Mary, Mother of God


1. Why do Catholics call Mary the Mother of God?

Because Jesus is God, and Mary is His mother. We also say she is the Mother of God because the Bible says that she is, using words that are equivalent to that. But the fundamental reason is that Jesus is the Second Person of the Holy Trinity, and by passing through her womb, He -- the Divine Son -- became Mary's Son, making God the Son the Son of Mary, and Mary the Mother of God the Son.

2. Where in the Bible is Mary called Mother of God?

Nowhere using those exact words, but in several places if equivalent words are taken into account. Words that mean the same thing as "Mother of God" are used when the Bible calls Mary "the Mother of Jesus" -- John 2:1 and Acts 1:14. Also when Elizabeth calls Mary "the mother of my Lord," Luke 1:43. We know she referred to His divinity as Lord God because if He was considered only as an unborn child, He was not her Lord, but only considered as divine. Galatians 4:4 says that God the Son was born of a woman, Mary; and this implies our doctrine, because if God the Son was born of Mary, then Mary was God the Son's bearer, His mother. The Bible also teaches that Mary was the mother of God by saying that Mary was the mother of Immanuel, which means "God with us." (Matthew 1:23) The Greek in that phrase is tekton...theos, "she shall bear...God," from which we get Theotokos, God-bearer, the most dignified title the early Church ever created for Mary. And that is what the Church doctrine that Mary is the Mother of God means: that who Mary bore in her womb was God, the Second Person in the divinity, Who is God entire, 100%. It is not only Biblical, but logically necessary, once it is admitted that Mary bore Jesus, and Jesus was God.

3. I heard a Catholic say "Mary is the mother of Jesus; Jesus is God; therefore, Mary is the Mother of God."

And that is perfectly logical. The premises are true; the conclusion follows from the premises; and there is no ambiguity or double-meaning in the terms. By "Mary" we mean that woman who bore Jesus Christ. By "Mother" we mean she bore Him in her womb and He passed into and out of it whole and entire, assuming flesh therein. And by "God" we mean the complete fullness of the Godhead, which Jesus shared completely as a divine person. It follows, from the fact that this divine person took human flesh in Mary's womb and became her Son, that she became His mother; the mother of God the Son.

4. That's just bad logic. As bad as "Jesus is God; God is Three Persons; therefore, Jesus is Three Persons."

There is a difference here. Your syllogism has a problem in the terms that our doctrine does not share. God is Three Persons, yes, but Jesus is only one of them; to say "Jesus is God" is to say He is a divine person, but to say "God is Three Persons" is not to say each Person is three Persons. Your conclusion doesn't follow from your premises because they proceed on different levels: in the first premise "God" refers to a Person of God, in the second premise it refers to the Nature of God, and the conclusion tries to connect them improperly. But in our syllogism, "Mary is the mother of Jesus, Jesus is God, therefore Mary is the mother of God [the Son]," we do not use a term with a double-meaning. "Jesus" in both premises means the Person of Jesus, and "God" in both premises means a Person of God, the Second Person of the Trinity; and so the conclusion does follow directly from the premises.

5. Mary can't be the Mother of God because that would make her older than God.

It would not because God existed before He entered her womb and became her Son. That makes Him older by definition. It does, however, make Mary older than Jesus' body, which was created at His conception. But that should not be a difficulty for Protestants to accept.

6. Mary can't be the Mother of God because that would make her equal to God.

It would not. The One who entered Mary's womb had something before He entered her that Mary never could have: divinity. Someone divine entered someone human; that doesn't make the human equal to the divine, no more than a wedding ring entering a box makes the box equal to its ring; but God entering Mary does make her far exalted above every other human.

7. Mary gave birth to Jesus' human nature only, not His divine nature.

Mothers do not give birth to natures, they give birth to persons. Giving birth to someone doesn't create their nature; it just releases it from the womb; Jesus became Mary's son, and made Mary His Mother, by entering her womb and taking flesh there, not by exiting it. Mary was His mother simply because He took flesh in her womb and resided there as her baby and was born from there in a human birth; quite apart from the question of where His divine nature came from.

But there is a heresy in your comment that you haven't noticed: the idea that Jesus' human nature and His divine nature were separated in His Person is called Nestorianism. The Catholic doctrine, on the contrary, is that Jesus' human nature and His divine nature were united hypostatically: meaning united in the single Person of Jesus Christ, Second Person of the Blessed Trinity. So the two natures cannot be separated, as if one can pass out of Mary's womb and not the other; though they are distinct.

8. You can call it Nestorianism if you want. I go by the Bible.

But Nestorianism is not Biblical, it goes against the Bible, and it puts your salvation at stake: if Nestorianism is true, then Jesus' human nature died on the Cross, but not His divine nature; and if that is the case, then no one is saved, because the only thing that saves us is the death of Jesus the Divine: a human death is not enough, as human deaths happened millions of times before Jesus to no effect. Only the death of God the Son could save us, and that is why when we say Jesus died, we mean the Divine Person who became Man died (and was resurrected as God) and thus saved us by dying in our stead. And this connects directly to His birth as well: if God the Son made Man died, then God the Son made Man was also born; and that makes Him a woman's son, and Mary who bore him was His (i.e. God's) mother.

9. Pagan religions had goddess-mothers; that's where Catholicism got this idea in the fourth century.

No, because the doctrine existed *before* the fourth century and can be found in the Bible. By calling Mary "mother of [the] Lord" the Bible teaches that she is the mother of God, Luke 1:43; and also by saying that she conceived and bore "Immanuel," which means "God with us." (Matthew 1:23) The early Church Fathers called Mary "Mother of God" two centuries before the fourth, and God prophesied it long before this when He said that a Son called "Mighty God" and "Immanuel" or God with us would be born of a virgin and be her son. (Isaiah 7:14, 9:6) For all these reasons, we know that Mary as Mother of God did not come from pagan religions; it came from the Bible, and the Tradition of the Apostles. And that is why we teach it.

10. The Bible says Mary wasn't the mother of God: Jesus was "without father or mother." (Heb. 7:3).

Hebrews 7:3 is talking about the source of Jesus' eternal and divine nature. It says that He is without (human) father or mother because no human father or mother produced His existence. But that's different from what we mean when we say Mary was His mother: she did not produce His divine being or nature, and so He was "without father or mother" in that way, but she was the woman in whom Jesus assumed flesh and blood as her baby, and in that way she was His mother. So there is no contradiction here -- just a difference in how the terms are used.