The Semantics of “Mary is the Theotokos”

What “Theotokos” and “Queen of Heaven” imply about the Catholic Mary

The title Theotokos (Θεοτόκος) is a Greek word that means Birth-giver to God, God-Bearer, or commonly “Mother of God.”

The Council of Ephesus in 431 AD agreed Mary is the Theotokos because Jesus is both God and man, hypostatically united. Ergo, the Eastern Orthodox, Roman Catholics, and Protestants hold the title “Mary Mother of God,” which does not mean she is also divine.

Theotokos and Christotokos 

The declaration of “Mary as Theotokos” was intended to refute Nestorianism, which purports Jesus’ human origin and divinity are independent. In other words, Mary did not give birth to a “divine Jesus.”

However, Mary is the Christotokos (Mother of Jesus). After all, humans can only give birth to humans. However, the Roman Catholic interpretation of Theotokos has evolved to make Mary intrinsically divine by calling her “Queen of Heaven.”


Theotokos does not make Mary divine

Mary’s title, Theotokos (God-bearer), affirms that Jesus, who she carried in her womb, is Theanthropos (God’s incarnate). Although Mary gave birth to God, it does not mean she is God’s origin. In other words, Theotokos does not make Mary divine.

However, it isn’t easy to ascertain if a particular religion holds the same intention. For example, Mary is worshipped in Roman Catholicism. After all, she is the Theotokos.

It is clear that the popes in Rome exploited Theotokos to justify the veneration of Mary. But for Protestants, she is the Theotokos who do not share the divinity of Christ.

Theotokos does not make Mary divine.


Veneration of the Theotokos: “Divine Motherhood”

Catholicity upholds Mary’s divine motherhood, supported by the Third Ecumenical Council—which is, of course, subjective.

Mariology presupposes Mary’s Perpetual Virginity, Immaculate Conception, and Assumption (her body and soul went to heaven), known as the four dogmas.

Mary’s Devotion:
We recall that Mary’s mediation is essentially defined by her divine motherhood. Recognition of her role as mediatrix is moreover implicit in the expression “our Mother,” which presents the doctrine of Marian mediation by putting the accent on her motherhood.” [Pope John Paul II, 1997]

Fifth and final Dogma: “Mary the Divine”

A group known as “Vox Populi Mariae Mediatrici” (Voice of the People for Mary Mediatrix) has been lobbying for the pope to proclaim a fifth dogma bestowing upon Mary the titles Co-Redemptrix, “mediatrix of all graces and advocate for the people of God.”

The influence of the Catholic Mary today

In 2021, Pope Francis urged the faithful to pray to the Theotokos for the end of the pandemic, as if she had supernatural powers to do so. Neither does not make sense to pray to Mary in order for her to urge Jesus to end the pandemic.

Jesus explicitly said, “Come to me” (not to anyone else) for our petition (Matthew 11:28). Adding Mary into the equation does not make sense. After all, Jesus referred to her mother as “woman” when Mary insisted Jesus perform His first miracle (John 2:4; 19:26), which was quite a rebuke.


The Church of Mary was an ancient Christian cathedral in Ephesus (near present-day Selçuk in Turkey). It is dedicated to the Theotokos.

John Calvin rejected calling Mary the Theotokos

John Calvin rejected calling Mary the Theotokos because he felt it was unsuitable. He said, “To call the Virgin Mary the mother of God can only serve to confirm the ignorant in their superstitions.” In other words, refuting Nestorianism is nonessential.

Calvin was right; today, the title Mary the “Mother of God” is used to justify and catechize her divine persona.

Calvin rejected calling Mary the Theotokos.

Mary Theotokos
Mary and Jesus with angels and Sts. George and Theodore. Icon, c. 600, from Saint Catherine’s Monastery.

The heresy of the “Queen of Heaven”

As God-bearer (Theotokos), Mary was given the title “Mother of God,” which does not imply she is also God. However, in 1954, Pope Pius XII established the feast of Mary’s queenship, thus giving her the title “Queen of Heaven,” where her son, Jesus, is the King of Heaven.

While priests can argue that semantics (sentence structure and intent) do not imply that Mary is divine, Mary or any other created being other than the “Holy Triune God” should be conferred a monarchial title.

The phrase “Queen of Heaven” in the Bible is found in Jeremiah 7:18 and 44:17-25, which refer to idolatrous worship,


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