Mary: Infallible, Immaculate Virgin, or Fallible Woman? 


12.1 Mary: A Biblical Debate

Transcript Of A Debate With Philip Bartlett

Written debate


Supporting the fallibility of Mary: Mr. Duncan Heaster

Against the fallibility of Mary: Mr. Philip Bartlett (Catholic)


12-1-1 Opening Statement By Duncan Heaster: False Worship Of Mary

12-1-2 Catholic Opening Statement By Philip Bartlett: The Catholic View Of Mary

Duncan Heaster’s response to Philip Bartlett’s opening statement

12-1-3 Mary And Catholic Interpretation

12-1-3-2 Was Mary A Perpetual Virgin?

12-1-4 Questions to Mr. Bartlett from Mr. Heaster: Mary As A Mortal Woman

(Note: Mr. Bartlett was previously a Presbyterian at the time of his debate about the Sabbath transcripted elsewhere in this book)

The Mary Debate: Opening Statement By Duncan Heaster

False Worship Of Mary

According to the Bible, the mediation of God’s grace and salvation to human beings is through Jesus Christ- not Mary, as Catholics claim. Not until the 4th century is there any mention of Mary worship; the early tradition of the church did not consider her worthy of worship. It is surely inappropriate to reason that later, some church tradition demanded her worship; for this would imply that her actual status changed once the church claimed she deserved worship. If church tradition is to guide our views of who Mary essentially is, then we have a problem- for that tradition changed over time. The only unchangeable source of authority is the Bible alone- the word of God rather than the changing word of men.

The Bible is very clear that Jesus was the seed or son of Abraham and David. The first verse of the New Testament makes this point (Mt. 1:1), and Paul says that this is crucial to the Gospel of Jesus (Gal. 3:8,16). Jesus was made of the seed of David (Rom. 1:4), and this was only possible because His mother Mary was also a literal descendant of David and Abraham. He had to be of our human nature in order to be able to manifest God in the flesh (1 Tim. 3:16), to show us God in human terms; and in order to do battle with our human sin. On account of this, He became our Saviour from sin, because He was truly our representative (Heb. 2:14-18; 4:15,16). Mary’s humanity is brought out by the way Lk. 1:42 calls her blessed among women- not above women.

“Mother Of God”

This phrase first occurred in 431AD, at the Council of Ephesus. Until then there had been no mention of this phrase, neither in the Bible nor in church writings before that date. One wrong doctrine lead to another, just as a mistaken interpretation in any area leads to further erroneous understanding. The idea of the trinity, with its supposition that Jesus is God, lead to the assumption that Mary must therefore have been the mother of God. And this does indeed logically follow, if indeed Jesus is God. It likewise follows that Joseph was the step-father of God, Elizabeth was God’s aunty, John the Baptist was God’s cousin, Heli was God’s grandfather etc. All this is rejected by Protestants and Catholics alike. And yet it is the logical inference from the idea that ‘Jesus is God’. The difference between Catholic and Protestant views is therefore, in my opinion, hard to understand. They both alike made the basic mistake of adopting the unbiblical doctrine of the trinity; and were left with the logical corollary that therefore, Mary was the mother of God. Protestantism just blindly denies it, whereas Catholicism accepts it. I have shown elsewhere that Jesus is not God Himself, and that the Bible knows nothing of the word ‘trinity’. The Biblical title of Mary is the “mother of Jesus”, but not the mother of God. Note too that Jesus never called Mary “mother” but rather “woman”. All worship was to Jesus, not to Mary- even when she was present [note especially Mt. 2:11, and the gifts of the wise men to Jesus, not Mary). Repeatedly, God’s people refused worship that was offered to them and redirected it towards God (Acts 10:25,26; 14:14,15; Rev. 22:8,9).

When Constantine made ‘Christianity’ the official religion of the Roman empire, he faced a problem. The people preferred to worship their existing pagan gods. And so he turned their pagan worship into Christian worship. Thus the feast of December 25th was turned into the celebration of the supposed birth of Jesus, even though Jesus was not born on that day. The pagan people of the time had many beloved female deities- Isis, Ishtar, Diana, Athena, Aphrodite etc. These were simply transferred to Mary. The statues to them became statues to Mary. And to this day, Catholicism continues to absorb local heroes as saints, and turns local goddesses into the image of the Madonna. An example would be how the Virgin of Guadalupe, worshipped by pagan tribes in Mexico, was turned into the Virgin Mary. This is why the statues to her there show her without the babe in her arms, to heighten the similarity with the previously worshipped Virgin of Guadalupe. It is significant that Catholics call Mary “Queen of Heaven”, when the only reference to this in the Bible reveals that this was a pagan goddess of fertility, Astarte- and Israel were condemned for praying to her (Jud. 2:13; Jer. 7:18; 44:17-19,25).

The following table seeks to express how far the Catholic view of Mary is in direct contradiction to the Bible text, quoting from The Glories of Mary by Cardinal Alphonse de Ligouri (Brooklyn, NY: Redemptorist Fathers):

Catholic View of Mary

Biblical View of Mary

“She is truly a mediatress of peace between sinners and God. Sinners receive pardon by…Mary alone…Mary is our life” (pp. 80-83)

“There is one mediator between God and men, the man Christ…I am the way…the life…Christ…our life” (1 Tim. 2:5; Jn. 14:6; Col. 3:4)

“Mary is called…the gate of Heaven because no one can enter that blessed Kingdom without passing through her” (p. 160)

“I am the door. By me, if any man enter in, he shall be saved” (Jn. 10:1,7,9)

“The way of salvation is open to none otherwise than through Mary…our salvation is in the hands of Mary” (p. 160,169)

“No man cometh to the Father but by me…neither is there salvation in any other” (Jn. 14:6; Acts 4:12)

“All power is given to thee in Heaven and on earth [so that] at the command of Mary all obey…even God” (pp. 180,181)

“All power is given unto me in Heaven and in earth…in the name of Jesus every knee should bow” (Mt. 28:19; Phil. 2:9-11; Col. 1:18).

Mary is “the advocate of the whole human race” (p. 193)

“We have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ” (1 Jn. 2:1,2; Jn. 16:23,24)

“Mary is the peacemaker between sinners and God” (p. 197)

“In Christ Jesus, you, who were sometimes afar off, are made nigh by the blood of Christ. For he is our peace…” (Eph. 2:13,14)

The obvious conclusion from all this is that Catholicism has replaced the unique Priestly achievement of Jesus with their traditions about Mary. But how did this travesty develop? It seems to me that the Catholic image of Jesus is of a grim faced, suffering body, tortured in order to appease the wrath of an angry God. Mary is then presented as the balance to this- a sweet faced, merciful, saintly woman who can turn the hearts of an otherwise angry and dissatisfied Father and Son toward us. But this is all based on an unbalanced reading of the Bible text. God is angry with sin, but He is a God who delights to forgive and who takes no pleasure in punishing sin. The whole Old Testament portrays God as something of a ‘softie’, countless times showing quite undeserved mercy to His people. And the Lord Jesus did suffer of course, but with the half glance of imminent victory surely in His face, as the athlete straining to victoriously finish the race. Biblically, He is portrayed as the joyful victor, generously sharing the prize with us the unworthy. His love and the Father’s grace is quite enough- it needs no kindly Madonna to balance it out. Jesus Himself was “moved with compassion” during His ministry- He hardly needs Mary to prompt Him to be more merciful, as Catholic theology teaches. Likewise, He is the only Mediator with God- it doesn’t need Mary to do this, because of the implication that He isn’t sympathetic enough (1 Tim. 2:5; Jn. 14:6; Acts 4:12; Heb. 7:25; 9:15; Rom. 8:34; 1 Jn. 2:1). This travesty of understanding all arises from a refusal to accept that Jesus was truly of our nature, and for this reason He can be compassionate on our weaknesses (Heb. 2:14-18; 4:15,16). A sacrifice is needed to atone for sins and to mediate with God- and Jesus, not Mary, was this sacrifice. This is why Jesus was our only saviour. Yet Popes Benedict 15 and Pius 11 both call Mary the “co-redeemer” of humanity, along with Jesus. This to my mind is the most fundamental problem with Catholic Mariolatry- the fundamental and unique work of Jesus has been denied by it.

Duncan Heaster

Catholic Opening Statement By Philip Bartlett: The Catholic View Of Mary

(Note: Mr. Bartlett was previously a Presbyterian at the time of his debate about the Sabbath transcripted elsewhere)

Important Preliminary Bases of Discussion

A common objection by those of the Protestant heretical faiths expressed in opposition to the fundamental Catholic Marian dogmas is that it is idolatrous. What I intend to prove, and what the intent of this debate is, is to defend the Marian dogmas of the Catholic Church as legitimate, and to defend the veneration of Mary as a legitimate activity. The fullness of the Christian church, which is the Holy Catholic and Apostolic Church (commonly known among Protestants as Roman Catholicism) has defended the doctrines of Mary from her very inception. While the doctrines themselves may not have been as fully explored by the faithful, they were totally and entirely present from the very beginning, yet not expressed so clearly and consistently as we have them today. The clearness and consistency came over the course of many centuries as the doctrines and devotions were compared over and against heretical groups that formed and opposed the truth.

Before we can even engage in a “Biblical” discussion of Marian truth, we have to examine the origins of the Bible, and the authoritative interpretation of it. Without an authorized interpretation of a document, it is very easy for different renditions and meanings to derive themselves out of that same document according the likings of the individuals and persons who are interpreting the words. This has been the technique of the heretic, starting from the Gnostics, and ending with the many heretical Protestant groups we find present today. The fundamental doctrine of “sola scriptura” championed by most Protestants, is inherently fallacious and renders it absolutely impossible to come to a definitive truth on any issue since vague words can be interpreted many ways, and it is impossible to deduce the preconceptions of the author of words with 100% accuracy.

Where does the Bible come from? The Bible and its books were selected by the Catholic Church infallibly with the aide of the Holy Spirit in 383AD. Books including the Peters, Revelation, and the Johns were all highly disputed as to whether or not they were authentically from the apostles. In addition, letters like the Epistle of Clement, the Didache and others were seen by many as worthy of insertion into the Bible’s “table of contents”, especially that of the New Testament. Amidst all of this controversy, the Catholic Church determined infallibly precisely which books belonged in the Bible. Since no one could be absolutely certain which books came from the apostles, in the end people trusted that the Holy Spirit guided the Catholic Church infallibly in its determination of the contents of the divine revelation. The final authority on all matters was the Catholic Church’s interpretation of the sacred scripture, even as it had the authority to define the parameters of that scripture. It would be absurd to posit one without the other. All interpretations contrary to the universal Catholic Church’s interpretation would of course be heretical, and to this day are still heretical.

That said, the only value that can be derived from a Biblical discussion is a discussion preset within the parameters of divine authority, and as defined by the proper interpretation of the text. It has already been proven that sola scriptura is inconsistent and contradictory (because it cannot determine the truth of any matter with certainty). However, the catholic understanding of how to discern the divine will (the interpretation of the Catholic church founded and established on Christ and the apostles) is far more logically consistent, and of course provable through tests of logical consistency.

And of course, one more important point needs to be raised before we delve into the crux of the matter. Catholics do not rely on scripture alone to discern the will of God. The will of God for the Catholic, since the time of the apostles themselves, extended beyond the written scriptures, and into the oral Word of God as passed from the apostles in custom, words, and signs. This oral word would of course be protected and preserved by the Holy Spirit. How do we know that this oral word is authoritative? Very simply, because it is based on the only logically consistent methodology of discerning God’s will. Sola scriptura obviously is NOT logically consistent, as was demonstrated before through the problem of multiple interpretations.

So where does this place Mary. I will now offer to the world, and to my opponent Duncan Heaster and his heretical sect of the Christadephians, the Catholic interpretation of the scriptures relating to Mary, as enriched by its tradition and oral teaching. Please note that I have already proven that one is forced to accept the Catholic interpretation if he wishes to be logically consistent in his understanding of reality.

Do Catholics Worship Mary?

Catholics do not worship Mary. Catholics venerate Mary. This is a very important point that cannot be emphasized enough. Let us begin looking at the bible by examining this following important and essential verse where the angel comes and says to Mary:

Luke 1: 28 And the angel being come in, said unto her: Hail, full of grace, the Lord is with thee: blessed art thou among women.

As we can see from this verse, we have an angel of God most high saying the following words: “Hail, full of grace…. Blessed art thou”. This is almost the precise wording of the Catholic Hail Mary prayer. Now is the angel in this verse worshipping Mary as the angel worships God? Absolutely not! Rather the angel is venerating (respecting) Mary and giving her honor, but an honor that is less than the worship he gives to God. Catholics do the precise same thing. Informed Catholics will tell you that the worship of Mary as a goddess, or as God, would be a serious error and a very wicked sin. Rather, Catholics merely venerate Mary. We venerate her, and because as Christ said

Matthew 22:31 And concerning the resurrection of the dead, have you not read that which was spoken by God, saying to you: 32 I am the God of Abraham and the God of Isaac and the God of Jacob? He is not the God of the dead but of the living.

We can safely conclude that Mary is living and that she hears the prayers that are directed to her. Mary of course does not assist directly as God, but rather intercedes for us with prayers to Christ on our behalf. As the scriptures record “the prayer of a righteous man [in this case a righteous woman] availeth much”. Does this mean that Christ is no longer sole mediator between God and man? Absolutely not! Christ is the sole mediator between God and man in the covenant sense of the New Covenant, and the satisfaction and redemption of our iniquities. This, ladies and gentlemen, is the proper interpretation of the sacred scripture.

Old Testament Types and Shadows

A common method of examining the scripture is to demonstrate from the Old Testament the hidden kernels that point to truths that will be fully revealed in the New Testament. For example we have the crossing of the Red Sea representing baptism, the Passover Lamb representing the sacrifice of Christ. Let us look at a very important type of Mary as an essential mediator for the people of God. Let us also look at her role as Queen of Heaven, or Queen of the Kingdom of Heaven, as presented in this type. Mary carries a special distinction among the saints of heaven who are presently alive with Christ in Glory.

1 Kings 2:12 And Solomon sat upon the throne of his father David, and his kingdom was strengthened exceedingly. 13 And Adonias, the son of Haggith, came to Bethsabee the mother of Solomon. And she said to him: Is thy coming peaceable? He answered: It is peaceable.14 And he added: I have a word to speak with thee. She said to him: Speak. And he said: 15 Thou knowest that the kingdom was mine, and all Israel had preferred me to be their king: but the kingdom is transferred, and is become my brother’s: for it was appointed him by the Lord. 16 Now therefore, I ask one petition of thee; turn not away my face. And she said to him: Say on. 17 And he said I pray thee speak to king Solomon (for he cannot deny thee any thing) to give me Abisag, the Sunamitess, to wife. 18 And Bethsabee said: Well, I will speak for thee to the king. 19 Then Bethsabee came to king Solomon, to speak to him for Adonias: and the king arose to meet her, and bowed to her, and sat down upon his throne: and a throne was set for the king’s mother, and she sat on his right hand. 20 And she said to him: I desire one small petition of thee; do not put me to confusion. And the king said to her: My mother ask, for I must not turn away thy face. 21 And she said: Let Abisag, the Sunamitess, be given to Adonias, thy brother, to wife. 22 And king Solomon answered, and said to his mother: Why dost thou ask Abisag, the Sunamitess, for Adonias? ask for him also the kingdom; for he is my elder brother, and hath Abiathar, the priest, and Joab, the son of Sarvia. 23 Then king Solomon swore by the Lord, saying: So and so may God do to me, and add more, if Adonias hath not spoken this word against his own life. 24 And now, as the Lord liveth, who hath established me, and placed me upon the throne of David, my father, and who hath made me a house, as he promised, Adonias shall be put to death this day. 25 And king Solomon sent by the hand of Banaias, the son of Joiada, who slew him, and he died.

What is present here is absolutely fascinating typology. We have Bethsabee, the mother of Solomon, the “Queen mother” who in the kingdom of Israel was always the king’s mother, being petitioned by a member of the house of God (Israel) to speak before the King and present a request, knowing that the weight of the Queen mother has great authority. The petition is not granted of course because Solomon in his wisdom can see that this is a plot that Bethsabee is not aware of, but even so, the dynamics of the situation present the greatest interest. It apparently was custom for people to seek the Queen mother as a very important and influential channel to the King, and to sway the King into the favour of the petitioner. This is what Catholics today find in Mary. Mary, with her righteous prayers, as Queen of the Kingdom of Heaven (Queen Mother of the New Israel), presents the requests that we give her to Christ (hence “pray for us now and at the hour of our death”). Because she is especially favoured by Christ, she can obtain for us what our prayers may not be because of our sinful condition before God, or because of our lack of grace. This of course does not detract at all from Christ being “sole mediator” of the New Covenant, as long as we understand what the scripture means by the words “sole mediator”, and what the apostle Paul intended by them.

We of course have the example in Exodus of Moses petitioning God and mediating between God and Israel that God would spare Israel despite its worship of the golden calf. Did this in any way detract from the sole mediatorship of Jesus Christ? The answer of course, is absolutely not. The sacrifice of Christ was the central sole mediation between God and men in the Old Covenant as in the New, as represented through the blood of the slaughtered animals. Once again, the prayer of a righteous man avails much.

Ask Christians we ask each other for our prayers. This is nothing other than asking our fellow Christians to mediate or intercede with God for us. This of course does not detract from Christ’s sole mediatorship as covenant head and representative. The heretic might object “do not we stop praying for each other after we die?” The answer is found in Revelation, and that answer is no. We have clear descriptions of the saints and angels in heaven offering prayers for the saints in earth, their prayers being offered up to God as incense and a sweet sacrifice:


Revelation 5:1 And when he had opened the seventh seal, there was silence in heaven, as it were for half an hour. 2 And I saw seven angels standing in the presence of God: and there were given to them seven trumpets. 3 And another angel came and stood before the altar, having a golden censer: and there was given to him much incense, that he should offer of the prayers of all saints, upon the golden altar which is before the throne of God.4 And the smoke of the incense of the prayers of the saints ascended up before God from the hand of the angel. 5 And the angel took the censer and filled it with the fire of the altar and cast it on the earth: and there were thunders and voices and lightnings and a great earthquake. 6 And the seven angels who had the seven trumpets prepared themselves to sound the trumpet.

Revelation 6:10 And they cried with a loud voice, saying:

How long, O Lord (Holy and True), dost thou not judge and revenge our blood on them that dwell on the earth?

Was Mary Conceived Without Original Sin?

The answer to this question is yes. Going back to the first scripture quote in this essay, we find the words “hail full (or filled) with grace”. This proves that Mary from birth was completely filled with the grace of God. Nevertheless, this does not stop her from calling the Lord her “saviour” later on in Luke. How then is God her saviour if she was born filled with holiness and grace, and without any hint of sin? Because God counted Christ’s merits to her before she was born, that is why. With all other people, of course, God counts Christ’s merits at baptism, when the grace of God first enters the soul and original sin is washed away through the covenantal waters, as the ultimate expression of a living vibrant faith.

Was Mary Perpetually Virgin?

The answer to this question is absolutely. The scriptures cannot prove the issue either way, since all references to “brothers” of Christ can easily be interpreted in the original languages to mean cousins or relatives in general. There is no word that specifically means brothers. Therefore, since the language is so vague, it comes down to a matter of interpretation. And of course, there is only one authentic interpretation of scripture.


As we can see, the catholic interpretation of Mary is thoroughly rooted in the scriptures, the scriptures that the Catholic Church determined were scriptures of course. Without the Catholic Church, there would be no canon of the New Testament. In the same way, without the Catholic Church, there can be no authentic and completely accurate interpretation of the New Testament and the doctrines of Mary. The Catholic dogmas of Mary are true and completely holy, and no Catholic need be ashamed of even one of them. I end with some quotes from the early fathers in their interpretations of the sacred writ:

Ephraim the Syrian

" You victorious martyrs who endured torments gladly for the sake of the God and Saviour, you who have boldness of speech toward the Lord himself, you saints, intercede for us who are timid and sinful men, full of sloth, that the grace of Christ may come upon us, and enlighten the hearts of all of us so that we may love him" (Commentary on Mark [A.D. 370]).


" The Book [the Protoevangelium] of James [records] that the brethren of Jesus were sons of Joseph by a former wife, whom he married before Mary. Now those who say so wish to preserve the honor of Mary in virginity to the end, so that body of hers which was appointed to minister to the Word . . . might not know intercourse with a man after the Holy Spirit came into her and the power from on high overshadowed her. And I think it in harmony with reason that Jesus was the firstfruit among men of the purity which consists in [perpetual] chastity, and Mary was among women. For it were not pious to ascribe to any other than to her the firstfruit of virginity" (Commentary on Matthew 2:17 [A.D. 248]).


" In being born of a Virgin who chose to remain a Virgin even before she knew who was to be born of her, Christ wanted to approve virginity rather than to impose it. And he wanted virginity to be of free choice even in that woman in whom he took upon himself the form of a slave" (Holy Virginity 4:4 [A.D. 401]).

" It was not the visible sun, but its invisible Creator who consecrated this day for us, when the Virgin Mother, fertile of womb and integral in her virginity, brought him forth, made visible for us, by whom, when he was invisible, she too was created. A Virgin conceiving, a Virgin bearing, a Virgin pregnant, a Virgin bringing forth, a Virgin perpetual. Why do you wonder at this, O man?" (Sermons 186:1 [A.D. 411]).

" Heretics called Antidicomarites are those who contradict the perpetual virginity of Mary and affirm that after Christ was born she was joined as one with her husband" (Heresies 56 [A.D. 428]).

Duncan Heaster’s response to Philip Bartlett’s opening statement


Mary And Catholic Interpretation

The Question of Authority

Mr. Bartlett’s statements are in italics

Without an authorized interpretation of a document, it is very easy for different renditions and meanings to derive themselves out of that same document

This would imply that there is only one true interpretation of each Bible verse, supplied by the Catholics. But Catholic interpreters contradict themselves, and have never published an authoritative exposition of the Bible. The problem of Biblical interpretation is solved by the Catholic by saying that the Church is the interpreter. But this is in essence the same thing done by Mormons, J.W.s and the like- the Bible is accepted, but must be interpreted by the church and their other documents. On what basis, then, should one chose to believe the Catholic interpretation of the Bible as opposed to, say, that of the J.W.s? Personal preference and background seem to be the only factors. Yet I submit that the only true way to interpret the Bible is by reading it for oneself, comparing Scripture with Scripture. This was indeed the attitude of Jesus, when He bade men “search the scriptures”; and it was the example set by the Bereans, who searched the Scriptures daily for themselves, to know whether Paul’s preaching was indeed true (Acts 17:11).

At ordination, Catholic priests promise to interpret Scripture according to “the unanimous consent of the fathers”. But the early church fathers held contradictory views- e.g. concerning whether Jesus would personally return to Jerusalem and reign there 1000 years. The Popes too have contradicted each other- e.g. Gregory the Great said that to use the title “Universal Bishop” was anti-Christian. But other Popes used it. So if the Catholic is to interpret the Bible in accordance with the past interpretations of the church fathers…well, he can’t do it. Because they contradict each other. The doctrine of the immaculate conception of Mary was denied by great Catholic scholars like Anselm, Bonaventura and Thomas Aquinas. There would, therefore, be little point in the average Catholic reading the Bible for themselves. This is why traditionally the Catholics have forbidden lay people to read the Bible for themselves. One is merely required to be obedient to the church, not to search Scripture for oneself, as Jesus and Paul so often encouraged us to do.

Where does the Bible come from? The Bible and its books were selected by the Catholic Church infallibly with the aid of the Holy Spirit in 383AD.

But the Catholic Church as it is now was not in existence in 383. The first ‘pope’ was Gregory 1, who was called that only in 604. It was not until about this time that the bishops of Rome began to claim spiritual superiority over the whole Christian world. At 383, it was the Eastern churches who were far more dominant that the Western, Roman church in all such decision making. The canon of the New Testament had been decided in practice well before 383; the conferences of churches at that time merely put a stamp of approval on what already was available. Mr. Bartlett is quite wrong to say that “The Bible” was selected by the Catholics. The Old Testament canon had been fixed well before the time of Jesus. The Catholics had no part to play in formulating that canon. And the Bible came from God, by inspiration of men- not from the Catholic church.

The final authority on all matters was the Catholic Church’s interpretation of the sacred scripture, even as it had the authority to define the parameters of that scripture.

So one error has lead to another. It doesn’t mean that because someone played a part in deciding the composition of Scripture, their supposed spiritual descendants therefore must have the right interpretation of it. And as I have shown, the Catholic church didn’t exist when the canon of the NT was decided, and it certainly didn’t exist when the OT canon was decided. So on Mr. Bartlett’s logic, the Catholic church has in any case no right to pronounce upon matters of interpretation in the OT.

The Catholic Interpretations of the Bible Text

Matthew 22:31: “And concerning the resurrection of the dead, have you not read that which was spoken by God, saying to you: I am the God of Abraham and the God of Isaac and the God of Jacob? He is not the God of the dead but of the living”. We can safely conclude that Mary is living and that she hears the prayers that are directed to her.

Jesus goes on to say in the parallel Lk. 20:38: “For all live unto him”. Because God is outside of time, He can look forward to the resurrection as if it is has happened, and in that sense He considers the faithful who have died to be alive- so sure is their hope of a future resurrection to life. Thus because “God… quickeneth the dead [He] calleth those things which be not as though they were” (Rom. 4:17). I have elsewhere shown [Bible Basics chapter 4] that death is unconsciousness. Mary is not now alive, so she isn’t mediating prayers.

What is present here is absolutely fascinating typology. We have Bethsabee, the mother of Solomon, the “Queen mother” who in the kingdom of Israel was always the king’s mother, being petitioned by a member of the house of God (Israel) to speak before the King and present a request, knowing that the weight of the Queen mother has great authority

This seems to me to be intellectually desperate- to claim that Bathsheba was a type of Mary. Bathsheba wasn’t a virgin, she was an adulteress. Is this true of Mary too…? Any mother who influenced her son is going to be seen by Mr. Bartlett as a type of the Mary he imagines. But the New Testament nowhere suggests to us that we should read Bathsheba as a type of Mary.

We of course have the example in Exodus of Moses petitioning God and mediating between God and Israel that God would spare Israel despite its worship of the golden calf. Did this in any way detract from the sole mediatorship of Jesus Christ? The answer of course, is absolutely not.

We have NT authority for seeing Moses’ mediation as a type of that of Jesus- but not of Mary.

“hail full (or filled) with grace”. This proves that Mary from birth was completely filled with the grace of God.

The passage says nothing about her being strangely filled with grace from birth. John the Baptist had the Holy Spirit from his mother’s womb, but he was still an ordinary person like us. The more common translations read: “Hail, thou that art highly favoured” (Lk. 1:28). She was highly favoured to be the mother of God’s son. The only other time the Greek phrase translated “highly favoured” occurs is in Eph. 1:6, where we learn that we are made accepted or favoured in Christ. Mary didn’t have any special favour or filling with grace which other human beings can’t have.

Was Mary A Perpetual Virgin?

The answer to this question is absolutely. The scriptures cannot prove the issue either way… As we can see, the catholic interpretation of Mary is thoroughly rooted in the scriptures

This is mutually contradictory. If the Bible doesn’t clearly say whether Mary had other children or not, then how can it then be claimed by Mr. Bartlett that the Catholic view is rooted in Scripture?

I am aware that the references to the “brothers” of Jesus are read by the Catholics as meaning His relatives / cousins- even though there is a distinctly different Greek word translated “cousin” in Col. 4:10. But this is by no means certain. Psalm 69 is full of reference to Jesus, and is quoted in several parts of the New Testament about Him (Jn. 2:17; 15:25; Rom. 15:3; Mt. 27:34; Acts 1:20). Verse 8 speaks of how “I am become a stranger unto my brethren [= Jn. 7:5], and an alien unto my mother’s children”. This would support the more natural reading of the NT texts as meaning that the “brothers” of Jesus were indeed the children of Mary. He was her first son (Lk. 2:7), and Joseph did not have intercourse with her until she had brought forth Jesus (Mt. 1:25). She rejoiced in “God my saviour” (Lk. 1:47), and she seems to call Jesus her “Lord” in the same passage. Note that Jesus was Mary’s ‘firstborn’ son. The Greek prototokos is used, rather than a word [monogenes] which could easily have been used if Jesus had been her only child (Lk. 2:7). And observe that when Luke wants to speak of an only child, he does so specifically (Lk. 7:12; 8:42).

As I showed in my first statement, Jesus was the son of David and Abraham through Mary. Therefore she too was one of their descendants. She was therefore also “in Adam”, and “in Adam all die” (1 Cor. 15:22). She needed redemption- hence her thankfulness for a saviour. She brought the sin offering for her purification as required by the Law on childbirth (Lk. 2:22-24 cp. Lev. 12:6-8). Augustine said that Mary’s flesh was “flesh of sin” and that “Mary, springing from Adam, died because of sin”. If the Catholic is to interpret the Bible in accordance with the views of the early fathers, then he or she has to deny the later Catholic pronouncements about her immaculate conception.

This idea that Mary was sinless led to the statement by Pope Pius 12 in 1950, that Mary’s body rose from the grave shortly after her death and she ascended to Heaven. But the Bible knows nothing of this. If Mary died, then she was mortal. And why was she mortal? Because she was a descendant of Adam. So she could not have been somehow separate from the rest of the human race. There is no way that Catholics can claim that this feature of their belief about Mary has any Biblical support. It is purely church dogma.

The Weakness of Mary

The following incidents all reflect the weakness of Mary’s understanding, and the need for Jesus to almost rebuke her at times. I quote these to show us her humanity, so that by her being the more real, she might be the more credible and inspiring to us:

When the shepherds came to worship, Mary pondered within herself what it all meant, as if she was now rather lacking in comprehension (Lk. 2:19).

12 years later, when Jesus is lost in the temple, she scolds Him that his father [Joseph] and her have been seeking for Him. Hence Jesus gently rebuked her that He was about His true Father’s business, in His true Father’s house. Her description of Joseph as “thy father” is surely worthy of the Lord’s rebuke. She had allowed the views of the world to influence her view of the Lord. Jesus told them that they should have sought Him in His true Father’s house- and this may not only be a reference to the temple, but to the way in which they had assumed He was somewhere with the house / family of Joseph in the convoy; and perhaps they had gone round Joseph’s relatives in Jerusalem hunting for Him.

Mary and Joseph were “amazed” (Lk. 2:48). She shared Joseph's amazement; and the word is only used of the amazement / incomprehension of the crowds- Mt. 7:28; 13:54; 19:25; 22:33; Mk. 10:26. Slowly she became influenced by the world's view of her son- not totally, but partially, to the extent that she lost that keen perception and height of spiritual ambition which she had earlier had.

Lk. 2:50 records that “she understood not”, using the same phrase as is on the lips of the Lord in Mt. 13:13, speaking of those without who " hear not neither do they understand”; and ominously, Mary stood without and asked to see Jesus, only to be told that His real mothers were those women sitting around Him listening to His words. When she stands outside the house asking to speak with Jesus, she is identified with her other children who considered Jesus crazy. Jesus says that His mothers are those who hear the word of God and do it. There is a rather unpleasant connection between Mk. 3:32 “they stood without” and Mark 4:11 " unto them that are without, all these things are done in parables" . And further, Lk. 13:25 speaks of how the rejected shall stand without [same words] knocking and asking to speak with the Lord.

The incident at Cana shows her lack of perception of the true nature of her son’s work at that time. He hadn't done any miracles before, so was she asking Him to begin His ministry with a miracle? She knew He had the power to do them- she had perceived that much. When the Lord explains to her that His hour has not yet come, He is clearly alluding to His death. For this is how “the hour” is always understood in John’s Gospel (Jn. 4:21, 23; 5:25, 28, 29; 7:30; 8:20; 12:23, 27; 13:1; 16:25; 17:1). So Jesus replies to Mary’s nudge ‘make them some wine!’ by saying that the time for His death has not yet come- she was premature in her request, she didn’t fully understand. Note how He assumes that by ‘wine’ she means His blood. He assumes she is on a higher level of spiritual symbolism than she actually was.

The Bible reading Catholic will simply find that the actual Biblical account of Mary is simply at variance with the dogmas of their church. And thus they are thrown up against a tremendous question, of eternal import: to accept the word of God, or the word of men. Our prayers, our love, our desire, are firmly with all those who now perceive that choice.

Duncan Heaster

Questions to Mr. Bartlett from Mr. Heaster

Mary As A Mortal Woman

1. If Mary died, as Catholics claim, then she was a mortal woman. How could she have been mother of God, who is immortal?

2. How was Jesus the son of David and Abraham if Mary was not an ordinary woman conceived of their lineage?

3. If the Catholic view of Mary is based on their interpretation of Scripture, what Scripture are they interpreting in claiming that Mary was 'assumed' up into Heaven bodily after her death?

4. Mr. Bartlett claims we must accept the Catholic interpretation of the Bible because the Catholics chose the canon. But this only applies to the New Testament. Are we free to interpret the Old Testament without reference to the Catholic church?

Concluding Statement from Duncan Heaster

This debate is essentially about authority. The only authority for the individual Christian can be the Lord God and the word of His Son. The authority which is vested in their word, the Bible, is a rational, benevolent authority under which we can find our authentic human freedom. The authority which is wielded by the Catholic church is, I submit, a false authority, an authority which crushes humanity, which dehumanizes people. And the very fact we are created in God’s image means that we should not dehumanize our fellow man in any way. It is my observation from living many years in fiercely Catholic Lithuania and Poland that this is sadly the effect Catholic authoritarianism has upon people. The mind is free only under the authority of truth, under the personal yoke of Jesus who is “the truth” (Mt. 11:29.30). There can be no ultimate truth in any human organization- and the fact that the Catholic church has provenly changed its mind over what is truth is evidence enough that ‘the church’ can be no ultimate authority.

Note: Mr. Bartlett declined to continue the debate after the first round.


In Lk. 9:18-20, the Lord Jesus asks His men: “Whom say the people that I am?”. Why did He ask this? Surely, with His sensitivity and insight into people and society, He knew full well the various theories that first Century Palestine entertained about Him. It seems to me that He asked this question for the disciples’ sake; He wanted them to reflect upon the wide range of wrong theories which there were concerning His identification. And this led on to His next question: “But whom say ye that I am? Peter answering said, The Christ of God”. Surely the Lord Jesus knew what they thought of Him, without needing to ask them. Philip and Nathanael had earlier revealed that they considered Jesus of Nazareth to be the Messiah and “the Son of God” (Jn. 1:45,49). So, why did the Lord ask this question? Again, it was surely to focus His disciples upon the reality of the fact that despite all the various wrong theories, they actually knew the truth about Him.

But the Lord then goes on to His essential point: “Tell no man that thing; saying, The Son of man must suffer many things…and be slain, and be raised…If any man will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross daily, and follow me…For what is a man advantaged if he gain the whole world, and lose himself, or be cast away?” (Lk. 9:21-25). The Lord told the disciples to “Tell no man” by saying that “The Son of man must suffer…”. I submit that “Tell no man…” is almost hyperbole; surely He means ‘For now, focus more on the fact of my forthcoming death and your response to it, than telling others. If you gain the whole world for me in your preaching but lose your own salvation, what are you advantaged?’. After His resurrection they were to tell others; as the great commission made plain.

And there is a powerful message to us all here, especially to those who concern themselves with large amounts of preaching. We should not be so caught up in listing the errors of others that we fail to appreciate the huge personal import of the truth that we do surely know. Indeed, the Lord sought to focus His men upon the Truth they knew by asking them firstly to consider all the wrong theories about Him. He then went on to bring home to them the radical, transforming impact of that Truth if it is properly believed and acted upon. Luke seems to draw attention to this theme again in Lk. 10:20, where the disciples return from a successful preaching mission to be told to focus their elation instead upon the reality of their own personal salvation: “Rejoice not [i.e. not so much] that the spirits are subject unto you: but rather rejoice, because your names are written in heaven”. We are not to turn a blind eye to others' misunderstandings; the tragedy of the errors of Islam, Judaism, Hinduism etc. should not pass us by. But neither are we to remain obsessed with them. We are to be led by such reflection to rejoice in the basic truth of Jesus which we have been blessed with.

And hopefully this will be the result of the consideration of truth and error which comes before the reader in this present study.