Thursday, May 14, 2009

Veneration of Mary Debate - Thoughts on Reflection - Part 5

This is the fifth segment of my thoughts about the recent debate I had with Mr. William Albrecht on the subject of the veneration of Mary. In this section, I'll be discussing the issue of "all generations shall call me blessed" (Luke 1:48), which came up during the debate.

One reason that this came up was because Mr. Albrecht seemed to suggest, well, to state, that the comment about all generations calling Mary blessed was actually a command to all generations to call Mary blessed. As I brought up in the debate, it is not a command.

The wording of the KJV is a little bit ambiguous: in English "shall" can be an imperative verb or it can simply be a future indicative. However, in Greek there is no ambiguity: μακαριοῦσίν (makariousin) is a future active indicative (i.e. it describes, it does not command) verb. It means to "consider blessed" or "count as fortunate."

This, of course, leads to the second part of this post. As with the "highly favored" issue I dealt with in the previous part, there seemed to be a view either that the verb means "shall call [me] 'blessed'" as though "blessed" were a nickname, or that the verb conveys a sense that people will somehow bless Mary. Neither of these two views is right.

In fact, both miss the point of Mary's comment entirely. Mary is excited and happy. She is speaking exuberantly. There is no particular reason to read Mary's comment literally rather than hyperbolically. After all, this is a reported statement of Mary's: not commentary by the inspired author.

Furthermore, we have other similar statements in Scripture, which suggest that this Greek word is essentially conveying a Hebrew idiom:

Psalm 72:17 His name shall endure for ever: his name shall be continued as long as the sun: and men shall be blessed in him: all nations shall call him blessed.

Malachi 3:12 And all nations shall call you blessed: for ye shall be a delightsome land, saith the LORD of hosts.

And sure enough, the Greek word in the LXX translation of these verses is "μακαριοῦσιν." Psalm 72 is a Psalm for Solomon (title), it is the last of David's psalms (last verse), and it is a Messianic Psalm like so many others. The preliminary fulfillment of the Psalm was David's son, Solomon (and he was greatly blessed by God). The major fulfillment was in the Messiah, David's son, Jesus - who was also greatly blessed by God.

Solomon's being considered blessed "by all nations" was primarily fulfilled by the respect he received from nations as far away as Ethiopia. It's not really that literally every nation considered Solomon blessed, but that he was considered blessed far and wide.

But whether Mary's statement should be taken literally or not, it's worth noting that Mary's statement of praise (sometimes taken to be a song) is reported to us, but is not identified as being inspired. Elizabeth's statement is described as inspired, but not Mary's.

Nevertheless, even if we assumed that Mary was also inspired, and even assumed that she should be taken literally, the statement is simply declaring that all generations will count or consider Mary as a person who has received something good from God. She received an enormous blessing. This is certainly true.

For some reason, though, people seem to take this as though the blessing were radiation and Mary were sort of glowing with blessing, shining little beams of blessing in every direction. Nothing of the sort is suggested from the word employed. It just means something great happened to her. We consider her a happy person. That's the approximate sense conveyed.

None of that would, could, or should lead one toward a veneration of Mary, the mother and handmaiden of the Lord.


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