Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Peter, Paul, and Mary

Peter, Paul, and Mary are folk singers who hit it big back in the 1960's. Alas, this post is not about them.

Rather, this post focuses on the apostles Peter and Paul. Specifically, I'd like to look at what these two apostles wrote about Mary, the mother of Jesus.

I've been thinking a lot about Roman Catholicism over the last few days. This stems from our driving past a shrine to Mary, Queen of the Universe in Orlando.

Peter and Paul both held very significant positions in the first century. Peter often took the leadership role amongst the twelve disciples when they were with Christ. He preached at Pentecost and was instrumental in the early spread of the gospel. Paul was the greatest missionary and wrote much of the New Testament.

Both Peter and Paul had much to say to us in their letters. We learn a great deal from them about what God has done for us and how we should respond to Him. Both Peter's and Paul's letters are critical to the life of the church.

It is clear based on a cursory reading of Peter's and Paul's letters that Jesus is to be the focus of our lives. For example, Peter writes in I Peter 1:3-5:

Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who according to His abundant mercy has begotten us again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, to an inheritance incorruptible and undefiled and that does not fade away, reserved in heaven for you, who are kept by the power of God through faith for salvation ready to be revealed in the last time.

Paul writes in Philippians 3:7-14:

But what things were gain to me, these I have counted loss for Christ. Yet indeed I also count all things loss for the excellence of the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord, for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and count them as rubbish, that I may gain Christ and be found in Him, not having my own righteousness, which is from the law, but that which is through faith in Christ, the righteousness which is from God by faith; that I may know Him and the power of His resurrection, and the fellowship of His sufferings, being conformed to His death, if, by any means, I may attain to the resurrection from the dead. Not that I have already attained, or am already perfected; but I press on, that I may lay hold of that for which Christ Jesus has also laid hold of me. Brethren, I do not count myself to have apprehended; but one thing I do, forgetting those things which are behind and reaching forward to those things which are ahead, I press toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.

Both of these men are focused upon Jesus Christ.

Roman Catholicism has much to say about the supposed importance of Mary to our lives. Certainly if Mary is important, these two apostles would have written something about her in their letters. We know that Peter wrote two letters and Paul penned either thirteen or fourteen (depending on who wrote the book of Hebrews). This makes for a total of at least fifteen letters written to churches throughout the Mediterranean area. It is safe to say that if these two men believe Mary is significant to the life of the church, they would have told these churches much about her.

I was curious about this so I took a look. In all of their letters combined, Peter and Paul write NOTHING about Mary.

We can conclude from their utter silence that Mary was not significant for the churches in Pontus, Galatia, Cappodocia, Asia, Bithynia, Rome, Corinth, Ephesus, Philippi, Colosse, and Thessalonica.

If this is the case for those churches, it is certainly the case for us as well. Peter and Paul were men focused on one person: Jesus Christ.

Mary was certainly a great women. However, she is not worthy of our attention, much less our veneration.

Let us be like Peter and Paul. Let us be people of a singular focus: the God-Man Jesus Christ.


Joe G. said...

"Mary ... is not worthy of our attention, much less our veneration."

The verb "to venerate" is different in the Greek and Latin. You should study it. As Catholics, we esteem Mary highly (above all women).

You say that Peter and Paul write nothing about Mary. In fact, they wrote nothing about a lot of things. Think about it.
God bless you.

Eric said...


I have thought about it quite a bit. Thus this post.

Peter and Paul wrote a lot about the most important things. They wrote a lot about Christ. Their silence about Mary is quite telling.

Jeffrey said...

Having grown up within the Roman Catholic Church, I see their teachings about Mary as a mere symptom of a larger problem. The clergy make rules. The laity follow the rules. Although many of the rules are clearly extra-biblical, they are treated as though they are on equal footing with God-breathed doctrine. Interestingly enough, when it suits the clergy, the rules can change and yet are enforced with the same authority both before and after the change. From my observation and in my opinion, there is no difference in "kind" between the man-made rule making of the Holy Roman Catholic Church, and most protestant churches; they only differ in degree. They are, again in my opinion, largely beyond repair. The only solution is to flee, and meet with other believers in a more Biblical context.

Eric said...


I agree with you about problems related to the clergy dominating the laity in the life of the church. However, I do think Protestant churches got the gospel right while Roman Catholicism has failed to do so. Where both have failed is to live out a biblical model of the church. I know I don't have to convince you of that.

Jeffrey said...

Yup, good point on the gospel. Sometimes I'm too close to the trees to see the Forest.

Alan Knox said...

Joe G.,

I'm not Eric, but I'm interested in the verb "venerate" in Greek. Can you share that verb with us and tell us where it's used of Mary in the Greek NT? Also, what is the verb "venerate" in Latin, and where does Jerome use it in reference to Mary in his Vulgate (Latin translation) of the Greek NT?