Conceived Without Sin??

Below are three links to a topic that Scot McKnight treated a while ago that I thought would be good for folks to read. DO NOT COMMENT HERE UNTIL YOU HAVE READ ALL THREE POSTS! I think they are very helpful and should give us good reason to deny the immaculate conception as espoused by the Roman Catholic Church.

Immaculate Conception 1
Immaculate Conception 2
Was Mary Sinless?

An excerpt from McKnight’s 3rd post. He cites Joel Marcus’s Anchor commentary on Mark. And summarizes:

Here’s Marcus’s outline:
1. Jesus’ relatives (3:20-21)

2. Charge of demonic agency (3:22-26)

3. Parable of Strong Man (3:27)

2′. Charge of demonic agency (3:28-30)

1′. Jesus’ relatives (3:31-35).

In Marcus’ sandwiching theory, Jesus’ relatives surround the demonic stuff at the core of this passage. The whole is concerned with the “ineradicable division and fierce enmity between him and the demonic forces that hold the human race in thrall and blind to its true good” (279).
Now what is important here is that 3:20-21 is about Jesus’ relatives, including Mary. The Greek hoi par’ autou means, literally, “those from beside him” and scholars today agree that this means relatives, the relatives who decide to leave Nazareth at 3:20-21 and show up in Capernaum at 3:31. Meaning, mother, brothers and sisters. That expression is found with “relatives” as the meaning also at Prov 31:21; Susanna 33; Josephus, Ant. 1.193. This expression cannot refer to “disciples” (the other possible meaning) since in 3:20 we have the disciples; they are in the house with Jesus; the “family” is outside the house and coming to the house to seize him. Nor is the crowd, for they too are mentioned in 3:20. So, we have relatives, family members.
Here’s the text:
Then Jesus entered a house, and again a crowd gathered, so that he and his disciples were not even able to eat. When his family heard about this, they went to take charge of him, for they said, “He is out of his mind.”
Now if the family members are the same as those in 3:31, then we have family members — Mary, brothers — who think Jesus is “out of his mind.” This term, also, is not really up for debate for the context is not positive about them. They think Jesus’ behaviors down in Capernaum are rowdy and damaging to reputation. We can explain this in any number of ways, and some of them quite commendable, but when we are done, we have Mary and the “brothers” thinking Jesus is out of his mind. I do not think this is a standpoint of faith, but one of unfaith, of failure within faith, of a challenge on the part of Mary to see just how it is that God will do what she said in the Magnificat, to see how God will actually bring[s] about the shadowy side of Simeon’s sword. Her response to his work here is not positive; she thinks what he is doing is not the way God wants his will to be done.
We can push this further. If we say Mary is sinless and we say Jesus is sinless, and if we say Jesus always does the will of God, then Mary’s desire to get Jesus to come outside and to go home would [be] an act contrary to what Jesus thought God’s will was. That, if we define sin as anything contrary to the will of God now made known in Jesus, would be an act of sin.
There are reasons, then, to conclude that this act by Mary is against the will of God.
Personally, I think she quickly adjusted to Jesus’ words. But I think her first response is not that of faith. (bold added by Wireman)

Comments 9

  1. The USCCB web site includes a couple of footnotes on this passage. Nothing apologetic concerning Mary, but it doesn’t deny that she was among Jesus’ relatives and that some of them lacked faith. My question is, can we conclude that Mary lacked faith or necessarily opposed Jesus just because she was with this group? Maybe she was confused about what Jesus was doing or simply distraught at the opposition among her relatives. Or maybe she fully supported what Jesus was doing. She could’ve been the lone voice speaking in his favor.

    I’d like to ask about the Wedding at Cana passage, specifically John 2:4-5: And Jesus said to her, “Woman, what does that have to do with us? My hour has not yet come.” His mother said to the servants, “Whatever He says to you, do it.”

    As a Protestant, this never made sense to me. Jesus and Mary oppose each other, then Mary insists on Jesus performing a miracle, and Jesus seems cave in to Mary’s insistence. Why would Jesus follow Mary’s lead unless there is something deeper about their relationship? Did any of Jesus’ disciples ever seem to “change” his mind about something? If so, I don’t remember it right now :) Plus, I think you could draw a stronger case for Jesus being wrong about his hour having not yet arrived, than you can for Mary opposing Jesus in Mark 3.

    Another thing to point out is that Jesus addressed his mother as “woman” in recognition of her role as the New Eve giving birth to the new creation. Death entered the world through Eve’s sin, and so it is through Mary’s Immaculate Conception and perfect submission to God’s will that death is defeated. This, in addition to Mary’s role as the tabernacle of God made flesh in her womb and the new Ark of the Covenant, is why Mary needed to be without blemish.

    Unless it came up in the replies, I’m surprised Scot McKnight didn’t address Mary being a type of the Ark of the Covenant. The ark is mentioned twice in the NT: in Hebrews 9 and the very end of Revelation 11.

    In Revelation, the Ark is revealed and immediately thereafter Mary is giving birth to Christ. Either the Ark was mentioned only in passing (which has been mission for 400+ years) or Mary is the Ark.

    And Hebrews 9:1-5 reminds me of what Scott Hahn wrote in The Lamb’s Supper about Mary’s role as Ark of the Covenant:

    “What makes the new ark holy? The old ark contained the word of God written in stone; Mary contained in her womb the Word of God Who became man and dwelt among us. The ark contained manna; Mary contained the living bread come down from heaven. The ark contained the rod of the high priest Aaron; Mary’s womb contained the eternal high priest, Jesus Christ. In the heavenly temple, the Word of God is Jesus, and the ark in whom he resides is Mary, His mother.” (see Numbers 17 regarding contents of the ark) (quoted from page 78)

    And Heb 9:11 says when Christ appeared as high priest … he entered through the greater and more perfect tabernacle.

    There are probably a few ways to interpret that verse, such as Jesus entering the heavenly tabernacle, but wasn’t Mary a tabernacle of the Lord during her pregnancy, and didn’t Christ enter the world through Mary? So could she be the “greater and more perfect tabernacle,” not because of her own merit, but because through her obedience Christ became flesh and, as our high priest, he made the greatest and most perfect sacrifice for our sins.

    Hopefully this didn’t go on too long… just trying to stand up for my mother, that’s all ;-) j/k Anyway, I’ll check back in a few days and see if anyone’s replied. I’d like to read all the replies on McKnight’s blog, but that would take hours and I’m not sure if I’m up to that right now :)

  2. blah blah blah. I also don’t have the time to really get into this. however The Church (the Catholic Church that is) has dealt with this for oh about 2000 years so they have plenty to say about it. And so do the orthodox, and so did the “reformers”. Theological gymnastics do not stand up to 2000 years of church history. sorry. If you really want to look into this I suggest reading a lot more than you have from Catholic theologians on the subject. sorry about the short answer but that is really what it comes down to. a “new interpretation” vs. thousands of years of history and brains. Thank you Jason for a more precise response.

  3. December 8, 1854 is hardly 2000 years. Not to mention all the controversy surrounding Pius’ decision to make it dogma. The issues McKnight is raising come from a standard understanding of the Immaculate Conception. I can always count on my Catholic friends responding. I appreciate it. Have either one of you read DA Carson’s commentary on the Gospel of John? I would suggest checking it out. It is obvious that you have read plenty of Hahn, but how about some Protestant love? I would also like to take some time to read the comments on McKnnight’s blog…I’ll have to do so when I get more time.

  4. You can count on us.

    On Protestant love…I was a protestant for about 27 years. I just officially joined the Catholic Church this Easter. I did study it for a couple of years before though.

    To be truthful and honest… It doesn’t matter really what so and so says unless we are just reading to know where you are coming from better.

    Once you claim to be a non catholic then you have no ground to stand on. It’s relative to your interpretation outside of the living infallible tradition of the Church. Now if you are reading the bible and interpreting it in the proper context then its a different story.

    Just because something is officially defined on a date doesn’t mean it didn’t exist before that.

    You know that. Look at the Cannon.

  5. I’ve done a little poking around out here in cyberspace and found some good links on the Catholic view of the doctrine and the development of it.

    http://www.bringyou.to/apologetics/a95.htm

    http://www.newadvent.org/cathen/07674d.htm

    http://www.cin.org/imconcep.html

    http://www.cin.org/users/jgallegos/immac.htm

    Hope this helps to show that the dogma wasn’t just made up back in 1854. The church defines dogmas when it needs to clarify what the church already believes, against opposition, as a whole that is consistant with all church history and scripture. Again, look at the early creeds and the history surrounding their defining of what the orthodox christian faith was against such groups as the arians. The church had the authority to define and bind then and it still did back with Pious the IX and still does today.

  6. I really didn’t mean to go on that long off the bat… sometimes it’s hard to tell how much you’ve typed in these little comment boxes :)

    It is important to distinguish between the development of Catholic doctrine over many centuries and the infallible proclamation of that doctrine as a rule of faith. Like McKnight pointed out, Thomas Aquinas doubted the Immaculate Conception. However, his doubts were rooted in the question of when exactly a fetus becomes a human being. During the Middle Ages, people didn’t know if the one cell formed at conception was actually a human being or if it was something non-human that eventually developed into a human. And if the latter, at what point does it become human? If human life doesn’t begin at conception, then Mary couldn’t have been immaculately conceived because she didn’t have a soul yet. Of course, as science progressed and showed us that human life begins at conception, the doctrine of Immaculate Conception could finally be declared by the pope as a rule of faith.

    Another example of this is the fact that transubstantiation was not defined as doctrine until it was seriously challenged, I think during the 1200’s (but don’t quote me on that :). If this doctrine were some medieval concoction of the Catholic Church, why would the Eastern Orthodox, who split off at least 200 years prior, hold so firmly to the same Eucharistic theology?

    Concerning biblical commentary, I’ve never read any commentary outside of an occasional reference, and actually only a couple of Hahn’s books. No doubt plenty of writers are more thorough than Hahn, but he is very approachable for the average reader. But speaking of Protestant love, I am a fan of “Wild at Heart” and have gained more respect for Joshua Harris… does that count? :)

    To close for now, just a few pretty simple questions that you might want to consider and pray about:

    Doesn’t God despise sin and death with all of His being, as much as He despises Satan? So much so, that God became incarnate, walked on this earth among sinners, resisted the harshest temptations from Satan face-to-face, and finally submitted to the most cruel humiliation and death, all to defeat sin and death? Given that, why would Christ desire even a hint of that which He came to destroy to be present in His own mother (from whom He took on the flesh and blood through which we gain salvation) and the mother of all Christians? Our earthly mother, Eve, submitted to Satan and caused sin and death to enter Creation; if Mary also submitted — even in the least — to Satan, how can we call her our spiritual mother?

    If it were within my power, I would choose in an instant to have a sinless mother, even before wishing for my own sinlessness. While such things are just wishful thinking for you and I, Mary’s prayer is that “nothing shall be impossible with God.”

    Just think about it, and if nothing else I pray you at least gain some perspective on why Catholics do not view all our “extra” doctrines as chains binding us down, but the plain Truth that sets us free.

  7. Dangit, Sean, I saw “8 comments” and was certain a rebuttal was waiting here! :)

    I should go back and read McKnight’s site… I’ll be in Chicago with not much to do all day Saturday, so maybe then.

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