Friday in the Thirty-First Week of Ordinary Time

The Creed of Chalcedon

…born of the Virgin Mary, the Mother of God, according to the Manhood

In this line of the Creed, we have a phrase that Protestants, and especially evangelicals, have historically looked upon with some consternation if not downright disdain, that being the reference to Mary as “mother of God.”  I agree that the term is unfortunate in that it is too easily misunderstood.  I mean, how can God have a mother?  And if God does have a mother, would that not make her God as well, indeed, even a higher God than God—which is ridiculous.  Perhaps we need to look at the history behind the term to understand its meaning.

In the fourth century there lived a man named Nestorius, bishop of Constantinople.  At that time, Mary was commonly referred to by the Greek word, θεοτοκος, transliterated into English, Theotokos, meaning, “God-bearer.”  The term was not about Mary but about her son—that he is God.  Hence, she was referred to in the early church as the God-bearer in reference to the divinity of the one she conceived by the Holy Spirit and bore as his mother.  Nestorius preferred the term, χριστοτοκος, transliterated into English, Christotokos, meaning, Christ-bearer.  Nestorius made this change because he thought Theotokos compromised our Lord’s humanity.  However, a council of bishops gathered at Ephesus in 431 thought that Nestorius was compromising our Lord’s divinity and so condemned and deposed him.  And so you see, the matter was never about Mary but our Lord and how to refer to him while in Mary’s womb.

These ancient controversies might sound silly to us today but they were matters of life and death then.  I have no reservations with calling Mary, Theotokos, or God-bearer, referring to the baby in her womb.  I struggle with “mother of God” because that term seems to me to exalt Mary rather that our Lord, which was not what the ancient controversy was about.

But let us not lose sight of what the Creed is saying, that she is “Mother of God, according to the Manhood.”  In other words, the Creed is referring to Mary’s providing not for our Lord’s divinity but for his humanity, which indeed she did.  The Holy Spirit superintended the process but took from Mary the form and substance of our Lord’s humanity, otherwise our Lord was not a man.  So she is indeed his mother according to his humanity.  However, as he is one person, the Son of God, then she gave birth to the Son of God, though is only responsible for providing the material for his human nature.  And so all generations thereafter have called her blessed.

Author: The Reformed Baptist

My name is Stephen Taylor, ordained Baptist minister of eighteen years pastoral experience with a Ph.D. in Historical Theology from Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary in Fort Worth, Texas. Better than that, I am married to a godly woman, Karla, who has been very patient with me since 1989. I have two daughters, both of whom I homeschooled for extended periods of time, who became godly young women, and who ran off and married godly young men, all of which is very proper. The oldest daughter has even seen fit to bless me with a grandson and a granddaughter, and my youngest daughter with a grandson, all three of whom are bundles of exceeding joy. As you can see, I am quite blessed. This website is dedicated to helping people grow in the wisdom and knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ through the gift of writing that the Lord has given to me. It is specifically about helping His people grow in godliness, the theme you see repeated above. I write devotions with this aim and hope that they might be of some help to God’s people. Full disclosure: I am of a Reformed bent, meaning that my understanding of Scripture is primarily informed by the Reformers and their successors of the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries. However, as a student of church history and theology, I strive to remain true to that teaching handed down once for all unto the saints through every age of the Church. I like to think of myself as a “catholic” Christian, as the Reformers thought of themselves. At any rate, feel free to read, pray, and contact me if you wish, or correct me if need be. As you can see, I tend to follow the church year. Of course, I make no special claims about these devotions. I know very well that others have written better and plumbed the depths of God’s word with greater insight. But if my musings help someone draw closer to the Lord, well then, I have my reward. Blessings to you and may the God and Father of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ speak to you that word which He knows you especially need to hear. Grace & peace, Stephen Taylor

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