Did the Early Church believe Mary was 'sinless'?

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Dave, this is for you. Herein are but a few quotes from the early church fathers. You made claim that the early church fathers did not believe these things. Please provide quotes as I have.

This is my favorite quote from none other than St. Augustine:

"We must except the Holy Virgin Mary, concerning whom I wish to raise no question when it touches the subject of sins, out of honour to the Lord; for from Him we know what abundance of grace for overcoming sin in every particular was conferred upon her who had the merit to conceive and bear Him who undoubtedly had no sin." Augustine,Nature and Grace,42[36](A.D.415),in NPNF1,V:135

"He was the ark formed of incorruptible wood. For by this is signified that His tabernacle was exempt from putridity and corruption." Hippolytus,Orat. Inillud, Dominus pascit me(ante A.D. 235),in ULL,94

"This Virgin Mother of the Only-begotten of God, is called Mary, worthy of God, immaculate of the immaculate, one of the one." Origen,Homily 1(A.D. 244),in ULL,94

"Let woman praise Her, the pure Mary." Ephraim,Hymns on the Nativity,15:23(A.D. 370),in NPNF2,XIII:254

"Thou alone and thy Mother are in all things fair, there is no flaw in thee and no stain in thy Mother." "Ephraem,Nisibene Hymns,27:8(A.D. 370),in THEO,132

"Mary, a Virgin not only undefiled but a Virgin whom grace has made inviolate, free of every stain of sin." Ambrose,Sermon 22:30(A.D. 388),in JUR,II:166

"As he formed her without my stain of her own,so He proceeded from her contracting no stain." Proclus of Constantinople,Homily 1(ante A.D. 446),in ULL,97

"A virgin, innocent, spotless, free of all defect, untouched, unsullied, holy in soul and body, like a lily sprouting among thorns." Theodotus of Ancrya,Homily VI:11(ante A.D. 446),in THEO,339

"The angel took not the Virgin from Joseph, but gave her to Christ, to whom she was pledged from Joseph, but gave her to Christ, to whom she was pledged in the womb, when she was made." Peter Chrysologus,Sermon 140(A.D. 449),in ULL,97

"[T]he very fact that God has elected her proves that none was ever holier than Mary, if any stain had disfigured her soul, if any other virgin had been purer and holier, God would have selected her and rejected Mary." Jacob of Sarug(ante A.D. 521),in CE

"She is born like the cherubim, she who is of a pure, immaculate clay" Theotoknos of Livias,Panegyric for the feast of the Assumption, 5:6(ante A.D. 650),in THEO,180

"Today humanity, in all the radiance of her immaculate nobility, receives its ancient beauty. The shame of sin had darkened the splendour and attraction of human nature; but when the Mother of the Fair One par excellence is born, this nature regains in her person its ancient privileges and is fashioned according to a perfect model truly worthy of God.... The reform of our nature begins today and the aged world, subjected to a wholly divine transformation, receives the first fruits of the second creation" Andrew of Crete,Sermon I,On the Birth of Mary(A.D. 733),in THEO,180

"[T]ruly elect, and superior to all,not by the altitude of lofty structures, but as ecelling all in the greatness and purity of sublime and divine virtues, and having no affinity with sin whatever." Germanus of Constantinople,Marracci in S. Germani Mariali(ante A.D. 733),in ULL,98

"O most blessed loins of Joachim from which came forth a spotless seed! O glorious womb of Anne in which a most holy offspring grew." John of Damascus,Homily I in Nativ.(ante A.D. 749),in THEO,200

-- Gail (rothfarms@socket.net), November 17, 2002


Response to Did the Early Church believe Mary was 'sinless' -- Dave, this is for you.

Here's a few I could dig up in the little time I have today:

Augustine Bishop of Hippo. “Whatever flesh of sin Jesus took, He took of the flesh of the sin of his mother. Jesus did not partake of sin, but took of his mother, which came under the judgment of sin.”

Tertullian 215 AD “God alone is without sin. The only man who is without sin is Christ; for Christ is also God” (The Soul 41:3

Clement of Alexandria “ The Word Jesus Christ alone was born without sin.”

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

Pope Gelasius (492 a.d.) “ It belongs alone to the immaculate lamb to have no sin at all.”(Gellasii papae dicta, vol. 4, col 1241, Paris, 1671)

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

From Ludwig Ott's Fundamentals of Catholic Dogma, "Greek Fathers (Origen, St. Basil. St John Chrysostom, St Cyril of Alexander) taught that Mary suffered from venial personal faults, such as ambition and vanity, doubt about the message of the Angel, and lack of faith under the Cross."

Chrysostom comments on Matthew 12:46-49:

"That which I was lately saying, that when virtue is wanting all things are vain, this is now also pointed out very abundantly. For I indeed was saying, that age and nature, and to dwell in the wilderness, and all such things, are alike unprofitable, where there is not a good mind; but to-day we learn in addition another thing, that 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. But He saith, who is my mother, and who are my brethren?" 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? (Homilies on the Gospel According to St. Matthew, 44)

Regarding John 2:3-4, Chrysostom comments:

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?" 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 (Homilies on the Gospel According to St. John, 21)

-- non-Catholic Christian (dlbowerman@yahoo.com), November 17, 2002.

Response to Did the Early Church believe Mary was 'sinless' -- Dave, this is for you.

Hi Dave,

I'm sorry to ask you this, but where are these documents? I have looked all over the Internet and I can't find them anywhere. Are they part of the public domain? Do they come from a reputable non- biased source?

The quotes I provided are found at numerous public domain sites. Your quotes have sites I have never heard of and I can't find anywhere. Also, you didn't site a source for several very important quotes, particularly Augustine and Clement. Even if you can prove the authenticity of all of these quotes, they stagger under the weight of the very clear, cogent, authentic quotes I provided. There are many many many other quotes from the Fathers on Mary -- TOO NUMEROUS TO PACK IN HERE, about veneration, theotokos, etc., etc.

You surely are aware, too, that every book in the New Testament was scrutinized and debated by the Church Fathers, and that they differed in their opinions as to the inspiration of them. Using your argument as posted on another thread, we would have to throw all of those books about because some of the Fathers disagreed.

I posted these quotes to prove that the sinlessness (I prefer stainlessness) of Mary was thought of A LONG LONG TIME AGO. It was not just dreamed up by some pope in the Middle Ages, without any help from the Early Church. She was stainless BECAUSE OF HIM, FOR HIM, AND BY HIM. SHE NEEDED A SAVIOR -- HER SON! Mary was not sinless on her OWN MERIT, but sanctified through the work of her son!

Gotta run, I've got a sick child,

Love to you, and God's Speed


-- Gail (rothfarms@socket.net), November 17, 2002.

Response to Did the Early Church believe Mary was 'sinless' -- Dave, this is for you.

Dear Dave:
A while back you frankly said what amounted to your last post; that some Catholic beliefs about Mary have always bothered you. Therefore, I don't have a right to castigate you for this last post. If we heard it from a basher, sure. But you have been a fine contributor here.

Even so, at first glance your old bias comes to the forefront. That long-abiding protestant calumny directed at Catholics: ''They worship Mary, a mere human being.''

So, let me reassure you-- the fact Mary is a sinless vessel of the Father hasn't taken one iota of divinity away from her Holy Son. She is a fervent lover of Jesus, just like me and you. She SERVES Him; precisely from her motherly love for Him. He affords her that privelege. --She is forever in His debt, like the rest of us. But Jesus intended her for all that is inimitable; she is to have no equal among us.

It's stated truthfully in Catholic teaching-- By the infinite love and unsurpassed wisdom of Our Father, He protected the human mother of His Holy Son from all evil-- even the stain of ONE sin--

And she was therefore born as innocent as EVE in the morning of creation. Eve was sinless and then sinned. Mary is sinless because she's the New Eve-- and hasn't sinned, because God is with her. ''The Lord is with you.'' (Luke, 1 :28) Christ our Lord NEVER rebuked His holy mother. Let that idea go--

These are smug attitudes coming from earth- bound sinners. A sinless Mary is an affront to them. Jesus will have some stern words for those who mouth off against the Blessed Virgin Mary.

Gail used some analogy or another, about a mother bear-- with her anger aroused when she is with her cub;

Think about the most glorious Man ever born, --from Mary's womb; and He comes to judge us. --If for some reason He feels you were unkind to His mother. How will you hide your face in that moment?

-- eugene c. chavez (chavezec@pacbell.net), November 17, 2002.

Response to Did the Early Church believe Mary was 'sinless' -- Dave, this is for you.

Another thing I was thinking about over the weekend, which might help those who think Catholics pay too much attention to Mary, is this: proof that we don't consider her equal to God is that we are always asking Mary to pray for us to God - we do NOT ask God to pray for us to Mary! Which would be the logical result, if we really thought she was "equal" to God!


-- Christine L. (chris_tinelehman@hotmail.com), November 18, 2002.

Response to Did the Early Church believe Mary was 'sinless' -- Dave, this is for you.


You shouldn't of brought up those early Church Fathers. I see you are in a "choke hold" now. You went to deep out there. You are better with your scripture. :-)

I am starting to admire you more and more. I never seen someone take the wipping[proven wrong about Catholicism] you do, and you keep coming back for more. You will not pull the wool over Gail's eyes when it comes to those early Church Fathers.

May He give you the grace to come back home where you belong. You come a long way in a year, bro.

-- Ollooiee (.@....), November 19, 2002.

Response to Did the Early Church believe Mary was 'sinless' -- Dave, this is for you.

First off, I am not a Catholic. We are all biased and you need to know in which directions my biases are. I have some good friends that grew up Protestant who have recently started attending a Catholic church, which has got me doing some thinking. That is what brought me here. I am somewhat limited in my knowledge of Catholic beliefs, but have often wondered about the views on Mary.

I grew up with some biases, and have learned a lot in the last few years to help me understand some things better. I would not accuse Catholics of worshipping Mary. And quite frankly I do think most Protestants downplay Mary's role a little too much, probably in reaction to their misconceptions about Catholic belief. (ie. eugene's worship comment)

As to the quotes; from the reading I have done, I recognize as many names from Dave's post as from Gails, and yes, sources, especially non-internet would be nice.

In any case, my college days have taught me that it isn't all that hard to find authors to support just about any viewpoint, and each author needs to be taken on their own merit. Some of the early church fathers believed all kinds of things, which is the very reason for the discrepancies mentioned. All that is to say that I agree with the point about sticking with scripture.

I know that God could have done things in whatever way He chose. He is God. He could have made Mary sinless. What I am wondering is why is it nessesary for Mary to have been born sinless for Christ to be born sinless? If Mary could be born sinless from a mother that was not, why not Jesus?

Also, I agree that God's choosing Mary makes her special. I don't think that God just chooses anyone. At the same time, the entire Bible is full of examples of God choosing ordinary people for ordinary tasks. David started as a shepherd boy. And a youngest brother -and they never get to be kings. Look at the women who get the honor of being mentioned in Jesus' geneology in Matthew. They are all people that we would have been ashamed to pick. Rahab the prostitute and a Moabite woman named Ruth. Women God chose to honor by allowing them to be part of the ancestry of Christ. God consistently uses ordinary people to do extrordinary things. Paul writes in 2 Cor 12:10 that he 'delights in his weaknesses' because it shows that his strength is not his own, but from God. He doesn't even want to look strong because he wants people to see God's strength instead. It seems to me that you are saying Mary had to be perfect for Christ to be perfect. But wouldn't the same reasoning say that Mary's mother would have had to be perfect for Mary to be perfect?

I hope I am not being offensive in my suggestions. And if I am way off on what you believe please let me know. I am not trying to bash. I only want to understand. I appreciate the point that many early Church Fathers believed Mary to be sinless, and that it is not a recent idea. What I am wondering, is more about Biblical evidence. I have read through the New Testament several times, but cannot recall any text suggesting Mary was more than an ordinary willing vessel that God chose to use.

-- Dan (wintermandan@hotmail.com), November 20, 2002.

Response to Did the Early Church believe Mary was 'sinless' -- Dave, this is for you.

Dan, Please do not consider our belief in Mary's sinless as being required by God in order for Jesus to be born sinless. We realize God could have willed this.

However, if you think about it, God would not WANT a sinful person carrying baby Jesus. If the ark of the covenant was considered holy and special simply carrying the ten commandments, how much more holy would God consider the new ark, carrying Jesus?

-- Glenn (glenn@nospam.com), November 20, 2002.

Response to Did the Early Church believe Mary was 'sinless' -- Dave, this is for you.

Hi Dan:

I can't answer all of your questions, but I would like to point out one thing. It has been suggested on this thread that God could have chosen anyone, and that if Mary would have declined, the Lord would have chosen someone else. I totally disagree with this for many reasons, but the most important, I think, is that the STAGE WAS SET, Jesus had many prophecies to fullfill. As they "timing is everything." This was a crucial moment of history, in fact, the MOST crucial. Mary could not fail in her mission. Redemption history was about to unfold -- the drama of all dramas. She was given a grace like no other human being in history -- nor will ever again. If you would but dwell on the incarnation, prayerfully, and as the Lord to give you light into this drama, He will expound so many profound wonders to you, the mystery of the ages brought to light!

You see, everything we believe about Mary is because of Jesus and his monumental victory on the cross!

I am a convert from evangelical Protestantism, due, in large part, to the Church Fathers. If you would like to read their writings in their entirety, go to ccel.org and click on Church Fathers. There you will find ALL of their writings, letters to each other, letters to various churches, Polycarp, Ignatius, Clement. It's a goldmine!

Dan, the Lord gave us a Church. He instituted a Church while he was on earth, the apostles succeeded Him, handing down their ministries. That history can be traced directly into the Catholic Church. That Church canonized the scriptures in the late 300's/early 400's. That Church handed down the various creeds that encapsulate our faith. That Church is the rock that will not crumble. That Church is the Catholic Church.

I encourage you to read the historical writings for yourself, and not what a biased source 'says they said.' You won't get the truth that way.



P.S. I got tired of the Protestant mindset -- Protest and division, Protest and division, Protest and division. Everyone has their own agenda, and by-golly, they want it their way! The Bible says so! Couldn't take it anymore!

-- gail (rothfarms@socket.net), November 20, 2002.

Response to Did the Early Church believe Mary was 'sinless' -- Dave, this is for you.

Dear Dan:
I'm very happy to know you've started to investigate the Church impartially. It's a good first step. One statement of yours with regard to ''sinless woman'' Mary requires some rethinking:

''. . . why is it nessesary for Mary to have been born sinless for Christ to be born sinless? If Mary could be born sinless from a mother that was not,

why not Jesus ?

Reply --Mary isn't just sinless in order that her divine Son should be born ''sinless''.

Her Son is God, the Eternal Son of the Father; and Mary is of course only a created being. Her state is uniquely afforded her primarily NO-- absolutely in deference to the Son of God. He couldn't have been in sin under any set of circumstances; whether or not His mother were. She is sinless by special favor of her Creator, who gives her this purity in order that God the Son should never be approached by any taint of sin.

If we consider the plain truth that NO sin can enter the glory of heaven; because heaven is God's exclusive Eternal Reign; we will admit that sin in any aspect or proximity is hateful to God. He will not tolerate sin; not in angels, nor a person born in sin.

So much does God detest SIN -- That He resolved to eradicate it from His Creation in a bloody death-- the death of His Son!

God made the first order of His salvation the preservation from all sin of the woman who would ''contain'' Him, ''carry'' Him for the first nine months of the Holy Incarnation.

Because the Holy Trinity, One God, is infinitely HOLY-- and only a truly HOLY woman, sinless and full of grace-- was suitable for the humanity she would pass on to the Christ-child.

She wasn't ''keeping Jesus'' sinless. She was affording Him a sacred and HOLY motherhood, a womb that never needed forgiveness. She was not a sinner; her -sin was never inherited from Adam, as our Original Sin was inherited. It is by God's grace, a sin that ''never was''. For the infinite glory of Jesus Christ.

Others claim that she must have sinned, having said in the Bible she loved her Saviour. If she didn't sin, why need her Saviour?

Her salvation comes from Christ; as her divine Saviour in advance of His death on the Cross. In advance of all His earthly life, and in advance, anticipating her own conception.

She ''needed'' the Saviour, and He saved her-- by preserving (SAVING) her from the sin of her own humanity. He created Eve sinless. He did that again at the advent of His Son's birth; making Mary sinless. Theologically there's no question God can do it. And He did it, then reveals it to us in His Church. Nothing is impossible with God.

-- eugene c. chavez (chavezec@pacbell.net), November 20, 2002.

Response to Did the Early Church believe Mary was 'sinless' -- Dave, this is for you.

Thanks for the numerous beautiful posts, Gail, Eugene, Christine, and Glenn. (And thanks for the post that tickled my funny bone, Ollooiee!)

Gail, I recalled that David Bowerman has, on an occasional basis since 1999, renewed the same objections to Catholic teachings on Mary. Therefore, I was able to find that he left some of the same quotations in a February, 2001, thread as he left above -- including this one: "Augustine Bishop of Hippo. 'Whatever flesh of sin Jesus took, He took of the flesh of the sin of his mother. Jesus did not partake of sin, but took of his mother, which came under the judgment of sin.'"

Gail, in light of what you told him (about the fact that he gave no source for this quotation), I enjoyed a good chuckle when I found these words from Chris B to David B in that 2001 thread:
"... these quotations from Augustine have no references. I do not accept a quotation from a pope or Church Father without a reference." To this David B replied lamely:
"Not sure I have the actual references to the Augustine quotes handy. I'll check on my old PC where the original docs were stored. I noted them not intending to use them for such discussions, so citing references wasn't important at the time. They're probably buried in one of my texts or an old online link I used once. I'll search around some this weekend to see what I can dig up. But I don't relish the thought of looking for it from scratch ... he wrote an awful lot of material."

And we see today that David B is still using the same tired quotations, still without sources, 21 months later. [Actually, the quotations he is using can be found (without sources, of course) at a bad Internet site (to which I won't give any publicity) where Catholicism is treated as a religion separate from Christianity.]

What else can I say?

---- David B quotes from Tertullian, but Tertullian did not share in the Church's Magisterium (teaching authority) and he died as a heretic.

---- David B quotes Pope St. Leo I the Great as follows: "(440 a.d.) 'The Lord Jesus Christ alone among the sons of men was born immaculate.' (sermon 24 in Nativ. Dom.)"
Thus, David B is saying that this sentence can be found in St. Leo's sermon #24, written for the Nativity of the Lord (one of seven Leonine Christmas sermons that survive). But anyone can read the sermon online and come up empty looking for the alleged quotation. Just another anti-Catholic invention, I guess.
But in another of St. Leo's Christmas sermons, though, we can read this: "Rightly therefore did the birth of our Salvation impart no corruption to the Virgin's purity, because the bearing of the Truth was the keeping of honour. ... Nothing therefore of the lust of the flesh has passed into that peerless nativity, nothing of the law of sin has entered. A royal Virgin of the stem of David is chosen, to be impregnated with the sacred seed and to conceive the Divinely-human offspring in mind first and then in body.

---- David B quotes Pope Innocent III as follows: "(1216 a.d.) 'She (Eve) was produced without sin, but she brought forth in sin, she (Mary) was produced in sin, but she brought forth without sin.' ( De festo Assump., sermon 2)"
David B (and the source from which he copied this) has misunderstood the phrase, "(Mary) was produced in sin." This was not intended to say that Mary herself was conceived with original sin, but rather to convey the common misbelief (of some people in earlier centuries) that there was necessarily some sin of lust associated with marital intercourse (in this case, the union of Mary's parents).

---- David B quotes from Ludwig Ott's "Fundamentals of Catholic Dogma" as follows: "Greek Fathers (Origen, St. Basil. St John Chrysostom, St Cyril of Alexander) taught that Mary suffered from venial personal faults, such as ambition and vanity, doubt about the message of the Angel, and lack of faith under the Cross."
I found a site that shows that this quotation was made popular in some Protestant circles by the anti-Catholic author, James White (whose sister recently became a Catholic, to her brother's deep chagrin). A site that refutes White, though, states the following: "Mr. White neglected that in the very same paragraph he cited, Dr. Ott noted that Latin Patristic authors unanimously teach the doctrine of the sinlessness of Mary (Ott, Catholic Dogma, p. 203)."

Well, enough said, I think. Gail, would you agree with me that David B should delete those worthless quotations from his computer, so that he is never again tempted to use them?

God bless you.

-- J. F. Gecik (jfgecik@hotmail.com), November 22, 2002.

Response to Did the Early Church believe Mary was 'sinless' -- Dave, this is for you.

Hey John, thanks so much for clearing that all up. I am always amazed at the lengths folks will go to demoralize the Church Christ instituted. How incredibly sad! I can only hope they don't know what they're doing! Although inventing slander does require a "consciousness of guilt" doesn't it?

I am quite familiar with Mr. White. I have listened to him debate countless times. He has a method of debate that I can only describe as DERANGED! He has no interest in the truth whatsoever, but merely desires a following. Lord, have mercy on his soul.

It should be interesting to see the responses I get, if any, to my many "Church Fathers" threads posted recently in response to the various debates going on right now. The Church Fathers really do speak from the grave (or from heaven)! They certainly rattled my cage! Mr. Gallegos has done a marvelous thing in compiling the various topics! The evidence is SO OVERWHELMING it staggers the imagination, and yet still does not silence the voice of the heretic!



-- Gail (rothfarms@socket.net), November 22, 2002.

Response to Did the Early Church believe Mary was 'sinless' -- Dave, this is for you.

Dave B[luf]

Are you going to admit you were wrong to do that? If its the second time you did that, than I am doing to ask you to STOP IT SIR!

Don't ever bring up that again Buster! I read how you gave the excuse how busy you are on another thread. So what. You are tha one to say that garbage to begin with.

Don't disappear. I want a direct answer out of you Buster! After 2 times and 3 years later did you find the information, YET?

-- Ollooiee (.@....), November 23, 2002.

i came across this site looking for women in early church for my women history class...although i'm quite busy and shouldn't be reading anything that is not going to help me with my paper...i just couldn't help myself read through all of the posts on this thread....i don'thave anything to add to your discussion here but i HAVE to comment on people trying to put others down....It's amazing how low some will go to prove their point....

keep up the good work and keep questioning...

-- no body important (noone@noboday.com), November 10, 2003.

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