Friday, May 08, 2009

Veneration of Mary Debate - Thoughts on Reflection - Part 1

There were a few issues that arose during the Veneration of Mary Debate that I thought could use a little attention. Also, I see that Mr. Albrecht has posted some thoughts of his own regarding the debate (although I haven't yet listened to his thoughts ... I'll save that for a later segment).

One issue that arose during the debate was whether the term for "highly favoured" is in the "titular form." This issue came up only briefly in the debate. I would have liked to explore it a bit more, but it is clearly not central to the thesis. In other words, even if Albrecht's seemingly creative position were correct, it wouldn't really affect the fact that Scripture does not teach the veneration of Mary.

But why is Albrecht's position absurd? There is nothing especially "titular" about the word. The word is just a plain old perfect, passive participle.

There is nothing grammatically special about the term that makes it a title. I asked Mr. Albrecht during the debate whether he had considered the use of the term in Ephesians 1:6 and then asked him why he did not consider it a title there. This was not a question that I asked for my own information, but to determine whether this argument was Mr. Albrecht's own, or whether it had been fed to him from outside. His response seemed somewhat faltering, but perhaps it was just because the question caught him off guard.

The question could have lead him to several arguments in favor of it being a title in Luke 1:28. I'll address those below, before I turn to the reasons to reject such a conclusion.

The very first reason that the use in Ephesians 1:6 cannot be a title is that it is not a participle. It is an indicative verb. This is quite basic Greek grammar. I'm not sure whether the question rattled Mr. Albrecht or whether he simply didn't know why the term couldn't be a title in the only other instance it is used. One would think that if Mr. Albrecht came up with the "titular usage" argument he would at least understand that strongest reason for making that argument - and the fact that the verb is a participle is the strongest reason.

Had we gotten more of a clear answer from Mr. Albrecht in that regard, we could then have explored what I hinted at during the debate, namely that just because a participle is used doesn't mean that participle is being used as a title. I also hinted at some ways in which a title could not have been indicated, such using a capital letter (since Greek was all capitals at the time).

There is a secondary argument for it being a title, namely that it follows immediately after the word translated "Hail." This is perhaps an even better positive argument that the term is a title. The reason it is a better argument is that the term translated "Hail" can be used in connection with a greeting that includes a title. Thus, for example, we see the following greetings involving the word translated "Hail" plus a title:

Matthew 26:49 And forthwith he came to Jesus, and said, Hail, master; and kissed him.

Matthew 27:29 And when they had platted a crown of thorns, they put it upon his head, and a reed in his right hand: and they bowed the knee before him, and mocked him, saying, Hail, King of the Jews!

Mark 15:18 And began to salute him, Hail, King of the Jews!

John 19:3 And said, Hail, King of the Jews! and they smote him with their hands.

In each case, the word following "Hail" is a title of sorts: Master, King, or Rabbi. But, unlike the situation with Mary, the title is a noun, not a participle.

Furthermore, although this term for "Hail" is not used simply as a command to rejoice in the NT, it is used that way in the LXX. In Proverbs 24:19 and Hosea 9:1 the command is negative. In Joel 2:21, Zephaniah 3:14, Zechariah 9:9, and Lamentations 4:21 the command is positive.

So, there is an interesting preliminary question about whether the translation should be "Hail" "Greetings" or the like (as the KJV and many other translations including the Vulgate have it) or as "Rejoice!" (which is found in very few translations). A compromise would be "Cheers!" which makes it a greeting while preserving the literal sense of the word (although it is a little odd for an English-speaker as a greeting).

The context does suggest that the word is being used as a greeting (as in the other cases that it is used as a greeting in the New Testament), although the context does not contradict a usage as "Rejoice!" In fact, perhaps both are intended: as a greeting and as a command to rejoice.

The greeting or command to rejoice (or both) is followed in the text by the following items about Mary, which show why she should rejoice (which she does in verse 47, using a different Greek word for rejoice):

1) having been highly favored (perfect passive participle)
2) the Lord is with you (singular)
3) having been blessed (perfect passive participle)
4) you (nominative)
5) among women.

It's worth noting that items 3-5 are not found in the critical text. Nevertheless, items 3-5 highlight an additional item grammatically that supports the idea that the participle is serving as a title: in the second instance, "having been blessed" is accompanied by the nominative pronoun "you," which provides a subject for the participle; in the first instance, however, "having been highly favored" has no explicit nominative pronoun.

But here are some problems:

1) If the participle was supposed to serve as a title, one would expect an article to accompany the participle. As, for example, the titles in the examples above have an article. In fact, however, there is no article.

2) It is possible for the pronoun to be implied (it is already clear from the context and the fact that the participle is singular and feminine). In general when (as here) the participle is being used as an adjective it is not necessary for it to be accompanied by the pronoun. Thus, the absence of a nominative pronoun is not particularly problematic.

3) If the participle was supposed to be a title, we would expect ancient translations to reflect translation as a title. Likewise, if the traditional view were that the participle was a title, one would expect to see this reflected in the traditional translations. However, neither the ancient nor the traditional translations render it as a title, but instead attempt to literally translate its sense.

4) If the traditional view were that the participle was a title, one would expect that the "Ave Maria" would not have the noun "Maria" which is inserted in the prayer between "Ave" ("Hail") and "plena gratia" ("full of grace," the attempted - though mistaken - literal translation of the word in the Vulgate).

5) If the traditional view were that the participle was a title, we'd expect to see some evidence of this in the writings of the early to later medieval period, once veneration of Mary had taken widespread root. However, there does not appear to be any such evidence (I leave this a bit open, since there may be evidence of which I'm simply unaware - the same qualification applies to item 7, below).

6) If grammatically the participle were a title, we'd expect it to be translated with a capital letter and to be represented with a capital letter in critical Greek texts. Although, as noted above, the ancient texts would have been all capitals, the modern critical Greek texts employ capitals selectively, including for showing things like titles.

7) If grammatically the participle were a title, we'd expect to find evidence of this in at least a few Greek grammars and/or analytical lexicons. Such evidence, however, is absent.

That's the conclusion for now to my additional thoughts on the issue of the word for "having been highly favored" being in the "titular form," which we can clearly see it is not. I plan to have a few other comments about the debate, in due course.


No comments: