Mary, you are great because of your relationship
with your Son and fidelity to the will of God.
May I seek no other greatness.
If we encountered the mother of our Lord in the street as a young woman of Nazareth, would we recognize her greatness? She who was set apart by God (made holy) for the accomplishment of His will wasn’t accompanied by retinues nor carried on litters. We would simply see a young mother going about her daily duties in service to her family—shopping in the market, collecting water, washing garments, et al. Just as our Lord was like us in all ways but sin (Heb 4:15), so was she among us in her ordinariness (Mark 6:2-4).
I picture the opening scenes from “Beauty and the Beast” where Belle walks through the town showing kindness to all around her but is misunderstood by those same people. We have a tendency to see the world through our own prismatic lenses and our selfishness blinds us to holiness in our midst. We might practice civility toward others with a hope of future reward or favor but it’s difficult to imagine the selflessness of true love. We tend to be suspicious of solicitude.
Many saints have had to battle upstream against the selfishness of those in the Church who should have recognized their holiness. Humility threatens the proud.
When the Angel Gabriel came to Mary in the Annunciation (Luke 1:28), he called her “highly favored one.” This is a clumsy translation of the Greek word kecharitomene. We tend to refer to her as “full of grace” when we pray the Hail Mary. “Full of grace” is literally translated from the Greek pleres charitos and is applied to Jesus (1:14) and St Stephen (Acts 6:8). This usage is a state of being. Technically, anyone who was recently baptized or received the sacrament of reconciliation is pleres charitos (Catholic Answers). Although prayed daily, this phrase is missing something inherent in the word used for Mary.
Kecharitomene is a usage in past perfect tense… meaning that the action of giving grace has already occurred. It was not something anticipated in her or even a current state but something that had already been accomplished. She is not just “full of grace”—grace is a part of who she is because the Angel also uses the term as a title. It’s not just an action, it’s an identity (Catholic Answers).
When Scripture records that she was troubled by the greeting of the Angel (Luke 1:29), it isn’t because she didn’t understand it. She understood it and it bothered one so humble to be greeted so highly.
The greatness of God is shown in our weakness…
“My grace is sufficient for you, for power is made perfect in weakness” (2 Cor 12:9).
The greatest in the Kingdom are the least in our world…
“Amen, I say to you, unless you turn and become like children, you will not enter the kingdom of heaven. Whoever humbles himself like this child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven” (Matt 18:3-4).
Being full of the grace of God, she was endowed with the fruit of the Holy Spirit. It is in her nature to be faithful, kind, good, patient, modest, joyful, generous, chaste, peaceful, and gentle (Gal 5:22-23). She reflects the love of God in her being. I know some will take issue with me saying that she is good—as our Lord said, “Why do you call me good? No one is good but God alone” (Luke 18:19). Mary is good in that she brings God with her to us. As she came to Elizabeth with Christ in her womb (Luke 1:43), she is identified with her Son. She also brings us with her to God as she directed the stewards to be obedient to her Son (John 2:5). She exemplifies the goodness available to all of us… to bring others to the knowledge of God.
Why do we reject holiness? It could be the same reason that many modern Catholics miss the holiness of the Mass itself—we don’t allow it to change us. We come with selfish hearts and are not open to the graces poured out for us. Holiness confronts our selfishness. The graces offered through the Eucharist are immeasurable from our infinite God but our ability to receive them depends upon our openness to His will. The struggle within us is between our will and His. In the Annunciation, Mary had to agree. In His love for us, God requests our cooperation rather than forcing our will. He can be very persuasive (as with Jonah) but He will not control us. We must make our own choices to love Him who is love personified.
In all ways, Mary is a vessel for the will of God. She is our model of faith. We call her holy because she was set apart by God for the accomplishment of His will. Does it trouble you to call her holy? If the Land our Lord walked on is holy (Matt 4:5); if His mountain is holy (Is 56:7); if His Temple is holy (1 Chron 29:3); if His people are holy (Deut 7:6)… then how holy is the one was chosen for Him, who bore Him in her womb, held Him in her arms, raised Him to be a man, and was with Him through the major moments of His life? She was first to love Him and first to follow Him. God’s will was done through her because she gave her will over to Him. God respects our free will and wants the affirmation of our choices. He wants us to act out of love for Him just as He acts out of love for us.
What the Catholic faith believes about Mary is based on what it believes about Christ, and what it teaches about Mary illumines in turn its faith in Christ (CCC 487).
Mary is great in the Kingdom of Heaven and is unique among the saints. She is holy… set apart for the accomplishment of God’s will. She is the queen mother of the everlasting Davidic Kingdom, sitting at the right hand of the King (1 Kings 2:19). She is our mother given to us in faith and in truth (John 19:26). She is great in her humility. She seeks only the will of God and to point us to her Son, Jesus Christ. Jesus reigns in His humanity as well as His divinity. She is mother of an undivided second person of the Trinity. She is mother of God.
All of this is because she was made with a purpose and is faithful to her calling. Mary is great because of her relationship with Christ. If she were not the mother of God, we wouldn’t venerate her as we do… but she IS the mother of Jesus who is the physical incarnation of the invisible God (Col 1:15). We can’t do her greater homage or show her greater love than her own Son shows her. As we are His body at work in the world, she is our mother also.
Mary is great simply because she is the mother of Jesus and she said “yes” to the will of God. In her meekness, she has inherited the Kingdom. We are called to have our own relationship with Jesus and to make our own choices. At His birth, the angels sang, “Glory to God in the highest and on earth peace to men of good will.” It is only through good will that men can have peace.
We are, each of us, who God made us to be. We were made to be conduits of the grace of God. I can’t be the mother or Father of our Lord—those roles are unique in all of creation. What I can do is work on my own relationship with Him—and relationships take work. I can encounter Him in His Word, receive Him in the Eucharist, and work for Him by serving those made in His image and likeness. My relationship with Him will be as unique as I am. May humility be the only greatness I desire. May my will be to accomplish the will of God.
What is the will of God?
We urge you, brothers, admonish the idle, cheer the fainthearted, support the weak, be patient with all. See that no one returns evil for evil; rather, always seek what is good [both] for each other and for all. Rejoice always. Pray without ceasing. In all circumstances give thanks, for this is the will of God for you in Christ Jesus. Do not quench the Spirit. Do not despise prophetic utterances. Test everything; retain what is good. Refrain from every kind of evil (1 Thess 5:14-22).
I’m going to use this space to share a conversation I’m having with a family member about this post. I think it’s instructive and edifying. I will cut out personally identifying information.
Patrick, I have been remiss in not commenting on so many of your wonderful writings recently. I do read every blog that you send me, usually with great admiration not only for your talent in writing, but especially for your content, which always leads us to think about Christ. I even run them off in hard copy to keep in a file.
I know that we are coming from different angles regarding Mary’s place not only in history, but in the Kingdom. Because my background over these last 46 years comes from my becoming a born-again Christian, attending Bible teaching and believing churches (mostly Baptist), I believe the Bible to be the inerrant word of God. I am not a scholar of the Bible, but I do know when something is being taken out of context. So please don’t be offended, but I must comment on two of your references as you use them pertaining to Mary.
When you used I Kings 2:19 to refer to Mary’s position in Heaven, that is not what the text is saying. This text is referring to Bathsheba, King Solomon’s mother. Adonijah (the son of Haggith) was the older half-brother of King Solomon. (I Kings 2:22 … David was Solomon’s father.) He was making a request of Solomon to marry a certain woman through Bathsheba (his mother too). Obviously, these two brothers had a major problem because not only did Solomon refuse this request, but he actually had Adonijah executed (I Kings 2:23-25) … This has nothing to do with Mary.
In her book about prayer, I know that [a relative of yours] used the reference John 19:26, 27 to also tell us that “Mary was given to us” as our mother. That is not what the context (or culture of the day) is telling us. Jesus, as the oldest son of Mary, was turning His responsibility to care for His widowed mother over to John, His beloved disciple and friend. “From that time on, this disciple took her into his home.” There is no connotation that Mary was the mother of us all. Of course Jesus loved His mother and this was His last earthly duty to make sure that she would be loved and cared for. John was the only Apostle who would not be martyred.
I do not want to offend you in any way. But I do know what the Scripture said, and I have sat under preachers who know the original language that these translations come from. Context is important.
Know that you can’t offend me. I have no ego wrapped in these things. In many respects, I share them to engage in conversation and learn. I intend to compile them into another book down the road… I would like to know where I am wrong before I do that. This is an exploration of faith. Don’t take anything in my rebuttals as confrontational to you, either. I learn in the rebuttal.
You: “When you used I Kings 2:19 to refer to Mary’s position in Heaven, that is not what the text is saying. This text is referring to Bathsheba, King Solomon’s mother. Adonijah (the son of Haggith) was the older half-brother of King Solomon. (I Kings 2:22 … David was Solomon’s father.) He was making a request of Solomon to marry a certain woman through Bathsheba (his mother too). Obviously, these two brothers had a major problem because not only did Solomon refuse this request, but he actually had Adonijah executed (I Kings 2:23-25) … This has nothing to do with Mary.”
I’m not saying that Mary is referenced in this Scripture citation, only her position in the Kingdom of David. Note that Jesus is the Son of David. It is David’s throne He rules from. He is the eternal King in Heaven on David’s throne. See my prior article for many of the ways Jesus models David in His kingship.
We learn a lot about the administration of the Kingdom from its depiction in Scripture. In the citation I referenced, Bathsheba goes to talk to Solomon. When he sees her and before a word is spoken, he gets up from his throne, has a throne set up for his mother at his right hand and then does her homage. His act isn’t a random act of kindness. Scripture doesn’t do random. What is written has a purpose.
Remember that the mother of the sons of Zebedee asked that her sons sit at Jesus’s right and left hands in His Kingdom (Matt 20:21). Our Lord replied that these positions were not His to give (Matt 20:23). Why? He’s the King. Can’t He do whatever He wants? Yes and no. Throughout His ministry and even from the cross, He fulfills Scripture. He doesn’t change what has been established of the Kingdom before Him, He fulfills it. The position to His right is a throne set up for the mother of the King as shown in 1 Kings 2:19.
You: In her book about prayer, I know that [a relative of yours] used the reference John 19:26, 27 to also tell us that “Mary was given to us” as our mother. That is not what the context (or culture of the day) is telling us. Jesus, as the oldest son of Mary, was turning His responsibility to care for His widowed mother over to John, His beloved disciple and friend. “From that time on, this disciple took her into his home.” There is no connotation that Mary was the mother of us all. Of course Jesus loved His mother and this was His last earthly duty to make sure that she would be loved and cared for. John was the only Apostle who would not be martyred.”
This is an area where protestantism gets itself tied in a knot. On one hand, they claim Jesus had brothers from Mary… He didn’t. On the other, they claim it’s perfectly normal that a condemned man would send his mother to live with others outside of her own family. Jesus was first-born. If He had brothers and sisters in the flesh, they would be younger than Him and more appropriate for her care. There is no reason He has to provide for His mother’s whereabouts. He Himself had no wealth and was already not providing for her in a physical sense throughout His ministry.
Mary is always identified as the mother of Jesus. They mention brothers and sisters but not as children of Mary. They may be children of Joseph from a prior widowed marriage. They may be cousins as there isn’t a clear delineation in the relation in translated language.
Take a look at Acts 1:14: “They all joined together constantly in prayer, along with the women and Mary the mother of Jesus, and with his brothers.”
There is a delineation of relationship here. Mary is the mother of Jesus… and there are brothers. Nowhere in all of Scripture is there a reference to Mary and her other children.
“Isn’t this the carpenter? Isn’t this Mary’s son and the brother of James, Joseph, Judas and Simon? Aren’t his sisters here with us?” (Mark 6:3 NIV)
Again, a delineation in relationship. Our Lord is mentioned specifically as the son of Mary. The other relations are named in relation to Jesus.
“Then Jesus’ mother and brothers arrived” (Mark 3:31 NIV).
Delineation of relationship. She is Jesus’ mother and there are brothers. They are not referred to as her other children… anywhere.
There is a reason to consider them close relations but not children of Mary:
“Many women were there, watching from a distance. They had followed Jesus from Galilee to care for his needs. Among them were Mary Magdalene, Mary the mother of James and Joseph, and the mother of Zebedee’s sons… Mary Magdalene and the other Mary were sitting there opposite the tomb” (Matt 27:55-56, 61 NIV).
There is another Mary who is the mother of James and Joseph. This may identify these as more of a cousin relationship.
On the cross, our Lord gave his mother to John and John to His mother. We see this as Him giving her to all of us as we are the body of Christ and she is the mother of His body. John took her into his home. This last part is not spiritual. It would be quite awkward for John to take her as his literal mother into his home if she has other children besides Jesus. What Jesus does on the cross isn’t to clean up His earthly affairs. All of it is done with deep theological meaning and in fulfillment of prophecy.
We have great respect for Scripture. What you miss is that Scripture could be likened to the Constitution in our country. It doesn’t cover every aspect of life. It isn’t a catechism of faith. It sets a framework for the work of the Church. The Church may not contradict Scripture but the Kingdom would be without guidance if the Church wasn’t there to govern. Over 100 times, Scripture references the Church. At no time does the Bible describe itself as the fullness of truth… but it does describe the Church that way (see below). Nowhere does our Lord tell us He brought Bibles for us to read. Scripture very clearly records that He gave us His Church (Matt 16:18).
Like the Constitution with our own government, Scripture empowers the Church to preach, teach, and govern the Kingdom in this world (Matt 18:17). In that empowerment, the Church relies on the Deposit of Faith (Tradition) given by Christ before His Ascension to read Scripture in context and She teaches through the Magisterium of Her ministers.
The Apostles were appointed to teach, preach, and govern and their mission extends through their successors in the Church (Acts 1:24-26). Like all Scripture, it began with teaching and tradition. Much was written down. Some was canonized into the Bible as we know it. All is edifying under the direction and guidance of the Church (Matt 18:18). However, the Bible itself proclaims its incompleteness (John 21:25). In many ways, the Bible shows its intent to empower the Church.
1 Tim 3:15 “… if I am delayed, you will know how people ought to conduct themselves in God’s household, which is the church of the living God, the pillar and foundation of the truth.”
1 Cor 11:2 “I praise you for remembering me in everything and for holding to the traditions just as I passed them on to you.”
2 Thess 2:15 “So then, brothers and sisters, stand firm and hold fast to the teachings we passed on to you, whether by word of mouth or by letter.”
2 Thess 3:6 “In the name of the Lord Jesus Christ, we command you, brothers and sisters, to keep away from every believer who is idle and disruptive and does not live according to the teaching you received from us.”
We come to this conversation from differing schools of Christian thought. Don’t think, though, that my thoughts are outside of biblical teaching simply because they conflict with those who conflict with 2000 years of Church teaching. I don’t lean to my own understanding (Prov 3:5) but learn at the feet of those who have come before me.
From my relative:
At long last, I am finally getting around to responding to your comments below. I’m really sorry it has taken me so long to do this. I wanted to keep your comments attached to my response, so you can remember what you said. And you are quite profound and well-studied in your thoughts. Even in reading some of your more recent blogs, I am quite aware that you do know your Bible.
As a side note, I have just begun reading a David Limbaugh book to [my husband], THE EMMAUS CODE, which promises to be a good read. David is/was the brother of Rush Limbaugh. David and Rush talked a lot about Christianity. I often think of my brother’s comment about always wanting to meet Rush Limbaugh because he admired him — I think they have met now.😇
I am aware of the twenty-four thrones in Heaven that surround Jesus’ throne. (Rev. 4:4) It also mentions that “seated on these thrones are 24 elders.” I used to think that 12 of the thrones would represent each of the 12 tribes of Israel, and the other 12 would be reserved for the Apostles. Now I’m thinking that there will be 12 Patriarchs from the Old Testament (like Abraham, Moses, David and some of the prophets too, like Daniel, Isaiah and Jeremiah.) The other 12 would represent the greatest of the New Testament saints, but definitely John, Peter and Paul would be there.
Regarding the issue of whether Jesus had half-siblings … I am going to send a sermon to you from the pastor at [my daughter’s] church, who gave a great Christmas message on this very topic — about Mary’s first-born Son. Please listen to his explanation of how the Hebrew words for “only child” and “first child” are used.
When you read John 19:26,27 Jesus said to his mother Mary, “Dear woman, here is your son,” and to the disciple (John), “Here is your mother.” From that time on, this disciple took her into his home … Again, I would contend that this was an act of love on Jesus’ part. John was “the disciple whom Jesus loved,” the only one of the Apostles to stand at the foot of the cross that day. None of Jesus’ brothers were there because they did not yet believe who Jesus really was (John 7:5) — kind of like the jealousy all of Joseph’s brothers felt for him in Genesis, Chapter 37. I think that Jesus knew the heartache Mary would suffer, and that John would be the best person for her to lean on, rely on, who would most understand her suffering — which would turn to such joy upon His resurrection. When He walked this earth, the two people Jesus loved most of all were Mary, His mother, and John the Apostle. And like I said earlier, John was the only disciple who was not martyred … Both James and Jude (Judas), the writers of those Epistles, are believed to be the brothers of Jesus. They did believe who Jesus was after His resurrection. I Cor. 15:7 notes that Jesus appeared to James, according to Paul. James also was martyred. This James was not an Apostle, but became to be known as “James the Just.”
I understand that you think of Scripture like the Constitution (a framework), but don’t sell it short. Scripture is the foundation of the Church — Christ’s Church. There are so many lessons to be learned: how to please God, what angers God, who God is, how to live as a Christian, how much God loves us, etc. John 21:25 isn’t saying that the Bible is incomplete. He is saying that “Jesus did many other things as well.” Volumes could be written about Jesus in the flesh. We are to look to Jesus as our example of how we should live a life pleasing to God.
You are right that we are coming from differing backgrounds. My faith comes from the Bible’s teachings and yours comes from the Church’s teachings. Perhaps we can learn from each other — or at least “agree to disagree” on certain topics. It is our love for the Triune God that binds us together now and for all eternity.
Sermon to follow this note to you. You are such a special [family member] and I love you!
I love you and I understand that this area is a significant sticking point between our perspectives of the Kingdom. In my response, please know that I have the utmost respect for you and would never belittle your great faith. I’m enjoying our conversation and I don’t want an email to convey otherwise. You know I believe in the Apostolic succession but I also recognize that Christ’s Kingdom is greater than our understanding (Mark 9:38-41 & Luke 11:23 & John 10:16).
As with most things controversial between Christians, the answer to our disagreement comes down to authority. Who has the authority to teach and what have they taught? I look to Scripture and I see the Church (1 Tim 3:15)—founded and empowered by Christ. He formed it on the Apostles with Peter at the center as a rock of mooring (Matt 16:18). As Christ said, the greatest among them must serve the others (Matt 23:11). He called Peter specifically into this role after the Resurrection (John 21:15-17). He was the one who generally spoke for the others (Acts 2 and others). This central authority has been key to holding firm to foundational truth and expounding on those truths through the ages. You can see where many churches are failing today to hold firm to truth!
From the beginning of the Church founded by Christ, the Apostles have taught the faith as handed down to them (we call it the Deposit of Faith—”Capital T” Tradition). Before there was NT Scripture, there was the teaching of the Apostles. Where they went, they didn’t bring a book to read, they brought the Tradition of the Church (2 Thess 2:15, 1 Cor 11:2, and others). They wrote to the churches to keep them in line with their teachings. The Epistles are an expression of the central authority of the Church—correcting errors and encouraging faith. We have NT Scripture because it was written by the Apostles and handed down by the Church. The Church didn’t come from Scripture—Scripture came from the Church.
As such, I don’t lean to my own understanding (Prov 3:5-6, Acts 8:31, 2 Peter 1:20) but simply trust what Christ is building in His Church (Matt 16:18). What I write and share is the wisdom of the Church, not my own. My purpose in writing is sharing the truths of the Church. I recognize that you also don’t lean to your own understanding… but those who preach against the wisdom of the Church do (as with your video). Before the Protestant Reformation (starting in 1517) and the Great Schism of 1054, there was one Church—my writing and theology are in line with the teaching of this one Church. Could modern Protestants go back in time and find agreement with this Church? No. They would find their ideas against Church teaching condemned by early councils and the likes of St Irenaeus, St John Chrysostom, St Augustine, and St Thomas Aquinas.
When it comes to the perpetual virginity of Mary, I learn from those saints mentioned above (among others)…
St Irenaeus (Against Heresies): In accordance with this design, Mary the Virgin is found obedient, saying, “Behold the handmaid of the Lord; be it unto me according to your word.” Luke 1:38 But Eve was disobedient; for she did not obey when as yet she was a virgin. And even as she, having indeed a husband, Adam, but being nevertheless as yet a virgin (for in Paradise “they were both naked, and were not ashamed,” Genesis 2:25 inasmuch as they, having been created a short time previously, had no understanding of the procreation of children: for it was necessary that they should first come to adult age, and then multiply from that time onward), having become disobedient, was made the cause of death, both to herself and to the entire human race; so also did Mary, having a man betrothed [to her], and being nevertheless a virgin, by yielding obedience, become the cause of salvation, both to herself and the whole human race. And on this account does the law term a woman betrothed to a man, the wife of him who had betrothed her, although she was as yet a virgin; thus indicating the back-reference from Mary to Eve, because what is joined together could not otherwise be put asunder than by inversion of the process by which these bonds of union had arisen; so that the former ties be cancelled by the latter, that the latter may set the former again at liberty.
St John Chrysostom (The Mother of God): The blessed Mary, ever a Virgin, dearest brethren, was in truth a great wonder. For what greater or more wonderful one has ever at any time been discovered, or can at any time be discovered? She alone is greater far than heaven and earth. What is holier than she? Not the prophets, not the apostles, not the martyrs, not the patriarchs, not the angels, not the thrones, not the dominations, not the seraphim, not the cherubim; in truth no creature whatever, whether visible or invisible, is to be found greater or more excellent than she. She is at once the handmaid of God, and his mother; at once a Virgin and a parent.
St Augustine (sermon): “Not the visible sun, but the invisible Creator of the sun has consecrated this day on which the Virgin, a true but inviolate Mother, gave birth to Him who became visible for our sake and by whom she herself was created. A virgin conceives, yet remains a virgin: a virgin is heavy with child; a virgin brings forth her child, yet she is always a virgin. Why are you amazed at this, O man? It was fitting for God to be born thus when He deigned to become man.”
St Thomas Aquinas (Summa Theologiae): It is written (Ezekiel 44:2): “This gate shall be shut, it shall not be opened, and no man shall pass through it; because the Lord the God of Israel hath entered in by it.” Expounding these words, Augustine says in a sermon (De Annunt. Dom. iii): “What means this closed gate in the House of the Lord, except that Mary is to be ever inviolate? What does it mean that ‘no man shall pass through it,’ save that Joseph shall not know her? And what is this—’The Lord alone enters in and goeth out by it’—except that the Holy Ghost shall impregnate her, and that the Lord of angels shall be born of her? And what means this—’it shall be shut for evermore’—but that Mary is a virgin before His Birth, a virgin in His Birth, and a virgin after His Birth?”
(More here… [I linked to this section of the Summa Theologiae. I highly recommend perusing it: https://www.newadvent.org/summa/4028.htm%5D)
I know there are many preachers in the world who present their understanding of Scripture authoritatively and convincingly. The problem with them is the diversity of opinion between them! The practice of private interpretation has sown division and disunity—the opposite of what Christ prayed for us (John 17:20-23). Many leave the Church because the clergy are sinful men. Yes… but did they find any other type of men elsewhere? Their ministry didn’t make them other than human… it just gave them more authority… and more condemnation in failure. They need our prayers, not abandonment.
I don’t share these things to convert you to my way of thinking. I share them so you can see that I don’t lean to my own understanding. I come to the Church founded and empowered by Christ to find the truth given by Him and reminded by the Spirit down through the ages (John 14:26).
May God bless you now and always.
More from my relative:
One last comment, Patrick … “The Church didn’t come from Scripture — Scripture came from the Church.”
Scripture did exist before the Church began. The Jews had the entirety of the Old Testament (as time went forward) which Jesus referenced often. Think of Jesus talking with the Jewish Elders while still a young boy. And then on the road to Emmaus after His resurrection, He opened the treasures of Old Testament to the two men who were walking with Him. The purpose of the Old Testament was to be the foundation for the New Testament. Throughout the Old Testament, we see glimpses of Jesus, with many prophecies regarding His birth and death — all of which He fulfilled specifically — which validates the importance of the Bible. Jesus was not a created being but he was fully God, existing forever, both before and after His earthly life. The Bible is not only a history of the Jews, it is “His-story.” The Bible is Jesus’ story.
The Old Testament points us toward Jesus and the Cross. The New Testament points us to Jesus as the God-man who came to fulfill the promise of God for a Redeemer who would restore man’s broken relationship with God the Father. Jesus is the personification of God the Father: “If you have seen Me, you have seen the Father.”
When the Apostles were preaching, they were eye witnesses to who Jesus was, everything he said and did. That filling of the Holy Spirit on Pentecost is the passion that drove them to spread the Gospel. All of the writings of the Gospel and the Epistles were God-breathed. Everything that is written in the Bible is exactly what God wants us to know about Him. I take very seriously those last few verses at the end of Revelation which are a warning not to add to His words. (Rev. 22:18,19)
Again, no disrespect intended. I appreciate the sharing of our beliefs. It is a learning experience for both of us.
Is there anything in my writing to suggest I didn’t know Scripture existed before Christ walked among us and gave us His Church? Throughout my writing, I quote OT Scripture and how it has been fulfilled in the New Testament. In your quote of me, I was speaking of NT Scripture.
My quote: “We have NT Scripture because it was written by the Apostles and handed down by the Church. The Church didn’t come from Scripture—Scripture came from the Church.”
When Jesus commissioned the Apostles, they were sent to teach and baptize…
Then Jesus approached and said to them, “All power in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Go, therefore, and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you” (Matt 28:18-20).
They weren’t told to write and publish. They weren’t sent with copies of texts. They came with their own testimony. They preached and taught from their own experience of Christ. And the Church flourished. All before there was a canon of NT Scripture.
Before there was NT Scripture, there was the Church.
Now, it goes a little deeper than that. The authority of the Church is to identify Scripture as well—testing all things (1 Thess 5:21). When the Bible Canon was compiled, OT Scripture was changed a little. They had the authority to do it. They separated books from original works. The Bible is a library, not a single title. These changes are reflected in the Bible you and I both read. There’s a good chart here (https://catholic-resources.org/Bible/Heb-Xn-Bibles.htm) showing the differences between Jewish Scripture and what we know as the Old Testament.
This article (https://www.christianitytoday.com/history/2017/october/most-dangerous-thing-luther-did.html) gives a good history of Bible translation. The author seems proud of this history—not seeing in his own scholarly work the splintering of faith as there are now nearly 1,000 differing translations of the Bible. In their differences can they all be inerrant?
It is good that the Bible is no longer chained in churches nor present in only the homes of the elite of society. However, it wasn’t the Protestant reformers who made it possible to disseminate the Bible… it was Gutenberg and his printing press. Just about the time of Luthor, it became possible to mass-produce manuscripts. Prior to this they were done by hand—usually by monks—as lifelong works of devotion. It wasn’t possible to produce enough Bibles for the masses prior to the Reformation. Afterward, it became a tool for spreading into private hands that which should not be privately interpreted (2 Peter 1:20).
Without the Protestant Reformation it is likely the Church would have eventually made use of mass-production methods. In doing so, they would have had to include a compendium or catechism to explain Church teaching (as we have today and I reference in my book). In beating the Church to it, the Reformation was able to spread doubt and confusion… tools the devil has used to divide Christendom.
All of this didn’t change the words within the books, though—except as interpreted differently by differing interpreters. That isn’t within the authority of the Church. The Church can recognize the voice of God in the Word but not change the Word as it was written. There is someone who did that, though. Martin Luthor. There is one place in the Bible where you can find the words “faith alone” and that is in James 2:24. Here it is stated that man is not justified by faith alone. That didn’t sit well with Martin Luthor. He had another view. He added the word “alone” to Romans 3:28 to justify his interpretation of Sola Fide. He didn’t stop there. Recognizing the contradiction with James, he also sought to remove James from the Bible entirely. Reference: https://www.catholic.com/magazine/online-edition/when-faith-alone-meets-scripture-alone.
I believe in the inerrant word of God. However, if it is to be unifying, we must agree on a translation and an authority for interpretation. Lacking that, mass production of the Bible and private interpretation has been one of the most divisive processes in history—even as it has been helpful to the faith of many.
From my relative:
Thank you for all the effort you put into your response.
I want to ask you just one question, hoping for a short and concise response: In your viewpoint, what must a person do to have the assurance of eternal life?
Short answer: Trust in God.
But there is a longer answer because trust depends on our station in life. In our living, trust means doing as He commands. At our dying, it means trusting in His mercy.
Our Lord taught us how to live. He gave us beatitudes to understand the fruit of the Spirit. He told us to fast, give alms, and pray to resist temptation. He commissioned His Apostles to preach, teach, and baptize. They gave us the sacraments for living as part of His family in this valley of tears. There is a purpose to all of it. Dying is easy. Living is harder.
The thief on the cross didn’t have time to live… only die. He didn’t have time to be baptized or even hear the words of our Lord, let alone put them into practice. He didn’t make a profession of faith or recite a creed. He didn’t even die as a martyr for the faith—he was condemned for his actual crimes. He simply trusted in Jesus and our Lord welcomed Him.
Faith comes by hearing and hearing of the word of God (Rom 10:17). In order for someone to come to faith, they must first hear the truth. Faith is a free gift of God, but each believer is tasked with sharing that gift. Once convicted in faith we repent and are born again in Baptism. We live our faith and offer ourselves in sacrificial love for God and those He loves. The longer we have to accomplish this, the greater the need for sacrifice.
I think this parable calls this out well…
“The kingdom of heaven is like a landowner who went out at dawn to hire laborers for his vineyard. After agreeing with them for the usual daily wage, he sent them into his vineyard. Going out about nine o’clock, he saw others standing idle in the marketplace, and he said to them, ‘You too go into my vineyard, and I will give you what is just.’ So they went off. [And] he went out again around noon, and around three o’clock, and did likewise. Going out about five o’clock, he found others standing around, and said to them, ‘Why do you stand here idle all day?’ They answered, ‘Because no one has hired us.’ He said to them, ‘You too go into my vineyard.’ When it was evening the owner of the vineyard said to his foreman, ‘Summon the laborers and give them their pay, beginning with the last and ending with the first.’ When those who had started about five o’clock came, each received the usual daily wage. So when the first came, they thought that they would receive more, but each of them also got the usual wage. And on receiving it they grumbled against the landowner, saying, ‘These last ones worked only one hour, and you have made them equal to us, who bore the day’s burden and the heat.’ He said to one of them in reply, ‘My friend, I am not cheating you. Did you not agree with me for the usual daily wage? Take what is yours and go. What if I wish to give this last one the same as you? [Or] am I not free to do as I wish with my own money? Are you envious because I am generous?’ Thus, the last will be first, and the first will be last” (Matt 20:1-16)
The thief on the cross is like the laborers hired at the end of the day. He received the same wage (which is inheritance as sons, not wages for work) as those able to work for 100 years in this world. There is no delineation of pay because there is no delineation of relationship. Each is adopted into the family of God and enjoys the same reward—inheritance. It would be a poor laborer who was hired at the beginning of the day and did no work that day. Work for the Kingdom is part of our calling because there is work to be done and time to do it. Adam’s first calling was to work in the Garden of Eden (Gen 2:15).
To whom much is given, much will be required (Luke 12:48)—including time. Those with time on their hands have work to do with time to accomplish it. Those who trust without time to work are also welcomed as sons and daughters. The greater the time, the greater the expectation of work.
God bless you.