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Theotokos : Points for Discussion

Posted by Remy on May 26, 2009

  • Theotokos means “God bearer” and was applied to Mary in the Christological controversies.
  • In the ensuing centuries this temporary role was made eternal.
  • “Therefore a man will leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife.”
  • If she isn’t part of the bride she’s been left behind.
  • In John 19:26 Mary was shifted from mother to sister and to bride.
  • The perpetual virginity of Mary serves no theological purpose.
  • The perpetual virginity of Mary was invented by a bunch of virgins with sexual hang-ups because the early church had a low view of the body.
  • Virginity is something to be lost within marriage, not something to treasure.
  • It is not dishonorable to say that Mary had sex and bore children (as Matt. 12.46 says), rather it is to further honor her.

The next step for Romanists is to name Mary coredemptrix, a petition that garnered over six million signatures including Mother Teresa of Calcutta.

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110 Responses to “Theotokos : Points for Discussion”

  1. I’ve often thought we shouldn’t say that virginity is lost in marriage. That’s the one place it’s not lost. Rather, it is given, carefully bestowed as a marriage gift to the spouse. And that is the only way it can continue as a treasure within marriage.

  2. Remy said

    Great point. I reform my language forthwith.

  3. Theotokus means “God bearer” and was applied to Mary in the Christological controversies.

    Actually I think Theotokos (it’s an omicron not omicron upsilon!) was first used liturgically in Alexandria, and subsequently became a point of dispute during the Christological controversies. But that’s a relatively minor point.

    In the ensuing centuries this temporary role was made eternal.

    I have no idea what this means. Either it’s simply false, or a gross oversimplification. Do you really believe in temporary roles? “Hey thanks, thanks for pouring yourself out, and giving yourself that he would be greater than you. From your cross, there is no resurrection. You did not consider equality with God something to be grasped, but made yourself a mere handmaiden and an outsider, raising God up to be separate from you. Therefore you shall receive nothing special.” This makes the promise of resurrection and of glory to those who humble themselves not universally true, and thus false. Which is to say, it amounts to a denial of the gospel.

    Rather, the Protestant position takes the Theotokos’ kenosis and eternalizes it. We leave Mary on her cross.

    “Therefore a man will leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife.”

    “Therefore a man will leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife.” You can’t conclude that Christ’s relation with His Father is ended from this verse, therefore you can’t make a similar conclusion about His mother.

    But again, we don’t look at Christ on the Cross and say “man look at how powerless He is become.” We say “man, look at his glory. He has left everything, and is now here.” So likewise we should look at the depth the Theotokos is lowered to in say Luke 9, and later at the Cross, and say “look how glorious she is. Look how much she has given herself.”

    As Christ shines in glory when He is lifted up on the Cross, so too the Theotokos shines in glory when she has faithfully raised up a Son who left her.

    If she isn’t part of the bride she’s been left behind.

    Sure. And if Christ isn’t faithful to His Father he’s left behind. Both equally useless.

    In John 19:26 Mary was shifted from mother to sister and to bride.

    This statement doesn’t even make sense. Christ gives her away, thus providing for her, and simultaneously piercing her heart with a sword. Therefore, she is a sister and wife. Then again, one of the traditions is to read the Song of Songs as addressed by Christ to Mary, and to identify the Theotokos with the Church, so sure.

    The perpetual virginity of Mary serves no theological purpose.

    False.

    The perpetual virginity of Mary was invented because…the early church had a low view of the body.

    Risible.

    Virginity is something to be lost within marriage, not something to treasure.

    Well, yes, of course. This relates to the point about the Theotokos being a bride.

    It is not dishonorable to say that Mary had sex and bore children (as Matt. 12.46 says), rather it is to further honor her.

    Well, first, Matthew 12:46 says no such thing, at least unless 2 Kings 22:2 says that Josiah was the first generation after David.

    To praise a woman for having children is to honor her. It doesn’t follow that to claim that the Theotokos divided her attention between God and others does not dishonor her.

  4. I think this poem Pr. Wilson wrote (I changed only the title and the last line) gets at something Protestants stubbornly refuse to say about the Theotokos.

    The Theotokos

    When sons rise up to call their mother blessed
    They simply say what all who know can see,
    That mothers fearing God surpass the rest,
    And praises must be rendered thankfully.
    When women leave the lot apportioned them
    To grasp and grab for what is not their own
    They leave behind a trail of damaged men
    Whose wounds don’t bleed until they’ve fully grown.
    But those who teach, rebuke, instruct and spank
    Prepare their sons to fight whom they could not
    And so a grateful church has God to thank
    For victories of grace by proxy fought.
    And so I thank our ruling God above
    For giving us a gracious present of
    Mary, Theotokos. Kecharitomeni.

    Also worth considering, this re-working of II Samuel.

    The Theotokos: Good Friday and Ascension

    And the Spirit sent Nathan unto the King. And he came unto Him, and said unto Him, “There once was a very rich lord; with a poor handmaid in his pay. The rich man had exceeding many flocks and herds: But the poor handmaiden had nothing, not even one little ewe lamb. But the rich man, seeing the handmaid’s low estate gave have her the choisest of his own lambs, which she bought up and nourished: and it grew up together with her, and with her children; it did eat of her own meat, and drank of her own cup, and lay in his bosom, and was unto her as a son. And there came a traveller unto the rich man, and he spared to take of his own flock and of his own herd, to dress for the wayfaring man that was come unto him; but took the handmaid’s lamb, and dressed it for the man that was come to him.

    And The King’s anger was greatly kindled against the man; and he said to Nathan, As the LORD liveth, the man that hath done this thing shall surely die: And he shall restore the lamb fourfold, because he did this thing, and because he had no pity.

    And Nathan said to the King, “Thou art the man.”

  5. Is no one else bothered by a mother who becomes a bride?

    I mean, that’s pretty wild even by Mississippi standards of kinship romance!

  6. Remy said

    Wow, what an enormous blunder on my part. Theotokos. And I take such pride in my spelling.

    The world is full of temporary roles. That doesn’t mean all roles are temporary, but no doubt some are, and I contend that this one is.

    As for leaving the father and mother, I would say the difference between Mary and God the Father is the fact that one is Godhead the other isn’t. And I knew I would have to say this at some point.

    I agree that Mary can be pictured as the new Eve, the Ark, the Church, but so can all the other Marys in the Greek Testament, the grave, blood&water, and on and on.

    You are Matthew Petersen, if all you can muster on a Theotokos question is single “false” then I have just fallen beyond assured in my comments. I put this up here to discuss, not to exercise my apparent need to put me head against a brick wall.

    Risible, okay, but I notice that even you couldn’t muster another “false”.

    “It doesn’t follow that to claim that the Theotokos divided her attention between God and others does not dishonor her.”

    Wait, wait, wait. You think that for Mary to care for her other children is a dishonor?

  7. The world is full of temporary roles. That doesn’t mean all roles are temporary, but no doubt some are, and I contend that this one is.

    Well, ok sure–though you haven’t actually contended for it, while I have contended against it. But the principal if a good role is surrendered in love, there will be a resurrection to something greater still remains. For every Good Friday, an Easter. Now if you want to say that Theotokos is merely a role, that there was no real honor in it, sure, you don’t have to say anything about a Easter corresponding to her Cross. But if you, with Gabriel and Elizabeth, say the was “blessed” precisely as Theotokos, you have to say that either she discharged her duty as Theotokos unfaithfully, or there shall be an Easter for her cross. God was dependent on her. God did not know love, and learned love from her. She was a mediator between God and God. God was in her image. God was subject to her. She was a mediator between God and man. He ceased to be, but he ceased to be because the Theotokos offered Him up to the Father. She faithfully discharged her motherhood, and faithfully separated God from herself. Her loss of him was her cross which she faithfully took up. Therefore, of a necessity, there was or shall be a corresponding glorification.

    I suppose you could reply “she was just a mother, now she’s a bride.” First, if you said “but bride contains everything in mother” I’d agree, but wonder why you then want to deny mother. But second, that isn’t the trajectory of it in our marriages. A woman doesn’t have children so she can get married, she gets married so she can have children. Which means that, at least in some sense, motherhood is greater than marriage, or than mere marriage, since marriage has motherhood as its goal.

    The Protestant mariology leaves the Theotokos on her cross.

    As for leaving the father and mother, I would say the difference between Mary and God the Father is the fact that one is Godhead the other isn’t.

    Well, yeah, and I sorta figured you’d reply like this. And if I were to point to that verse and say “as Christ in ascending returns to His Father, so he returns to His mother” you could rightly respond “wait, His Father is God, His mother isn’t.” But you’re pointing to that verse to say Christ left his mother. And my response is “yeah, so…He left His Father too.” Why can’t I say, with Luther, that the one who accepts Christ in faith receives from Him everything which is His, and thus rests on Mary’s lap>

    I agree that Mary can be pictured as the new Eve, the Ark, the Church, but so can all the other Marys in the Greek Testament, the grave, blood&water, and on and on.

    If I said “I agree that Christ is the image of the Father, but then so is every Christian” I’d be saying something strictly true, but very deceptive. I think something similar is going on here. You are correct that every Christian is an icon of the Church. But that is because every Christian is Christ’s mother–for who is His mother and brothers?–and the Church is the mother. So the objection I’d have to this statement is that you shouldn’t say any Christian is as good as the Theotokos–which amounts to a claim that the Theotokos looks like any Christian–but that any Christian looks like the Theotokos.

    Also, I think I’d want there to be a greater unity between the Theotokos and the Church. If you mean that the Theotokos is a image of the Church like Christ is an image of the Father, yeah sure. But if you mean that she is merely a type, no, no, no. We aren’t types, we are antitypes. And the Theotokos in particular is an antitype, because she not only looks like a mother, but is the mother.

    You are Matthew Petersen, if all you can muster on a Theotokos question is single “false” then I have just fallen beyond assured in my comments. I put this up here to discuss, not to exercise my apparent need to put me head against a brick wall.

    Risible, okay, but I notice that even you couldn’t muster another “false”.

    “He teaches ill, who teaches all”

    But, mostly I just got tired of answering, and decided that an answer to those questions would take too long. The answer to the first will be in the answer to your last point, the second is merely historical. If you want to talk about it I could, but I really don’t like historical discussions.

    Wait, wait, wait. You think that for Mary to care for her other children is a dishonor?

    Yeah, of course.

    “And I will pour upon the house of David, and upon the inhabitants of Jerusalem, the spirit of grace and of supplications: and they shall look upon me whom they have pierced, and they shall mourn for him, as one mourneth for his only son, and shall be in bitterness for him, as one that is in bitterness for his firstborn.”

    Are you really saying there would be more honor here if it weren’t “as one mourneth for his only son”?

  8. Just one correction, in the first paragraph I added a sentence after “God was subject to her” that makes the sentence beginning with “He ceased to be” incomprehensible. “He ceased to be subject to her…”

    Also, in the last quote “his” isn’t in the Hebrew. The Hebrew says “The only son…the firstborn” not “his”.

  9. Remy said

    “God was dependent on her. God did not know love, and learned love from her. She was a mediator between God and God. God was in her image.”

    This sort of thing makes no sense to me. The Holy Spirit’s was a love far closer and surpassing than Mary’s. To say she was a mediator between God and God puts her in the Trinity. I would’ve thought you would be more careful than that. I don’t get “God was in her image” are you talking genetically?

    Even if you want to talk about human love, the height of love is between brothers, not mothers and sons.

    I don’t see the transformation from mother to sister/bride as a loss.

    As for your other points they’re too elliptical for me. Mary’s not in the Trinity so Jesus cannot leave the Godhead, like He leaves Mary. And having and raising more children is more honor, not less.

    But I would still like to know the theological significance of Mary’s purported perpetual virginity.

  10. This sort of thing makes no sense to me….

    If I substituted “Matthew and Renee” for “God and Mary” would this sort of claim make sense? If so, they are all just glosses on Theotokos.

    God was in her image: “And Adam lived an hundred and thirty years, and begat a son in his own likeness, and after his image; and called his name Seth.” As Adam was in the image of God, so Seth was in the image of Adam. Or in general, (as both E. Wilson, and Pr. Sumpter have said) children are in the image of their parents. Thus the statement “God was in her image” is just “theotokos” turned around.

    She was a mediator between God and God:

    I have no idea how you can deny that Mary was a mediator between God and God either. Sure, if you want to say Mary was Christotokos, not Theotokos, you can deny Mary mediated between God and God–then she only mediated between God and Christ. But if you want to say Mary was theotokos, and you wish to say parents are priests, I have no idea how you can deny this. God did not know God, and the icon of God for Him was the Theotokos.

    Do you believe you mediate God for your children? Then the Theotokos mediated God for her child.

    God did not know love, and learned love from her:

    Surely you don’t want me to believe you knew how to love before you were born? Or was it a sin for you to not know how to love? “Like us in all respects apart from sin.”

    God was dependent on her:

    Do you think the infant God would have lived without her? The pre-natal God?

    God was subject to her:

    Well, I am just quoting Luke 2:51.

    I don’t see the transformation from mother to sister/bride as a loss.

    Well, if you can say that mother is contained in sister/bride, sure. But if you exclude the things which are in mother from sister/bride it is a loss, at least of those particular things.

    Mary’s not in the Trinity so Jesus cannot leave the Godhead, like He leaves Mary

    Well, yeah sure. But still, Jesus came down from heaven to be joined to His Bride. He emptied Himself of the form of God, and received it back. Yes, he left Mary. Precisely this is her glory.

    And having and raising more children is more honor, not less.

    And having more gods is more honor, not less. Right? Yeah, sure, if her son isn’t God, having more sons is more honor. But how can you add to the honor of being the mother of God by making her the mother of others? How can anything be added to God?

    But I would still like to know the theological significance of Mary’s purported perpetual virginity.

    Christ Alone.

  11. Also, I’d like to know the theological significance of Mary’s virginity prior to the Incarnation. Yes, granted, the son couldn’t have had a human father, but could she have been a widow?

  12. Or on your view, could she have screwed up five years earlier? Maybe she had even gotten pregnant five years earlier. I mean “parthenos” is probably just a translation of “young woman” and HGL says it can be used of unmarried women who are not virgins.

    But anyway, if the perpetual virginity is meaningless, why don’t you believe it? The word “brothers” can easily mean “cousins” in Greek, and it was the traditional doctrine, even among Protestants, till very recently.

  13. Remy said

    “If I substituted “Matthew and Renee” for “God and Mary” would this sort of claim make sense?”

    No, it would not make sense. I still don’t follow the point.

    “As Adam was in the image of God, so Seth was in the image of Adam. Or in general, children are in the image of their parents.”

    You don’t really do theology this way do you? “In general” doesn’t cut it.

    “Do you believe you mediate God for your children? Then the Theotokos mediated God for her child.”

    You cannot mean that Mary was between Trinity. To say that would deny Theotokos. But if you are speaking of tertiary mediators, then yeah sure she was, as was Joseph, the Rabbis, and other friends and family around Jesus.

    I see now that you don’t actually mean that Jesus’s Godhead was dependent on her or subject to her. But if this is all you mean why do you give the short shrift to Joseph. He’s as much mentioned in Lk. 2.51.

    “But how can you add to the honor of being the mother of God by making her the mother of others? How can anything be added to God?”

    First, I didn’t make her the mother of others, Joseph did. And secondly, the Bible is clear, to have a quiver full of children is a great blessing. I believe Mary and Joseph were blessed and blessed more than you do. Thirdly, I don’t know how anything can be added to God. But what does that have to do with the question?

    Virginity prior to the incarnation is important. I don’t really think you need help on this, but if you do let me know and I can help you.

    Do you understand “Christ alone” to mean “Christ the only child”? Because I can tell you right now that you’re way off base on the meaning of “Solus Christus”.

    And the reason I don’t believe in the doctrine of perpetual virginity is because I don’t have sexual hang-ups.

    But I am still interested in hearing if there is any theological purpose to the view.

  14. You’re rather a little slow.

    No, it would not make sense. I still don’t follow the point.

    With which of these points do you disagree:

    “Matthew was dependent on Renee [my mother]. Matthew did not know love, and learned love from her. She was a mediator between Matthew and God. Matthew is in her image. Matthew was subject to her. She was a mediator between Matthew and everyone else.”

    If you agree with those statements, surely you must agree with the statements that replace “Matthew” with “God” and “Renee” with “Mary”. If the one is true, the other must be.

    You cannot mean that Mary was between Trinity. To say that would deny Theotokos. But if you are speaking of tertiary mediators, then yeah sure she was, as was Joseph, the Rabbis, and other friends and family around Jesus.

    But her, and then Joseph, in a unique way. God knew Mary, and nothing else. God was wholly dependent on Mary. After that, God was wholly dependent on Mary and Joseph. (Though God was his adopted Son, but Mary’s natural Son, which is a large difference.) As they raised God up to be more and more independent, others became mediators. But Mary is unique in that God is her fruit, and she was, at one time, the sole mediator between God and God.

    I see now that you don’t actually mean that Jesus’s Godhead was dependent on her or subject to her. But if this is all you mean why do you give the short shrift to Joseph. He’s as much mentioned in Lk. 2.51.

    I mean that God was subject to Mary. Why, when we are discussing the Mother of God, do you object whenever I rephrase “mother of God.” You do believe it, rather than merely consenting to something you’ve never really considered?

    But, where exactly do I give the short shrift to Joseph? We’re talking about the Theotokos. I haven’t denied anything about Joseph.

    The Bible is clear, to have a quiver full of children is a great blessing. I believe Mary and Joseph were blessed and blessed more than you do. Thirdly, I don’t know how anything can be added to God. But what does that have to do with the question?

    Do you regularly contradict yourself in sentences immediately following on each other? “I believe Mary is not just blessed with God as a son, she has received more blessing than just God. I think nothing can be added to God.”

    No, I think Mary is more blessed than you, because I recognize that in being the Mother of God she is blessed with everything, rather than having to pretend God isn’t sufficient, and to the blessing which is God, more can be added.

    Virginity prior to the incarnation is important. I don’t really think you need help on this, but if you do let me know and I can help you.

    I think it’s important. But I’d like to see why you say it is. Sure, who is Christ’s father is important, but is it really necessary to prove that Mary didn’t have a one-night-stand a year and a half earlier? Maybe she even had another son who died as an infant. Surely you can’t object that she couldn’t have committed that sin, you think she committed plenty of others. You can point to the text of Matthew, but what if I make a linguistic argument that Parthenos doesn’t always mean virgin, but can just mean young woman.

    Do you understand “Christ alone” to mean “Christ the only child”? Because I can tell you right now that you’re way off base on the meaning of “Solus Christus”.

    Uh…actually, I’m reacting to your attempt to say that Mary was more blessed than just being the Mother of God. As if more could be added to God.

    And the reason I don’t believe in the doctrine of perpetual virginity is because I don’t have sexual hang-ups.

    But Luther did? Come on. ad hominems are pointless. The Church taught the perpetual virginity from the earliest time till about 200 years ago. Luther believed it. Zwingli believed it. The council of Ephesus contains a canon that pronounces her ever-virgin. When Nicea was written, “the Virgin Mary” probably meant “the Ever-Virgin Mary.” Augustine wrote against the heresy that claimed she had other children. Yet you can just dismiss this with a wave of a hand, and say nearly all your fathers had “sexual hang-ups”? Give me a break.

    But I am still interested in hearing if there is any theological purpose to the view.

    And I’m still interested in hearing if you believe anything can be added to God. I mean, of course you say “nothing can be added to God.” But then you turn around and attempt to add something to God.

    Likewise I’m still interested to see if you believe Theotokos, or if it has just become a worn-out word with no real meaning. I mean, when I turn it around say it different ways you raise Nestorius’ objection that I’m making Mary divine.

  15. And I forgot this line:

    You don’t really do theology this way do you? “In general” doesn’t cut it.

    Seriously? I didn’t mean “it’s generally true” but “taken away from this specific.”

  16. kyriosity said

    “God knew Mary, and nothing else. God was wholly dependent on Mary.”

    Huh? Babies, even ones that aren’t divine, can’t know God at all? Babies are dependent on their mothers in a vacuum separate from God’s provision? Again I say, Huh???

  17. Remy said

    “If you agree with those statements, surely you must agree with the statements that replace “Matthew” with “God” and “Renee” with “Mary”. If the one is true, the other must be.”

    Why? Do you think that there is no difference between “Matthew” and “God”? Because I do. I think there is a great difference.

    God knew Mary, and nothing else.

    No, He knew the Divine life.

    God was wholly dependent on Mary. After that, God was wholly dependent on Mary and Joseph.

    It depends what you mean, did Mary feed the 2nd Person of the Trinity? No, Did she wipe the ass of the Godhead? No. Did she wipe the ass of the Godchild, yes.

    (Though God was his adopted Son, but Mary’s natural Son, which is a large difference.)

    This is actually starting to sound like Mormonism. They believe the Holy Spirit inseminated Mary, thereby making Mary genetically His mother. She is not genetically His mother. And “natural Son” is exactly wrong. Nothing natural about it.

    But Mary is unique in that God is her fruit, and she was, at one time, the sole mediator between God and God.

    You again, deny the Theotokos when you say this. She did not mediate God the Father and the Holy Spirit to the Son.

    Why, when we are discussing the Mother of God, do you object whenever I rephrase “mother of God.”

    Because you rephrase it in such a way that is not true.

    I think Mary is more blessed than you, because I recognize that in being the Mother of God she is blessed with everything, rather than having to pretend God isn’t sufficient, and to the blessing which is God, more can be added.

    Sorry, I thought you were bringing up the Divine Simplicity with that question. I see that you mean, Can something be added to Mary along with God. The question to that is: yes. In fact, God adds quite a lot. Your comment above is just silly. She doesn’t have to pretend that God isn’t sufficient, He is sufficient and He gives so much more than she ever deserved, like a husband (a real husband not the token husband that perpetual virginity demands) and children and lots of cool things on top.

    As for the virgin birth, the miraculous birth, it was prophesied. I don’t need any other reason than that.

    Christ alone doesn’t mean that Christ is all we get. More is added, the whole world is added. This is not something you can argue.

    Yet you can just dismiss this with a wave of a hand, and say nearly all your fathers had “sexual hang-ups”

    All of the father’s did have sexual hang-ups. That’s not exactly open for debate. I have a high view of the benefits of Platonism and Aristotleanism as God used them, but I am also aware of the problems that came with them. Similar things could be said of Postmodernism. But I don’t have to embrace them simply because the fathers did.

    Obviously, I’m not dismissing them b/c they had sexual hang-ups, there’s a great many things from them that I’ve learned and benefited from, and enjoyed and think are essential truths taught in Scripture, but that’s the key. The Bible is clear that Mary had children, that Jesus had brothers. Yes I know that linguistic acrobats can be performed, but I don’t do that anymore. If the Bible says something I don’t nuance the hell out of it. If the Bible wanted to say cousins there’s a way to say that (and it does when His cousin shows up), if it wanted to say Joseph did not enter her ever, there’s a way to say that, but it says that he did not know her until

    So I answered your question: yes, God adds things to us along with His love. Now answer mine: what theological importance does the perpetual virginity have?

  18. Remy,

    A few points of qualification-

    Mary did “feed the 2nd person of the Trinity” because the person is always one, but she did so according to His humanity. She did not nourish his deity, which is what I believe you meant by your statement, but rather his human nature.

    The same thing is true of Mary’s “genetic” relationship to Jesus. She is genetically related to his humanity. She contributed the human DNA which the Holy Spirit took and “conceived” the godman in. His divine nature, and his godhead, is another matter, and that is where you are right to make your qualifications.

  19. Remy said

    That is what I meant, she did not nourish his deity. Thanks for the clarification.

    As to the genetic contribution, I’m not sure. The Mormon doctrine of the Holy Spirit inseminating Mary creeps me out. Throughout the Scriptures the pattern is “she conceived”, but when you get to Mary in Matt.1 it says “that which was conceived in her was from the Holy Spirit”.

    Past the conception I would be fine with she nourished Him in the womb, they shared blood, that sort of thing, but genetically I don’t see it.

  20. Valerie,

    I’d say that God is present with infants because He is present everywhere. But He is present for them, that is they are present with Him, in the person of the child’s mother. God knows the infant, but the infant knows God by knowing his mother. That is to say, the mother is a mediator between God and her child. Thus for instance, God doesn’t directly feed an infant, He feeds the child through the person of the mother.

    I think the mediatorship between mother and child is particularly obvious between a Christian mother and her child, and is the reason we baptize infants. The mother is a priest after the order of Melchizedek–for she is in Christ, and thus shares His priesthood. But the priest after the order of Melchizedek is a mediator. He is the presence of the Father among us. And thus the mother is the presence of Christ for the infant.

    Now of course, the mother must raise her son up to leave her, and see Christ Himself, and not merely to see Him through her. But this is part of what it is to be a faithful mother, even prior to the fall. So unless we wish to say that motherhood itself is part of the incompleteness of the world–which we dare not for the Church is our Mother–the fact that she raises up children to leave her doesn’t reflect negatively on her at all, but is her glory.

    With respect to the Theotokos then: She has already received her Pentecost when the Spirit came upon her. And so all that previous discussion applies to her, but with the added dimension that her Son is God Himself. Now, of course, Christ so identifies with everyone that “whatever you have done to the least of these my brethren you have done to me” and thus every Christian mother looks like the Theotokos. But they all look like her.

  21. This is actually starting to sound like Mormonism. They believe the Holy Spirit inseminated Mary, thereby making Mary genetically His mother. She is not genetically His mother. And “natural Son” is exactly wrong. Nothing natural about it….Past the conception I would be fine with she nourished Him in the womb, they shared blood, that sort of thing, but genetically I don’t see it.

    Whoa! Wait a second! Now you are denying that Mary was Theotokos. “And, behold, thou shalt conceive in thy womb, and bring forth a son, and shalt call his name JESUS.” You can’t even point to the Scriptures to say that God took his humanity from some place other than Mary. Luke has a nativity narrative as well.

    Your objection to “natural” is just silly. No I don’t think Mary naturally conceived. But I’m distinguishing between blood motherhood and adopted fatherhood. It’s a rather easy distinction.

    Why? Do you think that there is no difference between “Matthew” and “God”? Because I do. I think there is a great difference.

    You do still believe He was “like us in all respects apart from sin” don’t you?

    You again, deny the Theotokos when you say this. She did not mediate God the Father and the Holy Spirit to the Son.

    Then who pray tell did she mediate between? Was the Son not her son? Did she merely mediate the Father and the Spirit to Christ? Then you may as well out with it and say you believe she is not Theotokos but Christotokos. Or did she mediate some other god to the Son? When her Son was but four cells, entirely enclosed within her, and thus incapable of knowing anything outside her, whose presence was she for Him? Marduk’s? Zeus’s?

    Because you rephrase it in such a way that is not true.

    No, I just turn it around and say “God is the Son of Mary” or “God is the fruit of Mary” (thus quoting Luke 1:42) and you tell me I’m making Mary a member of the Trinity.

    She doesn’t have to pretend that God isn’t sufficient, He is sufficient and He gives so much more than she ever deserved, like a husband (a real husband not the token husband that perpetual virginity demands) and children and lots of cool things on top.

    You still are missing the point. God have her a Child. How can more children be more blessing than this? In that One Child her quiver was filled with all arrows, and she was most blessed for he was shamed when he spoke with enemies outside the gate.

    Similarly with the husband. Christ clearly says that virginity is better than marriage.

    As for the virgin birth, the miraculous birth, it was prophesied. I don’t need any other reason than that.

    Should I reply by saying “As for the perpetual virginity, it was prophesied. I don’t need any other reason than that.”

    Or should I say “no it wasn’t, the Hebrew word just means young woman. Surely you aren’t saying the Septuagint is canonical? But even if it is, parthenos can mean an unmarried woman who is not a virgin. And I’m not denying that it was miraculous. Just wondering how you know she didn’t have a one night stand a year earlier.”

  22. Remy,

    You definitely want to say that Mary is Jesus’s natural human mother. This is key for our theology of redemption- taking from the fallen material and saving it from the inside out. Only the anabaptists tried to say that Jesus’ humanity was created ex nihilio, and they were roundly condemned by all.

    The Spirit doesn’t have to “inseminate” Mary in a physical way, like the Mormons teach. But He can supernaturally cause her egg to become a zygote, for, after all, Jesus is a human.

    Now do watch out for Petersen’s equivocal language on this stuff. You are right to get a weird vibe. Just stick to the old Reformed formula of “each nature acting appropriate to itself.” The one person has two natures, and so we apply the divine stuff to the divine nature and the human stuff to the human nature.

  23. Remy said

    Theotokos, strictly means that she bore God, that God came out of her, that God was united in flesh inside her. It does not entail that she was inseminated by the Holy Spirit. I do believe He was human, with DNA and all that goodstuff, but I’m not sure of the biologic details. Of course, the church didn’t either so you can’t say that this perspective rejects church teaching. But I’m open to persuasion on this. I’m not a microbiologist.

    “You do still believe He was “like us in all respects apart from sin” don’t you?”

    Sure, except for that whole “He is God” bit too. So, yeah, Matthew and God is a big difference.

    “When her Son was but four cells, entirely enclosed within her, and thus incapable of knowing anything outside her, whose presence was she for Him?”

    Why do you think that God is incapable of knowing His work? How can the 3 not be 1? To say that the Son did not know the Father breaks the Trinity.

    “How can more children be more blessing than this? In that One Child her quiver was filled with all arrows”

    Because children are blessings. I don’t get it. You act like it is a slight to Jesus that she was given more children. She was given a husband too. It’s like you’re saying: “How can you say she was given a husband after she was given the Godchild?”

    “Christ clearly says that virginity is better than marriage.”

    He also clearly says that rich men cannot go to heaven. That has nothing to do with the question unless you want to say that Mary wasn’t married. She was married and it wasn’t a fake marriage either. I assume she was a good wife and Joseph was a good husband. The Scripture talks about their children. Sex isn’t dirty.

    “Just wondering how you know she didn’t have a one night stand a year earlier.”

    Because she said so. This is silly.

    Still waiting for the theological purpose of perpetual virginity.

  24. Remy said

    “The Spirit doesn’t have to “inseminate” Mary in a physical way, like the Mormons teach. But He can supernaturally cause her egg to become a zygote, for, after all, Jesus is a human.”

    I agree that Jesus is human. And I wasn’t thinking ex nihilo either, from the 1st day onward God works with stuff. But why couldn’t the Spirit take a rib from Mary?

  25. Sure, except for that whole “He is God” bit too. So, yeah, Matthew and God is a big difference.

    This is ridiculous. I say “He who contains all was contained in Mary.” (Quoting Jacob of Serug, the Akathist hymn, and the title of a well known icon) and you say “No, she didn’t contain him, she contained Christ, but not God.”

    I say “Hebrews says God is like us in all respects apart from sin. I was contained in my mother, therefore God was contained in His.” You say “well, like us in all respects, except not really.”

    In the first, you deny His divinity, in the second His humanity.

    Why do you think that God is incapable of knowing His work? How can the 3 not be 1? To say that the Son did not know the Father breaks the Trinity.

    At that time the Son did not know His Father–or actually He did, but He did through the mediation of the Theotokos, she, a priest after the order of Melchizedek, was the icon of the Spirit and thus the presence of the Father for the Son. Eternally outside time the Son does know His Father, without mediation other than the Spirit. These are not contradictory. But if you wish to deny the first statement, you must claim: 1) The Son was not incarnate, but that there are two persons in Christ. 2) Not only was Christ capable of knowledge of His Father, unmediated by His Mother, but that all human infants have knowledge of God, unmediated by their mothers. Or 3) Christ is not really man.

    You agreed that 2 was false, and are currently swinging back-and-forth between 1 and 3. When I say “theotokos” you say “not really”. When I say “like us in all respects” you say “not really.”

    Because she said so. This is silly.

    No she didn’t. The gisosko is present. She was on her second virginity.

    Still waiting for the theological purpose of perpetual virginity.

    It was prophesied and she said so.

  26. I agree that Jesus is human. And I wasn’t thinking ex nihilo either, from the 1st day onward God works with stuff. But why couldn’t the Spirit take a rib from Mary?

    I suppose He could have. But He didn’t. He took an egg.

  27. why couldn’t the Spirit take a rib from Mary?

    He could (though He didn’t), but that would still be genetic, which is the real point to be safe-guarded.

  28. she, a priest after the order of Melchizedek, was the icon of the Spirit and thus the presence of the Father for the Son

    Dude, where do you get this stuff?

  29. The one person has two natures, and so we apply the divine stuff to the divine nature and the human stuff to the human nature.

    And thus we confess that Mary is not the mother of God, but of Christ. God was not born of Mary, Christ was.

    At least this is the only objection I’ve ever heard you raise. That and assuming that just because I’m not afraid of saying Theotokos I must mean that Mary begot the divine essence. Why? Well because Theotokos is enshrined, but any other formulations that use the same formula are monophysite.

  30. say “He who contains all was contained in Mary.” (Quoting Jacob of Serug, the Akathist hymn, and the title of a well known icon) and you say “No, she didn’t contain him, she contained Christ, but not God.”

    Matthew, she contained God in his humanity. She did not “contain,” in literal terms, the deity, for as your hymn says, the deity in fact contains all. We can make the play on terms because of the communicatio idiomatum, but we do not actually contradict ourselves.

    John Donne will say that Mary became her makers’s maker. He doesn’t mean that she made his deity though. She made the humanity which the deity added unto himself.

    all human infants have knowledge of God, unmediated by their mothers.

    This is actually true. All humans have knowledge of God in virtue of their being created by him. It is written on their very hearts. To deny God is to deny themselves.

  31. No Matthew, I accuse you of being a monophysite because you like to say monophysite stuff. You’ve even had a Lutheran flip out on you, so it isn’t any incipient Nestorianism on my part.

  32. Dude, where do you get this stuff?

    I’m not sure which part you mean. Do you mean the priest after the order of Melchizedek? That’s from Hebrews. And Revelation I suppose. After what order are we priests? After Christ. Which is to say, after the order of Melchizedek.

    Or that she was the icon of the Spirit and the presence of the Father? Christ is the presence of the Father. That’s part of what it is to be a priest after the order of Melchizedek. Every one of us is the presence of Christ to our neighbor. That’s Bonhoeffer. Or any number of other sources, and really not at all controversial. It’s just when I apply it to the Theotokos that it suddenly becomes controversial. But if I said “Remy is a priest and thus is the presence of God to Jaiken” no one would object. If I said “Jaiken was once too small to know God as separate from His mother, and thus though God knew Him not only through the mediation of his mother, but Jaiken only knew God through knowing his mother” no one would object. And if I said “like us in all respects apart from sin” no one would object. But when I put the two together everyone starts jumping up and down accusing me in turns of claiming that Jesus isn’t God, and of claiming that Jesus isn’t man.

  33. John Donne will say that Mary became her makers’s maker. He doesn’t mean that she made his deity though. She made the humanity which the deity added unto himself.

    This is silly. If I’d quoted John Donne you’d assume I meant that she made the diety. This in spite my constant protestations that I don’t.

    This is actually true. All humans have knowledge of God in virtue of their being created by him. It is written on their very hearts. To deny God is to deny themselves.

    But He doesn’t create unmediated, and likewise their knowledge isn’t unmediated. That’s precisely what original sin is. They deny God somewhat because they know Him through the faulty and lying mediation of their parents. Seth is in the image of Adam, and thus Seth dies.

    No Matthew, I accuse you of being a monophysite because you like to say monophysite stuff. You’ve even had a Lutheran flip out on you, so it isn’t any incipient Nestorianism on my part.

    You accuse me of being a monophysite for saying “Theotokos” in other ways. You don’t ask “is this true” but rather assume “he must mean it in a monophysite sense.” But if I must, than so must theotokos.

    You’ve even had a Lutheran flip out on you, so it isn’t any incipient Nestorianism on my part.

    This isn’t quite honest on your part. He flipped out in a Trinitarian discussion that had no bearing on this Christology, and he flipped out because he mistook a reductio for an honest argument. I said “If A is true then we reach the nonsense conclusion that B is true.” (Leaving it assumed that the conclusion is that A is therefore false) He flipped out calling me a heretic for believing B. You think I’d not use it as the conclusion of a reduction if I actually believed it.

  34. 3 Reasons:

    1) You are speaking of the relationship between the divine and human in a controversial context, and thus your language- which if taken charitably is being used equivocally and figuratively- is seen as literal, thus implying all of the unsavory conclusions.

    2) The reality of Melchizedekian priesthood becomes available through Jesus’s work, and thus attributing it to Mary over Jesus (and prior to his work) seems to deny the unique nature of the Messiah.

    3) You would not apply all of the appellations of Mary to Remy and Jaiken, even though you want to justify them based on our union with Christ (it seems). Thus suspicions are rightly raised.

  35. He flipped out in a Trinitarian discussion that had no bearing on this Christology

    Au contraire, it was over the same irresponsible use of language.

    It is the same problem that resurfaces again and again, whether it be with me, a Lutheran, an Anglican with congregationalist tendancies who was raised RC, any random reading at DW’s blog, or your old friend Remy. All that to say, it is hardly an isolated incident.

  36. You are speaking of the relationship between the divine and human in a controversial context, and thus your language- which if taken charitably is being used equivocally and figuratively- is seen as literal, thus implying all of the unsavory conclusions.

    It is quite correct to use the term God to refer to the Second Person of the Trinity. “God” does not refer to the essence, or simply to the essence, but to the Persons. It is not at all equivocal or figurative to say God was born of Mary, for the Second Person of the Trinity was born of Mary. When I say “God was dependent on Mary” (or other such) I do not mean “The Divine Essence was” but “The Second Person of the Trinity was.”

    You would not apply all of the appellations of Mary to Remy and Jaiken, even though you want to justify them based on our union with Christ (it seems). Thus suspicions are rightly raised.

    Well, I don’t think I’d like to say Remy is the mother of God because of his relation to Jaiken. There’s weird gender issues there. But I would say Bethany is, or that she is treated as if she is. “Whatever you have done for the least of these my brethren you have done for me.” But I think we would kill the language if we tried to apply such language to everyone, and we would quickly make it not Christocentric, but simply androcentric. So it is better to use the language to refer only to the Theotokos, and then say that everyone looks like her.

    The reality of Melchizedekian priesthood becomes available through Jesus’s work, and thus attributing it to Mary over Jesus (and prior to his work) seems to deny the unique nature of the Messiah.

    I’m not really sure how to respond to this. Not because I think it gets me or anything like that, but because I’m not exactly sure what you mean by prior to His work. I think that part of the work of the Incarnation was the exaltation of His mother at the annunciation by the Holy Spirit, when she received, as it were, Pentecost before Pentecost. Prior to the Annunciation Mary was a good Jewish girl. After the Annunciation she was the first Christian. When Christ came to Mary, the Spirit came, and when the Spirit came, Christ came. Her exaltation is not prior to his work, but a part of His work.

  37. It is the same problem that resurfaces again and again, whether it be with me, a Lutheran, an Anglican with congregationalist tendancies who was raised RC, any random reading at DW’s blog, or your old friend Remy. All that to say, it is hardly an isolated incident.

    It also surfaces when I try and talk to TR’s about Westminster. Except then Tim Enloe said that the response I got proved his point that there’s some secret code that FV Reformed aren’t talking. And several people have said that they appreciate my comments. Should I really be shocked if people find that I present a Christ that makes people stumble? Should I be concerned if not everyone speaks well of me? If they are frustrated with me because I preach foolishness, a stone of stumbling?

  38. Yes.

  39. You can take it up with St. Paul. I looked through the comments here. There were specific issues that I was trying to address. I was not just throwing around terms, and the words I used were necessary for my point. But the point that I was making was precisely the scandal of the gospel. St. Paul didn’t change his message because the Athenians thought Resurrection was silly. He continued to preach Christ Crucified a stumbling block to Jews and foolishness to the Greeks. I shall do the same.

  40. He also became all things to all men. Shall you do the same?

  41. Any sort of speech is a minefield. I try to qualify, and the qualifications are objected to. I try to back away when things get heated, and you chew me out for backing away. Valerie and Remy object that it sounded like I’m saying the child is in a vacuum from God. So I try and clarify that I’m not saying that, and you object that I’m saying something else ridiculous.

    Or I have specific points which I need to make to defend the Incarnation. Remy acts like there is nothing special in mother that isn’t in bride. So I try and say “well, if you include these things which were true of the Theotokos for a time in bride, sure. But make sure you take theotokos seriously. Here’s what it means.” I didn’t lead with that, I didn’t say “well you know she must be exalted. God is dependent on her.” I said “she lost, which is her glory. We must not leave her without glory, but must return glory to her.” He said “not really any glory there. It’s just a temporary role.” So I said “um….not really.” I had a specific and necessary point that fit in the discussion, and if it were read charitably, or perhaps I should say, was not read by people who deny that Mary is the mother of the Second Person of the Trinity, or that God refers to the Second Person of the Trinity, would be perfectly intelligible.

  42. I haven’t chewed you out here. In fact, I’ve probably only chewed you out once or twice in all of these discussions. Typically I just point out where you actually do say ridiculous stuff with limited emotional investment on my part.

    It seems to me, though, that you’d be prepared for sparks, given your audience and context. It seems to me that you would take the burden to go the extra mile in clarifying your terminology and making sure you aren’t misunderstood. It seems to me you’d be as literal and precise as possible, avoiding synecdochical speech until after a shared foundation is established.

  43. I don’t think I can just ignore your nonsense about not chewing me out. Maybe that isn’t quite the correct term, but you have attacked me. Or maligned me. Or whatever term you want to quibble into.

    I have no idea where I used synecdoche. “God” does not refer to the essence, but to the Person. Or at the very least, it refers not only to the essence but to the Person.

    Second, you are demanding the impossible of me. I kinda assumed that both sides believed theotokos and I didn’t have to qualify it. If I have another point to make that works from theotokos, or explicates theotokos, I can’t be expected to always be turning around and saying “oh, but I’m not monophysite.” Both sides agree on theotokos. Especially if my point is “you are talking nonsense by reducing motherhood, and particularly Mary’s motherhood to an impersonal role, and nothing special. Look at how special it was.”

    Moreover, I did explain those statements, and my argumentation makes absolutely no sense if I’m talking about Christ being begotten of Mary before all ages. Why do I keep on refering to how things happen in time between human children and their parents if I’m really and secretly talking about what happens outside before all ages?

    Do you object to these statements? “The Second Person of the Trinity, Jesus Christ our king and our God, was dependent on the Theotokos. The Second Person of the Trinity did not know love, and learned love from her. She was a mediator between the Second Person of the Trinity and the First. The Second Person of the Trinity was in her image. The Second Person of the Trinity was subject to her. She was a mediator between The Second Person of the Trinity and man.” Nothing I said here should be at all controversial for a Christian, particularly if we’re talking about theotokos.

    You guys may be orthodox generally, but you really do seem to run from theotokos and attempt to explain it away. Just a temporary “role”!

  44. Also, you don’t think claims like “The perpetual virginity of Mary was invented by a bunch of virgins with sexual hang-ups because the early church had a low view of the body.” should be made a little gentler if talking to people who believe in the perpetual virginity? Give me a break. At lest fight on both sides.

  45. Does the fact that in the end my points are unanswered, and you have regressed into rebuking me for making them prove that I win, or are you guys willing to get back on track, and actually discuss the point.

  46. Remy said

    Matt, I don’t think it a stretch at all to say that you are a poor communicator, for whatever reason. I’ve been willing to bear with you, but this happens every single time. Let’s just chill, you and I both could probably do to scale the rhetoric down a bit for the purpose of clarity.

    “The Second Person of the Trinity, Jesus Christ our king and our God, was dependent on the Theotokos. The Second Person of the Trinity did not know love, and learned love from her. She was a mediator between the Second Person of the Trinity and the First. The Second Person of the Trinity was in her image. The Second Person of the Trinity was subject to her. She was a mediator between The Second Person of the Trinity and man.” Nothing I said here should be at all controversial for a Christian, particularly if we’re talking about theotokos.

    This sort of language seems theologically careless at best, confusing the natures, but having seen your qualifications separating the Divine essence I’m content to leave the rest alone.

    So are you ready to give me the theological importance of the perpetual virginity?

    Steven, okay we’re both at genetic, I really just wanted to avoid the Mormon belief, for no real reason other than it’s creepy. Having said that, why can’t it be a rib?

  47. Matt,

    The moral stuff is actually a prerequisite to theological conversation. This stuff isn’t just an intellectual hobby, and you have been, ever sine I very first met you online, poorly behaved- speaking in hyperbole, equivocation, and in haste. You take the very fact of me pointing this out from time to time as an example of me maligning you, but that’s really not the case. I’ve never spoken evil of you nor slander of you (though you don’t like the necessary implications of your own words at times and thus get mad when others hold you to them). You just don’t like to play by any traditional rules, nor do you particularly like it when someone tells you that you’re wrong, but that’s still not malignant.

    Now, theotokos does not in itself require the various implications that you freely make from it. That is why neither Remy nor I need deny theotokos, a word that can easily become a shibboleth (since from what we know now, Nestorius most likely was not a Nestorian) , even while strongly disagreeing with your other language. An easy example is when you say “God was dependent on Mary.” That line is, on literal terms, not true, and it is heretical. What is true is that God’s humanity was dependent on Mary, and that qualification makes all the difference in the world. Mary was herself ever depend on God first to even give nourishment to God’s humanity, and the fact that God even became man is because of His free will and perfect providence.

    And this business about person and nature is another example of irresponsible theological language. I am quite familiar with the amount of pop academic literature that’s also engaging in this problem, but it is what it is: a fad being promoted by less than traditionally grounded folks (certainly among the Westerners). The person is a divine person, a subsistence of the divine nature, which is, in fact, coterminous with that nature. And thus, apart from further qualification, the person normally and properly refers to the person as divine.

    The Second Person is the only One which adds a second nature to Himself, and thus we do use the singular name when speaking of either nature in that hypostasis, though carefully and in context. To say, “God died.” can either be correct or incorrect, depending on what else is said, and when speaking of the relationship between infinite and finite (btwn God and Mary), there is no room to gloss over the qualifications, precisely because of the errors which do exist en masse and are the very ground of our ecclesiastical existence.

    And the early church did have a terrible view of sexuality. That is, as Remy said, a fact. The early church was flat crazy in many ways.

  48. Remy,

    It couldn’t be a rib because Adam is the one who gives the rib. Mary is not a new Adam. Jesus is. He gives the new rib from the cross.

  49. Matt Yonke said

    Rems,

    Your understanding of the Catholic doctrines of Mary seems almost willfully ignorant. You’re really not trying to understand what we believe and analyze it for what it’s worth, you’re trying to poke holes in it based on your understanding of Christian doctrine.

    If you want a fair fight, read some of our scholars, understand our arguments, and then get back to me.

    Till then, I’ll leave you with Pope St. John Calvin I’s analysis of the perpetual virginity: No man will obstinately keep up the argument [that Mary had children after the birth of Jesus], except from an extreme fondness for disputation.

  50. Steven,

    But the thing is, if it is heretical to say God dependent on Mary, for only His humanity is, you must likewise claim it is heretical to say Mary is the mother of God, for she is only the mother of God’s humanity. Which is to say, you must say it is heretical to say she is Theotokos. Maybe you wouldn’t say she was only Christotokos, but you want to say I can’t say:

    All sons are dependent on their mother.
    Mary was the mother of God.
    Therefore God was dependent on Mary.”

    But you aren’t denying the first premise, and this is a simple hypothetical syllogism (or rather an AAA-1). Therefore you are denying the second premise, or you are denying logic. Now I’ll grant that Chalcedon says “and yet as regards his humanity…”. I would of course point you to the earlier part that says “one and the same God the Word” but that’s really aside my point. If you want to object to the conclusion of that argument I just made, you must object to either premise. And I have heard no objection to the first premise–and really there can be none.

    But somehow, in a discussion of Theotokos, when I make a natural derivation of it like that, you try and tell me that I’m embracing heresy. But you see, I’m better at logic than that. I’m only embracing heresy if Theotokos is heretical–or else you aren’t reading me charitably.

    So to take an instance here. You act as if I deny that “Mary was herself ever depend on God first to even give nourishment to God’s humanity, and the fact that God even became man is because of His free will and perfect providence.” But I never even came close to denying this. I merely made a quick obvious conclusion from Mary is the mother of God. You pay lip-service to the premises of the syllogism, but you rush to claim the conclusion is heresy. I am therefore a bit suspicious that you don’t really believe the premises.

  51. Notorious said

    Rems,

    I think it’s odd that given there’s so much drama in the CRE right now about social justice issues, you devote so much time to Catholic/Protestant distinctives. I’m bored with this crap. The debate you really need to deal with has to do with Doug Jones, the poor, the hungry, American civil religion, “In God We Trust,” Romans 13, American empire, Trinitarian economics, money, torture, American militarism, reconstructionism, theonomy and so forth. That’s more of a problem in Christianity today than Mary or the cult of saints, especially for someone like you.

    If you want to get your hands dirty with meaningful, incarnational doctrine, quit blowing your time on Mary and the merits of an open table. Not because Mary doesn’t matter, but because Mary isn’t much of an issue for you. Real presence isn’t an issue for you. What you’re doing here is picking fights and flexing your internet-read intellectual muscle on miniscule debates that aren’t terribly important to your church, which this blog was supposedly dedicated to.

    The comments section of this article and articles like it invariably turn into fey self-gratification sessions where everyone, myself included, acts like their awesome points are being slighted and no one is answering their questions and “You’re dodging my scriptural/historical arguments” grab-assery.

    Go after social justice issues. Until then, I’m done with this blog.

  52. Remy, if there were a bit of give and take, perhaps there’d be communication.

    I say “Though God was his [Joseph’s] adopted Son, but Mary’s natural Son, which is a large difference.” Thus clearly making a distinction between adopted/natural. Now of course though when contrasted with adopted, “natural” means “not adopted” it can, in other contexts mean “not miraculous.” I’m not making an even remotely controversial point. But do you guys say “oh yeah I see his point.”? No, you read “nature” contrary to context, and act as if I’m claiming that there isn’t something miraculous here. Or at least just refuse to concede a simple point.

    I say “Or in general, (as both E. Wilson, and Pr. Sumpter have said) children are in the image of their parents.” Now “in general” could mean 1) removed from this specific, or 2) usually true. The first fits the context, and if that is the proper definition, I’m making a perfectly legitimate point. But what am I told? “Generally true isn’t good enough.” Thus taking option 2.

  53. Steven,

    One final point. But we don’t have to gloss over everything every time we say theotokos. So similarly, I should be able to make points that rely on the fact that Mary is theotokos without troubling you. Yes, if you want to ask “exactly what does it mean for Mary to be theotokos” it’s important to say “she isn’t begetting Jesus outside time.” But if I want to make a point that Remy is missing the height that “theotokos” claims, not in that he is missing the height that Christ is, but in that he is missing the relation between the theotokos and her Son, I have to be able to make that point without hemming and hawing.

    Remy,

    That language is the theologically precise language. But my point, which I made at the beginning, was that you trivialize what the Theotokos was. Jesus was subject to her. Jesus was dependent on her. Jesus was from her. Jesus in her image. She was a mediator between Jesus and God. Jesus knew her, and no one else. These statements cannot really be controversial. You can pretend that I’m really meaning something I’m clearly not, and which I repeatedly deny. But, follow the argument I made. She lost this because she was faithful. Thus there must be a resurrection. If you want to claim that sister and bride includes the glorified version of this, and everything else entailed in “mother”, sure she is a sister and bride. But you shouldn’t say this in a way that denies that she is mother.

    I have given you as good an answer to why she is perpetual virgin as you have given me as to why she was virgin at the time of the incarnation. If you search, you will easily find prophesies that were taken to imply that she was perpetual virgin. And you find that her words said that she wasn’t going to have sex every. Now you can object to those interpretations, but people object to the interpretation you offer for her virginity prior to Christ. Do you have any reason for saying “no, this is an important point. She was a virgin before she conceived.” I spent thirty seconds searching, and found that one of the leading Classical Greek dictionaries says “parthenos” (the word translated virgin) doesn’t always mean virgin, and if she hadn’t had sex in a year, she would still be confused about how she would conceive. Is the doctrine of her virginity prior to the incarnation merely an interesting data point that intersects nothing, or is it important. And if it is important, what is the importance.

  54. “And you find that her words said that she wasn’t going to have sex every”

    That should be “And you find that her words were taken to mean that she wasn’t going to have sex ever.”

  55. jmmelton said

    Notorious:

    A little harsh, friend. An open table is a HUGE issue amongst reformed types, not just a Catholic/Protestant issue. If you remember, Remy began his open table discussions by attacking opponents of paedocommunion, of which my church is one. I have found it imminently helpful reading comments on this blog, as well as Remy’s articles on the subject. I am currently “fighting the man” as it were, on the issue, and the man happens to be my own father. And I’m sure I’m not the only one who has benefitted. It seems to me that once he started, he began getting questions from Guido, etc. asking him to clarify, which he did. I just did a scan of all of his recent articles, and there was nothing about an open table that was very current, but there WAS an article on warfare – did you happen to notice that one? So, perhaps you could lay off the rhetoric telling Remy exactly how to run his own blog? Just a thought.

    As for Mary, he wrote one friggin’ article and the comments section blew up. I’m not naming names, but…

  56. Remy said

    Yonke, I really didn’t put this post up just to fight. I’ve been reading some wonky stuff on Mary and I wanted to get some thoughts going. I put out some points for discussion because I can’t just say, “Hey everybody, give me your thoughts on Mary.”

    In fact, I am still really really interested in hearing about the need for Mary’s perpetual virginity. There’s nothing about it that I’ve found on the internet and nothing has been offered here.

    Josh, I really am sorry to bore you. I won’t deny it: I bore myself sometimes. But I think one of the major issues facing the church is our unity in Jesus which I’ve addressed through the table fellowship question. Yes, I get to twist your nose over it, but this isn’t just a Roman/Protestant thing. This is a problem through the entire body. I have a friend who is attending a church that won’t accept him as a member unless they get to rebaptize him. If I were to rank issues in terms of their importance this would be number 1, 2, and 3.

    Also, I know you have a taste for internet disputes among denominations you don’t belong to, but I will say that one of the reason why there’s a lot of dust in the other over social justice in the CREC is because it is one of the few denominations that works through questions like this. This isn’t a sign of things breaking apart, this is a sign of vibrancy.

    Wedge, I like the end rhyme of my Marian rib theology. If you don’t accept it then may God have mercy on your soul.

  57. To put my point in symbolic logic:

    Mxy: x is the mother of y

    Dxy: x is dependent on y (or any of the other things I said).

    m: The Theotokos.

    g: God. (The Second Person of the Trinity).

    1. ∀xy(Mxy –> Dyx)
    2. Mmg
    C. Dgm

    Premise 1 is surely true. Babies cannot live without their mother. But when I say the conclusion, you object that it isn’t true, and in fact is heretical. But you claim to believe premise 2. Which means, quite simply, you’re contradicting yourself.

    But it doesn’t seem accurate that you’d be contradicting yoruself so quickly on top of yourself like that, and it would not be at all difficult for you to be confused about the implications of premise 2.

    So I run the argument:

    1. ∀xy(Mxy –> Dyx)
    2. ~Dgm
    C. ~Mmg.

    This is a simple Modus Tollens, and is valid. Do you really believe Mary is Theotokos? You guys reject as clearly heretical a direct inference from it. There really can’t be any debate here. Either you claim that Mary is not Theotokos, or you claim ∀x∀y(Mxy –> ~Dyx). That is, you say that there is someone who is not dependent on his mother. But then, since you say he is like us in all respects apart from sin, you must say that none of us are dependent on our mothers. I could again provide a nifty symbolic statement of this fact. Hopefully I don’t really need to.

    But really this is a side point. My point is that at one time Mary was highly exalted precisely by being theotokos. And that exaltation is one that she lost precisely because she was faithful. Which is to say, that Her Son is separate from her is her glory, and from it there shall be a resurrection.

    It is not sufficient to say that she is now the sister and bride of Jesus unless everything in mother is included in sister and bride. I suppose that might be the case, but then there is no need to deny mother, only to deny merely mother. She is perhaps more than mother, but she isn’t something different. (And by more I do not simply mean greater, but something which includes mother, but also includes more.) But also, you must take seriously what mother was, and actually mean that sister and bride is greater. It’s easy to say it is. And I can say other nonsense, like “the Theotokos existed prior to God.” But of course that doen’t make it true, or even sensible. You have to actually say “this was in mother, and it is less than what is in sister and bride, which is this.”

  58. “∀x∀y(Mxy –> ~Dyx).” I don’t know why it didn’t do this, but the second ∀ should be “there exists” ∃.

  59. And I’m also curious, is Mary’s Virginity at the time of the birth of Christ merely a hapax legomenon? The Bible seems to say it, but if someone were to come up with a linguistic argument, based on the text of scripture, that it is false, would there be any reason to hold onto it. Does it tie into anything else, or is it important merely because it is a test case of whether someone believes the Bible. If we were to discover that it was later extrapolated into the texts, or that we have no linguistic grounds for holding it, would our theology be affected at all. (Again, I know we think the Bible says she was. And Zwingli thought the Bible said she remained a virgin. And liberals don’t just say “well, the Bible’s wrong”, they dispute with us over the proper interpretation of the Bible. Does the doctrine affect anything? Is it, aside from the curious history, a hill worth fighting over, or can the textual arguments be conceeded as proving nothing important?) If so, I would submit that the reason for holding to her virginity at the time of the birth is also a reason for holding to her virginity after the birth.

  60. I suppose no one is reading this anymore, but let’s consider Stephen’s claim that “When you say “God was dependent on Mary.” That line is, on literal terms, not true, and it is heretical. What is true is that God’s humanity was dependent on Mary, and that qualification makes all the difference in the world.” And his claim that Theotokos is synecdoche, and not literally true.

    Another way of stating Steven’s point is, I believe, that God was not born of Mary, but that His humanity was. But through synecdoche, we can say theotokos, though if taken literally it is false and heretical. Let us assume for a moment that this is true. The question is then “who was Mary the mother of, literally.” There are two options. First, the answer is “no one.” The humanity is ahypostatic. It is not a person, but a thing. Who did Mary nurse? No one. Who is the image of the invisible God? To us? No one. Qui pro nos homines et propter nostrum salutem…incarnatus est…ex Maria Virgine, et homo factus est? Numquam. “Who for us men and for our salvation was…incarnate from the Virgin Mary…and was made man? No one.”

    So this cannot be Steven’s point. He must mean that the Second Person of the Trinity was born of Mary, according to his humanity. But Chalcedon clearly and unequivocally refers to the Second Person of the Trinity as God. “One and the same Son and Only-begotten God the Word, Lord Jesus Christ.” But if he really wants to niggle over semantics, the Word is born of Mary, the Word was dependent on Mary, the Word was fed by Mary, etc. If he objects “the humanity of the Word” we are back to the above problem. The humanity of the Word isn’t anyone. The Word Himself was born of Mary. The Word was dependent on Mary. Not the humanity of the Word, but the Word, according to His humanity, was born of Mary. It is literally true that Mary was logotokos. This statement is not merely synecdoche, but is literally true.

    But it doesn’t seem that Steven’s objection can simply be that I should say the Word rather than God. If Mary is literally logotokos, but only figuratively theotokos, and logotokos claims something less than theotokos does, the Logos is less than God, and Arius is correct.

    The Word is the stream of life. The Word is the Sunrise from on high. Thus, as the Akathist hymn says, she caused the refulgent dawn to rise. She cause the river of many streams to gush forth. The Word did not, of course, depend on Mary for his existence, nor was He caused to be God by her, but God was born of Mary, and was dependent on Mary. This is the catholic faith, except which one hold he cannot be saved.

  61. Remy said

    Matt, good gracious. For one, you cannot put the Trinity into symbolic logic. Not only is it impossible to express the Trinity in symbolic logic but it is also absurd to do so. Yay for modus tollens, but this is not something you can treat with something so simple as formal logic.

    As I said, it is careless to talk the way you’ve been talking, perhaps even naive. Our objection centers on the confession of Chalcedon. That’s two natures of Christ without confusion.

    “the reason for holding to her virginity at the time of the birth is also a reason for holding to her virginity after the birth.”

    The reason for holding to a virgin birth is because the Bible says that. The reason for not holding to perpetual virginity is because the Bible denies it.

    I suppose you could use the same hermeneutic that is used to get perpetual virginity and acrobat a denial of virgin birth, but despite getting points for consistency you actually lose all credibility.

    I’m going to assume there is no theological purpose for holding to perpetual virginity if this is the best you can do.

  62. When I say it quick, you fail to see that it’s there. When I spell it out, you object to the fact that it’s spelled out.

    And I don’t think you have listened to my point about the perpetual virginity–or any of my other points for that matter–at all. I have made a series of points, none of which has been dealt with. If you’re not actually curious, but are just bating people, stop pretending you’re curious. But if you’re curious when someone interacts with you, don’t insult them by ignoring their point.

    I think I’ll take Josh’s option. There’s no point talking to someone who refuses to make sense, and refuses to be honest.

  63. Remy said

    Perhaps we should both get purple ribbons for longsuffering, Matt.

    You have written a veritable landslide of points that I have tried to deal with and I’m sorry that you feel insulted. That has not been my intent.

    As for the math you do on the Theotokos, I have said that I find it careless, and even theologically naive. I point to the confession of Chalcedon to justify that. You clarified that you do separate the Divine Essence from your Theotokos language and I mentioned that I am satisfied to leave it at that.

    Where you find loss in Mary’s move from mother to bride, I don’t. I mentioned that the apex of human love is brother to brother love, not mother to son. You didn’t respond to that, but don’t worry I didn’t feel insulted.

    I also objected to your use of symbolic logic in this argument. It’s too small a tool. You didn’t respond to that either.

    You haven’t made a case for perpetual virginity all you’ve done is question the virgin birth using the same language bending methods used to get around clear statements that indicate Mary had other children and that Mary had a sexual relationship with Joseph after Jesus was born. I responded to that as well.

    If there’s something that I missed you should point it out rather than call me nonsensical and a liar.

    I have tried to address everything. Maybe it hasn’t been indepth enough for you, but you only have to say so and I am happy to expand upon it. I honestly would like to hear if there is any theological purpose to the perpetual virginity doctrine.

  64. Matt Yonke said

    Remy,

    What do you mean by “Theological Purpose”?

  65. Remy said

    I’m wondering why all the acrobatics are needed to get around the clear statements in Scripture. What is lost if we take the Scripture at face value?

    Obviously, my assumption draws on the fact that the church fathers had sexual hang-ups and in their view for Mary to give her virginity to Joseph would sully her. But a Biblical understanding of sex wouldn’t impugn her holiness.

    Matthew has said that there is a theological reason behind her perpetual virginity and I’ve been wondering what that is. So far nothing has been offered.

  66. Remy,

    I know I’ve probably written too much–if you put up a number of points for discussion, you are going to get a number of responses. There is the Christological point that it is simply false to say that Mary is not literally theotokos. If she is not literally theotokos then 1) she is oudetheotokos–mother of nothing 2) the mother of a human person (which is Nestorianism, and to which Steven objected above) or 3) logotokos, but logotokos then claims less than theotokos, which means logos is less than theos, and Arius is correct. But that point’s mostly with Steven.

    My two points with you are:

    1) There isn’t loss moving from mother to sister. But for there to be no loss, everything in mother must be in sister. If sister is merely greater, there is still loss–as for instance someone who lost a cousin, but met a husband at the funeral could still mourn for the cousin, and still hopes to have that loss comforted in the Resurrection. So if you include in sister, the fulfillment of her deep motherly longings, and something greater than “God the Word is subject to her, the Word is less than her, the Word is in her image.” Sure. But otherwise, you’re just using words that don’t signify.

    As to your point that brotherhood is the closest relationship, you asserted it, but did not argue for it, and it is aside my point. Perhaps brother/sisterhood is closest. But unless it includes in it everything that is in mother/fatherhood, there is still loss. And unless you can look theotokos in the face and say “yeah, sisterhood is greater than just that” you’re just blowing wind. Are you really saying that being a sister of Christ is better than being superior to Christ? I doubt it, because when I ask you to stare theotokos in the face, you refuse to look.

    2) I know it looks to us that Scriptures say Mary and Joseph had other children, and that Mary was a virgin before the birth of Christ. (I personally agree with the second, and disagree with the first.) But to other ages, it has seemed that the Scriptures clearly said that Mary is ever-virgin. So your question is, in a sense, put to other ages, asking them “what advantage did you find in believing the perpetual virginity.” My question to you is “how would you answer a different age which thought the scriptures didn’t teach she was a virgin at the birth, were they to ask what importance you find in the doctrine?” On this hypothetical, just as I cannot point to Ezekiel 44:1-4, because you think it clearly doesn’t prophesy Mary, nor can I point to Luke 1:34 because you think it doesn’t make any long-term statements; so likewise in answering this hypothetical age, you cannot point to the texts which clearly state Mary’s virginity, because they think they don’t, and think you’re just twisting scripture.

    And lest you object that this is a vacuous hypothetical, there really have been such ages. Bonhoeffer, for instance, in Creation and Fall said that the Virgin Birth has little textual or historical support. Jenson in Systematic Theology said that he reasonably confidently concludes that Mary was a virgin (but that it isn’t a point of orthodoxy). So how do you answer these people. You can’t just say “Well the Scripture clearly says…” they don’t think it does, and they aren’t looking for an exegetical debate. How do you link the doctrine to the rest of your theology? Is it important, or is it a completely worthless point that you can easily concede to them?

    Again, “Well, Scripture clearly says my position” isn’t a valid objection to my question. You’re talking to someone who doesn’t think it does, and who is asking how it relates to the rest of your theology.

  67. “oudetheotokos” That should be “oudenotokos”

  68. You can just skim this one if you like:

    Here’s why it doesn’t seem to me to add any glory to the Theotokos to say she had more children (and in fact seems to take glory away).

    “Let me tell you about this lady and her children. The first, he was pretty good–caused the lame to walk, the blind to see, raised the dead, was crucified, died, rose again, ascended into heaven, and did something new under the sun by shepherding the Wind–He actually caused God to come down to us. All things exist by Him and for Him. He is before all things, and all the treasuries of wisdom and knowledge are hid in Him.

    But then her next son, well, he was a complete failure. Nothing he did was of any value whatsoever–or at least wouldn’t have been if his older brother hadn’t bailed him out at every turn. He was wicked and evil, from the root, there was no good in him, and eventually he killed his older brother. Yes, his older brother eventually bailed him out, but the glory goes all to the older brother and not at all to the younger brother. The younger brother had nothing to do with it.”

    Is this a story about a good beginning, made more glorious by the end, or is it a story about a lofty beginning, and an eventual fall? Do you think more of the lady after the second paragraph, or do you learn some of her problems in the second?

  69. Ok, I know I said I’m done. But this seems important.

    What is lost if we take the Scripture at face value?

    The problem is that the different sides disagree over what conclusion is reached if Scripture is taken at face value. So Zwingli can ask you “what is lost if you take Scripture at face value, and say Mary is ever-virgin.” And a liberal can ask “what is lost if you take the Scripture at face value, and say Mary may or may not have been a virgin at the time of the conception/” Merely shouting “but I take the Scripture at face value” is worthless. Just as you ask Zwingli “but what value do you find in it? What is lost if we take the Scripture my way” so the liberal can ask you “what value do you find in it? What is lost if we take the Scripture my way.”

    All I’ve seen from you is a complete unawareness that people actually disagree over the Scriptural point, in both directions, and so shouting “but my point is what Scripture clearly says!” doesn’t answer the question. Can you provide a liberal with a consistent answer? If so, I would submit that Zwingli could take that exact same answer you gave the liberal and give it to you.

  70. Remy said

    1. We are just not going to be able to agree on this one. You see loss where I do not.

    At some point I’d like to make a longer post on brotherly love. CS Lewis has Christians all screwed up with his 4 loves. The short defense would be A) brotherly love is mentioned regularly and is the model of love, whereas motherly love is not B) in Christ we are all brothers and sisters, therefore your mother is your sister, I am your brother C) you leave mothers and fathers, but no one is closer than a brother.

    2. My contention is that had the writers of Scripture wanted to say cousins there are words and ways to say that. Had they wanted to say Joseph never went into Mary they could’ve said that. They didn’t and implied otherwise.

    The reason the church father’s couldn’t allow for this is because they had (and this isn’t a controversial point) a very low opinion of sex. Because they rightly had a high view of Mary and because they wrongly had a low view of sex that would’ve affected their view of Mary they explained it away. It is not a faithful reading of the Bible. It’s no big deal to say this, because on a number of issues the fathers were muy wonko. That doesn’t mean we have to hate the fathers or that they have nothing to teach us. Also, I should point out that not all the fathers were in agreement on this.

    As we mature in our understanding we should make sure we grind our manmade theologies against the word of God. We have a much more mature view of sex, one that allows for a real marriage between Mary and Joseph that doesn’t affect our high view of her. Since this avoids the bad hermeneutics, one that can be used to deny the virgin birth, we can happily abandon it. Especially since there is no theological importance that hinges on perpetual virginity.

    If someone wants to deny virgin birth and thereby deny the validity of Scripture, I have other issues before I get to Mary. But you act like “face-value” has no meaning.

    “He went down to Capernaum, He and His mother, and His brothers, and His disciples;”

    The face value of the above verse is that “brothers” means “brothers”. Sure words can mean different things but we have to have a reason to question the facevalue. In this case “brothers” is used and not “cousins”, there’s a word for “cousin” in the Greek Testament that was not used on purpose. Why? Does Mary having other children not jive with something? Does it seem to contradict something? In this case, no. It conflicts with nothing, unless you believe sex is dirty which is exactly what many of the church fathers believed.

    As for your little story, I suppose it works if you want to assume that Mary raised up sons and daughters of perdition. But would you seriously deny that Mary would not receive glory for having raised faithful children (which is the testament of Scriptures by the way -assuming you don’t do violence to the text of course)?

    I mean, I know that’s exactly what you deny, but it stems from your assumptions about perpetual virginity shoehorned into the Bible, whereas my view is in accord with it. Or perhaps I should say, you throw your confidence in with the early Christians with the sexual hang-ups rather than the clear, face-value of the Scriptures.

    Here would be a great place to put that theological importance for perpetual virginity bit that you keep not giving me. I really would like to hear it.

  71. Remy,

    1) Well, surely fatherhood is as fundamental as brotherhood. “Our Father…” And if Fatherhood is, then either 1) motherhood is, or 2) women aren’t as important as men. But there is “no male nor female.” Likewise, husband and wife is equal to brotherhood “It is a great mystery, but I speak of Christ and the Church.” So yeah, brotherhood is good. But it isn’t superior to other relations, ultimately it is a way of describing that relationship we shall have with Christ which is no more fundamental than motherhood or spouse.

    Second, look theotokos in the face and tell me brotherhood is superior. Do you really believe that it’s better to be a brother to the Word than to have the Word depend on you? Yes, surely perfection wouldn’t have lost the peer child, but does that mean that it must have lost the humble submissive wholly dependent child?

    But I’ve said several times I could concede that motherhood is less than sisterhood. Let me say it again. I could concede that motherhood is less than sisterhood. Does that make it clear? I could concede that motherhood is less than sisterhood. But what you must show is not that sisterhood is better, but that everything in motherhood is glorified in sisterhood. If there is some aspect of motherhood which is lost rather than glorified, from that particular cross there is no resurrection. So you shouldn’t say “Mary is no longer mother” but “Mary is also a sister”.

    Regarding the story: I explicitly denied that the second son was reprobate. I merely asserted that He was a sinner, and so all the glory of the second son is contained in the First. It might not subtract (though I would content it does) but it surely doesn’t add.

    Regarding the perpetual virginity: You are still ignoring my point. Do you want this to be a debate of scripture? If so I’ll quote scripture, you’ll quote scripture, you’ll say “the fathers were hung up on sex” I’ll say “the fathers may have been hung up on sex, but the Bible and tradition clearly say she remained a virgin.” If that’s what you want: The Bible says so. Ezekiel 44 says no man shall enter the gate of the temple. Zacheriah 12 says he was the only son. John says that there was no other to comfort her. Church tradition should be given the benefit of the doubt, and it universally says that Mary is perpetual virgin. “Adelphos” is used in scripture for relatives who are not what English would call brothers. Lot is described as Abraham’s brother, and the LXX uses “Adelphos”. “Anepsios” also means cousin (sister son), but that they are both used doesn’t prove anything other than that the authors of Scripture could use a thesaurus. Jerome gives several examples of how “till” does not imply that it was begun afterward.

    But you’re asking how it relates to other things. For the motivation behind it. Like I said at the beginning, I think the motivation is Christ alone. But I don’t think I will be able to show it very well. That she had other children seems very very wrong, and very very non-Christocentric. It seems to contradict very nearly everything else I know about Mary. But I can’t get at it very well. Such things are too delicate for definition.

    But at the same time, I have a feeling that whatever reason there is for the virginity of Mary is also a reason for the perpetual virginity. How would you answer someone who was raised in a society that thought the virginity of Mary was risible, thought your scriptural interpretation was a stretch to preserve a historic doctrine that sprang from a misguided attempt to make Mary sinless, and was asking for how the doctrine related to others? Would you only be able to quote scripture, over and over, and unable to answer their question, or would you have an answer. If so, produce it now. And stop playing dumb by saying that that I’m claiming that they are denying the validity of scripture. They think you are stretching Scripture ridiculously.

  72. Maybe this will get at why the perpetual virginity is important (though I’m not entirely sure it will).

    “Blessed is the man that walketh not in the council of the wicked nor standeth in the way of the sinners nor sitteth in the seat of the scornful, but his delight is in the law of the Lord and in his law doth he meditate both day and night. And he shall be like a tree which beareth fruit in its season. Its leaf also shall not wither and whatsoever it doeth shall prosper.”

    One proper application of this verse is to Mary. She is the blessed man, and she has born fruit more marvelous than any other. Even Christ has not born more beautiful fruit, for He is her fruit. Her fruit is for the healing of nations. Her fruit is for the salvation of the world. Her fruit is the water flowing from the temple in which all lands are washed. Her fruit is the Word of God commanding us to do good. Her fruit cleanses the conscience. The offering she makes (in say Luke 2) speaks better than the offering Able made.

    But note what the verse says “His delight is in the Law of the Lord, and in His law doth He meditate day and night.” Christ is the new Torah. And therefore on Him she meditates day and night. Her and Joseph’s vocation is their Son Jesus. Their whole effort goes into Him, for otherwise they are not meditating solely on the Torah–Jesus Christ, but turn to not-Christ–for their other children surely are just Jews and not yet Christians.

    Or again, she is, by virtue of bearing her Son, a priest after the order of Melchizedek. She offers up that offering which speaks better things than the blood of Abel. But if that is so, her subsequent children should be baptized. They are children of the Church and brothers of Jesus, not slavish Jews.

    Or again, in Luke 2 she offers up a more perfect offering than Abel, an offering which speaks better things than the blood of bulls and goats. And as Simeon’s prophesy, and the subsequent narrative about loosing Him in the temple show, this is merely a prelude for the the Cross. The Cross and her suffering by the Cross is the fulfillment of her lifelong offering which speaks better than Abel’s. But that offering must be with the whole person, not just part. And if she had other children, she would find part of her identity as mother in them, rather than in Christ. Which is to say, she wouldn’t have made the offering which saves the world with all her soul. And therefore it wouldn’t save the world.

    Or again, she is the presence of the Eschatological Church at the foot of the Cross offering Herself–capitalized because I mean the Church–for Jesus that He might live from the living water which springs from her belly (see the Song of Songs). But if she has other sons she doesn’t offer herself for Christ as the Eschatological Church does, but holds back part for her other children. And thus she is a false ambassador.

    I suppose these reasons will sound a little odd to you.

    Luke 2 says she and Joseph went up to Passover every year. But if she had had little children, or been very pregnant, she wouldn’t have gone. So she didn’t have other children.

    And I suspect that just as there are reasons relating to who the father of Christ is for the virgin birth, so likewise there are reasons for the ever-virginity.

  73. Remy said

    “Ezekiel 44 says no man shall enter the gate of the temple. Zacheriah 12 says he was the only son. John says that there was no other to comfort her. Church tradition should be given the benefit of the doubt, and it universally says that Mary is perpetual virgin.”

    Thanks for these verses. I think they’re neat. I think we have to treat these sort of arguments differently than face-value arguments. For example, the ark of the Covenant had Aaron’s rod inside it. You want to interpret that one symbolically? No, didn’t think so. So this sort of thing is cool, but you also have to deal with why the 20+ times the brother’s of Jesus are mentioned why the writers said brothers when they didn’t mean brothers.

    Also, the testimony of the fathers wasn’t universal. I’ve come across a few that acknowledge the brothers of Jesus, or acknowledged other church fathers that believed so. Those were certainly a minority, but the same could be said for those without sexual hang-ups.

    So I count a few questionable symbolic arguments, which are dangerous apart from firm Biblical grounding. You have some tortured exegymnastics to avoid the face-value of the text, but without justification to perform it. And you have the shaky testimony of the fathers.

    To hitch perpetual virginity to virgin birth saves you on doing the work to defend it, but the reasons for virgin birth do not work for perpetual virginity. But even then you have to unhitch Mary’s marriage and all the responsibilities and joys of married life. Was Mary a good wife? Your view must say no. My view says, yes. Both views are compatible with the high honor due Mary.

    That’s the problem when you start to play fast and loose with the Bible, other things get wobbly too. So was Mary really married? Celibacy wasn’t allowed in marriage. Why do the writers use “brothers” when they weren’t brothers of Jesus? Maybe the used “brothers” for the same reason they used “god” when talking about Jesus. We can undo quite a bit of what the Bible teaches this way.

    And I don’t get your question about someone who objects to the virgin birth, won’t listen to Scripture, and yet still wants to argue. I wouldn’t argue with that person at all. I’d love him, serve him, pray for him, and shine on. What else is there to do?

  74. Do you have any intention of listening?

    For example, the ark of the Covenant had Aaron’s rod inside it.

    Aaron’s rod which budded is the Cross. Give me a break.

    you also have to deal with why the 20+ times the brother’s of Jesus are mentioned why the writers said brothers when they didn’t mean brothers.

    Let’s see. You didn’t listen did you. I did.

    To hitch perpetual virginity to virgin birth saves you on doing the work to defend it, but the reasons for virgin birth do not work for perpetual virginity.

    Either you continue to insult me by ignoring what I’m saying because it would be convenient to answer something else, or you’re just being lazy. I haven’t hear an answer to my question at all.

    Why do the writers use “brothers” when they weren’t brothers of Jesus?

    Why do they say Elimelech is the brother of Boaz? Why do they say Lot is the brother of Abraham?

    And I don’t get your question about someone who objects to the virgin birth, won’t listen to Scripture, and yet still wants to argue.

    That’s not what I said, you’re just insulting me. If someone thinks your reading is stretched they won’t listen to Scripture? If someone says “well, I think that’s a stretch, but if you can explain why you believe it–how does it fit in with everything else, why did Scripture say it, why is it important–I’ll think about it” you’ll respond “no, there is no good reason. Just the Scripture.” This is ridiculously proud, and an insult to everyone everywhere.

    In short, you’re just pretending to have any interest in discussing. You repeatedly assert that you want to have a reason for the perpetual virginity. But you have no such desire. If someone says “look here and you’ll find an answer” and you really want an answer, the least you could is look there–or at the very least shut up and stop pretending they haven’t tried to answer you. I’m done here. You pontificate, but you don’t bother to listen. And you aren’t honest about your intentions.

  75. Remy said

    You have the thinnest skin I have ever seen. Have I called you dishonest? No. Did you call me dishonest? Yes. Did you apologize? No. Does that bother me? No, not from you.

    Have I mentioned that you write in metric tons? Yes. Have I tried to respond, even if only briefly? Yes. Am I trying to insult you? No.

    “Why do they say Elimelech is the brother of Boaz? Why do they say Lot is the brother of Abraham?”

    You mean the translators of the LXX? I don’t know. That’s not the same question. Why does the inspired word of God say Jesus has brothers over twenty times if it doesn’t mean brothers?

    I know you can “explain away” these things. I’m was in the PCA, I know all sorts of nifty “explaining away” techniques. You cannot treat the Bible that way. You can do the same thing to “god”, same hermeneutic. People do this with “day”.

    I mentioned that the two passages you mentioned were cool. I look forward to spending time in those passages with that in mind. It doesn’t answer every question I have and the central question I’ve asked hasn’t been answered, nor has the central objection to your hermeneutic. Don’t worry, I won’t cry over it.

    As for the response to someone who thinks my reading is stretched because I take “brother” to mean “brother”? Or because I take Mary the mother of God’s word for it that she has never known a man? If someone thinks that is a stretch it doesn’t matter what arguments you come up with. The Bible is not driving the conversation, best to just love them, serve them, and pray for them. I honestly don’t know what more you could want from this situation.

    You keep bringing up the loss issue, even after I’ve said I don’t see it. I don’t see why everything in the shadow role of mother has to be contained in the full reality role of sister. To me it’s like you’re saying “If the shadow of her role on earth isn’t contained in her full reality role on the new earth then there is loss.” It doesn’t make sense to me. You see the role differently, I mentioned that we just aren’t going to get anywhere on that and I’ve dropped it. This is not ignoring you. I suppose you could take it as an insult, but I wouldn’t know why you are so eager to be insulted.

    You keep talking like you confuse the natures of Jesus (though you qualified it) and I’ve said I’m content to let it go. This is again, not ignoring you.

    If you don’t want to continue the discussion that’s your business. But I’ve been glad to do this. I’ve learned a lot about your position, I was relieved to hear that you separate the Divine Essence from your Theotokos talk, which in the past has not been clear. I learned a couple of Biblical passages that you can point to in support of perpetual virginity. I still have my question on the hermeneutic question as you know, but I’ve been happy to interact with you.

    To the charge of pontificating without listening to others I feel that it fits you more than me. Consider the mother’s day poems above, consider the fact that I okayed something you said and asked to drop it, yet you kept bringing it up, consider the fact that you repeatedly ignored my question on the theological importance of perpetual virginity, until you finally admitted that you couldn’t explain it because it is too delicate. That’s fine, by the way, but remember you called my questioning of it risible.

    Again, I know you so these things don’t bother me. But I encourage you to watch what you’re saying. Be patient. There’s only one of us that has a string of people unhappy about how you’ve treated them in an online discussion. Keep that in mind.

  76. consider the fact that you repeatedly ignored my question on the theological importance of perpetual virginity, until you finally admitted that you couldn’t explain it because it is too delicate.

    This is what’s insulting. I keep saying “the answer to your question lies in the answer to this other question.” Which question you keep dodging, and then pretending I’m not answering your question. If you actually want an answer to your question, answer mine. Otherwise stop playing games. Or at least admit that I have repeatedly tried to answer your question.

  77. Or earlier:

    I argued that either mother is superior to bride, or at the least is contained in bride. But you didn’t acknowledge that I had argued anything, and acted like I’d falsely assumed that mother is superior to bride. “Even if you want to talk about human love, the height of love is between brothers, not mothers and sons. I don’t see the transformation from mother to sister/bride as a loss.” If you don’t want to respond to an argument that’s fine. Say “I can appreciate an argument that mother is in bride, and I’m not sure what to think of that, I think that…” or something similar. It’s not the disagreement with my points that bothers me, it’s the dismissal of them, the rejecting them because of trivialities–like twisting “natural” when contrasted with “adopted” to be some other sort of natural, etc.

  78. Remy said

    “I can’t get at it very well. Such things are too delicate for definition.”

    You said this. If this is insulting to have me repeat what you said you probably shouldn’t say it.

    As for your other “answer”. Saying the answer to the question is the same as another answer when I have said I don’t see, or don’t understand it. And then to get insulted that I don’t get it is useless.

    I haven’t dodged it. I know why the virgin birth is necessary. You know why the virgin birth is necessary. You say the answers are the same and I have said I don’t see how that works. You haven’t explained that yet. Who is dodging?

    If I am really missing something you can let me know. There is no need to get insulted. No need to call me dishonest. No need question my intentions.

    Now, I don’t want you to be insulted. If you cannot be involved in this discussion without being insulted all the time perhaps it is best that you withdrew from the conversation. But I remain interested in this. I am guileless.

  79. Ok, if you remain guileless I’ll try and work with you. I’m sorry I rushed to a conclusion.

    You haven’t even begun to answer my question. I have rephrased it repeatedly to make it clear, but you haven’t once shown that you understand what I’m asking. Is the doctrine of the Virgin Birth a hapax legomenon? Or is it part of a web of doctrines? Aside from, aside from the fact that it’s scriptural, does it intersect any other doctrines? If so, what are those? If I asked you “why is the consubstantiality of the Son important” you could of course answer “because the Bible states it.”

  80. Stupid computer. That post wasn’t done.

  81. Ok, if you remain guileless I’ll try and work with you. I’m sorry I rushed to a conclusion.

    You haven’t even begun to answer my question. I have rephrased it repeatedly to make it clear, but you haven’t once shown that you understand what I’m asking. Is the doctrine of the Virgin Birth a hapax legomenon? Or is it part of a web of doctrines? Aside from, aside from he fact that it’s scriptural, does it intersect any other doctrines? If so, what are those?

    Scripture clearly says that Heth is the son of Canaan. But if someone were to deny it, I wouldn’t be concerned so much about who the father of Heth is, but about the inspiration of Scripture. On the other hand, if someone were to deny that Jesus rose again, I’d have a whole host of objections. My ground for making them would be scripture, but there’s a whole host of other things going on than the truth of scripture. In the first example, the denial is important merely because the inspiration of Scripture is important. In the second, the doctrine of the resurrection is itself important. So my question is: is the virgin birth more like the first, or like the second? And if it’s like the second–if the virgin birth is important in a whole web of doctrines and not merely because the Scriptures say it–what else does it affect?

    Again, I am not I am not, asking if it’s in Scripture, or if Scripture is inspired. I’m asking what other doctrines it affects. If you answer “scripture states it” you aren’t answering my question. I’ve made this point clear, repeatedly. If you answer “Scripture says it” you aren’t paying attention. I’m not asking if Scripture says it. I’m asking what other doctrines it affects. Why is it in scripture, and is it worth fighting for only because Scripture says it.

    It also is completely aside the point if you find some significance to the fact that Canaan is the father of Heth. It’s just an example. If you understand what I’m saying, but object to the illustration, you aren’t communicating. Also, if you can give significance to the fact that Canaan is the father of Heth, you are showing that you can indeed understand my point, and you are just being obstinate.

    If you can give me an answer to this question I think you’ll have the answer to yours. What is the significance of the Virgin Birth? What other doctrines (aside from the inspiration of Scripture) does it affect?

    At the very least say “yeah, from way way up there, you’d ask this question, and say that the answer to my question was in it, but I kept acting like you weren’t interacting with my question.”

  82. If that’s too long, I’m sorry. Talking with you guys is like pulling teeth. The objection is almost always not at all to the point. The first paragraph contains the gist of my question, as does the next-to-last. The rest is there to keep you from giving off the wall answers.

    Also, the reason I keep bringing up the issue of whether Mary is mother of God isn’t because you continue to make it a point, but because Steven said “you’re a heretic” and left me hanging. The interaction is with him.

    • Remy said

      “Talking with you guys is like pulling teeth.”

      That’s classic.

      • Well, as I have several times said, this is really frustrating for me. You haven’t acknowledged that I was repeatedly trying to answer your question. You haven’t acknowledged that you several times made silly linguistic objections. You haven’t acknowledged that you would just dismiss my arguments.

        Things get long because I make a quick point, and you make an aside objection. So I make the first point, and cover up the side objection. To which you object with another side point. So I cover that up. Etc.

        Or I try and ask a question, and you refuse to answer it, acting like you misunderstood it. So I try and meet your confusion. And you reply with more confusion.

        My first points to your points weren’t long. The whole post may have been, but I didn’t say much to each individual point.

      • Remy said

        Matt, I feel your pain. I do.

        I hereby acknowledge that have repeatedly tried to answer my questions.

        If you think my “silly linguistic objections” are when I attack that bad hermeneutic I don’t feel bad at all. If it’s for something else, you’re probably right. I like being silly linguistically.

        I hereby acknowledge that I dismiss your arguments when 1) I’ve granted a point 2) feel like we’ve reached a stalemate (such as the mother/loss thread) or 3) when they’re retarded.

        I was just poking at you with the economy thing. It really doesn’t bother me.

        Again, I haven’t seen anything that I’ve refused to answer. I’ve missed things, sure.

        Once again you’re stooping to unbecoming rhetoric. Am I “acting like I misunderstood”? Really?

        I’d rather be confused, than someone who continues to heap unwarranted abuse on someone.

      • By silly linguistic reasons, I mean substituting another clearly ridiculous sense for the plain contextually valid sense. I’ve given several examples of this.

        Regarding dismissal of my arguments: Take the mother/loss thread. I repeatedly insisted that I’d be fine with saying sister is superior to mother, so long as everything in mother is in sister. All you could respond with is “you don’t believe sister is superior, I do.” Perhaps you are listening. But you aren’t acting like it when you do that. I’d be fine if you said “I’m not sure about your argument, I think I can kinda see what’s motivating you, but I don’t share your motivations.” But you don’t. You pretend like we disagree over a point I conceded.

  83. Remy said

    If they deny the virgin birth, but allow for the miraculousness of it, the fully human/fully God nature, and the sinless nature, I wouldn’t be able to say anything other than “because the Bible states it”.

    But the problem is not that they deny virgin birth, but that they have embraced a very dangerous hermeneutic.

    Again, these things have no connection to perpetual virginity as far as I can see.

    • You really think that the Virgin Birth is in itself unimportant? Ok…I don’t know that I agree, but whatever.

      If your answer is “there is nothing important about the Virgin Birth in itself” then similarly, for you, there is nothing important about the perpetual virginity. But if you had given a reason that the Virgin Birth is important, I think it would relate.

      I think I’d ask you, why is the Virgin Birth important? Think about it some. Both Matthew and Luke mention it. Granted in the twentieth century it was important because it was a touchstone for whether miracles happen. But what role has it played in church history. Why was the virgin birth itself so important?

      • Remy said

        I do think it is important. For the reasons I stated.

      • You’re a real smart ass aren’t you. And you know that sort of thing really bothers me. Do you do it just to hurt me? Do you like offending your brother? Do you get your kicks off of refusing to communicate? Do you know how to have a conversation with charity? Go up and see the distinction you just made. “But the problem is not that they deny virgin birth, but that they have embraced a very dangerous hermeneutic.” Is there any problem with the virgin birth itself. Like I said in the previous post, before your smart ass taunt.

      • I mean you don’t have to reply. But if you do reply, at least pretend like you read my post.

        I’d be shaking the sand off my sandals right now. Is it the whole CREC I should feel unwelcome in, or just where you are?

      • Remy said

        My point was for someone who has no regard for the words of Scripture appealing to other sources isn’t going to help.

        At least that’s my opinion. What would you say to someone like that? I feel like there’s something you want me to say, but I don’t know what it is.

        I don’t really know what else I could say. I’m not being an ass, I don’t know how this could possibly hurt you or offend you or how responding honestly is uncharitable.

        You said I wasn’t allowed to argue from Scripture. I mentioned the theological significance. Outside of that I have nothing to offer save going after their horrendous hermeneutic.

        Really, what would you say?

      • I’m not sure what you’re supposed to say. When you said “I don’t really have an answer to your question” rather than pretending I was asking something else, I was fine with it. I then said “But I think there’s something important there. It would probably help you to think about it.”

        You don’t have to. That’s fine. You don’t have to find something.

        But I already know you think it’s important because of Scripture. I acknowledged that days ago, and have been at pains to ask you if it is itself important, or just because of the faulty hermeneutic. You finally answered my plain straight-forward question that I’ve been putting to you for days. But when I tried to end nicely, you decided to piss on me. Like I’ve probably said a million times, I’M NOT TALKING ABOUT THOSE REASONS!!!!

        You’re just ignoring what I say, and trying to answer something else. Listening is good, and refusing to listen is very rude.

        Example: “My point was for someone who has no regard for the words of Scripture appealing to other sources isn’t going to help.” My point, repeatedly and emphatically made, is that your interlocutor has a high regard for Scripture, but disagrees with your interpretation, so he asks how does it relate. A distinction you are perfectly capable of understanding, as you finally did in this post.

        So yeah, there’s something you’re supposed to do, but aren’t. It’s called listening.

      • But the question about who the interlocutor is is a side point. What I’ve been trying to get at is “what is important in the Virgin Birth in itself?” I finally got you to answer this question, and lest you say you were really confused by the interlocutor point, I didn’t make it my next point, and you immediately reverted to a non-answer of my question.

      • Remy said

        See? This is the reason I’m having a hard time answering your question. I don’t see how someone can have a high regard for Scripture and flat out reject Mary’s own words, the testimony of the prophecies simply because the word used can also mean something else. I would want to know what is the reason for using this dangerous hermeneutic. So it’s not like I’m refusing to answer your question.

        I don’t see how you can take my comment as “pissing on you”. You said “I think I’d ask you, why is the Virgin Birth important?” after I listed several reasons for why I think it is important. I then looked at my response and saw that I wrote “the problem is not that they deny virgin birth” which in context does not entail that rejecting the virgin birth is okay, but I thought that is what you were pointing at. So I responded to make it clear that I do think it is important.

        See how that all makes sense and it doesn’t require you to lose your temper again.

        Also, if that qualifies as “pissing on you” then you must be the most well treated guy in the world. Consider yourself lucky. I certainly don’t get treated that way.

        Okay, so you think that past Scripture and past the theological significance there is something in virginity that is important, but you won’t tell me what it is. You said the answer to the question of perpetual virginity is the same as the answer of the virgin birth. From the very beginning, days ago, I said I don’t see it. So hear we are and you tell me to think about it some. Talk about pulling teeth.

        So if you were going to do this from the very beginning you could’ve said “I think your point is laughable, but I also think it is too delicate for definition and think you should think about the virgin birth apart from its Scriptural and theological importance”. See how that would’ve saved us both a lot of time, and saved me from a lot of insults?

      • Then could you at least play along with the hypothetical? I’m obviously not asking about the hermeneutic, but trying to get at something else. At the very least, say “there’s nothing else there”–something you didn’t say till this post. Why did God chose to be born of a virgin not merely miraculously.

        I’ve been trying really really hard to say “If you’d look over there you’d find the answer.” To which you have replied “Here (not where I was pointing)? Why would I look here. And would you answer my question?” To which I respond “no, not where you are, over there. And I’m trying to answer your question.” And then you (not moving) “Here? There’s nothing here. And I still haven’t gotten an answer.”

        Like I said: “But the question about who the interlocutor is is a side point.” I’m not asking about hermeneutics! Stop mocking me by pretending I am! I’ve said over twenty times I’m not asking about hermeneutics, but you repeatedly answer “but hermeneutics!”

        I’m asking about what you finally said just above: “If they deny the virgin birth, but allow for the miraculousness of it, the fully human/fully God nature, and the sinless nature, I wouldn’t be able to say anything other than “because the Bible states it”.” None of those relate to the virginity though. I’m trying to say “if you’d look over there at the virginity you’d find your answer.” But you refuse to look, refuse to even tell me you won’t look, but just pretend I haven’t repeatedly said I’m not asking about the hermeneutic. Let me say it again. I’m not asking about the hermeneutic.

        If someone denies Heth is the son of Canaan, the problem is the hermeneutic, and really nothing else. If someone denies the resurrection, there is a hermeneutic problem, but it is relatively minor compared to the other problems. Maybe in this case the thing itself isn’t very important. But it is mentioned in both nativity narratives. So anyway, I’m trying to suggest that you try and understand the thing itself. I think that if you could understand why God chose a virgin and not merely a miraculous birth, you’d have your answer. Again, I’M NOT ASKING ABOUT THE HERMENEUTIC!

      • “So if you were going to do this from the very beginning you could’ve said “I think your point is laughable, but I also think it is too delicate for definition and think you should think about the virgin birth apart from its Scriptural and theological importance”.” I’ve been trying really really hard to say this–or rather the theological importance of the virgin birth as opposed to the miraculous birth–for days. I’ve made a point that I’m not asking about hermeneutics. I’ve repeatedly asked “but how does it relate to other doctrines.” Save once, the only answer I’ve received is “But there’s really important Scriptural reasons.”

      • Remy said

        Okay, I’m not mocking you. Quit mocking me by saying I’m mocking you.

        I listed three things that hinge on the virgin birth, miraculousness of it, the fully human/fully God nature, and the sinless nature. There might be more that I’m not thinking of. I’d ask you to enlighten me, but I know you would only keep ignoring that, so I won’t.

        But I would like to point out that God has used whores before.

      • Ok, sorry for that. I’m not sure what the reason is. I’m relatively confident that there is a link between the prior virginity and the posterior virginity. I’m not what the reason for prior virginity is, but I think if you meditated on it the sort of reason you’d find for the prior virginity would also apply to posterior virginity. None of the reasons you list relate to virginity per se. They could just as easily be said of someone on a “second virginity” or a widow. And I’m not asking you to meditate on why “purity” was important before. Just simply, virginity.

        It is very very frustrating when you are trying to answer someone’s question and they repeatedly assert that you aren’t really trying. And it is very hard to believe someone really wants an answer who refuses to look where you point. Or at least to work with them to communicate. I tried this way and that way to say that I was asking for the theological significance of virginity per se. But I only got back one answer, and a repeated assertion that I’m not answering your question. I was straining to answer your question–to make it clear where I thought you should look–and you wouldn’t either 1) begin to look there or 2) try and meet me part way–“are you asking about X?”

  84. Also,

    It isn’t quite fair to try and get in the last word, and then ask me to drop it. If the terminology is good enough just say so, don’t say “well, I think you are being irresponsible, but I’m not going to raise any objections.” That statement is itself raising objections.

  85. Matt Yonke said

    Remy,

    Would you be opposed to someone having sex in your church building? If so, why? If not, why?

    More to the point, imagine yourself a Jew. Would you be opposed to someone having sex on the altar in the temple? If so why? If not, why not?

  86. Remy said

    Yes, I would. And it’s because it is a public place.

    If I were a Jew I would have to say the same for the same reason.

  87. The second of the two posts is the important one. If this were blogger I’d delete the first.

  88. Kevin said

    Post on Mary the Mother of God, cool. Over 100 comments, great! Wait, only two real participants in this comment cage match, bummer. Wonder who’s on Facebook…

  89. Remy said

    Worst of all is the fact that after all this my point about Perpetual Virginity serving no theological point was verified.

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