Tuesday, April 02, 2013

The Protestant Reformers on Mary

Over the years I've worked through a basic Roman Catholic article that documents the Mariology of the Reformers. The article is sometimes called, "The Protestant Reformers on Mary." For instance, if you Google search one of the first lines, you can see how far this little piece of propaganda has traveled. The article exists in various forms, but this appears to be one of its most basic: The Protestant Reformers on Mary. You can find versions of this webpage as far back as 2000. Sometimes the article ends with "Unfortunately the Marian teachings and preachings of the Reformers have been 'covered up' by their most zealous followers." No they have not! A look at the evidence shows no such thing.

At this point, if I ever did know who compiled the quotes for the article and placed the article in its basic form, I no longer remember. It's obvious that whoever did it took the quotes from secondary sources, because the footnotes typically refer to out-of-print non-English sources. A few years ago one Roman Catholic layman did attempt to give a version of the article some credibility by taking my research documenting the actual contexts and revising the basic article.

Since I still find this propaganda cited, below are links of those quotes and propositions I've been able to find contexts for over the years. As I come across more information, I'll revise this entry.

Martin Luther

"She is rightly called not only the mother of the man, but also the Mother of God ... It is certain that Mary is the Mother of the real and true God" [Martin Luther, Weimar edition of Martin Luther's Works, English translation edited by J. Pelikan [Concordia: St. Louis], volume 24, 107.]

"It is an article of faith that Mary is Mother of the Lord and still a Virgin." [2 Martin Luther, op. cit., Volume 11, 319-320.]

Again throughout his life Luther held that Mary's perpetual virginity was an article of faith for all Christians - and interpreted Galatians 4:4 to mean that Christ was "born of a woman" alone

The Immaculate Conception was a doctrine Luther defended to his death (as confirmed by Lutheran scholars like Arthur Piepkorn)

"But the other conception, namely the infusion of the soul, it is piously and suitably believed, was without any sin, so that while the soul was being infused, she would at the same time be cleansed from original sin and adorned with the gifts of God to receive the holy soul thus infused. And thus, in the very moment in which she began to live, she was without all sin..." [Martin Luther, Weimar edition of Martin Luther's Works, English translation edited by J. Pelikan [Concordia: St. Louis], Volume 4, 694.]

"There can be no doubt that the Virgin Mary is in heaven. How it happened we do not know"  [Martin Luther, Weimar edition of Martin Luther's Works (Translation by William J. Cole) 10, p. 268.]

To the end Luther continued to proclaim that Mary should be honored. He made it a point to preach on her feast days.

"The veneration of Mary is inscribed in the very depths of the human heart" [ [Martin Luther, Weimar edition of Martin Luther's Works]

Is Christ only to be adored? Or is the holy Mother of God rather not to be honoured? This is the woman who crushed the Serpent's head. Hear us. For your Son denies you nothing."Luther made this statement in his last sermon at Wittenberg in January 1546. [Translation by William J. Cole) 10, III, p.313.]

John Calvin

The term he used most commonly in referring to Mary was "Holy Virgin."

"Elizabeth called Mary Mother of the Lord, because the unity of the person in the two natures of Christ was such that she could have said that the mortal man engendered in the womb of Mary was at the same time the eternal God" [ John Calvin, Calvini Opera [Braunshweig-Berlin, 1863-1900], Volume 45, 35.]

"Helvidius has shown himself too ignorant, in saying that Mary had several sons, because mention is made in some passages of the brothers of Christ." Calvin translated "brothers" in this context to mean cousins or relatives" [ Bernard Leeming, "Protestants and Our Lady", Marian Library Studies, January 1967, p.9.]

"It cannot be denied that God in choosing and destining Mary to be the Mother of his Son, granted her the highest honor" [John Calvin, Calvini Opera [Braunshweig-Berlin, 1863-1900], Volume 45, 348.]

"To this day we cannot enjoy the blessing brought to us in Christ without thinking at the same time of that which God gave as adornment and honour to Mary, in willing her to be the mother of his only-begotten Son." [ John Calvin, A Harmony of Matthew, Mark and Luke (St. Andrew's Press, Edinburgh, 1972), p.32.]

Ulrich Zwingli

"It was given to her what belongs to no creature, that in the flesh she should bring forth the Son of God" [ Ulrich Zwingli, In Evang. Luc., Opera Completa [Zurich, 1828-42], Volume 6, I, 639]

"I firmly believe that Mary, according to the words of the gospel as a pure Virgin brought forth for us the Son of God and in childbirth and after childbirth forever remained a pure, intact Virgin" [ Ulrich Zwingli, Zwingli Opera, Corpus Reformatorum, Volume 1, 424.]

Zwingli used Exodus 4:22 to defend the doctrine of Mary's perpetual virginity.

"I esteem immensely the Mother of God, the ever chaste, immaculate Virgin Mary." [ E. Stakemeier, De Mariologia et Oecumenismo, K. Balic, ed., (Rome, 1962), 456.]

"Christ ... was born of a most undefiled Virgin" [Ibid.]

"It was fitting that such a holy Son should have a holy Mother"  [Ibid.]

"The more the honor and love of Christ increases among men, so much the esteem and honor given to Mary should grow" [Ulrich Zwingli, Zwingli Opera, Corpus Reformatorum, Volume 1, 427-428.]


William Of Baskerville said...

Dear James,

thank you so much for doing this incredible job. This blog is pure gold.

I wanted to ask you if you can tell me from where this comment of Luther is from:

"Es wird die Zeit kommen, aber nicht vor dem Tod, wenn wir durch das Gesetz gerecht werden."

I don't know if this is the exact wording and I use deepl for the english translation:

"The time will come, but not before death, when we will be justified by the law."

If you can find out from where this one is would be fantastic.

Thank you and God bless

James Swan said...

Hi William:

Thank you for the kind words. I'm not familiar with that particular comment from Luther. If you have any webpages / sources that either use it or allude to it, that would helpful.