The Blessed Virgin Mary is indeed blessed: "The verse (Lk. 11:28) is not used to deny the blessedness of Mary" - Catholic Mariology critic Gerry Soliman (Rodimus)
THE BLESSEDNESS OF MARY:
Confuting Gerry Soliman on Luke 11:27-28
A blog follower called my attention to an article of my critic Mr. Gerry Soliman of Solutions Finder Apologetics “refuting” my blog post on the Blessedness of Mary and Luke 11:27-28. In his comment, my blog follower requested me to answer Mr. Soliman’s “refutation.” While Mr. Soliman regularly monitors my blog, I don’t have the luxury of time and energy to reciprocate. Just to indulge my blog follower who requested for an answer, I am posting here my counter-refutation of Mr. Soliman’s article. Mr. Soliman’s words are in violet while my answers are in black.
The Annunciation: "Hail, thou art highly favoured, the Lord is with thee: blessed art thou among women" (Lk. 1:28, KJV)
Atty. Marwil Llasos once again tries to defend the Roman Catholic doctrine on Mary.
As a Roman Catholic, it is expected of me to defend any and all doctrines of my Church. Moreover (pun also intended), as a Marian apologist, what do you think I am supposed to do? To defend the Roman Catholic doctrine on Mary, of course.
Which Roman Catholic doctrine on Mary I am defending in that blog article? As the title suggests - the blessedness of Mary.
Does Mr. Gerry Soliman refute that Catholic doctrine on the blessedness of Mary? He doesn’t and he made it clear that Luke 11:27-28 “is not used to deny the blessedness of Mary. We believe that Mary is indeed blessed (Luke 1:48).”
I thank Mr. Gerry Soliman for this admission. The blessedness of Mary is something that we agree on.
"See that Mary did not doubt, but believed and and gathered the fruit of faith. 'Blessed' says Elizabeth because thou hast believed. But you are blessed, who have heard and believed; for every soul that has believed both conceives and engenders the word of God and recognizes His works ... if, according to faith, Christ is the fruit of all" - St. Ambrose, Bishop of Milan
In his article, he explains why Luke 11:27-28 does not shatter the Catholic devotion to Mary.
This is what I actually said: ”[w]ith this verse, anti-Catholics are confident that they have shattered to pieces the Catholic case for Marian devotion.”
In what sense did I say that the verse does not shatter the Catholic case for Marian devotion? Only if the passage is interpreted “to mean that those who hear the word of God and keep it are much more blessed than Mary (as if Mary herself did not hear the word of God and keep it).”
Does Mr. Gerry Soliman disagree with that position? Does Mr. Soliman believe that those who hear the word of God and keep it are more blessed than Mary? Does he believe that Mary did not hear the word of God and keep it?
I don’t think so. Nowhere in his short “refutation” does Mr. Soliman ever claim that those who hear the word of God and keep it are much more blessed than Mary. Moreover, there is nothing in his article that Mr. Soliman asserted that Mary did not hear the word of God and keep it.
The Visitation: "And blessed is she that believed: for there shall be a performance of those things which were told her from the Lord" (Lk. 145, KJV)
Before we go on discussing his so-called rebuttal, let's give first some clarification on the Evangelical's use of the verse.
Mr. Gerry Soliman mentioned about my “so-called rebuttal.” Just a point of clarification, I am not rebutting anybody in particular in that article. My purpose in writing that article is expressed in the first paragraph, which I assume Mr. Soliman has read and understood because he is not illiterate. Or is he?
I was responding to a query from a blog follower on the “correct interpretation of Luke 11:27-28.” My intention was very modest. As I said, I merely wished to “give my two cents worth to this topic.”
If my article appeared to Mr. Soliman as a rebuttal (of what, and of whom), that is his perception. He has a world of his own. And I respect that.
Gerry Soliman's Marian devotion (Source: Gerry Soliman's Facebook account)
It's true that we Evangelicals use it to debunk Roman Catholic devotion on Mary.
When Mr. Soliman uses “we Evangelicals,” does he assume all Evangelicals? Does he speak for all Evangelicals? I don’t think so. I don’t think he is authorized or competent to do so. And in fairness to Mr. Soliman, I don’t think he is claiming to be the spokesperson or mouthpiece of all Evangelicals. Gerry Soliman is just speaking for himself. Yet, he oftentimes speaks of “we Evangelicals” as though he has a special power of attorney to speak in their behalf.
In my article, I clearly stated that I was answering a very specific query wherein someone, presumably an Evangelical like Mr. Soliman, is using the verse to prove that he is more blessed than Mary.
"We believe that Mary is indeed blessed" - Gerry Soliman
However, the verse is not used to deny the blessedness of Mary. We believe that Mary is indeed blessed (Luke 1:48).
I am thankful for this admission of Mr. Gerry Soliman. As you see, Mr. Soliman and I are not always at loggerheads with each other. We can agree on some points. And one point we agree on Mariology is the blessedness of Mary.
But, if Mr. Soliman has read and understood my article, I was responding to a question regarding the use of this verse by someone who claims he is more blessed than Mary! I wonder if Mr. Soliman also shares that view.
Luke 11:27-28 is nevertheless used to impair any further exaltation of Mary.
That is your position Mr. Soliman. But here, you are simply barking at the wrong tree. If Mr. Soliman has read my article correctly, it was not my intention to press “any further exaltation of Mary.” Where in my article did I say that?
Mr. Gerry Soliman is refuting something I never said. Is that fair?
My concern is merely on the blessedness of Mary, as the title of my article suggests. And Mr. Soliman is on record as not opposing that. But where in my article did I mention any further exaltation of Mary?
This is what I actually said: “The passage, far from downplaying Marian devotion, in fact reinforces it. Jesus makes it clear that Mary is actually “doubly blessed” for being His Mother and for hearing the word of God and keeping it.”
She who believed by faith, conceived by faith: "Does the Virgin Mary, who believed by faith and conceived by faith, who was the chosen one from whom our Savior was born among men, who was created by Christ before Christ was created in her - did she not do the will of the Father? Indeed the blessed Mary certainly did the Father's will, and so it was for her a greater thing to have been Christ's disciple than to have been His mother, and she was more blessed in her discipleship than in her motherhood." - St. Augustine, Bishop of Hippo
The controversial word in the verse is "rather" which has an opposing position and can mean "on the contrary."
According to Mr. Soliman, “rather” can mean “on the contrary.” But is “on the contrary” its only meaning. It can mean “on the contrary” but furthermore, it can also mean a lot of things gauging from the way “rather” (menoun) is translated in various Bible versions, both Protestant and Catholic. As I noted in my article:
“There are various translations of the word menoun. The King James Version translates it as "yea rather" while the Revised Standard Version renders it as "indeed." The Douay-Rheims Version renders it as "furthermore."”
I can list more Bible translations that use other expressions other than "on the contrary.” Here are some of them. I can add more, but it would be superfluous already for our purpose.
We can agree with Roman Catholics that Mary is blessed because she heard and observed God's word. But Christians can also be blessed as Mary if they do likewise.
I am glad that Mr. Gerry Soliman can be ecumenical, at least on this one that we agree on.
I thank Mr. Gerry Soliman for concurring in the main point of my article which is actually the conclusion thereof:
“Christians cannot be “blessed” in the sense of any physical or blood relationship with Christ as Mary had with her Son. But we can be surely blessed as Mary if we, like her, hear the word of God and keep it.”
She stood by her Son on the Cross (cf. Jn. 19:25): Mary kept the faith and obeyed the will of the Father until the end ...
As always, it is the strategy of Atty. Llasos to cite non-Catholic sources to be objective. The strategy isn't bad, but in my experience he also uses it as a tool to show Evangelical inconsistencies (since an Evangelical appears to side with him).
Mr. Soliman uses “we Evangelicals.” So, it behooves me to show that not all Evangelicals agree with his position.
More importantly, I cite non-Catholic sources, especially Evangelical ones, to show not much of Evangelical inconsistencies (that’s a given), but my position as a Catholic apologist is in fact consistent with the views of some (if not all) Evangelicals.
Lastly, I cite non-Catholic sources as scholarly materials whose objectivity and scholarship I leave to the assessment of my readers.
Just a note: Mr. Soliman also uses Catholic sources as a tool to show Catholic “inconsistencies.” In fact, Mr. Soliman habitually pits one Catholic apologist against another. And yet he has the gall to cry foul when we use non-Catholic sources!
Isn’t that double standard?
Greek Particles in the New Testament by Greek New Testament scholar Margaret E. Thrall
In here, he cites Margaret Thrall's position that menoun is supportive than adverse. While we don't have evidence to accuse Ms. Thrall of bias, we also don't have enough assurance that Ms. Thrall is correct here.
I used Margaret Thrall as a scholar who studied Greek particles and published a book on that subject. Mr. Soliman does not have evidence to accuse Mr. Thrall of bias; neither have I. So it is best to give her the benefit of the doubt until the contrary is proven.
Mr. Soliman cannot have enough assurance, or any assurance for that matter, that Ms. Thrall is correct. Neither does he have enough assurance, or any assurance for that matter that Ms. Thrall is wrong.
All I know in this regard is that Margaret Thrall is a scholar who has studied Greek particles in the New Testament and published her findings in the book Greek Particles in the New Testament.
The same cannot be said of Gerry Soliman whose scholarship on Greek is nil.
Just as Atty. Llasos can cite non-Catholic sources to prove that menoun is in a reinforced state, we can cite Roman Catholic sources to prove that it is in an adverse state.
This confirms what I earlier said. Mr. Soliman is not adverse to citing Catholic sources to prove his position. And why would he begrudge me of using non-Catholic (mostly Evangelical) sources to prove my point? Isn’t that sheer hypocrisy?
“You, therefore, have no excuse, you who pass judgment on someone else, for whatever point you judge another, you are condemning yourseld, because you who pass judgment do the same things… So when you, a mere human being, pass judgment on them and yet do the same things, do you think you will escape God’s judgment?” (Rom. 2:1, 3, NIV).
The New American Bible
In a footnote of the New American Bible:
The beatitude in Luke 11:28 should not be interpreted as a rebuke of the mother of Jesus; see the note on Luke 8:21. Rather, it emphasizes (like Luke 2:35) that attentiveness to God's word is more important than biological relationship to Jesus.
I have no problem with this footnote on Luke 11:28 of the New American Bible (NAB). I am happy with its interpretation of Luke 11:28 as being not a rebuke of the mother of Jesus. Moreover, I am happy with its emphasis on the attentiveness to God’s word as more important than biological relationship to Jesus.
Have I ever claimed that Mary’s biological relationship to Jesus as more important than being attentive to God’s word? Never.
Oh by the way, the footnote on Luke 11:28 of the NAB refers to the note on Luke 8:21. Since Mr. Gerry Soliman did not present the footnote on Luke 8:21, here it is folks:
“The family of Jesus is not constituted by physical relationship with him but by obedience to the word of God. In this, Luke agrees with the Marcan parallel (Mk 3, 31-35), although by omitting Mk 3, 33 and especially Mk 3, 20-21 Luke has softened the Marcan picture of Jesus’ natural family. Probably he did this because Mary has already been presented in Lk 1, 38 as the obedient handmaid of the Lord who belongs to the eschatological family of Jesus; cf also Lk 11, 27-28.” (underscoring supplied)
The New American Bible Revised Edition
We find a suggestion of an adverse use than a supportive one.
Anyone is free to suggest anything. But, where is that in the reference you cited?
Of course, Atty. Llasos does not prefer this but its (sic) from their backyard.
This is a malicious imputation. Mr. Soliman is cocky sure in insinuating that I don’t prefer to use the New American Bible because it is from my backyard.
Well, first, thank you Mr. Soliman from taking something from our backyard. How nice of you to do so.
Second, thank you for reminding me to use the New American Bible. I’d love to do so. The footnote on Luke 11:27-28 of the New American Bible does not in fact negate my position rather it affirms that Luke 11:28 should not be interpreted as a rebuke of the mother of Jesus.
"Behold the handmaid of the Lord; be it done unto me according to thy word" (Lk. 1:38, KJV)
Moreover, the footnote in Luke 8:21 referred to in the footnote in Luke 11:28 which Mr. Soliman deliberately omitted even goes as far as indicating that “Mary has already been presented in Lk 1, 28 as the obedient handmaid of the Lord who belongs to the eschatological family of Jesus” (supra).
I am sure that Mr. Soliman does not claim that Luke 11:28 rebukes Mary. I’d also like to believe that Mr. Soliman considers Mary as belonging to the eschatological or spiritual family of Jesus Christ. If to Mr. Soliman Luke 11:28 does not rebuke Mary, and if Mr. Soliman furthermore considers Mary to be part of the eschatological or spiritual family of Jesus Christ not because of her natural kinship to the Lord but because she heard the word of God and kept it, I don’t think we have any real differences at this juncture because I hold the same thing, too.
Christian Community Bible
I have good news to Mr. Soliman. I am not averse to using materials from my own backyard. In fact, I love to do so. If it’s your wish that I use Catholic sources, then I will indulge you. Aside from the New American Bible (and its Revised Edition), here’s from the Christian Community Bible (Catholic Pastoral Edition):
“As Jesus was speaking, a woman spoke from the crowd and said to him, “Blessed is the one who bore you and nursed you!” Jesus replied, “Surely blessed are those who hear the word of God and keep it as well” (Lk. 11:27-28).
Luke 11:27-28, Christian Community Bible
Commenting on the above passage, the Christian Community Bible states:
“27. Blessed is the one who bore you! This woman envies the mother of Jesus and is full of admiration for his way of speaking. She is mistaken if she thinks that Jesus’ relatives can be proud on his account, and she is wasting her time if she admires his words instead of making tem her own. So Jesus turns her towards the Father, whose word he gives, and to herself, whom God invites to the family of his sons and daughters.
As for Mary, the mother of Jesus, the one who believed (1:45), she kept all the words and deeds of the Lord in her heart (Lk. 2:51).” [Underscoring supplied]
Footnote on Luke 11:27-28 of the Christian Community Bible
Our Catechetical Modules also says this:
“Jesus, in His response to the praises of a woman from the crowd for His Mother clarified, thus: … “Blessed are those who heard the word of god and observe it” (Lk. 11:28). He did not deny the meaning of motherhood in reference to the body, as the woman declared: “Blessed is the womb that carried you and the breasts …” (Lk. 11:27). However, by His response, He indicates an even deeper meaning, which is in connection with the order of the spirit. For Jesus, Mary is Mother in two ways: by nature – His own mother – and by grace – the mother of all His disciples.
The Gospel of Luke tells us how Mary said “yes” to God’s invitation to become the Mother of the Savior. She said, “Behold the handmaid of the Lord, let it be done to me according to your word” (Lk. 1:38) By her “yes,” Mary accepted to become the Mother of Jesus, the Son do God, and also the Spiritual Mother of all.
"Mary underwent the five acts of motherhood in relation to Jesus, the Son of God and Mary's Son..."
Explaining “motherhood by nature,” the Catechetical Modules provides –
“When Mary is presented as natural mother of Jesus, the Son of God, it is affirmed that the Second Person of the Blessed Trinity, the Word of God became flesh and underwent the complete natural process of generation through the Motherhood of Mary. This is a doctrine of Mary, Mother of God, declared at the Council of Ephesus in 431 A.D. That Council taught Mary as “Theotokos,” truly the Mother of Jesus, the Mother of God.
Mary underwent the five acts of motherhood in relation to Jesus, the Son of God and Mary’s Son, as described in the different Scripture texts.”
Mary ponders God's Word and keeps it
The Catechetical Modules likewise discusses “motherhood by grace” or “spiritual motherhood,” thus:
“Mary’s motherhood by grace refers to God’s free gift to her that she shares with all. While as natural mother, Jesus is her only Son, in her spiritual motherhood all peoples whom her Son Jesus came to save have become her children (CCC 501). Every charism is given not for one’s own benefit but for the community. Thus the gift of motherhood given to Mary is not for her alone to enjoy but for the whole world to benefit as she in her spiritual motherhood intercedes and prays for all.”
Festival of Mothers Catechetical Modules: In preparation for the 4th World Meeting of Families (2003)
“Mary’s spiritual motherhood is based on Jesus’ teaching that those who do the plan of the Father, for those who do the will of the heavenly Father, are his true relatives and friends. As Mary was obedient to God all her life, she is the perfect model for this spiritual relationship.”
"But Mary kept all these things, and pondered them in her heart" (Lk. 2:19)
"But he said, Yea rather, blessed are they that hear the word of God, and keep it" (Lk. 11:28, ASV)
“And it came to pass, as he said these things, a certain woman out of the multitude lifted up her voice, and said unto him, Blessed is the womb that bare thee, and the breasts which thou didst suck. But he said, Yea rather, blessed are they that hear the word of God, and keep it.” (American Standard Version)
“While Jesus was still talking, a woman in the crowd spoke up, “The woman who gave birth to you and nursed you is blessed!” Jesus replied, “That’s true, but the people who are really blessed are the ones who hear and obey God’s message!” (Contemporary English Version)
"Jesus replied, "That's true, but the people who are really blessed are the ones who hear and obey God's message!" (Lk. 11:28, CEV)
“And it came to pass as he spake these things, a certain woman, lifting up her voice out of the crowd, said to him, Blessed is the womb that has borne thee, and the paps which thou hast sucked. But he said, Yea rather, blessed are they who hear the word of God and keep [it]” (Darby Translation)
“As He was saying these things, a woman from the crowd raised her voice and said to Him, “The womb that bore You and the one who nursed You are blessed!” He said, “Even more, those who hear the word of God and keep it are blessed!” (Holman Christian Standard Bible)
"Jesus commented, "Even more blessed are those who hear God's Word and guard it with their lives!" (Lk. 11:28, The Message)
“And while he was still saying this, a woman in the crowd called out and said, “Oh, what a blessing for a woman to have brought you into the world and nursed you!” But Jesus replied, “Yes, but a far greater blessing to hear the word of God and obey it.” (J.B. Phillips New Testament)
“While he was saying these things, some woman lifted her voice above the murmur of the crowd: "Blessed the womb that carried you, and the breasts at which you nursed!" Jesus commented, "Even more blessed are those who hear God's Word and guard it with their lives!" (The Message)
"Mas mapalad ang mga nakikinig at sumusunod sa Salita ng Dios" (Lk. 11:28, ABS)
“As he was speaking, a woman in the crowd called out, “God bless your mother—the womb from which you came, and the breasts that nursed you!” Jesus replied, “But even more blessed are all who hear the word of God and put it into practice.” (New International Version)
“Nang sinasabi Niya ito, may babaing sumigaw sa gitna ng karamihan: “Mapalad ang babaing nagsilang at nagpasuso sa Inyo!” Pero sumagot Siya. “Mas mapalad ang mga nakikinig at sumusunod sa Salita ng Dios.” (Ang Buhay na Salita)
“Nangyari, nang sabihin ni Jesus ang mga bagay na ito, isang babaeng mula sa karamihan ang sumigaw. Sinabi nito sa kaniya: Pinagpala ang sinapupunang nagdala sa iyo at ang mga susong sinusuhan mo. Sinabi ni Jesus: Oo, ang totoo ay pinagpala ang mga nakikinig ng salita ng Diyos at sumusunod dito.” (Ang Salita ng Dios)
"Sinabi ni Jesus: Oo, ang totoo ay pinagpala ang mga nakikinig ng salita ng Diyos at sumusunod dito." (Lk. 11:28, ASD)
“And it came to pass, as he spoke these things, a certain woman from the crowd, lifting up her voice, said to him: Blessed is the womb that bore thee, and the paps that gave thee suck. But he said: Yea rather, blessed are they who hear the word of God, and keep it.” (Douay-Rheims Bible)
“Now a he was speaking, a woman in the crowd raised her voice and said, ‘Happy the womb that bore you and the breasts you sucked!’ But he replied, ‘Still happier those who hear the word of God and keep it.” (New Jerusalem Bible)
"But he replied, ''Still happier those who hear the word of God and keep it." (Lk. 11:28, NJB)
 Festival of Mothers Catechetical Modules prepared by the Catechetical Ministry of the Archdiocese of Manila for the 4th World Meeting of Families in Manila, Philippines in the Year 2003, pp. 16-17.
 Ibid., p. 17.
 Ibid. p. 20.
 Ibid., p. 21.