Monday, July 03, 2006

Guest Blog: Ray Aviles Responds to Robert Sungenis On Jerome And The Canon

Here's another question and response from the from the CAI Q&A page, home of Catholic apologist, Robert Sungenis:

Question 6- St Jerome and the Canon

"Robert, I have come across this article in which the writter claims that St Jerome never did accept certain books as canonical. The same books that Martin Luther kept in his German translation but also said were not canonical. I have always been under the impression that St Jerome submitted to the authority of the Church and accepted the books, whereas this author shows that he did not. Would you mind reading this article and comment on it? I believe that this article needs to be refuted and I do not have the knowledge to do so. Here it is: Guest Blog:Did Jerome Change His Mind on the Apocrypha ? By Ray Aviles

R. Sungenis: "Peter, besides the fact that none of us may really know the true story behind what Jerome thought about the deuterocanonicals, the fact remains that it means very little to us now. There have been Catholics who have contested the canon all the way up to Trent's infallible proclamation in 1563. In fact, it was Cardinal Cajetan who, along with Luther, precipitated Trent's final decree on this matter because he, too, was questioning the canonicity of the deuterocanonicals. As for Jerome, we should not be suprised that he would question their status. The Church herself didn't make the final infallible proclamation until 10 centuries after him. Moreover, Trent said it was bound by the consensus of the tradition, whether it was Hippo and Carthage or Pope Innocent I or the Council of Florence. That is all that matters now. I would hope that those who are vigorous in pointing out Jerome's doubts would be just as vigorous in acknowledging that Jerome answered to a higher authority, and that authority is everyone's authority. "

Ray Responds:

Hi Peter,I don’t know if this was amongst the “package” of emails that you sent to Shea, Sippo, etc. and not that you are still looking for some sort of concurrence, but Sungenis didn’t refute anything I said.

My point was merely to correct those who claimed that Jerome changed his mind on the matter and, as far as Shea goes, to correct his error that the term “judgment of the churches” applied to a declaration by the African Synods. Sungenis agrees that there were issues leading to Trent, but here is where we part company: Sungenis claims that none of us know the story behind Jerome, but this is appealing to silence. Although silence can sometimes speak louder than words, the factors point elsewhere.

Sungenis makes it seem as if Cajetan, along with Luther, spurred Trent’s reaction, but that’s not correct. Again, there were other contemporaries of Trent, such as Ximenes, Seripando, and his group, who were adherents of Jerome’s view as well. What this tells me is that this view was still very much extant and these folks KNEW Jerome never reneged on his position.

Sungenis also claims that Trent’s infallible declaration sealed the deal as far as the canon went, but the question must be asked:

WHY would it take almost 1,200 years to declare a canon, especially if various views existed throughout church history leading up to Trent? Wouldn’t the Church have positioned herself better especially after the African Synods? IOW, they allegedly made a decision on canon and others disagreed, so why take 1,200 years before making an “infallible” proclamation on canon?

WHY would there be contestation at Trent by the group headed by Seripando if the church had indeed decided on a canon approximately 1,200 years before AND the “judgment of the churches” was indeed in effect?

Sungenis states that one should be as vigorous in acknowledging that Jerome answered to a higher authority and that this authority is everyone’s authority. I assume that this authority is the Church, in particular Rome, but that’s an entirely different matter altogether and, not surprisingly, not one that I agree with. It’s beside the point. Rome didn’t make a decision and Jerome was free to indulge his position. His prefaces to the Vulgate were never changed and, in them, he was clear about these books being “ecclesiastical” but NOT Scripture. One would assume that if Jerome did indeed answer to that “higher authority” that he would have had to renege on anything which put skepticism on these added books, but that’s not the case and the prefaces remained. As far as the council of Trent and the goings-on regarding the canon, Roman Catholic scholar Hubert Jedin’s account (Cardinal Seripando: Papal Legate at the Council of Trent) is probably the best. Jim can send you a copy of the relevant chapter, in text format, via email if you’d like. Read it, mull it over, and ask yourself if Rome’s “infallible” declaration doesn’t seem more like a reaction to you—especially in light of the fact that the best scholars, albeit a minority, set themselves on the side which opposed the books. God gave us minds in which to think and discern. I don’t believe in Rome’s infallibility and declaring a canon under the pretense of it really means nothing to me.

Peter, on another note, my advice to you would be that you spend more time studying these issues for yourself rather then looking to those who can only give you opinion. Cast your all before God, read His Word, and pray for the illumination of the Holy Spirit to guide you. As always, I’ll keep you in my prayers.

For Further Reading:

Response From Catholic Apologist Mark Shea on "Did Jerome Change His Mind On The Apocrypha?"

Who were Some Of The Best Scholars at Trent, And What Did They Think Of The Apocrypha?


Robbie said...

Excellent response Rey. You guys are something else. It is always a blessing and a joy to read your blogs.


Robbie said...

By the way, James, I am really enjoying the Miegge book.

If you don't mind, there are a few questions that I have. If okay with you, I'd like to email them or ask one or so here.

An example would be on his chapter "the mother of God" It almost reads like Nesrotious lost the title but partly won the definition, although that would not be conceded to him. I compare this chapter with Augustine who wrote that Mary was the mother of His (Christ's) weakness and not the mother of His divinity. Please explain in light of modern Catholicism's seemingly insistance otherwise. I get confused by modern Rome for the simple fact that they have appeared to have left with original meaning of the definition. For example, there is an old challange at the Catholic Legate about Mary actually being the mother of Christ's divinity, yet Augustine, a doctor of the church, would not pass their examination. Could you please explain?

Thank you.


James Swan said...


Thank you for keeping us up to date on Robert Sungenis- I don't visit his website often.

Great question btw- i'd like to see the link from the Catholic Legate site before commenting. I think you probably though answered the question in your question.

Robbie said...

Hi James,

Look under the apologetics section, sub group Mary. Scroll down and you will see the Nestorious Challange. (For some odd reason, the address remains the same?????)

Our Blessed Mother & The Saints


The Nestorius Challenge
Challenge: In order to reject the conclusion, which premise do you reject and why do you reject it?

Premise 1: God is a being that subsists in three divine persons.

Premise 2: God is immutable.

Premise 3: Each of the three persons share the same divine being (essence, nature, substance). Since each share the same divine being, each person possesses the divine being. One who possess the divine being *is* God. Therefore, the First Person of the Trinity, the Father, is God and the Third Person of the Trinity, the Holy Spirit, is God. Both are also numerically distinct divine persons (Premise 1).

Premise 4: But the Second Person of the Trinity, Jesus Christ, is con-substantial with the other two persons. This means He too is God since He shares their being. Christ, therefore, is TRUE God . If Christ is God, then He too must be a divine person since, firstly, there cannot be a person in God who is not divine, and, secondly, there cannot be a divine non-person in God (Premise 1).

Premise 5: Since each Divine Person shares the same being (Premise 3), and since God is immutable (Premise 2), His *divine* being (essence, nature, substance) cannot be altered or transformed into another being (essence, nature, substance). They must remain unchanged for eternity.

Premise 6: Hence, Jesus Christ, the Second Person of the Trinity, must remain a divine person *forever* (Premise 5). [This means that the addition of his human nature at the incarnation does not change his divine personhood.]

Premise 7: Since Mary gave birth to Jesus Christ, the Eternal (Premise 6) Second Divine Person of the Blessed Trinity, she is properly called the Mother of the Second Divine person.

Premise 8: The Second Divine Person is God (Premise 4).

Conclusion: Mary is the Mother of God (Premises 7 & 8).


Click here to submit your response


The Challenger's comments are in red. John Pacheco responds in blue.


Challenge #8:

The usual argument for Mary as Mother of God is that because Jesus is God and Mary was his Mother then it makes Mary the Mother of God...but although Jesus is God, he is not all of God right?

No. If Jesus was any less than God or not "all God", then He would not be equal to the Father. This is a central tenet of Trinitarianism: each person of the Trinity shares the same divine substance. Jesus is fully God and fully Man. If He was not, you could not have been redeemed.

He is the second person of the Trinity, so by himself he is not an independent God.

He is independent in the sense that He is a separate person from the other two persons. By Himself, He still is God.

Three persons in one, not three gods in one. So Mary was not the Mother of "God" in the sense of the totality of God, she was the Mother of the Person of Christ who is part of God (while having every aspect off the fullness of God).

But the Person of Christ was a Divine Person in heaven before the incarnation. Mary gave birth to a person who assumed a human nature and became man. Hence, she is properly called "Mother of God". A mother is a person who gives birth or bears (tokos) to another person. Since Jesus was a "God person", she is the Mother of God.

So "Mother of God" is a bad term, She should instead be called "Mother of the Word" or something representing the person of the Son only =3D=3D=3D. My main issue is with the misuse of the term...but I wanted to know what is your Theological opinion on that statement is.

No. The term is very precise and accurate. I suggest you read my little paper on the subject.

Thank you for your inquiry.

John Pacheco
The Catholic Legate
May 30, 2002.


Challenge #7:

My challenge is very simple. I am responding to the invitation at the top of the Nestorius Challenge, which says 'An open Invitation to Protestants who Reject Mary's Title "Mother of God". Since the invitation was to those who rejected the title, I am responding primarily on that basis.

I accept premises 1-6 (although I think the last sentence of premise 4 is confusing and adds nothing to point 4 itself).

The last sentence was included to eliminate the alternatives that a Challenger may pose. Although not strictly necessary, I included it to close up any loopholes that might have otherwise been exploited.

But I reject premise seven, which is "Since Mary gave birth to Jesus Christ, the Eternal (Premise 6) Second Divine Person of the Blessed Trinity, she is properly called the Mother of the Second Divine person."

In what sense is it proper to call Mary the Mother of God? There is more to being proper than merely being technically correct.

The contestant seems to be implying that the title is "technically correct". If that is what he is suggesting, then he has already conceded the Challenge.

To be truly proper, a title must not be overly confusing.

Well, it's not confusing at all if you understand what the Church means by that title. A quick investigation into Catholicism's teaching on the subject would quickly dissipate any unwarranted concerns you might have (i.e. attributing divinity to Mary, that Mary was the source of Jesus' divinity, etc.).

In the New Testament we find this passage: "Therefore the Jews sought the more to kill him, because he not only had broken the sabbath, but said also that God was his Father, making himself equal with God" (John 5:18, KJV). Clearly, there is a way in which you can call someone your father that means you are the same kind of being as your father.

That's a fair point. But then again there is more to being a mother than being of the same substance as your offspring. A human mother, by definition, gives birth to a person. If that person is human than she is the "Mother of Man". If that person is divine, she is the "Mother of God". Therefore, in that sense alone, Mary can be called the "Mother of God". As you know, the Church has never taught that Mary passed on the divine substance to her son so in that sense, she is not a mother.

Those people who are not highly educated or those who have little understanding of Catholicism very naturally believe the same thing of a mother . . . that a mother must be the same kind of thing as the child; i.e., horses give birth to horses, dogs to dogs, humans to humans, etc. When they hear the title "Mother of God" they may very naturally think that this implies God's mother is also God, or another God.

Well, I think people who are not "highly educated" should educate themselves on the Church's teaching before forming a judgement. I don't think that is much to ask, do you?

If this is not so, why did the Muslims of old think that Mary was worshiped by Christians? And why do others (not just Muslims) believe today that Catholicism elevates Mary almost to Divinity? In my opinion, the widespread and frequent use of the title "Mother of God" among Catholics is partly to blame for this.

No. To be fair, I think what you mean is that people's false and ignorant perception is to blame for their view. The Church, after all, is not culpable for people's ignorance or rash interpretation of a title. The Challenge put forward did not ask you to provide the false perceptions that people have, but to choose a premise to reject (which you did).

Based on the reasoning presented in the Nestorius Challenge, it would be just as correct to call Jesus' brothers the "Brothers of God" as it is to call Mary the Mother of God. If the Church started doing that, I would say it is improper to call them that, even though it is technically true.

Yes, if Mary had other children (which she did not), I suspect that it would be proper to call them "Brothers of God", as long as the nuances of the teaching were presented.

In conclusion, while I affirm that Mary is the mother of God in the sense explained by Mr. Pacheco, I deny that it is proper to call her that, at least not often, and especially not in the presence of unbelievers or uneducated believers, because of the confusion the title causes them. That is why I reject the title.

March 24, 2002

While I appreciate your concern, Roger, I hope you can see that your rationale is deficient. You state that you agree with the title but we should not use it because it would be misunderstood. Yet, isn't a better course of action to proclaim the truth and explain the teaching's nuance as well? I think that would be the right thing to do.

John Pacheco
The Catholic Legate
May 29, 2002


Past Challenges & Responses:

Challenge #1: Mary gave birth only to the 'human nature' of Christ, not to His divine nature. Hence, Mary is the mother of Jesus but cannot be called the mother of God since she only gave birth to the 'flesh' of Jesus. For Mary to be called 'Mother of God', this implies for him that Mary is also divine. [M. Cameron]

Response #1: Although this contestant did not specify which premise he rejected, I will nevertheless respond. Mary did not give birth to a ‘nature’ by itself. She gave birth to a human being and a person - Jesus Christ. This contestant separates something which cannot be separated at conception - nature and personhood. Because He was a Divine person before, during, and after His birth (Premise 6), Mary must have given birth to Jesus’ person. It’s that simple. Now, it is true that Mary did not ‘generate’ the divine nature of Jesus as she did with His human nature. However, since she did give birth to a divine person, then she gave birth to God IN THE SENSE of generating the human nature proximately, and carrying and bearing the divine nature with the human nature. (The union between Jesus’ human and divine natures is called the ‘hypostatic union’ in Catholic theology.) If the contestant insists on saying that Mary only gave birth to a human nature and denies that she truly gave birth to a divine person, then he has rejected either:

1) the divinity of Jesus (and consequently, the hypostatic union which can never be dissolved after the incarnation);

2) the personhood of Jesus (by definition);

3) or that Jesus ceased to be a divine person only at the moment that Mary gave birth to Him (which rejects Premise 6 in the Challenge).

Those are the choices. What Christian would accept any of them? Jehovah’s Witnesses, Mormons, Docetists - hardly Christians by Trinitarian standards.


Challenge 2: It seems you have not stressed in your premises that Jesus Christ (the Man-God being) did not exist until he was born of Mary (or more precisely, until His conception in her womb). He did exist as the 2nd person from the beginning (but 'only' as a God-only being). Hence, it was not the same being that Mary gave birth to, and therefore it is improper to say that Mary is the Mother of God. [V.A.]

Response 2: Although it is not explicit, the Challenge rejects Premise 2 which holds that God is immutable. God’s being (essence, nature, substance) cannot, by the very definition of God, change. So if the contestant is going to reject the immutability of God, then he has rejected Premise 2. This is not a good thing for him. Not only can he not be called a Christian (Trinitarian); he cannot even be called a Theist!


Challenge 3: Mary did not give birth to a divine person. She gave birth to a divine and human person which is not the same as giving birth to a divine person.

Response 3: In one sense, the contestant is right since Jesus’ human nature was added to His divine nature. In heaven, Jesus’ Person subsisted in only one nature - the divine one. At the Incarnation, the human nature was generated by the Father and was hypostatically united to the divine nature. However, from the very beginning, Jesus was *always* divine. Jesus was always God before, during, and after His birth which means the addition of His human nature did not change His divinity (Premise 2) or His Personhood (Premise 6).


Challenge #4: Submitted by Eric Svendsen: "Here is an answer to your "Nestorian" challenge. I didn't have time to put one together myself, but I'm in full agreement with these comments from some scholars commenting on John 2:4":

Response #4: Before addressing the argument submitted in detail, I wanted to relate my astonishment that such a passage would even be used as a basis to argue against the ‘theotokos’. In my opinion, there is little substantive foundation in this passage to advance the Nestorian position, except perhaps some ancillary points that are badly strained in order to construct an objection to the Catholic view. Nevertheless, some secondary points of interest have been advanced which touch upon the subject at hand, and therefore, it is incumbent on me to engage them.

The underlying footing to the whole challenge is the alleged ‘friction’ ("repelled") and alien relationship ("one unknown") between Jesus and His mother. This false construction of friction between the Mother and the Son is introduced here, and establishes the theme of division between the Mother and the divinity of Jesus throughout the Challenge. When one considers the facts of the relationship between Jesus and His mother, however, it is apparent that Our Lord did not intend to treat His own mother, the woman who bore him, with such a "cold shoulder".

This is the passage in question:

[On the third day there was a marriage at Cana in Galilee, and the mother of Jesus was there; Jesus also was invited to the marriage, with his disciples. When the wine failed, the mother of Jesus said to him, "They have no wine." And Jesus said to her, "O woman, what have you to do with me? My hour has not yet come." John 2:1-4]

Consider these facts:

i) Jesus’ use of the title ‘woman’ in addressing His mother was not a derogatory usage in Jewish culture, but a common one for addressing one’s mother. Consider, for instance, John 19:26 where Jesus uses ‘woman’ in addressing His mother: "When Jesus saw his mother, and the disciple whom he loved standing near, he said to his mother, "Woman, behold, your son!""

ii) To suggest that Jesus ‘repelled’ His own mother as one ‘unknown’ to her is a preposterous claim. For nine months, the incarnate word dwelt body, blood, soul, and divinity within Mary’s womb. He suckled her breasts and lived under her authority for 30 years of His life. She knew of His divinity, and that same divinity lived with Mary more than any other human ever has, ten times over.

iii) The final refutation of this erroneous construction is found in the context of the passage, and in particular, in the response Our Lord gives to His mother. A few things are noticeable. First, it was Jesus’ first public miracle, and that miracle was prompted by the direct and singular intercession of his mother. Second, the fact that He even performed a miracle confutes the idea that Jesus was putting His own mother in her ‘place’. If He was trying to do such a thing, then His subsequent acquiescence to her request would suggest a betrayal of his earlier distancing words. Finally, it was Mary (and Mary alone in the whole New Testament) who changed God’s intentions. With the exception of Abraham and Moses, not too many other people in the Old Testament could do such a thing. The context, therefore, does not lend itself to the brusque treatment that Protestants commonly assign to Our Lord’s treatment of His own mother.

Now that the alien relationship has now been exposed to be fictitious, the specific Christological question will be examined.

Challenge #4A): At that time, therefore, when about to engage in divine acts, He repelled, as one unknown, her who was the mother, not of His divinity, but of His human infirmity.

Response #4A):

a) If Mary was the Mother of Jesus’ humanity only, then that necessitates a separation of the hypostatic union of Jesus’ human and divine natures. But clearly this is not possible after the incarnation since both natures are, at that moment, united for eternity. Hence, if Mary gives birth to one nature, she must, by Christological necessity, give birth or bear the other.

b) When was the divinity of Jesus absent from Him? If one maintains that Jesus’ divinity must always subsist within His person, then the proverbial ‘jig’ is up for the Nestorian because this means that Mary gave birth to His Person and what subsists in Him, namely, His Divine nature. A mother gives birth to a person and all of the attributes of that person - body, blood, soul, and nature(s) that each person subsists in. Did Mary give birth to a person? Yes she did. Jesus was a person in heaven before the incarnation (Premise 4). If Mary gave birth to a person on the one hand, but did not give birth to Jesus’ divinity (as the above challenge suggests), then there was a time His divinity did not subsist in his person, which contradicts Premise 5.

Challenge #4B): It was as if Jesus said [in John 2:4], "You did not give birth to my power of working miracles, it was not you who gave birth to my divinity. But you are the mother of all that is weak in me."

Response #4B): While Jesus’ divine nature serves as the principal cause, Jesus’ human nature serves as an instrumental cause of the supernatural activities of Christ. In the example of above, Christ’s Godhead is the principal cause of the miracle at Cana while Christ’s humanity is the instrumental cause i.e. it is through his humanity that the miracles is effected. See also Luke 8:46 and John 6:55. The ultimate significance of the Redemption also draws it ultimate power from this salient fact: without the hypostatic union, there can be no real redemption of man both since natures form a constituent part of that redemption. If Jesus was not true God, then His sacrifice would have been incomplete and finite. If He was not true man, then man could not make a true claim of his own redemption. Since a true man condemned us, a true man must redeem us. Those who wish to arbitrarily dissolve the hypostatic union at the birth of Christ are faced with an unpleasant dilemna later on: since they have no warrant to dissolve Christ’s human and divine natures at His birth, then they can have no objection to those who do so at the crucifixion

Challenge #4C): ‘Why, then, did the Son say to the mother, "Woman, what have I to do with thee? mine hour is not yet come?" Our Lord Jesus Christ was both God and man. According as He was God, He did not have a mother; according as He was man, He had a mother. She was the mother, then, of His flesh, of His humanity, of the weakness which for our sakes He took upon Him. But the miracle which He was about to do, He was about to do according to His divine nature, not according to His weakness; according to that which makes Him God, not according to that which makes Him weak. But the weakness of God is stronger than men.

Response #4C):

a) This is the same tactic demonstrated above. There is no basis for separating the divinity of Christ from his person. The Challenge above says, "according as He was God, He did not have a mother; according as He was man, He had a mother." Did not Jesus Christ, as God - being the Second Person of the Trinity - pass through the womb of Mary? Yes? If His Divine Person, subsisting in both His Divine and Human Natures and substantially united to one another ALL passed through Mary’s womb, then technically speaking (and the way the Church intends the title), Mary is indeed the MOTHER of the WHOLE PACKAGE.

b) Not only is the attempt to disunite Jesus’ divinity from His person a very Un-Trinitarian thing to do, but it also contradicts Scripture. Scripture never divides Our Lord’s actions or His death, for that matter, into disjointed and unconnected natures but treats Him and His redemptive acts the way He intended it with the Incarnation: One Person - fully God and fully Man - substantially united with God and Man.

"But you denied the Holy and Righteous One, and asked for a murderer to be granted to you, and killed the Author of life, whom God raised from the dead." (Acts 3:14-15)

"None of the rulers of this age understood this; for if they had, they would not have crucified the Lord of glory." (1 Corinthians 2:8)

a) Here’s a question for our Protestant brother: When you worship Jesus, do you worship His flesh? If you do, then are you worshipping his divinity or his humanity? If you say you are worshipping his divinity, then you are implicitly recognizing that Mary was the mother of his Divinity because she was the Mother of his flesh. But you can’t do that now, can you? So you will say you are instead worshipping his humanity, but how can you worship his humanity? How can you worship something that is not divine? There is only one ‘out’ here, and it is the Catholic solution: the very union between the humanity and the divinity allows for this to occur. It is the link which allows adoration to be afforded to a man. If God’s divinity attaches itself so completely and indissolubly to His humanity so much so that when you worship His human flesh and therefore his humanity, you must also be worshipping his divinity also. And you can worship his humanity only on this basis alone. A few analogies, however poor and inadequate they might be, can demonstrate this:

Analogy #1: A Prince meets a common woman of no royal lineage. The rules of royal succession demand that the heir to the throne have ‘royal blood’ in him. Now the heir born to a prince and a common woman is properly a prince. No one in the kingdom would say: "hey, I just pledge allegiance to the ‘royal side of you’". Or, "I don’t recognize your royalty because of your ‘common descent’". No, although he might have a common lineage, he has now an indissoluble and irrevocable royal lineage, which is the basis and justification of your veneration of and submission to him. In effect, you cannot separate his royal from his common descents since He is ONE PERSON (and related to as such in his kingdom) who speaks for both his common and royal descents.

Analogy #2: The man Jesus was walking around the earth and He saw a glass of ‘God’. He picked it and drank it. Before he drank ‘God’, he was just a man. After he drank God, he became ‘God’ and was worshipped as such in his human form. Now, some wise guy comes up to Jesus and says "you there, flesh and bones, Jesus. I really don’t give a jot what you say or what you do. I really don’t care about your flesh. What I adore is God flowing through your veins right now. Now, a gentleman sitting on the bench observing this sad fellow comes up and gently lays his hand on his shoulder. He calmly explains: "The problem is YOU CANT GET TO GOD UNLESS YOU GO THRU JESUS. And Jesus is made of flesh and blood so you have to interact with him on that basis. You can’t go naval gazing (literally) looking for the ‘God liquid’, speaking to Jesus’ divinity in your head without also going through his humanity."

Analogy #3: God is infinite. We are not. Sin puts an infinite obstacle between God and Man. The only way of reconciling God to Man is for God to become a Man in order to address the distance of the separation (via God), and to offer reparation and sacrifice on behalf of the offender (Man). This can be conceived this way: on the one side of the canyon is God and on the other side is Man. The distance between them is infinite. So the Son comes and makes Himself into a bridge. The bridge is infinite because Jesus is infinite and can reach God. He is also human so all human can take that bridge. The bridge must be human and divine or else no human could reach the Father.

These three analogies show the inherent impossibilities in holding to the traditional Christian understanding of the basis for our Redemption on the one hand, while allowing for the separation of Jesus’ humanity from his divinity on the other. This union between the divine and human in Jesus is absolutely critical if our Redemption is to be effected. The ultimate protection against an attack on this union resides with Mary’s identity. Without the Mother of the Lord truly being the Mother of God, the gates of hell begin to swing wide open…

Challenge #4D): His mother then demanded a miracle of Him; but He, about to perform divine works, so far did not recognize a human womb; saying in effect, "That in me which works a miracle was not born of thee, thou gavest not birth to my divine nature; but because my weakness was born of thee, I will recognize thee at the time when that same weakness shall hang upon the cross." This, indeed, is the meaning of "Mine hour is not yet come." . . . How then was He both David’s son and David’s Lord? David’s son according to the flesh, David’s Lord according to His divinity; so also Mary’s son after the flesh, and Mary’s Lord after His majesty.

Response #4D): Ah yes, except for one thing…. Mary bore her Lord while David did not. Have you not read the Scriptures?

"But when the time had fully come, God sent forth his Son, born of woman, born under the law…" (Galatians 4:4)

"But why am I so favored, that the MOTHER OF MY LORD should come to me?" (Luke 1:43)

Challenge #4E): Now inasmuch as she was not the mother of His divine nature, while it was by His divinity the miracle she asked for would be done, therefore He answered her, "Woman, what have I to do with thee?"’ Jesus in his humanity had a mother; Jesus in his divinity was "without father or mother, without genealogy, without beginning of days or end of life" (Heb 7:3).

Response #4E): But the passage and verse in question (Hebrews 7:1-3) does not say "Jesus in his divinity" as is alleged above. Furthermore, this passage is not even principally about Jesus but rather Melchiz'edek - although there is an obvious allusion to Christ here.

Let us, however, address this passage from a Christological point of view. How can "Jesus in his divinity be without father"? No Trinitarian would accept that statement. However, one could and must say that in His humanity Jesus is without a human father. This is true even though that in His humanity, He STILL had God the Father as a true and proper father since the first person of the Trinity is both father to His human and divine natures. Likewise Jesus’ divinity had no mother since it was generated from the Intellect of the Father alone. It was not generated by Mary. She only carried the person who subsisted in both the divine and human natures at the moment of conception.

It is my opinion that most Protestants do not understand what the Church teaches when She assigns the title of "Mother of God" to Mary. Some attribute ‘divinity’ to Mary about the title; others think that such a title means that she existed before God; still others accept the title because they understand the Christological implications, yet they do not advance it since it is a ‘Catholic doctrine’ and very much prone to misunderstanding. Once our separated brethren understand that the Catholic Church is not saying that Mary generated Christ’s divinity (like she did with His human nature), but only that she bore the union of the human nature and pre-existing divine nature, then it will hopefully dispel some of their strong reservations about the title. Ultimately, the title of Mary as the Mother of God, is more about preserving the divinity of Jesus Christ than it is a "Mary question" alone, and that is why some Protestants concede the title.


Challenge #5

Challenge #5A): Hello John : I am not a Catholic, I do not consider Mary as the mother of God. I found your challenge on the Catholic message board. I reject Premise 5, here is why. As any true Trinitarian would agree there is only one God, Father Son and Spirit. Now with the statement that 'Mary is the Mother of God' and your eight Premises . God would have had a beginning. The divine and human nature of Jesus can not be separate. We agree that God did not have a beginning, and Jesus existed before the incarnation. [The Word]. [Kevin Swanson]

Response #5A): There is nothing in the Challenge that would cause one to draw the conclusion that God had a beginning. As for your statement about Jesus' natures, I will address that concern below.

Challenge #5B):

Premise 1: To be human one does not need a sin nature. See Adam and Eve before the fall.

Premise 2: Jesus only had a biological/human Mother no Father, therefore He did not inherit the sin nature. The Holy Spirit came upon Mary.

Response #5B): I agree with Premise #1 and #2, although the wording could be more precise in Premise #1.

Challenge #5C): Premise 3: Jesus separated His human and divine natures.

Luke 2:44-50 45 So when they did not find Him, they returned to Jerusalem, seeking Him. 46 Now so it was that after three days they found Him in the temple, sitting in the midst of the teachers, both listening to them and asking them questions. 47 And all who heard Him were astonished at His understanding and answers. 48 So when they saw Him, they were amazed; and His mother said to Him, "Son, why have You done this to us? Look, Your father and I have sought You anxiously." 49 And He said to them, "Why did you seek Me? Did you not know that I must be about My Father's business?" NKJV

Matt 24:36 36 "But of that day and hour no one knows, not even the angels of heaven, but My Father only. NKJV Did Jesus lie? He knows when He is to return. He answered from His humanity. Many times in the New Testament He refereed to himself as the Son of Man, and He never denied being the Son of God.

Response #5C): If I am understanding the contestant correctly, he is trying to explain that Jesus had two natures, and that the Scriptural passages which indicate a limitation in Jesus (i.e. wisdom, knowledge, physical infirmity, etc.) is referring to Our Lord's human nature. This is substantially accurate since, obviously, God's nature cannot be lacking in any of those things. However, the mere fact that Jesus' human nature is subject to these limitations does not nullify or detract from His divinity. In other words, although these limitations exist in his human nature, Jesus is still true God, and that's the key question in this challenge. The only way Mary cannot be the Mother of God is for Jesus' divine nature to cease to subsist in His person irrespective of the addition or development of his human nature.

Challenge #5D):

Premise 4: His divine being cannot be altered but can be transferred.

John 3:13 13 No one has ascended to heaven but He who came down from heaven, that is, the Son of Man who is in heaven. NKJV John 1:48 48 Nathanael said to Him, "How do You know me?" Jesus answered and said to him, "Before Philip called you, when you were under the fig tree, I saw you." NKJV

Response #5D): Agreed - although I would have phrased your Premise 4 differently.

Challenge #5E: Conclusion: Mary is the Mother of Jesus' humanity, God has no Mother. Jesus has two natures 100% human [no sin nature] 100% God [God with us ] The wonderful Power of The one almighty God. Thank you

Response #5E): Your welcome, and thank you for participating. Unfortunately, your conclusion is not sustained by the premises you present. In Challenge #5A), you said you rejected Challenge Premise #5. If you do, then that means you believe that God's essence is subject to change. In fact, your Premise 4 above affirms that God cannot change so it appears you have contradicted yourself.

In any case, thank you, for your submission, Kevin. It was definitely worthwhile to interact with your views. And I must say, you were much more cordial than the next gentleman...


Challenge #6

Challenge #6A): I don't know what kind of "smash-face apologetics" you are trying to practice, John, but every Protestant I know who understands the title "Mother of God" to be Christological -- that is, affirming that the Jesus Who was born of Mary is, to use the words of the Nicene Creed, is "God from God .. true God from true God" -- has no problem with the term "Mother of God." [Walt]

Response #6A): light of your warm greeting, it's more than apparent that you have forgotten to take your hemroids medicine. As to your complaint, there are evidently some Protestants who disagree with you as this Challenge is so amply demonstrating. Evidently, you are not familiar with your non-denominational and "less traditional" brethren who have some pretty big hang-ups about calling Mary "Mother of God". Granted, they may not understand what the Catholic Church teaches by it. But that's the whole point of a Challenge, isn't it? Or perhaps, you take any challenge to the wide varying belief in Protestantism is a rebuke of its ecclesiology. Maybe that's why you think my Challenge is "smash-face apologetics".

Challenge #6B): Which Protestant scholars? I don't mean 'Net "apologists" who have no idea what the term "Mother of God" means. If you really knew such "scholars," you could have written an article discussing their Christologies; hurling a "challenge" (which is what I mean by "smash-face," by the way) would have been quite unnecessary.

Response #6B): Well, I don't have a litmus test on who can take this Challenge so anyone is welcome to respond. I don't recall any Protestant confession saying "you must obey our edicts and those of our scholars as an infallible rule of faith." Because of that, any Protestant is qualified to voice their opinion, not just those from the academic ranks. But now that you mention it, Dr. Eric Svendsen of New Testament Research Ministries (See Challenge #4) does not believe in the title. I think you're just upset, rightly so, that a Protestant can believe in anything as long as the bible allegedly supports the belief.

Challenge #6C): If you are as informed about Protestant Christology as you claim to be, you could easily have documented your claim, instead of issuing an "internet challenge." Just what do you expect to find in your "challenge" that you will not find in the Book of Concord, the Articles of Religion, or the Westminster Confession of Faith?

Response #6C): Thank you for that information. I don't doubt that many Protestants do believe Mary is the Mother of God, but that does not take away from the fact that many do not. Obviously, this Challenge was not for you, but that hardly gives you the mandate to chastise me for issuing it to a constituency in your own "Church". Don't get so uptight that Protestantism's own ecclesiology demands tolerance on this question...and er....any question. You've "reformed" God's Church in favour of another - now live with it.

John Pacheco
The Catholic Legate
June 15, 2001