order that the virginity which in others cannot be retained in child-bearing, might be attained by them at their second birth.
Letter 28, to Flavian.
One thing that you will see in the earlier Church fathers (the pre-Nicene variety) is a reference to Mary's perpetual virginity. Another thing is a reference to "no pain" in childbirth. If it matters, I will try to dig out a few of those references; however, the point is that Eve and her descendants were promised "pain" in childbirth...as a result of her disobedience to God (Gen 3:16).
Thanks for bringing up the Church Fathers on this thread!
What you have noted is what Martin Luther called “adiaphora”:
(indifferent things). That is, beliefs not necessary for salvation. Nor are they in contradiction or opposition to Scripture. As my Seminary Prof put it “something you would not go to the stake for”.
According to your interpretation of Scripture.
By the way do you use the abridged, edited version of Scripture or the entire 73 book canon?
Is there any exception in Scripture to your linguistic literalist interpretation of that passage?