I wrote these series of articles (see menu sidebar to the left) as a Catholic for Catholics, but I no longer accept Catholic teaching as the authoritative source of truth.I have not attempted to align these articles with my current views.

Protestant anti-Catholicsoften claim the Marian doctrines are not in the Bible — but they are in the Bible.

This article references the many significant passages about Mary in the Bible relating to the particular Catholic Marian doctrines.

When we look at what the words of the Bible say concerning Mary, we find that the essence of the Marian doctrines are contained in the Bible and these interpretations cannot be easily explained away.

   Mary, Mother of God


Index

Introduction
Genesis
Revelation
Finding in the Temple
Water Into Wine
John Adopts Mary
Elizabeth's Prophecy
Magnificat
Hail Mary, Full of Grace
Birth of the Church
Mother and Brothers
Mary and Jesus
Mary and Joseph
Mary Ponders
Simeon's Prophecy
Mary's Devotion
Honor Father and Mother
Eve
Attitudes About Mary
Attitudes About Jesus
Early Church Fathers

Introduction


For many Protestants, the Catholic doctrines concerning Mary are shocking and horrifying. They consider these doctrines as having no biblical support. But actually the Marian doctrines do have biblical support.

Protestant anti-Catholicsoften claim that (1) the essential doctrines of the Christian faith are clearly taught in the Bible, and (2) that the Marian doctrines are not biblical at all. But they are mistaken on both counts.

  1. Essential Christian doctrines clearly taught in the Bible?  They are not so clear after all. For example, consider the doctrine of the deity of Christ. There is no biblical passage that unambiguously and emphatically states that Christ is deity. Even from the first generation of the church there were those who taught that Jesus was not deity and they often based this claim on the Bible. It took centuries for the church leaders to develop this doctrine and declare opposing views as heretical.

  2. No biblical support for Catholic Marian doctrines?  At the same time that the church leaders were developing the doctrine of the deity of Christ, they were also discussing and writing about the Marian doctrines, and a tradition of devotion to Mary soon developed. These facts are often overlooked by Protestant anti-Catholics.(Read references from the Early Church Fathers.)

Just as the doctrines concerning Christ's deity are formulated using words and statements that are not specifically expressed in the Bible, the same is true of the Marian doctrines. And just as the seeds of the doctrines concerning Christ's deity are found in the Bible when properly interpreted, the same is true of the Marian doctrines.

The Marian doctrines of Catholicism are found in the Bible and are readily visible. But people can fail to notice the significance of these passages if they read them with previously developed, anti-Catholic ideas about Mary and her role in redemption history. I challenge you, the reader, to read the biblical passages as they are without assuming you already know what they say.

When we look at what the words of the Bible say concerning Mary, we find that the essence of the Marian doctrines are contained in the Bible and these interpretations cannot be easily explained away.


Genesis


And I will put enmity between thee and the woman, and between thy seed and her seed; it shall bruise thy head, and thou shalt bruise his heel. (Genesis 3:15)

Notice that the war is between those in Satan's kingdom of darkness (thy seed) and those in Christ's kingdom of light (her seed). But since the word her refers to Mary (because the word seed refers to Jesus) we must conclude that those in Christ's kingdom of light are spiritual children of Mary. We need to remember that Mary's role is a result of her being the mother of Jesus. She is our mother because of our mystical adoption into Christ's body, which is more than just a metaphor.

The phrase her seed refers to Christ and therefore the phrase the woman refers to Mary, His mother. In this passage notice that it is Mary who will be at enmity with Satan. Thus we see that Mary has a role in the divine plan of salvation.

Catholic doctrines represented:


Revelation


The passage of the woman and the dragon of Revelation chapter twelve is rich in imagery and symbolism. Rather than dismiss the images out of hand as incomprehensible, it is better to understand all the images as having significance. Certainly as the apostle John was writing the chapter he had all these images clearly in mind. The fact that he chose to express these truths in terms of familiar Old Testament images, other images familiar to the people of the time, as well as New Testament themes implies that we should understand his writings in terms of what those images convey.

Revelation Chapter twelve clearly makes reference to Mary, the mother of Jesus. We should see truths about her in this chapter. But that is not to say that we should do so to the exclusion of all the other images such as the woman representing Israel. This chapter means all these things simultaneously. We don't have to decide whether the woman is Mary or Israel for she is both.

And there appeared a great wonder in heaven; a woman [Mary] clothed with the sun, and the moon under her [Mary's] feet, and upon her [Mary's] head a crown of twelve stars: And she [Mary] being with child [Jesus] cried, travailing in birth, and pained to be delivered. (Revelation 12:1,2)

The dragon stood before the woman [Mary] which was ready to be delivered, for to devour her [Mary's] child [Jesus] as soon as it [Jesus] was born. (Revelation 12:4)

And she [Mary] brought forth a man child [Jesus], who was to rule all nations with a rod of iron: and her [Mary's] child [Jesus] was caught up unto God, and to his throne. And the woman [Mary] fled into the wilderness, where she [Mary] hath a place prepared of God, that they should feed her [Mary] there a thousand two hundred and threescore days. (Revelation 12:5,6)

And when the dragon saw that he was cast unto the earth, he persecuted the woman [Mary] which brought forth the man child [Jesus]. And to the woman [Mary] were given two wings of a great eagle, that she [Mary] might fly into the wilderness, into her [Mary's] place, where she [Mary] is nourished for a time, and times, and half a time, from the face of the serpent. And the serpent cast out of his mouth water as a flood after the woman [Mary], that he might cause her [Mary] to be carried away of the flood. And the earth helped the woman [Mary], and the earth opened her mouth, and swallowed up the flood which the dragon cast out of his mouth. And the dragon was wroth with the woman [Mary], and went to make war with the remnant of her [Mary's] seed, which keep the commandments of God, and have the testimony of Jesus Christ. (Revelation 12:13-17)

The child of the woman in this passage is clearly Christ and therefore the woman is Mary. This is not to say that there is no other symbolic meaning of the image of the woman because there clearly is. But there is certainly a literal sense as well.

The image of the crown on her head corresponds to the Catholic doctrine of the coronation of Mary as Queen of Heaven after her assumption into heaven.

Certain of the images are from Joseph's dream:

And he dreamed yet another dream, and told it his brethren, and said, Behold, I have dreamed a dream more; and, behold, the sun and the moon and the eleven stars made obeisance to me. (Genesis 37:9)

In looking at this passage from Genesis closely we see that it is very different than the passage in Revelation chapter twelve. In the Genesis passage the sun, moon and stars represent Joseph's father, mother and brothers. But in the Revelation passage Mary is clothed with the sun, has the moon under her feet, and a crown of twelve stars on her head. This provides the basis of the Catholic doctrine of Mary's role as queen of heaven.

The time period of three and a half years refers to the famine in the time of Elijah which was a punishment from God for Israel's hardness of heart.

But I tell you of a truth, many widows were in Israel in the days of Elias, when the heaven was shut up three years and six months, when great famine was throughout all the land; But unto none of them was Elias sent, save unto Sarepta, a city of Sidon, unto a woman that was a widow. (Luke 4:25,26)

In the passage in Revelation chapter twelve the dragon makes war with the remnant of the seed of the woman; in other words with the church who, as members of the body of Christ, are also the seed of the woman.

Catholic doctrines represented:


Finding in the Temple


And when they saw him, they were amazed: and his mother said unto him, Son, why hast thou thus dealt with us? behold, thy father and I have sought thee sorrowing. And he said unto them, How is it that ye sought me? wist ye not that I must be about my Father's business? And they understood not the saying which he spake unto them. And he went down with them, and came to Nazareth, and was subject unto them: but his mother kept all these sayings in her heart. (Luke 2:48-51)

The significant phrases in this passage:

The basic assumptions about this story by many Protestants (Note: I am exaggerating for emphasis):

But since Jesus is God incarnate, neither of these assumptions are true. Instead, I propose the following:

  1. Jesus was accidentally left behind through no fault of his or of his parents, Mary and Joseph. There was some sort of miscommunication in the confusion of a caravan. Mary and Joseph each thought he was with someone else.
  2. It is remarkable that Jesus went to the temple to be with the rabbis, priests and teachers. For a twelve year old boy this especially demonstrates His saintly character.
  3. After spending several days conversing with them, Jesus was likely speaking the way they spoke when he finally saw his parents. So by calling attention to the fact that he was in His Father's house (the temple) instead of using his freedom to get into mischief, he was telling them something about who he was. He also probably assumed that the temple was the first place they would look for him if they really knew him. So in a sense he was gently chiding them for their imperfect spiritual discernment.

This passage is significant for Catholic Marian doctrine in several ways:

  1. Mary kept His sayings in her heart — She was a disciple of her own son, Jesus. She took in the lessons to be learned from this incident and made them a part of her life. Mary was the first disciple of Jesus and interacted with Him ten times longer (30 years compared to 3 years) than the twelve disciples.
  2. They understood not the saying which He spake unto them — This was also true of the twelve disciples. Yet Mary made Jesus' sayings an object of meditation and reflection and she was certainly a pillar of wisdom about Jesus just as the apostles were. The fact that she was among them in the upper room after Jesus' ascension was surely very significant — what stories she could share with them about Jesus.
  3. Son, why have you done this to us? — Why does Mary say that Jesus did this? Aren't the parents the ones who are responsible for keeping track of their son, Jesus? This statement by Mary indicates that she already knew that Jesus was God and related to Him as such.

Thus in this story we see the seeds of Marian devotion and veneration in which Catholics look to Mary as an example of wisdom and holiness and seek to be like her in their love and devotion to her son, Jesus.

The phrase that Jesus was subject to them reminds us that as the body of Christ we should be subject to them also and we should honor Jesus' parents just as He did.

Catholic doctrines represented:


Water Into Wine


Mary initiates this miracle based on her perception of a social need. And note that the need was not for healing but, rather, so that people who had already had plenty to drink could drink more in the context of a wedding feast.

And when they wanted wine, the mother of Jesus saith unto him, They have no wine. Jesus saith unto her, Woman, what have I to do with thee? mine hour is not yet come. His mother saith unto the servants, Whatsoever he saith unto you, do it. (John 2:3-5) This beginning of miracles did Jesus in Cana of Galilee, and manifested forth his glory; and his disciples believed on him. (John 2:11)

Regarding the phrase, What have I to do with thee [Mary]?: It is common for non-Catholics to interpret this question of Jesus in a negative light as if Jesus were a bratty child showing disrespect for His mother. But since Jesus is sinless He would not behave this way. Many Protestants interpret Jesus' comment to His mother as if He were a disrespectful, bratty son. But, as we saw in the passage about finding Jesus in the temple, this simply couldn't be true.

In this story Mary initiates Jesus' miracle in several ways:

  1. She alerts Him to a need.
  2. It is a social need necessary for social protocol — it doesn't concern anything as significant as someone needing healing or exorcism. In short, it is a family or community issue. Thus Jesus' first miracle is performed at the request of His mother to avoid a family embarrassment. Mary therefore sets the tone for Jesus' ministry as one of restoring the lost back into the family of God.
  3. Jesus does not hesitate to respond favorably to Mary's request. His subsequent comments to her are not His vain attempts to refuse to honor her request but, rather, are for the purpose of teaching.

Comments on words and phrases:

How did she know Jesus could honor her request? She was His first and most devoted disciple and knew who He was.

Why did they run out of wine? They were six jars short which represents a lot of people. Perhaps Mary invited all the extra people including the twelve disciples and likely many other followers of Jesus. She would feel a special responsibility to see that they were all taken care of. It is instructive how she solved the problem — she merely mentioned the situation to Jesus in faith that He would somehow take care of it.

My hour is not yet come — By launching Jesus into His role as a miracle-worker she is also inevitably leading Him to His death on the cross. He reminds her that what she was asking would result in His sacrificial death. Decades earlier Mary had learned about what would someday happen (read more).

Catholic doctrines represented:


John Adopts Mary


When Jesus therefore saw his mother, and the disciple standing by, whom he loved, he saith unto his mother, Woman, behold thy son! Then saith he to the disciple, Behold thy mother! And from that hour that disciple took her unto his own home. (John 19:26,27)

This story provides evidence that Jesus had no blood brothers. It seems that Jesus was providing for His mother's care after His death and selected John for this. But if Mary had other male children we would expect them to look after her instead.

Catholic doctrines represented:


Elizabeth's Prophecy


And she spake out with a loud voice, and said, Blessed art thou among women, and blessed is the fruit of thy womb. And whence is this to me, that the mother of my Lord should come to me? (Luke 1:42,43)

Catholic doctrines represented:


Magnificat


And Mary said, My soul doth magnify the Lord, And my spirit hath rejoiced in God my Saviour. For he hath regarded the low estate of his handmaiden: for, behold, from henceforth all generations shall call me blessed. For he that is mighty hath done to me great things; and holy is his name. (Luke 1:46-49)

Mary prophecies that all generations will call her blessed. Certainly Catholics do this in their devotion to Mary. In the beatitudes (Matthew 5:3-11) the redeemed are referred to as blessed and certainly Mary is blessed along with those. But taken at face value, Mary's prophecy that all generations will call her blessed seems to express that special honor will be given to her. Protestant anti-Catholicstypically de-emphasize the significance of this verse but this is based on a bias against devotion to Mary, not on an honest reading of the biblical text.

An additional point: If all generations will call Mary blessed then she must be alive in heaven and able to intercede for us.

Catholic doctrines represented:


Hail Mary, Full of Grace


And the angel came in unto her, and said, Hail, thou that art highly favoured, the Lord is with thee: blessed art thou among women. (Luke 1:28) And the angel said unto her, Fear not, Mary: for thou hast found favour with God. (Luke 1:30) Then said Mary unto the angel, How shall this be, seeing I know not a man? And the angel answered and said unto her, The Holy Ghost shall come upon thee, and the power of the Highest shall overshadow thee: therefore also that holy thing which shall be born of thee shall be called the Son of God. (Luke 1:34,35) And Mary said, Behold the handmaid of the Lord; be it unto me according to thy word. . . . (Luke 1:38)

Various translations of the phrase "Hail Mary, full of grace" in Luke 1:28:

Hail, thou that art highly favoured KJV

Hail, full of grace RSV

Hail, favored one NAB

Greetings, you who are highly favored! NIV

Greetings, favored one! NRSV

Rejoice, highly favored one NKJV

The phrase Hail Mary, full of grace supports the Catholic view that Mary had a special grace from God of sinlessness. This idea is horrifying to fundamentalist evangelical Protestants because they have accepted Martin Luther and John Calvin's false views concerning the total depravity of man. But how can Mary have sin if she is "full of grace?"

From the Catholic view of justification, in baptism a person is made righteous and capable of not sinning (except for small venial sins). God gave this same grace to Mary and also protected her from concupiscence (inclination to sin) which is one of the results of original sin. For believers sin is finally removed at death, but this grace was given to Mary in advance so that she would be a suitable vessel for Jesus, the Son of God. Why would God take up residence in an unholy vessel?

Consider the great lengths the Old Testament priests went through to consecrate the mercy seat of the holy of holies to make it suitable for God's presence. Certainly the unborn Jesus would also require a consecrated and sinless vessel. Just as the Old Testament tabernacle with its Mercy Seat of the Ark of the Covenant was the dwelling place of the presence of God; so also God took up residence within Mary, who is the Ark of the New Covenant.

Catholic doctrines represented:


Birth of the Church


These all continued with one accord in prayer and supplication, with the women, and Mary the mother of Jesus, and with his brethren. (Acts 1:14)

Mary was among those who were prayerfully awaiting the descent of the Holy Spirit and the birth of the Church. What amazing stories she must have told about Jesus growing up and as a young man. Certainly she has had an enduring influence on the character of the church and she is a reminder that redemption is, after all, our adoption into God's family.

Catholic doctrines represented:


Mother and Brothers


Then one said unto him, Behold, thy mother and thy brethren stand without, desiring to speak with thee. But he answered and said unto him that told him, Who is my mother? and who are my brethren? And he stretched forth his hand toward his disciples, and said, Behold my mother and my brethren! For whosoever shall do the will of my Father which is in heaven, the same is my brother, and sister, and mother. (Matthew 12:47-50)

It is common for Protestant anti-Catholicsto use this passage to demonstrate that Jesus, Himself, did not have a very high regard for Mary and that, therefore, neither should we. But in coming to this conclusion they also inadvertently make Jesus out to be a brash and disrespectful son. But since Jesus is deity He would certainly be perfect in His following of the Old Testament commandment to honor thy father and mother. So in this passage He is not dishonoring Mary but, rather, He is honoring her. Viewed from this perspective this passage supports the Catholic view of devotion to Mary and to the Saints.

Jesus takes the honor and love that we naturally exhibit to close family members and includes those who live holy, exemplary, godly lives as worthy of the same familial affection. Thus He declares that Mary and the Saints are all joined together with us believers here on earth into a holy family of God with Mary as our mother and the Saints as our brethren. This is exactly the Catholic view of redemption, that it is an adoption into God's family. Just as we are called to honor our father and mother so we are to honor Mary. And just as we are to love our neighbor so we are to love those who do the will of my [Jesus'] Father which includes us on earth as well as those who have gone to be with God in heaven.

Notice that in this passage Jesus doesn't mention His earthly father, Joseph. He singles out Mary as His mother, but not Joseph, his father. Once again we see that Mary is given special honor by Jesus.

Some use the reference in this passage to "brethren" to support the idea that Mary had other children besides Jesus. But the word "brethren" doesn't require this interpretation.

Catholic doctrines represented:


Mary and Jesus


And when they were come into the house, they saw the young child with Mary his mother, and fell down, and worshipped him: and when they had opened their treasures, they presented unto him gifts; gold, and frankincense, and myrrh. (Matthew 2:11)

The Magi worship Jesus in the presence of Mary. This is the basis for devotion to Mary. When we worship Jesus we do so in the presence of Mary. As deity, every event of the life of Jesus transcends time and space. Thus, Jesus is eternally in Mary's arms and we can worship Him in that context. We cannot separate Jesus from those He loved. To do so would be to dishonor Him. Yet the typical claim of Protestant anti-Catholicsis that we must remove Mary from the picture so we can better focus on Jesus. But that is not how love works. Even in our earthly families we do it differently. By expressing love for someone's child you express love for the parent. And by expressing love for Mary we express love for Jesus by uniting our love with the same object as Jesus did. By loving the same people that Jesus loves, we love Jesus. The following passage demonstrates this:

For I was an hungered, and ye gave me meat: I was thirsty, and ye gave me drink: I was a stranger, and ye took me in: Naked, and ye clothed me: I was sick, and ye visited me: I was in prison, and ye came unto me. (Matthew 25:35,36)

Catholic doctrines represented:


Mary and Joseph


And they came with haste, and found Mary, and Joseph, and the babe lying in a manger. (Luke 2:16)

Note that Mary is mentioned first before Joseph and Jesus. Shouldn't Luke have mentioned Jesus first so as to not diminish His glory? Or if the parents are mentioned before the child Jesus, shouldn't Luke have mentioned Joseph first which is the proper order of things? Clearly Luke is emphasizing Mary's special role. When the shepherds come looking for Jesus they come to Mary. Mary naturally directs their attention to Jesus since He is the focus of her attention. By coming to Jesus through Mary we see Him through the eyes of His loving mother. What a great gift for Jesus to give us, that we can see Him from Mary's perspective.

Catholic doctrines represented:


Mary Ponders


But Mary kept all these things, and pondered them in her heart. (Luke 2:19) And he went down with them, and came to Nazareth, and was subject unto them: but his mother kept all these sayings in her heart. (Luke 2:51)

We are to ponder the things Jesus said and did in our hearts. Mary sets the example for this. By relating to Jesus from Her perspective we will enjoy a depth and richness in our worship of Jesus that we would miss otherwise.

Catholic doctrines represented:


Simeon's Prophecy


And Simeon blessed them, and said unto Mary his mother, Behold, this child is set for the fall and rising again of many in Israel; and for a sign which shall be spoken against; (Yea, a sword shall pierce through thy own soul also,) that the thoughts of many hearts may be revealed. (Luke 2:34,35)

A sword shall pierce thy [Mary's] own soul also — This verse sets a standard for how we are to relate to the events of Jesus' life here on earth. God has given us the gift of experiencing Jesus' life through His mother's experience of it. Thus, to truly experience Jesus' passion on the cross we go to Mary and experience it through her eyes and with her love. We become more perfectly joined to Christ when we join ourselves to His mother who He loved so intensely and so perfectly. We unite ourselves to Jesus by uniting ourselves in His love and by loving what He loved and by loving Him as Mary loved Him.

Catholic doctrines represented:


Mary's Devotion


Now his parents went to Jerusalem every year at the feast of the Passover. (Luke 2:41)

Mary was very devoted to God and raised Jesus to be that way. We must not forget that Jesus went through all the stages of childhood development as any other child and that the fabric of His personality was formed by the actions of His parents, especially His mother. She must have been very godly indeed for the God of the universe to be willing to submit in extreme weakness and helplessness to her care. Certainly He would have given her extraordinary grace so she would be equal to the task of raising and nurturing the Son of God.

Catholic doctrines represented:


Honor Father and Mother


Honour thy father and thy mother. (Matthew 19:19)

So we, being many, are one body in Christ, and every one members one of another. (Romans 12:5) For as the body is one, and hath many members, and all the members of that one body, being many, are one body: so also is Christ. For by one Spirit are we all baptized into one body, whether we be Jews or Gentiles, whether we be bond or free; and have been all made to drink into one Spirit. (1 Corinthians 12:12,13) Now ye are the body of Christ, and members in particular. (1 Corinthians 12:27)

Certainly Jesus did this perfectly. As His body we should honor and love His parents because they are really now our parents as well. Thus we should honor Mary as Jesus honored (and still honors) her.

Catholic doctrines represented:


Eve


And so it is written, The first man Adam was made a living soul; the last Adam was made a quickening spirit. (1 Corinthians 15:45 And Adam called his wife's name Eve; because she was the mother of all living. (Genesis 3:20)

Mother of all living — In Genesis 3:15 we see that Mary is this woman and it is proper for us to consider her as the spiritual Eve and the spiritual mother of the redeemed just as Christ is the spiritual Adam and the one who redeems fallen humanity.

Catholic doctrines represented:


Attitudes About Mary


There are areas in which Protestant theology doesn't fully honor Jesus as a perfect man. One example concerns Mary. If we imagine the perfect way in which Jesus as God would obey the commandment to honor His father and mother, we see that Protestant theology has neglected to consider this.

I present two analogies to illustrate what Protestant theology thinks about Jesus in relation to Mary (Note: these are exaggerated to make the point):

The Catholic view of Mary considers two truths:


Attitudes About Jesus


There are several unspoken beliefs which most Protestants have concerning Jesus which causes them to view Mary as they do (I will explain them in detail after I list them):

  1. Jesus became deity during His baptism by John the Baptist at the start of His ministry.
  2. Jesus is now in heaven seated at the right hand of the Father and we should only worship Him at that location.
  3. The Spirit of Jesus and the body of Jesus are two separate things: the Spirit of Jesus is deity, but the body of Jesus is not deity.

Explanations:

1. If Jesus were deity as a young child, or as a young man, or as a baby, or as a fetus, or even a single fertilized cell (fertilized by the Holy Spirit) then we should worship Him in all of these conditions. We should be willing to worship God in any form He might take. Because most Protestants wouldn't even consider worshipping Him as a fetus (for example) this implies that they don't really consider that He was deity as a fetus. The conclusion is that Jesus must have become deity during His baptism by John the Baptist at the start of His ministry since that is the point at which most Protestants begin to relate to Him as something more than just a man and as someone worthy of worship. But most Protestants have never even considered this implication of their beliefs.

2. Yes it is true that Jesus is now in heaven seated at the right hand of the Father. And He should be worshipped there. But there is a subtle assumption that Jesus is somehow bound by time just as we are. If He really were deity throughout His life then in each incident of His life (including in the womb of Mary) He would be eternally present. Thus we could and should worship Him at any of these events of His life. We should worship Him where He now sits in heaven. We should worship Him in the various acts He performed during His three year earthly ministry. We should worship Him as a child. We should worship Him when He was a baby in Mary's arms. And we should worship Him when He was in the womb of Mary.

3. If the body of Jesus is deity then we should be willing to worship it (in its unity with Jesus' Spirit). But Protestants ignore the implications of what it would mean to worship the body of Jesus. And how do we worship the Heart of Jesus (for example)? Rather than consider these questions most Protestants prefer to consider the body of Jesus as just a physical container in which Jesus as God temporarily took up residence. But in doing so they have inadvertently separated the Spirit of Jesus (which is deity) from the body of Jesus (which is not deity). This contradicts their doctrines which state that Jesus is deity in body, soul, and spirit.

The significance of these points: