Discussion in 'Faith, Devotion & Formation' started by bwallac2335, Apr 23, 2020.
That would have been quite impossible, really. "Mother of God": 3 words of English language. Did that language and those English words even exist at the time? Did the Council know those words? Did they use those 3 words?
No. They used a Greek word. And "Mother of God" is an undesirable, theologically misleading translation. The clear proof that it's theologically misleading can be seen in how the Romans took the phrase and built Mary up into something she never was. The very phrase was the stepping-stone into heretical error. We would do well to dispense with it.
"Theotokos" is better translated "birth-giver of God" or "bearer of God". When the (5th Century) Council of Ephesus approved of calling Mary "Theotokos," I doubt that they also approved of calling her (the Greek equivalent of) "Intercessor with God" or "Chief God-Influencer," but that is what the RCC essentially allowed to develop and eventually encouraged.
Reliance upon Mary's intercession with Jesus on our behalf is not taught in the Bible. Rather, the Bible teaches us that Jesus Christ is our sole mediator and intercessor. Reverential respect for Mary should not include dependence upon Mary. When we pray to God, we show our dependence upon Him for our provision and for our prayers to be answered in our best interest. Those who pray to Mary are showing dependence upon Mary for the same. I submit that this goes well beyond a show of 'respect' for Mary, while simultaneously showing disrespect for Jesus Christ; instead of displaying complete trust in Jesus as our intercessor (he ever liveth to make intercession, Heb. 7:25), praying to Mary demonstrates a patent lack of trust in the One who died for us. Think on it: what reason would one have to ask Mary for anything instead of asking Jesus directly, if not the reason of one's disbelief that Jesus will hear and will act for our good? What good Christian could believe that praying to Mary will help him more than praying to Jesus?
Let us not think, as so many RCs think, that Jesus is unwilling to help us to the utmost in our times of need, and that we must run to Mary and implore her to twist her Son around her little finger with her Motherly persuasiveness and convince Him to do something for us. Let us not think that Mary has the Godlike ability to hear every prayer uttered to her, let alone to know the prayer's heart, the prayer's true circumstance, and the circumstances of all others who would be affected if the request were answered. Mary is in no position to know what is best and what should be done; only God knows! Nowhere in the Bible are believers encouraged or taught to pray to Mary; Paul, Peter, John and the rest are completely silent on the matter, as if such an amazing thought never crossed their minds. Since Mary is neither our intercessor nor our mediator, the only type of prayers we should be saying to Mary are prayers like this: "Hey, Mary, I hope you're having a nice day in heaven!" and, "Thank you, Mary, for your obedience to God so long ago! All glory to God!"
@PDL was correct on this point. The Latin rendition Mater Dei was accepted in the East as they had difficulty with other translations. There is no doubt that the mind of the universal Church at that time was to affirm both the Divinity and the Humanity of Jesus.
The mistake that is made is when the title Mother of God is understood as a Marian doctrine rather than as a Christological title. The other title that was suggested was Christotokos being The Christ Bearer or Mother of Christ and this was not accepted - and ultimately it's advocates left, or were excommunicated, and so the followers of Nestorius retreated to areas East of Antioch and so the Nestorian Church came to be.
Nestorianism Belief that Jesus Christ was a natural union between the Flesh and the Word, thus not identical, to the divine Son of God.
It was advanced by Nestorius (386–450), Patriarch of Constantinople from 428–431. The doctrine was informed by Nestorius’ studies under Theodore of Mopsuestia at the School of Antioch.
Condemned at the First Council of Ephesus in 431 and the Council of Chalcedon in 451, leading to the Nestorian Schism. Cyril of Alexandria was the led the opposition to Nestorian teaching.
Nestorius rejected the title Theotokos for the Virgin Mary, and proposed Christotokos as more suitable. Many of Nestorius’ supporters relocated to Sassanid Persia, where they affiliated with the local Christian community, known as the Church of the East. Over the next decades the Church of the East became increasingly Nestorian in doctrine, and known alternately as the Nestorian Church.
The development of a Nestorian Creed (A modified version of the Nicene Creed of Constantinople) was also condemned at the Council of Ephesus and pronounced anathemas on any who would add to or subtract from the Nicene Creed.
I suggest that the first approach is not to use the Title Mother of God for ourselves and prefer the terms Mother of the Lord or Theotokos. Our second approach in dealing with those who use the term is to help them understand that the Latin Mater Dei is a Christological Statement and to ensure that when it is used we will only understand it as a Christological Statement. Our aim should not be to bring down Mary, after all God has lifted her up for his singular act of grace in becoming human, but rather to lift Jesus higher.
I really don't think any of us should have a great deal of trouble with the ancient prayer:
Hail Mary, full of grace, the Lord is with you,
Blessed are you among women and
Blessed is the fruit of your womb Jesus.
As it does seem to have significant Biblical Warrant.
The main problem I have with the "Hail Mary" lies in the way it is used in the RC rosary. By having 10 Hail Marys to every 1 Lord's Prayer, they convey a greater sense of importance for prayer to Mary than for prayer to God. Fortunately this particular use of the rosary is not observed among Anglicans.
Botolph, you didn't get to the 'good part' of the prayer:
Holy Mary, Mother of God, pray for us sinners
Now and at the hour of our death.
I am not keen on having Mary pray for me... not now, and not at the hour of my death. She has plenty and overmuch to do without praying for me. (BTW, Do saints in heaven still need to pray, or do they get to zoom over to Jesus and chat with Him directly?) Besides, my confidence rests in Christ alone, not in the prayers of others.
Regarding the thread's subject, paintings in the church, I'd posted previously that paintings and such seem acceptable to me in churches... but I find that I may need to adjust my thinking. Today I was reading Jewel's Apology and discovered this passage:
"The Ancient Council of Eliberis (that is Elvira, 305-6 A.D.) decreed, That nothing that moved the People to Adoration should be painted in Churches. The Ancient Father Epiphanius says, It is a horrible and intolerable Crime to set up any Pictures, nay even of Christ himself, in Churches. They (the Romans), as if the Life and Soul of Religion consisted in them, have filled every Corner of their Churches with Images and Statues."
It would seem that in the 4th Century the Church determined images within church walls to be entirely inappropriate.
I thought I had got to the good part of the prayer. Though I absolutely acknowledge that I am a sinner in need of prayer.
I am not sure they have zoom in heaven. anyway I recognise that there was a sidetrack in the thread.
The apostolic church took the incarnation seriously as is evidenced by the Council of Chalcedon, and indeed the real meat of the first four oecumenical councils is CHRISTOLOGY.
The early church expressed a number of views about images, not always consistent. However they were more solid on CHRISTOLOGY.
The titles they gave Mary were essentially Christolgical. I understand the view that the RCC seems at times to have moved beyond that early church position. We don't fix that by throwing the baby out with the bathwater.
It seems significant to me that Jesus didn't give Mary a title. Nor did the apostles give her a title. It took, what, about 400 years for the church to give her a title? And that, after about 100 years of discussion and disagreement?
In fact Jesus called Mary Woman. You are still not hearing the Christological issue. I don't think I can be any more plain. I understand you may have experienced RCC excesses, but that does not mean we should forget the Christological truth.
If it were, then that would go a long way toward establishing the term. However: I’ve seen absolutely no evidence to suggest it. There was no Latin translation that was officially accepted by the universal Church. The Greek was the only official language shared by the Church.
There were a few Fathers who used Mater Dei, and that’s about it. There is no evidence that the Greek Fathers were going through the Latin writings with a fine-toothed comb and approving or rejecting things. if they did, the Filioque issue would’ve never arisen! The existence of that Filioque crisis demonstrates that a theological distance emerged between the two halves of the ancient Church, because of decentralization, and division among language lines.
For all we know, the Greek Fathers (let alone Councils) never even knew of the Latin Mater Dei. Even other Latins probably didn’t know of some of their brothers using this errant translation of “Theotokos”. BUT — just as with the Papacy, centuries later when Roman Catholicism emerged, they read back and claimed that “everyone” accepted the term, erasing the majority which never did.
There is no better reason for not doing it.
There is no compulsion to do it and it is not a fundamental article of faith so no reason why you should do it if you are uncomfortable with it.
I really have no wish to continue this argument with you. It is fairly self-evident that a council of bishops meeting in Asia Minor in the fifth century would not use Modern English in their deliberations. Nor should people today who speak English have to address the Blessed Virgin Mary in Greek. I really do not see where this line of reasoning is meant to lead.
I am absolutely certain that nowhere with be found an ancient manuscript from that Council with the three words on them, Mother of God.
That Council condemned Nestorius for his emphasis Mary was the mother only of Jesus as a human. The Council affirmed that Mary was the mother of Jesus the Christ, both God and man.
I am not a Greek scholar and perhaps one would translate Θεοτόκος into English a birth-giver. Do you call your birth-giver that or mother?
I would be interested in reading whatever quotes anyone might know of, from early fathers concerning images, icons, or statues in the church. Anybody have some to share? I'd like to weigh the early church evidence, pro and con.
I think there is a greater Theological issue than the one you're indicating. When Jesus called Mary "woman," although this in no way showed disrespect, it also distanced Him from familial relationships. This was necessary, for Mary was a sinner in need of salvation from Jesus far more than she was His mother. Moreover, Jesus was addressing a being whom He created, whereas "Mother" carries a clear implication in the understanding of any normal English-speaking person that the child could not have come into existence were it not for that mother giving the child life; therefore "Mother of God" speaks on a subconscious level to every native English-speaking person in a way that is theologically erroneous. Can anyone doubt that God the Son was fully capable of being born to term by any daughter of David whom He might choose?
It is intended to lead toward greater theological exactitude and preservation of truth. Even though I would never have called out to my mother, "Hey, Birth-Giver, what's for dinner?" it would not be at all incorrect or insufficient for someone to say, "she gave birth to him (me)" or "she bore me for nine months." And it would be perfectly correct and fine to call Mary "God-bearer". Mary carried God the Son to term and nurtured Him during His early years, but Mary was not the one who created the life she carried.
Too all, I say that I think Nestorius unnecessarily got a bad rap. He called Mary Christotokos, and if you stop and think about it, there is nothing untrue in calling Mary "Mother of Christ." Especially if one already knows and accepts (as we and all orthodox Christians do) that Christ is fully man and full God. What the Council did was an overreaction to Anastasius' incorrect use of Anthropotokos and incorrect teaching on the nature of Christ; and since Anastasius was brought along by Nestorius, Nestorius' fine proposal to use the word Christotokos was the baby that really did get thrown out with the dirty bath water. Anthropotokos had obvious problems, and Theotokos has the problem I just explained, but Christotokos would have been a neutral compromise that neither conveyed a "God was created" concept nor did it inherently oppose the existence of one Theandric Person. The council simply chose to "read in" the latter implication, possibly because Nestorius was not well-liked or not well enough connected; they actually reached their conclusion without waiting for Nestorius to arrive and explain his reasoning, and once they'd made up their minds they would not change them. And now, thanks to some pig-headed stubbornness and horribly bad feelings between certain church leaders, we are stuck with Theotokos.
The largest church body in the world (the one which predominated and dominated for more than a thousand years) fell into gross error in their Marian doctrine and dogma thanks to the translation of that very word, Theotokos, as "Mother of God." If Anglicans continue to use this same word Theotokos and the same translation "Mother of God," what makes Anglicans so smugly certain that they won't fall into the same trap? When we see a gaping hole in our straight-and-narrow road and we know that a huge bunch of Catholics have already fallen into the hole, why wouldn't we fill in the hole so Anglicans never fall into it? Why insist that we leave the hole the way it is? When one reads of the angst and anger held by both sides to the issue at the time, is it so hard to see that Cyril & Company were not entirely motivated by godly considerations when they held that Council (called by Emperor Theodore II) in 431 AD? But tradition is like concrete.
That is not the question, for a number of reasons.
Salvation is an historic event, not based on what might have been
Mary's involvement in the story of salvation is couched in her invitation and acceptance
Mary acted of her own free will, not press ganged into service
Mary's involvement was not without its own costs
I have been clear in this thread, as elsewhere, that I do not prefer the term Mother of God, and my reason for that, so you know, is that I believe that the inference that is carried by the term is one of origin, which is not true to the teaching of the councils.
The term does however carry a significant heritage in Christianity, based on the Latin translation of theotokos being Mater Dei. The intent in the term was (and is) a Christological statement, that the Child Mary conceived in her womb and carried to term, was none other that the Son of God, entirely human and entirely divine.
I would (and do) encourage people to use the terms either Theotokos or Mother of the Lord rather than the terms Mater Dei or Mother of God. If you suspect that people are missing the Christological point in using the term Mother of God then I suggest that you might take the opportunity to discuss the Christological foundations of the term, and perhaps encourage them to think of the more venerable term Theotokos.
Dangerous ground my friend. The point of the term Christotokos revolved around a faulty christology that suggested that the babe carried in the womb acquired divinity at some later stage as the Adoptionists did suggest, or became God having not been God and was in someway not from the very beginning as the Arians did suggest.
Let us all resolve to keep the focus on Jesus.
Then I've misinterpreted your comments (sorry) and we are agreed on this point, although (as I have stated) God-bearer would be fine, too.
I hope no one will interpret my little rant about Nestorius getting a bit of a raw deal to mean that I'm against use of the title Theotokos. Like you, it's Mater Dei and Mother of God that I find problematic.
I really must protest -- the council did not affirm anything of the kind. It affirmed that Mary was a bearer of Jesus the man and Logos the God (rather than the Nestorian formula that she was bearer of Jesus the man only). All it affirmed was that Mary carried both natures of Jesus, which is wholly uncontroversial among all orthodox trinitarian Christians. But it would be entirely incorrect to assign to the council a proclamation that Mary simply and unequivocally gave birth, generated, was the precursor, to God, as that would be blasphemous.
I have studied Greek in my university, and while I'm a little rusty, others can check me here:
The word for birth during the time of the Council was "genna",γεννα. We derive many modern words from it, such as,
-"to generate" (to produce),
-"genetics" (science of things from which we come),
-"genera/general" (the abstraction/origin of particular concepts)
It is also worthwhile to note that the Greek word for Christmas is Χριστού-γεννα, literally, "Christ's-birth". They do not say Χριστού-τόκος, but rather Χριστού-γεννα, because they seek to state Christ's generation, birth, first appearance.
Here is the Wikipedia page: https://en.wiktionary.org/wiki/Χριστούγεννα
If the Fathers wanted to say literally Mother of God in the sense of generation, the would've said,
But they said, Θεοτόκος, God's-bearer.
What a few Latin fathers did in mis-translating the Council's official term should not affect our Christology.
I entirely agree.
The early Church was pretty strong in rejecting any images in the Church, and even paintings of Jesus, as discussed here:
In short, St. Epiphanius tore down someone's painting of Jesus and called them blasphemers, St. Augustine was against it as well, and the Synod of Elvira in 306 AD specifically issued canons against it. More in the thread above.
Here I want to say that I would accept the images in today's churches, but I adhere to the early Church's grave caution against relying on external depictions to guide and direct our faith. It is very easy and seductive, but the Church was very serious that that way lay a change of the Christian faith from its original constitution into something else.
Whilst I know we are essentially agreed, I feel that the term God bearer is too much like the term Christopher and the role of Mary is vastly more significant than the pius legend of the patron saint of travelers.
I have said the very same thing in a previous post and that in not what Mother of God conveys. She was the mother of Jesus who is God. If we are to accept the findings of science no woman is creator of the children to which she gives birth. If we are to go with the supernatural, which these days is all too often ignored, God is the creator of us all. The woman who is my biological mother did not create me.
When I say 'Mother of God' I do not say that Mary, a mere mortal, in anyway created Almighty God. What we are saying, and as Botolph has pointed out, is the Christological angle is where we approach this from. Mary by her fiat agreed to accept carrying a child in her womb and who can begin to imagine what that must have been like. I know what I would say if my daughter came home pregnant and said it is OK dad because I am pregnant through the Will of God. Having said yes she carried the God incarnate in her womb, gave birth and, with St. Joseph, brought Him up.
Mary was part of God's creation so she cannot have created God. Mary was the mother of Jesus Christ. Jesus Christ is both God and man. The foetus in Mary's uterus was both God and man. Mary was the mother of one who is both God and man. The title 'Mother of God' reminds us of her fiat, her yes to God, and her role in our salvation. I think Mary is most worthy of this title.