Hi, guys —
I am Catholic but have been going to a Protestant
Bible Study that a friend invited me to. We
are reading a book about the crucifixion and
one of the chapters is on Mary. The author
says that in all four gospels, Jesus never
refers to Mary as mother; rather
he uses the word woman.
The author says the reason is because Jesus
is using His omniscient foresight and
seeing the system of Mariolatry that
would be erected.
He is basically saying that Jesus didn't say
the word mother because He knew
there would be idolatry in the form of worshipping
Mary as Mother of God.
I understand why we Catholics call Mary
the Mother of God. I can explain that to the
other Bible Study members but I am not sure
what to say about the fact that Jesus doesn't
refer to Mary as mother. To me
it seems like a non-issue. I thought it just
had something to do with the vernacular of
that time but the other members of my Bible
Study were convinced this was what Jesus
was trying to do.
After reading your postings below, I do understand
your view on Catholics attending Protestant
I have two small children and my Catholic
parish does not have a Bible Study with child
care, but this one does. Nevertheless, I am
having second thoughts about attending.
Jesus willfully not call Mary, mother,
to prevent others from worshiping her as Mother of God? }
Hi, Karen —
Jesus does refer to Mary as Mother.
On the cross, He said, Woman,
behold, your son! And then
He told John, Behold, your
25 So the soldiers did this. But
standing by the cross of Jesus
were his mother, and his mother's
sister, Mary the wife of Clopas,
and Mary Magdalene. 26 When Jesus
saw his mother, and the disciple
whom he loved standing near, he
said to his mother, "Woman,
behold, your son!" 27 Then
he said to the disciple, "Behold,
your mother!" And
from that hour the disciple took
her to his own home.
Thanks for your reply.
I have a Catholic bible and in mine
Jesus says, Woman, behold your
son . . . (John 19:26)
- Is it different in different
The author we are reading, Arthur
Pink, makes a point that Jesus
doesn't refer to Mary as mother and
this was the verse he used as an
Hi, Karen —
Here's another thing to consider
regarding: Why Jesus may have called
Mary Woman rather than Mother:
The word in Hebrew for woman is
the same for wife. Woman is
found in four crucial places in the
- In Genesis Eve is called Woman by
Adam (Genesis 2:23);
- in John's gospel Mary is called Woman by
the new Adam (Jesus)
at the wedding at Cana (John 2:4)
- at the foot of the cross (John
- and the Woman clothed
with the sun in Revelation 12:1 who is to fight the dragon is
seen as the Church as well as
a fulfillment of Eve and Mary.
One way to understand this, is that
Mary is the icon of the Church, not
only as perfect disciple but as symbol
of the Church as a whole. Hence,
when the marriage of Christ to His
bride (the Church) is ratified in
Cana, Mary is the "Woman" who
symbolizes the bride; and when it
is consummated, Mary is there as
the Woman (John 19:30 - "It is consummated")
at the marriage bed which is the
cross. As a disciple that Jesus loved,
St. John becomes the first spiritual
offspring of this consummation as
Jesus calls him Mary's son and Mary
his mother (John
So while Mary is said to be the mother
of Jesus a number of times by the
narration in Scripture,
it is important, in a symbolic way,
that she be called Woman to
communicate the plan of salvation
from Genesis to Revelation that began
with the first parents in Eden and
continues through Mary and His bride,
Hi, Karen —
The woman refers back
to the Garden of Eden and the Protoevangelium
of the Gospel), Genesis 3:15. It
15 I will put enmity between
you and the woman, between her
seed and your seed; he shall crush
your head, and you will strike
at his heel (emphasis mine).
Thus Jesus is identifying Mary as
the Woman who will bear the Seed
(Messiah) who will destroy the power
of the enemy.
The wife theory is an
interesting one — and points
to the idea that Mary is the New
I think you'll have a tougher time
convincing your Bible Study of that
theory than this one.
Another tack is to explain what we
mean by Mother of God.
I've explained this at length in
another posting (go to the AAC Knowledge base tab at the top of this page and click on Save time; Search for an answer, and search for Exact Phrase "Mother of God"). I'll summarize
By this, we mean she, a human creature,
conceived the Incarnate Word, carried
Him in her womb for nine months,
gave birth to Him, suckled Him, and
We don't mean she is mother
on the Eternal order, like God the
Father is Father on the Eternal order,
as if she were a fourth member of
the Holy Trinity.
- Why is it important to call her
Mother of God?
This really says more about Jesus
than it does about Mary. This title
exquisitely vanquishes a number of
heresies about Jesus. For example,
if you call Jesus the Son of God,
this leaves open a number of questions.
- Was He adopted as a Son of God,
or was He Son of God by nature?
(Obviously, if Mary was truly
Mother of God, Jesus was God from
- Was He human, or did He just
appear to be human?
wouldn't be truly mother if He
was not truly human.)
- Was He one divine person, or
two persons, divine and human?
This title arose in a time when
some of these controversies had
arisen, and was added to our prayers
as a way of inoculating against
Maybe if they understand that this
title is intended to protect Jesus,
not primarily exalt Mary, they'll
understand the title better.
Another point to address is whether
we worship Mary (Mariolatry). We don't; adoration is due to God
alone. Simply go to a Roman Catholic
liturgy and you'll see she's mentioned
twice, once in passing, and once
together with a lot of other individuals.
Contrast this with how often the
Holy Trinity is invoked in the liturgy,
or Jesus is mentioned. We do ask
her for her intercession: (we 'pray' to
her), as we do other saints, but
in Latin the word for pray is
identical to ask, and
we do not consider this worship or
adoration, but part of the Communion
For Protestants, since they only
pray to God, prayer has become synonymous
with worship. It is not necromancy
either. That involves receiving messages
back from the dead, which is not
at all the point of the intercession
of the saints. Anyway prayer to the saints is another big topic you can search for on the site.
Thank you for your answers and for
replying back so quickly. (I have
Bible Study tomorrow!)
I do have another question. This
book we are reading is by Arthur
Pink. Although he doesn't say it
outright, he seems to be pretty anti-Catholic.
He keeps saying that when Jesus died
on the cross that He actually became
sin. I never heard it explained like
that. I was taught that Jesus died
for our sins.
Hi, Karen —
Thanks for your additional question.
This comes from a quirky translation
of 2 Corinthians 5:21:
21 God made him who had no sin to
be sin for us, so that in him
we might become the righteousness
2 Corinthians 5:21
sin here can also be
translated a sin offering,
which makes a whole lot more sense: God
made Him who had no sin to be a sin
offering for us, which means
exactly what you said:
for our sins.
Hi, Karen —
The Bible translations of the NAB
and RSV do state that Jesus was made
to be sin for our sake.
is a bit ambiguous, but I like to
see it as a fulfillment of the scapegoat
idea of the Old Testament. The Israelites
ritually placed the sins of the people
onto the goat, who was then left
to die with their sins. Perhaps in
the same way, all of the repented
sins of humanity — past, present,
and future — are placed within
the human nature of Christ on the
cross. When He died they died and
we are freed. This is actualized
in time in the sacrament of Confession.
Hence, Jesus in His human nature
felt so alienated from God on the
cross because of being made sin by
our sins that He shouted out:
46 Father, Why have you abandoned
After annihilating all repented sin,
by His Death, He rose to a New Life and offers humanity
His Divine Life to replace the death
caused by sin.