Should the Catholic Church Elevate Mary’s Status to Co-Redeemer, Mediator of All Graces, and Advocate of Mankind? – Program 3

By: Dr. John Ankerberg; ©1997
Many in the Roman Catholic church believe that Mary mediates for us with God, much the way Jesus does. Does she also have an important role in our redemption? Did Mary remain a virgin?

Mary: Co-Redeemer, Co-Mediatrix and Perpetual Virgin


Newsweek magazine on August 25 reported that a growing movement in the Roman Catholic Church wants the pope to proclaim a new controversial dogma: that Mary is a Co-Redeemer, Mediatrix of All Graces, and Advocate for the people of God. Such a move would elevate Mary’s status dramatically beyond what most Christians profess.

Dr. Walter Martin: What I’m objecting to, from a biblical perspective, is that the Mary of the Bible is not the Mary of Catholic theology. We have now developed what Bishop Strossmayer said in 1870, “We have made a goddess of the Virgin Mary.”

Still, Newsweek has reported that in the last four years the Pope has received more than four million signatures from 157 countries, an average of 100,000 letters a month asking him to speak ex cathedra, that is, “infallibly” declare these new ideas as official Church doctrine. Among the thousands of Catholics supporting this dramatic new doctrine are the late Mother Teresa, 500 bishops and 42 cardinals, including Cardinal John O’Connor of New York, Joseph Glemp of Poland, and half a dozen cardinals at the Vatican itself. Newsweek said, “Nothing like this organized petition drive has ever been seen in Rome.”

If this movement succeeds, Catholics would be obliged as a matter of faith to accept that Mary participates in the redemption achieved by Jesus Christ; that all graces that flow from the suffering and death of her Son are granted only through Mary’s intercession with Jesus; and third, that all prayers and petitions from the faithful on earth must flow through Mary, who will then bring them to the attention of Jesus.

The question is, “Will Pope John Paul use his papal infallibility to officially proclaim Mary as Co-Redeemer, Mediator of All Graces, and Advocate of mankind?” If he does, what will it mean? Where did such elevated ideas about the Virgin Mary come from? If the Catholic Church embraces these new ideas, will they be turning away from the very faith they are supposed to defend?

To help answer these questions, we’ll hear excerpts from our debate with Roman Catholic priest and Jesuit Professor Fr. Mitchell Pacwa and the late Dr. Walter Martin, Protestant scholar and authority on American religious institutions. We invite you to join us.

Ankerberg: Welcome. Recently on the cover of Newsweek magazine there was a picture of the Virgin Mary and the title on the cover stated, “The Meaning of Mary: A Struggle Over Her Role Grows Within the Church.” In the article itself, Newsweek stated: “There’s a growing movement in the Roman Catholic Church that wants the Pope to proclaim a new controversial dogma, that Mary is a Co-Redeemer and Co-Mediatrix with Jesus Christ. Will he do it?”
In this series we want to ask the question: Should the Pope elevate Mary to this new status? Is it biblically based? Is it the true faith that the Church is to defend? We’ve already dealt with the titles of Mary as the Mother of God and Mary’s Immaculate Conception, which declared Mary was conceived without the stain of original sin.
In today’s program we will examine the Catholic assertion that Mary was a perpetual virgin, that is, she was a virgin before Jesus was born and after. The Roman Catholic Church teaches in the Catechism of the Catholic Church, which was commissioned by Pope John Paul XXIII following the Second Vatican Council, that after the birth of Jesus Mary remained an “immaculate and perpetual” virgin and abstained from all sexual relations with her husband Joseph.
The Church calls Mary “the Blessed Mary, ever virgin,” the “Virgin of virgins” and “the all holy, ever virgin Mother of God.” The Roman Catholic Church teaches that Mary experienced no pain in giving birth to the child Jesus.
In the Catechism of the Catholic Church we read: “To Eve it was said: ‘In sorrow shalt thou bring forth children’ (Gen. 3:16). Mary was exempt from this law.” The Church also claims God preserved Mary’s “virginal integrity inviolate,” and teaches that although Mary was wed to Joseph, following the birth of Jesus Mary remained an immaculate and perpetual virgin. Is this true? Does the Bible teach any of this?
In Luke 1:26-35, Scripture does teach that Mary, though a virgin, came to be with child by the power of the Holy Spirit. On the other hand, the Bible says absolutely nothing about God preserving Mary’s virginal integrity inviolate during the birth process or that Mary refrained from sexual contact with her husband after the birth of Christ. As we will see, the Bible gives us reasons for believing that she did have sex with Joseph after Jesus’ birth and secondly that they did have children.
But first, what reasons did the Roman Catholic Church give for its belief in the perpetual virginity of Mary? Catholic theologian Thomas Aquinas provided four reasons why he thought that the doctrine of Mary’s perpetual virginity seemed “to be fitting.” First, Aquinas postulated that since Christ is the only begotten Son of the Father, it was becoming that Christ should also be the only begotten son of His mother. But it’s always dangerous to postulate what God thinks is fitting.
Second, intercourse with Joseph would have desecrated the virginal womb of Mary. This would have been an insult to the Holy Spirit whose shrine was her womb. But the Bible says our entire body is the temple of the Holy Spirit and marital sex does not desecrate our holiness.
Third, it would have been below the dignity and holiness of Mary to forfeit her miraculous virginity by carnal intercourse with Joseph. Such an act, Aquinas speculated, would also show that she was ungrateful or not content with being the mother of Jesus. This statement says more about Thomas Aquinas’ ascetic thirteenth century views of sex than it does about biblical truth. The Bible says sex is good and God gave it to married couples as a special gift. It is not carnal.
And fourth, Aquinas speculated that it would have been extreme presumption for Joseph to have attempted to violate Mary whom he knew had conceived by the power of the Holy Spirit. God does not see sex as a violation and said nothing to Joseph about abstaining from sex with Mary.
But Aquinas concluded, “We must therefore simply assert that the Mother of God, as she was a virgin in conceiving Him and a virgin in giving Him birth, so did she remain a virgin ever afterwards.”
But the Bible, rather than supporting this kind of thinking, leads us to believe the direct opposite. First, did Joseph and Mary ever have intercourse after Jesus was born? Let’s read what the Bible says from the Douay-Rheems Catholic translation of the Bible. In Matthew 1:24-25 we read: “And Joseph, rising up from sleep, did as the angel of the Lord had commanded him and took unto him his wife. And he knew her not until she brought forth her firstborn son and he called his name Jesus.”
The King James Version states: “Then Joseph, being raised from sleep, did as the angel of the Lord had bidden him and took unto him his wife; and he knew her not until she had brought forth her firstborn son and he called his name Jesus.”
The NIV states: “When Joseph woke up he did what the angel of the Lord had commanded him and took Mary home as his wife. But he had no union with her until she gave birth to a son and he gave him the name Jesus.”
The implication is plain enough from Matthew’s words. Mary and Joseph did not come together as husband and wife until after she gave birth to Jesus.
Second, can it be shown from Scripture that when Mary and Joseph did come together that they had other children? Well, read Matthew 13:54-56 and see what you think. It states: “Coming to His hometown, Jesus began teaching the people in their synagogue and they were amazed. ‘Where did this man get his wisdom and these miraculous powers?,’ they asked. ‘Isn’t this the carpenter’s son? Isn’t his mother’s name Mary? And aren’t his brothers James, Joseph, Simon and Judas? Aren’t all of his sisters with us?’”
In light of these verses, look at how the people characterized Jesus. They said, “Isn’t this the carpenter’s son?” We all know that Joseph was a carpenter and this passage identifies Jesus as being his son. And then they said, “Isn’t his mother’s name Mary?” And of course that was true. Joseph and Mary are Jesus’ parents. And then the people said, “Aren’t his brothers…” – and the townspeople named four of them. They also knew Jesus had some sisters.
Other biblical statements also indicate that Mary and Joseph did come together as husband and wife after Jesus’ birth and had other children. For example, John 2:12 states: “After this, Jesus went down to Capernaum with His mother and brothers and His disciples.” In Acts 1:14 we are told, “They all joined together constantly in prayer along with the women, and Mary the mother of Jesus, and with his brothers.” Now, Roman Catholic scholars brush these Scriptures aside, saying that all of them refer to the Lord’s cousins and not to His actual brothers or sisters.
The Catechism of the Catholic Church states, “Against this doctrine [speaking of Mary’s perpetual virginity] the objection is sometimes raised that the Bible mentions brothers and sisters of Jesus. The Church has always understood these passages as not referring to other children of the Virgin Mary…. They are close relations of Jesus, according to the Old Testament expression.”
That is, Mary was a perpetual virgin and Jesus didn’t have brothers and sisters. Those mentioned as brothers and sisters in the Scripture were first cousins, that is, sons and daughters of Mary’s sister, not children of Mary herself. But there is a big problem in stating this. The reason being that there was an exact term for cousin, anepsios, a very well known word in New Testament times. This word for cousin is not used in any of the passages we have read or any other which refers to Jesus’ brothers or sisters.
On the other hand, the word for cousin is used in Colossians 4:10 where Paul writes, “Aristarchus sends you his greetings as does Mark, the cousin (anepsios) of Barnabas.” So the New Testament writers knew the exact word for cousin but didn’t use it in referring to Jesus’ brothers.
In addition, the word for kinsmen (suggenes) occurs eleven times in the New Testament. But it never appears in any of the passages describing the children of Mary and Joseph. So, if the writers of the New Testament really meant to say that the brothers of our Lord Jesus were merely cousins or kinsmen, it seems strange that they never used the correct words to do so, words they used in other passages to describe other people’s cousins or kinsmen.
Finally, the word for brother which is used in speaking about Jesus’ brothers is the word adelphos, and for “sister” it is adelphe. Adelphos and adelphe can sometimes be used in a wider sense. But their primary meaning speaks of a relationship of shared parentage. Unless the context suggests otherwise – and in none of these passages is that the case – this must be the primary meaning of the word that is intended. As James McCarthy said in his book, The Gospel According to Rome, had the Holy Spirit wanted Christians to venerate Mary as ever a virgin, He would not have referred to these relatives of Jesus as His brothers and sisters without further qualification.
Now there is another very important point I want you to see about what the Bible has to say against the Catholic assertion that Mary was a perpetual virgin and had no children other than Jesus. Look at Matthew 12:46-50: “While Jesus was still talking to the crowd, His mother and brothers stood outside wanting to speak to Him. Someone told Him, ‘Your mother and brothers are standing outside wanting to speak to you.’ He replied to him, ‘Who is my mother and who are my brothers?’ Pointing to His disciples He said, ‘Here are my mother and my brothers. For whoever does the will of my Father in heaven is my brother and sister and mother.’”
Now, this passage is important for many reasons. First, it shows that Jesus had brothers. Second, it shows that those who do the will of the Father in Heaven are spiritually as close or closer to Jesus than His own blood family, His brothers or even Mary herself. Or another way of saying it is, if you think that spiritually you need to go through Mary because she has a closer, more intimate relationship with Jesus than you do, Jesus says, “You’re wrong.” If you put your faith in Jesus Christ and accept His free gift of salvation, you will be doing the will of God and according to Jesus, will be in a close, intimate relationship with Him.
I don’t want you to miss this point. It was brought out in our debate between Roman Catholic Priest and Jesuit Professor Fr. Mitchell Pacwa and Dr. Walter Martin. Listen:

[Program Excerpt]

Martin: Mary, in Catholic theology – correct me if I’m wrong here – the basic concept is that Mary is close to Christ because she’s “the ark,” “the vessel” that brought Him forth. So, I was taught, and you were taught too, that what you’re supposed to do is to talk to Mary because she can talk to Jesus for you. She’s His mother. She’s closer to Him than you are. Okay?
Pacwa: Right.
Martin: Wrong! Because in Matthew 12 Jesus is asked the question, “Your mother and your brothers are outside.” He said, “Who is my mother and my brother? I tell you, whoever does the will of my Father which is in heaven, the same is sister, brother, Mary, to me”…
Pacwa: Right.
Martin: Therefore, she’s no closer to Him than I am by the blood of the cross.

Ankerberg: Isn’t it wonderful to know that Jesus said, “Come unto me, all ye who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest”? [Matt. 11:28]
The New Testament teaches, “Therefore He [that is, Jesus] is able to save completely those who come to God through Him because He always lives to intercede for them” (Heb. 7:25).
Ephesians 2:8-9 says: “For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God; not of works, lest any man should boast.”
In Romans 10:13 we read: “For whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved.”
By the way, this is why the New Testament knows nothing of a co-mediatrix with Jesus of all graces. You don’t need one. You can go directly to Jesus. The Bible says, “For there is one God, and one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus” (1 Tim. 2:5). That’s why He came into the world – to save you, to save me. It says nothing about coming to God through Jesus via Mary.
Let’s return to the Catholic doctrine of the perpetual virginity of Mary. There is another interesting passage in Scripture about Jesus’ brothers. It’s in John 7:3 where we read: “Jesus’ brother said to Him, ‘You ought to leave here and go to Judea so that your disciples may see the miracles you do. No one who wants to become a public figure acts in secret. Since you are doing these things, show yourself to the world,’” and then the apostle John tells us, “for even His own brothers did not believe in Him.” [John 7:3-5] Their advice was not sincere since if Jesus had gone to Judea, He would have been captured and killed.
Sometime later the Lord’s brothers apparently repented and came to faith in Him after Jesus’ death, resurrection and ascension. How do we know this? Because when Jesus’ own disciples returned to the Mount of Olives to pray in Acts 1:14, Luke records: “They all joined together constantly in prayer along with the women, and Mary the mother of Jesus, and with His brothers.”
Later, the apostle Paul refers to Jesus’ brothers in Galatians 1:18-20. Paul writes about those he met in Jerusalem after he was converted. He says: “Then after three years I went up to Jerusalem to get acquainted with Peter and stayed with him fifteen days. I saw none of the other apostles, only James, the Lord’s brother. I assure you before God that what I am writing you is no lie.” So apparently the Lord’s brother, James, was a leading figure in the Church in Jerusalem and Paul met him.
In 1 Corinthians 9:5 we find another reference to Jesus’ brothers. Paul writes, “Don’t we have a right to take a believing wife along with us as do the other apostles and the Lord’s brothers and Cephas?” By the way, Cephas here must be the apostle Peter and apparently he had a wife. But that’s another program.
Let’s return to Jesus’ brothers. If Jesus’ brothers tried to get Him killed during His life because they didn’t believe in Him, when and why did they repent and start to believe in Him? I think 1 Corinthians 15 gives us the answer. Here the apostle Paul lists a number of resurrection appearances that Jesus made after He was crucified, buried and rose again. Among the appearances listed, Paul makes this startling statement: “Then He appeared to James, then to all the apostles and last of all, he appeared to me also.” [1 Cor. 15:7-8]
Think of Jesus appearing to His unbelieving brother after James had seen Him murdered on the cross. Don’t you think that would have been the turning point in James’ life? We don’t know for sure. We only know that later Jesus’ brother James was the leader in the Jerusalem church but during His life, he and Jesus’ other brothers did not believe in Jesus.
So let me end with this question: Should the Pope give in to the more than four million people who are urging him to elevate Mary’s status dramatically beyond what most Christians profess? Will the Pope put tradition over the clear teaching of God in the Bible? If he does, the words of Jesus may well come back to haunt him. In Matthew 15:6-9, the Son of God told the religious leaders of His own day: “Thus you nullify the word of God for the sake of your tradition…; Isaiah was right when he prophesied about you: ‘These people honor me with their lips but their hearts are far from me. They worship me in vain. Their teachings are but rules taught by men.’”

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