The belief that Mary never committed sin has been around a long time, much longer than the final formulation of the doctrine of her immaculate conception (which happened around the 13th century). Augustine (d. 430), despite his doctrine of original sin, apparently carved out an exception for her, as summarized in the Encyclopedia of Ancient Christianity's entry on Mary:

Augustine, drawn into the problem of Mary’s holiness by Pelagius, affirms against the opinion of his adversary that Mary, propter honorem Domini, is the only woman without sin (De nat. et gratia 36,42).

On the other hand, Augustine's contemporary John Chrysostom (d. 407) apparently didn't go quite so far:

Even John Chrysostom (d. 407), although attributing some imperfection to Mary, nonetheless holds her up as the example of the woman who overcomes human weaknesses (Co. Io. 20-21).

I'd like to know if any after Chrysostom believed that Mary committed sin. I'd guess that the influence of Augustine would reduce the likelihood of finding this view in the West, but perhaps one or more fathers in the East continued to hold that she was less than morally perfect.

This question follows typical definitions of what a "church father" is, but to spell it out, they are "ancient and generally influential Christian theologians" (as Wikipedia says), not those closely associated with heretical movements (such as the Pelagian Julian of Eclanum), and not the anonymous authors of popular apocryphal stories. And we'll say that the last of the church fathers is John of Damascus (d. 749).


Cyril of Alexandria (A. D. 376 – 444)- A recognized Father of the Eastern Orthodox Church, appears to have held that Mary had committed sin.

This is not without controversy though, and ultimately comes down to how one interprets each of the passages I will provide.

Although an early contemporary of John Chrysostom, Cyril of Alexandria carried on his mariological belief long after John's passing in 407 A.D.

In his 12th book of "The Commentary on John" Cyril records what he perceives as sinful action that Mary undertook while Christ was on the cross:

“For, doubtless, some such train of thought as this passed through her mind: ‘I conceived Him That is mocked upon the Cross. He said, indeed, that He was the true Son of Almighty God, but it may be that He was deceived; He may have erred when He said: I am the Life. How did His crucifixion come to pass? and how was He entangled in the snares of His murderers? How was it that He did not prevail over the conspiracy of His persecutors against Him? And why does He not come down from the Cross, though He bade Lazarus return to life, and struck all Judaea with amazement by His miracles?" The woman, as is likely, not exactly understanding the mystery, wandered astray into some such train of thought” (Cyril of Alexandria, Commentary on John, Book 12). (Emphasis added.)

Although in this passage Cyril seems to indicate sinful behavior on the part of Mary, it is not so clear based on his other writings.

In his II Homily at The Ecumenical Church at Ephesus, Cyril appears to be observing an "uncorrupt" image of the Virgin:

Hail, Mary Theotokos, Virgin-Mother, lightbearer, uncorrupt vessel . . . Hail Mary, you are the most precious creature in the whole world; hail, Mary, uncorrupt dove; hail, Mary, inextinguishable lamp; for from you was born the Sun of justice . . . Through you, every faithful soul achieves salvation. (Homily 11 at the Ecumenical Council of Ephesus; Gambero, 243, 245) - (Emphasis added.)

It must be noted, Cyril of Alexandria certainly did not have an antagonistic view on Mary. In fact, Cyril was one of the greatest proponents in the Nestorian Schism for referring to Mary as the previously quoted, "Θεοτόκος," or "Mother of God."

Cyril attributed great honor to Mary when writing to monks in Egypt about Nestorius' views:

"I am amazed that there are some who are entirely in doubt as to whether the holy Virgin should be called Theotokos or not. For if our Lord Jesus Christ is God, how is the holy Virgin who gave [Him] birth, not [Theotokos]?" (Epistle 1, to the monks of Egypt; PG 77:13B).

Nonetheless, based upon one's interpretation of the referenced writings, Cyril seems to be the only other Father to have held a view of Mary that denied her sinlessness.

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