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According to Catholic Doctrine, the Immaculate Conception refers to the teaching that Mary's own conception (not that of Jesus) was without the stain of original sin.

What is the biblical basis for this? And if this is true, did Mary not need to be saved from her sin? Was she also sinless? If she were sinless, then why would she have suffered the consequences of sin--that of death?

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Q. Biblical Basis for Biblical literalists:

A. None.

Catholics believe that Mary is a type prefigured in the Old Testament of the Ark of the Covenant. The basis for this belief is rooted in scripture as firmly as Mary is rooted in scripture. God created His mother, and in so doing He created His mother as a fit dwelling place, like the Holy of Holies. And like the Holy of Holies the dwelling place would bear the effects of the perfect priest, the perfect prophet and the perfect king. That is why the ark contained Aaron's Rod, Manna from Heaven and the Ten Commandments. That is why Jesus is priest prophet and king.

Q. Did Mary need to be redeemed?

A. Yes

But her redemption was pre-conception.

Q. Was she sinless?

A. Yes

Through a singular grace, she was able to avoid sin. In a way she lived on earth as we will live in Heaven. Furthermore she experienced Christ as fully as any human is able to this side of the grave.

Q. Did she suffer the consequences of sin?

A. No

It was not as a consequence of sin. She chose death (or dormition as it's called in the East) in imitation of Jesus and was subsequently assumed body and soul into Heaven.

I'll leave you with one piece of Biblical basis for Mary being sanctified. Used in the dogmatic text defining the Assumption

Arise, O Lord, into your resting place: you and the ark, which you have sanctified

(Old Translation of Psalm 131(132):8)

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    WPeterTurner Q. Biblical Basis for Biblical literalists: A. None. Pope Pius 1X and Catholics will disagree. – user13992 Aug 30 '14 at 23:56
  • I don't disagree with you that there is a Biblical Basis for Our Lady's singular grace, but you aren't going to see it spelled out for you. The best reason you didn't mention which is that she is a type for the ark of the covenant. And that is not a literal interpretation. – Peter Turner Aug 31 '14 at 16:08
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    FYI, the earliest church fathers saw Christ as the ark of the covenant. – SLM May 4 '18 at 15:55
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The Bible doesn't itself have anything to say on the subject of Mary's conception (or birth), so the idea must have come from an outside tradition. I argued in a related question that Mary's honor needed to be defended at a very early stage in the Church's history. But the Immaculate Conception doctrine came much later.

However, the doctrine seems to logically follow from the related doctrine that Mary was without sin when Jesus was born. Augustine expressed this doctrine in his On Nature and Grace:

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.

In context, Augustine examined a list of pious men and women that Pelagius asserted had lived their entire lives without sin. Augustine excluded "the mother of our Lord and Saviour" and posed a hypothetical question: Would the rest of the people on the list agree that they were without sin or would they agree with 1st John 1:8 (ESV):

If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us.

But Augustine didn't actually assert that Mary was without sin. Rather he suggested that she was granted the grace to overcome sin on the basis of 1st John 3:5 (ESV):

You know that he appeared in order to take away sins, and in him there is no sin.

Notice that the main reason for considering the idea that Mary lived a sinless life is the same apologetic reason for considering the idea that Mary was a perpetual virgin: out of honor toward Christ.


Interestingly, Augustine in this work fought the heresy of Pelagianism and asserted the doctrine of Total depravity Therefore, he ought to have had every incentive to pin original sin on Mary at this point if he could bring himself to do so. That he didn't strongly suggests that he at least considered the idea that Mary was sinless from birth. However, his reasoning would have derived from the nature of Jesus and not the nature of Mary herself.

Aquinas stops just short of asserting that Mary was born completely sinless:

And although this appears to be part of the dignity of the Virgin Mother, yet it is somewhat derogatory to the dignity of Christ, without whose power no one had been freed from the first sentence of condemnation. And though, through faith in Christ, some were freed from that condemnation, according to the spirit, before Christ's Incarnation, yet it does not seem fitting that any one should be freed from that condemnation, according to the flesh, except after His Incarnation, for it was then that immunity from condemnation was first to appear.

(Note that Aquinas uses the word "fomes" as shorthand for the inclination to sin. He presumes that Mary was freed from that inclination from her conception until Jesus' conception so that He would be born without the taint of sin.)

  • St. Augustine taught the depravity of human nature post-Fall (a consequence of original sin). He did not teach the Calvinist doctrine of 'Total Depravity'. – Sola Gratia Jul 3 '17 at 14:23
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    The link Total Depravity provided in your answer is most probably meant to be: Total depravity. Capital "D" must be changed into "d". – drhab May 26 at 15:27
  • Good catch @drhab – Kris May 27 at 2:40
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What is the biblical basis for the Immaculate Conception?

It is the same reason that Pope Pius IX put forth in the Apostolic Constitution Ineffabilis Deus (Latin for "Ineffable God") that defined the dogma of the Immaculate Conception of the Blessed Virgin Mary. The decree was promulgated on December 8, 1854, the date of the annual Feast of the Immaculate Conception.

Supreme Reason for the Privilege: The Divine Maternity
And indeed it was wholly fitting that so wonderful a mother should be ever resplendent with the glory of most sublime holiness and so completely free from all taint of original sin that she would triumph utterly over the ancient serpent. To her did the Father will to give his only-begotten Son -- the Son whom, equal to the Father and begotten by him, the Father loves from his heart -- and to give this Son in such a way that he would be the one and the same common Son of God the Father and of the Blessed Virgin Mary. It was she whom the Son himself chose to make his Mother and it was from her that the Holy Spirit willed and brought it about that he should be conceived and born from whom he himself proceeds.

Might we find this Supreme Reason the Divine Maternity in Sacred Scripture?

Yes from the Angel's words:

In Lk 1:32 (RSVCE)
32 He will be great, and will be called the Son of the Most High; and the Lord God will give to him the throne of his father David,

And

In Lk 1:35 (RSVCE) 35 And the angel said to her, “The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you; therefore the child to be born will be called holy, the Son of God.

And Elizabeth filled with the Holy Spirit exclaims with a loud cry, '[a]nd why is this granted me, that the mother of my Lord should come to me?'

Therefore the "my LORD" of Elizabeth is "the Son of the Most High/the Son of God".

Thus the Supreme Reason, the Divine Maternity [Mary being the Mother of the Son of the Most High/the Son of God, the Mother of the LORD], is in the Bible.


And if this is true, did Mary not need to be saved from her sin?

The Catechism of the Catholic Church answers

CCC, 492 The "splendor of an entirely unique holiness" by which Mary is "enriched from the first instant of her conception" comes wholly from Christ: she is "redeemed, in a more exalted fashion, by reason of the merits of her Son".[LG 53, 56.]] The Father blessed Mary more than any other created person "in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places" and chose her "in Christ before the foundation of the world, to be holy and blameless before him in love".[cf. Eph 1:3-4.]

Please see also CCC, 508.


If she were sinless, then why would she have suffered the consequences of sin--that of death?

This question has no scriptural grounding. Two men born with original sin have not yet died and are no longer in the world, Enoch and Elijah, and Christ the sinless one died.

The reason Mary died is linked to that of her Son.


Closing

What biblical indications are there that Mary was conceived without sin?

God through Angel Gabriel greets Mary, "Hail, full of grace1". St. John the Baptist is born sinless but is sanctified after his conception. Therefore we can deduce that Mary was always full of grace from the very first moment of her existence.

1. Grace being a supernatural gift of God, freely bestowed upon us for our sanctification and salvation, Mary is therefore fully sanctified and fully saved.

What is now revealed in the New was hinted at in the Old:

Song of Solomon 4:7 (RSVCE)
7 You are all fair, my love; there is no flaw in you.

Please see also Ineffabilis Deus | Apostolic Constitution issued by Pope Pius IX on December 8, 1854 starting from Interpreters of the Sacred Scripture. - The entire Apostolic Constitution is very fruitful reading.


cf. Ineffabilis Deus | New Advent.

  • I do not understand your first point. All Luke 1:32 and 35 are saying is that Jesus is the son of God. Nothing in those verses suggests Mary was born without sin. – curiousdannii Sep 1 '14 at 4:53
  • @curiousdannii Please see latest edit. – user13992 Dec 6 '15 at 7:11
  • Sorry, but from my perspective your edit didn't help at all. Those verses might be consistent with the Divine Reason, but they don't directly lead to it. – curiousdannii Dec 8 '15 at 8:57
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    @PeterTurner I really appreciate the bounty award. May you and yours and all near and dear to you be blessed this holy season and always. – user13992 Dec 12 '15 at 19:10
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Pope Pius IX—who, in Ineffabilis Deus, defined the dogma of the Immaculate Conception, that Mary was conceived without Original Sin—cites:

  • Luke 1:28 ("Hail, full of grace, the Lord is with thee: blessed art thou among women."), 42 ("Blessed art thou among women, and blessed is the fruit of thy womb."):
    The Annunciation
    When the Fathers and writers of the Church meditated on the fact that the most Blessed Virgin was, in the name and by order of God himself, proclaimed full of grace22 by the Angel Gabriel when he announced her most sublime dignity of Mother of God, they thought that this singular and solemn salutation, never heard before, showed that the Mother of God is the seat of all divine graces and is adorned with all gifts of the Holy Spirit. To them Mary is an almost infinite treasury, an inexhaustible abyss of these gifts, to such an extent that she was never subject to the curse and was, together with her Son, the only partaker of perpetual benediction. Hence she was worthy to hear Elizabeth, inspired by the Holy Spirit, exclaim: “Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the fruit of your womb.”23
    22. Luke 1:28
    23. Luke 1:42

and

  • Genesis 3:15 ("I will put enmities between thee and the woman, and thy seed and her seed: she* shall crush thy head, and thou shalt lie in wait for her heel."), the Protoevangelium (Proto-Gospel):
    Explicit Affirmation . . .
    As if these splendid eulogies and tributes were not sufficient, the Fathers proclaimed with particular and definite statements that when one treats of sin, the holy Virgin Mary is not even to be mentioned; for to her more grace was given than was necessary to conquer sin completely.24 They also declared that the most glorious Virgin was Reparatrix of the first parents, the giver of life to posterity; that she was chosen before the ages, prepared for himself by the Most High, foretold by God when he said to the serpent, “I will put enmities between you and the woman.”25-unmistakable evidence that she was crushed the poisonous head of the serpent. And hence they affirmed that the Blessed Virgin was, through grace, entirely free from every stain of sin, and from all corruption of body, soul and mind; that she was always united with God and joined to him by an eternal covenant; that she was never in darkness but always in light; and that, therefore, she was entirely a fit habitation for Christ, not because of the state of her body, but because of her original grace.
    24. Cf. St. Augustine: De Natura et Gratia, c. 36 [=42].
    25. Genesis 3:15
    *"She shall crush": Ipsa, the woman; so divers of the fathers read this place, conformably to the Latin: others read it ipsum, viz., the seed. The sense is the same: for it is by her seed, Jesus Christ, that the woman crushes the serpent's head.
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There is no biblical basis for the immaculate conception of Mary. The fact that we do not even have reliable information of who her parents were reinforces this (an early Christian tradition, still accepted by many Catholics, was that they were called Joachim and Anne, but others say her father was called Heli). The Church acknowledges we have no historical evidence of any elements of their lives, yet such a private detail as Mary's conception is held as irrefutable dogma.

The tradition of Mary's immaculate conception was certainly held long before the time of Pope Pius IX, but it was he who, in 1854, published Ineffabilis Deus (The Immaculate Conception), declaring infallibly the Immaculate Conception to be a doctrine revealed by God and therefore to be believed firmly and constantly by all the faithful.

Pope Pius did not claim biblical support for his declaration, instead relying on precedent and tradition, in addition to revelation from God. The very absence of a claim to biblical support means that, although possibly justified by revelation, there is no biblical basis for the immaculate conception of Mary.

The immaculate conception means that Mary was free from the stain of original sin, but does not mean that she was necessarily free from all sin. However, being free from original sin means that she would be unlikely to have committed any sin.

  • Although Ineffabilis Deus does not say so explicitly, there is a long tradition, in both the Eastern and Western churches of calling Mary the Panagia, the All-Holy, which includes the tradition that Mary was also free of personal sin. (See Catechism number 493.) That does not mean that Mary was incapable of sinning, just that she, being free from the stain of Original Sin, was capable of not sinning (unlike the rest of us)—and, fortunately, the Church argues, she took advantage of that ability. – AthanasiusOfAlex Dec 7 '15 at 20:34
  • @AthanasiusOfAlex Agreed. You probably said that more lucidly than I did in my last paragraph. Here I only summarised the position, because it is incidental to the question of biblical basis. – Dick Harfield Dec 7 '15 at 20:37
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What is the biblical basis of Immaculate Conception?

Scriptures can only be understood thru the Created Wisdom of God in Proverbs 8:22.

Jesus is the Wisdom of God; the following verses support this teaching:

"But by His doing you are in Christ Jesus who became to us wisdom from God and righteousness and sanctification and redemption.( 1Corinthian 1:30 )

" But to those who are called both Jews.& Greek Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God." ( 1Corinthian 1:24 )

Jesus is the Wisdom of God, can Jesus the Logos dwell in a body subject to sins?

" For wisdom will not enter into malicious soul, nor dwell in a body subjects to sins." ( Wisdom 1:4 )

How does the scriptures described the chosen Woman destined to be the Theotokos;

" Thou art all fair, O my love, and there is not a spot in thee." ( Canticle4:7 )

When does God start preparing Mary as she was chosen before the creation time begins holy and blameless.( Ephesians 1:4 )

God prevented the seeds of corruption from forming the body of the Theotokos, whom will bear the Logos.

" Your eyes saw my unformed body; all the days ordained for me were written in your book before one of them came to be." ( Psalm139:16 )

When does Immaculate Conception begin?

The answer is, it's start from the seed.

" I will put enmity between thee and the Woman, and thy seed and her seed .She shall crush thy head, and thou shall lie in wait for her heel." ( Genesis3:15 )

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