The Divine Liturgy of St. John Chrysostom – Critique – Part 1

After visiting a Greek Orthodox Church a few weeks ago, I wanted to take the time to work through the liturgy that they used in order to have a clearer understanding of what is believed by those of the Orthodox tradition, as well as interact with their belief with Scripture. So here’s the first installment:

“Remembering our most holy, pure, blessed, and glorious Lady, the Theotokos and ever virgin Mary, with all the saints, let us commit ourselves and one another and our whole life to Christ our God.”1

This isn’t about Mary being the theotokos, a transliteration of the Greek term Θεοτόκος which means “one who gives birth to God” – but rather about the “ever virgin” part.

Origen writes about this thought in his commentary on Matthew (written around 248 A.D.): “they said, ‘Is not His mother called Mary? And His brethren, James and Joseph and Simon and Judas? And His sisters, are they not all with us?’ They thought, then, that He was the son of Joseph and Mary. But some say, basing it on a tradition in the Gospel according to Peter, as it is entitled, or “The Book of James,” that the brethren of Jesus were sons of Joseph by a former wife, whom he married before Mary. Now those who say so wish to preserve the honour of Mary in virginity to the end, so that that body of hers which was appointed to minister to the Word which said, “The Holy Ghost shall come upon thee, and the power of the Most High shall overshadow thee,” might not know intercourse with a man after that the Holy Ghost came into her and the power from on high overshadowed her. And I think it in harmony with reason that Jesus was the first-fruit among men of the purity which consists in chastity, and Mary among women; for it were not pious to ascribe to any other than to her the first-fruit of virginity.”2

Here is what Origen thought about the perpetual virginity of Mary: “I think it in harmony with reason…”

I think that about says it all. It is not Biblical, it is what men think – Origen did not think that the “Protoevangelium of James” was on the same level as Scripture – otherwise he would not have said the idea of Mary being a perpetual virgin was “in harmony with reason.” He would have said it is what Scripture testifies.

Origen wrote his commentary about 200 years after the final books of the New Testament were written, and he doesn’t even sound like he would die for that belief, rather that some people believe it, and it seems to make sense – though not based on Scripture.

Just because a church has held to a belief for a very long time doesn’t mean it is right – Augustine and Athanasius both referred to Mary as an ever-virgin. But I believe, as Origen did, that they based it on a reasonable argument, and were not convinced of it from Scripture, nor did they think it important as the Catholics and the Orthodox have made it.

Believing Mary is an “ever-virgin” is not a huge deal, if in fact she and Joseph never had relations (but who cares? Why dance around the passages where Jesus’ brothers and sisters are referred to? Do we really need to know – the Bible doesn’t tell us, do I really need to know if she was always a virgin or not?) – but I think this belief leads to other things that are a huge problem. And these things are present in this liturgy, and I will get to them in the coming weeks.

1 “The Divine Liturgy,” (accessed November 16, 2007).

2 “Origen: Commentary on Matthew (Roberts-Donaldson),” (accessed November 16, 2007).



  1. Haha, you’re probably not going to make any new friends with this one. Oddly enough, I agree with you there … I don’t care too much one way or the other, but why make such a big deal about it? It’s the same thing as with the Eucharist. It’s not a dealbreaker to me, but because they make it so important I feel like I have to disagree. That is, because Orthodox folks will say it’s so central, I have to say “This is not what Christianity is primarily about, as far as I can tell.”


  2. (Eucharist) … because I would say that as I see it, the NT draws a picture of a New Covenant that does not require mystic ritual to connect with God. I would take “mercy, not sacrifice”, and “mystery of Christ revealed” passages to suggest that the way I think they take the Eucharist (mystically gives you a deeper experience of Christ) is not necessarily God’s plan. Of course, it’s a gray area, so I understand there can be disagreement.


  3. Ben,

    I don’t see how anyone could not see the eucharist as absolutely central; it is the new covenant in Christ’s blood. ‘This is my blood of the new covenant’.


    As to the question of Mary’s ever-virginity, it all really boils down to the issue of sola Scriptura. I posted the helpful quotation from church historian Dom Gregory Dix on Energetic Procession that spoke to this very issue, which you never responded to. To summarize his point, there is an Apostolic tradition of practice (liturgy) and an Apostolic tradition of doctrine that ante-dates the New Testament documents themselves, which the New Testament documents presuppose.

    ‘I am only trying to point out that there is available _another source of information on the original and authentic Apostolic interpretation of Christianity_, which the Scriptures presuppose and which _must be used in the interpretation of the Scriptures_.’ (Emphasis mine)

    Mary’s ever-virginity falls into this category.

    ‘I do not deny that in time the recognition of this fact will be bound to lead to some considerable readjustment of ideas for more than one set of people.’

    A ‘recognition of this fact’ — and it is a fact — will hopefully lead you to a ‘considerable readjustment of [your] ideas’.


    Drew Harrah


  4. I agree with Drew that this does come down to sola scriptura (though, oddly enough, Luther, Calvin, and Zwingli all upheld Mary’s perpetual virginity). I also agree with Nathan that ever-virginity is not a huge deal, but I would be surprised if it led to beliefs that are a huge problem (we’ll just have to wait for the future posts to that effect).

    Ezekiel 44:1-2:
    “Then the man (an angel) brought me back the way of the outer gate of the sanctuary which faces the east, and it was shut. Then the Lord said to me, This gate shall be shut; it shall not be opened and no man shall enter in by it, for the Lord, the God of Israel, has entered in by it; therefore it shall remain shut.”

    I offer this not as a proof-text, but I think it is interesting for the following reason: if one is operating from an Orthodox or Catholic perspective, I think it is, at very least, reasonable to see Christ and Mary in this passage (and thus a reference to perpetual virginity); however, if one is operating from an Evangelical perspective, I think it is also “in harmony with reason” to interpret it another way. The point is, when you have two rival interpretations that can both be reasonably held, which TRADITION will you default to?



  5. Your problem Drew is this: Origen never mentioned the all-church encompassing un-written “tradition” that you are speaking about.

    Rather, he said “some” believe what you believe (not “all”), and that they base what they believe on extra-biblical texts – TEXTS – not some verbal tradition.

    He held to no such “authority” of those traditions, rather he just said it follows reason. It doesn’t follow un-written tradition in his mind.

    It seems you have made this a bigger issue than Origen; claiming the whole Church used to believe this. Why?

    It seems that Origen didn’t think Ezekiel was clearly speaking of Christ and Mary. He claimed the whole idea came from the extra-biblical book of the “Protoevangelium of James”
    When did Ezekiel start being used to prove that Mary was an ever-virgin?


  6. As I said, I offered it not as clear proof, but as a passage that could be reasonably interpreted to support ever-virginity or not; and this being so, which tradition will you let guide your understanding of this passage of scripture?

    (As far as patristic witness goes, St. Jerome’s Letter to Pammachius comes to mind)


  7. There could be a couple reasons Origen said “some.” 1-There were false teachers who denied Mary’s perpetual virginity. 2-The “some” could have referred simply to the “some” who say, “the brethren of Jesus were sons of Joseph by a former wife, whom he married before Mary” as opposed to others who suggested the brethren were cousins rather than step-siblings. This would also indicate the P. of James was not the source of the notion of perpetual virginity, and even if it was the source for Origen this would not mean it was the source for other fathers (many were not familiar with the work), nor that the P. of James invented the idea instead of first writing about it though being present earlier.

    I don’t see it as dancing around scripture. Mary’s ever-virginity and Joseph’s being an older widower accounts for other siblings, Joseph’s apparent death before Christ’s public ministry, and Christ’s giving of Mary into the care of a non-relative, not to mention the typology in Ezekiel. As to the significance of the teaching, it says much about the personal piety, purity, dispassion, etc, of Mary as well as the glory of Christ (and there is much that can be read on this).


  8. Michael – can you help me see how such typology is possible in Ezekiel 44:1-2 in light of verse 3? Verse 3 seems to clearly be a continuation of the thought of 2, and allows the prince (who does not appear to be a type of Christ, given 46:4) access by that very gate. Furthermore, the access under discussion, like in Exodus 19:24, is restricted access to God (see the rest of 44, etc.), rather than access to the means of the incarnation, if you will…


  9. The prince cannot enter the gate for it is shut and never to be opened again, however, the prince can eat a meal in its porch (most commentaries highlight this is a sacrificial meal). I think this fits quite nicely with the notion that we may come into the presence of the Virgin Mother (Mary/Church) and partake of a sacrificial meal, and that we may be the sons of Mary by adoption whereas Christ is by nature.


  10. Nathan,

    Michael is spot on. Of course there were a variety of opinions about Mary in the early church; there were also a variety of opinions about Jesus in the early church. A variety of opinions doesn’t mean that all are equally valid, or that there isn’t a true apostolic tradition. My point — or more precisely, Dom Gregory Dix’s — still stands: there is an authoritative apostolic tradition that ante-dates the New Testament scriptures, and this tradition is absolutely vital for their correct interpretation.

    For more on Mary’s ever-virginity, this may be helpful to you:


    Drew Harrah


  11. Yes, Fr. Florovsky’s piece is much more substantive than the one I provided. Thanks for the link, Michael.


    Drew Harrah


  12. Drew,
    No problem. I wasn’t trying, of course, to insinuate the article you posted wasn’t that good (I’m sure you didn’t take it that way) but I think Fr. Florovsky’s piece is a good compliment to it.


  13. Michael – sorry for the lack of response… I was visiting with family also – as well as working far too much (trying to get a new release of software out the door – which it still isn’t :-(

    I’ll try for a more in-depth response on Ezekiel 44 soon…


  14. “I don’t see how anyone could not see the eucharist as absolutely central”

    Well, maybe the matter would bear further investigation for you then, because obviously there are a huge number of people that don’t see the eucharist as absolutely central.

    While I’d be the last to tell someone who had experienced Christ greatly through a Eucharistic tradition that their experience was false, I don’t think the NT sets the mystical precedent claimed by the ancient faiths, and I don’t think the sacrament is necessary to meet God in Christ.

    As an aside, I don’t find the Ezekiel 44 interpretation particularly compelling, but you folks sure have a good point as regards “Jesus on the Cross to John en re Mary”. Joseph’s prior death and Mary having no other children seems to be the best explanation of a passage that had always confused me.


  15. A number of factual errors. Others hold to the perpetual virginity without relying pseudo-pigraphal writings, not the least of which was Julius Africanus (180-200) who claimed to get the teaching from Jewish descendants of relatives of Jesus who were members of the church.

    Second, the NT isn’t complete by most conservative estimates till 70 AD. 70-200 is 130 years, not 200. This may seem like a lot, but given that we possess no canonical gospel manuscript that is attributed to any apostle prior to 250, it isn’t so long. The names were affixed to the texts by church tradition, which goes back to Papias for example who was a hearer of the Apostle John.

    Third, it isn’t just that a church had a belief for a long time that implies is truth, but that the church has judged it to be true and it has ancient roots and plausible ties to the apostolic teaching. We shouldn’t expect all teachings from the apostolic period to be as clear as ever other one. More over, Jesus has a dim view of those who reject the judgment of his church in favor of their own.

    Fourth, Jerome does argue on numerous scriptural grounds for the doctrine. And the doctrine is tied to Mary being the Second Eve and Jesus being the second Adam. Jesus was a virgin too and that was not accidental to his existence in the incarnation. Jesus shared then on earth that heavenly life, because in heaven there is no marriage. Consequently this is why Jesus and Mary are linked in at least one of the messianic prophecies, Ps 45. There is also support the Fathers think from Ezekiel 44 for example.

    Fifth, why do you take Origen as the be all and end all judge of the matter? Origen isn’t even a Church Father and at best he is a witness and witnesses sometimes make mistakes. Nor was Origen a bishop for that matter.


  16. Perry,
    I used Origen because he was around the time much of you “fathers” wrote, and because he actually explained why people believe Mary kept herself from an intimate relationship with any man. Also, he showed that not EVERYONE in the church at that time believed that Mary was an ever-virgin. That is all I was doing – and I believe that what I said still stands. You of course can find those who did believe that she was a virgin until her death, but I wasn’t saying that you couldn’t – just that you cannot claim the church held to that universally early on.
    I also used him because the Catholic church relies on him for proof that Mary was a virgin until she died (though they don’t think Mary died, so I guess I can’t say a virgin until her death…).
    If you have a problem with me using Origen because he wasn’t a bishop – why are you using Julius Africanus? If you care that much, then use your own “fathers”. All I am saying is that it was not a universal teaching, nor did people in the church at that time think it very important of an issue. They were concerned about the issue of Mary being a virgin before giving birth to Jesus, but they didn’t really care if after giving birth if she remained one.

    Ps. 45 and Ez. 44 are poor proofs. You can say whatever you want, but because they are not specifically said to be referring to Mary’s ever-virgin status, I can’t follow you on that.

    A second eve never exists in the Bible – this is where I am going later with this – for while I don’t really care if someone believes Mary had no relations her whole life – I do care when someone begins to make her something other than just a sinner, as we all are, and in need of salvation, as we all are.

    As far as the church basing their belief’s on extra-biblical writings – I was speaking of Origen, and what he said – he knew of Julius, but didn’t seem to care to mention what he said. All I said was the Origen said they based their beliefs on texts – am I wrong is saying that?

    As far as the numbers – I did say “about” 200. Read carefully. And since I was speaking of Origen, who wrote what I quoted in 248 AD, my number, as a more exact calculation 178 years after 70 AD – which, is ABOUT 200 years…your point?

    You wrote a lot, and I had to write a bit to respond to you, but was anything really even said? Your arguments didn’t really hold a lot of weight…

    I submit that your belief in the ever-virginity has changed to a level of primacy that did not exist in the early church. When it is said Jesus was born of the virgin Mary – that speaks nothing of her perpetual virginity, as it seems Catholics seem to think, but rather a Biblical truth. The perpetual virginity of Mary is extra-biblical, and of no importance one way or the other (except that I believe it lead to the immaculate conception of Mary [1854] and that she was taken into heaven and did not die [1950] as well as some other things).

    So if anything it is better to not believe it, so that those after us will not be tempted to say other things about her that are not of the truth.


  17. Michael,

    To get back to our Ezekiel 44 discussion: after re-reading 44:1-9 several more times, I can see that the prince is indeed not entering through the gate in vs. 3 – just sitting in the antechamber or vestibule. However, let’s look more closely at why the gate is shut. It is shut, and no man shall enter by it, because the Lord God of Israel has entered by it. So going back to your comment where you brought up vs. 1-2, you wrote:

    I offer this not as a proof-text, but I think it is interesting for the following reason: if one is operating from an Orthodox or Catholic perspective, I think it is, at very least, reasonable to see Christ and Mary in this passage (and thus a reference to perpetual virginity);

    I can understand the metaphor (thought I don’t think it’s supported) of Mary being the gate – however, where is Christ in this? I already stated that I don’t believe the text supports the prince as Christ (if the meal in vs. 2 is indeed sacrificial, why would Christ eat a sacrificial meal? Not only was He the perfect sacrifice, He did away with the need for the entire sacrificial system. I don’t doubt that I’m showing my Protestant perspective right now, but I don’t see how to “get there from here”). To reinforce this, Ezekiel 46:4 specifically has the prince offering sacrifices, which, again, Christ wouldn’t do. So where else might Christ be found here? The Lord God of Israel who entered by the gate? I certainly don’t wish to offend anyone, but this just doesn’t make sense in terms of the process of the incarnation! Assuming the gate is Mary, and that the Lord God entered that gate, then Christ would have had to have exited that gate in order for this type to make any sense at all. Therefore, Christ cannot be the Lord God.

    As for the rest of this passage, I’ll grant you that given the prophetic nature of this book, Ezekiel might be shifting or mixing focus in these verses from/between the actual temple, which he is clearly marking as holy and to be kept as a sanctuary throughout 1-9 (and following in chapter 44) and something else — but, again, I just don’t see how one can find Mary (and Christ) here – though if that is at all possible to find them, I can see the stretch to the concept of ever-virginity…


  18. Ben – why did you find John 19:26-27 puzzling? Note that such a view of the circumstances of this verse are not restricted to the Orthodox tradition. Matthew Henry says this:

    He tenderly provides for his mother at his death. It is probable that Joseph, her husband, was long since dead, and that her son Jesus had supported her, and her relation to him had been her maintenance; and now that he was dying what would become of her? He saw her standing by, and knew her cares and griefs; and he saw John standing not far off, and so he settled a new relation between his beloved mother and his beloved disciple; for he said to her, “Woman, behold thy son, for whom henceforward thou must have a motherly affection;’’ and to him, “Behold thy mother, to whom thou must pay a filial duty.’’ And so from that hour, that hour never to be forgotten, that disciple took her to his own home.


  19. Hi Lee,

    Yes, Christ in this passage is by no means the prince, but is the Lord God. Your idea that the Lord would need to exit the gate is mistaken for multiple reasons. First, He did exit the gate. He was outside the temple, he entered the gate, passed through it, and came OUT of the gate into the temple (analogous to: in heaven, entered Mary, passed through her out into the world). What you are asking for is either that the Lord enter the gate, huddle inside the gate without passing through it into the temple and the go back outside of the temple. But such an image would be one in which the Lord never actually passed through the gate, thus was not incarnated, and did not pass from heaven into earth. Or, the other image to be asked for (which seems to be the one you have in mind) is for the Lord to pass through the gate into the temple, then from the temple, through the gate, back outside the temple. This also fails because the temple is not an image of Mary (of her womb), the gate is the image of Mary; so, Christ has passed from heaven through her into the earth (temple), and He does not, post-incarnation, re-enter His mother (John 3:4), nor is she the gate from earth back to heaven for Christ.


  20. Nathan,

    I think you put too much weight on whether or not it was held universally early on. Just because some in the early church subscribed to a Nestorian Christology does not mean it was a legitimate position for a member of the church to have.

    In your response to Perry you said: “You of course can find those who did believe that she was a virgin until her death, but I wasn’t saying that you couldn’t – just that you cannot claim the church held to that universally early on.”

    However, when Drew referenced Apostolic tradition (and I, scripture), you responded:
    Origen never mentioned the all-church encompassing un-written “tradition” that you are speaking about … Rather, he said “some” believe what you believe (not “all”), and that they base what they believe on extra-biblical texts – TEXTS – not some verbal tradition … He held to no such “authority” of those traditions, rather he just said it follows reason. It doesn’t follow un-written tradition in his mind … He claimed the whole idea came from the extra-biblical book of the “Protoevangelium of James”

    Drew was not questioning your understanding of Origen, he was just saying there was more to the story. So, I don’t see why your response would have been to vindicate your understanding of Origen (that wasn’t in question -though I do think you conclude more than is warranted from him), so I took it that you were denying there was more to the story (whether in tradition or scripture) and using Origen as your witness. To put it another way, we’re saying there is more to the story outside of Origen. If you agree, then you cannot characterize the notion of perpetual-virginity as something invented in the Protoevangelium of James and that this was the sole basis for the doctrine. If you disagree, then Julius Africanus is solid evidence to the contrary, for starters.

    The idea that perpetual-virginity in itself leads to immaculate-conception is untenable. The immaculate-conception doctrine developed in Catholic doctrine in large part from their hamartiology, not from their notions of perpetual-virginity. Orthodox do not share this hamartiology, which is why we do not share the doctrine of the immaculate-conception, though we do share the doctrine of perpetual-virginity.


  21. Lee: Well, if the brothers and sisters of Jesus in the NT were Mary’s children, why should John “adopt” her as it were? It makes a lot more sense if there wasn’t a child left to take care of her. If Mary had no children besides Jesus, it makes a lot more sense. Of course, even if true, this doesn’t necessarily imply ever-virginity, but it makes it much more plausible.


  22. Michael,

    The problem with your critique of my thought I believe it this: Nestorian Christology was viewed by the early church as heresy, but I am getting my information from a man who was not viewed as a heretic, therefore, what he says has a way bigger bearing on the thought of the church at that time. Wouldn’t you agree?

    If I can prove that Origen did not emphasis the perpetual virginity of Mary, I believe that says something against your current belief system.
    Are there ANY early fathers who held dogmatically to the perpetual virginity of Mary as you do (meaning that they would look down on someone who believed different as not following correct “tradition”)?
    I don’t think there are. And it looks like you haven’t found anyone who did yet.

    My comments still stand.


  23. Nathan – note that you won’t find many (any?) fans of Origen over on EP… I actually don’t remember reading anything but rebuttal against Origen’s writing over there!


  24. Michael – Thanks for the detailed response.

    Actually, if you look back at what I wrote, I was working with the gate as the image of Mary and not the temple. And yes, if Jehovah=Christ here, then He’s outside the gate in this passage. However, again, it says that He (Jehovah) entered, therefore the gate is closed. (I’m not sure why you say that what I’m looking for is Christ huddling in the gate, btw.) What doesn’t make sense to me is Jehovah=Christ entering the gate to accomplish the incarnation. Stop right there and ignore the rest (passing through the gate into the temple/earth (tangent – why would the temple represent the earth??), etc.) – not to keep Christ there in the gate, but to think about Jehovah entering the gate – how does the type function if you have Christ achieve the incarnation? For one thing, Mary was to conceive when “The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Highest will overshadow you;” – for another, logically, how could Christ be involved? Again, I’m not trying to keep Christ anywhere in particular in this passage – I’m trying to understand the type because I just don’t see that it is supported….


  25. Ben – and where were they, whatever their relation? Were they there with Him in that hour? The disciple whom Jesus loved was, and He commended His mother into his care…


  26. Lee,
    I read your last comment but do not understand what your problem with the type is. Perhaps it is because it was because you were responding to my prior answer as well which made it appear complicated to me. Could you try to restate what your problem with the type is (forgetting my prior answer for the moment)? Is your problem with type a problem with Christ entering Mary?


  27. Lee: It doesn’t matter if they were there or not. If Mary had other children, it does not make sense for her to become a part of John’s household, because one of her own children would have taken care of her. If Mary was not their mother, it would make perfect sense that there would be a question of who was going to take care of her.

    Even in our disconnected society, the welfare of the parent is the responsibility of the children. It would be unusual for an elderly person to be in the care of a non-relation, if the elderly person still has living children.


  28. Nathan,

    There is more to being a heretic than simply teaching something false, namely holding to false teaching despite the correction of the Church. This is why Origenism is a heresy condemned by an ecumenical council, yet Origen is not labeled a heretic (though we do not consider him a church father for such reasons). Is Origen’s emphasis on universalism or the eternality of creation indicative of mainstream thought of the early church also? So, no, if Origen did not emphasize perpetual-virginity that does not shake my current belief system. Also, I don’t know that you can “prove” he thought it a negligible teaching because it was merely “in harmony with reason” since he says the same of Jesus’ virginity and says it is “not pious” to deny it to Mary: “And I think it in harmony with reason that Jesus was the first-fruit among men of the purity which consists in chastity, and Mary among women; for it were not pious to ascribe to any other than to her the first-fruit of virginity.” So, why must we produce other early witnesses not only to perpetual-virginity but who demonstrate an overt dogmatism about it? First, the writer of the Pr. of James was pretty serious about it; and why assume he invented the idea rather than handed down what was witnessed to him (which compliments the witness of Julius and his sources)? Hell, I’m not even sure Origen might not qualify (and even if he didn’t, why not take the witness of Julius and the Pr. of James, who are earlier witnesses, as seriously as you seem to try to take Origen’s?) That aside, who knows what other extinct documents and unwritten tradition testify to, and -as Perry mentioned- there is the judgment of the Church on the matter.


  29. Ben – you seem to confusing our “disconnected society” with the Middle East of 2000 years ago. It seems that widows were frequently not taken care of, even by their own family – see James 1:27, etc. Think about it – how many times does God get after Israel for neglecting widows as a class? How about Jesus and the apostles speaking of and defending widows in the NT? (See this page) If the children of widows were doing such a great job taking care of them (and those would be the most likely candidates to do so even if the extended families dropped the ball), why does God place such an emphasis on taking care of them?

    Sadly, this is still true today in some parts of the world.


  30. Lee,
    Did not Christ still have to pass through Mary? Christ both entered Mary and the world through her, just as He did both the gate and the temple by it.

    (I wasn’t sure if your bringing up the Holy Spirit coming upon Mary earlier was an objection, but I don’t see how that would be problematic for it was still the Logos who entered Mary and entered the world bt her. I’m sorry if that’s not what you meant.)


  31. Lee, I think you’re being obtuse. It struck me as weird that John would be “given custody” of a woman who still had children running around. That’s all. It sounds strange. The things you mentioned could just as easily be referring to childless widows — why else would they be classed with orphans?


  32. Not at all… did you read the link to the article on th situation in India? A woman can instantly become persona non grata even to her own children. They are classed with orphans because they are similarly disenfranchised and without recourse or earning ability. If their children took care of them, they wouldn’t need to be singled out, would they? It’s a hard concept to swallow for us because we can’t conceive of such a social norm…


  33. Michael – sure, Christ still has to pass through Mary… and yes, He entered the world through her. I still don’t see that Mary=the gate in Ezekiel 44, though!

    I understand the metaphor, but I don’t see how it is to be obtained from the text. To me, it still seems like eisigesis…

    My reference to the Holy Spirit had to do w/ the mechanism of the incarnation, if you will… Ezekiel speaks of Jehovah entering the gate (rendering the gate closed thereafter), and while Luke 1 would support the Father, by the Spirit, being the agent of conception, I don’t see how one can get to Christ as being said agent.

    I’m not sure if we’re getting anywhere :-/


  34. Lee,
    I have refrained from bringing up this point thus far because I didn’t want it to seem ad hoc and because the type is actually consistent in as deeply as you have examined it, but I think you are stretching typology more than it needs to.

    Hebrews 7 sees Melchizedek having neither father nor mother, and as having no beginning nor ending of days, as a type of Christ. What if someone said that this can’t be a type because Christ did have a father and mother (and a Father), or that Christ did have a beginning and end to his days on earth, etc? Or in 3:14 of his gospel, John sees the serpent on a pole as a type of Christ on a cross; what if someone said: Well, in Numbers the people only had to look at the serpent to be healed but in John they have to believe in order to have life; or: the serpent did not experience a death and resurrection, thus it could not be a type of Christ. I’m sure there are supremely better examples to use, but do you see what I mean? Every analogy does not have to be “perfect” analogy in order to be a legitimate analogy. If the only analogies or typologies you accept are those that are consistent with their prototype from every conceivable angle you probably won’t see Christ anywhere in the Old Testament. To give it some rhetorical flair one might say: your method for denying the presence of Christ and His mother in Ez. 44 can be employed to deny seeing Him and her almost anywhere; it proves Ez. 44 does not support perpetual-virginity only by proving Judaism.

    As I said, I don’t think one can say the typological dimension to the passage in Ez. 44 is inconsistent with its prototype without also implicating other typologies that Protestants accept and that the New Testament itself exegetes. So, I think the best thing an Evangelical can do with the passage is say that they can understand how Orthodox might see a Christological and Mariological reference there, but that this may just be fortuitously analogous rather than intentionally so.


  35. Michael,

    The difference between us is that you find types wherever you want. But I personally only find a type when Scripture explicitly says it is a type.

    I believe all the types have been shown to us in the NT, and that there are no more.

    That is a difference in our hermeneutic, and therefore arguing about a certain type doesn’t really go anywhere for me, unless you have Scriptural evidence that it is a type.

    And also, analogies are not the same thing as types in my book.



  36. Michael – I definitely agree with what you wrote here:

    So, I think the best thing an Evangelical can do with the passage is say that they can understand how Orthodox might see a Christological and Mariological reference there, but that this may just be fortuitously analogous rather than intentionally so.

    And my response to your question about Hebrews 7 and John 3, I’d say the same thing that Nathan said – the NT explicitly says they are types. Not that I don’t see your point, however. If I believed that tradition should inform us on types, then I can see how you can find these types in Ezekiel 44 (well, at least the type of Mary – I still don’t see Christ there!)

    Thanks for sticking with me in this discussion!


  37. Lee,

    I posted my last comment without having read your most recent comment. I can understand how it may seem like eisigesis to you. However, Christ’s 3rd day resurrection is “according to the scriptures” is only found in the type of Jonah; and from a Jewish perspective, seeing in Jonah a prophecy that the Messiah would rise again on the 3rd day might appear as eisigesis. However, from a Christian perspective this is a legitimate interpretation because Christ is the key to the Scriptures, they testify to Him, He is the Old Testament. John Behr’s book “Mystery in Christ” (and he also has some articles on the St. Vladimir’s site which touch on this) deals with how the early church read scripture. I think they are great for getting a feel for how the church fathers and the Orthodox look at scripture.

    I don’t know of a Protestant method of interpretation that would see Ez. 44 as necessarily or obviously speaking of Mary and perpetual virginity, but I also don’t know of a Protestant methodology that would see Jonah as necessarily or obviously speaking of a 3rd day resurrection. That’s because a 3rd day resurrection in Jonah doesn’t necessarily fall out of any interpretive method, it falls out of a traditioned reading; that’s one reason why I think a proper interpretation of scripture depends on a true, authoritative tradition.


  38. Ben – what price Matthew 13:55 in combination with John 7:5 and Acts 1:14? Jesus’ “brothers” are named and, at least as of John 7, do not believe. Acts shows that they later do believe….


  39. Michael,

    Well, Matt 20:40 explicitly points to Jonah’s 3 days as a type of Christ’s 3rd day resurrection – therefore, I’m not sure how the Jewish perspective enters into the equation!


  40. Nathan,
    I agree analogies are not the same thing as types, however, the notion of “analogies” is less foreign than typologies, so I thought it might be a good concept to grasp from which one could then get a handle on typologies with.

    Just curious, do you think the ram in the thicket given in Isaac’s place is a type of Christ? If so, where is that in scripture. I’m not trying to be coy or anything, I just really can’t think of anyplace. There might be, I’m just drawing a blank right now. Also, how about the 3 visitors to Abraham … do you take them to be types?

    I think it’s too bad you only see a type where scripture explicitly says there is a type because I think you are missing a lot of scripture. Of course seeing whatever you want in types and so on apart from the judgment of the church can make for a mess as well (plenty of Protestants do that too).


  41. Lee,
    Right, but for Jews who accept neither Christ or Matthew’s gospel, seeing a 3rd day Messianic resurrection in Jonah’s being vomited up by a huge fish on the 3rd day in the belly might legitimately appear as eisegesis to them.


  42. Michael – sure, I’ll agree with you there… but… I’m still not sure what bearing that has on us today given that we both agree that Christ’s interpretation of the OT can be taken as trustworthy :-)


  43. Lee,
    As to your earlier comment, it was good discussing things with you too.

    Given your agreement with Nathan about only accepting the types in scripture interpreted by scripture I’ll ask you the same thing I asked him regarding the ram in the thicket and the 3 visitors to Abraham (see above).


  44. Lee,
    Yes, we both certainly accept Christ’s interpretation of the OT as trustworthy, however it appears that the way Christ interpreted the O.T. was not according to a methodology but His was traditioned reading. To interpret the O.T. as Christ did we must have His authoritative tradition handed down (“traditioned”) to us. Protestants deny having that, so it’s no wonder they can’t determine whether or not a particular type is legit or not. The Orthodox Church, on the other hand, claims to bear this tradition. If we do, then the Orthodox Church is the only place to understand scripture as Christ did. If we don’t, then we won’t understand it as Christ does, but neither will anyone else.


  45. To be honest Michael, I haven’t studied extensively on Isaac/Ram/Jesus typology – but I did come across this:
    “He [Abraham] considered that God is able to raise people even from the dead, from which he also received him [Isaac] back as a type.” (Hebrews 11:19)

    But since Christ would be the ram…I don’t think this would fit – also it seems to me that the “type” here is referring to resurrection, not drawing lines to Christ…

    The term “type of Christ” to me is reserved for those things which Scripture itself testifies are types of Christ. So if Scripture doesn’t say it, then it isn’t a type.

    I believe in preaching the story I would draw connections to God’s ultimate “provision” but I would not all it a type of Christ. For one thing, it was a ram. Christ is the passover lamb, not a ram…but just a thought.


  46. Michael – I’ll also have to do some studying on the ram in the thicket (though Nathan’s pointer to Hebrews 11:19 looks promising) – but for now, since I’m quite hungry and haven’t yet had dinner :-), let me ask you this: do you really think that Jesus (or even Paul, who does quite a bit of interpretation of the OT which I think would have surprised Jewish readers of his epistles) was solely relying on tradition? I mean, in the case of Jesus, He had the benefit of actually being God – and Paul (and the other NT writers, of course) were inspired by the Holy Spirit. Might they have not bent the “approved hermeneutical rules” of the time just a bit given their authority — that is, including and perhaps especially those rules related to tradition? The fact that you say that Jewish readers would find Christ’s interpretation fishy (sorry!) tells me that you would agree…


  47. Michael,

    What I’ve been able to dig up concerning Genesis 22 as explained by Hebrews 11:19 agrees with Nathan’s assessment that the “type” here is pointing to the resurrection (of Christ) rather than to Christ Himself – in fact, it would appear that Gregory of Nyssa supports this, though I haven’t been able to track down the actual work referred to here:

    19. Faith answered the objections which reason brought against God’s command to Abraham to offer Isaac, by suggesting that what God had promised He both could and would perform, however impossible the performance might seem (Romans 4:20,21).
    able to raise him–rather, in general, “able to raise from the dead.” Compare Romans 4:17, “God who quickeneth the dead.” The quickening Of Sarah’s dead womb suggested the thought of God’s power to raise even the dead, though no instance of it had as yet occurred.
    he received him–“received him back” [ALFORD].
    in a figure–Greek, “in a parable.” ALFORD explains, “Received him back, risen from that death which he had undergone in, under, the figure of the ram.” I prefer with BISHOP PEARSON, ESTIUS, and GREGORY OF NYSSA, understanding the figure to be the representation which the whole scene gave to Abraham of Christ in His death (typified by Isaac’s offering in intention, and the ram’s actual substitution answering to Christ’s vicarious death), and in His resurrection (typified by Abraham’s receiving him back alive from the jaws of death, compare 2 Corinthians 1:9,10); just as on the day of atonement the slain goat and the scapegoat together formed one joint rite representing Christ’s death and resurrection. It was then that Abraham saw Christ’s day (John 8:56): accounting God was able to raise even from the dead: from which state of the dead he received him back as a type of the resurrection in Christ.


  48. Nathan,

    As far as Christ being the passover lamb and NOT a ram, I think that is a mistake, and I think many Protestants would see it as one also. On the cross, Christ is the passover lamb, and the serpent lifted up in the wilderness, and the ram caught in the thicket, and on and on (Fr. Stephen Freeman made an excellent statement made to this effect here: Paul used mutually exclusive sacrificial images (if each was understood as THE explanation of the cross) to describe Christ’s sacrifice, and even did so in the same sentence. (I can explain this further if interested. Finlan’s “Problems With Atonement” is a highly readable treatment on this). This is in part why I was saying to Lee that it’s wrong to look for a true type to be consistent from every angle with its prototype, because what the N.T. sees as prefiguring Christ in the Old Testament will be ruled out (Paul in particular would be extremely confused).

    As far as not accepting any typologies in scripture not explicitly testified to by other scriptures goes, I can appreciate why you practice this. There is no method of interpretation that can pass judgment one way or the other, so settling for only what types are made explicit by other scripture is certainly one way to practice some exegetical control. But while that may be one way to ensure that you don’t see more in scripture than there is, it is also ensures that you see less than is there.


  49. Lee,

    You’re not getting what I mean when I say Christ’s interpretation of scripture is a “traditioned” reading. By it I do not mean Christ or the apostles were relying on a tradition in order to understand scripture (I don’t think there are any prior traditions, Jewish or otherwise, that saw in scripture much of what Christ and the apostles did–which is part of my point), rather they were telling us what Scripture says according to the guidance of the Spirit. What they handed down (literally “traditioned”) to us that scripture means is the traditioned reading I refer to; it was not what they were given to work within but what they gave us to work within. However, if we do not work within that apostolic tradition, we will not be able to understand scripture as Christ and the apostles did. We know Jonah prefigures a 3rd day resurrection because Christ “traditioned” that to us, not because any of our methods can authoritatively gaurantee such an interpretation. By the same token, we can’t know for sure whether or not it is legit to see Ez. 44 as teaching perpetual-virginity because no method will guarantee its truth or falsity, nor does scripture interpret itself for us here. It is only possible to know whether or not Mary is typified in Ez. 44 if one is working within apostolic tradition. Either we have it or we don’t. To go further would obviously get into more contentious territory as to whether or not the Orthodox (or Catholic) Church is the apostolic church which has faithfully preserved the “faith once delivered to all the saints,” is truly the “pillar and ground of truth,” and can make authoritative judgments on the matter. However, even if it is the case that the Orthodox church has fallen away from apostolic tradition and added to it, obscured it, corrupted it, etc, all that means is that none of us have access to apostolic tradition; and all we have then are our own methods that are incapable of viewing scripture as Christ and the apostles did. And since the N.T. writers explicitly exegete relatively little of the O.T., and the N.T. writers’ interpretations are typically in need of further interpretation themselves (what Paul understood about Abraham is hotly debated, for instance), it seems Newman’s statement rings true: “A revelation is not given, if there be no authority to decide what it is that is given.”

    As to the passage in Hebrews, it seems only to comment on Isaac as a type for the resurrection -being received back- but the commentary you offer notes both Isaac as a type (“in offering”) and the ram as a type (in “substitution”). I agree that each is a type (I think the Reformers and most Protestants do as well), but you also don’t find that explicitly taught in scripture.


  50. Nathan,

    I quite agree that not everyone in the early church believed it, but it seems you fall into the fallacy of composition, reasoning from the part to the whole. It doesn’t follow from the fact that some members of the church believed otherwise, that the church believed otherwise. Things true of the body are not necessarily true of the parts.

    Furthermore, not every member of the early church professed the full divinity of Christ, yet I don’t take that to be grounds to reject the teaching or for thinking that it wasn’t the apostolic teaching. Given the circumstances of the day I fully expect not everyone and in deed most people to have significant gaps or mistakes in their knowledge. Consequently not everyone accepted the Pauline corpus without question or every book from Hebrews to Revelation and yet you wouldn’t give the time of day to anyone who seriously questioned their canonicity who also professed the name of Christ. Yet this is not the case here. Why? It can’t be because said belief lacks explicit scriptural warrant, for there is no scriptural warrant for including any one book in the canon, not to mention the fact that lots of implicit beliefs you have lack explicit justification.

    Likewise, the Arminians by analogy were Reformed and yet you do not take them to be so. Arminius was a Reformed theologian as were many other Dutch thinkers sympathetic to his ideas. Not only that a number of Puritans for example rejected Limited Atonement, not to mention Sola Fide. Yet you don’t take them to be representative of Reformed teaching. By the same token, why not?

    Consequently your citation of Origen is idle. It does no work for your position for I readily concede that people didn’t adhere to it but it in now way follows that the church didn’t. As an aside, the Orthodox do profess the death of Mary.

    The reason why I care whether Origen was a bishop or not is that bishops were charged with being the principle teachers so that if a bishop teaches something the probability that it is apostolic in origin increases and even more so if the person is a bishop of an apostolic see. My point with Julius was that Julius adheres to the idea without relying on psuedo-pigraphal works. You seemed to imply that the warrant for the belief was substantially dependent on such works. It isn’t.
    I am not clear on why you use the term “fathers” in quotations. If it is to disown them, I am quite happy to concede that your faith is not that of the early teachers of Christianity, either in whole or in part. In any case, your concept of universal teaching seems too simplistic and hence something of a straw man. It is too easy to refute to have carried the argumentative weight that great minds thought it did. The concept of a universal teaching and indeed the notion of katholikos, according to the whole is far more sophisticated than how it seems you are conceiving of it.

    As for Ps 45, I’d take another look since the NT explicitly cites it an applies it to Mary. The Ps is clearly Messianic and also clearly refers to the Theotokos. And I’d wager that the reason you take Ez 44 as a poor proof is that you are interpreting Scripture along hermenutical principles derived from Nestorianism, rather than Theandrically.

    The term “second eve” never occurs in the bible, but do you wish to claim that the concept doesn’t? Compare the Fall with the Annunciation. A woman, an angel and a message and then the actions of a man. The parallel seems quite solidly biblical.

    Using Origen is tricky business. Sincere as he was, all sides agree that many ideas either taught by Origen or derived from his principles are outright heterodox. So contrary to your assertions, Origen was judged, even before the judgments of Justinian as holding numerous heterodox views. Origen attempts to synthesize Christian theology with Platonism, which is why he is interested in re-interpreting various texts. The fact that Origen doesn’t or does emphasize certain beliefs *on its own* has little if any argumentative weight as a witness for any proposed fact. It has to be taken in concept with other witnesses or Fathers or some other form of supporting evidence.

    What is or isn’t extra biblical is a function of other principles. I’ll grant that it isn’t explicitly mentioned in the bible, but then again, neither is the perpetual virginity of Jesus. It is drawn from inferences from other facts, not the least of which is the enjoyment now of a heavenly kind of life (for in heaven there is no marriage/intercourse, contrary to the Muslims.) Mary who is intimately related to Christ both in terms of personal faith and faithful even beyond that of the Apostles, but also in virtue of the fact that Christ derives his humanity from here (flesh of my flesh). No one has such a relation to Christ and that is firmly planted on biblical grounds. Moreover, perpetual virgnity was held by many Reformers well into the modern period. Abraham Kuyper for example held to it as well as to the Dormition. People like Luther and Kuyper were not exactly Roman parrots. In fact the Roman dogma of the Immaculate Conception owes more to Calvinistic assumptions than to anything in Orthodox theology. The Immaculate Conception is just Calvinistic predestination and regeneration applied to Mary. Both Rome and the Reformers agree that it is possible for God to convey personal righteousness part from and prior to any choice the agent makes. Given that the Orthodox embrace a kind of Libertarian freedom (neither Rome nor the Reformers do or could) such a view isn’t possible. Moreover, we don’t think on the very same grounds it is possible to inherit guilt nor do we associate it necessarily with death. Why? Because it conflates the categories of person and nature-natures don’t sin and hence can’t be sinful or guilty. But thinking that one can inherit death and guilt together is the real motivation for the Roman Dogma of the Immaculate Conception. So I think the shoe is on the other foot here. The difference between Rome and the Classical Reformation on this point is not one of principle but application and so you are far closer to Rome than the Orthodox ever could be.

    Origen also fails to uphold the goodness of the material world, does it follow that one is therefore licensed to reject the resurrection of the flesh? Again, Julius gets his information regarding Jesus’ lineage from Jewish converts from the extended family of Jesus. What better proposed source would one wish for?

    As for finding types, the finding of types is not arbitrary. Augustine for example gives detailed rules for discerning the types of Scripture. Secondly, this shows that the issue turns on exactly the Nestorian hermeneutical principles, for Nestorius would only admit a typological relation only when it was necessary to do so. Nestorianism is primarily about the appropriate rules of grammar predicating things respective to each essence/prosopa. See I think the Nestorianism in your approach will become apparent after reading it. All of Scripture is about Christ, per Christ’s own words.

    The fact that the NT sees certain OT passages as typological really isn’t a help, for the Apostles saw them as such prior to the writing of the text. What was their justification for doing so except an established practice of doing so from Christ, and hence from tradition? To note how the NT sees such OT passages only moves the question, it does not answer it. Btw Gal 4 has an explicit analogy. In any case, the hermeneutics betray a deficient Christology. I am not accusing, just bringing it to your attention to consider.


  51. Michael,

    You’re right – I did not understand how you were using “traditioned”! So as far as I can tell, we were talking about the same thing with respect to how Jesus and writers of the NT were going about the process of (re-)interpreting OT scriptures. It’s just that we differ on when “traditioning”, if you will, ceased. I understand that the Orthodox position is that “traditioning” continued (still continues? Have all the details been worked out as much as they can be, or was there any sort of cut-off point after which there was nothing new to add to the understanding of scripture? I’m not talking about heterodoxy or heretical teaching, but rather some hypothetical valid interpretation of some portion of scripture which was never thought of or debated by the Church Fathers) long after the 1st century. And Perry made a good point with respect to fact that there was some disagreement, even about some fundamentals, early on in the church. (Though to me, that fact doesn’t appear to help the Orthodox position on Tradition, ultimately…)

    With respect to Ez. 44, I understand what you’re saying, and your appeal to authority – I just don’t happen to agree with it… I’d be very interested to know when Ez. 44 was seen in this light, if it’s possible to pin that down to a particular century… I guess if it appears in writing dating back to the something like the 3rd or 4th century, it would be very hard to argue that it didn’t appear before — unless there was some dispute over the concept, of course.

    So do the Orthodox not believe that an Orthodox non-Saint can be guided into understanding of scripture? I won’t ask what the position is concerning the same question with respect to a Protestant :-)

    Again, I’d have to do more studying on the types (both offering and substitution) in Hebrews… I wonder – does anyone make a distinction between Types and types, if you will? (Where Types are explicitly laid out and types are merely described, a la the Trinity, etc.)


  52. Lee,

    As far as “continued traditioning” -if you will- is concerned, that gets into some territory I am not informed enough to answer well. Orthodox literature dealing with development of doctrine (which Orthodox reject) would be one starting place.

    I know Ez. 44 is seen in this light by St. Jerome in a letter to Pammachius in the late 4th century, though I’m not sure of any extant writing prior stating the same.

    Yes, Orthodox believe an Orthodox non-Saint, or Protestant, can potentially be guided into a correct understanding of scripture.


  53. Michael,

    Yes, there was a comment on EP in the past couple of weeks to the effect that Orthodoxy is “not new, not improved”, or something like that – so I understand that, with respect to development of doctrine, nothing new is acceptable. I guess I was trying to get at something that wouldn’t quite fit under that heading – so not at the level of the nature or attributes of God, how salvation works, etc., but rather a way of looking at some passage which hadn’t been discussed before, and didn’t contradict anything previously written about that passage… I don’t have anything specific in mind – I’m just trying to understand what would be considered permissible.

    I was under the impression that there were capital-S Saints and there were saints in the Orthodox tradition – were Saints had, by virtue of their piety and other criteria, “earned” the capital S, whereas everyone else in the Church was a saint. Did you use the capital S in “non-Saint” with any of this in mind? Just curious :-)

    As always, thanks for your continued interaction with me and all my questions!


  54. Yes, when I used “St.” above in reference to Jerome I did mean it in the sense of him being a canonized saint, while there are others not canonized as such who are indeed saints.


  55. Hi Perry,

    It’s been a while :)

    But just some comments. I know I will not convince you – nor did I write this to do so. I wrote it as my own observations after having visited an Orthodox Church for the first time.


    “It doesn’t follow from the fact that some members of the church believed otherwise, that the church believed otherwise.”

    That’s fine. Like I said, I had forgotten that the church called Origen’s teachings heresy, so I withdrew and said it wasn’t a very good argument against an Orthodox. But I still see what he said as interesting, because he actually goes into WHY people believe that about Mary – whereas everyone else I read just says that about her (ex. “ever-virgin” etc.).

    But really – if we can’t give each other labels, what will we do? Lables come out of history – Calvinist or Arminian, Easter Orthodox, Greek Orthodox…we have names because that is how we communicate. Reformed is a much broader category than Calvinistic – and yes, we must be careful when labeling others, yet it is something we must do if we want to communicate (or else we must start from the ground up EVERY time!). Origen was a prominent person in the church at one time – and he made a comment about why people believed that Mary was an ever-virgin. Can I not use him to make any observations? Even if he was a heretic (or his teaching were considered heretical because of his followers use of them?)?

    “I’ll grant that it isn’t explicitly mentioned in the bible, but then again, neither is the perpetual virginity of Jesus.”

    That’s actually funny you should point that out. No one is really concerned about Jesus being a virgin are they? No one ever says “the ever-virgin Jesus”. Interesting.

    Yet so many are concerned that Mary be an “ever-virgin” when I really don’t think it matters at all (except that it led the Catholic Church to heresy putting her higher than she is, being a human in need of a Savior as we all are).

    “The fact that the NT sees certain OT passages as typological really isn’t a help, for the Apostles saw them as such prior to the writing of the text. What was their justification for doing so except an established practice of doing so from Christ, and hence from tradition?”

    You have a different view of Scripture than I do – I believe since we now posses Scripture written our role is different than those who the Spirit used to write Scripture. They were taught by Christ directly – I am not, I am taught through His Word by His Spirit. Nothing new is revealed than what has already been written. He will not show me some vision about extra portions of His life on earth that have not been written in His word.
    But that really is a different issue, outside of this discussion. Perhaps I will write a post on it later, because it would be beneficial for me to look more deeply into the Word rather than relying on my teachers for what I believe.

    I appreciate you taking time to interact :)

    Happy New Year!


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