"The Holy Virgin is the Mother of God since according to the flesh she brought forth the Word of God made flesh" (Council of Ephesus, 431 AD)

How This Teaching Exalts Christ

This Marian title affirms the fact that Jesus is truly God. Early Christians applied this title to Mary in order to safeguard belief in Jesus' Deity.

Biblical Basis

The Bible says that Mary is the Mother of Jesus (Acts 1:14) and that Jesus is God (Isaiah 9:6; John 1:1; John 20:28). So Mary is truly the Mother of God the Son according to the flesh.

In Luke 1:43 the Holy Spirit inspires St. Elizabeth, Mary's relative, to say of her "and whence is this to me, that the mother of my Lord (meter tou kuriou mou) should come to me?" Since the New Testament uses the title Lord (Kurios) to ascribe deity to Jesus, the biblical Marian title "Mother of my Lord" is equivalent to "Mother of God". Jesus is not a mere human lord, but the LORD GOD; and Mary is His Mother.

Early Christian Witness

This title was used so commonly in the early Church that it would be hard to quote every text where it was used. Here are some from the first four centuries:

"The Virgin Mary, being obedient to his word, received from an angel the glad tidings that she would bear God" (Irenaeus of Lyons Against Heresies, 5:19:1; 189 AD).

"To all generations (the prophets) have pictured forth the grandest subjects for contemplation and for action. Thus, too, they preached of the advent of God in the flesh to the world, His advent by the spotless and God-bearing Mary in the way of birth and growth, and the manner of His life and conversation with men, and His manifestation by baptism, and the new birth that was to be to all men, and the regeneration by the laver [of baptism]" (Hippolytus Discourse on the End of the World 1; 217 AD).

"For Luke, in the inspired Gospel narratives, delivers a testimony not to Joseph only, but also to Mary the Mother of God, and gives this account with reference to the very family and house of David" (Gregory the Wonderworker Four Homilies 1; 262 AD).

"(Those engaged in the public transport service) came to the church of the most blessed Mother of God, and Ever-Virgin Mary, which, as we began to say, he had constructed in the western quarter, in a suburb, for a cemetery of the martyrs" (Peter of Alexandria The Genuine Acts of Peter of Alexandria; 305 AD).

"While the old man [Simeon] was thus exultant, and rejoicing with exceeding great and holy joy, that which had before been spoken of in a figure by the prophet Isaiah, the holy Mother of God now manifestly fulfilled" (Methodius Oration on Simeon and Anna 7; 305 AD).

"We acknowledge the resurrection of the dead, of which Jesus Christ our Lord became the firstling; he bore a body not in appearance but in truth derived from Mary the Mother of God" (Alexander of Alexandria Letter to All Non-Egyptian Bishops 12; 324 AD).

"The Father bears witness from heaven to his Son. The Holy Spirit bears witness, coming down bodily in the form of a dove. The Archangel Gabriel bears witness, bringing the good tidings to Mary. The Virgin Mother of God bears witness" (Cyril of Jerusalem Catechetical Lectures 10:19; 350 AD).

"Though still a virgin she carried a child in her womb, and the handmaid and work of his wisdom became the Mother of God" (Ephraim the Syrian Songs of Praise 1:20; 351 AD).

"The Word begotten of the Father from on high, inexpressibly, inexplicably, incomprehensibly, and eternally, is he that is born in time here below of the Virgin Mary, the Mother of God" (Athanasius The Incarnation of the Word of God 8; 365 AD).

"Being perfect at the side of the Father and incarnate among us, not in appearance but in truth, he [the Son] reshaped man to perfection in himself from Mary the Mother of God through the Holy Spirit" (Epiphanius of Salamis The Man Well-Anchored 75; 374 AD).

"The first thing which kindles ardor in learning is the greatness of the teacher. What is greater than the Mother of God? What more glorious than she whom Glory Itself chose?" (Ambrose of Milan The Virgins 2:2[7]; 377 AD).

This Virgin became a Mother while preserving her virginity;
And though still a Virgin she carried a Child in her womb;
And the handmaid and work of His Wisdom
became the Mother of God
(St Ephraim, Songs of Praise, 1, 20; c. 381 AD)

"If anyone does not agree that Holy Mary is Mother of God, he is at odds with the Godhead" (Gregory of Nazianz Letter to Cledonius the Priest 101; 382 AD).

  1. How could God have a mother?

    God has no mother in eternity, but when God the Son became human, He was born of the Virgin Mary (Matthew 1:16). So she is His mother in His Incarnation.

  2. But she is only mother of His human nature, not His Deity.

    A "nature" does not have a mother, a person has a mother. Motherhood is a person-to-person relationship with the child, not the mere act of conceiving offspring. Since Mary had a mother-Son relationship with with the Second Person of the Trinity, she is truly the Mother of God.

  3. But she did not give Jesus His Deity.

    True, but no mother ever contributes everything to a child. Most mothers contribute half of the child's physical composition while the father contributes the other half, and God creates the spirit. Yet we never say of the woman who gave birth to us "She is not my mother, she is only the mother of the chromasomes she gave me". We still say of her "She is my mother", that is, the mother of my person. Since Jesus is not a human person, but the Second Person of the Trinity, Mary is the mother of a Divine Person, of God-made-flesh. Thus she is the Mother of God.

  4. But Mary didn't give Jesus His humanity; God created a new humanity for Him in heaven. Mary just bore and gave birth to it.

    In their desire to downplay the Mother of Jesus, some evangelicals have actually reduced her to a mere "surrogate mother" of the Lord, a living incubator for a Sacred Humanity newly-created by God! In so doing they have unwittingly revived the heretical Christology of Valentius, a second-century Gnostic who taught that Jesus' body was made in heaven and that He passed through Mary "as water through a pipe".

    Like Valentius, these Evangelicals claim that Jesus is born through Mary, not of her, and that Jesus' body is from heaven. They try to "prove" the latter by citing I Corinthians 15:47, "The first man is of the earth, earthly; the second man is the Lord from heaven". Yet this clearly refers to Jesus' Eternal, Divine origin (as opposed to Adam's created, earthly origin), not to the origin of the Sacred Humanity.

    If it referred to His human nature, it would contradict Hebrews 2:14, which states that Jesus partook of the same flesh and blood which we share. It would also mean that Jesus is not an Israelite (contradicting Romans 9:5); that He is not of the seed of David according to the flesh (contradicting Romans 1:3), nor the seed of Abraham (contradicting Gn 22:18); nor even the seed of a woman (contradicting Gn 3:15)!

    Finally, it would contradict Galatians 4:4, which tells us that "When the fullness of time had come, God sent forth his Son, made of a woman, made under the law". The term "made" here is ginomai, which means "to become, be made of or formed (from geino, "to form")". Yes, the Bible clearly teaches that Jesus' Sacred Body was actually formed from the very substance of Mary, so she is truly His Mother. Anyone who says otherwise is teaching a contra-biblical doctrine of men!

  5. The title "Mother of God" does not appear in the Bible, and we should not use terms not found in the Bible.

    You just used a term not found in the Bible: the word Bible! Evangelicals use many terms not found in Scripture, such as Trinity, Incarnation, Ascension, plead the blood, point of contact, altar call, sinners prayer, etc. Since the title "Mother of God" has a biblical basis (unlike "altar call") it is a valid title.

  6. Nevertheless, we should only call Mary the "Mother of Jesus".

    Even this title proves the validity of "Mother of God", for the Name JESUS refers to the Person of Christ, not just His human nature (you name a person, not a nature!). JESUS is the name which the Eternal Word took when he became incarnate. So if Mary is the Mother of Jesus, she is the Mother of God.

  7. This title makes Mary seem too important. She is just a woman God used to bring Jesus into the world; she did no more than lend Him His flesh.

    She "lent" Him His flesh? When did He give it back to her?

    God doesn't just "use" people and then cast them aside; He incorporates His faithful servants into His plan, as He did with Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, David, etc. God never rejected Mary as "unimportant", in fact she was important enough in God's eyes for Him to chose her as mother. Is your mother "unimportant" to you? Why then do you think that Jesus would feel that way about His dear Mother?

  8. If Mary is the "Mother of God", then her mother would be the "Grandmother of God". See how absurd that is?

    That's not at all absurd; eighth-century Christians referred to Saint Anne (Mary's mother) as the "Grandmother of God"! By becoming incarnate, God the Son became a member of a human family, and so gained many human relatives. Therefore it would be perfectly legitimate to call Saint Anne the "Grandmother of God", or her husband, Saint Joachim, the "Grandfather of God", or Saint Joseph the "Foster-father of God", or Mary the Mother of God.

  9. By calling her "Mother of God", you Catholics make Mary a goddess.

    Mary is a woman (Galatians 4:4); not a goddess! Every Catholic knows that Jesus had to be born of a female human being in order to be human. Were he born of a "goddess" (if one existed!) He would not have become Man, for a divine being would logically have divine, not human offspring.

    Jesus became truly human because His Mother Mary is human and human beings have human offspring. Mother Church never has, does not now and never will teach that Mary is a "goddess" who gave Jesus His Divine Nature! She is a woman who gave God the Son a human nature, which makes her the Mother of God the Son according to the flesh.

  10. What if someone hears a Catholic call Mary "Mother of God" and thinks that she is the Mother of the whole Trinity?

    What if someone reads in the Bible that "The Word was God" (John 1:1) and thinks the Word is the whole Trinity? The term "God" can refer to any of the Three Persons individually or the Godhead as a whole. When Catholics call Mary "Mother of God" we use the term "God" to refer specifically to God the Son, as the Bible does in John 1:1 and elsewhere.

  11. So shouldn't you specify of which Divine Person Mary is the Mother?

    Scripture itself specifies that she is the Mother of Jesus. A Christian should know that, even as he or she should know that Jesus is God, the Second Person of the Blessed Trinity. Evangelicals often say "Jesus is God" without going into an in-depth explanation of the Trinity, since they assume their largely-Christian audience will know that Jesus is the Son, not the Father, the Holy Spirit or the entire Trinity. Catholics make the same assumption when we call Mary "Mother of God".

  12. But the title is needlessly confusing to non-Christians.

    Many Christian truths are confusing to non-Christians. Like the fact that Jesus is God and the Son of God (even some Christians don't understand that one!). Should we stop using one of those titles for Jesus to avoid confusion? No, rather we must explain them: "Jesus is God" means that He is God the Son, "Jesus is the Son of God" means that He is the Son of God the Father.Even so, we should not cease calling Mary "the Mother of God", but should explain what it means. A confusing truth should be explained, not rejected.

  13. This title gives Mary too much honor.

    This is perhaps the crux of the Evangelical objection to this title, and to most Catholic teaching on Mary.

    Yet the title "Mother of God" really says more about Jesus than Mary; in fact, it was declared a dogma at the Council of Ephesus (404 AD) in response to the Nestorian heresy, which denied the fact that Jesus is one Divine Person with two natures: Divine and human. The title "Mother of God" tells us that Jesus is truly God; so it is a safeguard against any heresy which would downplay or deny His Deity. (In fact, groups like the Jehovah's Witnesses, who deny Jesus' Deity, are virulently opposed to the Marian title "Mother of God" because they don't believe that Jesus is God, as that title plainly teaches).

    If "Mother of God" expresses the biblical truth that the Father chose Mary to be the Mother of God the Son according to the flesh, then it is not so much the Catholic Church who "honors" Mary with this title, but God, for the title accurately expresses the honor which God willed to bestow upon her! So anyone who feels that Mary's position as Mother of God is too high an honor should take the matter up with God, not the Church.

  14. You Catholic honor Mary because she is Jesus' Mother, but Jesus Himself says that she is not blessed because she is His mother (Luke 11:27).

    Jesus is not saying that Mary is not blessed because of her Motherhood, but that even the great honor of being the physical mother of the Messiah is secondary to obedience to God's will. Yet we know that Mary also obeyed God's will (Luke 1:38), so she is blessed for having believed God (vs. 45) even moreso than for having borne Him. For her faith is the source of her Motherhood!

  15. Jesus never calls Mary "Mother" in the Bible.

    What does that prove? That she isn't His Mother? No, for God's Word says that she is (John 2:1; 19:25; Acts 1:14), and God cannot contradict Himself.

  16. Jesus denies that Mary is His Mother in Matthew 12:48 and parallel verses.

    When He said "Who is my mother?" He was not denying that Mary is His Mother; He was simply teaching the crowds that ties of grace are greater than ties of blood. Since Mary is indeed His Mother, as the Bible states numerous times, Jesus would have been lying if He denied it! Since He can't lie, that could not have been His meaning

  17. Though Jesus was born of her, she ceased to be Jesus' Mother when He started His ministry.

    Where does the Bible say that? Nowhere. But the Bible does continue to refer to Mary as "the Mother of Jesus" after the start of His ministry (John 2:1; 19:25) and even after His Ascension (Acts 1:14). It never calls her the "former Mother of Jesus" or anything like that. So that argument contradicts Scripture.

  18. Why then do you honor Mary for being Jesus' Mother?

    Because it is a great honor for God to choose you to be Mother of the Messiah, the Woman prophesied in Genesis 3:15, Isaiah 7:14 and Micah 5:3. The Jews of that time considered it a great honor; just read St. Elizabeth's Spirit-inspired greeting to Mary (Luke 1:42-45). Yet Catholics also recognize that Mary is even more blessed because she believed, as stated above. Mary became the Mother of God by a conscious, deliberate, faith-filled choice to obey God. Thus her Motherhood is inseparably united with her faith and obedience. This is what we honor.

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