Did Mary Know? Did She Understand? Maybe We Don’t Really Know

 

“If you want a religion to make you feel really comfortable, I certainly don’t recommend Christianity.” – C. S. Lewis

___________

A beautiful song causes controversy

Did you know that there appears to be a debate over the Christmas song, “Mary Did You Know.” I happened to run across “Yes, Mary Knew: How the question behind the recently controversial Christmas song stirs us to worship.” at Christianity Today by Joan Clarkson. I hope to have some time this year to discuss Mary, the mother of Jesus, especially when it comes to the gender divide/debate within Christendom.

I placed the Pentatonix take on this song at the end of the post.  According to Wikipedia:

“Mary, Did You Know?” is a Christmas song with lyrics written by Mark Lowry and music written by Buddy Greene. It was originally recorded by Christian recording artist Michael English on his self-titled debut solo album in 1991 (English and Lowry were both members of the Gaither Vocal Band at the time). It reached No. 6 on CCM Magazine’s AC Chart.[1] Lowry would record the song several times himself, most notably with the Gaither Vocal Band on their 1998 Christmas album Still the Greatest Story Ever Told.

The song has since gone on to become a modern Christmas classic, being recorded by many artists over the years across multiple genres.

Here are the lyrics as posted at Let’s Sing It.

Mary did you know that your baby boy will one day walk on water?
Mary did you know that your baby boy will save our sons and daughters?
Did you know that your baby boy has come to make you new? T
his child that you’ve delivered, will soon deliver you.

Mary did you know that your baby boy will give sight to a blind man?
Mary did you know that your baby boy will calm a storm with his hand?
Did you know that your baby boy has walked where angels trod?
And when you kiss your little baby, you have kissed the face of God.

The blind will see, the deaf will hear and the dead will live again.
The lame will leap, the sums will speak, the praises of the lamb.

Mary did you know that your baby boy is Lord of all creation?
Mary did you know that your baby boy will one day rule the nations?
Did you know that your baby boy is heaven’s perfect Lamb?
This sleeping child you’re holding is the great I am.

According to CT, some object to the premise behind “Did Mary know?”

…”the biblical account of Christ’s conception and birth shouldn’t need to ask if Mary knew because the Bible plainly tells us she did.” Many others similarly argue that to predicate an entire song on this question diminishes the pivotal nature of Mary’s role in God’s salvation plan, reducing her to a sweet but ultimately clueless new mother

What is the Protestant view of Mary?

For many years, Protestant Christians have largely emphasized Mary’s youth and downplayed her divine appointment, often out of concern over Catholic veneration of the mother of God. Yet Scripture clearly presents to us a remarkable depiction of Mary in her special role as God-bearer and prophetic hymn writer.

How did Mary “know” and what did she know?

According to Luke 1:26-56 (NIV Bible Gateway)

The Birth of Jesus Foretold
26 In the sixth month of Elizabeth’s pregnancy, God sent the angel Gabriel to Nazareth, a town in Galilee, 27 to a virgin pledged to be married to a man named Joseph, a descendant of David. The virgin’s name was Mary. 28 The angel went to her and said, “Greetings, you who are highly favored! The Lord is with you.”

29 Mary was greatly troubled at his words and wondered what kind of greeting this might be. 30 But the angel said to her, “Do not be afraid, Mary; you have found favor with God. 31 You will conceive and give birth to a son, and you are to call him Jesus. 32 He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High. The Lord God will give him the throne of his father David, 33 and he will reign over Jacob’s descendants forever; his kingdom will never end.”

34 “How will this be,” Mary asked the angel, “since I am a virgin?”

35 The angel answered, “The Holy Spirit will come on you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you. So the holy one to be born will be called[a] the Son of God. 36 Even Elizabeth your relative is going to have a child in her old age, and she who was said to be unable to conceive is in her sixth month. 37 For no word from God will ever fail.”

38 “I am the Lord’s servant,” Mary answered. “May your word to me be fulfilled.” Then the angel left her.

Mary Visits Elizabeth
39 At that time Mary got ready and hurried to a town in the hill country of Judea,40 where she entered Zechariah’s home and greeted Elizabeth. 41 When Elizabeth heard Mary’s greeting, the baby leaped in her womb, and Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit. 42 In a loud voice she exclaimed: “Blessed are you among women,and blessed is the child you will bear! 43 But why am I so favored, that the mother of my Lord should come to me? 44 As soon as the sound of your greeting reached my ears, the baby in my womb leaped for joy. 45 Blessed is she who has believed that the Lord would fulfill his promises to her!”

Mary’s Song
46 And Mary said:

“My soul glorifies the Lord
47     and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior,
48 for he has been mindful
of the humble state of his servant.
From now on all generations will call me blessed,
49     for the Mighty One has done great things for me—
holy is his name.
50 His mercy extends to those who fear him,
from generation to generation.
51 He has performed mighty deeds with his arm;
he has scattered those who are proud in their inmost thoughts.
52 He has brought down rulers from their thrones
but has lifted up the humble.
53 He has filled the hungry with good things
but has sent the rich away empty.
54 He has helped his servant Israel,
remembering to be merciful
55 to Abraham and his descendants forever,
just as he promised our ancestors.”
56 Mary stayed with Elizabeth for about three months and then returned home.

Clarkson believes the question of the song, *Mark Did You Know,* is a rhetorical question, not a factual question.

The question “Mary, did you know?” is not a factual one but a rhetorical one. It opens space for contemplation, curiosity, and wonder. The song invites us to peer over Mary’s shoulder as she rocks the Christ child to sleep, to witness the vulnerability of God, to meditate on the vastness of heaven contained in tiny fingers grasping for the comfort of his mother’s hand.

As with many good pieces of art, rather than merely instructing us in doctrinal truths, the song invites us into mystery and worship.

Far from diminishing Mary, it invites to look to her as we attempt to understand the mystery of the Incarnation.

Jesus taught about His future to his disciples and we can speculate that He also taught His mother and his brothers and sisters. However, we hear the stories about Jesus’ disciples every Easter. Peter denied Him. Judas betrayed Him. The other disciples hid out. John and Mary came to the Crucifixion. However, did they really understand it or did they merely know-kind of like students memorizing the photosynthesis chart without really understanding it?

It was not until the Resurrection that the pieces came together for those who followed Him. Then came the gift of the Holy Spirit which changed the weak and confused disciples into those who would change the world.

I believe Mary knew what she was told but did not fully understand it.

I have proof from Scripture. I was surprised that no one brought this up in the article because it sums up the dichotomy or being told something, understanding it or incorporating knowledge.

Jesus’ family came to get Him at one point, apparently believing Jesus was out of His mind. (v. 21) Mary (v. 31) came along with his brothers.

In fact, it might appear (at least it did to me) that the family’s expressions of concern may have encouraged the teachers of the law to say that Jesus was possessed by Beelzebul. (v. 22)

Jesus did not run out to comfort His family in this regard. In fact, he appeared to reject the term *family* as a biological one. (v. 35)

Mark 3:20-35

Jesus Accused by His Family and by Teachers of the Law

20 Then Jesus entered a house, and again a crowd gathered, so that he and his disciples were not even able to eat. 21 When his family heard about this, they went to take charge of him, for they said, “He is out of his mind.”

22 And the teachers of the law who came down from Jerusalem said, “He is possessed by Beelzebul! By the prince of demons he is driving out demons.”

23 So Jesus called them over to him and began to speak to them in parables:“How can Satan drive out Satan? 24 If a kingdom is divided against itself, that kingdom cannot stand. 25 If a house is divided against itself, that house cannot stand. 26 And if Satan opposes himself and is divided, he cannot stand; his end has come. 27 In fact, no one can enter a strong man’s house without first tying him up. Then he can plunder the strong man’s house. 28 Truly I tell you, people can be forgiven all their sins and every slander they utter, 29 but whoever blasphemes against the Holy Spirit will never be forgiven; they are guilty of an eternal sin.”

30 He said this because they were saying, “He has an impure spirit.”

31 Then Jesus’ mother and brothers arrived. Standing outside, they sent someone in to call him. 32 A crowd was sitting around him, and they told him, “Your mother and brothers are outside looking for you.”

33 “Who are my mother and my brothers?” he asked.

34 Then he looked at those seated in a circle around him and said, “Here are my mother and my brothers! 35 Whoever does God’s will is my brother and sister and mother.”

In some respects, Mary was like others of her day. Perhaps, like His disciples, she hoped He would overthrow the Romans who had oppressed Israel. Read the words of the angel and think about it. Did Mary think Jesus was going to be like David-only greater?

He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High. The Lord God will give him the throne of his father David, 33 and he will reign over Jacob’s descendants forever; his kingdom will never end.”

Mary was given the Holy Spirit but it does not appear that the Spirit was an indwelling Spirit in Mary, per se, but the One who overshadowed her so she would conceive. If Jesus was a holy Embryo, is this different than an indwelling Spirit?  Do I truly get this? No-it is terribly confusing even though I believe it.

The angel answered, “The Holy Spirit will come on you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you. So the holy one to be born will be called[a] the Son of God.

Recently someone commented at TWW that he did not think the Trinity made sense.  I remember laughing out loud. Of course the Trinity doesn’t make sense. There is nothing in this world that is like it. We try all sort of ways to explain it (The Egg: shell, yolk, white) but there is no egg in the universes who can make galaxies, black holes, multi universes. How can we fully understand the word “eternal” since we are merely mortal? We exist in time. God exists in time and outside of time. In fact, He is the inventor of time. And then He becomes a Baby?

I wonder if Mary was afraid she would drop him? When she breastfed Him, did she wonder about the complexity of that intimacy? Did she say her prayers with Jesus playing on a blanket? Did He watch her when she did? It appears that Joseph may have died before the Mark 3 encounter. He certainly was not around at the Crucifixion. Did Mary wonder why God took Jospeh from her? Jesus appeared to get that, asking John to care for His mother after the Crucifixion.

(Aside: One of my pastors asked the kids in confirmation to come up with bumper stickers that Mary and Joseph could put on their car. “Your kid may be on the honor role but our kid walks on water” was one that made me laugh.)

In the end, I believe that this song demonstrates an understanding that none of us really understands what Mary knew and apprehended. But one thing is certain. As He was on the Cross, He saved some of His final words to make sure Mary was cared for in the future. He asked John to do that. Interestingly, John was the only Apostle who died of natural causes. John was known as the disciple who loved Jesus and Mary, as Jesus’ mother, was the mother who loved Jesus. Sounds like a match made in heaven!


Comments

Did Mary Know? Did She Understand? Maybe We Don’t Really Know — 81 Comments

  1. “If you want a religion to make you feel really comfortable, I certainly don’t recommend Christianity.” – C. S. Lewis

    Lewis wrote those words in the 20th century. We live in the 21st century. We have made Christianity – particularly, the American version of it – extremely comfortable in most churches. So warm and fuzzy, that even the devil can prop his feet up, lean back, listen to good music, and be entertained by cute messages that wouldn’t scare him much. Yep, Lewis wouldn’t pen that statement today. Of course, it isn’t the Biblical Christianity that Lewis was referring to … it is Christianity Lite.

      (Quote)  (Reply)

  2. “Mary treasured all these things, giving careful thought to them and pondering them in her heart often.” (Luke 2:19)

    Mary knew – her knowledge increased as she was given a continual revelation of who Jesus was. We know as Jesus is revealed to us. Did Mary know? Yes, all that she needed to know.

      (Quote)  (Reply)

  3. Maybe I live in what many call an “Evangelical Bubble”, but if this song is controversial, I haven’t seen it. I agree with the CT article that this is not a big deal.

    I did a very quick internet search on this controversy. The only people I found that had objections to the song were 2 Lutherans, one Reformed think tank and about half a dozen Catholics. One Catholic I found saw no problem with the song.

    Chaplain Mike over at Internet Monk, who I believe is an ELCA Lutheran, had a post on Mary last week. He said that Martin Luther venerated Mary and had the following Luther quote:

    Luther called Mary the

    …highest woman and the noblest gem in Christianity after Christ . . . She is nobility, wisdom, and holiness personified. We can never honor her enough. (Sermon, Christmas, 1531)

    Dee, have you seen the song controversy in your Lutheran circles?

      (Quote)  (Reply)

  4. I’ve read a couple of articles about the song controversy, and I agree with Dee 100%.

    My question is ……… did Jesus know? Infant Jesus, toddler Jesus, boy Jesus??? I’ve always wondered…..

    Now, this business about the Vader parody …… I know the Luke Skywalker/Vader storyline fits the song so well, and it is a great parody!!!
    But, come on y’all!!! Luke Skywalker ain’t got nuthin’ over Han Solo. My daughter is pregnant with a boy and my sill says they are not naming the baby Han Solo….. Doggone it. (Maybe Indy?)

      (Quote)  (Reply)

  5. From the article:

    As with many good pieces of art, rather than merely instructing us in doctrinal truths, the song invites us into mystery and worship.

    I thought this was a great point. All the “worship” songs at our old Neo-Cal church were just expositions of Calvinist theology.

    The bigger point is that art has to be true to the vision of the artist. Art that is just trying to make a point and is willing to violate the integrity of the story to do so isn’t art, it’s propaganda. I get frustrated with “Christian art” such as some of the Christian movies that come out because they aren’t really art. They contain many of the traits of propaganda.

    That said, if you dislike this song
    1. Don’t listen
    2. Write your own song
    Half the internet seems to be people finding other people’s art “deeply problematic.”

      (Quote)  (Reply)

  6. __

    Mary, most certainly sealed her service, reward and a place in history when responding to the Heavenly Angelic Ambassador; “Be it done unto me according to thy word”. Would that each of His servants, He now calls, ‘friends’ respond as well…

    ;~)

    – –

      (Quote)  (Reply)

  7. Ricco:
    Half the internet seems to be people finding other people’s art “deeply problematic.”

    The battle cry is “I may not know much about art, but I know what I like!” 😉

      (Quote)  (Reply)

  8. 2000 years after the fact, I might have knowledge about Jesus’ divinity, but I can’t say that I fully understand it.

    The angel did tell Mary that Jesus would save people from their sins, which was quite a different concept than the Jews believed the Messiah to be. But as to fully what that meant, I don’t think Mary could have known.

    Besides, I think the song is a modern day human wondering about Mary. It’s not really about what Mary did or did not know, but how someone now is trying to connect with the gospel story. So I think the controversy is a bit silly.

      (Quote)  (Reply)

  9. Max: We have made Christianity – particularly, the American version of it – extremely comfortable in most churches. So warm and fuzzy, that even the devil can prop his feet up

    Agreed, church-o-tainment is a problem in some places. In others, the preachers terrify people into submission by planting messages in their heads (“Maybe I have demons!”).

    What kinds of preaching and worship are most effective in causing you to reflect and repent?

    I am so wary and weary from struggling to recover from past abuse in Christian settings. Helpful parts of worship are quiet music, silent prayer, and the wordless parts of Communion. The most effective preaching is both profound and gentle, trusting me to approach as I dare. I can unbind only one wound at a time.

      (Quote)  (Reply)

  10. Nancy2(aka Kevlar): My question is ……… did Jesus know? Infant Jesus, toddler Jesus, boy Jesus??? I’ve always wondered….

    Me, too. There is some sort of theological term that means Jesus put some of His attributes on hold when He came, at least that is what one pastor told me when I asked years ago. I don’t know what that means. Was He thinking when He was a holy Embryo or was He developing just like a human? I lean towards the latter.

    Rich Mullins thought about this. Here is another guy singing the song. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LY6QDBjCTqg

      (Quote)  (Reply)

  11. Ricco: I thought this was a great point. All the “worship” songs at our old Neo-Cal church were just expositions of Calvinist theology.

    I’ve heard other say the same thing.Do you remember any of them? I’d be interested in hearing.

      (Quote)  (Reply)

  12. My question is did Mary know the magnitude of her baby did she know the power that he held did she know that he was The great I am..this is what the song is talking about Mary did you know that your little baby would heal the sick and the dead

      (Quote)  (Reply)

  13. dee: Do you remember any of them [songs that were just statements of calvinist theology]? I’d be interested in hearing.

    For God doth cause all things to be,
    To least atomic symmetry;
    But if thou think’st God causeth sin,
    Thou hast misunderstood the true meaning of what Calvin taught – dost thou not understand “secondary causation”, thou ignorant peasant?

      (Quote)  (Reply)

  14. I never subscribed to the Catholic veneration of Mary, but I was always puzzled by the Protestant tendency to downgrade her as some empty vessel used by God to bring Jesus into the world. That said, Elizabeth Johnston, a Catholic feminist scholar, wrote about the character of Mary and how she can be seen as an empowering figure to both Catholics and Protestants. In the Song of Mary, she sang how her soul magnifies God and the reversal of positions of the poor, lowly, and humble. She raises Jesus with the knowledge that he will have a special role in the divine plan as she asks him to perform his first miracle at the wedding. Yet, she clearly doesn’t always understand how this plays out as she is rebuffed by Jesus when she and Jesus’ brothers misunderstand that Jesus must prioritize kingdom ties over biological relations. However, she stands by her son at the cross and Jesus makes sure she is given into the care of his most beloved disciple. This shows her importance in Jesus’ life as his mother while she transitions to that of a disciple upon his death and resurrection that fully understands what his mission really was.

      (Quote)  (Reply)

  15. Lily Rose: I never subscribed to the Catholic veneration of Mary, but I was always puzzled by the Protestant tendency to downgrade her as some empty vessel used by God to bring Jesus into the world.

    Note which branch of Christendom the Godly Complementarianism worthy of the Taliban comes from.
    (Hint: “NO POPERY!”)

    Mary Veneration acted as a counterweight to such Taliban-level Male Supremacy. If God the Son chose a WOMAN to Incarnate Him (whom the EO call “Mother of God” in Greek) and called her His mother, you can only go so far in misogyny.

    My other writing partner (the self-educated son of a steelworker) told me once about a history book about the Middle Ages. That the position of women was rising at the end of the Middle Ages, only to be reversed (if not aborted) by the Renaissance and Reformation Wars.

    How does the Renaissance play into this? Well, it was not only a “rediscovery” of Greco-Roman Culture but a Fanboy imitation of it. “Rome had an Absolute Monarchy, So Must We. Romans owned Slaves, So Must We. Greeks kept their wimmenfolk barefoot and pregnant livestock, So Must We. Rome Ruled The World, So Must We!”

    And the Reformation Wars polarized Everything into an All-or-Nothing War Footing.

      (Quote)  (Reply)

  16. I never subscribed to the Catholic veneration of Mary, but I was always puzzled by the Protestant tendency to downgrade her as some empty vessel used by God to bring Jesus into the world.

    “Christian killeth Christian in a narrow dusty room;
    Christian dreadeth Christ who hath a newer face of Doom;
    Christian hateth Mary whom God kissed in Galilee…”
    — G.K.Chesterton, “Lepanto”

      (Quote)  (Reply)

  17. Cricket:

    The start of play on Day 5 of the Third Test between Australia and India has been delayed by rain. India need 2 wickets; Australia, 141 runs.

      (Quote)  (Reply)

  18. Headless Unicorn Guy: Mary Veneration acted as a counterweight to such Taliban-level Male Supremacy. If God the Son chose a WOMAN to Incarnate Him (whom the EO call “Mother of God” in Greek) and called her His mother, you can only go so far in misogyny.

    A surprising number of traditions recognize Mary as the Mother of God, theotokos, God-bearer. It’s logical: Jesus was God, and Mary was his mother, so Mary was the mother of God.

    However, many traditions keep this nugget of theology almost as a dirty little secret, because the veneration of Mary is famously linked to Roman Catholicism. At a study course I’ve seen this point revealed to a couple of groups of Protestants and Anglicans. People have actually gasped: “We believe that?” Interesting to witness a real-time struggle with attitudes and assumptions that people didn’t think they had.

      (Quote)  (Reply)

  19. dee,

    Two that come immediately to mind are”In Christ Alone” and “How Deep the Father’s Love for Us.” I know that these are very popular, so I’m not expecting everyone to agree with me. They both emphasize penal substitutionary atonement which, for people like me who grew up with abusive/angry fathers, can really be difficult to stomach. Other examples are “Mercy” by Matt Redman and “Living Hope” by Bethel Music.

    To look at the church connections, Stuart Townend was the worship leader at Terry Virgo’s church in the UK. Virgo’s New Frontiers was a blend of Calvinism and Charismatic, and our former church loved him and recommended his books. Bob Kauflin, worship for CJ Mahaney, is also a major songwriter of music written explicitly to convey reformed theology. I’ll post more if I can remember. My wife took pictures of some of the slides that really bothered us.

    For reformed folks, I’m sure these songs are great. That theology just didn’t work for us anymore. Also, I’m not sure whether church music has to be art or not. I’m a classical musician (I play horn), and I love the masses by people like Bach, Palestrina, and Mozart. Bach’s Lutheran service music is divine. This music was more about setting the traditional church words in new and creative ways. I love this approach to blending art with religious words.

      (Quote)  (Reply)

  20. Lily Rose,

    I agree in that the veneration of Mary was a very good things for women’s rights. That seems like a weird statement given how few rights women had in pre-reformation Europe, but I think it would have been much worse without this tradition.

    Mary veneration is very misunderstood, much like the veneration of icons. People aren’t worshiping those things, exactly. However, it’s really easy to create a straw man and demonize those practices without ever understanding them.

      (Quote)  (Reply)

  21. Ricco:
    Lily Rose,

    I agree in that the veneration of Mary was a very good things for women’s rights. That seems like a weird statement given how few rights women had in pre-reformation Europe, but I think it would have been much worse without this tradition.

    Mary veneration is very misunderstood, much like the veneration of icons. People aren’t worshiping those things, exactly. However, it’s really easy to create a straw man and demonize those practices without ever understanding them.

    I think you mean to reply to Headless Unicorn Guy.

      (Quote)  (Reply)

  22. Ricco:
    Lily Rose,

    I agree in that the veneration of Mary was a very good things for women’s rights. That seems like a weird statement given how few rights women had in pre-reformation Europe, but I think it would have been much worse without this tradition.

    I think you mean to reply to Headless Unicorn Guy.

      (Quote)  (Reply)

  23. Ricco: Mary veneration is very misunderstood, much like the veneration of icons. People aren’t worshiping those things, exactly. However, it’s really easy to create a straw man and demonize those practices without ever understanding them.

    One man’s veneration is another man’s idolatry. It’s kind of like a rebel vs. a freedom fighter. It’s all depends on your perspective.

      (Quote)  (Reply)

  24. Ken P.: One man’s veneration is another man’s idolatry. It’s kind of like a rebel vs. a freedom fighter. It’s all depends on your perspective.

    I’m uncomfortable with Mary veneration as well (but not icons, fwiw). If you ask a Catholic if they are worshiping idols when they venerate Mary, they will say no. I would rather take them at their word than assume that they don’t mean what they are saying

      (Quote)  (Reply)

  25. Abigail: When Christians get their undies in a bunch over a beautiful song I get really irritated.

    So do I.
    And for what?
    What in tarnation is there to get their boxers and panties in a bunch over?
    Cant’ they just appreciate beauty for beauty’s sake?

      (Quote)  (Reply)

  26. Headless Unicorn Guy: Mary Veneration acted as a counterweight to such Taliban-level Male Supremacy. If God the Son chose a WOMAN to Incarnate Him (whom the EO call “Mother of God” in Greek) and called her His mother, you can only go so far in misogyny.

    However, the interesting thing to that argument is that the Quran has more verses about Mary than the Bible does, in fact she is the only named woman in the Quran and is recognized as the greatest woman. Yet, it has not stopped the sexists of that religion.

    Just as I have always had a problem that the Catholic Church can venerate Mary so much and still deny women equality within the Church. It is ridiculous to me that Catholics can pray to Mary, a woman, to intercede on their behalf, but only a man can be a priest and give the sacraments.

    I much prefer the Anglican position, which appears to be a middle point between Catholicism and most Protestants.

    Also, how come every Mother’s Day sermon isn’t about Mary? It would be so much better than most of the crap they come up with.

      (Quote)  (Reply)

  27. Ken P.: Maybe I live in what many call an “Evangelical Bubble”, but if this song is controversial, I haven’t seen it. I agree with the CT article that this is not a big deal.

    Some women in some online Christian gender egalitarian groups find the song insulting because to them it sounds as though Mary is too dumb to understand that she was agreeing to giving birth to the Messiah.

    I never understood the lyrics in that way.

    I think that is an overly wooden literal interpretation of the phrase “Mary did you know.”

    Obviously, she knew – the “Mary did you know” question repeated in the song is not asking if she knew, but is rather conveying a sense of awe.

    How many women can say they carried the Messiah to term and gave birth to him? None but Mary.

    That is what the song is about, it’s not commenting on Mary’s intelligence or suggesting she is dumb or naive.

      (Quote)  (Reply)

  28. Daisy: Obviously, she knew – the “Mary did you know” question repeated in the song is not asking if she knew, but is rather conveying a sense of awe.

    Sure she knew. And per the gospels she was honored to be chosen. But did she have a choice? We talk a lot about power differentials and coercion within the church. How a person can be abused and even enter into an inappropriate or abusive situation based on the perception of authority of the person in power.

    Abuse is a huge trigger word but what I’m trying to convey is Mary didn’t appear to have any choice in the matter. I can’t imagine a bigger power differential than the creator of the universe and a young woman.

    I hadn’t heard of the controversy surrounding this song. Personally I think it can represent the trepidation any parent feels when watching their kids grow. It humanizes Mary’s experience and in the faith as I understood it, that human experience was very much part of reason for Jesus to be here.

    Just thinking that in the culture of consent the concept of God choosing without the option of the chosen saying no may contribute to the controversy.

      (Quote)  (Reply)

  29. Jarrett Edwards: Just as I have always had a problem that the Catholic Church can venerate Mary so much and still deny women equality within the Church. It is ridiculous to me that Catholics can pray to Mary, a woman, to intercede on their behalf, but only a man can be a priest and give the sacraments.

    I’ve seen Marian veneration taken to some extremes. The belief that Mary is an eternal virgin. That she never entered into any conjugal relationship with her husband.
    It becomes a form of control. A woman must be protected in order to maintain this perfection. You wind up with a binary Madonna/whore complex. The Jezebel or the Virgin.

    I think the overt sexism is more a cultural phenomenon than a gospel one. Certain culures took a ball that was already there and ran with it.

    In the Christian church some men took monastic vows and women took vows to be nuns. In many cases nunneries and monasteries became bastions of higher learning in a culture that had neither the time nor inclination.

      (Quote)  (Reply)

  30. The Trinity not making sense is a mystery of faith. But even Christians take issue with it. Eternal subordination of the son makes even more sense from the gospel story above.
    If Satan can’t cast out himself then how can God pray to himself? Jesus does this a number of times. God says this is my son in whom I am pleased not “I am very pleased with myself”.
    Now I don’t think most christians consider it Christian to not be Trinitarian but in talking about divided houses, the Christian has long been divided.

      (Quote)  (Reply)

  31. Ricco: All the “worship” songs at our old Neo-Cal church were just expositions of Calvinist theology.

    “In all our songs we want to be teaching people about God. If we aren’t learning good theology and biblical truth from our songs, then either we don’t care much about our songs or we don’t care much about rich biblical truth, or both.” (Kevin DeYoung)
    https://www.thegospelcoalition.org/blogs/kevin-deyoung/ten-principles-for-church-singing-part-2/

    Of course, “good theology” and “rich biblical truth” to DeYoung = Calvinism.

    As the New Calvinist wave was sweeping through the Southern Baptist Convention, its publishing house LifeWay decided to revise the Baptist Hymnal. An article by Ethics Daily noted:

    “Calvinism gains ground in the new hymnal. “O Zion, Haste”, with “he who made the nations is not willing one soul should perish” isn’t in the new hymnal. Songs that suggested that Christ’s death atoned for everyone and not just the elect – like “Whosoever Will” and “Whosoever Meaneth Me” didn’t make the cut. Neither did “Oh What a Wonder It Is”, with its “all who would believe in Him, He’d save them every one” or “Holy Bible, Book of Love”, which proclaims that Christ “died for everyone.””
    https://www.ethicsdaily.com/omitted-titles-in-new-baptist-hymnal-reflect-theological-shift-corrected-cms-13109/

    I have stirring memories of singing/shouting “Whosoever Meaneth Me” when I came to faith in Christ as a child. Today’s SBC children won’t sing that, unless wisdom prevailed in traditional SBC churches to keep their old hymnals.

      (Quote)  (Reply)

  32. Jack: If Satan can’t cast out himself then how can God pray to himself? Jesus does this a number of times. God says this is my son in whom I am pleased not “I am very pleased with myself”.

    I think you misunderstand the historical orthodox view of the Trinity. You appear to rightly reject modalism, which was formally declared a hersesy by the early church (see https://orthodoxwiki.org/Modalism). I say this because your objection that one member of the Trinity cannot relate with another is valid only if modalism is true. But if the members of the Trinity are different persons then it is possible for them to relate to each other as persons.

      (Quote)  (Reply)

  33. Can you imagine if Mark Lowery had been Mormon and written it?….

    Mary did you know that your Baby Boy is also Satan’s brother?
    Did you know that you and God had sex so you could be his mother?
    Did you know that your Baby Boy will have three wives and make you a Grandma?
    This Child that you delivered can’t deliver you according to Mormon Law.

      (Quote)  (Reply)

  34. Jack: I’ve seen Marian veneration taken to some extremes. The belief that Mary is an eternal virgin. That she never entered into any conjugal relationship with her husband.
    It becomes a form of control.

    As far as I can tell, the belief that Mary did not remain a virgin is no more than a few hundred years old. Roman Catholics and Eastern Orthdox seem to have always believed in the perpetual virginity of Mary. But so early did reformers such as Luther, Calvin, Zwingli, and Wesley.

      (Quote)  (Reply)

  35. Ken F (aka Tweed),

    It was a Stoic called Helvidius Priscus who first suggested that Mary did not remain a Virgin in a work written sometime before 383ad. Calvin referenced him in his commentary on Matthew 1:25 -“25. And knew her not This passage afforded the pretext for great   disturbances, which were introduced into the Church, at a former   period, by Helvidius. The inference he drew from it was, that Mary   remained a virgin no longer than till her first birth, and that   afterwards she had other children by her husband. Jerome, on the other   hand, earnestly and copiously defended Mary’s perpetual virginity. Let   us rest satisfied with this, that no just and well-grounded inference   can be drawn from these words of the Evangelist, as to what took place   after the birth of Christ.”

      (Quote)  (Reply)

  36. Ken F (aka Tweed),
    “Is this not the carpenter’s son? Is not His mother called Mary? And His brothers James, Joses, Simon, and Judas? And His sisters, are they not all with us?” (Matthew 13, Mark 6)

    “But I saw none of the other apostles except James, the Lord’s brother.” (Galatians 1)

      (Quote)  (Reply)

  37. Daisy,

    Well put Daisy and I agree.
    Why is it that some people cannot accept beauty for beauty’s sake without always having to color it with something?

      (Quote)  (Reply)

  38. Max,

    The problem with those passages is they don’t prove or disprove Mary’s perpetual virginity because the word for brother and step-brother is the same. I had always denied the perpetual virginity of Mary until I started reading outside my own bubble and discovers the historical Christian position. According to church tradition Joseph was an elderly widower with children from an earlier marriage. I don’t say that I like this view, but it makes a lot of sense, and it has much better historical support. Here is an interesting article on this from former protestant: https://conciliarpost.com/christian-traditions/eastern-orthodox/the-perpetual-virginity-of-mary-why-i-changed-my-mind/

      (Quote)  (Reply)

  39. It’s a really interesting question. My guess is that Mary knew something was up, and God was doing something unique. But I would also guess that she had the same view of the Messiah that the disciples had. They were hoping for messiah who would defeat the Romans and return Israel to another golden age as a sovereign Nation. None of them seemed to expect that a Roman cross would be part of the process, Mary included.

    But that’s just my guess. You certainly wouldn’t right a blog post or article criticizing popular song that didn’t agree with my guess. That requires a certain amount of arrogance.

    I do think about Mary’s presence in the first century Church. In the early church at Jerusalem, or later, in Ephesus, Mary was very likely a common figure in church meetings. Can you imagine seeing her at a home Church in Ephesus? Wouldn’t you be tempted to buy her a coffee afterwards and just ask questions?

      (Quote)  (Reply)

  40. Ken F (aka Tweed),

    From the New International Dictionary of New Testament Theology and Exegesis…

    “NT 1 When used of family relationships, the terms ἀδελφός (over 340×) and ἀδελφή (25×) in the NT indicate persons who have the same parents in common, but the matter has been disputed with regard to the brothers and sisters of Jesus (Mark 3:31–35 par.; 6:3 par.). Belief in the perpetual virginity of Mary led to the traditional Roman Catholic view that they were cousins or otherwise close relatives of Jesus; however, nothing in the respective contexts, or in the normal use of the terms, suggests such a meaning. Another view (held, e.g., by Eastern Orthodox churches) is that they were children of Joseph by an earlier marriage. Most Protestant scholars have argued that the ref. is to children of Joseph and Mary, i.e., younger half-brothers and half-sisters of Jesus (cf. ZEB 1:681–90). In any case, John 7:5 indicates that they did not recognize his mission during his earthly ministry, though evidently they did so later (cf. Acts 1:14; 1 Cor 9:5; Gal 1:19).”

      (Quote)  (Reply)

  41. Ken F (aka Tweed): I think you misunderstand the historical orthodox view of the Trinity.

    I’m pretty sure it’s well trodden pathway. A Christian friend has recommended N.T. Wright “how God became king”. She loaned me a copy. He’s a former Anglican bishop and it may help in my understanding since I was raised Anglican. Not sure if he addresses the Trinity or not.

      (Quote)  (Reply)

  42. And Now: back to the post

    Believe it or not, I’d never heard of the above song before reading this post. I suppose it’s bigger to the left of the Atlantic. Anyway, I’ve now:
     listened to the Pentatonix version
     read the Joan Clarkson article
     read the Holly Scheer article cited in the Joan Clarkson article (it’s Scheer who calls “Mary did you know” a “biblically illiterate Christmas tune”)
    and finally:
     re-listened to Gaudete, in versions by Steeleye Span and The King’s Singers

    I learned two things.

    Thing 1 of 2

    The song “Mary did you know” has been linked with a near-bottomless pit of evils, and the objections to it probably have a limited amount to do with the song itself.

    Thing 2 of 2

    I don’t actually like the song very much, though that’s not to say that other people aren’t allowed to like it if they want to.

      (Quote)  (Reply)

  43. Jack: N.T. Wright

    I like NT Wright. He very carefully and thoroughly explains his views, but he does not quickly get to his point. Reading his writings requires some patience.

      (Quote)  (Reply)

  44. Max: In the grand scheme of things, it really doesn’t make much of a whoop. Our focus should be on Jesus.

    I agree. Ironically, the “orthodox” teachings about Mary started out as a way to focus on Jesus. But it seems to me that over time the emphasis shifted. Isn’t it that way with a lot of things related to theology? What surprised me over the last several years is my discovery that many non-negotiable protestant beliefs are only a few hundred years old. That does not necessarily mean these beliefs are wrong. But it does make me believe I should be more careful in labeling certain viewponts as wrong.

      (Quote)  (Reply)

  45. Nick Bulbeck,

    “re-listened to Gaudete, in versions by Steeleye Span and The King’s Singers”
    +++++++++++++++++++

    oh, my goodness, such a beautiful song! i first heard it on the classical radio station’s christmas playlist some years ago. This is the recording i heard — it was so powerful to me. Libera children’s choir (previously called Angel’s Voices):

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HEPNURgLIqs

      (Quote)  (Reply)

  46. Very loosely on the topic of what does and does not make for good art…

    So, we’re watching Season 3 of Fargo on ******* (other subscription-based TV thingies are available).

    I was a bit nervous about watching it because of a small clip I’d seen of David Thewlis’s character, behaving in a way that was so loathsome I was worried I would be stuck associating one of my favourite actors with a character I absolutely hated. But oddly enough, the most dislikable character V.M. Varga is not the most unpleasant character in the drama (not least because Thewlis makes him complex enough to be interesting).

    Now, I know it’s just a drama, and that the characters are all pretend. But I’m autistic, OK, so it’s not that simple. The character I really can’t stand is the new police chief. He’s played by Shea Whigham, so I really need to see him playing a friend of Mary Poppins before I can watch anything else with him in it.

    IHTIH

      (Quote)  (Reply)

  47. elastigirl,

    That’s a really interesting recording! I’d always thought of it as fundamentally an a cappella song, but in the absence of any bass voice in a children’s choir, the instruments kind of make sense. (Very good top Bb from someone right at the end!)

      (Quote)  (Reply)

  48. Max,

    Max: Ricco: All the “worship” songs at our old Neo-Cal church were just expositions of Calvinist theology.

    I found it telling, and secretly took delight, that when our Calvinist congregation (which met in another church’s building) had song requests many people began choosing old favorites that were in the other church’s hymnal – good ol’ songs that had the nerve to declare God’s love for all men. You can take the hymns out of the hymnal, but you can’t take the love out of God.

      (Quote)  (Reply)

  49. Jack,

    This idea that Mary had no choice comes up every year from certain quarters. Huffpo did something on it a few years back. Here’s a particularly bizarre one from last year: https://medium.com/@artscisarah/jesus-was-a-rape-baby-98e652f2d8f8

    What they don’t understand is Hebrew thinking. Or, perhaps they don’t want to do that heavy lifting because it’s cool to make Mary a victim and God— a what? If we believe the story in the text, Mary was chosen because she was devout and therefore honored and—trusted by God. Her response was worthy of an Old Testament prophet —outside of the temple system. The mention of Elizabeth and Her subsequent encounter with her is indicative of this, also.

    As to her perpetual virginity, I admit I have not given it much thought. The comments from Ken F, as always, are extremely interesting!

    Ken F, if you are still reading, go to about the 55 min mark in the video below and listen to a non practicing person, non theologian, philosophy type social scientist explain what they think the NT scripture is teaching. When I heard it, I immediately thought of you and EO. Note how the practicing Jew seems to have only had Christianity explained to him through a Protestant lens. The whole vid is interesting from a philosophical view.

    https://youtu.be/1opHWsHr798

      (Quote)  (Reply)

  50. TS00: when our Calvinist congregation (which met in another church’s building) had song requests many people began choosing old favorites that were in the other church’s hymnal

    I hope they let ’em have it with “Whosoever Will” and “Whosoever Meaneth Me”!!

      (Quote)  (Reply)

  51. Max,

    Yep. There were some songs that our hymnal had simply reworded, but I always sang the original ‘all’s’ and ‘whosoever’s’, to my family’s dismay. 😉

      (Quote)  (Reply)

  52. GMFS

    At the time of writing, the New Horizons spacecraft is now under a gigameter from Kuiper Belt object Ultima Thule. Almost nothing is known about Ultima Thule; it’s next to miraculous (small “m”) that it’s detectable from earth at all, being only around 30km across. Even the New Horizons camera can’t resolve it very well yet, and the window of opportunity for observing it is extremely narrow; New Horizons will fly past at a distance of around 3000 km, but at 14 km a second. Here’s hoping for some data…

      (Quote)  (Reply)

  53. ION: Cricket

    Regular Wartburgers will be keen to know whether India wrapped up the win on Day 5 of the Third Test, or whether Australia pulled off a highly improbable run chase. It was India who got the final 2 wickets they needed, conceding (IIRC) only 5 more runs.

    Erratum:

    In a previous comment, I stated that Australia and India are playing a three-Test series; in fact they are playing four Tests. Apologies for any confusion caused.

      (Quote)  (Reply)

  54. ION: Fitba’

    So, Liverpool finish 2018 7 points clear at the top of the table, following our most bestest ever first half of a league season. What this means is that if we win our next 16 games, we’ll definitely be champions. That’s not going to happen, of course – naebdy wins 16 games in a row in the Premiership. Nor is Jurgen Klopp entertaining any talk of the title. Nevertheless, it’s better to 7 points clear at the top than 7 points adrift at the bottom.

    Incidentally, Dejan Lovren rather ill-advisedly spake of finishing the season unbeaten; this has been done before, but not often and it shouldn’t become a Thing until such time as it happens. But it did give me something to ponder whilst walking to the Co-Op this morning. It’s possible to go an entire Premiership season unbeaten, but still finish bottom.

    If you draw every one of your games, then yippee: you’re “The Invincibles”. But you finish on only 38 points, barely enough to avoid relegation in most seasons. Again, we’re talking here about a hypothetical and bizarre season in which a team draws 38 successive games. What if every other team wins every home game other than the one they draw with you? In that case, they pick up 54 points from those 18 home games, plus the 2 points they get in their two draws with you. The entire league season would come down to goal difference to separate 19 teams all on 56 points – but you, The Invincibles, are 16 points adrift at the bottom and are relegated.

    I think that’s a lesson for us all.

      (Quote)  (Reply)

  55. Jack: I’ve seen Marian veneration taken to some extremes. The belief that Mary is an eternal virg in. That she never entered into any conjugal relationship with her husband.
    It becomes a form of control. A woman must be protected in order to maintain this perfection. You wind up with a binary

    In focusing on the more incredible claims about Jesus and Mary, we point out how special they were, but may lose sight of the lives and words ascribed to them. Many Christians believe in both Gospel miracles and science. This is fine (it’s where I am, for what it’s worth), but it can tip over into denying people medical care, or blaming folks for not praying hard enough in the face of abuse. The insistence on not just believing but demanding miracles is idolatry. It pulls our attention away from the Magnificat and Jesus’ humble birth.

    The virgin birth narrative trips some people up. As a miracle, it sets Jesus and Mary apart. It also affects messages about lineage down to Jesus. Since Scripture records no marriage or children for Jesus, his ministry and heritage were not passed down through family. Instead he sent apostles, and we focus on teachings and evangelism.

    Every miracle has other meanings. Raising Lazarus from the dead showed Jesus’ power, but also his mercy, kindness, grief, and tolerance of others’ doubt and despair.

      (Quote)  (Reply)

  56. Jack: Abuse is a huge trigger word but what I’m trying to convey is Mary didn’t appear to have any choice in the matter. I can’t imagine a bigger power differential than the creator of the universe and a young woman.

    The discussion about Mary in the #metoo era might seem scandalous to some, but it’s inevitable. I’m confident that training young girls to emulate Mary’s obedience has come in handy as a means of grooming them for clergy abuse. However, the Mary of the Magnificat was no victim, nor was the Mary visiting Elizabeth and giving birth in a stable. She was powerful and strong, fully aware, and everyone can learn from that, including men and boys.

      (Quote)  (Reply)

  57. Ken F (aka Tweed),

    Good link Ken.
    Even though I remain unconvinced of perpetual virginity (but I don’t rule out the possibility), Cabe does bring up an interesting conjecture:

    Why do evangelical protestants and older traditions (EO and Catholic) have such an ambivalence about the human sex act in and of itself?

      (Quote)  (Reply)

  58. Lydia: This idea that Mary had no choice comes up every year from certain quarters. Huffpo did something on it a few years back. Here’s a particularly bizarre one from last year:

    They too live in their own bubblewrap world of:
    How can I impose my current ethos and mores onto a different time and place in which the analogues are tenuous at best?

      (Quote)  (Reply)

  59. Muff Potter: Why do evangelical protestants and older traditions (EO and Catholic) have such an ambivalence about the human sex act in and of itself?

    Hmm… We’re encouraged to empathize with Mary being scorned by people who thought she was a bad girl. This somehow allows the thought that there are actual bad girls deserving of scorn. I know scads of folks conceived out of wedlock but simply cannot add Jesus to the list. Guess I rely on the virgin birth story more than I thought.

      (Quote)  (Reply)

  60. Lydia: Note how the practicing Jew seems to have only had Christianity explained to him through a Protestant lens. The whole vid is interesting from a philosophical view.

    Fascinating discussion overall.
    Quite a vast difference (as one commenter said) from the vapid-shallow-cr@p on commercial media outlets.

      (Quote)  (Reply)

  61. Muff Potter: Why do evangelical protestants and older traditions (EO and Catholic) have such an ambivalence about the human sex act in and of itself?

    It seems as if all of humanity has an odd relationship with bodily functions, and especially sexuality. Is there a culture or religion anywhere that does not overemphasize sexuality by either elevating or denigrating it in one way or another?

      (Quote)  (Reply)

  62. Lydia: Ken F, if you are still reading, go to about the 55 min mark in the video below and listen to a non practicing person, non theologian, philosophy type social scientist explain what they think the NT scripture is teaching. When I heard it, I immediately thought of you and EO. Note how the practicing Jew seems to have only had Christianity explained to him through a Protestant lens. The whole vid is interesting from a philosophical view.

    Thanks for the link. Very interesting indeed. My big problem right now is I am becoming aware of that very lens in my own thinking, and as I investigate that lens I am left feeling not sure where to land. I feel like I am too protestant to become EO or RC, but not protestant enough to remain protestant. It’s hard to find people who understand this dilemma.

      (Quote)  (Reply)

  63. Ken F (aka Tweed): Is there a culture or religion anywhere that does not overemphasize sexuality by either elevating or denigrating it in one way or another?

    No, there is not.
    They’re all messed up in one direction or another with regard to human sexuality.

      (Quote)  (Reply)

  64. Ken F (aka Tweed),

    “I feel like I am too protestant to become EO or RC, but not protestant enough to remain protestant. It’s hard to find people who understand this dilemma.”
    +++++++++++++++++++

    maybe that’s equilibrium. maybe there’s no dilemma at all, but rather freedom to define your perspective as you see it (an evolving thing). sounds like a great place to be.

    i think most reasonable people are fairly open-minded, and their perspective is always evolving.

      (Quote)  (Reply)

  65. Ken F (aka Tweed): I feel like I am too protestant to become EO or RC, but not protestant enough to remain protestant. It’s hard to find people who understand this dilemma.

    I feel like I know what you are talking about. I discovered EO theology through Paul Young and Baxter Kruger. They aren’t Orthodox, but the way they talk about God is more similar to how EO would talk about Him. For me, my current solution is to attend a more traditional, liturgical Protestant Church and just relate to the symbolism and liturgy in a way that works for me. That often means my mind wanders during the sermon, but at least it’s only 10 minutes and not 45-60 like in our old Neo-Cal church. I can get great books on theology and scripture on my own, what I can’t get is the participatory symbolism of a liturgical service without going to church.

      (Quote)  (Reply)

  66. elastigirl: maybe that’s equilibrium. maybe there’s no dilemma at all, but rather freedom to define your perspective as you see it (an evolving thing). sounds like a great place to be.

    You said it better than I would have had I launched into a statement declaring myself a semi-Voltaireian free thinker.

      (Quote)  (Reply)

  67. Ricco: For me, my current solution is to attend a more traditional, liturgical Protestant Church and just relate to the symbolism and liturgy in a way that works for me.

    That’s what I am doing right now. Not sure where I will ultimately land, but it’s a lot safer than where I was.

      (Quote)  (Reply)

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *