The Princess of the Whole Human Race

“Filius ita factus est homo, ut a spiritu sancto sine virili opera conciperetur et ex Maria pura, sancta, semper virgine nasceretur…”

Dass der Sohn sei also Mensch worden, das er vom heiligen Geist ohn männlich Zutun empfangen und von der reinen, heiligen Jungfrau Maria geporn sei…”

That the Son became man in this manner, that He was conceived, without the cooperation of man, by the Holy Ghost, and was born of the pureholy [and always]Virgin Mary.  http://www.bookofconcord.org/smalcald.php#officeandworkofjesus

Above are the Latin and German statements from Marin Luther’s Schmalkaldic Articles, Part I, article 4.  I have also provided the English translation (that combines the Latin with the German) above.  If one wants to engender a discussion among Lutherans quickly, then he or she should assert that this article concerning Mary’s perpetual virginity is a statement of a confession. For an excellent online discussion of this topic see https://gottesdienstonline.blogspot.com/2010/09/et-tamen-virgo-mansit.html

My goal here is not to debate the Semper Virgine statement, but to point toward some of Martin Luther’s fascinating proclamations regarding the Blessed Virgin Mary.

Lucas Cranach-Virgin & child

“He [Jesus], indeed, was a genuinely true, natural human being, but not conceived or born in sin as all other descendants of Adam.  That is why his mother had to be a virgin whom no man had touched, so that he would not be born under the curse, but rather conceived and born without sin, so that the devil had no right or power over him. Only the Holy Spirit was present to bring about the conception in her virgin body.  Mother Mary, like us, was born in sin of sinful parents, but the Holy Spirit permitted the Virgin Mary to remain a true, natural human being of flesh and blood, just as we.  However, he warded off sin from her flesh and blood so that she became the mother of a pure child, not poisoned by sin as we are.” Martin Luther, “First Sermon on The Day of Annunciation to Mary,” in The House Postils, vol. 3. ed. Eugene F.A. Klug (Grand Rapids 1996), p. 291.

Dr. Luther expressed the common understanding here that the Holy Spirit acted miraculously in Mary to keep original sin from affecting her Son, Jesus. The purpose of a purifying the Virgin was so that she could give birth to a pure God-man. Even if Luther did not explicitly affirm the doctrine of the Immaculate Conception of Mary, he did assert that the Holy Spirit purified Mary in a special, miraculous manner. (On this issue see:http://www.patheos.com/blogs/davearmstrong/2015/09/luther-the-immaculate-purification-of-mary.html)

In a sermon on Mary’s visitation of Elizabeth, Luther emphasized St. Mary as an example of humility and chastity for all Christians, but especially for believing women.  Luther described Mary’s humility when he proclaimed:

She is the mother of God and the greatest of women in heaven and on earth.  She forgets all else, every good thing, and with truly humble heart sets out on her way, not ashamed to wash diapers, gently care for and bathe the infant John, and so on.  Such humility is truly something to behold.  It would have been fitting had someone provided her with a gold carriage to ride in, drawn by four thousand horses, with trumpets heralding the carriage’s coming proclaiming that the greatest of all women was approaching, the princess of the whole human race! But there was nothing like this, only silence…That is the first virtue, great humility.” Martin Luther, “First Sermon for the Day of Mary’s Visitation,” in The House Postils, vol. 3. ed. Eugene F.A. Klug (Grand Rapids 1996), p. 344. [Emphasis added]

Luther then explained the example of Mary’s chastity and proper, public decorum.  For example, she did not gossip or flirt, but instead performed humble tasks at the home of Elizabeth.  It’s clear Luther wanted to address certain public vices.  Finally, Luther explained:

“Mary’s example, therefore, should set a beautiful pattern for us to follow, though indeed we may be equally beautiful, learned, capable, wealthy, young, and strong.  We must certainly not exalt ourselves but be humble, willingly and diligently serving others.” Ibid., 346.

Originally published at: http://wp.cune.edu/matthewphillips/2016/08/15/the-princess-of-the-whole-human-race/

Dr. Matthew Phillips

About Dr. Matthew Phillips

My name is C. Matthew Phillips and I am an Associate Professor of History at Concordia University, Nebraska. I completed my Ph.D. in medieval European history at Saint Louis University in 2006. My research has focused on medieval monasticism, preaching, devotion to the True Cross, and the Crusades. Additionally, I have interests in medieval and early modern European education and the writings and life of Martin Luther.


At Concordia I teach World Civilization I, World Civilization II, Europe Since 1914, Early and Medieval Christianity, Renaissance and Reformation, The Medieval Crusades, The History of Imperial Russia and the Soviet Union, and The Modern Middle East.


Comments

The Princess of the Whole Human Race — 59 Comments

  1. @Matt Mills #48

    Psalm 69:7-9 are most certainly the words not only of David, but prophetically, the words of the Messiah. Claims to the contrary are simply not in agreement with Scripture.

    The claim that “sons of my mother” in Psalm 69:8 is a metaphor in which “mother” means “Israel” and therefore, “sons of my mother” means all Israelites is quite frankly a dodge.

    The usage of the phrase “sons of my mother” is exactly the same as it is in Judges 8:19 where the exact same phrase occurs. Gideon takes revenge upon Zebah and Zalmunna because they killed his brothers at Tabor.

    “It is a distinctive designation. In a polygamous society “brother” generally signified half brothers, i.e. sons of the same father. Uterine brothers were especially close (e.g. Joseph and Benjamin). They could also be very hostile (e.g. Cain and Abel, Jacob and Esau).” Robert G. Bohling, Judges, The Anchor Bible, p. 157.

    The Concordia Self Study Bible concurs: “sons of my own mother”. In an age when men often had several wives it was necessary to distinguish between full brothers and half brothers.” p. 342.

    H. C. Leupold commenting on Psalm 69:8 says: “Even those of his intimate family turned against him by the unwarranted opposition of his foes (cf., Ps. 31:11; 27:10). “Mother’s sons” are especially mentioned because as children of the same mother they would have been regarded as the closest relatives in a day when bigamous marriages were a bit more common.”

    So the suggestion that “brothers” and “sons of my mother” in Psalm 69:8 refers to all of Israel in general is not supported by the context or by the usage of the phrase in other contexts.

    We are told that we must respect the fathers and listen to them. We are told that if we disagree with the fathers that we are arrogant and that our faith now rests on shifting sands. We are even questioned if we think we have more of the Holy Spirit than the fathers did!

    But the elephant still looms large in the PVM discussion room, looking over everyone’s shoulders. Perhaps we should remember that, unlike the fathers who are all men and are all fallible, the elephant is inspired by God in such a way that his words are true.

    The context, the usage and the NT corroborates that “my brothers…the sons of my mother” are the Messiah’s words in reference to his uterine brothers–the sons of His Mother, Mary.

    http://wittenbergtrail.org/xn/detail/1453099:Comment:206447

  2. @Matt Mills #45

    Ah! So the contention of the SV crowd is that Mary had no relations with her husband after the birth of the Christ either through refusal of her wifely duties or due to his untimely death or…whatever. Okay. That clarified a lot for me. Thank you.

  3. @LadyL #52

    LadyL wrote, ” So the contention of the SV crowd is that Mary had no relations with her husband after the birth of the Christ either through refusal of her wifely duties…”

    Well, I hope it’s not always a “duty”. (Maybe it’s more so than I would care to know!)

  4. @LadyL #52

    If you’re curious as to the contention of the SV crowd you should probably ask them. For my money SV just means SV.
    Plenty of Lutheran theologians I respect, and who I assume read Ps 69, including Dr Martin Luther, CFW Walther and Martin Chemnitz, held SV. Others, like Dr Scaer, have written against it.
    I frankly see nothing in Psalm 69 requiring me to choose between Scaer and Luther, or put my soul in jeopardy. Lutherans don’t need a unified position on SV, or we’d have one already.
    Save this for Friday afternoons over a beer.
    Pax Christi +,
    Matt Mills

  5. @Rev. Robert Fischer (Emeritus) #51

    The first problem w/ Ps 69 as a SV proof text is that it’s not a psalm about Mary, it’s a psalm about Jesus (and David). The second problem is that Dr Luther knew the Psalter better than you and didn’t see it as a reason to stop teaching SV.

  6. Matt wrote, “The first problem w/ Ps 69 as a SV proof text is that it’s not a psalm about Mary, it’s a psalm about Jesus (and David).”

    Well, you acknowledge that the Psalm is about Jesus. Who then is “my mother” in verse 8?

    Matt wrote, “Dr Luther knew the Psalter better than you…”

    I didn’t realize that you knew me that well, Matt! I don’t believe that we’ve had the pleasure of meeting!

    On a (slightly) more serious note: There are good theologians on both sides of this issue, which is why it isn’t a settled teaching in the Church. Martin Luther would be quick to acknowledge his lack of infallibility. Dr. Scaer, not so much. 🙂 (I love you, Dr.!)

  7. @Rev. Robert Fischer (Emeritus) #56

    So, would you use Ps 69 to bind consciences Pastor, basically making SV a heterodox position? If not, then I do not have a dog in this fight. I too would say there are good theologians on both sides. My position is that SV should be left an open question.

  8. @Matt Mills #57

    Matt wrote, “So, would you use Ps 69 to bind consciences Pastor, basically making SV a heterodox position? If not, then I do not have a dog in this fight. I too would say there are good theologians on both sides. My position is that SV should be left an open question.”

    I’m in no position to bind anyone’s conscience, Matt, especially in regards to the SV question. I have my own opinion but don’t require anyone else to hold it (if even I could do such a thing).

  9. @Matt Mills #57: “My position is that SV should be left an open question.”

    The trick is that, to quote David Scaer, “Proponents of one or the other view cannot be seen as more pious than others.”

    As an open question, rather than doctrine, whether Mary and Joseph had other children after Jesus may be treated as a probability exercise.

    OTOH, one may browse through the Gottesdienst article linked in Dr. Phillips’ column or in articles like “Tradition and its decay” or “The Hubris of ‘Modernist’ Exegesis ? ?,” to find LCMS pastors who refer to or seem to treat semper virgo as doctrine.

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