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Author Topic: The Theotokos and goddess worship.  (Read 1872 times) Average Rating: 0
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neon_knights
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« on: June 03, 2011, 12:20:57 AM »

So, I was reading a thread on this forum from a while back on the origins of Marian devotion, and there was some fellow who made a claim that prayers to Mary were not present in the earliest Church, yet started emerging as Christianity spread into areas where goddess worship was popular. The same person also said something along the lines of "certain early fathers wanted to make it easier for pagans to convert, so they adopted prayers to Mary". This is not the first time I've heard this claim. What would an Orthodox/RC response to this bold claim be?
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« Reply #1 on: June 03, 2011, 12:24:57 AM »

Well, interest in Christ's infancy grew throughout the first and second century. That's why so many apocryphal infancy texts began to appear. Mary figures prominently, showing that people were incredibly interested in her.

I'm assuming that as the full implications of the incarnation, immortality and the resurrection began to grow, (and as the number of martyrs grew) devotion to all holy individuals increased.

Claims associating Mary veneration with Isis/Ishtar/Venus always lack actual proof. The best they can do is show a primitive statue of Isis suckling horus and say "see! a baby being held! It must be the genesis of Madonna and Child, because nobody could come up with the complex idea of what a mother holding her child would look like unless pagans taught it to them!"
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« Reply #2 on: June 03, 2011, 12:30:29 AM »

What would an Orthodox/RC response to this bold claim be?

My response would be to show me the primary documents from those early centuries that have led you to believe this. This is always met with nothing but silent retreat. Ask anyone to do any legwork and they back out. Plus it saves you the work of arguing forever.
« Last Edit: June 03, 2011, 12:30:59 AM by Alveus Lacuna » Logged
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« Reply #3 on: June 03, 2011, 12:41:46 AM »

^ Agreed.  Very difficult to prove that the prayers didn't exist and weren't used.

That said, other than the sub tuum praesidium responses, we didn't get a lot of suggestions for historical evidence in that thread you posted awhile back on the earliest primary sources for prayers to Mary.  I linked to it in another thread, but nothing...

Added:  On a somewhat related note to the OP, we also don't have any first century copies of the Gospels, but we can reasonably conclude that they were written during that time.  Not proof by any means, but something to consider.
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« Reply #4 on: June 03, 2011, 01:59:07 AM »

Well, I don't know that cultic devotion towards a Saint being promoted as the embodiment and fulfillment of pagan devotions is really that bad of a thing. Mary being promoted for the sake of a lacking female archetype of holiness is quite a good mission so far as I can see. So if the intercession of saints in a general sense is found in the Apostolic tradition, then Mary's intercession (individually) being promoted to replace goddess worship is not wrong. The real issue, then, is whether the intercession of saints is to be found in the Apostolic tradition, not whether Mary's intercession in particular is.
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« Reply #5 on: June 03, 2011, 03:31:10 PM »

I would recommend the following concerning Mary and the early church.

St. Irenaeus - Adversus haereses (3:1-23 builds up to and specifically deals with Mary)
You cant get much earlier than that Smiley

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« Reply #6 on: June 03, 2011, 04:09:37 PM »

Greetings in that Divine and Most Precious Name of Our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ!
The Church fathers were not creating a manipulative concept of the Virgin to persuade goddess worshipers to convert, the Fathers built our understanding of the Virgin based on fact and on our experience with Her directly.  The idea that the Church invented or at least aligned its teachings to convert pagans is a blatantly divisive Protestant myth introduced to make the Church look bad.  It is a bias approach to interpret the fact that the world shares so many of the same fundamental religious stories and concepts, and one which has the underlying assumption then that the Church's concepts of the Virgin are false as the goddesses.

We must be very specific to separate the concepts of pre-Christian mother goddesses and of the Mother of God in the Church.  They are not the same in either form or function.  The Mother of God, not just as a theological construct, but as a socio-cultural construct is quite different than were the Goddesses of the Mystery cults of olde.  Mary is a human being, elevated to be a vessel for the Godhead, becoming a true bridge between the purely physical/human towards the purely spiritual/Divine.  Human beings honor, revere, venerate, celebrate, mystify, and even mistakenly worship Her precisely because of Her humanity.  Whereas, the goddesses of were part of a pantheon but still maintained some divine essence purely their own.

While it is complicated and a bit confusing to identify the functioning difference, it remains soundly in tact even in the most mistaken Mariolatry.  Mary is not the source of the divine blessings, healing, or power which people seek from Her intercession, rather such comes from the Godhead.  Perhaps Mary's mediation and our relationship with Her plays some role, but in the end, God can't be avoided.  With the Mystery Cults, one learned and participated in the liturgies and incantations of these goddesses precisely to possess some spiritual fortitude from these goddesses alone, and not necessarily in connection with any other divinities of the pantheon.  The goddesses were not bridges to the Divine, they were divine themselves.

The Church did not purposefully dupe goddess worshippers by giving them Mariology as a coy substitute, as anyone whoever worshipped a goddess might see the onstentatious glibness of it.  No, Mariology exists on its terms as does goddess worship.  Personally, I ascribe to a Joseph Campbell perspective, that there are certain mono-mythic constructs which permeate the human experience because they originate from a single well-spring and source.  The Creation, the Flood, the Messiahs, the Mothers of God, the Death and Resurrection, the Eternal Life, these are part o the human mono-myth precisely because from our Christian perspective we believe them to be quite true and accurate.  Joseph Campbell, without necessarily affirming one as more valid than the other, concludes that according to cultural anthropology these concepts must have a common origin, we in the Church just say the common origin is in our versions of the meta-narrative. Just as the Prophets envisioned the Christ, so did the other religions of the world share from the same vision.  Christ came to fulfill any of these aspirations across the world, which is why all of us can universally relate to Him, why is the Savior of the World, and not just say of the Jews. 

The world used to be permeated with Mother goddesses in blissful anticipation of that one true Mother of God who would come from that single family, and ever since then we have the true story to tell of the real and true Mother of God, Our Lady the Virgin Mary.

stay blessed,
habte selassie
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« Reply #7 on: June 03, 2011, 05:33:20 PM »

Joseph Campbell, without necessarily affirming one as more valid than the other, concludes that according to cultural anthropology these concepts must have a common origin
I don't know if that's really a conclusion we can just assume. It's perfectly sensible to assume that similar beliefs and concepts could and would emerge independently of each other under similar conditions. Convergent cultural development.

Like sun worship; different groups came up with it independently, because the sun gives warmth, life and light on all continents.

I'm not denying the Logos Spermatikos, I'm simply saying that not all common info is logos spermatikos.
« Last Edit: June 03, 2011, 05:34:14 PM by NicholasMyra » Logged

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« Reply #8 on: June 04, 2011, 02:36:36 AM »

Actually the roots of such prayer are much more ancient and venerable.  You will note in the book of Numbers the story is told of the 12 Hebrew spies, and of how Caleb took a short side trip to Hebron first. The scripture doesn't give a lot of detail about what he did there, but in the Mishnah, the historical commentary that grew up with the OT we are in fact told. Indeed, what was done by Caleb there continues to be emulated by pious Jews even to this very day. It was a practice that was well known in Apostolic times, and one that continues in the Church in her veneration of the saints, which includes our requests for their intercession. What did Caleb do?  Here is what the Mishnah says, "He went to prostrate himself upon the graves of the Patriarchs. He said, 'Fathers of the world, pray for me that I be saved from the evil counsel of the other spies'." (Sota 34b)

I also believe this same tradition also holds that Rachel's grave directed that her grave be placed along the road where it is found to this day so that she could pray for her children as they passed by.

Some make issue with referencing the Mishnah…but historically speaking it is quite ancient and records a lot of background material from the time the various books of the Old Testament were written.  It certain records beliefs and practices of the Jewish people long prior to the time of Christ.

So, our practices are not some machination to soft sell pagans on the Gospel; asking the holy departed for their intercessions has always been a part of the faithful practice of the people of God, traceable among them at least back to the time of Moses.

Oh…and Mary, the Blessed Theotokos…she's more than just among the holy departed, she was raised up again and glorified by Christ, her Son and our God. Her place is unique in all human history and in the life and faith of the Church.

« Last Edit: June 04, 2011, 02:40:40 AM by Seraphim98 » Logged
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« Reply #9 on: June 04, 2011, 04:38:02 AM »

So, I was reading a thread on this forum from a while back on the origins of Marian devotion, and there was some fellow who made a claim that prayers to Mary were not present in the earliest Church, yet started emerging as Christianity spread into areas where goddess worship was popular.

The problem with this argument is that it was "the earliest Church" that "spread into areas where goddess worship was popular". As soon as the apostles stepped outside the Jewish community into the culture of the 1st century Mediterranean & Near East, they were surrounded by goddess worshippers--Isis, Cybele, the Great Mother, etc, etc. See, for example the account in the book of Acts of St. Paul's encounter with the cult of Diana when he was establishing the church at Ephesus.

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« Reply #10 on: June 04, 2011, 06:35:42 AM »

We have evidence of Marian prayers as early as the year 250. The Sub tuum Praesidium is an example.

http://www.newliturgicalmovement.org/2011/02/sub-tuum-praesidium.html
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« Reply #11 on: June 04, 2011, 09:53:56 AM »

The world used to be permeated with Mother goddesses in blissful anticipation of that one true Mother of God who would come from that single family, and ever since then we have the true story to tell of the real and true Mother of God, Our Lady the Virgin Mary.

I love and agree with this perspective.

If Christianity is the proper fulfillment of humanity, it must be this way. The human heart has a Theotokos-shaped hole in it, and goddess worship was the attempt to fill it. When the Theotokos was chosen by God to be the Mother of himself and ultimately all Christians, that ancient human need for the "divine mother" was fulfilled. This time in reality, spiritually, instead of myth.

Christianity didn't copy paganism; paganism copied Christianity! Man was predisposed to recognize the faith of the true God, and in it's absence man filled in the gaps.
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« Reply #12 on: June 04, 2011, 04:49:54 PM »

Greetings in that Divine and Most Precious Name of Our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ!

The world used to be permeated with Mother goddesses in blissful anticipation of that one true Mother of God who would come from that single family, and ever since then we have the true story to tell of the real and true Mother of God, Our Lady the Virgin Mary.

I love and agree with this perspective.

If Christianity is the proper fulfillment of humanity, it must be this way. The human heart has a Theotokos-shaped hole in it, and goddess worship was the attempt to fill it. When the Theotokos was chosen by God to be the Mother of himself and ultimately all Christians, that ancient human need for the "divine mother" was fulfilled. This time in reality, spiritually, instead of myth.

Christianity didn't copy paganism; paganism copied Christianity! Man was predisposed to recognize the faith of the true God, and in it's absence man filled in the gaps.

Amen Amen! You get it Smiley

stay blessed,
habte selassie
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« Reply #13 on: June 13, 2011, 04:42:07 PM »

The earliest prayer of the Mother of God (Theotokos) is from Archangel Gabriel's Salutation and Elizabeth's greeting.  

Luke 1: 28 and 42.

Hail, thou that art highly favoured, the Lord is with thee; blessed art thou among women.
Blessed art thou among women, and blessed is the fruit of thy womb.

Do the Protestants not have this in their Bible?  Why do they still reject this clear fact of Mary's place with Christ?  And what is it that they should worship Christ, but reject His mother from whom He was born?

Their claims are not "bold", they are willfully ignorant.
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« Reply #14 on: June 13, 2011, 09:24:19 PM »

there was some fellow who made a claim that prayers to Mary were not present in the earliest Church
This claim is patently false as evidenced by the John Rylands papyrus fragment no. 470 dated to c AD250 and which contains the oldest known prayer to the Theotokos. The oldest fragment of a canonical gospel is estimated to be only 100 years older than papyrus 470. And what is interesting about fragment 470 is that it uses the term "Theotokos" 200 years before the Third Ecumenical Council "officially approved" the title. The existence of such an early written fragment of a liturgical prayer to the Theotokos (which is still liturgically used today by both the East and West) means that even earlier examples must have existed, and that the prayer is even older than the fragment.
http://theoblogoumena.blogspot.com/2007/08/john-rylands-papyrus-470.html?m=1
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« Reply #15 on: June 16, 2011, 08:15:59 AM »

These are really great answers and worth printing out to keep in mind when confronted by those who would denigrate the Theotokos and our respect and love for her.
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« Reply #16 on: June 16, 2011, 03:08:50 PM »

Its very hard to prove a negative Smiley
The burden to is on them to prove it came from pagan sources not on you to prove it didn't.
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