The Mother of God Syllogism

Hello everyone,

I'm starting this thread to take a fresh look at both the logic and "theo-logic" of the classic, "Mother of God" syllogism. I've always had a problem with it, but have never been to work out exactly why until recently. So I'll begin by stating the syllogism, then doing my best to defend it and then conclude by showing why it does not hold up to scrutiny. Your comments and critiques are most welcome.

Part 1: The Syllogism Stated

  1. Mary is the Mother of Jesus.
  2. Jesus is God.
  3. Therefore, Mary is the Mother of God.

Assumptions:

  1. This is a valid categorical syllogism if and only if there are exactly 3 terms.
  2. The major term is "Mary the Mother of."
  3. The minor term is "God"
  4. The middle term is "Jesus"
  5. The middle term, "Jesus," must be distributed at least one time. (And in fact is.)

Part II: Defending the Syllogism

Everything seems to check out. But just in case there are any gain-sayers, I'd like to beef up the defenses of this argument. Let me begin be scrutinizing each term.

  1. "Mary is the mother of," means quite simply that Mary conceived, gave birth to, and raised Jesus.
  2. "Jesus" means the incarnate word of God who is both fully human and fully divine.
  3. "God" in this syllogism refers strictly to the "Second Person of the Trinity," not the "Father" and not the "Holy Spirit"

To give the original syllogism more logical precision, therefore, we will need to make some qualifications:

  1. Mary is is the mother of (all of) Jesus. [This is a Type A (universal and affirmative) proposition.] Contra Nestorianism, Mary gave birth to an entire person, not a particular nature.

  2. (Some of) Jesus is God. [This is a Type I (particular and affirmative) proposition.] Though awkward sounding, properly speaking, only the divine "half" of Jesus is God. We would not want to collapse his humanity into his divinity (e.g., Docetism, Monophysitisim).

  3. Mary is the Mother of (part of) God. [This is also a Type Type 1 (particular and affirmative) proposition]. Mary, of course, is not the Mother of the Holy Spirit and the Father, which why we say, "part of" God, however awkward that may sound.

If I am correct in discerning the types of propositions these are (and I'm not sure I am), then we have a A, I, I, mood, which is one of the 8 valid moods in a categorical syllogism.

I am, however, not positive about the conclusion. I suppose one could argue that "Mary is the Mother of (part of) God" is really a type A proposition, since we are really saying that (All of) of Mary is Mother of (part of) God. If this is the case, then the mood is A,I, A, which not a valid mood. This would mean that the classic syllogism is in fact invalid. It might be true, but certainly would not be valid.

However, let's assume that I was right the first time, that it is in fact an A, I, I and is therefore valid. If so, it would appear that the Catholics are right in calling Mary "the Mother of God."

Part III: My critique

Except for one thing. "Mary the Mother of" must have the exact same meaning in the major premise as it does in the conclusion. The problem, however, is that it does not. Here is why.

  1. Mary is the mother of Jesus. (This does in fact mean that Mary conceived, gave birth to and raised) Jesus of Nazareth.
  2. Jesus is God. (This does in fact mean that Jesus is the incarnate word and Second person of the Trinity).
  3. Mary is the mother of God. (Unfortunately, "mother of" seems to have a slightly different meaning here, as I will explain below:)

The term "mother," is a relational term. It has both an ontological meaning and a functional meaning. Anyone who is adopted understands this distinction. A biological mother is the person who gives her DNA to the child. In this sense she is the "origin" of her child. But the woman who raises a child is also properly called the "mother" of that child. This sense is what I am calling the "functional" sense of the term.

It seems to me that Mary is the "mother of" Jesus in both the ontological and functional sense of the word, "mother." But in the conclusion, Mary can only be the "mother of" God in the functional sense, since there is no way she can be the "origin" of God. Rather, the reverse is true: God is the origin of Mary, not the other way around.

Therefore, what we have is a classic "four-term" fallacy or the fallacy of equivocation. The term "mother of" means one thing in the first premise and something else in the conclusion.

For this reason, it is better to call Mary the God-bearer, which is clearly "functional," rather than "ontological." It is a more precise term that avoids the confusion that "mother of" can lead to. So here is a new syllogism to consider:

Mary is the bearer of Jesus.
Jesus is God.
Mary is the God-bearer.

Or, to keep it more simple: Mary is the Theotokos.

For this reason, we should neither describe Mary as the "Mother of God," nor use "Mother of God" as a title.

Thanks in advance for your thoughtful responses.

You analysis seems unnecessarily complex and I agree with the awkwardly worded “part” of God phraseology you used more than once—which itself is heretical in light of the indivisibility of the hypostatic union. If you want to use Theotokos, by all means, do it. :o

Mother of God means Mother of Second Person of the Trinity Who is God. You are correct that it doesn’t mean Mary is mother of divinity or the Father or Holy Spirit. The term Mother of God is valid as long as one accepts the indivisible mystery of the Trinity.

The Apostle John has no problem saying “the Word was God” and simultaneously say “the Word dwelt among us.” By your logic, you would have to criticize John for possibly suggesting God the Father dwelt among us since John said the Word = God. Your logic would say to John: “‘the Word’ must have the exact same meaning in the major premise as it does in the conclusion. The problem, however, is that it does not.”

Agreed. Of course, in context, I was using “part of” as a way of translating theological statements into the language of syllogistic logic, since propositions are either universal or particular, negative or positive. When we say, “Jesus is God,” how does syllogistic logic handle that? The only way, as far as I can tell, is to render that as something like, “some of Jesus” (his divinity) is “part of” God (i.e., the Second Person). That language, of course, is totally unacceptable for everyday discourse about who Jesus is. But since the conclusion “Mary is the Mother of God,” is part of categorical syllogism, then that defines the nature of the discourse we’re having, and thus those awkward “some of’s” and “part of’s” enter in, so that we can translate the theology into logic.

Mother of God means Mother of Second Person of the Trinity Who is God. You are correct that it doesn’t mean Mary is mother of divinity or the Father or Holy Spirit. The term Mother of God is valid as long as one accepts the indivisible mystery of the Trinity.

It’s the last part I disagree with, since “Mother of” implies one thing when predicated of Jesus and another when predicated of God. Either “Mother of” has a single meaning in both predicates, or we have a four-term fallacy, which I submit, we do.

The Apostle John has no problem saying “the Word was God” and simultaneously say “the Word dwelt among us.” By your logic, you would have to criticize John for possibly suggesting God the Father dwelt among us since John said the Word = God.

That depends upon how John is defining the words, “Word” and “God.” If we’re going to put John’s language into the language of logic, then I think we would have to say the following.

  1. In the beginning was the Word. (Where “Word means pre-Incarnate logos.”)
  2. The “Word” was with God. (Where God most likely means “The Father”).
  3. The Word was God. (Where God most likely means “The Son.”)

John, of course, is not writing a syllogism here, and neither am I. So I’m not sure your counterexample really speaks to the issue at hand.

Your logic would say to John: “‘the Word’ must have the exact same meaning in the major premise as it does in the conclusion. The problem, however, is that it does not.”

That would be true, if an only if, John 1:1 is a syllogism, which as far as I can tell, it is not. It seems to be a progression of thought, but not a syllogism where a conclusion is drawn from the relationship between a major and minor premise.

It is not my intent to be harsh, but you are working so very hard to reverse the truth of your logic in the syllogism that I would question if you have faith.

Faith defines our belief, not logic.

It is not logical that GOD would surrender HIS SON to such a horrible death to save those who have expressed hate for HIM.

It is not logical that HE would use a woman to enter the creation HE has made.

It is not logical that HE would remain on earth in our presence every day since the Last Supper in the form of unleavened bread.

It is not logical to accept that bread and wine are truly BODY and BLOOD.

It is not logical to rest upon the laws of logic as a cornerstone in our relationship with GOD.

Unfortunately for you Miguel, the New Testament nowhere uses any terminology like “God bearer” with regard to Mary.

Even the Pillars of the Reformation knew this and said as much.

The three “pillars of the reformation”, Luther, Calvin, and Zwingli, all believed that Mary was the mother of God.

Mother of God

Martin Luther: “In this work whereby she was made the Mother of God, so many and such good things were given her that no one can grasp them… Not only was Mary the mother of Him who is born [in Bethlehem], but of Him who, before the world, was eternally born of the Father, from a Mother in time and at the same time man and God.” (The Works of Luther, English translation by Pelikan, Concordia, St. Louis, Vol. 7, page 572)

John Calvin: “It cannot be denied that God in choosing and destining Mary to be the Mother of His Son, granted her the highest honor…Elizabeth calls Mary Mother of the Lord, because the unity of the person in the two natures of Christ was such that she could have said that the mortal man engendered in the womb of Mary was at the same time the eternal God.” (Calvini Opera, Corpus reformatorum, Braunschweig-Berlin, 1863-1900, Vol. 45, page 348 and 335.)

Ulrich Zwingli: “It was given to her what belongs to no creature, that in the flesh she should bring forth the Son of God.”
( Zwingli Opera, Corpus reformatorum, Berlin, 1905, in Evang. Luc., Op. Comp., Vol.
6, I, page 639.)

No, my citation of John is valid. John is making statements. Jesus = Word. Word = God. Word = Made flesh. For you to be consistent, you must forbid John to nuance the language. You are trying to get out of it with some new rule that “language can be nuanced outside of syllogisms but not inside syllogisms as I Miguel impose.”

So no one is obligated to acknowledge or defend your personal “rules of syllogism” that you claim the Church must follow. And frankly, the syllogism you criticize doesn’t even violate your rule. Jesus=God is the major premise and it remains identical in the conclusion—> Mary is mother of the 2nd person of the Trinity Who is entirely God. That’s the first part of the so-called syllogism and the last part. The meaning doesn’t change. There’s no bait and switch as you claim.

The definition of Mary as Mother of God occurred at the Council of Ephesus, which rejected the reasoning you are advancing here. I don’t see them appealing strictly to your definition of syllogism but rather to Tradition, Scripture, the indivisibility of the Son, etc… The bottom line hasn’t changed in 1500+ years. You either believe in the indivisibility of the Son or you don’t. That’s the bottom line. There’s nothing else to discuss outside that. Read through Ephesus to see it laid out. If you do believe in Christ’s indivisibility, then the phrase “Mother of God” is fine. If you reject the hypostatic union, then you have a problem. So if logic is your king, then you should, in order to be consistent, defend the term “Mother of God.”

I think I’m only saying that John 1:1 isn’t a syllogism. If I’m right about that, then it doesn’t work as a counterexample to the Mother-of-God-syllogism.

I’m also saying that once we enter into the realm of the categorical syllogism, then all the rules of the categorical syllogism come into play. You can opt not to go into that realm. Fine with me. But if you do go there, then you have to play by the rules. And those aren’t my rules. They’re the rules of logic that all logicians agree on. That’s why I prefaced my comments in the OP with certain assumptions I was making, e.g., that there can only be three terms, that the middle term has to be distributed at least one time, that syllogisms have moods, only 8 of which are considered “valid,” etc.

But why even belabor all this in the first place? The answer is that Catholic apologists often use the “Mother-of-God-syllogism” to demonstrate why it is logical to call Mary the “Mother of God.” I’ve never been comfortable with that language, but I’ve never been able to pin point exactly why. So heretofore, I’ve never really disputed the term; I’ve just chosen not to use it.

But then when I thought about it, the answer jumped out at me–that “mother” is being used in two slightly different senses in that syllogism.

Now there may be a whole host of other reasons for calling Mary “Mother of God.” I’m just saying the syllogism commonly used by Catholic apologists isn’t one of them–at least not as far as I can tell.

I started this thread to see if anyone could show me the flaw in my logic or that I’ve not set up the problem correctly to begin with. That could very well be.

I do like Theotokos as a term because it’s not only historical, but it’s also logical and, in my view, more precise than “Mother of God.”

So no one is obligated to acknowledge or defend your personal “rules of syllogism” that you claim the Church must follow.

I never said anything remotely like this and, as I said above, they’re not my rules, they’re the rules. If you’re going to use logic to prove your point, then the rules of logic must apply, right?

And frankly, the syllogism you criticize doesn’t even violate your rule. Jesus=God is the major premise and it remains identical in the conclusion—> Mary is mother of the 2nd person of the Trinity Who is entirely God. That’s the first part of the so-called syllogism and the last part. The meaning doesn’t change. There’s no bait and switch as you claim.

Jesus is “entirely God.” But Jesus is not the Holy Spirit and not the Father. We know this on theological grounds and we agree. But IF we’re going to translate that kind of theological language into the language of the syllogism (which is what we have to do if we’re going to start using syllogisms to make arguments, as Catholic apologists do), THEN, we do have to use awkward terminology like “some of” and “part of” and “all of” etc to correctly represent the theology that stands behind those propositions. It’s when we do this, that I find “mother” to be equivocal in the syllogism. It’s not a “bait and switch,” as if there were some kind of intentional deception going on; rather it’s a lack of precision, since clearly Mary is “mother” in both an ontological and functional sense with respect to Jesus, but only mother in a functional sense with respect to God. If you deny this, then you’d have to argue that God owes His being to Mary (where “being” is the subject of ontology), which is, of course, an absurdity.

Of course no one intends that meaning when they say, “Mary, Mother of God.”

But when “Mother of God” is pressed into the language of the syllogism, then that’s the meaning that ensues (even though unintended.)

What’s the way out of this dilemma? Simple: Abandon the syllogism. As you say, there’s no need for it. If you have a Church that can define dogmas, then I suppose that’s all you need. To paraphrase a previous poster, why not just throw logic out the window?

I don’t see them appealing strictly to your definition of syllogism but rather to Tradition, Scripture, the indivisibility of the Son, etc…

Yes, that’s what the historic church did. But modern Catholic apologists are using the syllogism, and it’s that syllogism that I find problematic–not the historic definition of Mary as the God-bearing one (Theotokos).

If you do believe in Christ’s indivisibility, then the phrase “Mother of God” is fine.

Agreed. For here we both know that “God” means “God the Son,” since the phrase was not uttered in an historical vacuum. Absent its historical context, however, it is ambiguous. For example. Consider the following syllogism:

Mary is the Mother of God.
God is the Trinity.
Mary is the Mother of the Trinity.

Everyone should agree that the problem is that “God” means one thing in the first premise and something else in the second. In the first premise, “God” refers to God the Son only. In the second premise “God” refers to Father, Son and Holy Spirit.

It is due to this very ambiguity, however, that I find fault with the original syllogism from which many deduce that Mary is the Mother of God in the first place. If I’m correct in saying that “Mother” is being equivocated, then I’m also correct to reject the syllogism as valid and therefore correct to reject its conclusion.

The only alternative, as I see it, is to avoid logic altogether and find another way to express it. But last I checked, faith and reason aren’t opposed. And that’s one thing I find myself in TOTAL agreement with the Catholic Church–a stalwart champion of reason.

Your critique fails on 4 key points, first in the “additional defense” you’ve chosen, and second in the critique itself

  1. Jesus is not “part of” God. He is a complete person of God.

  2. Jesus does not have “half parts” as you describe. Jesus was possessed of two entirely complete and unified natures.

  3. I reject your ontological definition of motherhood, and even if I didn’t, Jesus, who is possessed of two UNSEPARABLE natures still derived his DNA from Mary.

  4. Your ontological definition only works presuming that personhood is a derivative of DNA. This is incorrect.

Your criticism seems to me to be equivocating. No one believes that Mary is the mother of the Trinity, which is what would have to be the case for your criticism to hold. Mary is thought to be the physical mother of God-as-man, not God-as-divine essence. So I’m not sure why you say that Mary is the mother of Jesus ontologically. I’ve nowhere ever read any Catholic maintaining such a thing. God is the ontological foundation for all existence whatsoever, in Catholic theology. All creation was made through and by him, and is constantly held in existence by his power. Mary, like all things outside the Trinity, is a created being, and so this holds true for her as well. But at the same time she is the only being to give birth to and raise God-as-man. Hence she is the “mother of God.” Further, I believe I have read (though I’m not much up in terms of Mariology) that it is reasonable and not contrary to the faith to hold that Jesus possessed some of his physical traits from Mary’s DNA.

While I don’t think there is anything wrong with calling Mary the “God bearer” – indeed I think it is true – I don’t think that she ought not to be called God’s “mother,” for she clearly was. She gave birth to God-as-man, and raised him. She did not generate him in his divine nature, obviously, (which I don’t believe anyone has contended), but she did partially generate him in his human nature, and this because God had chosen her to do so.

Thanks for your thoughtful post.

I agree with Marco Polo, what you have written is unnecessarily complex. It is good that you know some philosophy of logic but one of the rules of philosophy is to keep things clear and simple. You didn’t have to get into the Mood/ A I I or any of that because that is strictly used for validity, and anyone can see that the syllogism is valid(the question is is it sound). Think of it this way :

  1. Mary is the mother of Jesus

  2. Jesus is God

  3. Therefore, Mary is mother of God

                             Qualified
    
  4. Mary is the mother(a mother in so far as conceiving a person) of Jesus(the 2nd person of the trinity)

  5. Jesus(the 2nd person of the trinity) is God( in that he has the full divine nature)

  6. Therefore, Mary is the mother of God( in that he has the full divine nature).

Mother = A woman who bears or conceives a person
Jesus = The 2nd person of the Trinity
God = the divine nature

Now you may wonder isn’t this an equivocation of the term “mother”? In the 1st premise i use it as mother of a person and in the 3nd i use it as mother of the divine nature. No it is not an equivocation because the person of Christ cannot be separated from the divine nature----which is actually the hidden premise here.

Note that it is impossible to know what God really is. The question what is God? is unanswerable(in a comprehensive manner). God just is. Recall how when Moses asked God for his name God replied, I am Who I am. Accordingly, keep in mind that the divine nature is inseparable from the persons. Though the persons are distinct from one another.

Just a quick note. God the Son is not a part of God. He IS God. He contains the Divine Essence to the fullest extent, as do the Father and Holy Spirit. Best.

There may very well be a hidden premise here. But if you’re going to define “mother” in two different senses, as you seem to be doing in your penultimate paragraph, then we would have a four-term fallacy, since in the first premise “mother” refers to the one who conceives and in the third it refers to one giving birth. Conception has to do, at least in part, with biological origins, where as giving birth is functional–it is just one of the many functions of a mother with respect to her child. I see that as a clear distinction, as I suppose anyone who is adopted would. The person who conceives you isn’t necessarily the person who raises you–and now with the advent of “surrogate mothers,” not even necessarily the person who pushes you out of the womb. See what I mean?

Yes, we all agree. The point, however, is that when we try to translate theological language into the language that philosophers use when constructing syllogisms, then we have to add the awkward language.

For the record, I believe “Jesus is God.”

But as a proposition in a syllogism, there are needed qualifications. This is because of the theology behind them, for Jesus is all fully human and God is also triune.

In other words, “Jesus” does not exhaust the category “God,” since the Father and the Holy Spirit are also God. Further, “God” does not exhaust the category “Jesus,” since Jesus is also human.

So to represent that, propositionally, logicians use qualifiers such as “all of” or “part of” or “some of,” which sounds just horrendous in everyday language.

Hope that helps.

I have just been studying the “four-part” (equivocating) fallacy, and I have to admit that this syllogism came rapidly to mind. As a six-year Catholic with a long history of Protestantism, I would be very happy if the term “Theotokos” had never been translated out of its original Greek. As it has turned out, the phrase “Mother of God” has two possible meanings, and it is too easy, especially for Catholics with a low level of education and/or catechesis, to slip into the wrong meaning.

However, good luck trying to overturn 1500 years of popular usage.

DaveBj

Except … Where do we find Catholics who misinterpret “Mother of God” to mean that Mary is the origin of the Trinity? I suppose it could happen, but does it in fact, or are we discussing a feared hypothetical situation with no significant bearing on actual Catholic belief?

The only place I ever see “Mother of God” misinterpreted that way is by Protestants convinced that that must be what Catholics believe.

In reply to the OP, I think the “ontological motherhood” can safely be removed from the syllogism entirely, leaving us with an unequivocal claim of functional motherhood in both terms. The point, after all, is “Jesus is truly God to the extent that, when Mary conceived, carried, bore, and raised Him, she can truly be said to have conceived, carried, borne, and raised God.”

I do agree that Theotokos is more precise, and that Mother of God is problematic in that it can be misinterpreted. I do not agree that the term should be repudiated, though, since its actual meaning can be readily explained.

Indeed, I suspect that the whole point of either term, including the original Theotokos, is to provoke a bit of shock and confusion in the listener (“God was born/has a mother?”) in order to lead to a proper understanding of the union of divinity and humanity in Jesus.

Usagi

Ok, great. We all know that Jesus is God the Son and Mary is Mother of God the Son. We all agree that the Council of Ephesus in 431 uses the phrase as such. And it doesn’t violate your insistence that theology must follow rules of syllogism. And everyone is happy. If any of your Protestant friends are confused by that, give them the historical and theological context of the term “Mother of God.” :thumbsup:

I had critiqued the first part but I lost it while trying to submit. I will do it later.

[quote="Miguel_Sastre, post:1, topic:224557"]
Part III: My critique

Except for one thing. "Mary the Mother of" must have the exact same meaning in the major premise as it does in the conclusion. The problem, however, is that it does not. Here is why.

  1. Mary is the mother of Jesus. (This does in fact mean that Mary conceived, gave birth to and raised) Jesus of Nazareth.
  2. Jesus is God. (This does in fact mean that Jesus is the incarnate word and Second person of the Trinity).
  3. Mary is the mother of God. (Unfortunately, "mother of" seems to have a slightly different meaning here, as I will explain below:)

The term "mother," is a relational term. It has both an ontological meaning and a functional meaning. Anyone who is adopted understands this distinction. A biological mother is the person who gives her DNA to the child. In this sense she is the "origin" of her child. But the woman who raises a child is also properly called the "mother" of that child. This sense is what I am calling the "functional" sense of the term.

It seems to me that Mary is the "mother of" Jesus in both the ontological and functional sense of the word, "mother." But in the conclusion, Mary can only be the "mother of" God in the functional sense, since there is no way she can be the "origin" of God. Rather, the reverse is true: God is the origin of Mary, not the other way around.

Therefore, what we have is a classic "four-term" fallacy or the fallacy of equivocation. The term "mother of" means one thing in the first premise and something else in the conclusion.

For this reason, it is better to call Mary the God-bearer, which is clearly "functional," rather than "ontological." It is a more precise term that avoids the confusion that "mother of" can lead to. So here is a new syllogism to consider:

Mary is the bearer of Jesus.
Jesus is God.
Mary is the God-bearer.

Or, to keep it more simple: Mary is the Theotokos.

For this reason, we should neither describe Mary as the "Mother of God," nor use "Mother of God" as a title.

Thanks in advance for your thoughtful responses.

[/quote]

Finally! An objective criticism! :) Shall we?

I agree with the last syllogism. You should know very well by now that we have 0 problems with God-bearer. That is actually a reason why we call her Mother of God.

This is where the fallacy is:

  1. You are lowering theological doctrine (its truth is irrelevant right now) to fit philosophical expectation, and not truth. An atheist would be mad at this statement, but you and I both agree that that is because they do not see everything the way we see it. That is like lowering philosophical truths to fit scientific expectation, and not truth.

  2. Yes, the reality of mothers in our everyday experience tells us those things. (I can argue some of it but that would be useless for this argument.) The problem with this is that doctrine transcends our knowledge. That is a reason (I imagine) that God made revelation. (For example, we could not have even come close to guessing the Trinity without it.)

  3. You are taking the term "mother" and giving it zero relevance to the way Catholics use it in "Mother of God" or even to reality. Who cares about ontological or functional or whatever? You are forgetting the relational part of it. We might as well study biology without life, that is, study a protein strand without seeing how it relates to the cell or to the full body. Look at the big picture. And do you really think Scriptures would call Mary His Mother, but really mean "a functional one"?

  4. In any case, conception, bearing, giving birth and raising a child all fit the reality of what mother's do and what Mary did. Nobody cares about ontology or functionality or anything like that. In the end, nobody cares about that (perhaps except for sentimental reasons.) Like you said, ask an adopted child. It is the big picture. In your argument, was God the Father His "functional" Father? Or was He even His "ontological" Father? (I know that question is ridiculous, but they both existed "in the beginning". Scriptures say "in the beginning" because no language on Earth has a word for the beginning of eternity. Technically speaking, the Word did not come "before" but He was still begotten. I realize you said "origins" and that is correct but the nit-pickiness is what I am trying to get at here. The reductionist view is my point.) This by no means denigrates His status as the Father of the Son of God. If I recall correctly (correct if I am wrong and that will probably be the case), the Father only said one sentence to Him while He was on Earth. "This is my Son; in whom I am well-pleased." And variations throughout the Gospels. Is he any less of a Father to His Son than my father is to me? Certainly not. I think you get my point.

  5. Jesus is also the Son of Man. That "Man" is Mary (weird sentence). Is the Son of Man not God? Jesus is also the Son of God. That "God" is the Father (still weird). Is the Son of God not Man? As you will see in my next post, these are meant to be inseparable. I really wish it did not erase because I suck at remembering.

Anyway, any feedback? Thanks for being objective. I was tired of all those, "the Bible never says that!" arguments. Yours is a really good argument by the way. The fact that I have criticism does not degrade its effectiveness.
God bless!

[quote="Miguel_Sastre, post:1, topic:224557"]
Hello everyone,

I'm starting this thread to take a fresh look at both the logic and "theo-logic" of the classic, "Mother of God" syllogism. I've always had a problem with it, but have never been to work out exactly why until recently. So I'll begin by stating the syllogism, then doing my best to defend it and then conclude by showing why it does not hold up to scrutiny. Your comments and critiques are most welcome.

Part 1: The Syllogism Stated

  1. Mary is the Mother of Jesus.
  2. Jesus is God.
  3. Therefore, Mary is the Mother of God.

Assumptions:

  1. This is a valid categorical syllogism if and only if there are exactly 3 terms.
  2. The major term is "Mary the Mother of."
  3. The minor term is "God"
  4. The middle term is "Jesus"
  5. The middle term, "Jesus," must be distributed at least one time. (And in fact is.)

Part II: Defending the Syllogism

Everything seems to check out. But just in case there are any gain-sayers, I'd like to beef up the defenses of this argument. Let me begin be scrutinizing each term.

  1. "Mary is the mother of," means quite simply that Mary conceived, gave birth to, and raised Jesus.
  2. "Jesus" means the incarnate word of God who is both fully human and fully divine.
  3. "God" in this syllogism refers strictly to the "Second Person of the Trinity," not the "Father" and not the "Holy Spirit"

[/quote]

I am with you so far.

[quote="Miguel_Sastre, post:1, topic:224557"]
To give the original syllogism more logical precision, therefore, we will need to make some qualifications:

  1. Mary is is the mother of (all of) Jesus. [This is a Type A (universal and affirmative) proposition.] Contra Nestorianism, Mary gave birth to an entire person, not a particular nature.

  2. (Some of) Jesus is God. [This is a Type I (particular and affirmative) proposition.] Though awkward sounding, properly speaking, only the divine "half" of Jesus is God. We would not want to collapse his humanity into his divinity (e.g., Docetism, Monophysitisim).

  3. Mary is the Mother of (part of) God. [This is also a Type Type 1 (particular and affirmative) proposition]. Mary, of course, is not the Mother of the Holy Spirit and the Father, which why we say, "part of" God, however awkward that may sound.

If I am correct in discerning the types of propositions these are (and I'm not sure I am), then we have a A, I, I, mood, which is one of the 8 valid moods in a categorical syllogism.

I am, however, not positive about the conclusion. I suppose one could argue that "Mary is the Mother of (part of) God" is really a type A proposition, since we are really saying that (All of) of Mary is Mother of (part of) God. If this is the case, then the mood is A,I, A, which not a valid mood. This would mean that the classic syllogism is in fact invalid. It might be true, but certainly would not be valid.

However, let's assume that I was right the first time, that it is in fact an A, I, I and is therefore valid. If so, it would appear that the Catholics are right in calling Mary "the Mother of God."

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I have no clue what that "A,I,A" stuff means and I could care less about it, but I do get your point. I think...

Anyway, I have a problem with your explication of premise number 2. Again, you are saying something you would never say in your beliefs. You are separating His divinity from His humanity for the sake of a philosophical argument and I KNOW you do not for one second believe that those are separable for the sake of anything. This actually jeopardizes Scriptures phrase: The Word was made flesh. His flesh is the Word and vice-versa. If we did not believe this, we would have no need for the Eucharist (moot point for you but you see my argument). Scriptures made them inseparable.

Let me try this reductio ad absurdem just so you can see my point. If His divinity and humanity were indeed separable, then He would not be fully inside the Trinity. Only PART of Him would be and even then, the Trinity would not be a Trinity. It would be a Two-and-a-half-ty if not just a Bi-nity. And I realize you do not believe this next part, but the Eucharist would just not exist. (I felt blasphemous for saying this paragraph so I desparately hope you get my point.)

Let us see another way. At no point was He ever NOT both human AND divine. He might have called Himself Son of Man and Son of God, but that was only different sides of the same coin (God). It would be ridiculous to assert the proposition that the coin is not still a coin if we only consider one side. In this case, there is not a "God side" and a "Man side". They do not "collapse" into each other either. He IS both, not HAS both. (Maybe, "has" is still true but I have reservations.) From the moment of conception until His death, He was ALWAYS both. There was no point where Christ was divine OR human. He was also never neither (needless to say:)). Christ, the Man, is God. The Word is Man. After conception, He always was, still is and always will be both divine and human.

Feedback?

Neither of them are “more precise” than each other. One is just a different characteristic. But, as you said, “in my view.” Mother of God is historical and logical. The contrary is not either of those.

You are correct. Faith and reason are not opposed. “Mother of God” opposes neither. You are just creating problems that are not there.

  1. God the Father is Father of Christ.
  2. Christ is the Son of Man.
  3. God the Father is Father of Son of Man.

In your view, this syllogism is incorrect because technically speaking, the Holy Spirit is the one who concieved the Word in the womb. The Father had nothing to do with His physical birth. God is only the Father of His divinity and not His humanity and that is just not true. He said, “This is my Son…” and He was clearly talking to Jesus, the Son of Man AND the Son of God. That would be “creating the problem” when there is no problem in the terms we provided.

The syllogism we use is not incorrect. We equivocate the meaning of “mother” in it because they mean no different in OUR context. As I clearly stated before, nobody cares about the strict definitions of “mother”. If we did, it would only be fair to use those for His Father and that is beyond the realms of absurdity.

Does that make sense?

Agreed.

And it doesn’t violate your insistence that theology must follow rules of syllogism.

Not agreed. First, I never said theology must follow the rules of the syllogism. I said that if you’re going to employ a syllogism at the service of theology, then you’ve got to make sure your syllogism correctly expresses the underlying theology it’s supposed to express.

And everyone is happy. If any of your Protestant friends are confused by that, give them the historical and theological context of the term “Mother of God.” :thumbsup:

Will do. The problem is that it’s more often my Catholic family members who are confused since many of them are convinced that Mary is the mother of the entire God-head and they treat her accordingly. So what may have been originally a Christological statment has become–with the passage of time (and the woeful state of catechesis)–a Mariological statement, at least as popularly understood by many Catholics.

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