Dialogue on Mary's Immaculate Conception


This one comes from the Pillar of Truth Online's secret Vatican archives:

In the Fall of 2003, I was contacted by someone named Vanessa who disagrees with the Catholic belief in the Immaculate Conception of Mary. The basic point of her argument was that if it can be demonstrated that Mary sinned, then therefore she was not immaculately conceived - the discussion is included below, where her arguments are in blue.
Mary commited [sic] the sin of not believing God would protect Jesus. She lacked faith there. Then you seem to be moving the words around to fit your beliefs. That, my friend, is not the way things should be done. It is a man who fits arounf [sic] the facts.
The Bible verse in question is Mark 3:21, which I will quote using the article from Tom Brown's website that you were kind enough to send to me: "When his family heard about this, they went to take charge of him, for they said, "He is out of his mind". If I understand you correctly, you think this proves that Mary sinned because she "lacked faith" that God would protect Jesus.

There are multiple problems with this interpretation which I will demonstrate without having to be "moving words around" to fit my belief. When examined carefully and honestly, it is easy to see how the passage simply does not say what you think it does. I would also remind you that since the original Reformer Martin Luther also believed in Mary's Immaculate Conception, you are essentially accusing him of also having done the same "moving words around". Yet in his sermon "On the Day of the Conception of the Mother of God", he wrote, "The infusion of Mary's soul was effected without original sin...From the first moment she began to live she was free from all sin". Think about it....

  • Not all Bible translations use the word "family" in Mark 3:21. The KJV, for example, uses the words "friends" in place of it. This is significant because your erroneous assumption is that Mary was part of this "family", all of whom were "sinning" due to unbelief. A quick examination of parallel translations proves that "family" is not an absolute, literal translation; for example the NASB uses the phrase "own people", the KJV uses the term "friends", the RSV uses "family", and the NJKV uses "own people".

  • This disrepancy led me to discover that the Greek word for "family" is patria, meaning "lineage running back to some progenitor, ancestry" . You need to know that I am no biblical scholar; I simply used the Crosswalk.com lexicon which is based on Thayer's and Smith's Bible Dictionary and Kittels Theological Dictionary of the New Testament). This is significant because the word patria is not found in Mark 3:21, nor is the word for "kinsmen" (suggenes) or even "household" (oikeios). Instead, the phrase is hoi par autou, which merely means "those with him". Therefore the group of people whom you claim thought Jesus had "gone crazy" did not explicitly include Mary. It is you who is reading things into the text which simply are not there.

  • The above discovery is supported by the fact that the parallel passage in John's Gospel describing the same event uses the term "brethren", which can be used to refer to many different relationships. These include can mean same nationality (Acts 3:17; Rom 9:3), any man, or neighbor (Mt 5:22; Lk 10:29), persons with like interests (Mt 5:47), distant descendants of the same parents (Acts 7:23,26; Heb 7:5), persons united by a common calling (Rev 22:9), mankind in general (Mt 25:40; Heb 2:17), the disciples (Mt 28:10; Jn 20:17), or all believers (Mt 23:8; Acts 1:15; Rom 1:13; 1 Thess 1:4; Rev 19:10).

  • There is nothing in the passage that says Mary sinned anyway. I will quote two Protestant commentaries. Robertson's Word Pictures of the New Testament says: "Certainly Mary did not believe that Jesus was in the power of Beelzebub as the rabbis said already. The scribes from Jerusalem are trying to discount the power and prestige of Jesus (2 Corinthians 3:22)... Mary probably felt that Jesus was overwrought and wished to take him home out of the excitement and strain that he might get rest and proper food."

    The Fourfold Gospel comments that the disciples were reacting to what they saw was Jesus being "carried away by his religious enthusiasm", saying also that "Despite her knowledge as to Jesus, Mary sympathized with her sons in this movement, and feared for the safety of Jesus."

    Isn't this how any mother would react to a perceived threat to her son?

  • The last time I checked, it is not a sin to have imperfect foreknowledge of events. So, what was Mary's knowledge of Jesus? She did not have perfect foreknowledge, but she did know that Jesus was the Messiah. We're talking about the same woman who was visited by an angel who told her that she would bear a son. Although she knew this was impossible, asking "how can this be, since I have no relations with a man?" (Lk 1:34), she believed anyway - the result was the greatest miracle in the history of humankind. After this happened Mary discovered that Elizabeth, who had been barren for so long, was also pregnant. As if that wasn't miraculous enough, Elizabeth also prophesied, with information about Mary's unborn child which could only be known by divine intervention, "and how does this happen to me, that the mother of my Lord should come to me?" (Lk 1:43). Mary responds to these events by praising God with words full of faith (Lk 1:46-55). After our Savior's birth, Mary's child was visited by angels and shepherds who found him by following a star in the night sky. She was the one who had him perform his first miracle at the wedding at Cana, thereby beginning his public ministry. She was with him for his entire earthly life, praying and traveling with him and talking with him; she never left his side at the cross, and was even among the disciples in the Upper Room at Pentecost. Throughout Jesus' life, Mary watched him and "treasured all these things, pondering them in her heart" (Lk 2:17; 51).

    Clearly, this is not the behavior of someone who lacks faith.
    For example, all means all, not with the exception of Mary. And Mary did not need to be sinless for Jesus to be sinless.
    Are you sure that "all means all"? Do little newborn babies sin? Did Jesus sin? If "all means all", then you must be saying that Jesus sinned. If you're uncomfortable asserting this (and rightly so), then you are forced to admit that "all" does not necessarily mean "all", if you'll forgive the Clinton-speak.

    Furthermore, it was necessary for Mary to be sinless. It matters because the birth of our Lord required a "dwelling place" worthy of Him. As the result of Adam's original disobedience (Gen 3), we are born with a human nature which is inclined to sin (Rom 5:12). Because it is not possible that our Lord would have received His human nature from a woman whose own human nature had even the slightest inclination to rebel against God by sinning, Mary was preserved from the stain of original sin and its damaging effects. It would have been inconceivable for our Lord, who is TRUTH (Jn 14:6), to have been born to someone who had ever been under the influence of Satan, the "Father of LIES" (Jn 8:44). As St. Paul asked, "what partnership do righteousness and lawlessness have? Or what fellowship does light have with dark?" (2 Cor 6:14).
    No where [sic] in the Bible does it say Mary was sinless. It only says she is the most blessed woman, b/c she was so spiritually advanced.
    And how was it that she was so "spiritually advanced"? She was greeted as royalty by a heavenly being, in a way no human had ever been greeted by an angel. This angel then called her by a name that exists nowhere else in the Bible, kecharitomene, which means FULL of grace. You cannot be full of grace unless you're sinless. Catholics consider Mary to be the Ark of the New Covenant, which needed to be made of the purest gold for God's word (Ex 25:11-21) in the Old.

    Remember, "for with God nothing shall be impossible" (Luke 1:37). Were not Adam and Eve created by God without sin? Why, then, is it so hard for you to believe in God's will that this should happen again? It was predicted (Gen 3:15) that the serpent's head would be crushed by the conqueror (Jesus) from the seed of the woman (Mary) who would be in constant moral warfare with the serpent (Rev 12). As Ludwig Ott explains, "Mary's victory over Satan would not have been perfect if she had ever been under his dominion. Consequently, she must have entered the world without the stain of original sin." (Fundamentals of Catholic Dogma, p 200).

    peace be with you,

    Does not the Bible tell the story of God telling Abraham to kill his son, Issac [sic] to see how faithful Abraham was, not that God needed to know, but to give the opportunity of learning if he failed? What was God testing for here? To see whether we loved Him and confided in Him over all, even over the death of a child. Abraham as well encountered an angel of God. My point is you need not be perfect to encounter God, but acceptable enough. My other point, Mary sinned in fearing and thinking that the Jesus, God's Son, could die from being tired or unfed.
    The Abraham/Isaac account in Genesis 22 is indeed a moving testament to Abraham’s faith; however, as far as I can see, this has nothing to do with the Immaculate Conception. I never claimed that you needed to be perfect to have an encounter with God, or one of His messengers. This is fortunate for both of us, don’t you think? Despite our shortcomings, our Lord will look upon us with mercy if we approach him repentant and humble.

    Your point about Abraham having an “encounter” with an angel of God is irrelevant, since I never claimed that Mary was the only person in Sacred Scripture who encountered an angel of God. My point was that Mary was the only person ever greeted by an angelic being with the greeting for royalty, “hail”, the Greek word being Chairo. This was a greeting reserved for humans greeting Jesus, the king, even if duplicitous as with Judas, “And forthwith he came to Jesus, and said, Hail, master; and kissed him.” (Mt 26:49) or mocking as with the soldiers during the Crucifixion, “And when they had platted a crown of thorns, they put it upon his head, and a reed in his right hand: and they bowed the knee before him, and mocked him, saying, Hail, King of the Jews! (Mt 27:29, cf. Mk 15:18, Jn 19:3).

    The word can also be used to mean “joy” or “rejoicing”; therefore, Mary’s visitation by the angel in Luke Chapter 1 was the ONLY incident where someone from heaven, who is perfect in nature, greeted a human with a salutation meant for royalty with joy and rejoicing. It happens nowhere else in the New Testament, so Catholics believe that this supports the idea that Mary was without the stain of Original Sin.

    It seems to me that your point about Mary sinning seems to have shifted somewhat. I recall that earlier you were saying that Mary committed the sin of disbelief in Jesus’ ministry. Now that I’ve demonstrated that the word “family” in Mark 3:21 did not mean “Jesus’ immediate family which probably included Mary”, I’m curious to know why you think being concerned about her son’s health and welfare is a sin?
    Jesus is a part of God. He never sinned b/c He is a part of God. Everyone else did.
    Then you agree that when St. Paul said “all have sinned” in Romans 3:23, “all” did not mean all, otherwise, you would have found yourself in the very difficult position of trying to explain how Jesus could have sinned. If Jesus, the New Adam did not sin, then this makes room for Mary, the New Eve, to have been sinless.
    Then how do you explain that Mary herself refers to Jesus as her Savior?
    I already did that in my first reply to you, but this time I will simply quote Karl Keating at CatholicAnswers.com: “Mary, too, required a Savior. Like all other descendants of Adam, she was subject to the necessity of contracting original sin. But by a special intervention of God, undertaken at the instant she was conceived, she was preserved from the stain of original sin and its consequences. She was therefore redeemed by the grace of Christ, but in a special way—by anticipation.

    Consider an analogy: Suppose a man falls into a deep pit, and someone reaches down to pull him out. The man has been "saved" from the pit. Now imagine a woman walking along, and she too is about to topple into the pit, but at the very moment that she is to fall in, someone holds her back and prevents her. She too has been saved from the pit, but in an even better way: She was not simply taken out of the pit, she was prevented from getting stained by the mud in the first place. This is the illustration Christians have used for a thousand years to explain how Mary was saved by Christ. By receiving Christ’s grace at her conception, she had his grace applied to her before she was able to become mired in original sin and its stain.”

    Peace be with you,

    “I can see where you are coming from and yes I agree that it is good magnificient [sic] that we do not have to be perfect for God to be with us, but I do not agree in the matter that all includes Jesus, for Jesus is one of the three parts of God. Therefore, He was included in God and not all.”
    Good. Then we’ve established that the “all” in Romans 3:23 does not mean every single person.
    “Then, why is it that you seem to believe that Jesus needed to have a sinless mother. Is not all things possible with God?”
    I thought I already explained why - because the birth of our Lord required a "dwelling place" worthy of Him. As the result of Adam's original disobedience (Gen 3), we are born with a human nature inclined to sin (Rom 5:12). Since it is not possible that our Lord would have received His human nature from a woman whose own human nature had even the slightest inclination to rebel against God by sinning, Mary was preserved from the stain of original sin and its damaging effects. It would have been inconceivable for our Lord, who is TRUTH (Jn 14:6), to have been born to someone who had ever been under the influence of Satan, the "Father of LIES" (Jn 8:44). As St. Paul asked, "what partnership do righteousness and lawlessness have? Or what fellowship does light have with dark?" (2 Cor 6:14).
    "Why did Mary have to purify herself after Jesus' birth if she was sinless?

    Luke 2 :39 And when they had performed all things according to the law of the Lord, they returned into Galilee, to their own city Nazareth."
    I think the verse you probably meant to quote was Luke 2:22: “”When the days were completed for their purification according to the Law of Moses, they took him up to Jerusalem to present him to the Lord…”

    All this means is, according to the Old Testament Law, that a new mother is ritually unclean for 40 days after the birth of a son (Lev 12:1-8). Unfortunately, you have made the mistake of thinking this means the same thing as committing a “sin”. Even the Protestant text Baker's Evangelical Dictionary of Biblical Theology recognizes that, and I quote, " 'uncleanness' cannot be equated with ‘sin’ ". It only meant that they were ceremonially unclean, not morally unclean, as The Fourfold Gospel explains: “Until it [purification] was performed the mother was not permitted to go to the temple, take part in any public service, or even to leave her house. It seems that the members of the family were also ceremonially unclean, because they came in daily contact with her.”

    Step back for a moment and wonder why Jesus was circumcised at all (Lk 2:21)? After all, was our Lord and Savior in need of acceptance into the Old Covenant since He was the bringer of the New Covenant? Furthermore, why did He need to be consecrated to the Lord as the Law required (Ex 13:12, Num 18:15)? The answer is because Jesus was “born of a woman, born under the Law” (Gal 4:4); therefore, as the Matthew Henry Complete Commentary on the Whole Bible explains, “Though it supposed him a stranger, that was by that ceremony to be admitted into covenant with God, whereas he had always been his beloved Son; nay, though it supposed him a sinner, that needed to have his filthiness taken away, whereas he had no impurity or superfluity of naughtiness to be cut off, yet he submitted to it.”

    Similarly, Mary submitted to the Law because she, too, was born under the Law as a Jewish woman. This does not mean she was a sinner because she followed the Levitical requirements for purification after childbirth, because there were similar purification laws for other conditions. For that matter, your argument that Mary’s “purification” proves she was a sinner would also, for example, make sinners of all women who menstruate monthly (Lev 15:19-33, 2 Sam 11:4). No, Mary was no more sinful than the cups and jugs and kettles and beds which required ritual purification, too (Mk 7:4).
    ”How would it be fair for Mary to be given more help than anyone of us?”
    Was it “fair” for God to create Adam and Eve in a state of immaculate communion with him? As we well know from the story in the Garden of Eden, they still had the responsibility of using their free will to choose right from wrong. The difference is that the first Eve used her choice for sin while Mary, the New Eve, used her free will to choose to be a handmaid of the Lord: “May it be done to me according to your word.” (Lk 1:378).

    Besides, I’m not so sure there is much value in challenging God’s sense of “fairness”. Your question presupposes that it is possible for us to know how and why God does anything, when from Scripture God tells us that “my thoughts are not your thoughts, nor are your ways my ways…as high as the heavens are above the earth, so high are my ways above your ways and my thoughts above your thoughts.” (Is 55:8-9) Don’t be like the petulant worker in the vineyard who had to be asked, “are you envious because I am generous?” (Mt 20:15).

    peace be with you,

    Of course not all humans were sinless. All but One- Jesus- but this is because Jesus was the Son of God , always a part of God. The Bible says all but God are sinless, not that all people were sinless ( for then the Bible would be lying because Jesus was a person who was not sinless.)

    *Romans 3:23 for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, Anyone who says they are without sin is a liar.
    You said "Jesus was a person who was not sinless". Are you sure this what you meant to say, or did you mean to say Jesus was a person who WAS sinless? And begging your pardon, but quoting the same verse over and over still doesn't prove your point. Romans 3:23 simply does NOT say "for all but one have sinned and fall short of the glory of God...." All does not mean all, and this includes Mary.
    You keep on saying that Mary called Jesus her Savior becasue [sic] it was Him or God who made her sinnless [sic]. Lets face it, she wouldn't need a savior if she haden't [sic] fallen. Even Jesus was born with inclination to sin. See I don't understand where we get this original sin idea! Everyone has the inclination to sin, becasue [sic] we are also made of flesh. Why do you think God repeats over and over that the flesh is weak and that we should crucify the flesh?
    While it is true that Jesus had a human nature, it is not true that he was born with the inclination to sin. It would not have been possible for Jesus to become the propitiation for all of our sins if he had a damaged human nature. Because of the Fall, we inherited a human nature inclined to sin, which is why we are told that the flesh is weak, etc. Original Sin is quite biblical, by the way - "the many became sinners through one man's sin (Rom 5:12-19), by a man came death; in Adam all die (1 Cor 15:21-23), we all once lived in the passions of our flesh (Eph 2:1-3).

    And not to be rude or anything, but are you saying that Jesus couldn't have saved us if He had the inclination to sin? Your not understanding how great and perfect He is. Just having flesh is temptation. Temptation to eat when starving, to not suffer pain. You have the inclination to sin when your body wants something desperatly and you shouldn't do it.
    Being hungry is not morally evil, Vanessa - it is a biological fact of life. Neither is being tired, or sad, or any of the other human feelings Jesus experienced. Our Lord was fully human, but also fully divine. Being fully divine means that there is no inclination to sin, and to say anything to the contrary is actually to not understand how great and perfect He is. You said so yourself - Jesus is perfect; therefore, Jesus could not sin.