And these things brethren, I have in a figure transferred to myself and to Apollos for your sakes; that ye might learn in us not to think of men above what is written, that no one of you be puffed up for one against another. 1 Corinthians 4:6
Since the 4th Century A.D., a cult emerged that has grown to become perhaps the largest religious organization in the world. It portrays its beliefs as being based upon the teachings of Jesus of Nazareth when in reality it conflicts and adds to the Scriptures. If it claimed to be a medicine it would contain enough biblical truth to make it taste good but enough heresy to make it kill like the poison it really is. Consequently hundreds of millions over the centuries have been sent to their eternal damnation at the guidance of the Roman Catholic Church (hereinafter “RCC”). One of its heresies is Mariology. But its beginning was in no way divine.
First Council of Ephesus- June 7, 431 A.D.
The story of the beginning of Mary worship isn’t one of peaceful, harmonious cooperation. Rather it was the result of man’s sinful ambitions against his fellow man. The time in history is the early 5th Century.
At such a time a man named Nestorius, Bishop of Constantinople promoted the idea that Jesus was on one hand divine, and the other human which would then make Mary a mere mortal. There were two other competing positions on the matter. One emphasized the fact that in Christ, God had been born as a man, and insisted on referring to his mother, Mary, as Theotokos (“birth-giver of God”). The other rejected that title because God, as an eternal being, could not have been born. Nestorius suggested the title Christotokos (“birth-giver of Christ”) as a compromise, but neither faction liked it.
Nestorius’ anti-divine position about Mary put him into direct conflict with an old enemy, Cyril of Alexandria. Cyril had both theological and political reasons for attacking Nestorius; on top of feeling that Nestorius was a heretic, he also wanted to denigrate him since he was the head of a competing patriarchate. See there was a natural rivalry already brewing for some time: Was Constantinople or Alexandria the center of the split empire’s religious power?
Cyril and Nestorius asked the sitting Pope Celestine I to rule on the matter. Celestine, naturally being infallible, found the title Theotokos as orthodox, and authorized Cyril to ask Nestorius to recant. But he used the opportunity to further attack Nestorius.
Nestorius next pleaded with Byzantine/Eastern Emperor Theodosius II (aka Theodosius the Younger or Theodosius the Calligrapher; reigning from 1/402 to 7/450 A.D.), to call for a gathering of theological leaders to settle once and for all the question if Mary was divine or a mere mortal.
The emperor wasn’t interested in personal rivalries or where the center of theological power was situated. He just wanted the council to focus strictly on the christological controversy and other matters to be settled.
He had invitations sent to all bishops of the Eastern and Western empire to assemble on June 7th, 431, in the city of Ephesus (in modern day eastern Turkey). He appointed Count Candidian, head of his palace guard to represent him, to supervise the proceedings but remain neutral on the matters deliberated and to keep good order in the city of Ephesus. He was also to ensure that the proceedings didn’t start until all invited were there (a directive that would be ignored for ulterior motives).
We must understand the time that these men lived in. To disagree about such things as Cyril and Nestorius did in those days could get you exiled, striped of all authority, even tortured, imprisoned or executed. They took their faith values deadly seriously back then like some do today. Putting the rivalry aside there was another difference that stood as an impediment to make the council a raucous one.
By that I mean a linguistic challenge. The Bishops that made it to the council spoke different languages. Those from the East end of the Roman Empire spoke primarily Greek while those from the West spoke Latin. Each language had its own nuances that made exact translation from one to the other a persistent problem. It’s not too far fetched to imagine them mostly speaking at or past each other not with each other.
The sitting pope, Celestine I, (reigning from 9/422 to 7/432 A.D.) appointed Cyril to serve as presiding officer of deliberations at Ephesus and his official spokesman since he didn’t attend.
Since many bishops invited were still not present on the official start date of June 7th, 431, Cyril re-set it to after June 21st in honor of Emperor Theodosius II’s order not to begin until all were assembled. Nestorius and 16 of his bishops were there but he still waited for many of his other supporters, naturally most of the Eastern bishops. When they did arrive after the June 22nd opening they found the proceedings had begun but they weren’t to tackle the intended business at hand, rather to denounce Nestorius for disagreeing that Mary was divine. The council had already made calls for him to appear but Nestorius ignored them and a judgment decree (no doubt conveniently instigated by Cyril) made against him:
[T]he excellent Nestorius has declined to obey our summons and has not received the holy and God-fearing bishops we sent to him, we have of necessity started upon an investigation of his impieties. We have found him out thinking and speaking in an impious fashion, from his letters, from his writings that have been read out, and from the things that he has recently said in this metropolis which have been witnessed to by others; and as a result we have been compelled of necessity both by
—the canons and by
—the letter of our most holy father and fellow servant Celestine, bishop of the church of the Romans, to issue this sad condemnation against him, though we do so with many tears.
Our lord Jesus Christ, who has been blasphemed by him, has determined through this most holy synod that the same Nestorius should be stripped of his episcopal dignity and removed from the college of priests.
Nestorius questioned Cyril’s authority to stand in judgment of him and considered the opening of the council before the arrival of his supporters as a “flagrant injustice.”
68 other bishops present felt the same way and were joined by Count Candidian who declared that the assembly was illegal and must disperse. But the Count could do no more than urge Cyril to honor the emperor’s directive. Cyril agreed to cease proceedings and wait four more days to give the stragglers time to arrive. However, since even the bishops opposed to opening the council were now present, Cyril came up with a way to maneuver around the emperor’s wishes and officially re-start the proceedings. The last thing he wanted was for more of Nestorius’ allies in attendance so they could help him.
He called upon the unwitting Captain of the Guard to personally read out the text of the Emperor’s decree of convocation (the formal opening of proceedings), to the assembly, which officially launched the start of the Council of Ephesus, thus giving Cyril and his allies the cover of legality!
Finally, the rest of Nestorius’ supporters arrived. They discovered what Cyril was doing and held a counter-council, which condemned Cyril and vindicated Nestorius.
The Celestine bishop delegation led by John of Antioch composed of 43 bishops arrived late too (on June 26th). But when John discovered what had been happening in the two councils he joined in condemning Cyril and vindicating Nestorius. Naturally, Cyril counter-punched by suspending and excommunicating him, together with thirty-four bishops of his party.
Nestorius was eventually condemned as a heretic. His belief that Christ was part divine and human (since he considered Mary human) led to an entire heresy being named after him- “Nestorianism.” His position of authority was taken away from him and he spent the rest of his days in a monastery.
Also to help ensure the appearance of universal agreement the council passed a decree calling for the removal from clerical office or excommunication of anyone who did not accept the Council’s decrees. (Sort of like how they do things in communist regimes only they take you out and shoot you.)
Two years later Cyril, reconciled with John of Antioch who betrayed Nestorius by negotiating a deal with language that included: “We shall speak not presuming to approach the unapproachable; but we confess our own weakness and so shut out those who would reproach us for investigating things beyond the human mind[.]” that “..the holy virgin [is] the mother of God…” that Jesus was both divine and human in nature.
The new pope, St. Sixtus III (7/432 to 8/440 A.D.), sent letters to Cyril and John acknowledging their agreement. The pope exiled Nestorius and ordered all his writings burned. He also recognized the proceedings under Cyril and the papal delegates present at the very beginning as the authentic council of Ephesus.
So there you have it. Mary was declared the divine mother of God in a far from divine, but high on shenanigans manner. Human ingenuity for doing sinful things like abusing a trust, confusion, personal ambition, betrayal, and just honestly disagreeing, not God or God’s Word promoted Mary to divinity! But why should we be surprised? These were sinful human beings looking out for themselves like any of us are inclined to do.
Since the Council of Ephesus the worship of Mary has systematically be enshrined in official RCC dogma and disseminated to its followers. The historical record is clear and unquestioned:
Prayers began to be offered to Mary beginning in 600 A.D.;
Her immaculate conception (her sinless nature) was declared in 1854 A.D., by Pope Pius IX in his papal bull Ineffabilis Deus;
Mary’s assumption was declared in 1950 A.D., by Pope Pius XII in the apostolic constitution Munificentissimus Deus;
She is proclaimed Mother of the Church in 1965 A.D. (Vatican II).
But What Does the Holy Bible says about Mary?:
Mary was prophesied about in Isaiah 7:14;
She was described as highly favored in Luke 1:28;
Matthew 1:16, says she is the mother if Jesus.
She was informed that Jesus was the anointed in Luke 2:24-35;
She bore Jesus while she was a virgin in Matthew 1:25;
She and Joseph looked for Jesus at the Temple in Luke 2:41-51;
She was with Jesus at the wedding in Cana (but she didn’t turn the water into wine?) in John 2:1-10;
She sought Jesus as he taught at a house in Matthew 12:46-47;
She was at the crucifixion in John 19:26-27;
She was committed to the care of John (a god needing care?) at John 19:27;
She was with the disciples in Jerusalem in Acts 1:14.
What Did Mary Say About Herself?:
In Luke 1:46-48, Mary told Luke how she declared God was her savior and recalled telling Elizabeth about her “low estate of [being God’s] handmaiden…” Why would a god (if one truly is a god) thank another god for being its savior and call herself a handmaiden?
What Did Others Say About Mary?:
Matthew: 13:53-56, is where people asked if Jesus was the person who was the son of a carpenter and Mary, with brother and sisters? They didn’t refer to Mary as the blessed virgin/Mother of the church?
Colossians 1: 15-22, where Paul calls Jesus the firstborn (i.e. preeminent) over all creation, not Mary, or second to Mary, or sharing preeminence with Mary. Our savior has two distinct natures- 100% God & 100% man, child of Mary, a human woman. Mary was the mother of a human nature of our savior, not a mother of a god.
In Matthew 12:46-50, is where Matthew tells how Christ’s mother, Mary, had other children. In :48, Christ asks “who are my mother and brothers?”, not something like: “I gotta go see what my mother wants, after all she’s Queen of the Universe!” He placed the disciples on the same level as his earth mother and his earth siblings.
1 Timothy 2: 5, we find Paul assuring us that there is only one god and one mediator among men. He didn’t cite Mary or anyone else as a mediator, for that matter, he didn’t cite a pope, bishop, cardinal or anyone else, as an earthly mediator.
In conclusion, Mary was a human lady, deserving to be highly regarded and favored among all other human women then to now. She was blessed to bring the savior into the world. That essentially is what God’s word says about her!
But Catholics Say It’s Not Worshiping Her; It’s Venerating Her!
If you’re around Catholics you no doubt will witness them praying or talking about praying to Mary. The RCC has a clever way for its sons and daughters to get around the accusation that they’re praying to her as a deity. They say it’s only giving a hyperdulia to her. Just wondering- did they have to invent that word too?
In the world of the RCC a dulia is the veneration given to the saints and those who have died in the RCC faith. A hyperdulia is reserved for veneration to Mary only. What about Joseph? He was the blessed step-father of Jesus! Why isn’t he
deified (pardon me) given hyperdulias like Mary? Meanwhile while a Latria is the adoration given to God alone. So when you see one of them praying to Mary to intervene to get someone out of purgatory or to heal some sickness or right some wrong remember it’s not worship only an act of hyperdulia! Just where one end ands the other begins is my question?
In Conclusion: If you’re a Roman Catholic or are contemplating becoming one do you really want to bank your eternal spiritual existence on how the dogma of Mariology came about and Scripture was ignored? Why not put your faith in what Christ did on the cross? He said it was finished. Mary did not die for your salvation and she cannot intervene for you because no where in Scripture does it say she was anymore than a blessed woman. No where in Scripture does it say God shares power.
Bellitto, Christopher M., The General Councils, a History of the Twenty-One Church Councils from Nicaea to Vatican II; Paulist Press, 2002.
Council of Ephesus at wikepedia.com
McGuckin, John Anthony (editor), The Encyclopedia of Eastern Orthodox Theology, Wiley-Blackwell Publishers, 2010.
Nestorius at Wikipedia.com