Showing posts with label Mary. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Mary. Show all posts

Wednesday, December 8, 2021

VIDEO: How the cherubim witness to Mary's Immaculate Conception

New 5+ minute video on how the cherubim angels witness to Mary's Immaculate Conception. Video is based on prior post How the cherubim witness to Mary's Immaculate Conception

See video on Rumble or YouTube.

Saturday, October 28, 2017

"Birth Control" is not medicine

On October 13, 2017, the federal government issued an interim rule which exempts religious entities from paying for objectionable services as part of their insurance plans. These include:
(FDA)-approved contraceptive methods, sterilization procedures ... [including] certain drugs and devices that may not only prevent conception (fertilization), but may also prevent implantation of an embryo ... that many persons and organizations believe are abortifacient.
See here for several prior TCV blog posts about this issue.

Responding to this interim rule, Hillary Clinton tweeted: "Rolling back no-copay birth control shows a blatant disregard for medicine, science, & every woman's right to make her own health decisions."

Planned Parenthood, which is pacing at about 300,000 abortion victims per year, also responded. Their president, Cecile Richards, issued a statement saying exemptions for "birth control coverage" are an "attack on basic health care."

Many other celebrities and non-celebrities upset by the rule echoed similar sentiments.

But medicine is designed to fix an affliction of the body. Medicine's end goal is a body that functions properly. For example, medical remedies can come in the form of pills that directly fix a bodily problem such as antibiotics that attack or prevent bacterial infections. Medical remedies can come in the form of a surgery to repair a broken limb or remove a cancerous mass—any necessary part of that surgery could be considered medical care.

Birth control is not medicine. In fact, birth control's end goal is to cause a properly functioning body to malfunction.

One might try to argue something like anesthesia is not medicine, since, for example, it temporarily causes the patient the inability to feel—a malfunction of the body. However, this is only done as part of a larger goal of correcting the body. Body malfunction is not the end goal of using anesthesia. Something like an incision is similar. The ultimate goal isn't to scar a patient, but it can be necessary to ultimately treat the affliction. Contrary to these, the end goal of birth control is body malfunction.

In the case of oral contraceptives, an otherwise properly functioning ovulation cycle is stifled. Other oral contraceptives thicken an otherwise fertile uterine wall, preventing implantation of a zygote, thus killing it. Generally speaking, these are all forms of sterilization—which is a field of disease in itself. This is the product we are told must be covered by medical insurance. Forget for a moment any religious beliefs behind objections to the original mandate. Requiring insurance coverage of birth control can be opposed on medical grounds alone—specifically that birth control is not medicine.

In the earliest stages of this birth control/insurance matter, Cardinal Daniel DiNardo wrote on behalf of the U.S. bishops: "[P]regnancy is not a disease." 

In response to this latest rule, Lila Rose, president of Live Action, defended this concept in a tweet:
Abortifacient drugs are the antithesis of "healthcare." Medicine is meant to heal, not kill.
And she is exactly right. Medicine is meant to heal.

As in 2012, objectors immediately pointed out that some contraceptives can be used to regulate cycles or alleviate pains. However, in such cases, the product would not properly be called "birth control" because the drug is not used to prevent birth. Recall in 2012, Bishop Lori, speaking before congress, explained how the same medications typically used for birth control could possibly have other uses:
Blake Farenthold - The Catholic Church does not have a problem with contraceptives for medical purposes. So I would assume from that it wouldn't be morally objectionable to the Church to pay for those for medical purposes. I'm not trying to put you on the spot, I'm just trying to make sure I understand where the Church stands. 
Bishop Lori - That would be my understanding also.
Bishop Lori - I think Catholic moral theology is very nuanced. It recognizes that the same drug can operate in different ways and accomplish different things. If it is used to prevent birth, it is against our teaching.
The Bishop's principle can be seen in action, for example, at the University of Notre Dame's human resources page:
[U]nder the university’s plan, you cannot receive reimbursement for oral contraceptives, contraceptive devices or contraceptive implants, except when specifically requested by a physician based on medical necessity and for purposes other than contraception.
Insurance companies have made similar distinctions with other drugs. For example, Finasteride can be used to treat enlarged prostates but also to treat hair loss. The latter is considered cosmetic and insurance companies are not required to cover the drug in such cases.

Nevertheless, the original HHS Mandate made no distinction regarding coverage of contraceptive products. Contraceptives were required for medicinal as well as anti-medicinal purposes. The Church and other entities object to the anti-medicinal use of contraceptives, i.e. birth control.

You may have seen in reaction to this latest rule cries that requiring coverage for Viagra is hypocritical or misogynistic. For instance, NARAL, a vocal pro-abortion group, tweeted: "In case you were wondering, bosses can’t “opt out” of paying for Viagra." 

But what is the obvious failure of intellect in that statement? Viagra, which treats erectile dysfunction, is designed to correct a body malfunction. And, again, birth control, is designed to cause body malfunction. If NARAL and their peers were serious about finding a valid parallel, they would argue that something like OTC skin ointment should be covered since it is designed to fix a bodily affliction or mouthwash which is designed to prevent poor hygiene.

I should note, for the purposes of this blog post, I'm not arguing whether or not any drug/treatment should be "required" in medical insurance policies. Certainly there are reasonable discussions that could be had regarding coverage of only major medical expenses or to give market forces a greater voice in shaping insurance policies. The purpose of this post is focused on birth control and the nature of medicine.

You might have noticed at the beginning that this interim rule was issued on October 13, 2017, the 100th anniversary of the apparition of Our Lady at Fatima and the Miracle of the Sun. One of the central figures in this contraceptive case was the Little Sisters of the Poor who would have incurred severe fines under the original mandate had they not paid for birth control for someone else. Other religious entities faced similar burdens. Many prayers on this matter have occurred over the past 5 years. Participation in birth control, sterilizations, and chemical abortions are clearly a moral offense in the eyes of the faithful. This is why the matter of conscious rights took a prevalent position in this discussion. We saw in a previous TCV article the amazing rescue of Chilean miners on October 13, 2010. Might Our Lady have interceded for the faithful and little ones, to protect their consciences, lives, and souls?

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Book Review: "Daughter Zion"
by Cardinal Ratzinger/Pope Benedict (Emeritus) XVI

Daughter Zion by then-Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger (now Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI) is a work from 1983 in which the great theologian examines the Marian typology of the Old Testament, with analysis of all four Marian Dogmas: Mother of God (Theotokos), Perpetual Virginity, Immaculate Conception, and Assumption. I give the book 9 out of 10 stars. (Book locations references below pertain to the ebook)

I would have given the book a full 10 out of 10, but there are times when the writing is over my head, and when Cardinal Ratzinger makes reference to other theologians' views with which I'm not always familiar. These characteristics sometimes make a few brief portions of the book a little esoteric. But a more versed theologian than myself may well find this book 10 out of 10. I ended up highlighting in this book what is probably a greater percentage of its totality than any other book I've read.

Part of the richness of this once future pope's book Daughter Zion is the emphasis on typology. I would venture to say typology is one of the most critical branches of theological studies required to grasp sound Catholic theology. The Catechism describes typology thusly:
The Church, as early as apostolic times,104 and then constantly in her Tradition, has illuminated the unity of the divine plan in the two Testaments through typology, which discerns in God's works of the Old Covenant prefigurations of what he accomplished in the fullness of time in the person of his incarnate Son. (CCC#128) (cf. CCC#129-130, et al)
There are many examples even in the New Testament of this method of understanding divine revelation. For instance:
Yet death reigned from Adam to Moses, even over those whose sins were not like the transgression of Adam, who was a type of the one who was to come. (Rom. 5:14)
For it is written that Abraham had two sons, one by a slave and one by a free woman.  But the son of the slave was born according to the flesh, the son of the free woman through promise. Now this is an allegory: these women are two covenants. One is from Mount Sinai, bearing children for slavery; she is Hagar. Now Hagar is Mount Sinai in Arabia; she corresponds to the present Jerusalem, for she is in slavery with her children. But the Jerusalem above is free, and she is our mother. (Gal. 4:22-26)
There a multitudes of examples connecting the Old and New Testament. The book of Hebrews speaks often of the OT "shadows" of what was to come. In each case of a Biblical type,  New Testament "antitypes" are always superior to their Old Testament types (cf. 2 Cor. 3:11, Hag. 2:9, et al).

Cardinal Ratzinger unlocks a treasury of excellent Biblical theology often utilizing the principle of typology. The very title speaks of this in Daughter Zion, as he, in the tradition of Paul to Galatians above, recognizes a non-personal reality in an individual person as he associates Mary to the "people of God" encompassed in the term "Zion." He begins with the following description at the beginning: "[T]he image of Mary in the New Testament is woven entirely of Old Testament threads." (Loc 52)

And he points out a key factor in understanding God's covenantal plan altogether:
Contrary to a widespread prejudice, the figure of woman occupies an irreplaceable place in the overall texture in the Old Testament faith and piety. ... Consequently, a one-sided reading of the Old Testament can open no door for an understanding of the Marian element in the Church of the New Testament. (Loc 65)
In Mary, Cardinal Ratzinger not only recognizes the figure of "daughter," emblematic of "children" of God, but also Mary's role as "spouse" or "bride," in that the Spirit overshadowed her, bringing forth the life of Jesus Christ, and in this sense, Mary is spouse of the Spirit. Cardinal Ratzinger goes on to describe various feminine attributes of the Old Testament people including the femininity of "wisdom," prophetesses, and "judge-saviors."

So important is the concept of Biblical typology in understanding Marian dogmas, the Cardinal stated that Marian dogmas
cannot be deduced from individual texts of the New Testament; instead they express the broad perspective embracing the unity of both Testaments. They can become visible only to a mode of perception that accepts this unity, i.e. within a perspective which comprehends and makes its own the "typological" interpretation, the corresponding echoes of God's single history in the diversity of various external histories. ... Wherever the unity of Old and New Testaments disintegrates, the place of a healthy Mariology is lost.
Emblematic of God's people, both of the Old and New Testaments, whom bear fruit because of the grace of God, Cardinal Ratzinger notes: "She is the 'people of God' bearing fruit through God's gracious power." (Loc 303) Ratzinger goes on to discuss grace and its power in working with the will of the individual soul.

Later, he delves into the four Marian dogmas, utilizing Old Testament types in order to draw a fuller understanding of Marian theology, which, as noted earlier, is essential to understand Catholic dogmas on Mary. For example, after establishing Mary as "Mother of God," based on the reality that Jesus Christ the son of Mary cannot be amputated from his divine nature, and thus, Mary, as Mother of the second person of the Trinity, is Mother of God, Cardinal Ratzinger considers the Assumption. One theological derivation he makes involves Mary's title "Mother of God" with other Old Testament monickers associated with God's name. For example, Cardinal Ratzinger writes:
[Mark] proes the resurrection not from individual texts of later prophetic or apocalyptic literature, ...but from the notion of God: God, who allows himself to be called the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, is not a God of the dead, but of the living. The resurrection itself proves that these names belong to the name of God: "As for the dead, that they will rise, have you not read in the book of Moses, in the section on the thorn bush, how God said to him, 'I am the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob?' Yet God is not a God of the dead but of the living––you have erred" (12:26 f.)  The right to veneration includes the certitude of the conquest of death, the certitude of the resurrection. (Loc 601)
And he continues:
We said that whoever may be glorified and priased together with God's name is alive. We added that in the case of Mary and in her case alone (as far as we know) it applies in a definitive, unconditional way, because she stands for the Church itself, for its definitive state of salvation. (Loc 629, emphasis mine)
There is much more detail to the theological sequence of Cardinal Ratzingers exegesis. Suffice it to say, once one grasps Mary's role as the superior antitype of the people of God of the Old Testament, one recognizes her as the avatar of the saved Church, the ones whom by grace say, "Let it be done according to thy word," (cf. Luke 1:38) and submit to God's will as a child, as a daughter of God. From there it is clearer to see death's grip lose hold on Mary as that type of the living Church.

Cardinal Ratzinger explains similar typological lessons with regard to all four Marian dogmas, ending with one of the more famous Marian types in the Ark of the Covenant.

In an age of skepticism and even other Christian traditions that do not accept Marian dogmas, this text is of great value to at least see how the Catholic theologian can soundly recognize the Biblical basis for Marian dogmas. Even if they are not, as some would say, "explicit" in the text in a formal way, the richness of Cardinal Ratzinger's interpretations show the sobriety of seeing Scripture in a deeper, and ultimately true, sense, just as did Paul above in Romans and Galatians, recognizing God's revelation to a people as it was fulfilled in a new covenant.

This book is well worth the read for anyone still looking to squeeze in something extra for Lent or any time of year. The paperback is only 82 pages long, but chock full of hundreds of pages "worth" of theology!

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

How the cherubim witness to Mary's Immaculate Conception

The Catholic dogma of the Immaculate Conception refers to the Virgin Mary conceived without the stain of original sin. This is the defining text from the papal encyclical Ineffabilis Deus from 1854:
We declare, pronounce, and define that the doctrine which holds that the most Blessed Virgin Mary, in the first instance of her conception, by a singular grace and privilege granted by Almighty God, in view of the merits of Jesus Christ, the Savior of the human race, was preserved free from all stain of original sin, is a doctrine revealed by God and therefore to be believed firmly and constantly by all the faithful.
While the definition was pronounced in 1854, the teaching is firmly rooted in divine revelation, both in Scripture and Tradition in the early Church through today. In this particular article, I do not intend on giving a full apologetic on the validity of this dogma. For a fuller Biblical and Traditional treatment of the dogma, I recommend reading the full encyclical Ineffabilis Deus or good Catholic books on Mary, such as Luigi Gambero's Mary and the Fathers of the Church. Other good web resources on the Immaculate Conception include or various articles at

The specific defense of the Immaculate Conception I intend to give here is the witness of the cherubim in Scripture. I find it to be a strong signpost pointing to Mary's incompatibility with sin. And since I have not seen this angle presented explicitly, I've elected to review it here.

First, I will briefly explain the concept of typology in Scripture. A type (or figure) in the Old Testament that has its fulfillment in a New Testament counterpart is said to be the NT's antetype. An example may help. Romans 5:14 tells us of "Adam, who was a type of the one who was to come." Romans 5:18 continues the idea: "Then as one man's trespass led to condemnation for all men, so one man's act of righteousness leads to acquittal and life for all men."

A characteristic about typology is that the NT type is always the superior, fulfilled version of the OT antetype. We see this explained elsewhere in Scripture. Examples include Haggai 2:9 which says: "Greater will be the future glory of this house than the former, says the Lord of hosts." Or 2 Corinthians 3:11 For if what faded away came with splendor, what is permanent must have much more splendor."

You see the parallel between the two characters, Adam and Jesus, one who brought death and One Who brought life. Jesus and Adam are the first of their kind, yet Jesus is the superior. Jesus Himself gives a clear example of typology in John 6:49-50 when He says: "Your fathers ate the manna in the wilderness, and they died. This is the bread which comes down from heaven, that a man may eat of it and not die." The manna in the OT could only sustain physical life for a time. Jesus, the Bread of Life–the NT type of the manna–sustains eternal spiritual life and is thus the superior type.

With that in mind, and before I proceed to the witness of the cherubim, recall that Mary is the type of the Ark of the Covenant. The Ark contained manna, Aaron the priest's rod, and the ten commandments. Mary contained the new manna, Jesus, Who is also the true High Priest and the Word made flesh. In 2 Sam 6:9, David exclaimed: ""How can the ark of the Lord come to me?" This parallels the words of Elizabeth in Luke 1:43 when she exclaimed: "[W]hy is this granted me, that the mother of my Lord should come to me?" There are at least a dozen strong parallels between Mary and the Ark of the Covenant. A good chart depicting this can be seen at The Catechism of the Catholic Church explicitly confirms the teaching that Mary is the new Ark of the Covenant (CCC#2676).

What is important to know about the Ark in my apologetic, is that God commanded Moses to build the Ark and include figures of two cherubim:
Exodus 25:18,22 And you shall make two cherubim of gold; of hammered work shall you make them, on the two ends of the mercy seat... There I will meet with you ... from between the two cherubim that are upon the ark of the testimony.
Notice how the cherubim flank both sides of the place God dwells. And Scripture tells us that the high priest could not even approach the Ark unless he first be purified from sin (cf. Lv 16:2-11; Hb 9:3-7). Keep that in mind a moment.

Another antetype of Mary, less-common in apologetics for her Immaculate Conception, is the Garden of Eden, another "dwelling place" of God. Here are two Early Church Fathers supporting Mary as type of the Garden:
O virgin who surpasses Eden's garden of delights!
St. Theodotus of Ancyra, On the Nativity of Our Savior, 21

God’s Eden is Mary; in her there is no serpent that harms...., no Eve that kills, but from her springs the Tree of Life that restores the exiles of Eden.
St. Ephraim, On the Annunciation of the Mother of God, hymn 3:302
Ineffabilis Deus makes reference to Mary as the type of "that garden enclosed on all sides, which cannot be violated or corrupted by any deceitful plots." The encyclical refers to Song of Songs 4:12 which speaks of a "bride" who is "a garden enclosed, a fountain sealed" as well as other references to this bride as a "garden" throughout the chapter. That particular verse is also a testimony to Mary's perpetual virginity and has been understood as such by the Church.3 Mary is also a "bride" to the Holy Spirit because their union brought forth the child Jesus.4 But I bring this up to further support the image of "garden" with Mary.

Now remember, Mary whom God chose as His dwelling place, is the superior type of her OT counterparts.

Draw your attention to the Genesis 3 account of the Fall. Adam and Eve disobeyed God by eating the forbidden fruit. Adam is punished for this and they are exiled from the Garden:
Genesis 3:23 Therefore the Lord God sent him forth from the garden of Eden.
The very next verse reads:
Genesis 3:24 He drove out the man; and at the east of the garden of Eden he placed the cherubim, and a flaming sword which turned every way, to guard the way to the tree of life.
Notice once again, how the cherubim are assigned to guard the dwelling place of God–the Garden of Eden. And more importantly, notice how when Adam and Eve exhibited sin, they were vanquished from the Garden.5

It's also important to note another parallel between the temple in which was the Ark and the Garden. The cherubim guarded the east gate of the Garden. And the east gate is also the entrance to the temple (Ez 43:1-5, 1 Kg 6:22-35).

Father Pascale Parente described the origin of the word cherubim, which is derived from the singular word "KeRUBH." Fr. Parente wrote:
Scholars differ widely on the meaning and the origin of this word. It seems that this was originally an Assyrian word which was later given a definite meaning by the Hebrews. Assyrians, Persians and Egyptians paid great honor to protective deities... These protective deities were the common guardians of temples and tombs, where some such statues can still be seen. ... In Sacred Scripture, the Cherubim appear as heavenly custodians and protectors of holy places and holy things.6
Essentially, this confirms what the testimony of Scripture already suggests–the cherubim protect the holy.

With that in mind, return to Mary as the Ark–the Ark which was flanked by two cherubim. And then return to the other "dwelling place of God" which is the Garden, also guarded by cherubim. Both localities are guarded from the presence of sin. The priest had to purify himself from sin before approaching the Ark. The Garden was kept free from sin and guarded in the same way as the Ark–by the cherubim.

Therefore, we see the powerful witness of the cherubim–that Mary is without any stain of sin, including original sin, since God tells us in divine revelation that she is the untainted Ark and Garden, both guarded from sin by the cherubim. And Mary, as the NT type of these protected OT places, is protected from sin in an even more splendorous way.

[EDIT: I originally posted this briefly for part of a day back in December, but removed it because I tried to get it published. I had some nice comments from a couple publications, but they were interested in other things at this time.]

1Quoted in Malty, Fr. Tadros Y Malaty, St. Mary in the Orthodox Concept, 1975, p. 28
2Quoted in Ibid, p. 58
3The teaching in Ineffabilis Deus linking Sg 4:12 is by no means a novel idea. For example, St. Jerome (d. 420) explicitly says Sg 4:12 refers to Mary (Letter to Pammachius). There is also the interpretation of St. Peter Chrysologus (d. 450) (Sermon 145).
4See Pope Paul VI's Gaudete in Domino for a magisterial example teaching Mary's espousal to the Holy Spirit.
5One may ask how, if sin is incompatible with the Garden, was the serpent there? Certainly the devil, whom tradition says is represented in the figure of the snake, was not in the Garden in a residential sense as were Adam and Eve. The devil, as pure spirit, certainly did not have the same presence with God in the Garden that pre-Fall Adam and Eve did. The passage should be understood such that the devil's wiles had a certain influence of Adam and Eve, as represented by the suggestion of the snake, but we should not conclude he communed with God in the Garden as did God's children. To support this, consider the devil tempting Jesus in the desert (eg. Lk 4:1-13). In that scene, the devil in a proximate sense is "in the presence of God," but in the spiritual sense he remains eternally distant.
6Parente, Fr. Pascale, The Angels in Catholic Teaching and Tradition, Tan Books, Charlotte, NC, 1973, p. 52-52

Monday, April 18, 2011

The misuse of Luke 2:22-24 against the Immaculate Conception

The dogma of the Immaculate Conception has numerous typological roots in Scripture, such as the figure of Eve created without original sin; the precision, gold, and immaculateness of the Ark of the Covenant; or even the Church, a spotless bride presented to the Lord. Even in Christian antiquity did the Early Church Fathers identify her as these Biblical figures and recognize her sinless pedigree.1

Though the teaching has roots even back to the Old Testament, the Church received the words to certify the dogma in the encyclical Ineffabilis Deus. The defining paragraph reads:
We declare, pronounce, and define that the doctrine which holds that the most Blessed Virgin Mary, in the first instance of her conception, by a singular grace and privilege granted by Almighty God, in view of the merits of Jesus Christ, the Savior of the human race, was preserved free from all stain of original sin, is a doctrine revealed by God and therefore to be believed firmly and constantly by all the faithful.
In reading the entire document, it is clear that this includes all stains of sin, original or actual.

This of course is no small point of contention between Protestants and Catholics. Protestants generally do not recognize or acknowledge the typological figures in Scripture that point to her Immaculate Conception.

However, the purpose of this post is not to provide an extensive apologetic for the dogma. It is to bring attention the flaw in one of the critics' arguments against Mary's Immaculate Conception. The argument says because Mary underwent the rite of purification for sin after Christ's birth (Luke 2:22-24), she therefore must have sinned.

For example, Reese Currie of Compass Distributors writes:
Under the Law of Moses, Mary offered a sin offering, the reason for so doing being that one has sinned. So the notion that Mary led a sinless life is proven false...
Here is the Scriptural text in question:
And when the time came for their purification according to the law of Moses, they brought him up to Jerusalem to present him to the Lord (as it is written in the law of the Lord, "Every male that opens the womb shall be called holy to the Lord") and to offer a sacrifice according to what is said in the law of the Lord, "a pair of turtledoves, or two young pigeons." (Luke 2:22-24)
The quoted portion refers back to Leviticus:
Say to the people of Israel, If a woman conceives, and bears a male child, then she shall be unclean seven days; as at the time of her menstruation, she shall be unclean. And on the eighth day the flesh of his foreskin shall be circumcised. ... And when the days of her purifying are completed, whether for a son or for a daughter, she shall bring to the priest at the door of the tent of meeting a lamb a year old for a burnt offering, and a young pigeon or a turtledove for a sin offering, and he shall offer it before the Lord, and make atonement for her; then she shall be clean from the flow of her blood. This is the law for her who bears a child, either male or female. And if she cannot afford a lamb, then she shall take two turtledoves or two young pigeons, one for a burnt offering and the other for a sin offering; and the priest shall make atonement for her, and she shall be clean." (Lev. 12:2-3,6-8)
Authors like Currie focus on the phrase "for a sin offering." Thus, since Mary underwent the purification rite of the Old Covenant under which her action occurred, some critics consider Luke 2 as a "proof" against the idea that Mary is without all stain of sin.

But this conclusion results in a number of problems.

A sin to bleed?
First is a simple problem in understanding the sign of the rite, rather than a statement about the woman's sanctity. According to the text of Leviticus 12, the "sin" the woman committed was the ceremonial need to be purified from the uncleanliness "from the flow of her blood." (cf. Lev. 15 for further context on Jews and sexual "regulations.") No woman commits a sin simply when her body involuntarily behaves according to biology and sheds blood. The idea that "bleeding is morally sinful" is nonsensical on its face. The rite in Leviticus is a "legal" uncleanliness and part of the OT "law" Christ superseded by fulfilling the law. (cf. Gal. 3:13; Mat. 5:17)

The view of sexual actions in the Old Testament often were associated with unholiness. For instance, in 1 Sam. 21:4-5, the priest in the scene refuses to give "holy bread" to men who had recently had relations with women. Of course, God even commanded pre-Fall man to "be fruitful and multiply" (Gen. 1:28) so sexual activity is of course not inherently sinful. These Old Testament figures are rather signal of the actual holiness required to approach God. Understanding how Israel thus viewed these rites points us to the holiness to come.

So then Jesus must have sinned too since he underwent rites for sin?
The second consequence of the critics' argument is perhaps more revealing of its unreasonableness. Remember, the critics' rule is if a person undergoes an OT ritual for sin, that person necessarily must be a sinner. However, the example of Christ, who was without sin (Heb. 2:17; 4:15), destroys the critics' rule.

Notice in the very text of Luke 2:22 it reads when the time came for "their purification." Most manuscripts read "their" in the original Greek (see footnote 2 at NetBible, incidentally a Protestant source). If that is the case, then according to the critics, Jesus, too, must have been a sinner in need of purification. After all, this gibes with the full context to which Luke 2 refers. Leviticus 12:3 reads "And on the eighth day the flesh of his foreskin shall be circumcised." In the Old Testament, an uncircumcised male is seen as cut off from God's people, a disgrace, a breaker of God's covenant (cf. Gen. 17:14; Gen. 34:14). Shall the critic therefore call Jesus a disgrace, cut off from God?

Consider also that Jesus underwent John's "baptism of repentance" (Acts 13:24, Mat. 3:11, etc.):
Then Jesus came from Galilee to the Jordan to John, to be baptized by him. John would have prevented him, saying, "I need to be baptized by you, and do you come to me?" But Jesus answered him, "Let it be so now; for thus it is fitting for us to fulfill all righteousness." Then he consented. (Mat. 3:13-15)
This is an enlightening text. Even though the rite of John's baptism was for the purpose of the recipient's repentance, Jesus "consents" anyway. John even argued with Jesus, questioning why Jesus would even want to undergo the baptism! Yet Jesus consents for a purpose other than a need to repent of sin. He consents for a reason other than the legal purpose of the rite. In doing so, Jesus reveals at least one other reason to undergo a rite for sin: for fulfillment.

And therefore, one cannot consider Luke 2:22-24 a prooftext of any sort against Mary's Immaculate Conception. For she needn't be a sinner to undergo a legal rite for sin.

1For examples, see books like Mary and the Fathers of the Church by Luigi Gambero or The Fathers Know Best by Jimmy Akin.

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

How can Mary crush the serpent's head? A look at Genesis 3:15

I've run across an accusation against the Catholic Church that goes something like this one from Christian apologist Keith Thompson:
One example of distortion of scripture to support Catholic exaltation of Mary has to do with the translation of Genesis 3:15....Genesis 3:15 [says...] "And I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your offspring and hers; he will crush your head, and you will strike his heel.”...“He” (הוּא) in the original Hebrew is masculine. It is pronounced “hoo” and can also mean “it.” Many think it means “it” in reference to collective offspring of the woman crushing the head of the serpent. In the LXX, however, it is rendered autos “he,” indicating that the passage should be understood as a Messianic prophecy about Jesus Christ alone crushing the head. “He [Jesus] will crush the serpents head.”

However, Jerome (342-430) in his Latin Vulgate translation made a major error changing “it” or “he” into “she” using the feminine pronoun ipsa in the Latin. Roman Catholic scholars who accepted the Latin Vulgate then translated Genesis 3:15 in their Douay-Rheims Bible as:

I will put enmities between thee and the woman, and thy seed and her seed: she shall crush thy head, and thou shalt lie in wait for her heel.
First we begin with the term for "he/it/she" in question. Thompson notes that the Hebrew word is masculine and translated as "he" or "it." Several Protestant translations do use the word "it" including the fairly literal King James Version. Catholic apologists such as Jimmy Akin or Robert Sungenis acknowledge the masculinity of the Hebrew word as well, which admits to "he" or "it." There is an artistic sense in which the Hebrew word could be copied as feminine, and that is in the case of poetry, which the Jewish Encyclopedia states sometimes uses masculine and feminine interchangeably. But for the sake of this apologetic, according to my research, I am going to agree that "he" and "it" are the most accurate translations.

Before I move on, I just want to point out that the term "she" was not a corruption that came about because of Jerome. Jerome's translation is circa 400 A.D. Yet we can find at least one early Christian interpreting the same verse with "she," such as Tertullian writing around 205 A.D. in his work On the Apparel of Women.

Now, no one disputes that the principle defeater of Satan is God, as even Romans 16:20 echoes: "the God of peace will soon crush Satan under your feet." However, both Protestants and Catholics alike recognize that the "he" and "his" in the phrase "he will crush your head, and you will strike his heel" refers back to the word "offspring." Thompson also admits "many" interpreters recognize this meaning in the structure of the text. And I think the text demands that the "offspring" of the "woman" includes the Church.

Let's look again at Romans 16:20: "the God of peace will soon crush Satan under your feet." Satan is crushed "under the feet" of the Roman church, albeit by God through them. Thompson's objection to this understanding due to the Septuagint's use of the word "he" does not preclude the Church as a participant in Christ's work because the "he" could be understood as "the 'he' who crushes through the Church" just as Romans 16:20 suggests.

John MacArthur, whose contra-Catholic ideas I previously discussed, wrote:
Believers should recognize that they participate in the crushing of Satan because, along with their Savior and because of His finished work on the cross, they also are of the woman's seed.1
Protestant "Reformer" John Calvin, in his commmentary on Genesis, wrote similarly of this verse:
[I]t comes to pass that, in the same manner, the whole Church of God, under its Head, will gloriously exult over him. To this the declaration of Paul refers, “The Lord shall bruise Satan under your feet shortly,” (Romans 16:20.) By which words he signifies that the power of bruising Satan is imparted to faithful men, and thus the blessing is the common property of the whole Church.
There are Catholic sources that agree with these sentiments, such as the New American Bible's footnote:
He will his heel: since the antecedent for he and his is the collective noun offspring, i.e., all the descendants of the woman, a more exact rendering of the sacred writer's words would be, "They will their heels."
Or the Revised Standard Version-Catholic Edition footnote:
he shall bruise your head: i.e., the seed of the woman, that is, mankind descended from Eve, will eventually gain the victory over the powers of evil. This victory will, of course, be gained through the work of the Messiah who is par excellence the seed of the woman.2

Even in Revelation 12:7-8, Michael the archangel and his angels are said to have vanquished the devil from heaven, but this does not trump Christ's ultimate victory over the serpent. The angels are, after all, fellow members of the Church as well. So anyway, a variety of Catholics and Protestants alike agree that Jesus is the primary force striking the head of the serpent, but this does not preclude the Church as a secondary agent as well.

And it is at this point we turn to Mary. Can she be said to play a special role as well in striking the head of the serpent?

Along with the Church, which participates in the victorious sufferings of Christ (e.g. 1 Pt 4:13), Mary's suffering is specifically tied to the sufferings of Christ in the prophecy of the Holy Spirit through Simeon:
Luke 2:25,34-35 Now there was a man in Jerusalem, whose name was Simeon, and this man was righteous and devout, looking for the consolation of Israel, and the Holy Spirit was upon him. ... and Simeon blessed them and said to Mary his mother, "Behold, this child is set for the fall and rising of many in Israel, and for a sign that is spoken against and a sword will pierce through your own soul also, that thoughts out of many hearts may be revealed."
A second reason Mary can be seen to have a special role in striking the serpent's head is because, typologically, Mary is understood as figure of the Church, which we have established as a very fair understanding of the "he/it" that strikes the serpent's head. Among many reasons, Mary is understood as a figure of the Church due to the Spirit coming together with her to bring forth a child. Nuptually, children are brought forth via the union of husband and wife, and thus, Mary in this sense is the "spouse" of the Spirit. And Scripture often refers to the Church as the spotless, virgin bride of God as well (e.g. Mt 25:1, Eph 5:27-32, Rv 21:9-10) thus the Virgin Mary is the Church's figure. Pope John Paul II recognized this, as well as the bishops at Vatican II, and even in antiquity from the likes of St. Ambrose in the 4th century (see Pope John Paul II, Mary is Outstanding Figure of the Church).

There are also other strong places in Scripture overlapping Mary and the Church such as Revelation 12 which uses imagery much like Genesis 3:15.

Revelation 12:5-6a,17 [S]he brought forth a male child, one who is to rule all the nations with a rod of iron, but her child was caught up to God and to his throne, and the woman fled into the wilderness...Then the dragon was angry with the woman, and went off to make war on the rest of her offspring, on those who keep the commandments of God and bear testimony to Jesus.
Verse 9 in between also calls the dragon "that ancient serpent," tying it even further with Genesis 3:15. The woman in this passage is Mary because she brings forth the one to rule all nations. And like ancient Israel fleeing through the "wilderness" to Egypt, Mary also fled to Egypt with Joseph (Mt 2:13-14). In turn, Israel is the prefigurement of the Church of the new covenant (e.g. Jer 31:31-33). And coming full circle, Mary can be seen to strike the serpent's head in her role as figure of the Church.

Finally, I'd like to look at two other women in the Old Covenant who struck the head of the enemy on behalf of the people. In what other way can the "he" or "it" term in Genesis 3:15 be understood to include Mary specifically? I think the following is perhaps the most compelling evidence.

The first woman described to "strike the enemy's head" is Jael. In Judges 4:21 and Judges 5:26, she is described killing the oppressive king's general Sisera by driving a tent peg into his head.

The second woman is Judith. In Judith 13:8-9, she is described cutting off the head of Holofernes, who is called later in the chapter the "leader of...enemies," and whose name means "stinking in hell."3

Before I proceed, it should be noted that the Old Testament also includes stories like the one of David, who strikes the head of the enemy Goliath. David, as a figure of Christ, reflects Christ's role in smiting the enemy's head.

Now back to the women. So in what way is Mary connected to these women who struck the enemy's head? One very strong connection is that all three women, Jael, Judith, and Mary are called "blessed among women."

Jael is called "blessed of women" in Judges 5:24. Judith is called "blessed...among all women on earth" in Judith 13:18. And Mary, of course, is called "blessed...among women" in Luke 1:42.

Mary's weapon is not a peg, like Jael, or a sword, like Judith. Rather can Mary's weapon be considered her very immediate offspring––Jesus Christ? I think the typology here supports that understanding.

Therefore, we can better see that Mary in a very real sense strikes the enemy's head when we study the text of Genesis 3:15 in light of the totality of Scripture. We needn't worry if the word "she" is incompatible with the Hebrew text of Genesis 3:15 because Mary's role is deducible without forcing the translation. She is a figure of the Church as well as the women in the Old Testament, all whom are said in Scripture to strike the enemy's head. And none of this participation detracts from the ultimate victor over the serpent––Jesus Christ.

1MacArthur, John, The MacArthur Study Bible, Thomas Nelson (publisher), 1997, p. 20-21.2Revised Standard Version-Catholic Edition, Ignatius Press, San Francisco, 1965-1966, p. 985.3Many Protestant traditions do not recognize the book of Judith as Scripture. However, I think the strength of the argument can be drawn from the Jael story alone, or by acknowledging the historical tale of Judith as part of Jewish tradition even if one denies its Scriptural quality.