The Chosen – Was Mary Blasphemed?
There is a new TV series out called The Chosen. As of this writing there are two seasons but a third is hoped for and the creator envisions seven seasons. It is a crowd funded series so it is not up to the whims and ratings of a network but still needs finances to be filmed. The series depicts the lives of the early disciples of Jesus and how they were each called as well as the parallel events going on in the life of Jesus. One of the characters is Jesus’ mother Mary.
The creator of the series is not Catholic although the actor who plays Jesus is. There are some Catholics who are upset about the portrayal of Mary in the series. They do not believe enough honor is given to Mary and that blasphemous things are said about her. That’s an interesting accusation because Biblically blasphemy is a crime against God and God only. The Pharisees accused Jesus of blasphemy, because He claimed to be God and, in their eyes, he was only a man. When Jesus acknowledged that He was the Christ, the Son of God before the High Priest, the High Priest tore his outer garment as a show of indignation that such blasphemy had just been spoken. By Jewish law a blasphemer was to be executed. So, to accuse people today of blaspheming against Mary equates her to God! It puts her in a category reserved only for God.
According to one Jewish source:
The punishment for blasphemy is death in Leviticus 24:16. The Seven Laws of Noah, which Judaism considers applicable to all people, prohibit blaspheming the name of the Lord, which is the only form of blasphemy that is punishable by death in Jewish law.
A person who says something disrespectful to God is considered to be blasphemy.
It was not just saying something disrespectful to God but also falsely claiming to be God.
Matthew 26:63–66 (ESV): 63 But Jesus remained silent. And the high priest said to him, “I adjure you by the living God, tell us if you are the Christ, the Son of God.” 64 Jesus said to him, “You have said so. But I tell you, from now on you will see the Son of Man seated at the right hand of Power and coming on the clouds of heaven.” 65 Then the high priest tore his robes and said, “He has uttered blasphemy. What further witnesses do we need? You have now heard his blasphemy. 66 What is your judgment?” They answered, “He deserves death.”
That is blasphemy by Jewish law. They were of course mistaken because Jesus truly was the Son of God, but believing He wasn’t they correctly charged Him with blasphemy. To consider any statement regarding Mary as blasphemy is clearly going outside the definition and has the effect of placing Mary on the same level as God.
Let me show you how and where this allegation was made:
You can read the accusation here. The author, Fr. Nix, is a Catholic priest. He writes, quoting dialog from the TV series:
Part 1a: The Script from Section A. Rama says, “I feel like I need to not make anymore mistakes” and Mother Mary responds, “How do you think I felt?”
Part 1b: The Theology. This is blasphemy against the Immaculate Virgin Mary because she was sinless and faultless and this script implies she was not by making “mistakes.” Is a mistake the same as a sin? Not necessarily, but even evangelical songs of praise and worship now use “sin” and “mistake” interchangeably, so claiming a “sin” is not the same as a “mistake” no longer holds water in the year 2021. And if “mistake” is not tantamount to “sin,” that is, if “mistake” only means: “accidentally adding too much salt to the bread” then why did Rama express so much conviction in saying, “I feel like I need to not make anymore mistakes”? Yes, if mistakes are accidents, then the Chosen‘s Jesus is making His own disciples feel great shame and guilt for putting too much salt in the bread. And Mother Mary has apparently corrected herself on this, too.
Fr. Nix considers this blasphemy because He believes (Catholics believe) Mary was “sinless and faultless” and therefore would not make mistakes. While his logic is dubious in equating mistakes to sins, he still feels Mary is being slighted, blasphemed. Why?
Part 1c: The Bible and Fathers. The Bible uses the Greek word κεχαριτωμένη to speak of the Immaculate Virgin Mary: And the angel being come in, said unto her: Hail, full of grace, the Lord is with thee: blessed art thou among women.—Luke 1:28. The Greek word for “full of grace” there is κεχαριτωμένη and it is the perfect past participle of both the noun and verb GRACE. Put this together and it means the Angel Gabriel is saying to the Immaculate Virgin Mary that she is already fully graced perfectly—hence the perfect past participle of the verb)
The Church Fathers were unanimous as to the sinlessness of the Immaculate Virgin Mary. The Eastern Fathers called her in Greek PAN-HAGIA (all holy.). When someone asked St. Augustine about this, he replied “I wouldn’t even use ‘sin” in the same sentence as her.” Not a single Christian in the first 1000 years of Christianity has ever doubted the sinlessness of Mary.
Pope BI. Pius IX wrote Ineffabilis Deus in 1854 including the following: “Far above all the angels and all the saints so wondrously did God endow her with the abundance of all heavenly gifts poured from the treasury of his divinity that this mother, ever absolutely free of all stain of sin, all fair and perfect, would possess that fullness of holy innocence and sanctity than which, under God, one cannot even imagine anything greater, and which, outside of God, no mind can succeed in comprehending fully.”
Here, Fr Nix tries to give us a Greek lesson. He quotes from an English translation taken from the Latin Vulgate. He claims the Greek word κεχαριτωμένη means “full of grace” and then says it was used in the perfect past participle meaning Mary was already “fully graced perfectly”, or in other words, sinless. His understanding of Greek is flawed.
First, a better translation of the word would be “highly favored.” That is consistent with how the word is used in other verses and its Greek origin. The angel was not saying Mary was sinless but rather saying she was highly favored by God. To quote one source:
Κεχαριτωμένος is a perfect passive participle (a verbal adjective) derived from χαριτόω, “to show favor”. Here it is inflected as a feminine singular in the vocative (addressing) case. The inflected meaning is roughly, “O woman who has been shown favor”. No agent is stated as the originator of favor. This is sometimes termed a “divine passive”; the agent is unstated on the grounds that it is obvious to everyone that it is God.
Nothing about this verse proclaims Mary “full of grace.” You could perhaps say she was shown grace by God in being highly favored but neither the word nor the Greek tense, voice, and mood imply what Fr Nix and the Catholic Church want it to.
Part 2a: The Script from Section A. She says, “I had to clean him off. He was covered in, uh, I will be polite. He needed to be cleaned.”
Part 2b: The Theology. All of the Church Fathers hold that the birth of Jesus was painless to both Jesus and Mary and miraculous, likening this to “the emergence of Christ from the sealed tomb, His going through closed doors, the penetration of the ray of sun through glass.”—Ott 206
Part 2c: The Bible and Church Fathers. Mary’s painless giving birth to Jesus is prophesied in Isaiah 66:7: “Before she was in labour, she brought forth; before her time came to be delivered, she brought forth a man child.” Furthermore, even a non-Catholic Christian should have been able to identify that a painful and messy birth is the effect of sin from Gen 3:16. Mary, who was sinless as proved above, was spared this. The infallible Lateran Synod in 649 under Pope Martin I said “She conceived without seed, of the Holy Ghost, generated without injury [to her virginity] and her virginity continued unimpaired after the birth.”
In the 20th century, Pope Pius XII wrote in his encyclical Mystici Corporis that “It was she who gave miraculous birth (mirando partu edidit) to Christ Our Lord.” One of the Eastern Church Fathers, St. Basil, wrote “The friends of Christ do not tolerate hearing that the Mother of God ever ceased to be a virgin.” Yes, all of this shows that every Christian in the first 1000 years of Christianity (except heretics) would be disgusted at a blasphemous line such as, “I had to clean him off. He was covered in, uh, I will be polite. He needed to be cleaned” in reference to what every early Christian and Church Father knew (via Scripture and oral tradition) to be a miraculous birth.
This is another peculiar tenant of the Catholic faith. They hold that Mary was born without original sin, never sinned, and remained a virgin throughout her life. None of that can be found in Scripture. The Roman Catholic church reasons that Mary had to be sinless or else Christ would have been stained by original sin through her and thus Christ could not be sinless. We know Jesus was immaculately conceived so he had no biological father. Most scholars agree that original sin began with Adam and is passed down through our fathers (i.e. not the mothers although they contain the stain of original sin as well but it is accounted through the father). Jesus did not need Mary to be without original sin for Him to be without it. Furthermore, Mary never claims to be sinless. In Luke 1:46-47, Mary says:
“My soul doth magnify the Lord, And my spirit hath rejoiced in God my Saviour”
If Mary was sinless, why would she call God her Savior? Only a sinner needs a savior. She didn’t thank God for creating her sinless so she didn’t need a savior. This is a position the Catholic church has backed itself into because of their insistence that Mary had to be sinless to not pass original sin to Jesus.
What about Mary being “ever virgin?” This is another unscriptural assumption the Catholic church makes. Mary was a virgin when Jesus was born. The definition of being a virgin is that you’ve never had intimate relations. The process of birthing a baby does not remove your virginity. Granted, in our day and time that possibility is pretty narrow, but suppose a doctor could inject a fertilized egg into a woman’s vagina and create a pregnancy? Would that woman no longer be a virgin? What aspect of Mary having a normal labor negated her virginity? Of course, there was blood. Jesus was still a baby in the womb surrounded by fluid and blood. No baby is birthed perfectly clean. Yes, God could have had the baby Jesus born perfectly clean, but nothing in Scripture demands that. What about Mary having no labor pains? Maybe the Lord spared her. I wasn’t there but there is nothing in Scripture that precludes the possibility of her having had labor pains. The passage quoted from Isaiah 66:7, is not talking about Mary. It is talking about the birth of the church. It meant the birth of the NT church would come suddenly and quickly without difficulty. That passage has nothing to do with Mary. In Isaiah 66:8, the prophet asks “Shall a land be born in one day? Shall a nation be brought forth in one moment?” He’s not talking about a baby being born. This is the birth of the church!
Another issue Fr Nix has is this:
Part 3a: The Script from Section A. “It actually made me think for just one moment, is this really the Son of God? And Joseph later told me he briefly thought the same thing. But we knew he was. I don’t know what I expected.”
Part 3b: The Theology. Mary knew Christ was the Son of God. The Angel told her so. She never doubted this, and certainly not 9 months after the Annunciation.
Part 3c: The Bible and Church Fathers. The Church Fathers are not even needed for this one. It’s absolutely unbiblical and blasphemous for Mary to say at any point following the birth of Jesus that she asked herself (or Joseph) “Is this really the son of God?” Mary is the greatest prophetess who ever lived, so she probably intuited all of this at the Annunciation and Incarnation (if not before) but we have proof in the Gospel of St. Luke that nine months before the birth of Jesus, Mary already knew He was the Son of God for the Angel Gabriel directly announced to the Immaculate Virgin Mary: The Holy Ghost shall come upon thee, and the power of the most High shall overshadow thee. And therefore also the Holy which shall be born of thee shall be called the Son of God.—Luke 1:35. If you had an angel appear to you who called Christ the Son of God and then had a miraculous birth, would you utter the words a few months later, “It actually made me think for just one moment, is this really the Son of God?”
I am not affiliated with the show in any way nor an apologist for it. It follows the Biblical accounts very closely but as the show’s disclaimer states, they had to use a little creative license to try and build a story around the Gospel narratives. So Scripture does not contain this fictional conversation. However, I think what the writer of the narrative was trying to convey, was the wonder Mary and Joseph had that this tiny baby was actually the Son of God. Yes, they knew He was. I don’t believe they doubted that for a second. Still, here she was holding a tiny life helpless like all babies are and dependent on their parents. Would God have allowed the baby Jesus to die of neglect? Of course not! Remember though, Jesus was still a man. He still got hungry, tired, thirsty, bled. Mary and Joseph still needed to care for the newborn Messiah the same as any parents would care for a newborn child. It is in that sense I say he was helpless.
It is one thing to be told your child will be the Son of God, which in incredible acts of faith, both Joseph and Mary believed. Jesus was miraculously conceived. Yet, experiencing that as parents is quite another thing. The Bible is pretty much silent on Jesus’ childhood. Other than the time he stayed behind in Jerusalem to converse in the Temple, we are not told anything. There is nothing in Scripture though to suggest the young Jesus was doing unusual, miraculous things. His miracle at Cana of turning water into wine is described as His first miracle. He was nearly 30 years old when that happened. I can imagine Mary and Joseph watching Jesus grow and mature knowing He was the Messiah yet still seeing a normal boy who helped Joseph with his carpentry and probably played normal childhood games with his half siblings or neighboring children. Being the Son of God did not stop Mary from being worried when it was discovered that Jesus was not in the caravan returning from Jerusalem. Like any parents they rushed back to Jerusalem to look for Him and were relieved to find Him. His story of having been in the Temple conversing with the teachers must have amazed them. What boy that age does that? Not only that, but the young Jesus knew more about the Scriptures then the teachers He was talking to! Why did Jesus answer by saying He needed to be in His father’s house (i.e. the Temple)? If they fully knew He was the Messiah, and understood all the ways that would manifest itself in His young life, they would have said “Well, that makes sense. Of course you were!” The reality is, they were two human parents trying to comprehend that their son was no ordinary boy but the Son of God!
Saying Mary was a prophetess is not Scriptural. Nowhere in Scripture are we told Mary was a prophet. As noted earlier, we are not told she was immaculately conceived nor that she was “ever virgin.”
The idea of the perpetual virginity of Mary is unbiblical. Matthew 1:25, speaking of Joseph, declares, “But he had no union with her until she gave birth to a son. And he gave Him the name Jesus.” The word until clearly indicates that Joseph and Mary did have normal sexual relations after Jesus was born. Mary remained a virgin until the Savior’s birth, but later Joseph and Mary had several children together. Jesus had four half-brothers: James, Joseph, Simon, and Judas (Matthew 13:55). Jesus also had half-sisters, although they are not named or numbered (Matthew 13:55–56). God blessed and graced Mary by giving her several children, which in that culture was accepted as the clearest indication of God’s blessing on a woman.
One time when Jesus was speaking, a woman in the crowd proclaimed, “Blessed is the womb that bore You and the breasts at which You nursed” (Luke 11:27). There was never a better opportunity for Jesus to declare that Mary was indeed worthy of praise and adoration. What was Jesus’ response? “On the contrary, blessed are those who hear the word of God and observe it” (Luke 11:28). To Jesus, obedience to God’s Word was more important than being the woman who gave birth to the Savior.
Nowhere in Scripture does Jesus or anyone else direct any praise, glory, or adoration toward Mary. Elizabeth, Mary’s relative, praised Mary in Luke 1:42–44, but her praise is based on the blessing of giving birth to the Messiah. It was not based on any inherent glory in Mary. In fact, after this Mary spoke a song of praise to the Lord, extoling His mindfulness to those of humble state and His mercy and faithfulness (Luke 1:46–55). (What does the Bible say about the virgin Mary? | GotQuestions.org)
The Roman Catholic teachings on Mary are largely from outside of Scripture. As one historian noted, the veneration of Mary is virtually absent from church history until AD 250. She is not portrayed as a significant figure in the life of the early church as recorded in the Book of Acts. We don’t see the Apostles looking to her for guidance or her leading their efforts. None of that is a slight on Mary. She was a wonderful example and devout woman but the truth is, she was born a sinner like us all, she did not lead a sinless life, she bore other children after Jesus, she needed a savoir, and she died like all people and was buried. To teach otherwise is to stray from Scripture and make things up that Christ and the early church never taught.
I don’t have a written out history of the veneration of Mary. I can tell you that if you read through the writings of the early church fathers up to AD 250, you won’t get even a hint of Mary worship. The Roman Catholics and Orthodox like to point to a manuscript that is dated to about AD 250 and is anonymous that mentions praying to Mary. I can’t remember exactly what it says, but it calls her Mother of God. So it’s possible, even likely, that veneration of Mary began that early. In the second century, though … nothing.
The Roman Catholic Church has elevated Mary to a place the Bible never did. She has been called a co-redemtrix and Catholics are encouraged to pray to her reasoning that a son will listen to his mother’s petitions. They cite Jesus turning the water into wine as an example of Jesus listening to His mother. Yet prayer is defined as a dialog between God and man. Attempts to contact the dead are expressly forbidden. Yes, they contend Mary never died but was assumed into heaven, but that doesn’t stop them from encouraging prayer to a litany of “saints” all of whom died regular deaths. Mary was a wonderful woman worthy of our admiration (not adoration or worship). Let’s stick to what Scripture teaches us about her and not all the made-up theology of the Roman Catholic Church concerning her.