Was Mary worshipped by the early Christian Church in 250 AD as my Catholic friend claims?
Parchment 470–a Catholic writing from 250 AD that says they worshipped Mary in the early Christian church..this is from a Catholic scholar’s site from Canterbury England, I should have written down his name but I forgot to….he is trying to win Protestants to his Catholic faith.
It is true that there is a manuscript known as P-470 in the Rylands Library in Manchester. It is accurate that this manuscript has been dated to the third century. In fact, I saw the manuscript just a few years ago myself when I was in Manchester. Taylor Marshall gives the false impression that this manuscript has the expression “Mother of God.” This is deceitful. It actually says God-bearer. The word Mother is not even in the prayer.
Here are the facts. First of all, Catholics officially do not worship Mary. They “revere” her, which is not the same as worshipping. The fact is, however, that many Catholics are not sufficiently sophisticated to understand the distinction. You will see them bowing down to statues of Mary and praying to her. Catholics are not officially told to worship Mary, but millions of them do worship her.
Historically, this practice began in roughly the fifth century. There is no evidence of Christians worhipping saints or Mary before the fourth century. By the fifth century the practice of revering the martyrs and visiting the graves of the martyrs began, but was not supported by the Church leadership. It was not until the sixth century, with the reign of Pope Gregory I that we find Catholic leaders encouraging the veneration of saints.
In the 380s BC Chrisitans began to use the phrase “Mother of God” to describe Mary. This was said as part of the controversy over the nature of Jesus. Some said he was born human but became God later. Others said Jesus was divine from the moment of inception. Those who believed that Jesus was divine at birth used the slogan: Mary the Mother of God. Actually, the phrase was more like Mary: God-bearer. Theotokos. When they said this, they were not revering Mary but they were saying this to emphasize that Jesus was God. It was like Mary the mother of GOD (with emphasis on God, not on Mary). Later, by the fifth century, but more so by the sixth century it had become MARY the mother of GOD. In other words in the very early Middle Ages, Christians began to give Mary a special role in Christianity that they had not given her before. Mary was not part of this “worship” of martyrs until a bit later. It was not until the ninth or tenth centuries that Mary began to have a place as high as or higher than the “Saints.” By the 13th century, with the influence of Francis of Asissi and Bernard of Clairvaux The Catholic Church began to make the veneration of Mary a large part of Christianity. It was in the 13th century that the phrase “Hail Mary, full of grace” was first used. These are the facts, despite what your Catholic friend said. The modern practice of praying through Mary and asking her for grace comes from the second millenium, certainly not from the third century. The person who told you this is just plain wrong. There was not the slightest indication that Christians were venerating Mary in the third century. He needs to show you the document he is using, and it had better be a third century document. Let me assure you that he is wrong.
However, even if he could prove that Mary was worshipped in the third century, this would not prove that it is a Christian thing to do or that it is supported in the Bible. There is no evidence of veneration of saints or Mary in the Bible. Not only that, there is every indication that God wants to only revere Jesus. Like it says in Titus 2:5, there is one God and one mediator between God and man–the man Jesus Christ. We should never worship or venerate any human being. It is against the Bible. Even if a Catholic person can show you that Catholics do unchristian things like venerate saints or Mary it does not make it a biblical or a Christian thing to so. We worship God according to the Scripture, not according to the tradition of man, especially when that tradition so clearly violates the Scripture (Mathew 15:9). There is no possible biblical warrant for worshipping Mary or for revering her. This Catholic teaching is not supported by the Bible. Neither is it supported by a third century papyrus which may or may not be a reference to Mary.
I hope this helps.