In a previous entry, I explored the alleged parallel in the development of the Roman Catholic Marian dogmas and the Trinity. Recall, Catholic apologist Steve Ray recently sought to validate the Marian dogmas as developing like the Trinity developed. To hear Ray’s assertion, listen to this recent Dividing Line broadcast.
I pointed out the Marian dogmas are not mined from Scripture. For instance, the assumption was not the result of God’s people delving deeper and deeper into God’s Word. It was not the result of using Scripture to interpret Scripture. It was not the result of in-depth exegetical studies. It is an idea found outside of Biblical revelation, imported into the Bible in a ploy for validity.
This week I re-listened to Dr. White’s 1993 sola scriptura debate with Catholic apologist Patrick Madrid. It has been some time since I’ve listened to this. One particular comment from Madrid really jumped out this time, and is relevant to the non-biblical nature of the assumption. Madrid affirmed material sufficiency in this debate. Those adhering to material sufficiency hold all the doctrines Catholics are to believe are found in the Bible. Those holding to the partim-partim view say that part of God’s special revelation is contained in Scripture, and part is contained in Tradition. The challenge for those like Madrid is to place things like the assumption somewhere into Scripture, whether it fits or not. By doing this, one avoids the necessity of defining the content, extent, and historical validation of extra-biblical Tradition that adherence to the partim partim view demands.
Note the following comment from the 1993 debate:
Patrick Madrid: “Mr. White brought up the assumption. He could bring up any doctrine he might like, none of which would be the topic of our debate, tonight, but at some future point perhaps, we could discuss where those doctrines are found. The assumption, for example, since he brought it up, I’ll just refer to it. Revelation, chapter 12, Mr. White. It’s a very commonly used passage for Catholic apologists. I don’t know why you would have missed that. The woman clothed with the Sun was seen not only by modern Catholic apologists as Mary’s assumption, but also the early Church Fathers, which Mr. White is so fond of bringing into the picture. I’d be more than happy, in some future point, to demonstrate, in a different debate, how the early Church Fathers viewed Revelation 12. They exegeted that passage to mean that Mary had been brought up into Heaven in a special way. But, that’s another topic.”
I grant Madrid’s point that the assumption was not the topic of debate. However, simply placing the assumption in Revelation 12 does not prove it belongs there. One of the most ironic things about Revelation 12, is that the woman described “cried out in pain as she was about to give birth.” Think back to what God said to Eve in Genesis 3:16 as the result of her fall into sin, “I will greatly multiply your pain in childbirth, in pain you will bring forth children.” So, while proving the assumption, Revelation 12 gives Catholic apologists new problems (Catholic apologist Jimmy Akin solves it this way: “Mary did not experience literal pain when bringing forth the Messiah, but she suffered figuratively”).
But then Madrid appeals to the early church fathers as proof Revelation 12 is about the assumption. Fortunately for Madrid, very few actually read the early church fathers! If they did, they would discover the same thing Giovanni Miegge did. The earliest reference to Mary in Revelation 12 does not appear until the fourth century:
“The modern Mariologists like to turn to [Revelation 12], seeing in it an allegory of the Virgin Mary. But whatever can be thought of their interpretation, it is a fact that none of the early interpreters before the end of the fourth century see the Virgin Mary in the woman of the Revelation. They all understand her to be the Church and so they continue to make most of their interpretations in the following centuries. Ticonius is the first to suggest the Marian interpretation” [Giovanni Miegge, The Virgin Mary (Philadelphia: The Westminster Press, 1955, pp.101-102)].
So, the earliest church fathers see “the woman” as “the Church,” yet somehow, this earlier interpretation must be wrong, and the post-fourth century interpretation must be correct. Why? Because Mary’s assumption needs to be in the Bible. Or, perhaps, it is both Mary and the Church. Without Rome telling us, anything goes. For instance, Catholic apologist Jimmy Akin says the woman is “a four-way symbol”: Mary, the Church, Israel, and Eve. That covers all bases!
Well, it was 1993 when Madrid said this, and he appears to have himself “developed.” In his booklet, A Pocket Guide To Catholic Apologetics (Indiana: Our Sunday Visitor Publishing Division, 2006), Madrid states on page 27:
Mary’s Bodily Assumption into Heaven
Not mentioned in Scripture. However, other bodily ‘assumptions’ are mentioned- Enoch (Gen 5:24; Heb. 11:5), Elijah (2 Kings 2:1, 11-12), and those alive at the second coming (1 Thess 4:13-18).
But then, without any explanation, he simply puts: “Rev 12:1-8,” and it is not a proof-text intended to be part of those just mentioned. It stands alone by itself. So perhaps, Madrid is simply saying the words “Mary’s Bodily Assumption into Heaven” is not mentioned in Scripture. Whatever the case, Revelation 12 stands as a desperate attempt to place the assumption in Scripture. It certainly does not have any exegetical merit for demanding it be the interpretation of Revelation 12, nor are the early church fathers, the alleged keepers of sacred Tradition, unanimous in interpreting the passage as Madrid suggests.