No Trace of Marian Dogmas in the Early Church?
Matthew J. Bellisario 2011
Matthew J. Bellisario 2011
It is a fact that without Mary’s divine motherhood, there is no incarnation of Jesus, who is God incarnate. The divine person of Jesus, being consubstantial with the Father, now having two natures, the divine and human, is not made manifest to the human race without the Blessed Virgin Mary. This is a bitter hard pill for the pretended “reformer” to swallow, and most of them would like to ignore this fact rather than recognize it for fear that the Catholic Church just might be right when it teaches this divine revealed truth of Jesus Christ. In order to obfuscate this fact the protester usually will defer to their ability to reason through their biased ideas of Church history. Far from adhering to Scripture as their only authority from which to base their beliefs on, they look intently for any early church writing that may even hint at refuting a Catholic teaching so they can justify their denial of a core teaching of the Church. Context is not in most of their vocabularies when it comes to the Church Fathers. Once they have cut and pasted their favorite historians and a few quotes from Church Fathers taken out of context, they then pontificate from their laptops sitting on their sofas at home. They go to their blogs and then tell their readers that Catholic doctrines and dogmas, especially those pertaining to Mary, were made up many centuries after Jesus and His apostles.
One such character is the Protestant apologist Corey Tucholski. On his blog the other day he made the following comment as if it were an objective fact. “Nothing like the Catholic Marian Dogmas can be seen until the sixth century.” Now I want to stop here and look at this outrageous claim. If I can find evidence of any of the four Marian dogmas claimed by the Catholic Church before the sixth century, this would prove this statement to be false. In fact, I can do more than find mere evidence, I can find entire churches living the dogmas before the sixth century, and I can even find ecumenical councils driving the entire Church stating certain Catholic Marian dogmas as being absolute truths of the Christian faith. I truly cannot understand why these Protestant apologists keep making such implausible claims. I want to look at only one of the four Marian dogmas and then see if what Corey says has any substance to it. Once we see that his claim does not hold up to scrutiny, I will wait for his apology to all of the people has deceived on his website by making this fallacious statement. Likewise I will wait for him to formally recant his statement, since any honest man who sees his position to be fallacious should by all accounts be willing to admit he was wrong. It is one thing to disagree with a certain position, but don't make things up that have no probability whatsoever of being true. We will see how this apology pans out. What typically happens is that once these Protestants realize that they made an incorrect statement, they will try to roll the clock back on you. Since the sixth century argument doesn’t pan out for them, they will roll back another couple of hundred years until they think that their argument can hold. For now we will take his bold claim as it was given. “Nothing like the Catholic Marian Dogmas can be seen until the sixth century.” We will see about that.
There are four Marian dogmas held by the Catholic Church, but her divine motherhood is the wellspring from which all the others flow from, since it is intimately united to Jesus Christ and His incarnation. So I will address this one dogma which defines her as ‘Mother of God.’ This dogma is a core belief for any Christian, being that God chose to bring salvation to mankind through the divine motherhood of Mary. This means that the Church teaches that Mary is the Mother of God incarnate, mother of the person of Jesus Christ, who is true God and true man. Properly speaking, no one is a mother to a nature alone, but to a person. Jesus is a person, and Mary was His mother. That makes her the mother of God. You would think that this would be common sense for most people, and indeed it was to those faithful to the gospel in the early Church. It is impossible for Jesus to be born as a nature only, which is what you have if she is not the Mother of God. Was this teaching of the divine maternity taught before the sixth century? Corey Tucholski tells his readers no, history and the Church however tell us otherwise.
Every Church Father who writes of Mary’s motherhood always refers to her as the mother of the person of Jesus, or as mother of the Savior, or even as mother of God. You find that few if any refer to her as mother of His nature alone. And those who tried to claim that she was not the mother of His entire person, they were labeled as heretics because it directly relates to Jesus Christ as the incarnate third person of the Trinity. The Protestant completely misses the boat here, and then you wonder why so many of their errors fall into the area of degrading Christ's human nature. It is almost as if they find his incarnation repugnant. I am sure most do not think of it that way on the surface, but this is truly a reality when you converse with them on theological questions. Protestantism does not have a firm understanding of person-hood and the hypostatic union of Christ as it relates to the nativity. The great Charles De Koninck writes in his astounding work ‘Ego Sapientia’, “Now, nativity looks first of all and principally at the being of the hypostasis and of the person. Consequently, since the Blessed Virgin is the mother of Christ according to the hypostasis, she is really mother of God and of the man.” True Christianity views the entire person of Jesus, which includes both of His natures, not just one of them as being born from Mary. If only a nature was born from Mary, then we do not have a hypostatic union in one person. This is the tangled web the heretic weaves when they deny a core dogma of the Christian faith.
Before I go to the Church Father’s writings, I want to look at Sacred Scripture, because it also gives us a witness to this Dogma. Read Galatians 4:4-5. “But when the fulness of the time was come, God sent his Son, made of a woman, made under the law: That he might redeem them who were under the law: that we might receive the adoption of sons.” It is fairly evident here that Jesus, God’s Son, was made of a women. This certainly implies divine motherhood, since His entire person was made in relation to the women. It did not say only God’s nature was made of a women. No, it said his Son, that is the person of Jesus Christ, true God, true man was made of a women. As far as origin goes in relation to God incarnate, that is as He takes on a human nature, the very point of origin is through Mary as His mother. There is no way of getting around this, say what you will. Again I quote De Koninck, "The mother is not understandable without the Son, nor is the Son-Redeemer understandable without the mother. She proceeds from the One who made her so that He, Himself, could proceed from her." If we then turn to Luke 1:43, Elizabeth states that Mary was, “the mother of my Lord.” She did not say she was the mother of my Lord’s human nature. This makes it fairly clear that Mary was the Mother of God. These Scripture texts are well before the sixth century, no? This teaching originates from the beginning of the proclamation of the gospel in the world.
Now I want to move forward to some early church writers and fathers who also back this dogma. Alexander of Alexandria calls her the Mother of God in 325, and there is a papyrus manuscript, ‘Sub Tuum’ that may date the actual formal Greek term Mother of God, Theotokos, to the year 270. The dating of the manuscript is debated so I will not hinge everything on that. However, we do have the entire Church using and properly defining the exact term at the Council of Ephesus in 431, which was by the way, an ecumenical council. "If anyone does not confess that Emmanuel is God in truth, and therefore that the holy virgin is the mother of God (for she bore in a fleshly way the Word of God become flesh, let him be anathema." The early Church understood how crucial this dogma was and how it underpinned the foundations of who Christ was as God incarnate. No one can separate the dogmas pertaining to Mary from Christ Himself. Saint Athanasius and St. Gregory Nazianzen well before the Council had already used the term very specifically, and they also presented the teaching as a test of orthodoxy. “If anyone does not believe that Holy Mary is the Mother of God, he is severed from the Godhead." Gregory of Nazianzus, To Cledonius, 101 (A.D. 382) The great Latin Father, Saint Ambrose in the fourth century used the Latin term ‘Mater Dei”. That is ‘Mother of God’ for those who are rusty on their Latin. Both East and West were unanimous in this Marian dogma. How can the Protester plead otherwise with a straight face? I must point out that every one of these individuals listed here are well before Corey’s sixth century cut off date, which he so boldly told us these Catholic Marian dogmas could not be found. I could continue on with more evidence, but I will stop with this quote. “To the question: 'Is Mary the bearer of Man, or the bearer of God?' we must answer: 'Of Both.'" Theodore of Mopsuestia, The Incarnation, 15 (ante A.D. 428).