Church “fathers” on Mary

The following compilations and commentary below are from the work of Jason Engwer (who is not me, though I supplement his work at the bottom of this page), and is offered here for non-commercial “fair use.” Any copying of his work should be attributed to him, and used for the glory of God.

Br. Engwer has moved on to blogging and his old web sites (, are no longer operative (2011), and I myself am not versed in all counter arguments, but Engwer can be reached through his blogger page. Br. Engwers is sometimes active on blogs as Triablogue, and also see such resources as those of the Beggars All blog, William Webster's site, Reformation500 site, James White's sites; both Vintage (which has more on Roman Catholicism) and the current one. To download the file that these compilations are from, click here (on Windows-based computers, install the executable to a location you choose, then run the CBNRC.chm file). Some of Jason's former work can be found on the Internet Archive file here, and at this site (no formal affiliation). For the index of other compilations of material from Jason Engwer as i compete them (if i do) see here.

My home page is here.

For a custom Google search engine of these and other selected sites, see here. Please note however that this work or offered links cannot mean I may affirm all that is on a site, with all its conclusions, but that they are some of the best evangelical sites at least on the subject and hand, and contend for “repentance towards God and faith toward our Lord Jesus Christ,” (Acts 20:21) by His grace through faith, and to His glory.

Engwer's compilations are from what are wrongly termed early “church fathers,” as in truth the church began and greatly grew before them, and its “fathers” are essentially only those who are found in Scripture, and which is the judge of all.

See page on church “fathers” and Scripture for more in regards to this.

Table of Contents. To return here, click on TOC


Perpetual Virginity


Ark of the Covenant Typology

Revelation 12





Clement of Alexandria

Cyril of Alexandria

Cyril of Jerusalem


Gregory Nazianzen

Hilary of Poitiers


John Chrysostom

Justin Martyr

Leo I


















Gregory Thaumaturgus


Gregory Thaumaturgus





Ambrose believed that original sin was communicated by means of sexual intercourse. Thus, Jesus avoided original sin by being born of a virgin. Mary, however, would have original sin:

"He was man in the flesh, according to His human nature, that He might be recognized, but in power was above man, that He might not be recognized, so He has our flesh, but has not the failings of this flesh. For He was not begotten, as is every man, by intercourse between male and female, but born of the Holy Spirit and of the Virgin; He received a stainless body, which not only no sins polluted, but which neither the generation nor the conception had been stained by any admixture of defilement. For we men are all born under sin, and our very origin is in evil, as we read in the words of David: 'For lo, I was conceived in wickedness, and in sin did my mother bring me forth.'" (On Repentance, 1:3:12-13)

And if any Catholic wants to argue that Ambrose's phrases "every man" and "all" are referring to all people *except* Mary, Ambrose tells us elsewhere that being immaculately conceived is unique to Christ:

"For the Lord Jesus alone of those who are born of woman is holy, inasmuch as He experienced not the contact of earthly corruption, by reason of the novelty of His immaculate birth; nay, He repelled it by His heavenly majesty." (cited in Augustine, On the Grace of Christ, and on Original Sin, 2:47)

Augustine is often misrepresented as having believed in the sinlessness of Mary. The Anglican scholar J.N.D. Kelly explains:

"he [Augustine] did not hold (as has sometimes been alleged) that she [Mary] was born exempt from all taint of original sin (the later doctrine of the immaculate conception). Julian of Eclanum maintained this as a clinching argument in his onslaught on the whole idea of original sin, but Augustine's rejoinder was that Mary had indeed been born subject to original sin like all other human beings, but had been delivered from its effects 'by the grace of rebirth'." (Early Christian Doctrines [San Francisco, California: HarperCollins Publishers, 1978], p. 497)

Augustine wrote the following about Christ being the *only* post-Adamic human conceived without original sin. He approvingly quotes another church father, Ambrose. Notice that one of his quotes of Ambrose specifically mentions Mary, so it can't be argued that they didn't have Mary in mind at the time that they wrote. After quoting Ambrose, Augustine comments that Ambrose's view is the view held by the universal church of his day, a view supported by "the catholic faith":

"And now that we are about to bring this book to a conclusion, we think it proper to do on this subject of Original Sin what we did before in our treatise On Grace, --adduce in evidence against the injurious talk of these persons that servant of God, the Archbishop Ambrose, whose faith is proclaimed by Pelagius to be the most perfect among the writers of the Latin Church; for grace is more especially honoured in doing away with original sin. In the work which the saintly Ambrose wrote, Concerning the Resurrection, he says: 'I fell in Adam, in Adam was I expelled from Paradise, in Adam I died; and He does not recall me unless He has found me in Adam,--so as that, as I am obnoxious to the guilt of sin in him, and subject to death, I may be also justified in Christ.' Then, again, writing against the Novatians, he says: 'We men are all of us born in sin; our very origin is in sin; as you may read when David says, 'Behold, I was shapen in iniquity, and in sin did my mother conceive me.' Hence it is that Paul's flesh is 'a body of death;' even as he says himself, 'Who shall deliver me from the body of this death?' Christ's flesh, however, has condemned sin, which He experienced not by being born, and which byy dying He crucified, that in our flesh there might be justification through grace, where previously there was impurity through sin.' The same holy man also, in his Exposition Isaiah, speaking of Christ, says: 'Therefore as man He was tried in all things, and in the likeness of men He endured all things; but as born of the Spirit, He was free from sin. For every man is a liar, and no one but God alone is without sin. It is therefore an observed and settled fact, that no man born of a man and a woman, that is, by means of their bodily union, is seen to be free from sin. Whosoever, indeed, is free from sin, is free also from a conception and birth of this kind.' Moreover, when expounding the Gospel according to Luke, he says: 'It was no cohabitation with a husband which opened the secrets of the Virgin's womb; rather was it the Holy Ghost which infused immaculate seed into her unviolated womb. For the Lord Jesus alone of those who are born of woman is holy, inasmuch as He experienced not the contact of earthly corruption, by reason of the novelty of His immaculate birth; nay, He repelled it by His heavenly majesty.' These words, however, of the man of God are contradicted by Pelagius, notwithstanding all his commendation of his author, when he himself declares that 'we are procreated, as without virtue, so without vice.' What remains, then, but that Pelagius should condemn and renounce this error of his; or else be sorry that he has quoted Ambrose in the way he has? Inasmuch, however, as the blessed Ambrose, catholic bishop as he is, has expressed himself in the above-quoted passages in accordance with the catholic faith, it follows that Pelagius, along with his disciple Coelestius, was justly condemned by the authority of the catholic Church for having turned aside from the true way of faith, since he repented not for having bestowed commendation on Ambrose, and for having at the same time entertained opinions in opposition to him." (On the Grace of Christ, and on Original Sin, 2:47-48)

"The Augustinian view long continued to prevail; but at last Pelagius won the victory on this point in the Roman church." - Philip Schaff (section 81)

Basil explains that the meaning of Luke 2:34-35 is clear. Mary sinned, and she needed to be restored after Jesus' resurrection, just as Peter was restored:

"About the words of Simeon to Mary, there is no obscurity or variety of interpretation....By a sword is meant the word which tries and judges our thoughts, which pierces even to the dividing asunder of soul and spirit and of the joints and marrow, and is a discerner of our thoughts. Now every soul in the hour of the Passion was subjected, as it were, to a kind of searching. According to the word of the Lord it is said, 'All ye shall be offended because of me.' Simeon therefore prophesies about Mary herself, that when standing by the cross, and beholding what is being done, and hearing the voices, after the witness of Gabriel, after her secret knowledge of the divine conception, after the great exhibition of miracles, she shall feel about her soul a mighty tempest. The Lord was bound to taste of death for every man--to become a propitiation for the world and to justify all men by His own blood. Even thou thyself, who hast been taught from on high the things concerning the Lord, shalt be reached by some doubt. This is the sword. 'That the thoughts of many hearts may be revealed.' He indicates that after the offence at the Cross of Christ a certain swift healing shall come from the Lord to the disciples and to Mary herself, confirming their heart in faith in Him. In the same way we saw Peter, after he had been offended, holding more firmly to his faith in Christ. What was human in him was proved unsound, that the power of the Lord might be shewn." - Basil (Letter 260:6, 260:9)

Clement of Alexandria doesn't seem to have viewed Mary as sinless. He refers to Christ as the only sinless person:

"Now, O you, my children, our Instructor is like His Father God, whose son He is, sinless, blameless, and with a soul devoid of passion; God in the form of man, stainless, the minister of His Father's will, the Word who is God, who is in the Father, who is at the Father's right hand, and with the form of God is God. He is to us a spotless image; to Him we are to try with all our might to assimilate our souls. He is wholly free from human passions; wherefore also He alone is judge, because He alone is sinless. As far, however, as we can, let us try to sin as little as possible. For nothing is so urgent in the first place as deliverance from passions and disorders, and then the checking of our liability to fall into sins that have become habitual. It is best, therefore, not to sin at all in any way, which we assert to be the prerogative of God alone...But He welcomes the repentance of the sinner-loving repentance-which follows sins. For this Word of whom we speak alone is sinless. For to sin is natural and common to all." (The Instructor, 1:2, 3:12)

"In this commentary, C. [Cyril of Alexandria] uses phrases about Mary which seem to continue the opinions of Origen (qv) and St. Basil (qv) on imperfection in her faith: 'In all likelihood, even the Lord's Mother was scandalised by the unexpected passion, and the intensely bitter death on the Cross...all but deprived her of right reason.' He tries to imagine the thoughts that passed through Mary's mind. Had Jesus been mistaken when he said he was the Son of Almighty God? Why was he crucified who said he was the life? Why did he who had brought Lazarus back to life not come down from the Cross? Then he recalls what had been written of the Lord's Mother: Simeon's sword, 'the sharp force of the Passion which could turn a woman's mind to strange thoughts.' The word woman is significant, for C. thought that the frailty of the female sex was a factor in what he then thought was collapse." (Michael O'Carroll, Theotokos [Wilmington, Delaware: Michael Glazier, Inc., 1988], p. 113)

"For we tell some part of what is written concerning His loving-kindness to men, but how much He forgave the Angels we know not: for them also He forgives, since One alone is without sin, even Jesus who purgeth our sins....Immaculate and undefiled was His generation: for where the Holy Spirit breathes, there all pollution is taken away: undefiled from the Virgin was the incarnate generation of the Only-begotten....This is the Holy Ghost, who came upon the Holy Virgin Mary; for since He who was conceived was Christ the Only-begotten, the power of the Highest overshadowed her, and the Holy Ghost came upon her, and sanctified her, that she might be able to receive Him, by whom all things were made. But I have no need of many words to teach thee that generation was without defilement or taint, for thou hast learned it." - Cyril of Jerusalem (Catechetical Lectures, 2:10, 12:32, 17:6)

For hundreds of years, no church father said that Mary was sinless from conception onward. During that same time, many church fathers and Roman bishops said that she *was* a sinner. Roman Catholics try to counter such widespread evidence by arguing that at least *some* church fathers did believe in the sinlessness of Mary. One of the most commonly cited fathers in this context, if not *the* most commonly cited, is Ephraim. Catholic Answers cites him as follows:

"'You alone and your Mother are more beautiful than any others, for there is no blemish in you nor any stains upon your Mother. Who of my children can compare in beauty to these?' (Nisibene Hymns 27:8 [A.D. 361])."

Ephraim says nothing of sinlessness from conception onward. He may have believed, like Augustine, that Mary *became* sinless, but was conceived in sin.

In another passage, Ephraim writes (as though Mary was speaking):

"The Son of the Most High came and dwelt in me, and I became His Mother; and as by a second birth I brought Him forth so did He bring me forth by the second birth, because He put His Mother's garments on, she clothed her body with His glory." (On the Nativity of Christ in the Flesh, 11)

If Mary took part in *the* second birth, the implication is that she was a sinner who was regenerated. After citing the same passage cited by Catholic Answers, in addition to citing other passages that refer to Mary being spiritually "baptized" and "cleansed", the Roman Catholic scholar Michael O'Carroll wrote:

"These texts are no contradiction of Mary's initial holiness; nor are others found in the Armenian version of the commentary on the Diatessaron which seem to imply fault - doubt, for example, on the Resurrection. Here E. confused Mary with Mary Magdalene. Again the absence of a doctrine of Original Sin cannot be invoked." (Theotokos [Wilmington, Delaware: Michael Glazier, Inc., 1988], pp. 132-133)

In other words, O'Carroll is telling us that Ephraim viewed Mary as being spiritually baptized and cleansed and saw her as doubting the resurrection, yet he may have viewed her as sinless anyway. We can understand why a Roman Catholic scholar would put forward such an argument, but it isn't credible. If Ephraim viewed Mary as participating in the second birth, as being spiritually baptized and cleansed, as doubting Christ's resurrection, then he probably didn't think she was sinless from conception onward. Thus, Ephraim is another example of how a church father can hold a high view of Mary, even viewing her as sinless or almost sinless for a large portion of her life, without thereby agreeing with the Roman Catholic view of her.

The church fathers sometimes refer to Mary being purified by God. Do such passages suggest that Mary was cleansed from sin? We know that a person can be purified without being a sinner. For example, Gregory Nazianzen writes the following about the baptism of Jesus:

"A little later on you will see Jesus submitting to be purified in the River Jordan for my Purification, or rather, sanctifying the waters by His Purification (for indeed He had no need of purification Who taketh away the sin of the world)" (Orations, 38:16)

Jesus wasn't a sinner, yet He's referred to as being purified. But notice that Gregory Nazianzen *qualifies* his comments about Jesus. He explains that Jesus was purified only in one manner of speaking, not in the sense of the removal of sin.

Yet, in this same Oration, Gregory refers to Mary being purified without any such qualifications:

"took on Him flesh for the sake of our flesh, and mingled Himself with an intelligent soul for my soul's sake, purifying like by like; and in all points except sin was made man. Conceived by the Virgin, who first in body and soul was purified by the Holy Ghost" (Orations, 38:13)

Not only does Gregory not qualify his comments on Mary the way he qualified his comments on Jesus, but look at the *context* of his comments on Mary. He's discussing sin. Gregory refers to Jesus "purifying" sinners in general, then he refers to Mary being purified. So, while it's true that a reference to Mary being purified doesn't necessarily *in itself* lead to the conclusion that she was a sinner, the context of such passages can lead to that conclusion. And the context of Gregory Nazianzen's comments suggests that he viewed Mary as a sinner.

"On the incident of Mary and the brothers waiting outside for Jesus [Matthew 12:46-50], H. [Hilary of Poitiers] proposes a novel exegesis: 'But since he came unto his own and his own did not receive him, in his mother and brothers the Synagogue and the Israelites are foreshadowed, refraining from entry and approach to him.'" (Michael O'Carroll, Theotokos [Wilmington, Delaware: Michael Glazier, Inc., 1988], p. 171)

Jerome apparently didn't believe in the sinlessness of Mary. What I'm about to quote is from a treatise he wrote against Pelagianism. I'm not suggesting that Roman Catholicism agrees with all of the arguments used by Pelagians. Rather, I'm saying that *some* of what Jerome said against the Pelagians is relevant to the RCC's claim that Mary was sinless from conception onward. For example, Jerome repeatedly refers to the universality of sin among men (Jesus being exempted, since He's God, not just man), and he repeatedly asks the Pelagians for an example of a person who has lived without sin. Apparently, Jerome didn't think they'd be able to cite Mary as an example.

One portion of the quote below mentions Mary. It's important to understand the context. Jerome is arguing that a person can be *relatively* righteous, in comparison with other people, yet still be a sinner. He gives numerous examples to that effect. After mentioning Mary, he mentions John the Baptist. I've included the sentence in which John the Baptist is mentioned, so that it will be clear that Jerome is including Mary *among other people*. The implication is that though Mary is more righteous than some people, such as Elizabeth and Zacharias, she's only *relatively* righteous. She, too, is a sinner.

"Medical skill, craftsmanship, and so on, are found in many persons; but to be always without sin is a characteristic of the Divine power only. Therefore, either give me an instance of those who were for ever without sin; or, if you cannot find one, confess your impotence, lay aside bombast, and do not mock the ears of fools with this being and possibility of being of yours. For who will grant that a man can do what no man was ever able to do?...For if a man can be without sin, and it is clear the Apostles were not without sin, a man can be higher than the Apostles: to say nothing of patriarchs and prophets whose righteousness under the law was not perfect, as the Apostle says, 'For all have sinned, and fall short of the glory of God: being justified freely by His grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus: whom God set forth to be a propitiator.'...For it is just my own view that no creature can be perfect in respect of true and finished righteousness. But that one differs from another, and that one man's righteousness is not the same as another's, no one doubts; nor again that one may be greater or less than another, and yet that, relatively to their own status and capacity, men may be called righteous who are not righteous when compared with others....Elizabeth and Zacharias, whom you adduce and with whom you cover yourself as with an impenetrable shield, may teach us how far they are beneath the holiness of blessed Mary, the Lord's Mother, who, conscious that God was dwelling in her, proclaims without reserve, 'Behold, from henceforth all generations shall call me blessed. For He that is mighty hath done to me great things; and holy is His name. And His mercy is unto generations and generations of them that fear Him: He hath showed strength with His arm.' Where, observe, she says she is blessed not by her own merit and virtue, but by the mercy of God dwelling in her. And John himself, a greater than whom has not arisen among the sons of men, is better than his parents....And again, he in comparison with whom you are inferior will be a sinner in respect of some other virtue, relatively to you or to another person; and thus it happens that whoever is thought to be first, is inferior to him who is his superior in some other particular....We are not told that a man can be without sin, which is your view, but that God, if He chooses, can keep a man free from sin, and of His mercy guard him so that he may be without blemish. And I say that all things are possible with God; but that everything which a man desires is not possible to him, and especially, an attribute which belongs to no created thing you ever read of....And although he professes to imitate, or rather complete the work of the blessed martyr Cyprian in the treatise which the latter wrote to Quirinus, he does not perceive that he has said just the opposite in the work under discussion. Cyprian, in the fifty-fourth heading of the third book, lays it down that no one is free from stain and without sin, and he immediately gives proofs" (Against the Pelagians, 1:9, 1:14, 1:16, 1:23-24, 1:32)

Compare the following claims of Pope Pius IX to what John Chrysostom wrote:

"The Catholic Church, directed by the Holy Spirit of God, is the pillar and base of truth and has ever held as divinely revealed and as contained in the deposit of heavenly revelation this doctrine concerning the original innocence of the august Virgin -- a doctrine which is so perfectly in harmony with her wonderful sanctity and preeminent dignity as Mother of God -- and thus has never ceased to explain, to teach and to foster this doctrine age after age in many ways and by solemn acts.... Indeed, considering the times and circumstances, the Fathers of Trent sufficiently intimated by this declaration that the Blessed Virgin Mary was free from the original stain; and thus they clearly signified that nothing could be reasonably cited from the Sacred Scriptures, from Tradition, or from the authority of the Fathers, which would in any way be opposed to so great a prerogative of the Blessed Virgin....And indeed, illustrious documents of venerable antiquity, of both the Eastern and the Western Church, very forcibly testify that this doctrine of the Immaculate Conception of the most Blessed Virgin, which was daily more and more splendidly explained, stated and confirmed by the highest authority, teaching, zeal, knowledge, and wisdom of the Church, and which was disseminated among all peoples and nations of the Catholic world in a marvelous manner -- this doctrine always existed in the Church as a doctrine that has been received from our ancestors, and that has been stamped with the character of revealed doctrine....this doctrine of the Immaculate Conception of the Virgin Mother of God, which, as the Fathers discerned, was recorded in the Divine Scriptures" - Pope Pius IX (Ineffabilis Deus)

"even to have borne Christ in the womb, and to have brought forth that marvellous birth, hath no profit, if there be not virtue. And this is hence especially manifest. 'For while He yet talked to the people,' it is said, 'one told Him, Thy mother and Thy brethren seek Thee. Butt He saith, who is my mother, and who are my brethren?' [Matthew 12:46-48] And this He said, not as being ashamed of His mother, nor denying her that bare Him; for if He had been ashamed of her, He would not have passed through that womb; but as declaring that she hath no advantage from this, unless she do all that is required to be done. For in fact that which she had essayed to do, was of superfluous vanity; in that she wanted to show the people that she hath power and authority over her Son, imagining not as yet anything great concerning Him; whence also her unseasonable approach. See at all events both her self-confidence and theirs. Since when they ought to have gone in, and listened with the multitude; or if they were not so minded, to have waited for His bringing His discourse to an end, and then to have come near; they call Him out, and do this before all, evincing a superfluous vanity, and wishing to make it appear, that with much authority they enjoin Him. And this too the evangelist shows that he is blaming, for with this very allusion did he thus express himself, 'While He yet talked to the people;' as if he should say, What? was there no other opportunity? Why, was it not possible to speak with Him in private?" - John Chrysostom (Homilies on the Gospel According to St. Matthew, 44)

"For where parents cause no impediment or hindrance in things belonging to God, it is our bounden duty to give way to them, and there is great danger in not doing so; but when they require anything unseasonably, and cause hindrance in any spiritual matter, it is unsafe to obey. And therefore He answered thus in this place, and again elsewhere, 'Who is My mother, and who are My brethren?' (Matt. xii. 48), because they did not yet think rightly of Him; and she, because she had borne Him, claimed, according to the custom of other mothers, to direct Him in all things, when she ought to have reverenced and worshiped Him. This then was the reason why He answered as He did on that occassion....And so this was a reason why He rebuked her on that occasion, saying, 'Woman, what have I to do with thee?' [John 2:4] instructing her for the future not to do the like; because, though He was careful to honor His mother, yet He cared much for the salvation of her soul" - John Chrysostom (Homilies on the Gospel According to St. John, 21)

Justin Martyr didn't think Mary was sinless. He refers to every person being a sinner, and he denies that a Jewish opponent he was debating, Trypho, can cite a single person who didn't need to be saved by Christ from sins he had committed. No Roman Catholic could issue such a challenge to Trypho:

"Now, we know that he did not go to the river because He stood in need of baptism, or of the descent of the Spirit like a dove; even as He submitted to be born and to be crucified, not because He needed such things, but because of the human race, which from Adam had fallen under the power of death and the guile of the serpent, and each one of which had committed personal transgression....For the whole human race will be found to be under a curse. For it is written in the law of Moses, 'Cursed is every one that continueth not in all things that are written in the book of the law to do them.' And no one has accurately done all, nor will you venture to deny this; but some more and some less than others have observed the ordinances enjoined. But if those who are under this law appear to be under a curse for not having observed all the requirements, how much more shall all the nations appear to be under a curse who practise idolatry, who seduce youths, and commit other crimes? If, then, the Father of all wished His Christ for the whole human family to take upon Him the curses of all, knowing that, after He had been crucified and was dead, He would raise Him up, why do you argue about Him, who submitted to suffer these things according to the Father's will, as if He were accursed, and do not rather bewail yourselves? For although His Father caused Him to suffer these things in behalf of the human family, yet you did not commit the deed as in obedience to the will of God." (Dialogue with Trypho, 88, 95)

Leo I, a Roman bishop of the fifth century, taught that sin is transmitted by means of sexual intercourse, thus suggesting that Mary was conceived in original sin:

"And whereas in all mothers conception does not take place without stain of sin, this one [Mary] received purification from the Source of her conception. For no taint of sin penetrated, where no intercourse occurred." (Sermon 22:3)

Elsewhere, Leo refers to Jesus being the *only* one conceived without sin. He even refers to Christ's stock, a reference to Mary, being corrupt:

"For the earth of human flesh, which in the first transgressor was cursed, in this Offspring of the Blessed Virgin only produced a seed that was blessed and free from the fault of its stock." (Sermon 24:3)

And elsewhere:

"And therefore in the general ruin of the entire human race there was but one remedy in the secret of the Divine plan which could succour the fallen, and that was that one of the sons of Adam should be born free and innocent of original transgression, to prevail for the rest both by His example and His merits. Still further, because this was not permitted by natural generation, and because there could be no offspring from our faulty stock without seed, of which the Scripture saith, 'Who can make a clean thing conceived of an unclean seed? is it not Thou who art alone?'" (Sermon 28:3)

The unclean seed would include Mary. And he refers to there being *one* from Adam who is sinless.

Roman Catholic scholar Michael O'Carroll comments that Leo viewed sin as being communicated by means of sexual intercourse (Theotokos [Wilmington, Delaware: Michael Glazier, Inc., 1988], p. 217). The Protestant historian Philip Schaff lists Leo I among seven Roman bishops who rejected Mary's sinlessness (The Creeds of Christendom [Grand Rapids: Baker Books, 1998], Vol. I, p. 123).

"While if by those 'who were without sin' he means such as have never at any time sinned,-for he made no distinction in his statement,-we reply that it is impossible for a man thus to be without sin. And this we say, excepting, of course, the man understood to be in Christ Jesus, who 'did no sin.'...God has not been able to prevent even in the case of a single individual, so that one man might be found from the very beginning of things who was born into the world untainted by sin...For in the connected series of statements which appears to apply as to one particular individual, the curse pronounced upon Adam is regarded as common to all (the members of the race), and what was spoken with reference to the woman is spoken of every woman without exception." - Origen (Against Celsus, 3:62, 4:40)

"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." (J.N.D. Kelly, Early Christian Doctrines [San Francisco, California: HarperCollins Publishers, 1978], p. 493)

Catholic apologists often quote a church father referring to Mary as a second Eve, then suggest that such a concept involves the sinlessness of Mary. But Mary can be paralleled with Eve without Mary being sinless. The church father Tertullian gives us an example. He refers to Mary as a sinner and a second Eve in the same document. He writes the following in response to people who deny that Jesus had an earthly family, then he comments on Mary being a second Eve:

"First of all, nobody would have told Him that His mother and brethren were standing outside [Matthew 12:46-50], if he were not certain both that He had a mother and brethren, and that they were the very persons whom he was then announcing,--who had either been known to him before, or were then and there discovered by him; although heretics have removed this passage from the gospel, because those who were admiring His doctrine said that His supposed father, Joseph the carpenter, and His mother Mary, and His brethren, and His sisters, were very well known to them....But there is some ground for thinking that Christ's answer denies His mother and brethren for the present, as even Apelles might learn. 'The Lord's brethren had not yet believed in Him.' So is it contained in the Gospel which was published before Marcion's time; whilst there is at the same time a want of evidence of His mother's adherence to Him, although the Marthas and the other Marys were in constant attendance on Him. In this very passage indeed, their unbelief is evident. Jesus was teaching the way of life, preaching the kingdom of God and actively engaged in healing infirmities of body and soul; but all the while, whilst strangers were intent on Him, His very nearest relatives were absent. By and by they turn up, and keep outside; but they do not go in, because, forsooth, they set small store on that which was doing within; nor do they even wait, as if they had something which they could contribute more necessary than that which He was so earnestly doing; but they prefer to interrupt Him, and wish to call Him away from His great work.

Now, I ask you, Apelles, or will you Marcion, please (to tell me), if you happened to be at a stage play, or had laid a wager on a foot race or a chariot race, and were called away by such a message, would you not have exclaimed, 'What are mother and brothers to me?' And did not Christ, whilst preaching and manifesting God, fulfilling the law and the prophets, and scattering the darkness of the long preceding age, justly employ this same form of words, in order to strike the unbelief of those who stood outside, or to shake off the importunity of those who would call Him away from His work? If, however, He had meant to deny His own nativity, He would have found place, time, and means for expressing Himself very differently, and not in words which might be uttered by one who had both a mother and brothers. When denying one's parents in indignation, one does not deny their existence, but censures their faults. Besides, He gave Others the preference; and since He shows their title to this favour--even because they listened to the word (of God)--He points out in what sense He denied His mother and His brethren. For in whatever sense He adopted as His own those who adhered to Him, in that did He deny as His those who kept aloof from Him. Christ also is wont to do to the utmost that which He enjoins on others. How strange, then, would it certainly have been, if, while he was teaching others not to esteem mother, or father, or brothers, as highly as the word of God, He were Himself to leave the word of God as soon as His mother and brethren were announced to Him! He denied His parents, then, in the sense in which He has taught us to deny ours--for God's work.

But there is also another view of the case: in the abjured mother there is a figure of the synagogue, as well as of the Jews in the unbelieving brethren. In their person Israel remained outside, whilst the new disciples who kept close to Christ within, hearing and believing, represented the Church, which He called mother in a preferable sense and a worthier brotherhood, with the repudiation of the carnal relationship. It was in just the same sense, indeed, that He also replied to that exclamation (of a certain woman), not denying His mother's 'womb and paps,' but designating those as more 'blessed who hear the word of God.'...For it was while Eve was yet a virgin, that the ensnaring word had crept into her ear which was to build the edifice of death. Into a virgin's soul, in like manner, must be introduced that Word of God which was to raise the fabric of life; so that what had been reduced to ruin by this sex, might by the selfsame sex be recovered to salvation. As Eve had believed the serpent, so Mary believed the angel. The delinquency which the one occasioned by believing, the other by believing effaced. But (it will be said) Eve did not at the devil's word conceive in her womb. Well, she at all events conceived; for the devil's word afterwards became as seed to her that she should conceive as an outcast, and bring forth in sorrow. Indeed she gave birth to a fratricidal devil; whilst Mary, on the contrary, bare one who was one day to secure salvation to Israel, His own brother after the flesh, and the murderer of Himself. God therefore sent down into the virgin's womb His Word, as the good Brother, who should blot out the memory of the evil brother." (On the Flesh of Christ, 7, 17)

Theodoret doesn't seem to have agreed with the Roman Catholic view of Mary. While defending the two natures of Christ, one of the illustrations he uses is the contrast between Jesus honoring Mary as His earthly mother on the one hand, while rebuking her as her Lord on the other hand, an apparent reference to either Luke 2:49 or John 2:4:

"If then He was made flesh, not by mutation, but by taking flesh, and both the former and the latter qualities are appropriate to Him as to God made flesh, as you said a moment ago, then the natures were not confounded, but remained unimpaired. And as long as we hold thus we shall perceive too the harmony of the Evangelists, for while the one proclaims the divine attributes of the one only begotten-the Lord Christ-the other sets forth His human qualities. So too Christ our Lord Himself teaches us, at one time calling Himself Son of God and at another Son of man: at one time He gives honour to His Mother as to her that gave Him birth; at another He rebukes her as her Lord." (Dialogues, 2)

Perpetual Virginity

Contrary to what Roman Catholics often suggest, there were many people in the early centuries of Christianity who rejected the doctrine of the perpetual virginity of Mary. Though the doctrine was popular among the later church fathers, there was opposition to it even in those later centuries. The church father Basil commented that the view that Mary had other children after Jesus "was widely held and, though not accepted by himself, was not incompatible with orthodoxy" (J.N.D. Kelly, Early Christian Doctrines [San Francisco, California: HarperCollins Publishers, 1978], p. 495).

The New Testament evidence is against the perpetual virginity doctrine. Luke, for example, was familiar with Greek words he could have used to express the doctrine, and he used that terminology repeatedly, but not with regard to Mary and her children. Instead of using the Greek term for "only-born" (Luke 7:12, 8:42, 9:38), he used the term "first-born" (Luke 2:7) to refer to Jesus. He uses the word "supposedly" to describe Jesus' relationship with Joseph (Luke 3:23), but doesn't use any such terminology to describe Jesus' relationship with His brothers and sisters. He understood the difference between a "relative" and a "brother", even distinguishing between the two within a single sentence (Luke 21:16), but he repeatedly chooses the term "brother" to describe Jesus' siblings.

The church father Hegesippus apparently didn't believe in the perpetual virginity of Mary. Hegesippus refers to Jude as "the Lord's brother according to the flesh" (church history of Eusebius, 3:20). He refers elsewhere to Symeon, a "cousin of the Lord" (church history of Eusebius, 4:22). We know, then, that Hegesippus understood the differences between the Greek terms for "brother" and "cousin". He chose "brother", and added the words "according to the flesh", to describe Jesus' sibling named Jude.

Irenaeus refers to Mary giving birth to Jesus when she was "as yet a virgin" (Against Heresies, 3:21:10). The implication is that she didn't remain a virgin. Irenaeus compares Mary's being a virgin at the time of Jesus' birth to the ground being "as yet virgin" before it was tilled by mankind. The ground thereafter ceased to be virgin, according to Irenaeus, when it was tilled. The implication is that Mary also ceased to be a virgin. Elsewhere, Irenaeus writes:

"To this effect they testify, saying, that before Joseph had come together with Mary, while she therefore remained in virginity, 'she was found with child of the Holy Ghost;'" (Against Heresies, 3:21:4)

Irenaeus seems to associate "come together" with sexual intercourse. The implication is that Joseph and Mary had normal marital relations after Jesus was born.

Tertullian apparently didn't believe in the perpetual virginity of Mary. He writes that Jesus' brothers were "really" his brothers, his "blood-relationship" (Against Marcion, 4:19). Elsewhere, Tertullian comments:

"Behold, there immediately present themselves to us, on the threshold as it were, the two priestesses of Christian sanctity, Monogamy and Continence: one modest, in Zechariah the priest; one absolute, in John the forerunner: one appeasing God; one preaching Christ: one proclaiming a perfect priest; one exhibiting 'more than a prophet,' - him, namely, who has not only preached or personally pointed out, but even baptized Christ. For who was more worthily to perform the initiatory rite on the body of the Lord, than flesh similar in kind to that which conceived and gave birth to that body? And indeed it was a virgin, about to marry once for all after her delivery, who gave birth to Christ, in order that each title of sanctity might be fulfilled in Christ's parentage, by means of a mother who was both virgin, and wife of one husband." (On Monogamy, 8)

Tertullian says that Mary is representative of both ideals, monogamy and continence. She represented virginity for a while, then represented monogamy within marriage. The latter seems to *replace* the former, as something distinct from it, which is a denial of the perpetual virginity doctrine.


Is Psalm 132:8 referring to an assumption of Mary? Augustine says that the ark is the church, not Mary. He mentions the flesh of Christ as another possibility, but says nothing of a Marian interpretation, much less an assumption of Mary. Compare the comments of Pope Pius XII with those of Augustine:

"this privilege of the Virgin Mary's Assumption is in wonderful accord with those divine truths given us in Holy Scripture...Often there are theologians and preachers who, following in the footsteps of the holy Fathers, have been rather free in their use of events and expressions taken from Sacred Scripture to explain their belief in the Assumption [of Mary]. Thus, to mention only a few of the texts rather frequently cited in this fashion, some have employed the words of the psalmist: 'Arise, O Lord, into your resting place: you and the ark, which you have sanctified' [Psalm 132:8]; and have looked upon the Ark of the Covenant, built of incorruptible wood and placed in the Lord's temple, as a type of the most pure body of the Virgin Mary, preserved and exempt from all the corruption of the tomb and raised up to such glory in heaven." - Pope Pius XII (Munificentissimus Deus)

"'Arise, O Lord, into Thy resting place' (ver. 8). He saith unto the Lord sleeping, 'Arise.' Ye know already who slept, and who rose again. ...'Thou, and the ark of Thy sanctification:' that is, Arise, that the ark of Thy sanctification, which Thou hast sanctified, may arise also. He is our Head; His ark is His Church: He arose first, the Church will arise also. The body would not dare to promise itself resurrection, save the Head arose first. The Body of Christ, that was born of Mary, hath been understood by some to be the ark of sanctification; so that the words mean, Arise with Thy Body, that they who believe not may handle." - Augustine (Expositions on the Psalms, 132:8)

Notice that Augustine mentions Mary, saying that Christ's body was "born of Mary". Thus, it can't be argued that Augustine wasn't thinking of Mary at the time that he wrote. He *was* thinking of her, but he didn't view her as the ark. He didn't even mention a Marian interpretation as a secondary possibility. The only alternative he mentions to seeing the church as the ark is seeing Christ's flesh as the ark.

Is the queen in Psalm 45:9-14 Mary, and is the passage alluding to the Assumption of Mary? Pope Pius XII approvingly cites Roman Catholics who interpreted the passage that way:

"Treating of this subject, they [Roman Catholic theologians and preachers] also describe her [Mary] as the Queen entering triumphantly into the royal halls of heaven and sitting at the right hand of the divine Redeemer [Psalm 45:9-14]." (Munificentissimus Deus)

But Augustine sees the queen as the church, not Mary, and he says nothing about an assumption of Mary:

"For all the souls that have been born through their preaching and evangelizing are 'daughters of kings:' and the Churches, as the daughters of Apostles, are daughters of kings....Behold, Rome, Carthage, and several other cities are the daughters of kings, and yet have they 'made glad the King in His honour:' and all these make up one single Queen....'Upon Thy right hand did stand the Queen' (ver. 9). She which stands on the left is no Queen. For there will be one standing on 'the left' also, to whom it will be said, 'Go into everlasting fire.' But she shall stand on the right hand, to whom it will be said, 'Come, ye blessed of My Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world.' On Thy right hand did stand the Queen, 'in a vesture of gold, clothed about with divers colours.' What is the vesture of this Queen? It is one both precious, and also of divers colours: it is the mysteries of doctrine in all the various tongues: one African, one Syrian, one Greek, one Hebrew, one this, and one that; it is these languages that produce the divers colours of this vesture. But just as all the divers colours of the vesture blend together in the one vesture, so do all the languages in one and the same faith....The Prophet addresses this Queen (for he delights in singing to her), and moreover each one of us, provided, however, we know where we are, and endeavour to belong to that body [the church], and do belong to it in faith and hope, being united in the membership of Christ. For it is us whom he addresses, saying, 'Hearken, O daughter, and behold'" (Expositions on the Psalms, 45:21-23)

Pope Pius XII, in his decree Munificentissimus Deus, refers to the doctrine of the Assumption of Mary as "a matter of such great moment and of such importance". He says to people who oppose the doctrine, "let him know that he has fallen away completely from the divine and Catholic Faith". The Pope refers to the Assumption doctrine as "this truth which is based on the Sacred Writings, which is thoroughly rooted in the minds of the faithful, which has been approved in ecclesiastical worship from the most remote times".

In contrast, the Protestant historian Philip Schaff writes:

"It [the Assumption of Mary] rests, however, on a purely apocryphal foundation. The entire silence of the apostles and the primitive church teachers respecting the departure of Mary stirred idle curiosity to all sorts of inventions, until a translation like Enoch's and Elijah's was attributed to her. In the time of Origen some were inferring from Luke ii. 35, that she had suffered martyrdom. Epiphanius will not decide whether she died and was buried, or not. Two apocryphal Greek writings de transitu Mariae, of the end of the fourth or beginning of the fifth century, and afterward pseudo-Dionysius the Areopagite and Gregory of Tours († 595), for the first time contain the legend that the soul of the mother of God was transported to the heavenly paradise by Christ and His angels in presence of all the apostles, and on the following morning her body also was translated thither on a cloud and there united with the soul. Subsequently the legend was still further embellished, and, besides the apostles, the angels and patriarchs also, even Adam and Eve, were made witnesses of the wonderful spectacle" (section 83).

The Roman Catholic scholar Michael O'Carroll explains that Epiphanius, a church father of the fourth century, lived near where Mary had lived, yet he denies that anybody has any apostolic tradition regarding the end of Mary's life:

"In a later passage, he [Epiphanius] says that she [Mary] may have died and been buried, or been killed - as a martyr. 'Or she remained alive, since nothing is impossible with God and he can do whatever he desires; for her end no one knows.'...A Palestinian with opportunity for some research, E. does not speak of a bodily resurrection and remains noncommittal on the way Mary's life ended. He nowhere denies the Assumption, or admits the possibility of Assumption without death, for he has found no sign of death or burial. He suggests several different hypotheses and draws no firm conclusion." (Theotokos [Wilmington, Delaware: Michael Glazier, Inc., 1988], p. 135)

Roman Catholics often speculate that the ark in Revelation 11:19 is referring to Mary, and that the passage is therefore referring to a bodily assumption of Mary. It can't be proven that the ark is Mary, and, even if the ark is identified as her, there's no way to determine whether it represents Mary's bodily presence in Heaven or just her soul. Victorinus, commenting on the passage, sees the ark as representing the blessings Jesus brought to mankind. He tells us that the temple is Jesus, meaning that the ark is within Jesus. Roman Catholics make the opposite argument, claiming that the ark, as Mary, carries Jesus.

"'And the temple of God was opened which is in heaven.' The temple opened is a manifestation of our Lord. For the temple of God is the Son, as He Himself says: 'Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up.' And when the Jews said, 'Forty and six years was this temple in building,' the evangelist says, 'He spake of the temple of His body.' 'And there was seen in His temple the ark of the Lord's testament.' The preaching of the Gospel and the forgiveness of sins, and all the gifts whatever that came with Him, he says, appeared therein." (Commentary on the Apocalypse of the Blessed John, 11:19)

Ark of the Covenant Typology

Is Psalm 132:8 referring to an assumption of Mary? Augustine says that the ark is the church, not Mary. He mentions the flesh of Christ as another possibility, but says nothing of a Marian interpretation, much less an assumption of Mary. Compare the comments of Pope Pius XII with those of Augustine:

"this privilege of the Virgin Mary's Assumption is in wonderful accord with those divine truths given us in Holy Scripture...Often there are theologians and preachers who, following in the footsteps of the holy Fathers, have been rather free in their use of events and expressions taken from Sacred Scripture to explain their belief in the Assumption [of Mary]. Thus, to mention only a few of the texts rather frequently cited in this fashion, some have employed the words of the psalmist: 'Arise, O Lord, into your resting place: you and the ark, which you have sanctified' [Psalm 132:8]; and have looked upon the Ark of the Covenant, built of incorruptible wood and placed in the Lord's temple, as a type of the most pure body of the Virgin Mary, preserved and exempt from all the corruption of the tomb and raised up to such glory in heaven." - Pope Pius XII (Munificentissimus Deus)

"'Arise, O Lord, into Thy resting place' (ver. 8). He saith unto the Lord sleeping, 'Arise.' Ye know already who slept, and who rose again. ...'Thou, and the ark of Thy sanctification:' that is, Arise, that the ark of Thy sanctification, which Thou hast sanctified, may arise also. He is our Head; His ark is His Church: He arose first, the Church will arise also. The body would not dare to promise itself resurrection, save the Head arose first. The Body of Christ, that was born of Mary, hath been understood by some to be the ark of sanctification; so that the words mean, Arise with Thy Body, that they who believe not may handle." - Augustine (Expositions on the Psalms, 132:8)

Notice that Augustine mentions Mary, saying that Christ's body was "born of Mary". Thus, it can't be argued that Augustine wasn't thinking of Mary at the time that he wrote. He *was* thinking of her, but he didn't view her as the ark. He didn't even mention a Marian interpretation as a secondary possibility. The only alternative he mentions to seeing the church as the ark is seeing Christ's flesh as the ark.

Hippolytus also saw Jesus rather than Mary in the ark. He mentions Mary as he's describing Jesus as the ark, so it can't be argued that he wasn't thinking of Mary at the time:

"At that time, then, the Saviour appeared and showed His own body to the world, born of the Virgin, who was the 'ark overlaid with pure gold,' with the Word within and the Holy Spirit without; so that the truth is demonstrated, and the 'ark' made manifest....the Saviour appeared in the world, bearing the imperishable ark, His own body" (On Daniel, 2:6)

Roman Catholic apologists often claim that the ark of the covenant in the Old Testament is a type of Mary. They then use that typological speculation as an argument for doctrines such as the Immaculate Conception and the Assumption of Mary. But Irenaeus saw something else in the ark:

"so is that ark declared a type of the body of Christ, which is both pure and immaculate. For as that ark was gilded with pure gold both within and without, so also is the body of Christ pure and resplendent, being adorned within by the Word, and shielded on the outside by the Spirit, in order that from both materials the splendour of the natures might be exhibited together." (Fragments from the Lost Writings of Irenaeus, 48)

Roman Catholics often speculate that the ark in Revelation 11:19 is referring to Mary, and that the passage is therefore referring to a bodily assumption of Mary. It can't be proven that the ark is Mary, and, even if the ark is identified as her, there's no way to determine whether it represents Mary's bodily presence in Heaven or just her soul. Victorinus, commenting on the passage, sees the ark as representing the blessings Jesus brought to mankind. He tells us that the temple is Jesus, meaning that the ark is within Jesus. Roman Catholics make the opposite argument, claiming that the ark, as Mary, carries Jesus.

"'And the temple of God was opened which is in heaven.' The temple opened is a manifestation of our Lord. For the temple of God is the Son, as He Himself says: 'Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up.' And when the Jews said, 'Forty and six years was this temple in building,' the evangelist says, 'He spake of the temple of His body.' 'And there was seen in His temple the ark of the Lord's testament.' The preaching of the Gospel and the forgiveness of sins, and all the gifts whatever that came with Him, he says, appeared therein." (Commentary on the Apocalypse of the Blessed John, 11:19)

Revelation 12

Hippolytus says that the woman of Revelation 12 is the church. He says that this interpretation is "most manifest", and he contradicts numerous details of the Marian interpretation:

"By the woman then clothed with the sun, he meant most manifestly the Church, endued with the Father's word, whose brightness is above the sun. And by the 'moon under her feet' he referred to her being adorned, like the moon, with heavenly glory. And the words, 'upon her head a crown of twelve stars,' refer to the twelve apostles by whom the Church was founded. And those, 'she, being with child, cries, travailing in birth, and pained to be delivered,' mean that the Church will not cease to bear from her heart the Word that is persecuted by the unbelieving in the world. 'And she brought forth,' he says, 'a man-child, who is to rule all the nations;' by which is meant that the Church, always bringing forth Christ, the perfect man-child of God, who is declared to be God and man, becomes the instructor of all the nations. And the words, 'her child was caught up unto God and to His throne,' signify that he who is always born of her is a heavenly king, and not an earthly; even as David also declared of old when he said, 'The Lord said unto my Lord, Sit Thou at my right hand, until I make Thine enemies Thy footstool.' 'And the dragon,' he says, 'saw and persecuted the woman which brought forth the man-child. And to the woman were given two wings of the great eagle, that she might fly into the wilderness, where she is nourished for a time, and times, and half a time, from the face of the serpent.' That refers to the one thousand two hundred and threescore days (the half of the week) during which the tyrant is to reign and persecute the Church, which flees from city to city, and seeks conceal-meat in the wilderness among the mountains, possessed of no other defence than the two wings of the great eagle, that is to say, the faith of Jesus Christ, who, in stretching forth His holy hands on the holy tree, unfolded two wings, the right and the left, and called to Him all who believed upon Him, and covered them as a hen her chickens. For by the mouth of Malachi also He speaks thus: 'And unto you that fear my name shall the Sun of righteousness arise with healing in His wings.'" (Treatise on Christ and Antichrist, 61)

Pope Pius XII approvingly wrote:

"Moreover, the scholastic Doctors have recognized the Assumption of the Virgin Mother of God as something signified, not only in various figures of the Old Testament, but also in that woman clothed with the sun whom John the Apostle contemplated on the Island of Patmos." (Munificentissimus Deus)

Roman Catholics often claim that the woman in Revelation 12 is Mary, even though the latter part of the chapter speaks about events, including events of the end times, which didn't occur during Mary's life. Even if we view the woman as Mary, the passage doesn't logically lead to the Assumption of Mary, a doctrine for which the passage is often cited.

The church father Methodius says that the woman is the church, not Mary. He refers to *the* correct view of the woman, so he doesn't seem to have thought that there were multiple correct interpretations. Apparently, he thought it would be incorrect to view the woman as Mary:

"The woman who appeared in heaven clothed with the sun, and crowned with twelve stars, and having the moon for her footstool, and being with child, and travailing in birth, is certainly, according to the accurate interpretation, our mother, O virgins, being a power by herself distinct from her children; whom the prophets, according to the aspect of their subjects, have called sometimes Jerusalem, sometimes a Bride, sometimes Mount Zion, and sometimes the Temple and Tabernacle of God. For she is the power which is desired to give light in the prophet, the Spirit crying to her: 'Arise, shine; for thy light is come, and the glory of the Lord is risen upon thee. For, behold, the darkness shall cover the earth, and gross darkness the people: but the Lord shall arise upon thee, and His glory shall be seen upon thee. And the Gentiles shall come to thy light, and kings to the brightness of thy rising. Lift up thine eyes round about, and see; all they gather themselves together, they come to thee: thy sons shall come from far, and thy daughters shall be nursed at thy side.' It is the Church whose children shall come to her with all speed after the resurrection, running to her from all quarters." (The Banquet of the Ten Virgins, Discourse 8:5)

Not only did Methodius not view the woman as Mary, but he didn't even think that the child is Christ. He describes the child in Revelation 12 as the people who are regenerated in baptism through the work of the church. He argues against those who think the child is Christ:

"The Church, then, stands upon our faith and adoption, under the figure of the moon, until the fulness of the nations come in, labouring and bringing forth natural men as spiritual men; for which reason too she is a mother. For just as a woman receiving tim unformed seed of a man, within a certain time brings forth a perfect man, in the same way, one should say, does the Church conceive those who flee to the Word, and, forming them according to the likeness and form of Christ, after a certain time produce them as citizens of that blessed state. Whence it is necessary that she should stand upon the laver, bringing forth those who are washed in it....If any one, for there is no difficulty in speaking distinctly, should be vexed, and reply to what we have said: 'But how, O virgins, can this explanation seem to you to be according to the mind of Scripture, when the Apocalypse plainly defines that the Church brings forth a male, while you teach that her labour-pains have their fulfilment in those who are washed in the laver?' We will answer, But, O faultfinder, not even to you will it be possible to show that Christ Himself is the one who is born. For long before the Apocalypse, the mystery of the Incarnation of the Word was fulfilled. And John speaks concerning things present and things to come. But Christ, long ago conceived, was not caught up to the throne of God when He was brought forth, from fear of the serpent injuring Him. But for this was He begotten, and Himself came down from the throne of the Father, that He should remain and subdue the dragon who made an assault upon the flesh. So that you also must confess that the Church labours and gives birth to those who are baptized." (The Banquet of the Ten Virgins, Discourse 8:6-7)

Methodius disagreed with Pope Pius XII and Roman Catholicism's modern apologists.

Victorinus wrote a commentary on the book of Revelation. We would *expect* somebody to mention a Marian interpretation of Revelation 12 in such a document, if he held such a view. Instead, Victorinus says that the woman is the people of God, and he goes on at length to contradict numerous details of the Marian interpretation:

"The woman clothed with the sun, and having the moon under her feet, and wearing a crown of twelve stars upon her head, and travailing in her pains, is the ancient Church of fathers, and prophets, and saints, and apostles, which had the groans and torments of its longing until it saw that Christ, the fruit of its people according to the flesh long promised to it, had taken flesh out of the selfsame people....And the crown of twelve stars signifies the choir of fathers, according to the fleshly birth, of whom Christ was to take flesh." (Commentary on the Apocalypse of the Blessed John, 12:1-2)

When commenting on how the woman flees into the wilderness *after* the child is taken up to Heaven, Victorinus suggests that the fleeing into the wilderness hasn't occurred yet:

"Although, therefore, it may signify this woman bringing forth, it shows her afterwards flying when her offspring is brought forth, because both things did not happen at one time; for we know that Christ was born, but that the time should arrive that she should flee from the face of the serpent: we do not know that this has happened as yet." (Commentary on the Apocalypse of the Blessed John, 12:16)

Thus, if the fleeing into the wilderness hadn't occurred yet, at a time *after* Mary's death, the woman cannot be Mary.

Victorinus goes on to say that some of the events of Revelation 12 are to occur in the end times:

"This is the beginning of Antichrist yet previously Elias must prophesy, and there must be times of peace. And afterwards, when the three years and six months are completed in the preaching of Elias, he also must be cast down from heaven, where up till that time he had had the power of ascending; and all the apostate angels, as well as Antichrist, must be roused up from hell." (Commentary on the Apocalypse of the Blessed John, 12:17)

If the woman of Revelation 12 is still alive in the end times, she, once again, can't be Mary.


Roman Catholicism tells us that we *should* and *must* go through Mary in order to get to Christ:

"With a still more ardent zeal for piety, religion and love, let them continue to venerate, invoke and pray to the most Blessed Virgin Mary, Mother of God, conceived without original sin. Let them fly with utter confidence to this most sweet Mother of mercy and grace in all dangers, difficulties, needs, doubts and fears. Under her guidance, under her patronage, under her kindness and protection, nothing is to be feared; nothing is hopeless. Because, while bearing toward us a truly motherly affection and having in her care the work of our salvation, she is solicitous about the whole human race." (Pope Pius IX, Ineffabilis Deus)

"With equal truth may it be also affirmed that, by the will of God, Mary is the intermediary through whom is distributed unto us this immense treasure of mercies gathered by God, for mercy and truth were created by Jesus Christ, thus as no man goeth to the Father but by the Son, so no man goeth to Christ but by His Mother....How grateful and magnificent a spectacle to see in the cities, and towns, and villages, on land and sea-wherever the Catholic faith has penetrated-many hundreds of thousands of pious people uniting their praises and prayers with one voice and heart at every moment of the day, saluting Mary, invoking Mary, hoping everything through Mary." (Pope Leo XIII, Octobri Mense)

"O Virgin most holy, none abounds in the knowledge of God except through thee; none, O Mother of God, obtains salvation except through thee, none receives a gift from the throne of mercy except through thee." (Pope Leo XIII, Adiutricem Populi)

"Mary is all powerful with her divine Son who grants all graces to mankind through her" (Pope Benedict XV, Fausto Appetente Die)

But Gregory Thaumaturgus refers to Christ as the *only* necessary mediator, repeatedly using the word "alone":

"But let us commit the praises and hymns in honour of the King and Superintendent of all things, the perennial Fount of all blessings, to the hand of Him who, in this matter as in all others, is the Healer of our infirmity, and who alone is able to supply that which is lacking; to the Champion and Saviour of our souls, His first-born Word, the Maker and Ruler of all things, with whom also alone it is possible, both for Himself and for all, whether privately and individually, or publicly and collectively, to send up to the Father uninterrupted and ceaseless thanksgivings. For as He is Himself the Truth, and the Wisdom, and the Power of the Father of the universe, and He is besides in Him, and is truly and entirely made one with Him, it cannot be that, either through forgetfulness or unwisdom, or any manner of infirmity, such as marks one dissociated from Him, He shall either fail in the power to praise Him, or, while having the power, shall willingly neglect (a supposition which it is not lawful, surely, to indulge) to praise the Father. For He alone is able most perfectly to fulfil the whole meed of honour which is proper to Him, inasmuch as the Father of all things has made Him one with Himself, and through Him all but completes the circle of His own being objectively, and honours Him with a power in all respects equal to His own, even as also He is honoured; which position He first and alone of all creatures that exist has had assigned Him, this Only-begotten of the Father, who is in Him, and who is God the Word; while all others of us are able to express our thanksgiving and our piety only if, in return for all the blessings which proceed to us from the Father, we bring our offerings in simple dependence on Him alone, and thus present the meet oblation of thanksgiving to Him who is the Author of all things, acknowledging also that the only way of piety is in this manner to offer our memorials through Him." (The Oration and Panegyric Addressed to Origin, 4)

Roman Catholicism refers to Mary as a mediator between mankind and Christ, one to whom we should commit *all* our petitions to God:

"Jesus is Mary's only son, but her spiritual motherhood extends to all men whom indeed he came to save: 'The Son whom she brought forth is he whom God placed as the first-born among many brethren, that is, the faithful in whose generation and formation she co-operates with a mother's love.'...Her role in relation to the Church and to all humanity goes still further. 'In a wholly singular way she cooperated by her obedience, faith, hope, and burning charity in the Savior's work of restoring supernatural life to souls. For this reason she is a mother to us in the order of grace.' 'This motherhood of Mary in the order of grace continues uninterruptedly from the consent which she loyally gave at the Annunciation and which she sustained without wavering beneath the cross, until the eternal fulfillment of all the elect. Taken up to heaven she did not lay aside this saving office but by her manifold intercession continues to bring us the gifts of eternal salvation....Therefore the Blessed Virgin is invoked in the Church under the titles of Advocate, Helper, Benefactress, and Mediatrix.'...Because she gives us Jesus, her son, Mary is Mother of God and our mother; we can entrust all our cares and petitions to her...And our trust broadens further, already at the present moment, to surrender 'the hour of our death' wholly to her care. May she be there as she was at her son's death on the cross. May she welcome us as our mother at the hour of our passing to lead us to her son, Jesus, in paradise....Like the beloved disciple we welcome Jesus' mother into our homes, for she has become the mother of all the living. We can pray with and to her. The prayer of the Church is sustained by the prayer of Mary and united with it in hope....Because of Mary's singular cooperation with the action of the Holy Spirit, the Church loves to pray in communion with the Virgin Mary, to magnify with her the great things the Lord has done for her, and to entrust supplications and praises to her." (Catechism of the Catholic Church, 501, 968-969, 2677, 2679, 2682)

Origen, however, seems to see Jesus as the only mediator of this type. He refers to us committing our prayers to Jesus first, not first to Mary, who then gives them to Jesus:

"Accordingly, we worship with all our power the one God, and His only Son, the Word and the Image of God, by prayers and supplications; and we offer our petitions to the God of the universe through His only-begotten Son. To the Son we first present them, and beseech Him, as 'the propitiation for our sins,' and our High Priest, to offer our desires, and sacrifices, and prayers, to the Most High. Our faith, therefore, is directed to God through His Son, who strengthens it in us" (Against Celsus, 8:13)


Supplement A

From various edited posts i have written on the subject.
The issue here is that of thinking of mortals above that which is written, (1Cor. 4:6) and how the Holy Spirit exalts its beloved instruments. God clearly expressed spousal love toward Israel, and toward the church, but He is silent about Mary being such a special object of love that she was sinless, and bodily rose to heaven, and reigns as God's queen, defeating the powers of darkness with her gaze, with almost unlimited power, and able to hear and intercede for a virtual infinite amount of requests.
Consistent with a hermeneutic used by Roman Catholics for exalting Mary (she is mankind’s co-redeemer because the flesh of Christ was from her, but which goes back to Adam, or Scripture does not say not to pray to her, etc.), we could derived endless appellations for instruments used of God, or attribute them powers which we only see god having, but the Lord stated that the Holy Spirit would glorify JESUS, (Jn. 16:14) and your extreme exaltation of Mary to a demigoddess has no real Scriptural warrant in text or in exegetical principal, but is based upon Rome's nebulous tradition and psychological need, and Rome's presumed supremacy over all.
It is no wonder RCs through the ages have looked so much to rituals and relics for life.
However, Scripture does not provide any real warrant for the supererogation Rome and her members (without censure) example in their claims for Mary, which do not amount to what may be reasonably derived by exegetes, but amounts to ecclesiastical eisegesis based upon an unreasonable extrapolation of texts, thinking of men above that which is written.
This is in contrast to such things as the Trinity, in which is derived from clear texts and due to a conclusion being demanded if we are to reconcile such texts. Justifying things like praying to Mary because on earth we pray for each others, when praying to anyone i Heaven by the Lord has no examples or warrant, will not do it.
RCs will fight against what is most reasonably warranted based upon Scripture itself, while engaging in extreme extrapolation of Scripture in seeking to justify teachings which actually rely upon one differing tradition among others, and that ultimately relies upon Rome's self-proclaimed infallibility, in which she is assuredly infallible whenever she speaks in accordance with her infallibly defined (subject and scope-based) criteria.
  • Sinlessness:
As the Bible makes exceptions among notable souls manifest (and many examples could be shown), so Christ is thrice declared to be sinless, yet nothing is said about Mary being sinless, contrary to the collective state of mankind, nor is it anymore necessary than for those thru whom God brought forth His pure word to men. Holy they were, but not wholly sinless.
Perpetual virginity
Consistent with the principle in which notable aspects of characters are made evident, Mary being a virgin in conceiving the Christ is clearly stated, yet nothing is evident about a unique marriage in which two able-bodied souls contradict the description of marriage which the Lord affirmed, (Gn. 2:24; Mt. 19:5) and contrary to 1Cor. 7:3-5, with leaving but never any sexual cleaving which consummates marriage, so they become one flesh. And thus it relates to the believers union with the Lord. (1Cor. 6:16,17)
And in support of this Consummation, the Scripture states that that Joseph "knew her not till ["heōs"] she had brought forth her firstborn son." (Mt. 1:25)
While in very rare exceptions "heōs" does not denote a terminus inferring a change, that is far from normative and is not inferred or warranted here, and would be an odd way of simply affirming the virgin birth. But RCs demand that an exception here and in other places be made here in order to make it conformable to their doctrine.
In another example of Roman Catholic eisegetical duplicity, Ps. 69:8 indicates that Mary had other children, while Mt. 1:25 is disallowed from even inferring Joseph consummated his marriage with Mary, it is forbidden to allow that Ps. 69:8 (“my mothers children”) is Messianic or refers to Mary having her own children.
The argument against this verse being Messianic is due to Ps. 69:5, but while this verse and Psalm does most immediately apply to David, yet as with many other texts which contain prophecies, the prophetic section goes beyond the immediate application, and the non-prophetic section does not negate such section from being prophetic. For instance, Ps. 41:9 (“Yea, mine own familiar friend, in whom I trusted, which did eat of my bread, hath lifted up his heel against me”) is confirmed (Jn. 13:18) to be prophetic of Christ, and is not disallowed as being such by v. 4 which states, “I said, LORD, be merciful unto me: heal my soul; for I have sinned against thee.”
But if Ps. 69:5 disallows v. 8 from speaking of Christ, as some reactionary Romanists rule, then it would follow that Ps. 69:4 cannot be Messianic either, contrary to Jn. 15:25, nor can the very next verse after v. 8, (Ps. 69:9) but which Jn. 2:17; Rm. 15:3 affirms, and which explains why the subject was rejected by his brethren. And the same gospel that invokes Ps. 69:9 in applying it to Christ, also records that "His own received Him not," "neither did His own brethren believe in Him." (Jn. 1:11; 7:5) Ps. 69:25 (Acts 1:20; cf. Mt. 23:38; 24:1,2) also applies to Christ, with Ps. 69:21(Mt. 27:34) and other parts being applicable as well.
In addition, while Catholics lack the extensive comprehensive Scripture commentaries of evangelicals, the conservative Catholic Haydock commentary applies Ps. 69:8 to Christ as well:
“Ver. 9. Mother. This might be true with respect to some apostate Jews. But it was more fully accomplished in Christ, who was betrayed by Judas, &c. (Calmet) --- His own received him not, John i. (Berthier)”
As for Ps. 69:8 referring to Mary's own children, this finds support in such places as Mt. 12:46 where Jesus is said to have brothers. But it is argued that the normal meaning cannot be allowed, but that these refer to step brothers, or cousins. However, as Protestant scholar D. A. Carson points out,
if "brothers" refers to Joseph's sons by an earlier marriage, not Jesus but Joseph's firstborn would have been legal heir to David's throne. The second theory — that "brothers" refers to sons of a sister of Mary also name "Mary" — faces the unlikelihood of two sisters having the same name. All things considered, the attempts to extend the meaning of "brothers" in this pericope, despite McHugh's best efforts, are nothing less that farfetched exegesis in support of a dogma that originated much later than the NT... — D. A. Carson, Matthew in The Expositor's Bible Commentary, volume 8 (Zondervan, 1984).
  • PTDS (prayer to departed saints)

To substantiate that PTDS (prayer to departed saints) is Scriptural, i request showing, from the Bible (and in order of importance)
1. provide just one example, among the multitude of prayers in the Bible, where anyone besides heathen prayed to anyone else in heaven but the Lord.

2. provide one place where exhortations, commands or instruction or descriptions on prayer directed believers to pray to departed saints or angels. ("i.e. "After this manner pray, Our mother, who art in heaven...")..

3. show where believers in Christ cannot have direct access to God in heaven, and that you meet saintly secretaries in the holy of holies instead of directly communing with Deity.

4. show where any insufficiency exists in Christ regarding immediacy, ability, or compassion that would require or advantage another intercessor in heaven between Christ and man, besides the Holy Spirit. (Ex. 25:22; Eph. 2:18; Heb. 2:18; 4:15,16; 7:25; 10:19-22; etc.)

5. if believers can pray to the departed saints for help in their Christian life, then show why they cannot call upon saints for salvation, and where the Bible supports that.

6. show where departed souls in heaven are taking prayer requests addressed to them.

7. show where the departed are given the Divine attribute of omniscience, so they can hear and process an infinite amount of prayer. (Ps. 65:2; 139:4; Prov. 15:3)

8. provide where any communication between believers on earth and heavenly beings besides God took place apart from a personal visitation, either by men being caught up to heaven or by angels coming to earth. (Jdg. 13; Mk. 9:2-9; Rev. 4:1ff;)

9. show where anyone else is called "Queen of heaven" other than Jer 44:17 (“But we will certainly do whatsoever thing goeth forth out of our own mouth, to burn incense unto the queen of heaven,” who was a heavenly object of devotion and prayer.

10. show where another basic necessary practice has zero affirmative examples and is contrary to what is most clearly instructed on the issue (like as to who prayer is to be immediately directed to, etc.)

the real objection is to what mother of God conveys, that of God having a mother.

  • Mother of God (MOG)

While Mary was the mother of the incarnated Christ who was God, and in the incarnation the two natures are co-mingled, thus “mother of God incarnate” might be somewhat acceptable, the problem is that Jesus was God before He took upon flesh, and “mother of” God denotes an ontological oneness with that which she is the mother of, but to which aspect she contributed nothing. If her biological contribution makes her the MoG, so can Eve be called such by extension.

While MoG can be properly understood, when the Bible declares just whose Son Christ is, is, then it emphasizes His essential nature. Thus Jesus Himself challenged the use of the term “son of David” regarding His ontological lineage, and the Son of God was the fuller revelation. (Matthew 16:13-16; 22:42-45) As the Bible indicates that Mary had other children (Ps. 69:8), they could be called God’s brothers, but this also would be misleading.

This said, the real issue is that of MoG being part of a larger exaltation of Mary, which make Mary to be an almost almighty demi-goddess, and a lends itself to idolatry, due the ambiguity between latria, dulia and hyperdulia. As as one commentator stated,

“.. if the fine distinctions made by Catholic theologians "are usually not reflected in the practice of the faithful," idolatry would seem to be a distinct possibility in the lives of the faithful.”
God forbids making a graven image after the likeness of Him, which is set up in a way that invites worship, and this is what Rome has done physically and doctrinally as regards Mary.
Nor as seen, do these doctrines possess the required “unanimous consent of the fathers.” Rather, what “unanimous” means and what truth is rests upon the autocratic presumption of Rome to define history, tradition and Scripture. As Cardinal Manning stated,
the Church has no antiquity. It rests upon its own supernatural and perpetual consciousness. Its past is present with it, for both are one to a mind which is immutable. Primitive and modern are predicates, not of truth, but of ourselves.” (Cardinal Henry Edward Manning, The Temporal Mission of the Holy Ghost: Or Reason and Revelation (New York: J.P. Kenedy & Sons, originally written 1865, reprinted with no date), pp. 227-228.