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The Biblical Basis for Veneration of Mary, the Mother of God

“The Virgin Mary, being obedient to his word, received from an angel the glad tidings that she would bear God.” — Irenaeus

Public Domain, Madonna and Child enthroned among the angels and saints, Mount Sinai, 6th century

In the 300s, Epiphanius of Salamis wrote against a sect of early Christians called Collyridians who worshipped Mary as a goddess. This is what he wrote:

“The Word, which is God, took on flesh from Mary, not however in order that the Virgin might be adored, neither that he might make her God. Let Mary be held in honor, but let the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit be worshiped; let no one worship Mary. This mystery is due God, not to women, neither to man. Nor does such a doxology belong to the angels. Let those things be erased which have been wrongly written in the heart of those who have been deceived. Let the lust of the idol be extinguished from the eyes. Let the creature return again to the Master. Let Eve with Adam return to honor God alone. Let no one be led by the voice of the serpent. Let him abide by the command of God. … Although Mary is holy and to be honored, nevertheless she is not meant to be adored [worshipped].”

A quick history of Mary in the Bible is needed to explain why Catholics hold Mary in high regard, yet do not worship her.

“When Jesus therefore saw his mother, and the disciple standing by, whom he loved, he saith unto his mother, Woman, behold thy son! Then saith he to the disciple, Behold thy mother! And from that hour that disciple took her unto his own home. After this, knowing that everything had now been accomplished, and to fulfill the Scripture, Jesus said, “I am thirsty.” (John 19:26–28)

Behold your King! (John 19:14), Pilate said, speaking of Jesus. Behold thy mother! (John 19:27) Jesus said, speaking of his own mother. “If you would enter into Life, keep the Commandments . . . Honor thy father and thy mother.” (Matthew 19:17, 19)

In ancient Jewish times, the queen was the mother of the king. This, therefore, means that if Jesus is the King of Heaven, Mary is the Queen of Heaven. The basis for this is Scriptural. Revelation 11:19–12:6 says:

“Then God’s temple in heaven was opened, and the ark of his covenant was seen within his temple; … A great portent appeared in heaven: a woman clothed with the sun, with the moon under her feet, and on her head a crown of twelve stars. She was pregnant … And she gave birth to a son, a male child, who is to rule all the nations with a rod of iron. But her child was snatched away and taken to God and to his throne. The dragon [Satan] was angry with the woman, and went off to make war on the rest of her children, those who keep the commandments of God and hold the testimony of Jesus.”

This verse not only proves her queenship, but it also proves that she is the ark of the New Covenant. The parallels between the old ark and the new ark are simply amazing! says: “If Jesus is the Word made flesh, then Mary is the Ark made flesh. The Ark of the Old Covenant carried the Word of God made stone (10 Commandments). Mary is the Ark of the New Covenant who carried the Word of God made flesh when she was pregnant. (Jn 1:1, Ez 11:19) The Bible says the Ark was immaculately made (Ex 37) and calls us to honour it (2 Sam 6:6). The Ark of the Old Covenant disappeared during the Babylonian conquest (Jer 3:16). It shows up again in the Book of Revelation…We can honour Mary, the Ark of the New Covenant, just as the Jewish people honoured the Ark of the Old Covenant. The Ark was not the Word of God, but it was very important.”

Image taken from

Mary is the Ark of the New Covenant. Jesus is the Word of God, once kept inside this new ark (as were the two tablets which God inscribed the Ten Commandments on kept inside the ark of the Old Testament; these also being the Word of God).

The early Christian Gregory Thaumaturgus (c. 213–c. 270) affirms this: “Let us chant the melody that has been taught us by the inspired harp of David, and say, ‘Arise, O Lord, into thy rest; thou, and the ark of thy sanctuary.’ For the Holy Virgin is in truth an ark, wrought with gold both within and without, that has received the whole treasury of the sanctuary”

The Jews, as Catholics do, also prayed before icons. Here is one example out of many, of Joshua praying in front of the golden ark of the Old Covenant:

Joshua 7:6: Then Joshua tore his clothes and fell facedown to the ground before the ark of the Lord, remaining there till evening. The elders of Israel did the same, and sprinkled dust on their heads.

If Joshua prayed before the ark of the Old Covenant (an icon), in Joshua 7:6, why aren’t Christians allowed to pray before an icon of Mary, the Ark of the New Covenant? Hold your answer to this question for a moment.

In the New Testament itself, the Magi prayed before Mary, a parallel of the above verse from Joshua. Matthew 2:11: “And going into the house they saw the child with Mary his mother, and they fell down and worshiped him

Since the Jews prayed before an icon, the old ark in Joshua 7:6, a representation of God, why wouldn’t Christians be allowed to pray in front of an icon representation of Mary, the new ark? The Jews in Joshua were not praying to the old ark, they were praying to what it represented, God. Neither do Christians pray to a statue of the new ark, they are praying to what it represents, Mary.

Jesus is the New Adam and Mary is the New Eve, working together to mend the brokenness caused by the sins of our first parents. Ephraim the Syrian, from the 300s, in On the Nativity of Christ, wrote: “Let women praise Her, the pure Mary, — that as in Eve their mother, — great was their reproach, — lo! in Mary their sister, — greatly magnified was their honour.”

Luke 1:46–49, 55: ‘Then Mary said, “I praise the Lord with all my heart. I am very happy because God is my Savior. I am not important, but he has shown his care for me, his lowly servant. From now until the end of time, people will remember how much God blessed me for the Mighty One has done great things for me, and holy is his name…He did not forget his promise [given to Adam and Eve after their expulsion from the Garden of Eden] to give us his mercy.’

This promise of mercy that was given in Genesis 3:15, the first mention of salvation in the entire Bible (called the “protoevangelion”), was to come with Jesus, the seed, or fruit of Mary’s womb: “And I will put enmity between thee and the woman, and between thy seed and her seed; it shall bruise thy head, and thou shalt bruise his heel.”

Mary is thus often depicted in art or statue as stepping on a snake’s head, as it was through her that Jesus was brought into the world to destroy Satan.

“It was while Eve was still a virgin that the word of the devil crept in to erect an edifice of death. Likewise through a virgin the Word of God was introduced to set up a structure of life. Thus what had been laid waste in ruin by this sex was by the same sex reestablished in salvation. Eve had believed the serpent; Mary believed Gabriel. That which the one destroyed by believing, the other, by believing, set straight” (Tertullian, The Flesh of Christ, 17:4, 210 AD)

“My soul magnifies the Lord,” Mary says in Luke 1:46. Mary magnifies the Lord as a magnifying glass does a small bug. One can see the finer features of Jesus when one meditates from her perspective which was always near to her son. Mary remained by her son on the Cross when all of the Apostles, except John, fled. It is there, that Christ said to his followers: “Behold thy mother.”

Honor of Mary is very Biblical. The Hail Mary pray itself takes all but its last two lines directly from Scripture, with the last two lines being inspired by it [Hail Mary, full of Grace (Luke 1:28) The Lord is with thee (Luke 1:28) Blessed art thou among women (Luke 1:41) And Blessed is the fruit of thy womb Jesus (Luke 1:42) Holy Mary, Mother of God (Luke 1:43) Pray for us sinners, now and at the hour of our death (James 5:16)]

The earliest liturgy that survives to today, the Liturgy of James from around 300 AD or earlier, praises Mary as the Mother of God: “Thou who art the only-begotten Son and Word of God, immortal; who didst submit for our salvation to become flesh of the holy Mother of God, and ever-virgin Mary.”

“The veneration of Mary is inscribed in the very depths of the human heart.” Martin Luther, Sermon, September 1, 1522



The early Christians unanimously testify to the Perpetual Virginity of Mary, the Immaculate Conception, and the Assumption. They also prayed to her.


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