Reply to Steve Christie on Catholic Mariology

Reply to Steve Christie on Catholic Mariology July 10, 2023

Part I: Steve’s 15-Minute Opening Statement, Covering the Perpetual Virginity, Immaculate Conception, & Bodily Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary

Steve Christie was raised Catholic and attended Catholic schools up through college. He became a Protestant in 2004 at age 34, and is a frequent lecturer at Protestant churches and events, has led home Bible studies for sixteen years, and is a member of Emmanuel Baptist Church in Toledo, Ohio. He has participated in many oral debates with Catholics, and authored the self-published book, Why Protestant Bibles Are Smaller: A Defense of the Protestant Old Testament Canon in 2019. If my memory is correct, I have not interacted with him until now.


I will be responding to Steve’s portions of his two hour long audio debate with Catholic apologist Trent Horn (it originally appeared on Pints with Aquinas with Matt Fradd): posted in transcript on the Catholic Answers website (5-2-22), under the title, “Debate: Do the Marian Dogmas Contradict Scripture?” Steve’s words will be in blue. My biblical citations are from RSV, unless otherwise noted.

In case anyone is wondering, I won’t read Trent’s portions, so that my replies will be completely original. As such, this may be an interesting opportunity to compare the replies to the critical arguments of one Protestant apologist regarding Mariology, of two Catholic apologists. I’m sure my response will be harmonious (though obviously not identical) with Trent’s. I love his work and consider him one of the best Catholic apologists today.

Some of the ways Trent and I would agree that a dogma contradicts scripture is explicitly, implicitly, or partially. So even if that dogma is defined ex cathedra by a pope, by an ecumenical council, or by the magisterium, if it contradicts scripture, that dogma must be rejected.

I aim to show that Catholic Marian dogmas (like all other Catholic dogmas) do not contradict Scripture at all. Being harmonious with the Bible and not contradicting it is different from being explicitly taught in Holy Scripture. Most Marian dogmas are not taught explicitly in the Bible, but it doesn’t make them automatically untrue as a result. It’s not a “dealbreaker.”

I would contend — in comparison — that even the two “pillars” of the so-called “Protestant Reformation”: sola Scriptura and sola fide — are not explicitly taught in the Bible, either (indeed, I would say they are not taught at all). Many Protestant apologists today freely concede that sola Scriptura is not taught explicitly in Scripture (though they hold to it on less epistemologically compelling grounds). And all parties agree that the canon of Scripture is not included in Holy Scripture.

Nowhere in the Bible, I hasten to add, is it taught that every doctrine that must be believed by Christians has to be explicitly laid out in Scripture, or that they could not have been developed primarily or even solely in Sacred Tradition (always in harmony with Scripture). This notion of an “explicit” requirement in Scripture is, ironically, an extrabiblical Protestant tradition of men. All Christians contend that their doctrines are harmonious with Scripture. Catholics are no different.

The dogma of the Perpetual Virginity of Mary contradicts scripture in the following ways. While the Greek word adelphos, translated brothers, can have numerous meetings in scripture, the specific Greek word adelphi, translated sisters, only has two. One, one’s natural sister, such as a sister of the same parents or a half sister or, two, a believing sister, such as a Christian sister.

It is used this way consistently in the New Testament, as well as in the Septuagint where it is used over a hundred times, such as the Sister Kingdoms of Israel and Judah who worship the same one true God of the Old Testament. It is never used for a female non-sibling relative in either Testament, nor in its Greek. When the New Testament writers wish to convey female non-sibling relatives, such as Elizabeth and Mary, they chose other Greek words, such as [foreign language 00:01:39] or [foreign language 00:01:39]* 

*Dave: I am pretty sure the two Greek words not transcribed are anepsios and sungenis (or, syngeneís), usually meaning “cousin” of some sort. I have written about both.

Adelphos appears in the NT 346 times (and 649 times in the Septuagint: the Greek translation of the OT [“LXX”]). Syngeneís only appears twelve times (5 in the LXX). Anepsios appears once (Col 4:10), and once in the LXX. 

The NT employs a “Hebraic” use of the Greek adelphos: as applying to cousins, fellow countrymen, and a wide array of uses beyond the meaning of “sibling.” Yet it is unanimously translated as “brother” in the King James Version (KJV): 246 times. The cognate adelphe is translated 24 times only as “sister”. This is because it reflects Hebrew usage, translated into Greek. Briefly put, in Jesus’ Hebrew culture (and Middle Eastern culture even today), cousins were called “brothers”.

Now, it’s true that sungenis (Greek for “cousin”) and its cognate sungenia appear in the New Testament fifteen times (sungenia: Lk 1:61; Acts 7:3, 14; sungenis: Mk 6:4; Lk 1:36, 58; 2:44; 14:12; 21:16; Jn 18:26; Acts 10:24; Rom 9:3; 16:7, 11, 21). But they are usually translated kinsmenkinsfolk, or kindred in KJV: that is, in a sense wider than cousin: often referring to the entire nation of Hebrews. Thus, the eminent Protestant linguist W. E. Vine, in his Expository Dictionary of New Testament Words, lists sungenis not only under “Cousin” but also under “Kin, Kinsfolk, Kinsman, Kinswoman.”

In all but two of these occurrences, the authors were either Luke or Paul. Luke was a Greek Gentile. Paul, though Jewish, was raised in the very cosmopolitan, culturally Greek town of Tarsus. But even so, both still clearly used adelphos many times with the meaning of non-sibling (Lk 10:29; Acts 3:17; 7:23-26; Rom 1:7, 13; 9:3; 1 Thess 1:4). They understood what all these words meant, yet they continued to use adelphos even in those instances that had a non-sibling application.

Strikingly, it looks like every time St. Paul uses adelphos (unless I missed one or two), he means it as something other than blood brother or sibling. He uses the word or related cognates no less than 138 times in this way. Yet we often hear about Galatians 1:19: “James the Lord’s brother.” 137 other times, Paul means non-sibling, yet amazingly enough, here he must mean sibling, because (so we are told) he uses the word adelphos? That doesn’t make any sense.

So also, Luke 14:12 and 21:16, where the evangelist uses different Greek words to distinguish relatives from brothers. 

This proves nothing. The use of adelphoi for cousins is not ruled out, and the proof of that usage is found in my next reply.

Therefore when Mark 6:3 refers to Jesus’ brothers and sisters not honoring him, we know this refers to Jesus’ younger half siblings.

Some folks think it is a compelling argument that sungenis isn’t used to describe the brothers of Jesus. But they need to examine Mark 6:4 (RSV), where sungenis appears:

And Jesus said to them, “A prophet is not without honor, except in his own country, and among his own kin, and in his own house.” (cf. Jn 7:5: “For even his brothers did not believe in him”)

What is the context? Let’s look at the preceding verse, where the people in “his own country” (6:1) exclaimed:

“Is not this the carpenter, the son of Mary and brother of James and Joses and Judas and Simon, and are not his sisters here with us?” And they took offense at him.

It can plausibly be argued, then, that Jesus’ reference to kin (sungenis) refers (at least in part) back to this mention of His “brothers” and “sisters”: His relatives. Since we know that sungenis means cousins or more distant relatives, that would be an indication of the status of those called Jesus’ “brothers”.

We don’t “know” at all thatMark 6:3 refers to . . . Jesus’ younger half siblings.” I would strongly contend that in the case of James and Joseph, they cannot possibly be siblings, based on the following scriptural data:

By comparing Matthew 27:56, Mark 15:40, and John 19:25, we find that James and Joseph [aka “Joses”: Mk 15:40] — mentioned in Matthew 13:55 with Simon and Jude as Jesus’ “brothers” — are also called sons of Mary, wife of Clopas. This “other Mary” (Matthew 27:61, 28:1) is called Our Lady’s adelphe in John 19:25 (it isn’t likely that there were two women named “Mary” in one family — thus even this usage apparently means “cousin” or more distant relative, or sister-in-law).

Matthew 13:55-56 and Mark 6:3 mention Simon, Jude and “sisters” along with James and Joseph, calling all adelphoi. Since we know for sure that at least James and Joseph are not Jesus’ blood brothers, the most likely interpretation of Matthew 13:55 is that all these “brothers” are cousins, . . .

James (along with sometimes Joseph) is called the son of this “other Mary”: wife of Clopas or Alphaeus [alternate names for one person], in Matthew 27:56; Mark 15:40; 16:1; Luke 24:10, and “the son of Alphaeus” in Matthew 10:3 / Mark 3:18 / Luke 6:15 / Acts 1:13. This second Mary is called “the wife of Clopas and the “sister” of Mary the mother of Jesus in John 19:25. This is strong evidence that James and Joseph were not sons of Mary the mother of Jesus, and hence not Jesus’ siblings (and indirect evidence that Simon and Jude are of the same similar status as relatives). Rather, it appears that they are Jesus’ first cousins or more distant cousins.

Nowhere does the New Testament state that any of Jesus’ “brothers” (adelphoi) are the children of Jesus’ mother Mary, even when they are referenced together (cf. Mark 3:31 ff.; 6:3 ff.; John 2:12; Acts 1:14). So for example, in Mark 6:3 and Matthew 13:55. Jesus is called “the son of Mary” and “the carpenter’s son” and only He is referred to in this way. The others (four “brothers” named in each passage) are not. It happens again in the book of Acts:

Acts 1:14  All these with one accord devoted themselves to prayer, together with the women and Mary the mother of Jesus, and with his brothers

See how a distinction is made between Mary as the mother of Jesus and “his brothers,” who are not called Mary’s sons? Nor is she called their mother. These verses do not read in a “siblings” way. In the New Testament, none of these “brothers” are ever called Joseph’s children, anywhere, either.

Much has been written about the use of adelphos in the NT. Its range of use is almost precisely like how it is used in the works of the first century Jewish historian Josephus (as we would expect, since he was a fellow Israelite and lived in the same period). In Antiquities, Book XVIII, ch. 4, sec. 6Josephus refers to “Philip, Herod’s brother” (likely using adelphos there). In Wars of the JewsBook II, ch. 6, sec. 1he refers to “Archelaus’s brother Philip.”

But we know that they were not siblings (sons of the same mother and father). In Wars of the Jews, Book II, ch. 7, sec. 4Josephus mentions “Alexander, who was the brother of Archelaus, . . . This Alexander was the son of Herod the king . . .” Again, he likely uses adelphos, but is not referring to literal siblings, since we know that this Alexander’s mother was MariamneWikipedia (Philip the Tetrarch”informs us that Philip was “son of Herod the Great and his fifth wife, Cleopatra of Jerusalem, . . . half-brother of Herod Antipas and Herod Archelaus.” The mother of the latter two men was Malthace.

When Matthew 1:25 writes, “Joseph kept Mary a virgin until she gave birth to a son,” the specific Greek words [foreign language 00:02:06] when translated until, is used consistently in the New Testament to refer to a change in condition. While the New Testament does use different Greek words translated until to refer to the condition continuing after the event, such as [foreign language 00:02:21] on its own, [foreign language 00:02:25] is never used once this way in the entire New Testament. The NAB, a Catholic translation authorized by the Confraternity of Christian Doctrine and approved by the National Conference of Catholic Bishops and the United States Catholic Conference supports this. “The Greek word translated until does not exclude normal marital conduct after Jesus’ birth. If Matthew wished to convey Mary’s virginity was perpetual, there would be no need to add ‘until she gave birth to a son.’ She would’ve simply ended with he kept her a virgin or added throughout her marriage. The Isaiah 7:14 prophecy only indicates that Mary was to remain a virgin during her pregnancy and up to the Messiah’s birth.”

The NAB continues, “The evangelist is simply concerned to emphasize that Joseph was not responsible for the conception of Jesus, which is why Matthew stresses the child who has been conceived in her is of the Holy Spirit. When Isaiah prophecy states that the virgin will bear a son, it is not implying her virginal integrity remained intact after his birth, nor that her virginity would extend throughout her entire life, but only to stress that the Messiah’s birth would be supernatural and that Jesus was divine. As a believing Jew and Christian, Mary would not have disobeyed God who commanded married couples to be fruitful and multiply, nor would she have deprived her husband as the apostle Paul wrote, ‘the wife must fulfill her duty to her husband and does not have authority over her own body so that Satan will not tempt you because of your lack of self control.’ 1 Corinthians 7:3-5.”

Matthew 1:24-25 (NRSV) . . . Joseph . . . took her as his wife, [25] but had no marital relations with her [RSV: “knew her not”] until she had borne a son . . .

This would involve probably six months, bare minimum. We don’t know at what stage he was aware that she was pregnant. Protestants who reject the perpetual virginity of Mary need to be asked why Joseph abstained for the entire pregnancy if in fact he had marital relations with the Blessed Virgin Mary after Jesus’ birth.

Rabbinic Judaism did not forbid sexual relations during the whole of pregnancy (especially not the final three months). I think we can safely assume that something of that sort was the custom of the Jews of Jesus’ time. So why did Joseph do this? There is no plausible reason to do so, other than the fact that he intended to never have relations with her (she being the Mother of God). Sometimes the most effective and elegant arguments are the small ones like this (that one could almost not notice at all).

Writing against Helvidius, St. Jerome provocatively asked (making precisely the present argument):

Why then did Joseph abstain at all up to the day of birth? He will surely answer, Because of the Angel’s words, “That which is born in her, &c.” He then who gave so much heed to a vision as not to dare to touch his wife, would he, after he had heard the shepherds, seen the Magi, and known so many miracles, dare to approach the temple of God, the seat of the Holy Ghost, the Mother of his Lord?

Jason Evert offered a great insight in an article for Catholic Answers Magazine (then called This Rock): 1 July 2000:

[E]ven in the Old Testament God asked married couples to refrain from intercourse for various reasons. For example, the priests of the temple had to refrain from intimacy with their wives during the time of their service. Likewise, Moses had the Israelites abstain from intercourse as he ascended Mount Sinai (Ex. 19:15 [the original erroneously had 20:15]). There is a theme here of refraining from marital rights because of the presence of something very holy.

2 Samuel 6:23 (“And Michal the daughter of Saul had no child to the day of her death”) supports the Catholic interpretation of “until” in Matthew 1:25 because it perfectly illustrates that “until” can and does (in some instances in the Bible) refer to events up to certain point referred to, but not after. In this case, it couldn’t refer to events after, since Michal died and could no longer possibly have children. Other similar examples where “until” couldn’t possibly refer to actions after the point of time referenced include 1 Samuel 15:35; Matthew 12:20; Romans 8:22; 1 Timothy 4:13; 6:14, and Revelation 2:25.

Luke 2:7 describes Jesus as the firstborn of Mary, although the Greek word [foreign language 00:04:11] translated firstborn, can indicate firstborn opening the womb and is used this way in the New Testament. Both the Old and the New Testaments also use firstborn to indicate firstborn among other siblings, such as Esau being Isaac’s firstborn and Ruben as Jacob’s first born, meaning they were not firstborns out of their father’s wombs, considering men don’t have wombs, but firstborn among their other children. See Genesis 35:23, Deuteronomy 21:15, Joshua 6:26, 1 Chronicles 3:1, and Hebrews 11:28, where firstborn is also used this way. 

The great Protestant commentator J. B. Lightfoot wrote that “The law, in speaking of the firstborn, regarded not whether any were born after or no, but only that none were born before.” [Commentary on the Whole Bible, 928; my italics] Among the Jews, the firstborn was ordinarily the child who was first to open the womb (e.g., Exodus 13:2: “Consecrate to me all the first-born; whatever is the first to open the womb among the people of Israel, both of man and of beast, is mine”; cf. Num 8:16: “all that open the womb, the first-born . . .”).

If Luke was communicating Jesus was Mary’s only child, he would’ve used the Greek word [foreign language 00:04:55] translated only begotten, rather than [foreign language 00:04:57] like he did elsewhere in his gospel, such as in Luke 7:12, 8:42 and 9:38. And in John 3:16, where Jesus is the only begotten son of God, meaning the only one.

There is a place for speculation about “what should have been written if specific view x is to be regarded as true”. I’ve done it myself (even in this reply). But of course, it’s always an argument from silence (argumentum ex silentio), which doesn’t carry all that much weight in argumentation and logic. Hence, Sven Bernecker and Duncan Pritchard, in The Routledge Companion to Epistemology (2010) state that “arguments from silence are, as a rule, quite weak; there are many examples where reasoning from silence would lead us astray” (pp. 64–65). In the final analysis, we can only deal with what the biblical text actually asserts and the possible meaning and its interpretation of any given passage.

Lastly, Psalm 69:8 is a messianic verse, “I have become estranged from my brothers and an alien to my mother’s sons.” Because verse nine begins with for, which is a conjunction, meaning because, since, or therefore, indicating that the same Messiah who would experience zeal for your house in verse nine is also the same Messiah whose mother would have other children in verse eight, which prophesied Jesus’ younger half brothers not believing in him in John 7:3-5 and dishonoring him in Mark 6:3-4, which occurred earlier in Mark 3:20-21 when they accused Jesus of being out of his senses, just as the future King David rebuked his oldest brother.

Catholic apologist Joe Heschmeyer observed, in an article on this very question: “Plenty of things in Psalm 69 foreshadow Christ, but that doesn’t mean every element is true of Him. For example, Psalm 69:5 says, ‘You know my folly, O God; my guilt is not hidden from you.’ And Christ is sinless, of course.” RSV has at 69:5: “the wrongs I have done.”

Mark 6:3-4 was dealt with above. There are two strong exegetical reasons to believe that Jesus’ cousins are being referred to, not supposed siblings.

When Jesus’ mother and brothers approach him later in verse 31, Jesus contrasts his biological brothers who dishonored him with his disciples, who were his spiritual brothers, who did the will of God.

Mark 3:31 is but one use of adelphe among many. What has to be determined is the meaning of each in context, and it is not necessarily “siblings” at all, and there are several biblical arguments that with regard to Jesus, they are not siblings. I provided some of the best traditional arguments above, and they are very strong. In light of Mark 6:3-4, these “brothers” were very likely not siblings.

This passage also contradicts the dogma of the Immaculate Conception of Mary since Jesus’ mother was with Jesus’ brothers in verses 20 to 21, when they accused him of being out of his senses. This is also the view of St. John Chrysostom as late as the fifth century, venerated as a doctor of the church of Roman Catholicism, who also believed Mary thought Jesus had gone mad.

Chrysostom was simply wrong in that instance. We don’t believe that Church fathers are infallible. And they are not part of the magisterium. I have dealt with the question of whether Mary thought her Son had gone crazy. It’s too involved of an argument to even summarize. See:

Did the Blessed Virgin Mary Think Jesus Was Nuts? [7-2-20]

Did Mary Sin By Thinking Jesus was Crazy? (vs. Lucas Banzoli) [9-8-22]

Mary and “Crazy” Jesus, Pt. II (vs. Lucas Banzoli): In Which Our Quixotic Anti-Catholic Warrior Desperately Savages Several Highly Reputable English Bible Translations in Order to “Prove” That Mary Thought Jesus was Out of His Mind [2-9-23]

Other doctors like Ambrose, Augustine, Irenaeus and others in the early church, like Tertullian, Origen, Hillary of Poitier, and seven popes believed Mary was either conceived in sin or committed acts of personal sin, including Thomas Aquinas, as late as the 13th century.

All of them could be (and were) wrong, without it affecting the Catholic doctrine of infallibility.

When Mary declared “God, my savior.” In Luke 1:47, she understood that Jesus was the “savior to grant repentance and forgiveness of sins,” in Acts 5:31 and in Titus 2:9-11, which included her own. Isaiah 49:26 describes God as savior and Redeemer echoed in Galatians 4:4-5. He might redeem or rescue from bondage those who were under the law because we, which includes Mary, have redemption, the forgiveness of sins, Colossians 1:14.

Mary needed a savior as much as any of us (hence, her statement in Luke 1:47: sometimes thrown at Catholics as a “gotcha” tactic). She was saved from ever falling into sin, rather than saved from existing sin. Her case arguably involved more free grace than anyone else’s ever did, since extra grace was expressly given to her by God from the very moment of her conception. Obviously, this had nothing to do with her own merit or choice.

Psalm 130, verse eight, promises God will redeem Israel from all its iniquities. Isiah wrote the deliverer will come out of Zion. I will take away their sins. This is how God as savior is used in both testaments. The Greek root is used in Matthew 1:21 to describe Jesus who will save his people from their sins. Jesus is never referred to as a preemptive savior, but as a redeeming, delivering savior, which includes redeeming and delivering Mary from her sins.

I would say all that is “normative” language. There can always be an exception to the rule. Adam and Eve were such exceptions. If they had never fallen and sinned, they would have never needed a savior. They were created in a sinless state. Mary, being the mother of this very savior, was another exception.  The angel Gabriel told her she was “full of grace” at the Annunciation, so we know for sure from explicit Scripture that she was without sin at that time.

Luke 1:28 “And he came to her and said, ‘Hail, O favored one, the Lord is with you!’”

The great Baptist Greek scholar A.T. Robertson exhibits a Protestant perspective, but is objective and fair-minded, in commenting on this verse as follows:

“Highly favoured” (kecharitomene). Perfect passive participle of charitoo and means endowed with grace (charis), enriched with grace as in Ephesians. 1:6, . . . The Vulgate gratiae plena “is right, if it means ‘full of grace which thou hast received‘; wrong, if it means ‘full of grace which thou hast to bestow‘” (Plummer). (Robertson, Word Pictures in the New Testament, II, 13)

Kecharitomene has to do with God’s grace, as it is derived from the Greek root, charis (literally, “grace”). Thus, in the KJV, charis is translated “grace” 129 out of the 150 times that it appears. Greek scholar Marvin Vincent noted that even Wycliffe and Tyndale (no enthusiastic supporters of the Catholic Church) both rendered kecharitomene in Luke 1:28 as “full of grace” and that the literal meaning was “endued with grace” (Vincent, Word Studies in the New Testament, I, 259).

Likewise, well-known Protestant linguist W.E. Vine, defines it as “to endue with Divine favour or grace” (Vine, Expository Dictionary of New Testament Words, II, 171). Vine concurs that charis can mean “a state of grace, e.g., Rom. 5:2; 1 Pet. 5:12; 2 Pet. 3:18” (Vine, II, 170). One can construct a strong biblical argument from analogy, for Mary’s sinlessness. For St. Paul, grace (charis) is the antithesis and “conqueror” of sin:

Romans 6:14: “For sin will have no dominion over you, since you are not under law but under grace.” (cf. Rom 5:17,20-21, 2 Cor 1:12, 2 Timothy 1:9)

We are saved by grace, and grace alone:

Ephesians 2:8-10: “For by grace you have been saved through faith; and this is not your own doing, it is the gift of God – not because of works, lest any man should boast. For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.” (cf. Acts 15:11, Rom 3:24, 11:5, Eph 2:5, Titus 2:11, 3:7, 1 Pet 1:10)

Thus, the biblical argument outlined above proceeds as follows:

1. Grace saves us.

2. Grace gives us the power to be holy and righteous and without sin.

Therefore, for a person to be full of grace is both to be saved and to be completely, exceptionally holy. It’s a “zero-sum game”: the more grace one has, the less sin. One might look at grace as water, and sin as the air in an empty glass (us). When you pour in the water (grace), the sin (air) is displaced. A full glass of water, therefore, contains no air (see also, similar zero-sum game concepts in 1 John 1:7, 9; 3:6, 9; 5:18). To be full of grace is to be devoid of sin. Thus we might re-apply the above two propositions:

1. To be full of the grace that saves is surely to be saved.

2. To be full of the grace that gives us the power to be holy, righteous, and without sin is to be fully without sin, by that same grace.

A deductive, biblical argument for the Immaculate Conception, with premises derived directly from Scripture, might look like this:

1. The Bible teaches that we are saved by God’s grace.

2. To be “full of” God’s grace, then, is to be saved.

3. Therefore, Mary is saved (Luke 1:28).

4. The Bible teaches that we need God’s grace to live a holy life, free from sin.

5. To be “full of” God’s grace is thus to be so holy that one is sinless.

6. Therefore, Mary is holy and sinless.

7. The essence of the Immaculate Conception is sinlessness.

8. Therefore, the Immaculate Conception, in its essence, can be directly deduced from Scripture.

In this fashion, the essence of the Immaculate Conception (i.e., the sinlessness of Mary) is proven from biblical principles and doctrines accepted by every orthodox Protestant. Certainly all mainstream Christians agree that grace is required both for salvation and to overcome sin. So in a sense my argument is only one of degree, deduced (almost by common sense, I would say) from notions that all Christians hold in common.

The apostle Paul affirms this in 1 Corinthians 15:22, “In Adam all die.” Meaning all of mankind spiritually, including Mary, which Paul clarifies in verses 47 to 49. “The first man Adam is from the earth, earthy. The second man Christ is from heaven as is the earthy Adam so also are those who are earthy and as is the heavenly Christ so also are those who are heavenly. Just as we have born the image of the earthy we,” which includes Mary, “we will also bear the image of the heavenly.” We and also, which again includes Mary.

We need to add also the old anti-Catholic polemical chestnut:

Romans 3:23 “since all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.” [Steve did mention this shortly after this section]

Yes, if Mary were indeed “in Adam,” then, like everyone else, she would have possessed original sin, and would have been included in the “all” of Romans 3:23 and 1 Corinthians 15:22. Paul’s statements remain quite true, without precluding a scenario in which God could (and did) perform a special act of grace (fitting for the Mother of God the Son) whereby Mary was prevented from contracting the original sin that is “in Adam.” It gets back also to scriptural language. “All'” doesn’t always literally mean “all.” It’s easy to prove this.

Paul writes that “all Israel will be saved,” (11:26), but we know that many will not be saved. And in 15:14, Paul describes members of the Roman church as “filled with all knowledge” (cf. 1 Cor 1:5 in KJV), which clearly cannot be taken literally. Examples could be multiplied indefinitely. Linguistic reference works concur. Kittel’s Theological Dictionary of the New Testament (Abridged Ed.) states:

Pas can have different meanings according to its different uses . . . in many verses, pas is used in the NT simply to denote a great number, e.g., “all Jerusalem” in Mt 2:3 and “all the sick” in 4:24. (pp. 796-797)

Likewise, Thayer’s Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament gives “of every kind” as a possible meaning in some contexts (p. 491, Strong’s word #3956). And Vine’s Expository Dictionary of New Testament Words tells us it can mean “every kind or variety.” (vol. 1, p. 46, under “All”).

That’s why and how Mary can rightly call God her “savior” and how she could be and was an exception to the rule of “In Adam all die.” We see Jewish idiom and hyperbole in passages of similar meaning. Jesus says: “No one is good but God alone” (Lk 18:19; cf. Mt 19:17). Yet He also said: “The good person brings good things out of a good treasure.” (Mt 12:35; cf. 5:45; 7:17-20; 22:10). Furthermore, in each instance in Matthew and Luke above of the English “good” the Greek word is the same: agatho. We observe the same dynamic in the Psalms:

Psalm 14:2-3 The LORD looks down from heaven upon the children of men, to see if there are any that act wisely, that seek after God. [3] They have all gone astray, they are all alike corrupt; there is none that does good, [Hebrew, tob] no not one. (cf. 53:1-3; Paul cites this in Rom 3:10-12)

Yet in the immediately preceding Psalm, David proclaims, “I have trusted in thy steadfast love” (13:5), which certainly is “seeking” after God! And in the very next he refers to “He who walk blamelessly, and does what is right” (15:2). Even two verses later (14:5) he writes that “God is with the generation of the righteous.” So obviously his lament in 14:2-3 is an indignant hyperbole and not intended as a literal utterance.

Such remarks are common to Hebrew poetic idiom. The anonymous psalmist in 112:5-6 refers to the “righteous” (Heb. tob), as does the book of Proverbs repeatedly: using the words “righteous” or “good” (11:23; 12:2; 13:22; 14:14, 19), using the same word, tob, which appears in Psalm 14:2-3. References to righteous men are innumerable (e.g., Job 17:9; 22:19; Ps 5:12; 32:11; 34:15; 37:16, 32; Mt 9:13; 13:17; 25:37, 46; Rom 5:19; Heb 11:4; Jas 5:16; 1 Pet 3:12; 4:18, etc.).

One might also note 1 Corinthians 15:22: “For as in Adam all die, so also in Christ shall all be made alive.” As far as physical death is concerned (the context of 1 Cor 15), not “all” people have died (e.g., Enoch: Gen 5:24; cf. Heb 11:5; Elijah: 2 Kings 2:11). Likewise, “all” will not be made spiritually alive by Christ, as some will choose to suffer eternal spiritual death in hell.

The key in all this is to understand biblical language properly in context. It’s not always literal.

This means Mary was earthy like Adam, before she was heavenly once Jesus redeemed and delivered her.

She was redeemed and delivered by Jesus her Savior and Son, but there was never a time when she was “earthy” like Adam, since God’s special act of grace occurred at her conception. There are at least four biblical analogies to three prophets and a very important apostle being sanctified in the womb before they were born:

Isaiah 49:1 . . . The LORD called me from the womb, . . .

Jeremiah 1:5 “Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, and before you were born I consecrated you; I appointed you a prophet to the nations.” (KJV: “sanctified thee”)

“Consecrated” or “sanctified” in Jeremiah 1:5 is the Hebrew word quadash (Strong’s word #6942). According to Gesenius’ Hebrew-Chaldee Lexicon of the Old Testament (Grand Rapids, Michigan: Baker Book House, 1979 reprint, p. 725), in this instance it meant “to declare any one holy.”

Luke 1:15 for he [John the Baptist] will be great before the Lord, and he shall drink no wine nor strong drink, and he will be filled with the Holy Spirit, even from his mother’s womb.

Galatians 1:15 . . . he who had set me apart before I was born, and had called me through his grace,

Therefore, by analogy and plausibility, based on these biblical cross-references, we can and may conclude that it is “biblical” and reasonable to believe in faith that Mary was immaculately conceived. Nothing in the Bible contradicts this belief. And there is much that suggests various elements of it, as we have seen. It does require faith, of course, but based on the biblical data alone it is not an unreasonable or “unbiblical” belief at all.

After Mary’s days of purification were completed in Luke two, she made burnt and sin offerings, which according to Leviticus 12 was required of mothers to make atonement or to cover their sins, which Mary would not need to do if she were immaculately conceived.

Jesus observed the law, which included making sin offerings at Passover (see Mt 26:18; Mk 14:14; Lk 2:41-43; 22:7-15; Jn 2:13). Since He was sinless but still did these rituals (and also got baptized, which according to the NT, is a cleansing from sins, regeneration, and forgiveness: none of which He needed), so could Mary also be sinless and yet do the OT Jewish / Mosaic rituals.

This dogma was defined by Pope Pius the ninth, but not ex cathedra in 1854

This is incorrect. It was indeed defined ex cathedra, (or, de fide, as we call it: dogma on the very highest level), in his encyclical Ineffabilis Deus (Dec. 8, 1854) and it had precisely the sort of profoundly authoritative language that is involved in proclaiming binding dogmas:

We declare, pronounce, and define that the doctrine which holds that the most Blessed Virgin Mary, in the first instance of her conception, by a singular grace and privilege granted by Almighty God, in view of the merits of Jesus Christ, the Savior of the human race, was preserved free from all stain of original sin, is a doctrine revealed by God and therefore to be believed firmly and constantly by all the faithful.

and is not shared by the Eastern Orthodox, despite not schisming [sic] with the West until the 11th century demonstrating that this was a much later development foreign to the New Testament writers and the early church. 

It was a relatively later development, but it doesn’t follow that it’s foreign in its essence (Mary’s sinlessness) to either the New Testament or to the early Church. See my paper: Church Fathers: Mary is Sinless [7-16-08] I’ve already made an argument for Mary’s sinlessness from the Bible only, and shown four parallels to her being sanctified from the womb.

the Bodily Assumption of Mary to Heaven infallibly defined ex cathedra by Pope Pius the 12th in 1950, which states “after the completion of her earthly life was assumed body and soul into the glory of heaven,” which strongly implies she died first.

Most Catholics (including myself) believe that she did die first, since her Son died, but that wasn’t part of the dogma, as indicated by the phrase, “after the completion of her earthly life.”

Yet, if Mary did not inherit the stain of original sin passed down from Adam, she would not have died

That doesn’t follow, either, since Jesus had no sin, original or actual, and was God, and yet He died.

This also contradicts the biblical purpose of an assumption. . . . Hebrews 11:5 states, “By faith Enoch was taken up so that he would not see death.’ And he was not found because God took him up. In 2 Kings 2:11, Elijah went up by a whirlwind to heaven, meaning he did not see death either before being assumed to heaven. Since this dogma allows for her to have died before being taken up to heaven, it contradicts the purpose of a biblical assumption. That the one being assumed would not see death and so their corpse would not be found as the case for both Enoch and Elijah demonstrates. But since it allows for Mary to have died, then it is much of a partial contradiction to scripture as the dogma of Jehovah’s Witnesses of Jesus being the son of God and Michael.

I don’t see how. The similar events noted: Enoch and Elijah, didn’t involve undergoing death (and the same might be true of Moses), but in the case of the Two Witnesses in Revelation, they died (Rev 11:7), and remained dead for three-and-a-half days, much like Jesus (11:8-9). Then they rose up (11:11) and “went up to heaven in a cloud” (11:12). So there is no set pattern, and Mary’s Assumption (if one believes she died) is more similar to what happened with the Two Witnesses. Being incorrupt after death is not unusual. There are all sorts of documented cases for that.

But this dogma would still be a contradiction if Mary remained alive before assumption, since the biblical purpose of an assumption is so the individual would not see death

That was not true of the Two Witnesses, as shown. This being the case, Steve can’t refer to “the biblical purpose” as if there is only one, and one way that these spectacular events happened.

because this dogma affirms the Immaculate Conception of Mary did not inherit original sin passed down to Adam to all of mankind. Therefore Mary would not need to be assumed to heaven to keep her from seeing death if she were conceived sinless.

That’s exactly right. The key words are “would not need.” It wasn’t a necessity. It was “fitting” just as her Immaculate Conception was. Hence the proclamation in 1854 mentioned the word “fitting” three times. Likewise, the proclamation on Mary’s Assumption, Munificentissimus Deus (Nov. 1, 1950) also mentioned that this was “fitting” seven times. I defend the notion of “fittingness” (which many Protestants seem to think is a solely “Catholic” and unbiblical thing) from the Bible. This being the case, Steve’s argument in this regard collapses, since it suffers from a false premise.

Regarding proof from scripture, for this dogma founder and senior fellow of Catholic Answers, Karl Keating wrote “There is none,” in his book, Catholicism and Fundamentalism.

He stated, “Strictly, there is none” (p. 275, my italics). The word “strictly” refers to explicit proof. That’s made more clear by what he wrote on page 272 (my italics again): “True, no express scriptural proofs for the doctrine are available.” But he did not contend that there were absolutely no proofs or no indication at all in the Bible. For in the very next sentence he wrote:

The possibility of a bodily assumption before the Second Coming is not excluded by 1 Corinthians 15:23, and it is even suggested by Matthew 27:52-53″ [“the tombs also were opened, and many bodies of the saints who had fallen asleep were raised, and coming out of the tombs after his resurrection they went into the holy city and appeared to many”].

Accordingly, I make several arguments for Mary’s Assumption from Scripture alone:

Bodily Assumption of Mary: Harmonious with the Bible? [2002]

Mary’s Assumption: Brief Explanation, with a New (?) Biblical Parallel [3-1-07]

Defending Mary (Revelation 12 & Her Assumption) [5-28-12]

Understanding that these three Catholic Marian Dogmas contradict scripture has twofold importance. One, the sole non-falsifiable and fallible authority of the Roman Catholic church, sola ecclesia, which teaches these Marian Dogmas versus a sole infallible authority of scripture sola scriptura, which contradicts them. And two, they are binding to the faithful Catholic, who is threatened with an anathema if they reject any of them, despite them all contradicting God-breathed scripture.

But they don’t contradict the Bible at all, as I have shown above, with much Scripture. Again, Steve’s premises and conclusions are both wrong.

Regarding her bodily assumption that Pope declared infallibly, if anyone should dare willfully to deny that which we have defined, let him know that he has fallen away completely from the divine and Catholic faith. It is forbidden to any man to change this, to oppose and counter it. If any man should presume to make such an attempt, let him know that he will incur the wrath of almighty God and the blessed apostles, Peter and Paul.

It’s saying that if a man denies what is established to be true, then he is in deep trouble, yes. All Christians believe that. Catholics merely extend the principle further than Protestants do. Paul says in 1 Corinthians 16:22: ” If any one has no love for the Lord, let him be accursed.” So Catholics talk like Paul did. Paul even referred or “appealed” to God’s judgment regarding something personal that a man did to him:

2 Timothy 4:14 Alexander the coppersmith did me great harm; the Lord will requite him for his deeds.

Paul teaches shunning and separation from sinners and unbelievers in several passages. For example, “If any one refuses to obey what we say in this letter, note that man, and have nothing to do with him, that he may be ashamed” (2 Thess 3:14). Thus, the ideas of the warning and the anathema are themselves very biblical and especially Pauline. Protestants simply don’t like what the Church is shunning people for. But I have shown in this article how they are misguided and mistaken in their critiques of us.

Regarding the Immaculate Conception, the other Pope declared, but not infallibly, 

It was infallible. I don’t know why Steve thinks otherwise. He doesn’t specify.

So these Marian Dogmas are not optional or fitting for the faithful Catholic to believe, but are required and binding to the Catholic to remain in good standing in communion with the Roman Catholic church, despite them all contradicting God breathed scripture.

Again, they don’t contradict Scripture, as shown. It’s no different than the five points of TULIP not being optional or “fitting” for Calvinists, or adult believer’s baptism not being expected and required for Baptists (Steve’s present group). All Christians believe things, and many of them are compulsory — not optional — for members (at least theoretically so). When I attended the Assemblies of God for four years (where I met my wife and got married), part of their official beliefs was the notion that if one is filled with the Holy Spirit, he or she would always speak in tongues. I thought that clearly contradicted Paul’s teaching; consequently, I was honest about it and never formally became a member.

So Catholics are required to believe in the Immaculate Conception and Bodily Assumption of Mary. This is some shocking revelation! (so Steve insinuates)? Catholics ought to believe Catholic doctrines, just as the Calvinist believes in Calvinist doctrines, the Lutheran in consubstantiation, the Amish in radical separation from the larger culture, the Orthodox in icons, etc.? This is front page news and is somehow scandalous?

When early followers of Jesus began to focus their adoration on Mary, rather than on Christ alone, Jesus responded, “Rather blessed are those who hear the word of God and observe it.”

No one was “adoring” Mary. This is a distortion of what happened in this incident. Once it is understood, no one should have any problem with it at all.

Mark 3:31-35 And his mother and his brothers came; and standing outside they sent to him and called him. [32] And a crowd was sitting about him; and they said to him, “Your mother and your brothers are outside, asking for you.” [33] And he replied, “Who are my mother and my brothers?” [34] And looking around on those who sat about him, he said, “Here are my mother and my brothers! [35] Whoever does the will of God is my brother, and sister, and mother.” (cf. Mt 12:46-49; Lk 8:20-21)

Let’s take a closer look at this, to see what Jesus was really driving at. Was he trying to denigrate veneration of His mother? No. Jesus took this opportunity to show that He regarded all of His followers (in what would become the Christian Church) as family. Similarly, He told His disciples, “I have called you friends” (Jn 15:15). It doesn’t follow that this is “a rebuff of this kin” (i.e., his immediate family). He simply moved from literal talk of families to a larger conception and vision of families as those who do “the will of God.” He widened the net, so to speak.

Thus, Jesus habitually used “brethren” to describe those who were not His immediate family (Mt 5:47; 23:8; 25:40; 28:10; Lk 22:32; Jn 20:17). It’s not a rebuff of His mother and half-brothers and/or cousins. It’s simply the beginning of the Body of Christ, and the Christian Church being regarded as one large, extended family. It’s a “both/and” situation; not an “either/or” one, involving false dichotomies that aren’t biblical.

Go to Part II


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Photo credit: Istanbul: Chora Church Museum (Kariye Cami). Nartex. A mosaic showing the Virgin Mary beside Jesus. Photograph by Giovanni Dall’Orto, May 29, 2006. Released into public domain by the photographer [Wikimedia Commons]

Summary: Reply to Baptist Steve Christie, covering the Perpetual Virginity, Immaculate Conception, & Bodily Assumption of Mary, and Jesus Supposedly “Dissing” His Mother.



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