Saturday, March 04, 2006

Was Mary Ignorant About Who Jesus Was? Reply to a Misguided "Biblical" Argument

[originally uploaded on 8 January 2002]

Response to a Catholic woman who wrote, asking how to answer her Protestant brother. Her words are reproduced with her permission, and will be in green.

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Hi. I am sorry I did not do justice to my question regarding Mary. It is in Mark Chapter 3 starting at verse 20 when Jesus is with the scribes, and then verse 31 is where it states Mary and his brothers arrived.

Okay; I looked at it, thanks.

My brother states Mary, because she went to check on Jesus, did not know completely what was Jesus' mission. My statement to my brother was [that] of course a mother would go check on their child if everyone said he was acting strangely. That does not mean she did not know who Jesus truly was. It only meant she wanted to be with him.

I have several responses to this. First of all, it is not at all clear that Mary is included among those "family" who were doubting Jesus (insofar as the doubt goes; she came, yes, but it is not stated or implied that she doubted or was puzzled). We know that some doubted and disbelieved, because we are informed of that in inspired Holy Scripture, and Jesus said that "a prophet is without honor in his home town." But all it says in Mk 3:31 is that "his mother and his brothers came . . . and called him." We can't determine simply from that, that Mary agreed with the negative appraisals.

It is, therefore, an argument from silence. She may have gone out of concern (for any number of reasons), but to conclude, then, that she was puzzled about Jesus or His mission, is not at all warranted from the text (thus an example of what is called "eisegesis" or reading our own preconceived biases into the biblical text).

As for Mary's knowledge of Jesus' mission and identity, that was all taken care of before He was born: at the Annunciation, which every Protestant celebrates at Christmas, along with Catholics and Orthodox. It's called "the Christmas story." I even knew this as a child (because of Christmas, of course), and I was exceedingly ignorant of theology in those days. The Blessed Virgin Mary knew that Jesus was the Messiah, and God the Son, at that time, right from the words of the angel Gabriel (see Luke 1:26-35). Presumably, Protestants would wholeheartedly agree with us that this is a sufficiently authoritative pronouncement and revelation (though at least one seems to have completely forgotten it).

Furthermore, Mary's knowledge was - shall we say - "confirmed" when she visited Elizabeth, mother of John the Baptist, who called her the "mother of my Lord" (Lk 1:43). Right after that passage, we see Mary praising God in the famous Magnificat (Lk 1:46-55). For what? Well, obviously, because she was to be the mother of the Son of God, the Messiah, God the Son, God incarnate, which is precisely why she has been called "blessed" (Lk 1:48, the Rosary, etc.). She quite obviously knew all this, but it is surprising and shocking to me that a Protestant is so unfamiliar with his Bible as to not know it. It is spelled out as clear as it could be, it seems to me. What more could anyone require, or ask for, as a proof?

Even beyond that (which would be quite enough itself), we have the words of Simeon, about the Messiah (God told him that Jesus was the Messiah); he spoke to Joseph and Mary when they presented Jesus in the Temple (Lk 2:22-35). Now, of course, the critical type of Protestant, inclined to disparage Mary's role, will immediately point out (I know, because I probably would have done this myself, in my Protestant days) that Mary and Joseph were "amazed" at these words (2:33), but that could just as easily refer to their amazement that Simeon had this knowledge and word from the Lord, not the content of his message.

One must compare Scripture with Scripture in a harmonious fashion (which is what I am doing). If Scripture tells us that they had this knowledge already but were amazed at hearing it, as if it were something new, that would be an absurdity and contradiction; therefore, my interpretation of the passage must be taken, lest the inspired Bible contradict itself.

The prophetess Anna also appeared in the Temple at that time and spoke about Jesus' messianic mission (1:36-38). So not only did Mary and Joseph know full well Who Jesus was; so would all who heard (and believed) her words, or Simeon's.

And that's not even mentioning the preaching of John the Baptist and the knowledge of the Three Wise Men (Matthew 2:1-6,9-11). Their knowledge that Jesus was Messiah was precisely what caused Herod to try to kill all the infants, so as to kill the Messiah, Jesus, among them (Matthew 2:7-8,16-18). Lastly, Joseph was told by "an angel of the Lord" in a dream Who Jesus was, that "he will save his people from their sins" and that one of His names would be "Emmanuel, which means 'God is with us' " (Matthew 1:18-25).

Yet we are somehow, weirdly, led to believe that Mary -- the very one whom an angel visited, to announce the Virgin Birth and Incarnation - did not know what many others already knew either before or soon after Jesus' birth? That her celebrated "yes" or "fiat" to the angel's glorious announcement (Lk 1:38) was made without having the slightest idea of what she was consenting to??? Odd, beyond strange, almost bizarre or surreal in its sheer implausibility . . . .

That's an incredible amount of indisputable biblical information about the knowledge of both Joseph and Mary (as well as select others in the community) as to the divinity of Jesus, yet some Protestants possess the curious capability of deliberately ignoring or being ignorant of all this because of one or two alleged anti-Marian "proof text" passages that they falsely think show that Mary didn't have a clue about her Son Jesus and His mission. I think that such critics ought to take into account all the above biblical data, and compare Scripture with Scripture, rather than taking one isolated "proof text" and claining that it proves something contradicted numerous times elsewhere in Holy Scripture.

What I wanted to know was my response correct or is there another meaning to the passage?

I think you hit upon the aspect that it is an argument from silence, and that the text does not "prove" what he contends. So you did well. I merely made the argument a bit stronger. :-)

Show all this to your brother. I would love to hear his response, and if he thinks he can continue to make this point and overcome all of this Bible teaching, by all means, tell him to write to me to continue the discussion, all to be uploaded to my website for readers to determine who is accepting all of the biblical teaching, and not only selective parts.

You gotta love biblical truth! I've always found that the Bible is clear when it comes to refuting things like this, as in the present instance, praise be to God.

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