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Was the Assumption of Mary a belief in the early church? If so, where's the evidence?

The Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary into Heaven at the end of her earthly life is a defined dogma of the Catholic Church. On November 1, 1950, Pope Pius XII, exercising papal infallibility, declared in Munificentissimus Deus that it is a dogma of the Church "that the Immaculate Mother of God, the ever Virgin Mary, having completed the course of her earthly life, was assumed body and soul into heavenly glory." As a dogma, the Assumption is a required belief of all Catholics; anyone who publicly dissents from the dogma, Pope Pius declared, "has fallen away completely from the divine and Catholic Faith."

The question is asked because the Bible is silent about this matter.

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What is you definition of "early church?" Do you mean the 1rst 1000yrs...500yrs...100yrs? – user5286 Jul 11 '14 at 19:43

3 Answers 3

Pope Pius XII's 1 Nov. 1950 Apostolic Constitution defining the dogma of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mother, Munificentissimus Deus, says "that, since ancient times, there have been both in the East and in the West solemn liturgical offices commemorating this privilege." He then mentions the Roman liturgy, Gallican sacramentary, and the Byzantine liturgy of the Dormition and Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mother.

Pope Pius XII also mentions or quotes St. Anthony of Padua, St. Damascene, St. Albert the Great, St. Thomas Aquinas, St. Bonaventure, St. Robert Bellarmine, St. Alphonsus Liguori, St. Peter Canisius, and Suarez, all of whom supported the Assumption (or at least did not deny it).

St. John Damascene (675-749), Encomium in Dormitionem Dei Genetricis Semperque Virginis Mariae, Hom. II, n. 14; cf. also ibid, n. 3.:

It was fitting that she, who had kept her virginity intact in childbirth, should keep her own body free from all corruption even after death. It was fitting that she, who had carried the Creator as a child at her breast, should dwell in the divine tabernacles. It was fitting that the spouse, whom the Father had taken to himself, should live in the divine mansions. It was fitting that she, who had seen her Son upon the cross and who had thereby received into her heart the sword of sorrow which she had escaped in the act of giving birth to him, should look upon him as he sits with the Father. It was fitting that God's Mother should possess what belongs to her Son, and that she should be honored by every creature as the Mother and as the handmaid of God.

St. Germanus of Constantinople (8th century), In Sanctae Dei Genetricis Dormitionem, Sermo I.:

You are she who, as it is written, appears in beauty, and your virginal body is all holy, all chaste, entirely the dwelling place of God, so that it is henceforth completely exempt from dissolution into dust. Though still human, it is changed into the heavenly life of incorruptibility, truly living and glorious, undamaged and sharing in perfect life.

St. Anthony of Padua (b. 1195), explaining "I will glorify the place of my feet" (Is 61:13.), said (Sermones Dominicales et in Solemnitatibus, In Assumptione S. Mariae Virginis Sermo.):

you have here a clear statement that the Blessed Virgin has been assumed in her body, where was the place of the Lord's feet. Hence it is that the holy Psalmist writes: "Arise, O Lord, into your resting place: you and the ark which you have sanctified."

And that she

has risen up, since on this day the Virgin Mother has been taken up to her heavenly dwelling.

There are more quotes like these in Munificentissimus Deus.

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Any quotes from those other guys? 1950 seems a bit late for "the early church". – disciple Aug 2 at 17:11
@disciple: Pope Pius XII directly quotes many of the aforementioned saints in Munificentissimus Deus. – Geremia Aug 3 at 1:51
Thanks for the update. It appears to have been a common belief from about 650 AD according to your references. – disciple Aug 3 at 7:29
@disciple The liturgies are certainly older and the best proofs that the Assumption was held from early times. – Geremia Aug 4 at 4:34
From 400? 500? Can we date those liturgies? – disciple Aug 4 at 9:32

This article The Assumption of Mary | by Father William Saunders states that [t]he belief in the Assumption of our Blessed Mother has been longstanding in our Church, and that [i]n Munificentissimus Deus, Pope Pius XII cited various Church Fathers to trace the longstanding tradition of the belief of the Assumption.

This would be a starting point.

A similar argument to Peter's on Pentecost for the Resurrection of the LORD, can also be used i.e. absence of a grave.

Please see also Apocryphal Works on the Assumption of Mary | New Advent and The Early Church Fathers on the Assumption [Catholic/Orthodox Caucus], etc.

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The belief that Mary was “taken up” i.e. the assumption, after her earthly life was held originally by gnostics Christians and later by Roman Catholics:

Epiphanius in A.D. 377 said that “no one knows if Mary died or not”(source)

Gregory of Tours in A.D. 590 taught the Assumption of Mary not from the Bible nor from the tradition of the church but from an apocryphal gospel Transitus Beatae Mariae of Psedo-Melito of Sardis.(source)

Pope Gelasius in A.D. 494-496 rejected the Transitus Beatae Mariae as heretical and should be avoided by the church.(source)


In the 4th century, the church is unaware of the Assumption of Mary as Epiphanus shows and the first one to teach the Assumption of Mary was Gregory of Tours in the 6th Century who used the Transitus writing of the assumption of Mary which was already rejected as heretical in the 5th century by Pope Gelasius.

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Not quite. The original source of the story seems to be the Liber Requiei Mariae, which apparently was in existence by the late 3rd or early 4th century. The Gelasian Decree did not reject this as heretical, it classified the De Transitu Mariae as apocryphal (which allows the possibility that it is derived from inspired belief). – Matt Gutting Jul 11 '14 at 18:22
"...held originally by gnostics" who believed that Mary was the archangel Michael in disguise as a woman and not a real woman at all. – david brainerd Jul 12 '14 at 5:04
Please provide sources. – Geremia Sep 2 '14 at 18:16
@Geremia I edited my answer. It is now way better. I added sources. – Radz Matthew Co Brown Aug 18 at 15:47

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