Wednesday, August 22, 2012

THE QUEEN OF HEAVEN by Bro. Marwil N. Llasos

Mary the Queen
Modern Protestants object to calling Mary as “Queen of Heaven” because according to them, the title is pagan and is hateful to God. Before I respond to this to the issue, I just wish to remark that Martin Luther, the originator of Protestantism, Martin Luther admitted that the title “Queen of Heaven” is “a true enough name and yet does not make her a goddess.”[1] In fact, the instigator of the Reformation went as far as calling Mary “more than an empress or a queen.”[2]

Martin Luther: "Queen of Heaven is true enough name and yet does not make [Mary] a goddess"
Protestants point to Jeremiah 7: 18[3] and 44: 17[4] in condemning Catholics for calling Mary the “Queen of Heaven.” They say that "Queen of Heaven" is a pagan title that is offensive to God. However, the title "Queen of Heaven" in Jeremiah 7: 18 and 44: 17 actually refers to the goddess Ishtar or Astarte, a near-Eastern goddess of fertility.

Ishtar: This pagan goddess has nothing to do with Mary
Ishtar was a Near Eastern goddess worshiped for thousands of years by so many different peoples throughout Mesopotamia. Judith Ochshorn writes:“Ishtar's name is etymologically identical with that of the West Semitic goddess Astarte, the South Arabian god 'Athar, or Astar, who in Ethiopia was the god of heaven and who appears in Ugaritic or Canaanite myths as both the female Athtart and the male 'Athar 'Ariz. Perhaps her most significant designation is the Semitic version of Inanna, "queen of heaven," the multifaceted and most enduring of all the powerful Sumerian goddesses. In addition, the association of Ishtar with male as well as female deities reveals an important ingredient of Mesopotamian conceptions of the divine that spilled into cultic practices.”[5]

Astarte: This pagan goddess has no similarity at all with the Virgin Mary
Obviously, none of these goddesses has anything to do with Mary, the Mother of the Lord. A fourth-century heretical cult in Arabia, the Collyridians tried to do what the children did in Jeremiah 7:18; 44:17-18, 25 by offering Mary a sacrifice of cakes, thereby worshiping her. The Catholic Church vehemently condemned this heresy and idolatry (Mariolatry, to be precise). In his Panarion, St. Epiphanius, Bishop of Salamis, writes –

Inanna: An attempt to link this pagan goddess to the Blessed Virgin Mary is simply inane

“Certain women there in Arabia have introduced this absurd teaching from Thracia: how they offer up a sacrifice of bread rolls in the name of the ever-Virgin Mary, and all partake of this bread…[6] It is not right to honor the saints beyond their due …[7] Now the body of Mary was indeed holy, but it was not God; the Virgin was indeed a virgin and revered, but she was not given to us for worship, but she herself worshipped him who was born in the flesh from her … Honor Mary, but let the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit be worshipped, but let no one worship Mary … even though Mary is the most beautiful and holy and venerable, yet she is not to be worshiped.[8]

St. Epiphanius of Salamis condemned the heresy and idolatry of the Collyridians

Early Christian literature, such as the above, disproves that Catholics worship Mary. In our theology and practice, we are one with early Church Father St. Epiphanius who wrote: “According to her nature, Mary remains human and feminine. Hence, like other saints, she is unsuited for adoration, though as an elect vessel, she is glorified in a higher degree than others. In like manner, neither Elijah … nor John the Baptist … nor Thecla may be adored.”[9]

Our Lord God and Savior Jesus Christ is the true King of kings and Lord of lords

So what if Catholics call Mary with the title “Queen of Heaven”? The fact that a title is improperly and erroneously applied to a pagan deity does not mean that it cannot be properly and validly applied to someone else.

Let’s take, for example, the title “King of Kings.” It was a pagan title applied to Artaxerxes in Ezra 7:12. However, the same title is applied to Our Lord Jesus Christ in 1 Timothy 6:15, Revelation 17:14 and 19:16. The same title of “King of Kings” was used for Nebuchadnezzar in Daniel  2:37. But of course we know that Our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ is the true King of Kings and Lord of Lord (Rev. 19:16).

Mary is queen because her Son is King

Another example would be the title “Morning Star.” The title was used for Lucifer in Isaiah 14:12. The angels of God are also referred to as “morning stars” in Job 38:7. But in Revelation 22:16, Jesus is called the “bright morning star.” Clearly, a title wrongly applied in one case can be used correctly and validly in the proper case.

For Catholics, Mary is Queen of Heaven not because she is a goddess like Ishtar or Astarte. To insist on a nexus between the pagan title and Mary is untenable. Formidable Protestant theologian Karl Barth, himself a critic of Catholic Mariology, considered as “ill founded” the notion that Mariology developed from pagan sources. He said: “It is not to be recommended that we should base our repudiation on the assertion that there has taken place here an irruption from the heathen sphere, an adoption of the idea, current in many non-Christian religions, of a more or less central and original female or mother deity. In dogmatics, you can establish everything and nothing from parallels from the history of religions.”[10]

"Come: thou shalt be crowned" (Song 4:8, DRV)

Another Protestant theologian, John de Satgé, supported Karl Barth, stating that “[i]t is not necessary to accept … the evil conjunction of Christian piety with the primeval mother-goddess.”[11] Evangelical scholar Prof. Tim Perry likewise rejects as “genetic fallacy” (drawing a conclusion about the truth of a concept based on its origins) the argument that the Great Mother traditions of the ancient Near East are incompatible with Christian teaching.[12]

"The Queen stands at your right hand" (Ps. 45:9): The coronation of the Queen Mother

In Catholic Mariology, we do refer to Mary as Queen of Heaven because her Son is King whose kingdom is not of this world (Jn. 18:36). Mary’s Son now reigns in heaven as King and it is said of Him, “at Your right hand stands the queen in gold from Ophir” (Ps. 45:9, NKJV). The queen is none other than the Queen Mother of the Davidic King (cf. 1 Kings 2:19).[13] Since the ultimate King on the Davidic throne is Christ the King, the Queen Mother of His everlasting Kingdom is therefore Mary the Queen. Mary is seen in heaven as the “woman clothed with the sun, and the moon under her feet, and upon her head is a crown of twelve stars”(Rev. 12:1).  While the woman in Revelation 12 has polyvalent meaning,[14]nevertheless, Evangelical theologian and scholar Tim Perry sees a Marian reference there: “the case can be made for a fourth secondary referent: Mary.”[15]Thus, the Evangelical professor goes on to state that “[i]n Revelation, at least in its canonical context, she retains her corporate referent and is exalted as the Queen of Heaven.”[16]

Mary for Evangelicals by Prof. Tim Perry

[1] Jaroslav Pelikan, ed., Luther’s Works (St. Louis: Concordia) 24:327, cited in Fr. Mateo,Refuting the Attack on Mary (San Diego, CA: Catholic Answers, 1999) p. 67. 
[2] Jaroslav Pelikan, ed., Luther’s Works (St. Louis: Concordia) 36:208; 45:107, cited in Fr. Mateo, Refuting the Attack on Mary (San Diego, CA: Catholic Answers, 1999) p. 110.

Ishtar: No point of comparison with the Blessed Virgin Mary
[3] “The children gather wood, and the fathers kindle the fire, and the
women knead their dough, to make cakes to the queen of heaven, and
to pour out drink offerings unto other gods, that they may provoke me to anger” (Jer. 7:18).
[4] “But we will certainly do whatsoever thing goeth forth out of our
own mouth, to burn incense unto the queen of heaven, and to pour out
drink offerings unto her, as we have done, we, and our fathers, our kings,
and our princes, in the cities of Judah, and in the streets of Jerusalem: for
then had we plenty of victuals, and were well, and saw no evil (Jer.
44: 17).

These pagan god and goddess have absolutely nothing to do with Jesus and Mary 

[5]  Judith Ochshorn, “Ishtar and Her Cult,” The Book of the Goddess Past and Present, Carl Olson, ed. (New York: Crossroad Publishing Co., 1994) 16-28.
[6] Panarion 78:13.
[7] Ibid., 78:23.
[8] Ibid., 79:1, 4.
[9] Ibid., 79:5.
[10] Karl Barth, Church Dogmatics (Edinburgh: T&T Clark, 1936-1960), p. 1:143, cited in Fr. Mateo, Refuting the Attack on Mary (San Diego: Catholic Answers, 1999) p. 69. 
[11] John de Satgé, Down to Earth: The New Protestant Vision of the Virgin Mary(Consortium, 1976) p. 80, cited in Fr. Mateo, Refuting the Attack on Mary (San Diego: Catholic Answers, 1999) p. 69. 

The true Queen of Heaven: "The queen stands at Your right hand, at your right hand arrayed in gold" (Ps. 45:9)

[12] Cf. Tim Perry, Mary for Evangelicals (Downers Grove, Illinois: Inter Varsity Press, 2006) pp. 269-270. 
[15] Tim Perry, Mary for Evangelicals (Downers Grove, IL: Inter Varsity Press, 2006) p. 112. 

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