When you asked me to read Scott Hahn's book, "Hail, Holy Queen" & then tell you what I thought, I told you that the views I had concerning Mary were well established & I did not think anything Mr. Hahn said in his book would change my mind. I, therefore, started with a bias against what I supposed he would be teaching. This became a self-fulfilled prophecy. The writer did not change my mind. I did not realize it when you handed me the book but as I read his work I found I had two additional prejudices that would keep me from some of his conclusions. One of these concerned how he approached & interpreted scripture. The other concerned his willing embrace of the teachings of the post-apostolic early church fathers.
First, with regard to his methods of interpreting the Bible, I have a real problem. I believe he spiritualized the scriptures entirely too much, &, in some cases, inappropriately. In case you do not know what I mean by spiritualizing, I mean the same thing as what he meant when he spoke of "the types". I do not totally reject spiritualizing the Bible. I do it sometimes myself, but in the few instances in which I do, I give myself certain rules to follow. I also want to make it clear that my attack on spiritualizing is neither solely directed against the author of this book or against the Catholic approach to Bible interpretation. I am often critical of those in my own Old School Baptist sect who do the same thing Mr. Hahn did in his book. On p. 89, Mr. Hahn referred to Augustine's view that "the New Testament is concealed in the Old, and the Old is revealed in the New." He had referred to Augustine's words several times previously in his book but it was not until this page that it dawned on me what he meant. When it was clear to me what was being said I realized part of what he said I believe & the other part I reject. I do hold to the latter part. That is, the Old is revealed in the New. When Paul said in Romans 15.4: "For whatsoever things were written aforetime were written for our learning, that we through patience and comfort of the scriptures might have hope", I believe he was giving us that part of Augustine's principle of how the Old helped in an understanding of the New. I am not certain but maybe if the writer had applied scripture differently, I might even see some cases of the New being concealed in the Old. However, I would need to see better examples than what he gave, & I can at this time think of no case in which the New is concealed in the Old. I think he was more intent in spiritualizing the scriptures to get the conclusions that he already had made concerning Mary. This approach I totally reject.
The rule I try to follow is this simple rule with regard to the beliefs I hold. I look at what is taught when plain doctrinal truth is being presented. For example, John said, "If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness" (I John 1.8-9). In this text we have some plain doctrinal truth presented: denying our sinfulness is to be deceived & confessing sin results in our forgiveness & cleansing. These truths are presented without spiritualizing anything. It is plain doctrinal truth. If I spiritualize (or am willing to approve what someone else says when that person spiritualizes) I want to make sure that there is first of all a firm foundation laid from doctrinal truth. I use this approach when taking types from the Old Testament & applying them to the truths of the New Testament. I also want to very carefully deal with parables. I do not want to develop doctrines by assuming the meaning of parables. One should not frame the interpretation of a parable to satisfy a view that is nowhere clearly expressed in the Bible. There are also scriptures that use visionary language. The words typify truths. There, too, I want to be very careful. I don't want to base doctrine upon words used in a visionary way unless I know the belief I am holding is clearly established in the scriptures. By following this rule, what happens if I misinterpret the meaning of the type, the parable, or the visionary picture? In these cases, when I misapply scripture, I do so harmlessly. I say, harmlessly because I do no violence to the truths of the Bible. The doctrines are laid in the firm foundation of plain scripture. My only violence then becomes a misapplication of a type, a parable, or a visionary picture. Of course, sometimes we benefit from parables & types being interpreted for us in the language of scripture. In these cases, the parables & the types become the basis for our doctrinal beliefs. Jesus generally spoke parables without interpreting them, but in the parable of the sower & the seed (Matthew 13.3-9), He interpreted this parable in verses 18-23. Likewise, He interpreted the parable of the good seed & the tares (see Matthew 13. 24-30; 37-43). As with some parables, types are also sometime interpreted for us leaving us no doubt as to their meaning. In Galatians 4.22-31, Paul revealed the spiritual truth behind the historical truths of Abraham's two sons. Likewise, the book of Hebrews is filled with instances in which the real meaning behind the ceremonial law is revealed.
Second, I also have a problem with the writer's heavy willingness to rely on those early but non-apostolic church fathers. In this, I probably have a problem with all Catholic dogma that developed in later years. I do not totally reject the views of the early fathers. Clearly, these were people who lived in time closer to the original beliefs of Christianity, & one can logically reason that they should have had a clearer picture of what Christianity was all about. Where I have the problem is when they taught things that simply contradicted scripture or when they developed things that were not developed in scripture. When they did these things, I have a problem with their teachings. If we allow the logic that the early fathers were closer in time to the origins of Christianity, we must also allow that those who wrote in the Apostolic Age were even closer. They should be the best sources to determine what the vital truths of our religion are. Beside, there were some heresies that did develop in the early period after the apostles. The Gnostic, the Nestorian, the Pelagian doctrine, & the Arian heresies all developed shortly after the apostles. To the credit of Catholics, they rejected these unfounded beliefs. From my standpoint, they did not reject the equally unfounded beliefs concerning Mary.
We Old School Baptist place importance upon our creeds. They are standards for us to use in looking at our own doctrines. Used rightly, they enable us not to sway too far from the principles Baptists have held. The most noteworthy of our creeds is the London Confession of Faith of 1689. However, having spoken of the high respect we have for our creeds, we still measure the words of our forefathers by what we believe the Bible teaches. In doing so, there are some statements made in the London Confession that I must reject. I believe some of the words fall short of what is taught in the scriptures. I say this to simply point out to you that I also reject what some early Baptists have held. I would as readily speak out against any view held by an Old School Baptist that I believed to be in error as I speak out against what I believe are in error in this book.
I have spent all of this time writing about my mind set concerning the approach to Bible interpretation & concerning my thoughts about the early church fathers simply because you will see how vitally these affect my thinking as I proceed.
It is clear from the opening part of his book that Mr. Hahn felt that his earlier Presbyterian background did not prepare him with a true understand of Mary's important role in the Church. He laments even the fact that Protestants ministers would not speak of Mary for fear that doing so would cause them to be accused of taking Catholic positions. I do not know enough about his background to know whether or not his charges are valid, but from my own personal standpoint I feel my early religious instruction gave me a proper insight into what Mary is all about & in my ministry I have never felt that I de-emphasized her important role. I do not feel that I, or, for that matter, any Old School Baptist preacher, have been afraid to speak properly about Mary. However, my gut feeling is that what satisfies me would not satisfy Mr. Hahn. Unless we see her as the Church's Mother, the New Eve, the Mediatrix, & one who remained a virgin, & sinless, & one who herself ascended into heaven, I feel he will think we have not given to her the honor to which she is due. From my standpoint, if we are going to use the scriptures & interpret the plain meaning of them, we will have to be content with never satisfying him.
In my view, God has given to no other woman the honor that He gave to Mary. Two places in Luke, chapter 1, express her high uniqueness. Both statements are expressed at the time in which Mary visited Elizabeth. During this time both were carrying in their wombs their offspring. Elizabeth was carrying John (the Baptist). Mary was carrying Jesus. Upon entering the house, Mary saluted Elizabeth, & John, leaped with joy in Elizabeth's womb. Elizabeth, filled with the Holy Spirit, said to Mary: "Blessed art thou AMONG WOMEN, and blessed is the fruit of thy womb" (v. 42). Then Mary, in reply to Elizabeth's words said, "…behold, from henceforth all generations shall call me blessed" (v. 48). These are the two statements in this chapter. You will notice both are expressed in the context of Mary's unborn child. I doubt there is any difference between Catholic doctrine & Old Baptist doctrine at this point. We both believe Mary was a virgin at the time of conception. We both believe she was chosen to give birth to the Son of God. This is an honor bestowed solely upon her. It is for this reason that all generations would call her blessed. Even during the ministry of Christ a blessedness is pronounced that pertains to Mary: "And it came to pass, as he spake these things, a certain woman of the company lifted up her voice, and said unto him, Blessed is the WOMB that bare thee, and the PAPS which thou hast sucked" (Luke 11.27). It is solely in the role God gave her with regard to bringing forth & mothering Jesus that shows her blessedness. She is not blessed above women. She was blessed "among" women. The Greek word is "en" or she was blessed "in women". In nature, she was no different from any other woman. Her blessedness is in the event of first carrying & then giving birth & nurturing God's Son in the flesh. These alone make her stand out among women. One goes beyond what is taught in the Bible when one tries to make these two verses mean more.
Consider the 3rd chapter of Genesis. According to the account, before passing out judgment upon Eve and Adam for the sin committed against the commandment, God told the serpent, "And I will put enmity between thee and the woman, and between thy seed and her seed; it shall bruise thy head, and thou shalt bruise his heel (v. 15). When you look at the circumstances of this account you can see the original intent of the words. The role of the serpent in creation is drastically changed from an excellent creature to one that is now cursed above all living creatures & he is now reduced to one who must move around upon his belly. This subjects him to the foot laid upon his head. Likewise, he is able to bite the foot. But every scholar, Catholic as well as non-Catholic, sees another meaning in these words. They reference the coming of the Savior who will undo what was done in the Garden of Eden. The serpent becomes the Devil. In the vision of John, the old serpent & the devil are clearly defined as one & the same (Revelation 12.9). It is a lesser injury to have one's foot bruised than to have one's head bruised. In the sacrificial death of Christ we see that less damage was done to Him than was done to the devil. He died, but He also rose again. No permanent damage was done to Him. His suffering for sin was as a bruising. So in the prophesy concerning Christ, it is said, "But he was wounded for our transgression, he was BRUISED for our iniquities: the chastisement of our peace was upon him; and with his stripes we are healed" (Isaiah 53.5). But in the suffering of Christ greater damage was rendered to Satan. So John wrote in his first epistle & it is found in I John 3.8: "For this purpose the Son of God was manifested, that he might destroy the works of the devil"; & in Hebrews the writer said: " Forasmuch then as the children are partakers of flesh and blood, he also himself likewise took part of the same; that through death he might destroy him that had the power of death, that is, the devil" (Hebrews 2.14). We can, therefore, say that Genesis 3.15 has a greater meaning to it than the meaning relating to the serpent's downgraded condition. Should anyone charge that all Bible scholars are over typifying the account in Genesis it still will fall in the realm of harmless spiritualizing because clearly we have Bible evidence that the Devil and the serpent are one & the same as already has been shown by Revelation, chapter 12; we have Bible evidence that Isaiah, chapter 53 is a prophesy concerning Christ (Acts, chapter 8); & we have the references in both Hebrews, chapter 2, & I John, chapter 3 that speak of the destroying of the devil.
There is something quite noteworthy in Genesis 3.15. The enmity is between the serpent & the woman and her seed. What is noteworthy is that the reference concerns the woman. There are many genealogies in the Bible but they are traced through men. The genealogies mention the names of the fathers & at least one of their sons. They seldom mention the names of the mothers, and they seldom mention daughters. For this reason, reference to the seed of the woman has to stand out as something quite unique. But this is not all. Two genealogies of Jesus are recorded in the Gospels: one by Matthew & the other by Luke. There are clear differences between the two. For one thing, Matthew's account (1.1-17) has as its starting point Abraham & it traces the lineage to Jesus Christ; but Luke's account (3.23-38) goes backward from Jesus beyond Abraham to Adam. For another thing, the names do not always agree. There is a simple reason for this. Matthew uses the genealogical line of Joseph. However, Luke uses the line of Mary. In Mary's line it is still the fathers & the sons that are mentioned but it is the fathers & the sons of her line, not Joseph's. It is for this reason that we have a different name given for Joseph's father. In Matthew 1.16, Joseph's father is shown to be Jacob. This is correct. In our English Bible, Luke 3.23 indicates Joseph's father was Heli. In the margin of our English Bible it indicates that Heli was actually Joseph's father-in-law. In other words, Heli was Mary's father. The line is traced through Mary up until Joseph. Christ had right to the throne of Israel on both sides. He had right by virtue of Joseph's line. Joseph was his supposed father through his marriage to Mary. Christ also had right by virtue of Mary's line. Mary fulfills the words of Genesis 3.15. That which came from the woman was to be bruised by the serpent while also that which came from the woman was to bruise the serpent's head. Luke traces the coming of the Lord through Mary's line.
Consider also two prophesies in the book of Isaiah. When Judah needed assurance of God's help during the time of threat of conquest, God sent Isaiah to King Ahaz with a message of hope. A sign of His help was given. Here was the sign: "…Behold, a virgin shall conceive, and bear a son, and shall call his name Immanuel" (Isaiah 7.14). This was quite a remarkable sign. Whoever heard of a virgin conceiving? The meaning of "Immanuel" in the Hebrew tongue is "God with us". One does not need a deep understanding of the Christian faith to immediately see that this passage foretold the birth of Christ by the virgin, Mary. But we do not have to speculate on this matter for the meaning was revealed in the New Testament. So concerning the events of Christ's conception & birth Matthew said: "Now all of this was done, that it might be fulfilled which was spoken of the Lord by the prophet, saying, Behold, a virgin shall bring forth a son, and they shall call his name Emmanuel, which being interpreted is, God with us" (Matthew 1.22-23). Two chapters later in Isaiah another remarkable prophesy was given: "For unto us a child is born, unto us a son is given: and the government shall be upon his shoulder: and his name shall be called Wonderful, Counsellor, The Mighty God, The everlasting Father, The Prince of Peace. Of the increase of his government and peace there shall be no end, upon the throne of David, and upon his kingdom, to order it, and to establish it with judgment and with justice from henceforth even for ever. The zeal of the Lord of hosts will perform this" (Isaiah 9.6-7). This is an unmistakable reference to Christ & to the establishment of His government. The language is remarkable. "A child is born". "A son is given". It does not state the reverse order. It is not a son is born. It is not a child is given. Contained in the language is an expression both of the preexistence & incarnation of the Son of God. By virtue of the selection of words we see an agreement with John 3.16, "For God so loved the world that he gave his only begotten Son". The Son was not born. He preexisted. As the Son, he was not born. He was given. He was the One who in the beginning was called the Word, who was with God, & who was God, who then "was made flesh, and dwelt among us" (John 1.1 &14). Paul spoke both of the preexistence of the Son of God & His incarnation when he spoke of Christ, "Who being in the form of God, thought it not robbery to be equal with God: But made himself of no reputation, and took upon him the form of a servant, and was made in the likeness of men" (Philippians 2.6-7). Likewise, we have the same truths presented in the words of the Hebrew writer: "Forasmuch then as the children are partakers of flesh and blood, he also himself took part of the same" (Hebrews 2.9). The manner in which the Son of God was given was by virtue of the child being born. Paul wrote, "But when the fullness of the time was come, God sent forth his Son, made of a woman" (Galatians 4.4). This woman was Mary. She gave birth to the child.
The virgin, Mary conceived the Son of God. The virgin, Mary gave birth to the Redeemer of His people. It is in this light that we see she was blessed among women. It is in this light that we see all generations call her blessed. Many women are mentioned in the Bible. To name a few there was Sarah, Rebekah, Rachel, Deborah, Ruth, Hannah, & Esther. In the New Testament there were the sisters of Lazarus, Mary Magdalene, Dorcas, & Priscilla. None of these women could approach the blessedness of this Mary. Holy women of the Old Testament could have hoped their seed would have been the one that would bruise the serpent's head. However this blessedness belonged only to one. It belonged solely to Mary, the mother of Jesus.
I have not had to go back & do research to write this lengthy statement concerning the role of Mary. The research has been done throughout my many years. I was instructed early in life concerning these things. They have been taught regularly in our churches. I, too, have taught these truths. I say this to make this point. We, among the old order of Baptist, do not minimize in our teaching the role of Mary. If Mr. Hahn did not get this kind of instruction, shame on the institutions that failed him. However, to go beyond the gift God bestowed upon her in the birth of Christ is to go beyond Biblical truth. You must spiritualize scripture, give the scriptures the spin you want, & go to spokesmen outside the Bible in order to come to conclusions that she was blessed in the ways set forth by Mr. Hahn.
I made a mistake early on. When you gave me the book to read, I read it within the first week. However, I was not in the mood to write a reply at that time & it has been more than two months since I have had any mind at all to start a response. Due to the time lag between reading the book & replying to it, it is quite possible that some important parts of Mr. Hahn's work has now been lost to my memory. If this proves to be the case, I apologize. I did make notes at the time I read the book so that I could refer back to those parts that I felt were important for me to reply. Hopefully, the time lag did not hurt too much.
Mr. Hahn used two major scriptures to develop his thoughts. I feel compelled to respond to his interpretation of them.
The author made reference to many places in scripture where those writing or those spoken about in the New Testament used Old Testament things to serve as type to truths in the New Testament (see pp. 21-24). His motive was to justify his own approach to Bible interpretation. His point was the New Testament spiritualized what is in the Old Testament, so why could he not do the same? To justify spiritualizing, he wrote, "We do this in imitation of Jesus, because this is the way He read the scriptures. He referred to Jonah (Mt. 12.39), Solomon (Mt. 12.42), the temple (Jn 2.19), and the brazen serpent (Jn. 3.14} as 'signs' that prefigure Him" (p. 22). With these references, he did well. As a matter of fact, although he cited passages in which types were used, he himself did not spiritualize the verses. Instead, he literally interpreted these verses. He left the spiritualizing to the spokespersons of the Bible. If he did no more than that, I would have no issue with his approach. However, he went beyond that. Since the Bible spokespersons could spiritualize, he felt justified in taking upon himself to do the same thing. By this, he felt he could declare the existence of a type even when there was no scriptural evidence a type did exist. He also felt free to spin the type out in any direction he wanted. Now let me ask a question. When he could give the literal meaning of a text, why did he not spiritualize it? The answer is simple. He did not need to do so. The literal proved his point. Let me ask another question. When he could give the literal meaning of a text, why did he not refer to the early church fathers as authorities? Again, the answer is simple. He did not need to do so. When you see him create types out of verses of the Bible & spin them in the direction he wants in order to establish the conclusion he wants, even when there is no scripture that in its literal interpretation will lead you to that conclusion, a problem exists with his approach. When you see him refer to the early church fathers for support of a view that he cannot prove by a literal interpretation of a text, a problem exists with his approach. He has really proven nothing.
One of the major texts used in his book was John 19.26-27. It spoke of the time when Christ was being crucified. Christ saw His mother & the beloved disciple as they stood by the cross. He placed upon this disciple the care of His mother. To His mother He said, "Woman, behold thy son!" To the disciple He said, "Behold thy mother!" The result of His words led to the disciple taking her to his own home. In these verses we have a literal statement of what happened. Nowhere in scripture is it ever stated that this served as a type. However, Mr. Hahn has something he needs to prove so he makes it a type. Mary becomes the Mother of the Church. Forget the fact that in this transition Christ did not state she was mother to anyone else but the beloved disciple. In order to mold his view she must become mother to all of the other members of the Church as well. He sees a problem. A family is incomplete without a mother. He transfers this problem to the Church. Forget the fact the Bible does not see the same problem he sees. The Church needs a mother to be complete. So from this simple text he believes Mary becomes the Church's mother. Through out the New Testament reference is made to the Father, Son, & Holy Spirit. He wants also a high place to be given to a mother. He uses this text as a springboard for arguing in favor of the New Eve. There was an Adam in the Garden of Eden that was a figure of Christ (Romans 5.14; I Corinthians 15.21-22 & 45-47). So, in his way of thinking, as there was also an Eve in the Garden, she must be a type of the New Eve, Mary. Unfortunately, for his case, the scriptures stop with Adam as a type of Christ. It nowhere develops a type between Eve & Mary. All of his types, including Adam or the Davidic monarchy, won't get him there. Since he cannot prove his case, he must go to the early church fathers to develop what scripture never did develop.
The first woman, Eve, was the mother of all living. To Mr. Hahn, a statement made from the cross in which Christ speaks of his mother as "woman" makes Mary the mother to the Church. I would simply point out that if "woman" has this meaning then the woman from Canaan who had a daughter vexed with a devil (Matthew 15.28), the woman afflicted for 18 years (Luke 13.12), the woman who accused Simon Peter of being with Christ (Luke 22.57), the Samaritan woman who met Jesus at Jacob's well (John 4.21), the woman caught in adultery (John 8.10), & the woman called Mary Magdalene (John 20.13, 15, 18) should also be able to lay title to the New Eve since they too were addressed as "Woman". I acknowledge that in our present culture it may be considered inappropriate for one to address his own mother as "Woman", but it is quite a stretch to conclude from Christ's use of the word "Woman" in John, chapter 19 that Mary should be considered the New Eve & mother of the Church. You can only reach that conclusion by starting with that belief in the first place.
If you want a mother, Paul speaks of one. Mr. Hahn even refers to the allegory himself. The allegory is spoken of in Galatians 4.22-31. Paul tells us the meaning. Therefore, even though he spiritualizes from figures found in the Old Testament, he interprets for us their meaning. For that reason we can interpret the verses in which he gave us the meaning in a literal way. Abraham had two sons, Ishmael & Isaac. Ishmael's mother was Hagar, a slave woman. Isaac's mother was Sarah, Abraham's wife. Paul said these answered to two covenants. Hagar represented Mt. Sinai, in Arabia, which genders to bondage, &, Paul said it even answers to the present Jerusalem that is in bondage with her children. On the other hand, the other covenant represented by the freewoman answers to the heavenly, free Jerusalem. Verse 26 puts it this way: "But Jerusalem which is above is free, WHICH IS THE MOTHER OF US ALL". It's not Mary! Our mother is Jerusalem! I have not created a type when I present this. This is the plain teaching of Paul.
Read Revelation, chapter 21. John also spoke of the heavenly city. He introduced it in verse 2: "And I John saw the holy city, new Jerusalem, COMING DOWN from God OUT OF HEAVEN, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband". You want to look at types. Here you have it. Jerusalem is a type of the Church. In another place we read, "But ye are come unto Mt. Sion, and unto THE CITY of the living God, THE HEAVENLY JERUSALEM, and to an innumerable company of angels, TO THE GENERAL ASSEMBLY AND CHURCH OF THE FIRSTBORN, which are written in heaven, and to God the Judge of all, and to the spirits of just men made perfect, And to Jesus the mediator of the new covenant, and to the blood of sprinkling, that speaketh better things than that of Abel" (Hebrews 12.22-24). In the setting of Galatians, chapter 4, Revelation, chapter 21, & Hebrews, chapter 12, we have Christ as the husband, the Church as His bride, & the saints as the children. So it is, the Church, the heavenly Jerusalem, is our mother.
The other major text used in his book was Revelation 11.19-12.17. As a matter of fact, this would have to be considered his primary scripture. He refers to these verses through out his book. Due to the fact he could not find a clear Bible reference that taught what he believed about Mary, he turned to the visions of John. He interpreted the symbols. In the last verse of the 11th chapter John saw in the temple the ark of the testament. Mr. Hahn said this ark represented Mary (pp. 24, 53-55 & 60-62). He took this verse, gave it the spin he needed, & drew the conclusion he wanted. Any one reading this passage would not immediately say, "hey! That's talking about Mary, isn't it?" But this is his conclusion & he based a whole set of doctrines upon this vision & what words followed in the next chapter. Words taken from pp. 60-61 give us his spin: "If the first ark contained the Word of God in stone, Mary's body contained the Word of God enfleshed. If the first ark contained miraculous bread from heaven, Mary's body contained the very Bread of Life that conquers death forever. If the first ark contained the rod of the long-ago ancestral priest, Mary's body contained the divine person of the eternal priest, Jesus Christ". This is how he arrived at the conclusion the ark represents Mary. It sounds reasonable. However, let me also give you the reasonable conclusions of Adam Clarke, a Wesleyan theologian & Bible commentator of several centuries ago. He believed the ark represented Christ Himself & he presented 12 ways in which he thought Christ was represented by the ark. Here are some of the twelve: the ark contained the law, the pot of manna & Aaron's rod denoting the law was in Christ's heart & is now in His hand, as in Psalm 40.8 & Isaiah 33.22; as the ark contained the manna so in Christ is contained all provisions for the soul; the ark had a crown of gold round about to denote Christ's regal power & the Majesty of His kingdom, as in Revelation 19.16; the ark was moved from place to place until it was finally fixed in the temple & so Christ, when He was on earth went from place to place doing good until he ascended to heaven. See what a little spin can do. He used his spin to conclude the ark was Christ, not Mary. We cannot put our total reliance upon our interpretation of these visions. To hold to sound doctrine we need to find where doctrine is first clearly spoken & then we can use the visions, the parables, and the types to support the truths that we find are more plainly taught in the Bible.
Mr. Hahn linked the last verse of chapter 11 with the next chapter. He pointed out on p. 54 that one must understand chapters were developed by scribes in the Middle Ages & should not be considered as divisions which the writers of the Bible themselves imposed. I totally agree with his statement. The same is true concerning verses. It is nice for reference sake to have chapters & verses. Imagine how hard it would be to refer a person to a particular cite in the Bible if no such divisions existed. On the other hand, many of the chapter divisions are not good ones. If you fail to see what was said before in the previous chapter or what was said in the next chapter, some of the meaning of the words could be lost. However, having said this, I believe most divisions are good. I'm not positive but I think the division between chapters 11 & 12 is a good one. I believe we have a separate vision in chapter 11, or at least a separate aspect of the vision that was taught in the 12th chapter.
I have pondered the meaning of the 12th chapter for many years. Some aspects of it are quite puzzling to me. However, I have ventured an interpretation of the words. Am I absolutely confident my view is correct? The answer is, no. Even though John uses symbolic language as he had in his other visions, there are some things that are quite clear. For one thing, he tells us in plain words who the great dragon is. In verse 9, he identifies him with the serpent. The serpent is called by two different names. Sometimes he is known as the devil; other times he is known as Satan. For another thing, it is quite clear who the newly born male child is. The description of Him in verse 5 makes it unmistakably clear that this is none other than Christ. He is to rule all nations with a rod. He was caught up to God & to His throne. I must totally agree with Mr. Hahn's words found on p. 56; this can be none other than the Son of God. At first glance, one would also conclude as Mr. Hahn did that the woman described in the chapter is Mary. The early language fits the language of the Gospels. She was with child. She travailed in birth & pained to be delivered (v. 2). The dragon (the devil) was ready to devour her child when He was born (v. 4). Of course, these words will make us think of Herod's attempts to have Him killed. She gives birth to the child (v. 5). Who else fits this description but Mary? If we only have these things to consider, the language would clearly point to Mary. Yet, the rest of the chapter does not as readily identify Mary. The devil is cast out of heaven. He, in turn, persecuted the woman. She is given a place to flee into the wilderness where she is protected from the devil. Unable to do her harm, the devil makes war with her offspring. These souls are described as ones who are faithful to the Lord (vs. 6, 13-17). The first part of the chapter fits the Gospel account of Mary. The second part does not fit any historical account of Mary.
Mr. Hahn articulates his view concerning what is taught in the 12th chapter: "At the end of her earthly days, Mary was taken up, body and soul, into heaven" (p. 108). Where does he get this? He cannot argue this from this chapter. There, the woman flees to the wilderness. I sure hope he is not arguing the wilderness typifies heaven. If you want the wilderness to be a type it will more clearly represent the trials & temptations found during the pilgrimage of the saints. So it was with the Israelites as they traveled from Egypt to the promise land. So it was with Christ when He went into the wilderness to be tempted for 40 days. Mr. Hahn makes another surprising claim on p. 124: "It should be no surprise, then, that the book of Revelation tells us what Mary does in heaven. As the New Eve, the 'mother of all the living,' she mothers the Church, 'the rest of her offspring' (Rev. 12.17)". Man, what a handful of things to deal with in this one statement. First of all, he again calls her "the New Eve", a view that he never proved in the first place. Second, he speaks of her being in heaven. The vision may have started with "a great wonder in heaven" but you cannot read the vision without noting a transition to earth. It was on earth the child was brought forth. The devil was cast out into the earth (v. 9). If she was in heaven & he was on earth I fail to see how she needed to be protected from him (v.13). Third, she is not in heaven. She is in the wilderness. Fourth, there is nothing to indicate a mothering of her offspring, neither in verse 17 or any other place in the chapter. The only thing in verse 17 that is even comparable to his statement is the reference to her offspring. I'll give you the quote from the 17th verse: "And the dragon was wroth with the woman, and went to make war with the remnant of her seed, which keep the commandments of God, and have the testimony of Jesus Christ".
The first impression leads to a view it is Mary that John sees in his vision. Upon more reflection, one can wonder if this is true.
I will now venture my own view of the 12th chapter. This is a view I have held for at least 25 years.
First, in response to Mr. Hahn's view I see no direct connection between the last verse of chapter 11 & what follows in chapter 12. I think the chapter division is appropriate in this case, but even if the two are inseparably linked together there is nothing about the last verse of chapter 11 that would cause me to feel confidence "the ark of his testament" referred to Mary.
Second, I believe the theme of chapter 12 is the Lord's protection of His Church amid all of Satan's attempts to destroy Her.
Third, the woman described in the chapter refers to the Church. The Church brings forth Christ. Satan persecutes the Church & tries to destroy Her but God provides a safe haven for Her. The period of Her protection was 1260 days. The significance of this number leaves me clueless. (Unless I missed it I also do not think Mr. Hahn offered a view about this time frame.) The only comment I can make is that the significance may not be in the number. The significance may be in the fact there was a definite period of protection. God allotted an exact time for Her to be protected. She is protected in the wilderness. This wilderness represents Her earthly sojourn. Her seed are the Lord's disciples.
I did not arrive at these views hastily. I have been trying to refine them for a number of years. I must be fair. If I am going to point out the weaknesses of Mr. Hahn's interpretation, I must also acknowledge the weaknesses found in my own views. I take some consolation from the fact Mr. Hahn acknowledged (see p. 55) at least on one level most commentators believe the woman represented the Church. True, he went further than that statement but at least this recognition leads me to believe I am not going down a trail that no one else ever traveled.
Here are the issues I must deal with when stating my position. First, there is an issue of order. According to the vision the woman gave birth to the male child. If the woman represents the Church this means the Church existed prior to Christ's incarnation. But how can this be in the light of what the Bible teaches? According to Matthew 16.18, Jesus told Peter it was He that was building His Church. In other words, the Church proceeded from Christ, not the other way around. I had to face this issue when I first pondered the meaning of this chapter. Here is how I resolve it to my own satisfaction. It is true, in the sense in which we see the Church constituted in all of its New Testament elements, Christ founded it. However, in the sense in which there has always been in all ages a people denominated as the people of God, the Church has always been. In early ages His people were found among the descendents of Seth. Later, His people were found in the descendents of Abraham, Isaac, & Jacob. The terms, Zion & Jerusalem, which in the New Testament are names given to the Church, are terms used in the Old Testament to describe Israel. Christ was born for the purpose of saving His people, whether they lived before He was born, whether they were living at the time He was on earth, or whether they would live after His earthly sojourn (Matthew 1.21, John 6.37-40, Romans 3.24-26, & Hebrews 9.15). It is in the broader sense that we see the Church giving birth to Christ. You will notice the 1st verse. The woman is described as being clothed with the sun but the moon was under her feet. I see this as a representation of the Church in both Old Testament & New Testament ages. The sun is the greater light. This represents the greater light shining in these New Testament times. The moon gives light but it is a lesser light. It is now under her feet. This represents the light that did shine in Old Testament days. It no longer has prominence. It is now under her feet. Second, there is the issue of history. What is said about this woman in the first part of the vision fits the Biblical account we have of Mary. As noted previously, there can be no doubt the male child that she brought forth was Christ. There is no one else it could be. If that is the case, who else could the woman be but Mary? She was Jesus' mother. The picture of the dragon ready to devour her child as soon as He was born depicts Herod's attempts to have Him killed. All of this is in line with what Mr. Hahn said. In the light of these things how can this woman be any one else but Mary? I also had to face this issue when I first pondered the meaning of this chapter. Here is how I resolved this issue to my own satisfaction. As noted before, I recognized the fact that although the first part of the chapter seemed to identify Mary, the latter part of the chapter did not. I, therefore, came to view the mother of Jesus was a type of the Church. Rather than believing Mary was the prominent figure in chapter 12, I view her typifying Christ's Bride. These were the two problems I struggled with & these were the ways I resolved them in my own mind.
I may need more light shed upon this vision to fully understand it. I present my own view for consideration. I make no demands that others see it this way. I want my doctrinal views to be evaluated in the light of those things plainly taught in the Word of God. If I misinterpreted this vision, I hope it falls into the kind of interpretation that does no harm to doctrinal truth.
My attention now turns to some of the claims Mr. Hahn makes concerning Mary. Since I have already dealt with his claim she was the New Eve/Mother of the Church, I will exclude this claim from further consideration.
I will now focus upon the claim she was born without sin & continued to live a sinless life. If this is the case, where is the clear Bible reference to it? If a reference could be found, he would have presented it. There is no reference. Therefore, there is nothing for him to present. Does he argue it from Luke 1.28? I guess this must be the verse used by Catholics for the expression "Hail full of grace" (p. 95). The translation in our English Bibles (King James Version) is that she was "highly favored". In the Greek, a single word is used for the expression. It is "charitou". It refers to a gracious acceptance. There is nothing in this term that would automatically draw the conclusion Mary was immaculately conceived & never committed sin. She was simply graciously accepted. Does he argue it from his views expressed on p. 60 that the holy ark of the covenant was the figure of the even holier Mary? If so, he had to take a detail from a vision, interpret it, give it a certain spin, & arrive at a conclusion he had already held any way.
What sources does he provide to find the clearest language to support the claim? Well, it is to be found in what Cardinal John Henry Newman said (p. 95), what St. Ephrem of Syria said in the 4th century, what St. Augustine said in the 5th century (p. 96), what was finally made a dogmatic pronouncement in 1854 (pp. 96-97), & what Pope Pius IX said (p. 97). If Mary had no sin I would rather have this stated in plain language by the gospel writers, or by Paul, or by James, or by Jude, or by the writer of Hebrews. Unfortunately, for his case none of these writers expressed this view.
There is a view established in the scriptures that has a bearing on this subject. A very clear rule is declared. It is the rule sin reigns throughout the human race. Examples among the many that teach this truth are: "For all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God" (Romans 3.23); "Wherefore, as by one man sin entered into the world, and death by sin; and so death passed upon all men, for that all have sinned" (Romans 5.12); "The Lord looked down from heaven upon the children of men, to see if there were any that did understand, and seek God. They are all gone aside, they are all together become filthy: there is none that doeth good, no, not one" (Psalm 14. 2-3); "Who can bring a clean thing out of an unclean? Not one" (Job 14.4); "(for there is no man that sinneth not)" (I Kings 8.46 & II Chronicles 6.36). Even when the Bible speaks of the holiness of some men, it is a relative holiness. Noah was a just & perfect man, but he was only this way in his generation (Genesis 6.9). Job was spoken of as a man who was perfect & upright; one who feared God & hated evil, but his character is honored only insofar as none others were as he was on the earth (Job 1.8), & near the end of the book Job himself confesses his vileness (chapter 40.4). Paul pointed out that Abraham could glory in his works before men but not before God (Romans 4.2).
Based upon the clear Bible teaching of the principle of sin, I have no choice but to conclude Mary was a sinner.
I acknowledge rules are set forth in scripture with exceptions. For example, the Bible also teaches the general rule of death. Again, we give the quote from Romans 5.12: "Wherefore, as by one man sin entered into the world, and death by sin; and so death passed upon all men". This truth is also echoed in I Corinthians 15. 22: "For as in Adam all die". This is further echoed in the fact that man has an appointment with death (Hebrews 9.27). Mankind's lot is as expressed by Job: "Man that is born of a woman is of few days, and full of trouble" (Job 14.1). But, although the Bible presents the rule that all die; it also indicates there are exceptions to the rule, doesn't it? Enoch did not die. He was translated (Genesis 5.24 & Hebrews 11.5). Elijah did not die. He went up by a whirlwind into heaven (II Kings 2.11). At the return of Christ those living who are His will not die (I Corinthians 15. 51-52 & I Thessalonians 4.17). So there are clear passages of scripture that teach exceptions to the general rule that all die.
Since the Bible teaches the general rule of sin as it teaches the general rule of death with exceptions, we should also inquire if there is an exception to the general rule of sin. The answer is yes, & it is not hard to find. In various ways the Bible makes plain the fact that Jesus was without sin. He was not just & perfect in a relative sense. He was just & perfect in an absolute sense. So, the writer of Hebrews, speaking of Him as our high priest, declared He "was in all points tempted like as we are, yet without sin" (Hebrews 4.15) & He was "holy, harmless, undefiled, separate from sinners, and made higher than the heavens" (Hebrews 7.26). Paul said He "knew no sin" (II Corinthians 5.21); & Peter spoke of Him "as of a lamb without blemish and without spot" (I Peter 1.19) & that He "did no sin" (I Peter 2.22). In short, in the life of Christ we have clear statements He was an exception to the general rule that all are sinners. Where is this ever taught concerning any one else? Where is it taught concerning Mary? Mr. Hahn can quote Augustine, from the 5th century, all he wants, as he did on p. 96: "All have sinned ' said Augustine' except the holy Virgin Mary, concerning whom, for the honor of the Lord, I wish no question to be raised at all, when we are treating of sins". I, for one, do not care what pronouncement someone made who lived in the 5th century. I listen to what the writers of the Bible had to say. They taught the exception when they spoke of Christ, but they did not include Mary, or, for that matter, anyone else, in the exception.
Let's take Christ's holiness to another step. The issue of Original Sin needs to be discussed. No matter how holy Jesus lived His life on earth, if He was polluted by the nature that is common to all who are born of woman, a problem exists. How do we escape the conclusion that Jesus did not have Original Sin? The answer is, we believe in the Immaculate Conception, not of Mary, but of Christ.
According to the account in Genesis, both Adam & Eve sinned. Eve was the 1st to sin. Adam followed. The serpent deceived Eve. Adam was not deceived (Genesis 3. 1-6; I Timothy 2.14). Since Eve transgressed she was subject to death. Since Adam transgressed he too was subject to death. Yet, in looking at the transmission of sin from one generation to another we do not find it is carried through the woman. Eve did not carry sin down to her offspring. Eve did not carry death down to her offspring. It is not by Eve that sin & death passed upon all mankind. It is not by both Adam & Eve that sin & death passed upon all mankind (Romans 5.12-19). It is in Adam that we all die (I Corinthians 15.21-22). By these words I see that Eve may have sinned & died by her own action, but it was the man who both sinned & died by his own action & then carried sin & death beyond himself down to his posterity. For that reason Job expressed the sad human condition: "Man that is born of a woman is of few days, and full of trouble" & "Who can bring a clean thing out of an unclean? Not one" (Job 1.1 & 4). Why do we have a sinful nature? The answer is, because our parents had a sinful nature. Why do our children have a sinful nature? The answer is, because we have a sinful nature. Mothers give birth to children, whether male or female, who were conceived in them through men. There are many genealogies listed in the Bible. Read how often the names of men are used. Seldom do we have the names of the mothers who bore the children. Seldom do we even have the names of the daughters who are born. Yet, as we saw earlier, the serpent was told the enmity that would exist would not be between the serpent's seed & the man's seed but between the serpent's seed & her seed (Genesis 3.15). When we look at the conception of Christ, we see He was not formed in Mary through the natural course. He was not the fruit of a man. He was the work of the Holy Spirit. Read the account. "Now the birth of Jesus Christ was on this wise: When as his mother Mary was espoused to Joseph, before they came together, SHE WAS FOUND WITH CHILD OF THE HOLY GHOST" (Matthew 1.18). Later, Joseph was told, "for that which was conceived in her is of the Holy Ghost" (Matthew 1.20). In Luke's account, the angel informed Mary: "The Holy Ghost shall come upon thee, and the power of the Highest shall overshadow thee: therefore also THAT HOLY THING, which shall be born of thee shall be called the Son of God" (Luke 1.35). Contrast "that holy thing" with the words of David: "Behold, I was shapen in iniquity; and in sin did my mother conceive me" (Psalm 51.5). David was begotten in the ordinary way through his father. Jesus, on the other hand, was begotten in a supernatural way. The seed of the man was bypassed. Mary carried in her & gave birth to that which was produced by God, without the involvement of a man. Therefore, Christ was not affected by Adam's sin. For this reason, when speaking about the presence of Christ on earth, it speaks of His likeness to human flesh but not His absolute exactness to human flesh. See Romans 8.3: "God sending his own Son IN THE LIKENESS OF SINFUL FLESH". See also the reference of Paul to Christ when he said he "WAS MADE IN THE LIKENESS OF MEN: AND BEING FOUND IN FASHION AS A MAN" (Philippians 2.7-8).
The general rule is no woman can bring forth a clean thing. The exception is, Jesus was brought forth a clean thing. We do not need to have Mary immaculately conceived to have Christ immaculately conceived. A blessed woman was needed so that through the supernatural work of the Holy Spirit Christ would be formed without sin. There is no scriptural evidence Mary was immaculately conceived. It took generations after the Bible was written to even come up with the idea she was, and as Mr. Hahn noted on pp. 96-97, a dogmatic pronouncement was not made of her immaculate conception until 1854. By my calculations, that's more than 18 centuries too late. Nothing in the Bible teaches Mary was an exception to the general rule of sin.
I take notice of one final item before we leave this subject. In the midst of discussing the issue of the Assumption of Mary Mr. Hahn mentions his meeting with Father Healy to support his view that Mary was kept from Original Sin. While preaching on the day celebrated as the feast of the Immaculate Conception Father Healy asked the congregation "If anybody should ask you…Why do you believe that Mary was conceived without sin? What are you gonna tell him…Tell him this: If you could have created your mother and preserved her from original sin, would you? Would you?…Of course you would! But could you? No, you couldn't! But Jesus could and so Jesus did!" (pp.158-159). Boy! That settles the issue doesn't it? This whole line of reasoning proves absolutely nothing. My reply to that priest would have been, "yes, & if I could have created my father & preserved him from original sin I would have, & if I could have had something to say about the way I was created & preserved from original sin, I also would have seen that I had done that".
The Bible neither teaches Mary's immaculate conception nor does it teach she was without sin.
I think the heading tells the story. It is an assumption that Mary was taken into heaven without seeing death. Nowhere is it plainly taught in scripture. Mr. Hahn appears to admit this on p. 92. He spoke of what the Bible explicitly taught & cited the virginal conception of Jesus. For this he was able to cite a specific text. He could not cite specific passages for Mary's assumption into heaven or her immaculate conception so he indicated these fell into the realm of implicit facts. Well, what were the implicit facts? When getting down to the subject, he pointed out documentary evidence of the assumption stretched back to the 4th century (p. 108). Gee! It's too bad it doesn't go back to the 1st century. But what was the documentary evidence? Unless I missed something in his writing, he never indicated what the evidence was. He pointed out (same page) that by the 6th century the doctrine & feast day was already universally established in the Church. Again, too bad this was not done in the 1st century. But I am confused by what he said here compared to what he said later in his book. He spoke of his contact with the Protestant professor who challenged him to show evidence that anyone held to his view of the assumption of Mary (or his specific rendering of the 12th chapter of Revelation) before the 6th century. He could not do so (pp. 154-156). That is interesting for a couple of reasons. 1st, if there was documentary evidence of her assumption in the 4th century, why could he not cite it when the professor asked him for the evidence prior to the 6th century? 2nd, what does this do to his interpretation of Revelation, chapter 12? Again, going back to his remarks on p. 92, if the 12th chapter is clearly presenting the case for Mary's assumption into heaven, why doesn't he say that it was explicitly taught in that chapter? And when the professor asked him about the assumption, why did he say, "I knew what he was implying-that there is no scriptural evidence for the assumption". (p. 154). It appears to me he was admitting by this statement there was no Biblical basis for what he believed. Here, all along, he is defending his interpretation of Revelation, chapters 11 & 12. Then, when it comes down to the matter he is unable to stand on those interpretations. He has to rely on his argument that no one in the early centuries claimed her body was buried in such & such a place. When forced to admit it (p. 155), he acknowledged an argument from silence was a weak argument. The dialog between the professor & Mr. Hahn continued: "Can you recommend a book? Anything at all that I might read?" I shook my head. "You don't have a book I can read - you, who have a book for everything, don't have a book on the assumption!" He was just savoring the moment, relishing this victory. I said, "No." "Let me remind you, Scott, that this is a dogma, infallibly defined. And you can't explain to me why there was silence for five centuries?" 'I don't know,' I said" (p. 156). I feel sorry for Mr. Hahn. He was whipped. Ah, but victory was to be his after all. When he met Father Healy, he provided him with a book. It was called, "The Assumption of Mary". Father Healy had written the book. Now Mr. Hahn had a copy of the book. He could now tell the professor he had a book available concerning the assumption of Mary. Gee, I'm glad he felt better, but I'm still left in a state of wonder. What does this prove? Did Father Healy live for about 2000 years? Did he write the book in the 1st century so that he was around to see Mary lifted up into heaven? Or if not, did his book provide the documentary evidence of her assumption? All I know from what Mr. Hahn said is there was a book. If it shed any light on the subject, I wish he had shared the contents with the reader.
Let me relate something of my own. A few years ago my niece was summoned into Small Claims Court by the corporation that own the apartment complex where she had previously lived. She was being sued for leaving the apartment she rented in a mess when she moved to another location. The corporation representatives presented their arguments why she should have to pay damage fees. She gave the Court what evidence she had the place was in fine shape when she moved. She tried to verbally argue her case. The judge kept cutting her off. He would not give her anything close to the amount of time he had given to the corporation representatives. When she left the court she felt betrayed by the justice system. Then, lo & behold, she received through the mail the decision of the court. She won the case. The reason why the judge had cut her off so many times was because the burden of proof was not on her. The burden of proof was upon those who brought her to court. They never proved their case so the judge required little response from her. For all of Mr. Hahn's words, he provided absolutely no proof of the assumption of Mary. In the previous section, I had noted the general rule that all die does have exceptions. Since he provided no proof Mary was an exception, I have nothing further to say. The burden of proof is upon those who argue she did not die.
Mr. Hahn taught Mary remained forever a virgin, but he provided no clear Biblical proof of this. He even provided verses used by those who take the opposite view that show she did not remain in that state. Before we look at these verses let me say a few words concerning the fact he did not establish that she was in that perpetual state. It is interesting how he starts the section, "Once a Virgin, Always a Virgin" (pp. 102-107). On p. 102 he makes a statement & backs up the statement with scriptural cites that plainly support his claim: " The gospels of Matthew and Luke leave no room for doubt that Mary was a VIRGIN AT THE TIME SHE CONCEIVED THE SON OF GOD (Mt 1.18; Lk 1.34-35; 3.23)". I'll add a verse to what he cited: Matthew 1.23. Let me ask the question, why did he make such a clear statement & back the statement up with verses that clearly taught his point? The answer is simple. He did it because he could do it. Now, here is a 2nd question, why did he not cite clear verses that teach Mary remained a virgin? Again, the answer is simple. He did not do it because he could not do it. Instead, he spent the rest of the section attacking the interpretation of scriptures used by those who believe the Bible clearly teaches the opposite of what he claims. For the sake of argument, even if we allow the validity of his attack upon our interpretation of the scriptures we quote the most that can be said is there is no scriptural basis for holding the dogma of her perpetual virginity. Attacking our interpretations in no way validates his view.
In his section on the subject (pp. 104-107) Mr. Hahn gave the reader some of the verses that persons such as I would quote in defense of our position that Mary did not remain a virgin.
"Is not this the carpenter, the son of Mary, the BROTHER of James, and Joses, and of Juda, and Simon? and are not his SISTERS here with us? (Mark 6.3).
"While he yet talked to the people, behold, his mother and his BRETHREN stood without, desiring to speak with him" (Matthew 12.46). I will add the next verse that continues this narrative: "Then one said unto him, Behold, thy mother and thy BRETHREN stand without, desiring to speak with thee" (v. 47).
I will add verses Mr. Hahn did not cite. These verses parallel the same settings in which he cited. The setting described by Matthew is described by Mark, in 3.31-32: " There came then his BRETHREN and his mother, and, standing without, sent unto him, calling him. And the multitude sat about him, and they said unto him, Behold, thy mother and thy BRETHREN without seek for thee". The parallel verses in Luke are found in 8.19-20: "Then came to him his mother and his BRETHREN, and could not come at him for the press. And it was told him by certain which said, Thy mother and thy BRETHREN stand without, desiring to see thee".
What corresponds to Mark 6.3 is worded in Matthew 13.55-56: "Is not this the carpenter's son? is not his mother called Mary? and his BRETHREN, James, and Joses, and Simon, and Judas? And his SISTERS, are they not all with us?" The parallel verse in Luke is found in 4.22 where the carpenter is identified as Joseph, the man who, of course, was the supposed father of Jesus (Luke 3.23).
Because all of these verses indicate that Christ had brothers & sisters, they are relevant to the subject at hand. If Christ had siblings it is plain Mary did not remain a virgin.
Mr. Hahn also cited a text, which, had he not done so, I certainly would have brought it to your attention. It is found in Luke 2.7: "And she brought forth her FIRSTBORN son". The impact of this passage is also clear. If Jesus was the firstborn, then it is expected that there was at least a 2nd born, & if so, Mary did not remain a virgin.
He also referred to Matthew 1.18: "Now the birth of Jesus Christ was on this wise: When as his mother Mary was espoused to Joseph, BEFORE they came together, she was found with child of the Holy Ghost". The reason it is used is because it is assumed the use of the word, "before", makes it plain a sexual union did follow sometime afterward.
He cited a clear reference in Matthew 1.25 concerning Joseph: "And knew her not TILL she had brought forth her FIRSTBORN son: and he called his name Jesus". The relevance of this verse to the subject is plain. By using the word "till" the text indicates Joseph did have a sexual union with her after Jesus was born, & if this is the case, clearly, she did not remain a virgin. The same verse also makes reference to Jesus as the firstborn.
All of these texts can be used in support of the view that Mary was not a perpetual virgin. However, these verses do not sway Mr. Hahn from his position at all. What did he do? He sicced Jerome on guys like me. Heretics he called us. In one case he even had Jerome thundering at us. He even claimed that our "purportedly scriptural arguments were easily refuted by the likes of Saint Jerome, the great biblical scholar of the ancient church" (p. 103).
I don't think the case was as easy for Jerome as Mr. Hahn supposes. In the face of all of these scriptures, look at the task at hand for anyone who wants to refute our position. That person must face the enormity of all of these scriptures that are used against his view while at the same time that person must face the fact he cannot cite JUST ONE VERSE that leads to the opposite conclusion. Just suppose for the sake of argument that a scholar can successfully clearly show that our interpretation is faulty except for one passage. Then, the one passage destroys his argument. The fact of the matter is Jerome did not destroy our interpretation of any of the texts. The most you can say is he raised questions whether or not our interpretations were the only possible conclusion to draw, but even then, it is hard to believe that so many different verses that would tend to favor a non-perpetual view could be overturned.
I draw attention to the rebuttals given in the book. I also will respond to his remarks.
Concerning the verses that deal with the family unit, the core of his argument against our view is his point brethren are often identified by Jews in a broad rather than a narrow sense. Jews recognize cousins as being brethren as well. I admit this is true, but by the same token, I do not admit that this destroys our position. Both brothers & sisters are identified in the stricter sense as well. For example, when Jesus was calling His disciples he called two brothers, James & John. These were brothers in the more narrow sense. They both had the same father. "And going on from thence, he saw other two BRETHREN, James, the son of Zebedee, and John HIS BROTHER, in a ship with Zebedee THEIR FATHER, mending their nets; and he called them. And they immediately left THEIR FATHER, and followed him" (Matthew 4.21-22). Will anyone argue that these two men were cousins? I hope not. Likewise, we have siblings mentioned in the female gender. For example, Laban had two daughters, Rachel & Leah. Laban gave Jacob both of his daughters to be his wives. Rachel, the younger, had an advantage over Leah, the older. Jacob was more favorably attracted to her. On the other hand, Leah had one advantage over Rachel during the early period of their marriage to Jacob. Leah gave Jacob children. Rachel could not. (Read Genesis, chapter 29 for the background). Then, in chapter 30, verse 1, we read: "And when Rachel saw that she bare Jacob no children, Rachel envied HER SISTER, and said unto Jacob, Give me children, or else I die". Will anyone argue these two women were cousins? I hope not. In that the scripture uses the terms to designate broader ties as well as close ties, do we simply neutralize these texts? I don't think so. Mr. Hahn referred to Mark 6.3. Mark's account did not make mention of Joseph, but if you review the parallel verses I cited from Matthew, chapter 13, & Luke, chapter 4, you clearly have Joseph mentioned. Here is the picture. When Jesus came to His own country the townsfolk were amazed at His wisdom & mighty works. They could not believe it. All along they thought Jesus was just a common, ordinary citizen of their community. He's the son of Mary & Joseph. He is brother to James, Joses, Simon, & Judas. He also is brother to some sisters. What do we have here? I don't see this describing a family in the broadest sense at all. It is what we call an immediate family. It is complete by virtue of the fact there was a father, mother, brothers, & sisters. The townsfolk must have considered it a family of very low state. Even though they were amazed at Jesus, due to His family status they were offended at Him (Matthew 13.57). I won't try to do a rating of possibility from one to ten but it appears to me the favorable tilt is toward the close family.
If I need to allow some possibility his point concerning the broader family may have to be considered when interpreting the scriptures that indicates Jesus had brethren, I cannot concede anything to him with regard to the use of "till" in Matthew 1.25. In its NORMAL usage, when "till" or "until" is found in a sentence the meaning is clear that what condition prevailed beforehand stops after the term is introduced. For example, when parents inform their daughter before she goes out on a date that she can stay out UNTIL midnight, she fully understands that if she does not return home by that time she is late. This is the usual way the term is used. Jerome can thunder all he wants. His thundering may scare my dog but it will not move me.
I was prepared for this argument several years ago. I will relate a personal account. Some time ago when I was attending autumn meetings in Alabama I stayed overnight at the host preacher's home. Another elder who also spent the night there was discussing with me a passage in Revelation where the word "until" was used. The word in Revelation 20.5 for "until" was "heos" in the Greek scriptures. He argued that this word was not always used to indicate a completed condition. Of course, this is the same argument taken by Jerome & Mr. Hahn. I was not convinced. We looked up the word in Strong's Analytical Concordance & then we checked some of the passages where the word was used. After a number of verses were checked, it was clear he was unable to prove his point. If it was not yet midnight when we were doing this it was very close to that time so we gave up trying to find more texts. I went to bed fully confident that my view prevailed. However, as time passed, during periods of regular Bible reading, I came upon places in the scripture where his point was proven. Had we examined them at the time I would have been convinced he was correct. This had required me to do more study. Various Hebrew & Greek words are used for "until". Likewise, in translation from the original Hebrew language of the Old Testament & Greek language of the New Testament various English words are used as well. Sometimes these words are translated "until", sometimes "till", sometimes "to" or "unto", & if I had checked further I might even have come up with other words used in translation. However, the important point is, it neither matters what Hebrew or Greek word is used nor does it matter what English word is used in translation, the meaning of the sentence is MUCH MORE APT to convey the idea of a continuous action or condition up to & no further than a given point. This is how the girl under a parental curfew would understand the meaning of her parents' words, & this is how it is generally used in scripture. I'll cite several examples close to Matthew 1.25. In each case the Greek word "heos" is used. By the way, this is the word used also in Matthew 1.25. Check chapter 2.9. Speaking of the wise men, the text says: "When they had heard the king, they departed; and, lo, the star, which they saw in the east, went before them, TILL it came and stood over where the young child was". The thought given here is that the star that had been going before them now stopped. Check also 2.13. This verse speaks of the time after the wise men departed. "And when they were departed, behold, the angel of the Lord appeared to Joseph in a dream, saying, Arise, and take the young child and his mother, and flee into Egypt; and be thou there UNTIL I bring thee word: for Herod will seek the young child to destroy him". Now, follow this up with verse 15. There we see the period in which they were in Egypt. "And was there UNTIL the death of Herod". This was further confirmed from verse 19 through the end of the chapter. Herod died. Word was given they could return to Israel. They did return to Israel. All of these passages are clear how the word "until" is generally used in a sentence.
What about the exceptions to the usual? Pages 105-106 cite a couple of examples. "Jerome demonstrated that scripture 'often uses fixed time…to denote time without limitation, as when God by the mouth of the prophet says to certain persons, 'Even to old age I am He' (Is 46.4).' Jerome thundered on: 'Will He cease to be God when they have grown old?' The answer, of course, is no". And I grant the answer is no. This is an exception. "Jerome goes on, then, to quote Jesus, Who said: 'Lo, I am with you always, to the close of the age' (Mt.28.20). Wryly, Jerome asked Helvidius if he thought the Lord would forsake His disciples after the close of the age". Helvidius would have had to answer no in this case as well. In this text, the same Greek word, "heos" is used. Again, this is an exception. However, there is a MAJOR DIFFERENCE between the way "heos" is used in Matthew 1.25 & the way words designating "until" are used in his two cited examples of scripture. In both cases there is ongoing action. In Isaiah, chapter 46 the message is God will be your God throughout your lifetime. From youth through old age He will still be there for you. The same is true regarding Matthew, chapter 28. There, the Lord conveys the idea that in proclaiming Christ's Word, His presence will continually be there for the disciples. Although it is the exception to the rule, you can use "until" in this way when speaking of something that is still continuous. God's promise to be the saints' God & to be with them will continually be demonstrated throughout one's lifetime, or, in the case of Matthew's account, throughout the age. These scriptures do not look beyond the specific time indicated but they also do not deny the same continuous conditions beyond the indicated time. But there is a difference with regard to Matthew 1.25. This verse is not speaking of an ongoing condition. Mary is not still bringing forth her firstborn child. This is totally a past tense event. Matthew wrote these words years after the fact. He is describing history. Let me illustrate my point. Suppose a man is called upon to eulogize a deceased friend. He knew the deceased had never been successful in his attempts to make a lot of money. He knew he had tried to make it big playing the stock market but he only managed to have minimal results. With this knowledge, you would not expect the man doing the eulogy to say his friend did not become a millionaire till he invested in the stock market. The fact he knew his friend was never wealthy, neither before nor after he invested in the stock market, would have prevented him from saying, "till he invested in the stock market". Likewise, Mr. Hahn argues that Joseph never did know Mary. He argues their marriage was without a sexual union. Does he know something the inspired gospel writer, Matthew, did not know? Why would Matthew even bother to use language that spoke as though Joseph did have sexual relations with Mary after Jesus was born, if looking back on the past, it was clear the two never did have an intimate relationship? The case would have been laid to rest in a simple manner. Carrying the thought from verse 24 Matthew would have said Joseph took his wife unto himself but knew her not. Period! End of sentence! The meaning is more clear than both Jerome & Mr. Hahn want it to appear. Before Jesus was born Joseph did not have sexual relations with his wife. After Jesus was born, he did.
I cannot see any way that the term "till" could have been used in this particular text to indicate time without limitation as Mr. Hahn is suggesting. This is a strong verse in favor of the view Mary was not a perpetual virgin.
Mr. Hahn also brought up the issue of the firstborn. He quoted from Luke 2.7: "And she brought forth her FIRSTBORN son". He could have also quoted from the same verse that used the word "till". According to Matthew 1.25 "she had brought forth her FIRSTBORN son". The argument from our side is quite evident from the start. If He was the firstborn, then there would have been at least a second born. We are taught in school that if we develop an outline with a Roman Numeral I, there must also be a Roman Numeral II, if there is a capital A, there must also be a capital B, & so on. Having said this, I must admit that of all the arguments made by our side, this is our weakest argument. Mr. Hahn rightly said, the word 'firstborn' raises no real difficulty, because it was a legal term in ANCIENT ISRAEL that applied to the child who 'opened the womb,' whether or not the mother bore more children afterward" (p. 104). He could have even been more specific than that. He could have mentioned exactly what the legal term was all about. The term that he referred to was the law concerning birthright. It was gender related. It was not applicable to daughters. It was applicable to sons. The 1st male child born to a father USUALLY received a double portion of what the father had (see Deuteronomy 21.17). I say usually. Some times this was not the case. Ishmael was Abraham's firstborn (Genesis 16.15-16), but he did not prevail over Isaac (Genesis 21.10), & Esau was the firstborn of Isaac but Jacob was preordained to be the greater, &, in fact, Esau forfeited his birthright to Jacob (Genesis 25.23, 29-34). Nonetheless it was so seldom the firstborn was not the one who received the greatest honor & wealth that the Israelites generally took for granted what the status of being the firstborn male meant. The question becomes, is this term ever applicable when there is no second born, or at least an anticipation of a second born? Again, I would have to agree with Mr. Hahn's assessment. I find it unreasonable to argue that throughout all of ancient Israel all families had more than one child. There must have been many instances when the right of the firstborn was the only child. And during the 1st Passover, when all of the firstborn in Egypt died in a single night (Exodus 12.29), I find it hard to believe that every Egyptian family in the land had more than one child. Yet, the term firstborn was used to describe the devastation of this plague. So, referring to the Passover events, the Lord declared: "Because all the firstborn are mine; for on the day that I smote all the firstborn in the land of Egypt I hallowed unto me all the firstborn in Israel, both man and beast" (Numbers 3.13). I, therefore, must admit his argument has merit. The use of the term may not always imply a second born.
I am not altogether conceding the point. After all, there is a reason why this legal right did take on the name "firstborn". It was given this name because most Hebrew families did have other children. I also have to consider that Luke wrote primarily to the non-Jew. It was to a man with a Greek name, Theophilus (1.3) that he wrote the Gospel. I'm not sure the Gentiles would have readily understood the term "firstborn" applied to the concept of the right of inheritance. Furthermore, Luke wrote his account many years after the fact. If Jesus was Mary's only child, he could have simply stated she brought forth her son, or better still, her only son. Finally, the right of the firstborn regarded what the son was to receive from his father (see Deuteronomy 21.15-17). However, in both Matthew's account & Luke's account Joseph (the supposed father) is not the one referred to as being the father of Jesus, the firstborn. The reference is to Mary. It is her firstborn. This is not how the legal term was applied in ancient Israel. The point is I'm not absolutely convinced the reference to "firstborn" as used in these texts has anything to do with the right of inheritance, but rather to the fact this was Mary's first child & others did follow. In the final analysis, I suppose nothing is proven either way from the use of these verses. The fact Jesus was the "firstborn" has to be considered in the light of the other passages. When you consider his "firstborn" status in the totality of all the array of scriptures we present there remains even in the "firstborn" argument a preference toward the view she did not always remain a virgin.
Mr. Hahn also brought up the text found in Matthew 1.18: "Now the birth of Jesus Christ was on this wise: When as his mother Mary was espoused to Joseph, BEFORE THEY CAME TOGETHER, she was found with child of the Holy Ghost". From these words the argument becomes, she remained a virgin only to the point in which they were not together. Mr. Hahn brought this scripture up on p. 105 but he gave no response to it there. Instead, he only picked up on the arguments using the term "until". However, I think he did return to the argument by way of what he said on pp. 106-107. He referred to the verses found in Luke 1.27-34, & he specifically quoted v. 34. To the angel's pronouncement to Mary that she would conceive a son, he pointed out Mary responded, "How shall this be, since I have no husband?" The translation in our English Bible (KJV) is, "How shall this be, seeing I know not a man?" He reasoned from this text that this would be an odd question for Mary to have asked if Mary had planned normal marital relations with her husband. He pointed out that the angel did not tell her when she would conceive. Therefore, "Mary should have known exactly 'how shall this be'. It would have happened in the normal course of nature". He then went on to say, "The unspoken assumption behind her question is that, even though she was betrothed, she should not have an opportunity to conceive a child". In other words, even though the two did come together later, it was not a normal marriage in the sense they would have a sexual union. He pointed out some commentators have speculated she vowed virginity early in her life, & Joseph both knew & accepted this. Without going this route, let me suggest another explanation for why she asked the question. Let's make another unspoken assumption behind her question. That is, Mary understood the angel's announcement she would conceive a child to be something that would happen in the very immediate future. It would happen BEFORE she would know a man. The verse holds the key, "I have no husband". But she planned to have a husband. She already had plans to be married to Joseph. He would soon become her husband. Therefore, to me, her question assumes conception would occur very quickly, &, of course, prior to them actually coming together as husband & wife. She could have picked this up by the tone of the angel voice, or by his mannerism toward her. This seems more reasonable to me than to suggest she vowed to remain a virgin even though she was planning to have a husband. If the reason for the question was as Mr. Hahn assumes, instead of asking, "How shall this be, since I have no husband?" I would have expected her to have rephrased the question: "How shall this be, since I have vowed virginity for my whole life?" Furthermore, consider this. If she knew the scripture that spoke of a virgin conceiving, & bearing a son who was to be called Immanuel (Isaiah 7.14) she might have very well sensed she was the virgin that would fulfill this prophecy. What question was left to her then was, how is this going to happen? It's not a normal thing for a virgin to have a child. How is God going to bring this thing to pass? Mr. Hahn brought up a legitimate point when he asked why Mary questioned the angel as she did, but you sure do not have to take the same approach to the text he took in order to resolve the issue.
Our argument against Mary's perpetual virginity does not hinge on one passage of scripture. It is when you see the full array of verses that we present that it is difficult to maintain the perpetual virginity doctrine. You will have to be able to explain away from its apparent meaning EVERY VERSE. You cannot leave one verse standing. If you do, you lose the argument. To believe she remained a virgin all her life you will have to believe all of the texts that say Jesus had brothers & sisters refers to a broader set of kin, not the immediate family. You will have to believe Matthew used the word "till", in a way that you would not normally expect the term to be used. I'll go a step further here. You will have to believe he used the term in a way that it is inconceivable that he would have used it. You will have to believe the references to Jesus as Mary's firstborn do not imply a second born. You will have to believe the marriage of Mary to Joseph was a marriage without sexual relations. And you must believe all of these things even when you are without a single credible scripture in your arsenal that teaches she was a perpetual virgin. If the standard used in civil court cases "by the preponderance of the evidence" is used to settle this argument our side wins. It is even possible, rather probable, our side would win on the basis of the higher standard used in criminal cases, "beyond reasonable doubt".
Before closing this section, let me say one final word. It neither does violence to Mary's character, nor does it do violence to the Christian faith to say that Mary did not live out her life in a virgin state. It's OK for her to have entered into a sexual union with Joseph. They were married. There was nothing wrong with it. "Marriage is honourable in all, and the bed undefiled". It is whoremongers & adulterers that God will judge (see Hebrews 13.4). The only violence is to a dogma that has no roots in scripture.
On pp. 125-127 Mr. Hahn attempts to argue that Mary is a mediatrix. He states: "In my days as an evangelical, I would rush to the one Bible verse that seemed to snuff out the title: Saint Paul's categorical assertion that Christ is the 'one mediator between God and man' (I Tim. 2.5)". He spent the rest of the section trying to reconcile how Christ could be the one mediator while at the same time Mary could be the mediatrix. In my judgment when he rushed to I Timothy 2.5, he should have stayed there & left the mediatrix idea alone.
I have no argument with what he said about Jesus Christ as the high priest who mediates between the Father & His children. I have a real problem with the spin he gives in trying to make Mary into a queen mother mediator. By taking us to I Corinthians 3.9, I cannot believe he opened himself to the obvious charges that would be laid against his position. In that verse, the apostle Paul stated, "We are God's coworkers". (In our English Bibles it is expressed, "we are labourers together with God".) He then said, "If Christ is the one mediator, why would He have coworkers? Can't God get the job done by Himself? Of course He can".
I would never have thought it reasonable to link I Corinthians 3.9 with I Timothy 2.5, but since he did so, let me give a different response to his questions than the response he gave. God has such a thing as coworkers because Jesus Christ is the ONE MEDIATOR between God & man. If He were not all of mankind would have been left completely in his natural state of sin so that there would have been no such thing as the "righteousness of God which is by faith of Jesus Christ" (Romans 3.21-22). Rather than having coworkers the final state of man would be as Paul described in the previous verses of the 3rd chapter of Romans. They would be left to the depraved state where none would be righteous, none would understand or seek after God, all would remain out of the way, all would be unprofitable, none would do good, what would come from their mouths would be utter wickedness, cruelty would rage in all of them, & no one would fear God (verses 10-18). If you want to link these two verses this is where the linkage must occur: there is such a thing as "coworkers" because there is the ONE MEDIATOR, JESUS CHRIST. Otherwise, all mankind would remain workers of iniquity rather than some being transformed to coworkers with God.
Here are the obvious problems with his line of reasoning. 1st, there is no reason to link these two scriptures. A mediator is one thing. A coworker is another. A mediator is a middle person, a go-between if you will, whose office it is to reconcile two parties at enmity. In I Corinthians 3.9, the reference is not to coworkers in the sense of being mediators but in the sense of being ministers of the Lord's Word. Because of the division in the Church Paul calls the members carnal (v.3). The division was directed toward the ministers with whom the saints identified. Some identified with Paul. Others identified with Apollos (vs. 4-5). Paul told them each minister played a role in their faith (v. 5). Paul's preaching was to plant them in the faith. After planting them, Apollos came along & watered them. But it was God who gave the increase. Do you have this? Paul planted, Apollos watered, God gave the increase (vs. 6-8). Both Paul & Apollos were coworkers with God, the One who gave the increase. However, they were coworkers with God as ministers of the Word, not as mediators. The subjects of the two verses concern different things. 2nd, I fail to see how the connection between the two verses helps his argument. He is arguing for a special, unique place for Mary. She doesn't get it by virtue of I Corinthians 3.9. If you want her to be included in this verse (even though her name is not mentioned) she has to share the title of coworker with others. He can speak all he wants about God's work of our redemption "which He shared in an unparalleled way with Mary" (p. 126), but if you want to get Mary included in this passage, there is no unparalleled place for her at all. I have no dispute with his remarks about Mary's unique role as the mother to the Son of God, but as noted in my previous comments, it is because of this unique role that the scriptures teach she was blessed among women & she would be called blessed in all generations. It had nothing to do with Mary being a minister of the Word of God & it definitely had nothing to do with her as a mediator. 3rd, it leaves unresolved the issue springing from the text where he started: I Timothy 2.5. I cannot let his reference to I Corinthians & the spin he develops, to result in the departure from the thrust of the I Timothy verse. If the ONE MEDIATOR between God & man is Christ Jesus, then Mary is not a mediator. If she is, then there are two. Mr. Hahn can spiritualize the text that spoke of Bathsheba going before Solomon to his own folly all he wants in order to draw a conclusion Mary was a mediatrix, but the clear teaching is the ONLY MEDIATOR IS CHRIST JESUS. He can quote all he wants the words of Pope John II. The Bible teaches the ONE MEDIATOR is Jesus Christ.
Again, I repeat, when he rushed to I Timothy 2.5, he should have stayed there.
Consistent with other claims he has made about Mary, Mr. Hahn provided no Biblical evidence she was a mediatrix.
I have tried to give you an honest assessment concerning Mr. Hahn's book. My conclusions have often differed from his. This is as a result of my use of a different standard for arriving at Biblical truth. I attempt to base my doctrinal views upon what I believe are plain passages of scripture. I do not want to spiritualize the Bible in order to arrive at the things I believe. It is possible that from time to time I fail in this endeavor. Sometimes I may be so caught up in what I believe that I fail to see that I too have been more fanciful in my interpretations of scripture than I have been strict in the exposition of the Word of God. Since you are an outsider to my theological persuasions you may be in a better position to objectively judge how consistent I actually have been. You can also judge whether or not I have accurately reasoned from the Word of God. Another standard I hold is my belief only the Bible should be used to develop Christian doctrine. Mr. Hahn has given much more weight to the teachings of the early, non-apostolic writers than I have been willing to give. I do not outright disregard these early church fathers. How can I? They may not have been the ones who wrote the New Testament but they were the ones who canonized it. Therefore, although I do not give the same weight to their thoughts as I give to the actual New Testament writers, I admit they played an important role in the development of the Christian faith. However, I confess my respect for them will not be as apparent with regard to Mary as it is with regard to other theological issues. For example, had Mr. Hahn written on the doctrine of the trinity, I would have more readily admitted the views of the early, non-apostolic writers were consistent with the Bible. I just simply cannot find in the scriptures they canonized most of these views Mr. Hahn is so apt to accept concerning Mary. The fact he cited these men often to prove his point meant nothing to me. I believe the Bible teaches Jesus Christ, the Son of God, was conceived by the virgin, Mary. She brought Him forth into this world. It is in these facts the greatest honor known to any woman is to be given to her. But it stops there. No amount of spiritualizing the Bible, & no amount of quotes from the early church fathers will lead the honest Bible student to the conclusion the scriptures really teach that she was the New Eve/Mother of the Church, that she was immaculately conceived & remained sinless, that she ascended into heaven without dying, that she remained a virgin all of her life, & that she was a mediator. These beliefs were developed outside of the teachings of the scriptures.
With this I close this lengthy response.
-David K. Mattingly
P.S. I'm glad Father Healy gave him the book.