Friday, March 24, 2006

The Blessed Virgin Mary as Theotokos

Some of you may have noticed that in the previous post, Martin Luther calls the mother of Jesus "The Mother of God." In Greek we say that Mary is theotokos. In early Christian worship, Mary was declared the "theotokos," which in Greek literally means "God-Bearer." The title was officially made a part of orthodox Christian doctrine at the Council of Chalcedon in 451 AD. The term "theotokos" does not mean that Mary is somehow the mother of the Trinity, or that she existed at the beginning of time. No informed or educated Christian believes this; it seems only those who would seek to mischaracterize orthodox Christian belief assert that we believe Mary is somehow the mother of the entire Godhead.

Although the history leading up to the Church's use of the title "theotokos" for Mary is a bit long and messy, nevertheless affirming Mary as mother of God has little to do with who Mary is, but a lot to do with who Jesus is. Speaking historically about the Church's understanding of who Jesus is, it has everything to do with Christ being God and human at the same time. Calling Mary God-Bearer simply affirms that Mary is the mother of the one person, Jesus, who is both fully human and fully divine. This is all "theotokos" implies. Roman Catholics, the Orthodox, and virtually every historically-minded protestant denomination accepts the statement of the Council of Chalcedon calling Mary "theotokos." This includes Lutherans, Episcopalians/Anglicans, Methodists, Presbyterians, and some Baptists.

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