12-1-3 Duncan Heaster’s response to Philip Bartlett’s opening statement
Mary And Catholic Interpretation
The Question of Authority
Mr. Bartlett’s statements are in italics
Without an authorized interpretation of a document, it is very easy for different renditions and meanings to derive themselves out of that same document
This would imply that there is only one true interpretation of each Bible verse, supplied by the Catholics. But Catholic interpreters contradict themselves, and have never published an authoritative exposition of the Bible. The problem of Biblical interpretation is solved by the Catholic by saying that the Church is the interpreter. But this is in essence the same thing done by Mormons, J.W.s and the like- the Bible is accepted, but must be interpreted by the church and their other documents. On what basis, then, should one chose to believe the Catholic interpretation of the Bible as opposed to, say, that of the J.W.s? Personal preference and background seem to be the only factors. Yet I submit that the only true way to interpret the Bible is by reading it for oneself, comparing Scripture with Scripture. This was indeed the attitude of Jesus, when He bade men “search the scriptures”; and it was the example set by the Bereans, who searched the Scriptures daily for themselves, to know whether Paul’s preaching was indeed true (Acts 17:11).
At ordination, Catholic priests promise to interpret Scripture according to “the unanimous consent of the fathers”. But the early church fathers held contradictory views- e.g. concerning whether Jesus would personally return to Jerusalem and reign there 1000 years. The Popes too have contradicted each other- e.g. Gregory the Great said that to use the title “Universal Bishop” was anti-Christian. But other Popes used it. So if the Catholic is to interpret the Bible in accordance with the past interpretations of the church fathers…well, he can’t do it. Because they contradict each other. The doctrine of the immaculate conception of Mary was denied by great Catholic scholars like Anselm, Bonaventura and Thomas Aquinas. There would, therefore, be little point in the average Catholic reading the Bible for themselves. This is why traditionally the Catholics have forbidden lay people to read the Bible for themselves. One is merely required to be obedient to the church, not to search Scripture for oneself, as Jesus and Paul so often encouraged us to do.
Where does the Bible come from? The Bible and its books were selected by the Catholic Church infallibly with the aid of the Holy Spirit in 383AD.
But the Catholic Church as it is now was not in existence in 383. The first ‘pope’ was Gregory 1, who was called that only in 604. It was not until about this time that the bishops of Rome began to claim spiritual superiority over the whole Christian world. At 383, it was the Eastern churches who were far more dominant that the Western, Roman church in all such decision making. The canon of the New Testament had been decided in practice well before 383; the conferences of churches at that time merely put a stamp of approval on what already was available. Mr. Bartlett is quite wrong to say that “The Bible” was selected by the Catholics. The Old Testament canon had been fixed well before the time of Jesus. The Catholics had no part to play in formulating that canon. And the Bible came from God, by inspiration of men- not from the Catholic church.
The final authority on all matters was the Catholic Church’s interpretation of the sacred scripture, even as it had the authority to define the parameters of that scripture.
So one error has lead to another. It doesn’t mean that because someone played a part in deciding the composition of Scripture, their supposed spiritual descendants therefore must have the right interpretation of it. And as I have shown, the Catholic church didn’t exist when the canon of the NT was decided, and it certainly didn’t exist when the OT canon was decided. So on Mr. Bartlett’s logic, the Catholic church has in any case no right to pronounce upon matters of interpretation in the OT.
The Catholic Interpretations of the Bible Text
Matthew 22:31: “And concerning the resurrection of the dead, have you not read that which was spoken by God, saying to you: I am the God of Abraham and the God of Isaac and the God of Jacob? He is not the God of the dead but of the living”. We can safely conclude that Mary is living and that she hears the prayers that are directed to her.
Jesus goes on to say in the parallel Lk. 20:38: “For all live unto him”. Because God is outside of time, He can look forward to the resurrection as if it is has happened, and in that sense He considers the faithful who have died to be alive- so sure is their hope of a future resurrection to life. Thus because “God… quickeneth the dead [He] calleth those things which be not as though they were” (Rom. 4:17). I have elsewhere shown [Bible Basics chapter 4] that death is unconsciousness. Mary is not now alive, so she isn’t mediating prayers.
What is present here is absolutely fascinating typology. We have Bethsabee, the mother of Solomon, the “Queen mother” who in the kingdom of Israel was always the king’s mother, being petitioned by a member of the house of God (Israel) to speak before the King and present a request, knowing that the weight of the Queen mother has great authority
This seems to me to be intellectually desperate- to claim that Bathsheba was a type of Mary. Bathsheba wasn’t a virgin, she was an adulteress. Is this true of Mary too…? Any mother who influenced her son is going to be seen by Mr. Bartlett as a type of the Mary he imagines. But the New Testament nowhere suggests to us that we should read Bathsheba as a type of Mary.
We of course have the example in Exodus of Moses petitioning God and mediating between God and Israel that God would spare Israel despite its worship of the golden calf. Did this in any way detract from the sole mediatorship of Jesus Christ? The answer of course, is absolutely not.
We have NT authority for seeing Moses’ mediation as a type of that of Jesus- but not of Mary.
“hail full (or filled) with grace”. This proves that Mary from birth was completely filled with the grace of God.
The passage says nothing about her being strangely filled with grace from birth. John the Baptist had the Holy Spirit from his mother’s womb, but he was still an ordinary person like us. The more common translations read: “Hail, thou that art highly favoured” (Lk. 1:28). She was highly favoured to be the mother of God’s son. The only other time the Greek phrase translated “highly favoured” occurs is in Eph. 1:6, where we learn that we are made accepted or favoured in Christ. Mary didn’t have any special favour or filling with grace which other human beings can’t have.