Mary Without Sin (Scripture and Tradition)

Dec 7th, 2010 | By | Category: Blog Posts

One of the most misunderstood Catholic dogmas is that of the Immaculate Conception, the solemnity that the Holy Church of Jesus Christ observes on December 8th as a holy day of obligation. The Immaculate Conception is the dogma that Mary was saved by God in a singular and unique way. Unlike the rest of us who are conceived in original sin and then later justified and sanctified, Christ chose to save one person in a maximal way – and the most fitting person would be His own mother.

Christ did this to fulfill the command: “Honor thy Father and thy Mother.” So then, at the very moment of her conception, Christ saved her from original sin and then justified and sanctified her perfectly. She was full of the Holy Spirit from the beginning of her existence. Being confirmed in this grace, she was preserved from the stain of sin for her entire life. She never sinned once.

The Catechism of the Catholic Church beautifully states the doctrine of the Immaculate Conception of Mary, that is, that Mary was herself conceived without original sin:

491 Through the centuries the Church has become ever more aware that Mary, “full of grace” through God, was redeemed from the moment of her conception. That is what the dogma of the Immaculate Conception confesses, as Pope Pius IX proclaimed in 1854:

The most Blessed Virgin Mary was, from the first moment of her conception, by a singular grace and privilege of almighty God and by virtue of the merits of Jesus Christ, Savior of the human race, preserved immune from all stain of original sin.

492 The “splendor of an entirely unique holiness” by which Mary is “enriched from the first instant of her conception” comes wholly from Christ: she is “redeemed, in a more exalted fashion, by reason of the merits of her Son”. The Father blessed Mary more than any other created person “in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places” and chose her “in Christ before the foundation of the world, to be holy and blameless before him in love”.

It is important to focus on the fact that Mary was redeemed and that she was “redeemed in a more exalted fashion, by reason of the merits of her Son.”

Is the Immaculate Conception Biblical? Yes, but only if you accept typology as a valid interpretation of Scriptural texts (i.e. a method used by the Apostles and Fathers to interpret Old Testament people, things, and events as types foreshadowing New Covenant realities). Below are three common arguments used by the early Church Fathers, the Popes, and the Catechism of the Catholic Church to justify Mary’s title as the Panagia or “All-Holy.” The first is straight-forward, the latter two rely on typology.

Argument #1
Mary is Full of Grace

Luke 1:28: “And he came to her and said, ‘Hail, full of grace, the Lord is with you!'”

The term traditionally translated “full of grace” or “highly favored” is kecharitomene. This past perfect form denotes something that happened in the past and continues into the present. She was perfectly graced in the past and continues in that state. Luke 1:28 has served as the locus classicus for the doctrine of the Immaculate Conception of Our Lady.

Argument #2
Mary as New Eve Having Enmity with Satan

Gen 3:15 I will put enmities between thee and the woman, and thy seed and her seed: she shall crush thy head, and thou shalt lie in wait for her heel”

In this verse God addresses Satan. The Seed here is Christ. The Woman is His Mother, that is, Mary. Thus Satan has perfect enmity with Christ and with His Mother. The Catholic Church has interpreted this as indicating the sinlessness of Christ and Mary. If either actually committed sin, then they would not be at enmity with Satan but actually a cooperator with Satan at times.

Argument #3
Mary as Ark of the Covenant

In the Old Covenant the Ark of the Covenant contained the Word of God on stone. In the New Covenant, the Word made Flesh was also contained – and that in the womb of the Blessed Virgin. The Catholic Church has therefore understood Mary as the mystical Ark of the New Covenant. This connection is made in the book of Revelation.

Rev 11:19-12:2 Then God’s temple in heaven was opened, and the ark of his covenant was seen within his temple; and there were flashes of lightning, voices, peals of thunder, an earthquake, and heavy hail. And a great portent appeared in heaven, a woman clothed with the sun, with the moon under her feet, and on her head a crown of twelve stars; she was with child.

The Ark of the Covenant appears in Heaven and then in the next breath (and next verse) St John describes a pregnant woman appearing in Heaven. This Woman “contains” the Messiah.

The thinking goes that if Mary is the fulfillment of the Ark of the Covenant, then she must be “all holy”. Remember that in the Old Covenant a man was killed for touching the ark. It was holy. If the box that held stone tablets was so restricted – so also would be the woman who actually carried God Himself. And so she is all pure and all holy, without the stain of sin.

Do the Church Fathers Teach the Immaculate Conception? Yes

The Fathers of the Church also teach that Mary was without sin. I’m not going to comment on all the passage below, as it would stretch this post into an article length treatment. Nevertheless, here they are. You’ll see that the Immaculate Virgin has always been revered as uniquely holy – as they say in the Eastern Church – she is the Panagia, or “All-Holy.”

“He was the ark formed of incorruptible wood. For by this is signified that His tabernacle was exempt from putridity and corruption.” Hippolytus, Orations Inillud, Dominus pascit me {ante A.D. 235).

“This Virgin Mother of the Only-begotten of God, is called Mary, worthy of God, immaculate of the immaculate, one of the one.” Origen, Homily 1{A.D. 244).

“Let woman praise Her, the pure Mary.” Ephraim, Hymns on the Nativity 15:23 {A.D. 370).

“Thou alone and thy Mother are in all things fair, there is no flaw in thee and no stain in thy Mother.” Ephraem, Nisibene Hymns 27:8 {A.D. 370).

“O noble Virgin, truly you are greater than any other greatness. For who is your equal in greatness, O dwelling place of God the Word? To whom among all creatures shall I compare you, O Virgin? You are greater than them all O Covenant, clothed with purity instead of gold! You are the Ark in which is found the golden vessel containing the true manna, that is, the flesh in which divinity resides.” Athanasius, Homily of the Papyrus of Turin 71:216 {ante AD 373}.

“Mary, a Virgin not only undefiled but a Virgin whom grace has made inviolate, free of every stain of sin.” Ambrose, Sermon 22, 30 {A.D. 388}.

“We must except the Holy Virgin Mary, concerning whom I wish to raise no question when it touches the subject of sins, out of honour to the Lord; for from Him we know what abundance of grace for overcoming sin in every particular was conferred upon her who had the merit to conceive and bear Him who undoubtedly had no sin.” Augustine, Nature and Grace 4, 36 {A.D.415}.

“As he formed her without my stain of her own, so He proceeded from her contracting no stain.” Proclus of Constantinople, Homily 1 {ante A.D. 446}.

“A virgin, innocent, spotless, free of all defect, untouched, unsullied, holy in soul and body, like a lily sprouting among thorns.” Theodotus of Ancrya, Homily 6, 11{ante A.D. 446}.

“The angel took not the Virgin from Joseph, but gave her to Christ, to whom she was pledged from Joseph, but gave her to Christ, to whom she was pledged in the womb, when she was made.” Peter Chrysologus, Sermon 140 {A.D. 449}.

“The very fact that God has elected her proves that none was ever holier than Mary, if any stain had disfigured her soul, if any other virgin had been purer and holier, God would have selected her and rejected Mary.” Jacob of Sarug {ante A.D. 521}.

“She is born like the cherubim, she who is of a pure, immaculate clay.” Theotokos of Livias, Panegyric for the feast of the Assumption 5:6 {ante A.D. 650}.

“Today humanity, in all the radiance of her immaculate nobility, receives its ancient beauty. The shame of sin had darkened the splendour and attraction of human nature; but when the Mother of the Fair One par excellence is born, this nature regains in her person its ancient privileges and is fashioned according to a perfect model truly worthy of God…. The reform of our nature begins today and the aged world, subjected to a wholly divine transformation, receives the first fruits of the second creation.” Andrew of Crete, Sermon 1 On the Birth of Mary {A.D. 733}.

“Truly elect, and superior to all, not by the altitude of lofty structures, but as excelling all in the greatness and purity of sublime and divine virtues, and having no affinity with sin whatever.” Germanus of Constantinople, Marracci in S. Germani Mariali {ante A.D. 733}.

“O most blessed loins of Joachim from which came forth a spotless seed! Oh glorious womb of Anne in which a most holy offspring grew.” John of Damascus, Homily 1 {ante A.D. 749}.

I’ll close by saying that if you “Get Mary” you “Get Catholicism.” Mary represents everything that Catholicism is: sacraments, incarnation, sanctity, matrimony, celibacy, prayer, silence, love, charity, faith and works, and even the synergy of the divine work within human vessels.

From a personal point of view, I have found that my love for Christ increases whenever I draw close the Blessed Virgin Mary. She is my mother and I feel her presence. I have been able to conquer vices and sins through her prayerful assistance. She makes penances light and joyful. She is a created instrument of the Holy Spirit, whom the Church calls “Mediatrix,” and I can only confess that my experience (along with Scripture and Tradition) confirms the truth of her intimate role in the life of the Christian. She is the true Queen of Christ’s kingdom, and she reigns in and through the grace of Christ. She is all lovely, and there is no stain in her. I used to say that the best part of being a Catholic was the sacrament of Penance – now I say that the best part is being able to know the Immaculate Mother of Christ.

O Mary conceived without sin, pray for us who have recourse to thee.

Godspeed,

Taylor Marshall

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  1. Is the Immaculate Conception Biblical? Yes, but only if you accept typology as a valid interpretation of Scriptural texts (i.e. a method used by the Apostles and Fathers to interpret Old Testament people, things, and events as types foreshadowing New Covenant realities).

    The problem is that typology can’t/shouldn’t be used as your primary evidence. Typology can be use as a confirmation but not primary evidence. Otherwise you can just about prove anything via typology since it lends itself to confirmation bias. You get what you are looking for.

  2. Steve,

    Your counterargument essentially undermines the exegetical interpretations of the New Testament with respect to the Old Covenant.

    Are you going to rebuke the Evangelists for “Out of Egypt I have called my Son?”

    Are you going to rebuke Christ for identifying John the Baptist as coming in the spirit of Elijah?

    Are you going to rebuke Paul for his allegorical argument on Sarah and Hagar (grace vs. law) in Galatians?

    Typology is only dangerous for a Protestant hermeneutic because Protestantism doesn’t have the safeguard of a Catholic magisterium. This is why typology is non-existent in Protestantism post 1500s. You do need a set of brakes so that typology doesn’t get crazy – that’s why there’s a magisterium.

    We must all recognize that the chief mode of OT interpretation for the Apostles and Evangelists was typology.

    ad Jesum per Mariam,
    Taylor

  3. Also, I don’t think that typological arguments from Scripture are our primary source of this doctrine. As you said, Steve, they support what the Church has already affirmed by tradition.

    St. Hippolytus:

    Thus also the demonstration makes the matter clear to us. Since the Saviour of the world, with the purpose of saving the race of men, was born of the immaculate and virgin Mary…

    For as to a virgin bearing, this we have known only in the case of the all-holy Virgin, who bore the Saviour verily clothed in flesh.

    And re: St. Augustine, Pelikan writes:

    In a famous and controversial passage of On Nature and Grace, one of the most important treatises that he devoted to the defense of the doctrine of original sin, Augustine had listed the great saints of the Old and New Testaments, who had nevertheless been sinners. Then he continued: “We must make an exception of the holy Virgin Mary, concerning whom I wish to raise no question when it touches the subject of sins, out of honor to the Lord. For from him we know what abundance of grace for overcoming sin in every particular [ad vincendum omni ex parte peccatum] was conferred upon her who had the merit to conceive and bear him who undoubtedly had no sin” Mary Through the Centuries pg 191

    This is not to mention the authority of the Divine Liturgy which Dr. Deane will be sharing a little about in the coming days.

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  5. The Immaculate Conception is the dogma that Mary was saved by God in a singular and unique way.

    This is very true and needs to be highlighted. God saved Mary. Mary is saved by Grace. This gets lost by many who do not understand the Church’s teaching.

  6. Sean,

    Exactly – Mary even calls God her Savior in the Magnificat:

    [Luke 1:46-47] “And Mary said: My soul doth magnify the Lord. And my spirit hath rejoiced in God my Saviour.

    ad Jesum per Mariam,
    Taylor

  7. I once heard a priest say that “Jesus is Mary’s Savior more than any other human person, because He saved her so perfectly.”

    That’s a pretty cool way of thinking about our Immaculate Lady!

    Godspeed,
    Taylor

  8. In relation to Gen 3:15 we have 1 John 3:8: He who commits sin is of the devil. If Mary committed sin, even only once, then she cannot fulfill Gen 3:15.

  9. Thanks for this Taylor. I think your Who Crushes Satan’s Head in Genesis 3:15? (Mary or Jesus?) post is a helpful addition to #Argument #2. The concept of participation in Christ’s redemptive work allows us to see the “Jesus or Mary?” dilemma with respect to this question as a false dilemma.

    In the peace of Christ,

    – Bryan

  10. […] Source […]

  11. Steve G. said:

    The problem is that typology can’t/shouldn’t be used as your primary evidence. Typology can be use as a confirmation but not primary evidence. Otherwise you can just about prove anything via typology since it lends itself to confirmation bias. You get what you are looking for.

    Taylor took the words out of my mouth with his comment about how Jesus and Paul used typology. They don’t seem to use it the way you would suggest they should, and for Paul, it DOES seem as if he is using it to “get what he is looking for”! But he is the voice of the Church and can do that. You and me cannot.

    To get everything we can from scripture, we need to use typology, which means we need an official interpreter to guide us in its proper application. Protestants do not agree, and it shows. They do not use the typological interpretation methods that Jesus and Paul used. Period. Well, perhaps Tim LaHaye does. (gag)
    I used to be a huge fan of James Jordan because he was not as afraid of typology as most Reformed folks. Now that I can check with the magisterium and see how the Church interprets a passage, the Scripture is more rich than ever to me. Mary as the new Eve and Ark of the New Covenant completely blew my mind! So cool!
    -David Meyer

  12. How is it possible that Mary was without sin or kept from sin when the Scriptures never mention such a thing? Jesus never teaches that she was nor do the apostles?

  13. Dear “A Protestant 1”

    The whole point of the post above is that Christ and the Apostles did teach that she was without sin. If St Gabriel infallibly hailed her as “Full of Grace” then she is. “Full of grace” implies “empty of sin.”

    If I have a glass full of pure water, then I can be sure that there is no poison in it.

    ad Jesum per Mariam,
    Taylor

  14. Wibi,

    Very nicely done.

    ad Jesum per Mariam,
    Taylor

  15. Taylor, what specific passages tell you that Christ and the Apostles did teach that she was without sin?
    Secondly, full of grace does imply or mean without sin. You can look this up in a Greek lexicon and you won’t find this idea without sin. Are you aware that it was said of Stephen in Acts 6:8 that he was “full of grace and power”. Should we also conclude that he was without sin his entire life?

  16. A Protestant 1,

    Luke calls Mary (in Greek) κεχαριτωμένη.

    Luke calls Stephen (in Greek) πλήρης χάριτος καὶ δυνάμεως.

    The former is much stronger than the latter. You have to know Greek to see the difference. It suffices to say that the title of Mary as “κεχαριτωμένη” is a perfect passive participle.

    Certainly Stephen was “full of grace and power” at that very moment. But the Greek denotes that Mary was perfectly graced already and presently remaining in that state. “Graced” is who she was and is.

    ad Jesum per Mariam,
    Taylor

  17. Here is what full of grace means in Luke 1:28- “Full of grace
    χαριτόω charitóō; contracted charitó̄, fut. charitó̄sō, from cháris (5485), grace. To grace, highly honor or greatly favor. In the NT spoken only of the divine favor, as to the virgin Mary in Luke 1:28, kecharitōménē, the perf. pass. part. sing. fem. The verb charitóō declares the virgin Mary to be highly favored, approved of God to conceive the Son of God through the Holy Spirit. The only other use of charitóō is in Eph. 1:6 where believers are said to be “accepted in the beloved,” i.e., objects of grace. ”
    Zodhiates, S. (2000, c1992, c1993). The complete word study dictionary : New Testament (electronic ed.) (G5486). Chattanooga, TN: AMG Publishers
    As you can see there is nothing in here about the one in such a state at the time is without sin. The same word is also used on believers in Eph 1:6.
    The context also of Luke 1:28 does not favor the idea of being without sin. Rather, Mary is highly favored by God to bring Christ into the world. This is how we should understand what the angel meant in his greeting to her.

  18. Taylor,

    Your counterargument essentially undermines the exegetical interpretations of the New Testament with respect to the Old Covenant…Typology is only dangerous for a Protestant hermeneutic because Protestantism doesn’t have the safeguard of a Catholic magisterium. This is why typology is non-existent in Protestantism post 1500s. You do need a set of brakes so that typology doesn’t get crazy – that’s why there’s a magisterium.

    As I see it, the only context in which the Immaculate Conception (and similar dogmas) really makes sense is in a presupposition of the authority and infallibility of the Roman Catholic magisterium. Speaking as a Protestant, the only grounds on which I could really accept the doctrine would be an acceptance of the authority of the RCC. The typological confirmations you’ve given don’t really prove the doctrine, and hypothetically, someone could go through the Old Testament (with a “type hermeneutic”) and find a foreshadowing of just about anything. If the doctrine’s acceptance depends on its being argued exegetically, Reformed style, then of course it’s not going to make it–hence why Protestants don’t believe it.

    The whole debate seems to be ultimately about sola scriptura. To be honest, as someone inquiring into the Catholic Church, doctrines like the Immaculate Conception aren’t really too much of a problem for me. To demand that they be proven from clear Scriptural warrant is to assume a Protestant hermeneutic to begin with. Once the Catholic hermeneutic is accepted, then of course it makes sense to believe these dogmas.

    Pax Christi,

    Spencer

  19. I just wanted to add a few thoughts regarding descriptions of Mary in the NT and Semitic ways of thinking.

    Semitic languages like Hebrew and Aramaic do not have comparative or superlative forms for adjectives. The ideas are expressed, however, in different ways than we do in English. These Semitic ways of expressing comparison are captured by St. Luke in his Gospel.

    One example can be found in Lk 1:42 when Elizabeth, filled with the Holy Spirit says, “blessed are you among women.” This is a Semitic way of saying, “You are the most blessed woman ever.”

    Another example can be found in Lk 1:48 when Mary says, “all generations will call me blessed.” This is a Semitic way of saying, “I am the most blessed of all generations.”

    St. Luke puts Mary, therefore, at the head of the human race, blessed even beyond Eve. Therefore, Mary was given the gift, like Eve, of being created in grace. However, unlike Eve, Mary persevered in grace her entire life.

  20. A Protestant 1,

    You’re not realizing that the Marian case is a verb and the force comes from the tense – not merely the lexicon definition.

    ad Jesum per Mariam,
    Taylor

  21. Spencer,

    If you applied the same Protestant hermeneutic (of limited or no typology) to the Old Testament, one would also reject Jesus as the Messiah. One would say “Christ was of the order of Melchizedek” and you would say, “No that’s talking about King David.” One would say, “Psalm 22 is about crucifixion of Christ, ” and you would say, “No, it’s David.” One would say, Isaiah’s suffering servant is Christ, and you would respond, “No, it’s historical Israel.”

    This sort of historical literalism is not Apostolic.

    The OT is full of types. Not all of them are identified by the Apostles in the pages of New Testament. Saint Paul says that we should receive Scripture and oral Tradition (2 Thess 2:15).

    Jael crushed a bad dude’s head (Jdgs 4), a woman crushed a bad dude’s head in Judges 9 also. Oh and Judith cut off a bad dude’s head. Ergo, these are types of Mary as the crusher of the poisonous head of Satan. This is by no means a stretch. Neither is it to say that Mary is the New Eve or the Ark of the Covenant.

    The fact that Christians have been using these Marian types theologically and liturgically since the earliest days only proves that the the Protestant hermeneutic is insufficient since it cannot handle them.

    I think you are correct, this ultimately boils down to the magisterium. Typology only works if you have a magisterium because typology can get out of hand. This is why Luther and Protestants have had to abandon typology because they have safeguard against the abuses. However, Catholics can fully enjoy the breath and width of biblical exegesis.

    Godspeed,
    Taylor

  22. Gil, you’re a theological stud.

    ad Jesum per Mariam,
    Taylor

  23. Spencer (re: #18),

    Regarding typology I also recommend listening to the second talk given by Professor Feingold, in the “Mary in the Old Testament” post.

    In the peace of Christ,

    – Bryan

  24. Taylor– writes-“You’re not realizing that the Marian case is a verb and the force comes from the tense – not merely the lexicon definition.”
    This still would not mean that the term “hail favored” one or “full of grace” means that she was without sin throughout her life. (The context of the passage is against the idea of her being without sin). Jesus nor His apostles ever teach this and it would go against the Scripture teaching that all men are sinners. Romans 3:9 and 5:12.
    Secondly, there were fathers and popes that beleived she was a sinner. This is an example of the Catholic church wanting to read into the Scriptures their doctrines.

  25. Spencer, I think you’re right about the evidence. The points simply aren’t strong enough to stand on their own outside of a magisterium; at least they are not strong enough to compel a non-believer to believe. I’m not saying the arguments aren’t valid, or even that they’re not strong. I think there are strong reasons to believe that Jesus resurrected from the dead, but I don’t think the evidence has the kind of weight needed (on its own) to convince a non-believer. That is, an unbeliever comes to faith in Christ in a different way than a scientist comes to faith in gravitational theory. Likewise with Mary’s immaculate conception. I do not know of any evidence or argument that is strong enough to stand on its own, apart from the magisterium, that would compel an unbeliever.

    The linguistic argument, for example… I am not at all convinced that the “full of grace” passage by itself is enough to compel assent to the Immaculate Conception. However, I do believe that that verse implies the IC because the Church says it does. The Church speaks of the things of Scripture as things which belong to her. Jesus did likewise with quoting the OT and using it in arguments. Well, there was a reason why the Jews, experts at the Torah, missed so many of the things that Jesus explained. No wonder that some of the things the Catholic Church says about the Scripture have been missed by Protestants (who are often experts).

  26. Jael crushed a bad dude’s head (Jdgs 4), a woman crushed a bad dude’s head in Judges 9 also. Oh and Judith cut off a bad dude’s head. Ergo, these are types of Mary as the crusher of the poisonous head of Satan.

    Taylor that is just awesome. My fourth daughters middle name is Jael (I oh so much wanted it for her first name but my wife… well, maybe next time). I was just blown away by yet another typology that I have just heard for the first time. I love Jael and now her story is all the better. Could you point me to where her story and Mary are connected by some theologians/fathers? I would LOVE to read more about it.

    Also a side note/question, last night at mass the protoevangelium was read and it used “he will crush your head” not she. What is the deal? were they reading a Protestant bible or what? The fact that it was read on the solemnity of the Immaculate Conception I think means it is being tied to Mary, but why the translation difference?

    -David M.

  27. Hi Taylor,

    First, blessed Advent to you and your family!

    On the Immaculate Conception (and we might add for the sake of clarity, the sinlessness of Mary, since this is included), is a doctrine which I struggle to accept. I appreciate your attempts to make it biblically plausible, and your appeal to typological interpretation.

    But, one tension that you have not mentioned is the fact that the NT is full of statements which rather clearly indicate that every person has sinned (e.g. Romans 3:23, Romans 5, I John 1:8). I’m sure you would agree that this is taught quite clearly in several places, and implied in several different ways. In the one instance in which there is an exception to this teaching, in the case of Jesus Christ, the NT very directly and explicitly states it (e.g. I Peter 2:22). So, it is not just that this teaching (immaculate conception and the sinlessness of Mary) is not explicitly found in Scripture; it is also the fact that it appears to contradict a very clear and pervasive teaching that the whole of the NT takes for granted. So, I agree with other commentators that one can only accept this doctrine after more basic theological decisions have been made (namely, the infallibility of the Catholic Church, etc.)

  28. I am an Anglo-Catholic who is agnostic about the Immaculate Conception of Mary. It seems to me that the biblical evidence you cite is consistent with the doctrine, and allows for it, but comes short of proof. Luke 1:28 does not have to mean that Mary is without sin because she is full of grace, any more than Stephen is sinless in Acts 6:8. And while she had received this fullness of grace at some point in the past, that point does not have to coincide with her conception. Nor does the enmity in Genesis 3:15 require a sinless state. Clearly the Church is at enmity with Satan (Rev. 12:17) without yet being sinless. The typological connection between Mary and the Ark certainly supports the holiness of Mary, but holiness does not require sinlessness (1 Pet. 1:15-16; 2:9). The priests and kings of Israel were holy because of their office, but that did not make them sinless. As to the Tradition, there did not seem to be a consensus on this question in the early centuries of the Church.

    What the Protestant critics don’t seem to understand is the logic of the Roman model. Guided and illuminated by the Spirit through the centuries, Rome believes that greater clarity and consensus about various questions develops over time through study and meditation on the implications of biblical teaching. Obviously, given the late date of the dogma, the Immaculate Conception would be one such article of faith. Given the authority of the Magisterium, there is no need to “prove” this point from Scripture, but merely to show how the way was paved through biblical language. After all, the apostles did not believe Jesus was the Messiah because of their reading of the OT, but because he rose from the dead. They were then directed to the Scriptures to see how they testified of him (Lk. 24:44-45). While I am not formally under the authority of Rome, I certainly grant that their model has a certain kind of logic to it, and is not at all absurd. People who dismiss it out of hand simply show that they have not thought about the issues in any kind of depth.

  29. It will not do to appeal to the authority of the Catholic church to make it possible to believe something is true if there are no facts to support the claim. Not only is there no evidence for the immaculate conception in Scripture but there were church leaders who also thought she had sinned as these quotes show:
    “Augustine Bishop of Hippo “Whatever flesh of sin Jesus took, He took of the flesh of the sin of his mother. Jesus did not partake of sin, but took of his mother, which came under the judgment of sin.”

    Augustine “ He, Christ alone, being made man but remaining God never had any sin, nor did he take of the flesh of sin. Though He took flesh of the sin of his mother.”

    Pope innocent the third (1216 a.d.) “She (Eve) was produced without sin, but she brought forth in sin, she (Mary) was produced in sin, but she brought forth without sin.” ( De festo Assump., sermon 2)

    Pope Leo 1 (440 a.d.) “The Lord Jesus Christ alone among the sons of men was born immaculate”(sermon 24 in Nativ. Dom.).
    .N.D. Kelly comments:

    “Origen insisted that, like all human beings, she [Mary] needed redemption from her sins; in particular, he interpreted Simeon’s prophecy (Luke 2, 35) that a sword would pierce her soul as confirming that she had been invaded with doubts when she saw her Son crucified.” (Early Christian Doctrines [San Francisco, California: HarperCollins Publishers, 1978], p. 493)

  30. First time poster and I hope my post fits the guidelines. Enjoy the discussions.

    Taylor #21 Hello. You indicate that typology is limited for Protestants. Personally, as a Protestant, I love typology and am always amazed at how many cases of it there are. I think it would be fair to say that typology is appropriate where it is supporting explicitly stated facts elsewhere in Scripture. In other words, Jesus had a sojourn in Egypt because the NT explicitly says so, not because of a type in Hosea….given the fact though, any typology supporting it is allowed and quite wonderful. My impression is that Catholics allow types supporting the magisterium as well as Scripture but that the idea of using one or the other as boundaries for allowed types is the same. Would you agree with that?

    Peace

  31. JeffB,

    Yes, it seems we certainly both believe in limits for typology. It just seems that the Scripture limits itself is not itself a biblical doctrine.

    In other words, you need a living magisterium.

    ad Jesum per Mariam,
    Taylor

  32. A Protestant 1,

    I’m just curious: Why do you want Mary to be sinless?

    Augustine explicitly stated that it was fitting to ascribe sin to the Mother of Christ in his book De natura et gratia.

    Pope innocent the third (1216 a.d.) “She (Eve) was produced without sin, but she brought forth in sin, she (Mary) was produced in sin, but she brought forth without sin.” ( De festo Assump., sermon 2)

    Do you have the Latin for this quote? This is a new one for me. I couldn’t find the full text (in Latin or English). There are a couple of interpolations there and the Latin prepositions here really matter.

    Pope Leo 1 (440 a.d.) “The Lord Jesus Christ alone among the sons of men was born immaculate”(sermon 24 in Nativ. Dom.).

    Here Leo refers to sons, not the Daughter of Zion, Mary Most Holy.

    N.D. Kelly comments: “Origen insisted that, like all human beings, she [Mary] needed redemption from her sins; in particular, he interpreted Simeon’s prophecy (Luke 2, 35) that a sword would pierce her soul as confirming that she had been invaded with doubts when she saw her Son crucified.” (Early Christian Doctrines [San Francisco, California: HarperCollins Publishers, 1978], p. 493)

    I have another quote in which Origen says Mary is without sin. Even if Origen did teach that she had sin, still he’s a heretic and by no means magisterial for a Catholic.

    ad Jesum per Mariam,
    Taylor

  33. Dear Matthew,

    A blessed Advent to you as well.

    The statement regarding universal sin contain exceptions. For example Rom 3:23 “For all have sinned,” refers to actually sin not original sin. A newborn infant, according to Catholic theology has not sinned. He lacks grace and is in the state of original sin, but he has no personal sins.

    Romans 5 is based on the typology of Adam in relation to Christ. Clearly Adam and Eve were unique. Paul argument demands that just as Christ is a New Adam so there must be a historical New Eve. A Co-peccatrix calls for a Co-redemptrix. So then, there is an exception built into the argument.

    1 John 8 reads “If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us,” but he’s not referring to Mary who is the New Eve.

    According to Pius IX, Christ’s predestination is one and the same as Mary’s predestination since Christ’s Incarnation in time requires a human mother. Hence, Mary’s role and place is linked and identified with Christ. Thus, she is an exception just as Christ is an exception. Gen 3:15 also teaches this enmity between the Woman and the Serpent.

    I agree with you that it takes filial obedience to the Church to believe in Immaculate Conception. It is no accident that the Immaculate Conception was defined in 1854 and the Infallibility of the Pope and Church declared in 1870. The sinlessness of Mother Mary and the infallibility of Mother Church in linked in a mystical way.

    ad Jesum per Mariam,
    Taylor

  34. A Protestant 1 (re: #17),

    Regarding the meaning of the word ‘grace,’ I think it may be helpful to read “The Tradition and the Lexicon,” because you seem to be assuming that the meaning of a term is determined fundamentally by way of a lexicon, while for us, the meaning of a term is determined by the Tradition, in the way that the term has been understood and passed down in the Church Fathers and Doctors. In this Tradition, grace is not merely divine favor; it is a participation in the divine life. So given that sense of the meaning of grace, to be full of grace means to be full of the divine life. But where there is sin, there is a privation of participation in the divine life. Hence, given this sense of grace, to be full of grace is to be sinless. The lexical method is not theologically ‘neutral,’ but carries certain presuppositions, as I explain in that post.

    In the peace of Christ,

    – Bryan

  35. Taylor- asks me-” I’m just curious: Why do you want Mary to be sinless?”
    Its not that I want Mary to be sinless or a sinner. What I want is the truth as I’m sure you do. When there are no texts in Scripture that says she is and its not even hinted at that is a problem. In fact there were popes that believed she had sin. Doesn’t this trouble you that the Scriptures and some popes believed she was not immaculately concieved?
    Schaff wrote:
    “Even seven Popes are quoted on the same side, and among them three of the greatest, viz., Leo I. (who says that Christ alone was free from original sin, and that Mary obtained her purification through her conception of Christ), Gregory I., and Innocent III. [FN233 The other Popes, who taught that Mary was conceived in sin, are Gelasius I., Innocent V., John XXII., and Clement VI. (d. 1352). The proof is furnished by the Jansenist Launoy, Prœscriptions, Opera I. pp. 17 sqq. …
    (Creeds of Christendom, Volume 1, Chapter 4, Section 29)”

  36. Bryan- the meaning of a word is not determined by tradition but the context of the passage. As I have pointed out to Taylor, no one in the NT taught she was sinless and there were popes who thought she was not sinless.

  37. A Protestant 1 (re: #35),

    You wrote:

    Bryan- the meaning of a word is not determined by tradition but the context of the passage.

    That just begs the question, i.e. presumes precisely what is in question between us. See “The Tradition and the Lexicon” post I linked to in comment #33.

    In the peace of Christ,

    – Bryan

  38. Hello A Protestant 1 #34:

    You mentioned that you what you want is the truth. I’ve found it helpful as a Protestant seeking to understand Catholic ways of thinking to get it out of my mind that we can sit down together and look at Scripture and methodically seek out the truth by exegesis. As I understand it, Catholic thinkers simply receive truth that’s been handed down and interpret any Scriptures in the light of that received truth. We Protestants want to start from scratch, compare Scripture with Scripture and gradually divine what is the truth. Calvin tries to seek out truth via a sort of scientific method, Aquinas simply accepts Church teaching as truth and provides a rational framework for understanding it all. It’s not that they both are seeking the truth and sometimes coming up with different answers—one isn’t “seeking” truth at all, but simply receiving it.

    Right or wrong, I believe that’s a helpful notion to have in one’s mind in understanding Catholic thinking and in conversing constructively with Catholics—-the many good authors here can correct me if my impression is off base.

    peace

  39. Hello A Protestant 1 #34: “We Protestants want to start from scratch, compare Scripture with Scripture and gradually divine what is the truth. Calvin tries to seek out truth via a sort of scientific method, Aquinas simply accepts Church teaching as truth and provides a rational framework for understanding it all.”

    The difference between the Catholic Church and Protestant sects basically is that the Catholic Church was the Church founded by Christ Jesus with the promise of protection from errors (cf. Matt. 16:18) and with the sole authority to proclaim the Gospel to all nations until the end of times (cf. Matt. 28:19), while Protestant sects are man-made sects trying to compete with the one Church founded by Christ on Cephas (cf. John 1;42).

  40. Jeff B-

    Your comment (#38) above caught my eye. I just wanted to say that I think it’s worth pointing out the fact that many of the people writing here were entirely protestant before recognizing the authority, given by Christ, and retained through Apostolic Succession, of the Bishop of Rome and those bishops in Communion with him. It’s then that we submitted to the authority we discovered and became catholic, in many cases at great cost.

    Once we recognized the principles which led us to realize we were in a state of schism from the Church Christ founded, we had no choice but to submit our lives to Him. Thanks for your thoughtful comment… And if you’re on a search for truth, you’ve come to the right place!

    herb

  41. Jeff B- Forgive me for writing 2 in a row. But I just glanced over at the most recent issue of Modern Reformation sitting here at the end of my couch and the issue’s title “Sola Scriptura” made me think of your line:

    We Protestants want to start from scratch, compare Scripture with Scripture and gradually divine what is the truth.

    Your comment implies that to go straight to the Scriptures is to “start from scratch.” However, to begin your journey with the Scriptures in hand is to begin your journey, not at the starting point, but quite a ways down the road! thanks again. herb

  42. […] I just stumbled across this comment from a few days ago by a Protestant over at Called to Communion. He has correctly identified the […]

  43. Dear JeffB,

    You wrote:

    We Protestants want to start from scratch, compare Scripture with Scripture and gradually divine what is the truth.

    I have to admit, I’m a little flabbergasted to hear a Protestant openly admit the desire to “start from scratch” and “gradually divine what is the truth.” But kudos for candor!

    Calvin tries to seek out truth via a sort of scientific method, Aquinas simply accepts Church teaching as truth and provides a rational framework for understanding it all. It’s not that they both are seeking the truth and sometimes coming up with different answers—one isn’t “seeking” truth at all, but simply receiving it.

    I’m glad you’ve found this helpful in discussions with Catholics, but it strikes me as a really bizarre way to characterize the situation. The quarrel isn’t over whether we should “seek” or “receive” truth–obviously we should do both–but over how the faith once delivered to the saints (Jude 3) is transmitted.

    I would certainly hope that Protestants, insofar as they claim to have genuine faith rather than merely a personal or communal opinion, understand themselves as having “received” the truth. Otherwise you’ve just invented something of your own and been pleased to dub it the Truth of God. It turns the content of your “faith” into a human accomplishment rather than a gift of grace.

    Perhaps I’ve misunderstood you.

    in Christ,

    TC
    1 Cor 16:14

  44. i want to know from the bible were Anne and Joachim huged and Anne concived,i mean the book,chapter and the verse.

  45. Henry,
    Answers can seem wrong or evasive when the wrong questions are asked. Like if someone asked me “when did you stop beating your wife.”
    I would ask you a question: “Show me from the bible the table of contents for the bible, what books are inspired, canonical scripture. I mean the book, chapter and the verse.”

    You cannot answer my question for the same reason I can’t answer yours… we are both relying on extra-biblical tradition.

    Having said that, I have never even heard of the “hugging” thing you mention. I certainly don’t believe that. If some Catholics believe that, it is perhaps not against the faith, but it is not even close to a dogma in Catholicism. Correct me if I am wrong here fellow Catholics.

    I would encourage you to examine the areas (like the cannon, or monogamy) which you take on the basis of tradition. What basis do you have to pick and choose which tradition you follow?

    Peace to you.

    -David M.

  46. […] Mary Without Sin: Scripture and Tradition (Taylor Marshall) Uncategorized ← 09 The Church Through the Ages […]

  47. Dear Taylor Marshall.

    If possible could you post the complete source of this quote from Origen of Alexandria, which is contained in the body of the main text?

  48. Along with the points made by “A Protestant” (which were never sufficiently answered) I would add Romans 3:23-24. Obviously Paul would have known if Mary were the one exception to this passage and, if so, could have stated it.

    Asking A Protestant why he would want Mary to be sinless was interesting. Protestants don’t care so much whether or not Mary was sinless, but rather wish to promote scriptural perspicuity. On this topic the scriptures that can might be employed are scant and unclear, when an abundant, clear, and consistent biblical theology is expected.

    A contradictory Magisterium only serves to strengthen the Protestant concern.

  49. If Mary was born sinless and lived a sinless life, why did Jesus have to come?
    Mary would have been a qualified sacrifice already, negating the need for Jesus to be born.

  50. JC Sanchez, (re: #49)

    If Mary was born sinless and lived a sinless life, why did Jesus have to come?

    Because what saved Mary from both original sin and actual sin was Christ’s sacrifice, as explained in the lecture here, especially the section on Bl. Duns Scotus.

    Mary would have been a qualified sacrifice already, negating the need for Jesus to be born.

    No, because to make satisfaction for sin, the sacrifice needed to be divine, not merely innocent, or innocent and obedient. St. Thomas addresses this in a number of places, and I’ll point you to some of them, because they provide much more detail than I can in a combox comment. In the first three articles of Summa Theologica III Q.46, he explains that because God is omniscient, and because our sin is ultimately against Him, He could have forgiven our sin without Christ’s atonement. But then he goes on to explain why it was necessary in another sense, i.e. most fitting, to demonstrate both the justice of God and the love of God. If a mere man had done what Christ did, it would not have made atonement for our sins, and it would not have demonstrated the love of God for us.

    We see this again in Summa Theologica III Q.1 art.2, where St. Thomas answers the question “Whether it was necessary for the restoration of the human race that the Word of God should become incarnate?” In the second paragraph of the “I answer that” you will find five reasons why it is was fitting for the Son of God to become man, in order to further man’s good. And in the third paragraph he gives five reasons why it is was fitting for the Son of God to become man, in order to free men from evil. And the second objection in that article is very helpful. It reads:

    Further, for the restoration of human nature, which had fallen through sin, nothing more is required than that man should satisfy for sin. Now man can satisfy, as it would seem, for sin; for God cannot require from man more than man can do, and since He is more inclined to be merciful than to punish, as He lays the act of sin to man’s charge, so He ought to credit him with the contrary act. Therefore it was not necessary for the restoration of human nature that the Word of God should become incarnate.

    St. Thomas replies:

    Satisfaction may be said to be sufficient in two ways–first, perfectly, inasmuch as it is condign, being adequate to make good the fault committed, and in this way the satisfaction of a mere man cannot be sufficient for sin, both because the whole of human nature has been corrupted by sin, whereas the goodness of any person or persons could not be made up adequately for the harm done to the whole of the nature; and also because a sin committed against God has a kind of infinity from the infinity of the Divine majesty, because the greater the person we offend, the more grievous the offense. Hence for condign satisfaction it was necessary that the act of the one satisfying should have an infinite efficiency, as being of God and man. Secondly, man’s satisfaction may be termed sufficient, imperfectly–i.e. in the acceptation of him who is content with it, even though it is not condign, and in this way the satisfaction of a mere man is sufficient. And forasmuch as every imperfect presupposes some perfect thing, by which it is sustained, hence it is that satisfaction of every mere man has its efficiency from the satisfaction of Christ.

    No mere man, says St. Thomas, could have made condign satisfaction for sin (i.e. an offering truly outweighing in its goodness the demerit of sin). That is because if a mere man were to offer satisfaction, it would not satisfy for the sins of the whole human race, and the harm done to the whole of human nature. The just penalty for sin against God (i.e. mortal sin) is an infinite penalty, because it is an offense against He who is infinite majesty. So the satisfaction had to have an infinite value, and the satisfaction offered by a mere man, or a group of mere men, would have only a finite value. To make a sufficient satisfaction for the sins of the whole world, the one making such a satisfaction must therefore be divine.

    Similarly, because He is both God and man, He is the Mediator of God and men. A mere man could not be a proper mediator, as St. Thomas explains:

    We may consider two things in a mediator: first, that he is a mean; secondly, that he unites others. Now it is of the nature of a mean to be distant from each extreme: while it unites by communicating to one that which belongs to the other. Now neither of these can be applied to Christ as God, but only as man. For, as God, He does not differ from the Father and the Holy Ghost in nature and power of dominion: nor have the Father and theHoly Ghost anything that the Son has not, so that He be able to communicate to others something belonging to theFather or the Holy Ghost, as though it were belonging to others than Himself. But both can be applied to Him asman. Because, as man, He is distant both from God, by nature, and from man by dignity of both grace and glory. Again, it belongs to Him, as man, to unite men to God, by communicating to men both precepts and gifts, and byoffering satisfaction and prayers to God for men. And therefore He is most truly called Mediator, as man. (Summa Theologica III Q.26 a.2)

    A mediator is ‘distant’ from each extreme, and unites both by communicating to one what belongs to the other. Christ does this through His incarnation, because each of His two natures is distant from the other, and yet they are united in His Person through His incarnation, such that in Him God is man, and man is God. A mere man could not do that. We are united to God through this hypostatic union, through our union with the Body of Christ — both in the Eucharist and in the Church, which is His Mystical Body. But if there were no hypostatic union, then we could not be united to God through it. So this too is another reason why no mere man (or mere woman) could unite us to God

    In the peace of Christ,

    – Bryan

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