Thursday, March 25, 2021

Mary, Another Redeemer?

Roman Catholic Pope Francis weighed in on the debate over the question of whether Mary is a co-redemptrix (link to Vatican site):

Christ is the Mediator, Christ is the bridge that we cross to turn to the Father (see Catechism of the Catholic Church, 2674). He is the only Redeemer: there are no co-redeemers with Christ. He is the only one. He is the Mediator par excellence. He is the Mediator. Each prayer we raise to God is through Christ, with Christ and in Christ and it is fulfilled thanks to his intercession. The Holy Spirit extends Christ’s mediation through every time and every place: there is no other name by which we can be saved: Jesus Christ, the only Mediator between God and humanity (see Acts 4:12).

After several other remarks, Francis continued:

Jesus extended Mary’s maternity to the entire Church when He entrusted her to his beloved disciple shortly before dying on the cross. From that moment on, we have all been gathered under her mantle, as depicted in certain medieval frescoes or paintings. Even the first Latin antiphon – sub tuum praesidium confugimus, sancta Dei Genitrix: the Madonna who ‘covers’, like a Mother, to whom Jesus entrusted us, all of us; but as a Mother, not as a goddess, not as co-redeemer: as Mother. It is true that Christian piety has always given her beautiful titles, as a child gives his or her mamma: how many beautiful things children say about their mamma whom they love so much! How many beautiful things. But we need to be careful: the things the Church, the Saints, say about her, beautiful things, about Mary, subtract nothing from Christ’s sole Redemption. He is the only Redeemer. They are expressions of love like a child for his or her mamma – some are exaggerated. But love, as we know, always makes us exaggerate things, but out of love.

That said, Francis is not a Protestant.  He concluded:  

Prayers said to her are not in vain. The Woman who said “yes”, who promptly welcomed the Angel’s invitation, also responds to our supplications, she hears our voices, even those that remain closed in our hearts that haven’t the strength to be uttered but which God knows better that we ourselves do. She listens as Mother. Just like, and more than, every good mother, Mary defends us from danger, she is concerned about us even when we are concentrated on our own things and lose a sense of the way, and when we put not only our health in danger, but also our salvation. Mary is there, praying for us, praying for those who do not pray. To pray with us. Why? Because she is our Mother.

I will save my critical comments for another time.  I think this represents a setback for the movement to give the title "co-redemptrix" to Mary, but those who are in favor of that will presumably say that (1) this is just a general audience not an exercise of papal infallibility and (2) what they mean by co-redemptrix is somehow consistent with Francis' statements.  

Tuesday, March 16, 2021

Verbs and Biblical Exegesis - Two Examples

I recently came across the following paragraph that captures an issue that turns out to be significant for exegesis as it relates to Calvinism and also to Hell.

Any event can be construed from a variety of perspectives. While this flexibility is fundamental to human ingenuity, it poses a challenge for language learners who must discern which meanings are encoded in their language and by which forms. The papers in this dissertation focus on verbs encoding directed motion (e.g., a girl runs into a house) and caused change-of-state events (e.g., a boy blows out candles). Both classes of events can be expressed by verbs that lexicalize different components of the event, namely Manner-of-motion (e.g., run) or Path (e.g., enter), and Means (e.g., blow) or Effect (e.g., extinguish), respectively.

Amy Celine Geojo, "Breaking and Entering: Verb Semantics and Event Structure," Doctoral dissertation, Harvard University, Graduate School of Arts & Sciences (2015), p. iii (bold and underline added, italics original)(link).

While there are numerous verbs encoding directed motion and caused change-of-state events in Scripture, and an even larger number of associated nouns, there are two particular cases that I have noticed in the last few years that seem significant to controversies.

A first case is found in Matthew 25:46:

And these shall go away into everlasting punishment: but the righteous into life eternal.

In this case, "punishment," is a noun taken from the verb kolázō (κολάζω).

The verb as such is only used twice in the New Testament, once in Acts and once in 2 Peter 2:9:

The Lord knoweth how to deliver the godly out of temptations, and to reserve the unjust unto the day of judgment to be punished:

Interestingly enough, these refer to the same thing.  The punishment that is judicially assigned at the day of judgment mentioned in 2 Peter 2:9 is the "everlasting punishment" mentioned in Matthew 25:46.  The verb, punish, refers to the carrying out of the action, rather than the conclusion of the action.  Even if it can have other uses (and perhaps it can), when the noun form is tied to an adjective that expresses duration (everlasting in the phrase, into punishment everlasting - εἰς κόλασιν αἰώνιον) it becomes clear that what is in mind is an unending punishment - an action of punishing that goes on and on and on forever.  The verb "punish" (at least in this context) is more like the verb "blow" than it is like the verb "extinguish."

The reason for this difference is that the verbal focus is on the actor and action rather than on the acted-on person and the result.  In the case of "blow" and "punish" it is the action that is the focus of the verb, as distinct from "extinguish" or "kill," where it is the result of the action that is the focus of the verb.  While blowing and extinguishing may be descriptions of the same birthday cake event, the emphasis is different.  

A second case is found in John 6:44: 

No man can come to me, except the Father which hath sent me draw him: and I will raise him up at the last day.

The verb to "draw" here is more like "extinguish" than "blow."  It conveys a result, rather than simply an action in progress.  The Greek verb, helkuo (ἕλκω), is used eight times in the New Testament.  Normally it is used of a force that accomplishes the movement intended.

In English we see this difference more clearly encoded in the difference (in English) between "pull" and "drag."  The former implies the process, the latter implies the result.  If you are pulling something and it is not moving, you're not dragging it.

We sometimes express that difference with the use of prepositions functioning as particles.  For example, to "pull out" a tooth implies motion of the object in the verb itself.  If you yank on a tooth but it doesn't move, you didn't pull it out.  By contrast, to "pull on" something only implies the exertion of force, not any resultant motion.  You could pull on a tooth without pulling out the tooth.

God willing, I will post again soon to discuss the use of helkuo in Septuagint Nehemiah.