I am reading The Life & Glories of Saint Joseph, by Edward Healy Thompson, which was first published in 1888. At the start of Chapter VII, in which the argument is made that Joseph was born without original sin (related, but not identical to how Mary was immaculately conceived), he says this:

From Holy Scripture we also learn that some souls through divine predilection, as those of Jeremias [a.k.a. Jeremiah] and [John] the Baptist, were sanctified before they saw the light of day.

Unfortunately, Thompson doesn’t explain which parts of Holy Scripture he is referring to and seems to assume that the reader already knows.

What is the biblical basis that Jeremiah and John the Baptist were sanctified before birth (i.e. born without original sin)?

  • I don't think this is a common belief. If it's not a common belief, then we can't really answer why people believe it, since every person probably has their own reasons. If Thompson doesn't explain his reasons when we are unlikely to be able to. Commented Mar 23, 2019 at 15:05
  • Also : for I have been a Nazarite unto God from my mother's womb (which Thompson seems to have missed) Judges 16:17.
    – Nigel J
    Commented Mar 23, 2019 at 18:33
  • @Ken Graham that's exactly the obvious difference, God set apart & appointed Jeremiah while St.John the Baptist by the meaning of his name "Yahweh is Gracious". God is the one who act on behalf of Jeremiah consecration while Theotokos intercession aided the prayer of St.Elizabeth to consecrate John. I will just ask this as a separate question. Thanks Commented Mar 24, 2019 at 18:17

4 Answers 4


Is there a biblical basis for believing that the Prophet Jeremiah and St. John the Baptist were born without original sin?

Some Catholics do believe that the Prophet Jeremiah and St. John the Baptist were born without original sin. This pious belief, however has of yet not been raised to the level of a dogma.

First of let us consider St. John the Baptist.

As Catholics we believe that, by a divine prerogative from God, Mary was conceived with no stain of original sin. It is not impossible that St. John, although he was not conceived immaculately may have been purified while still in the womb of St Elizabeth! Although not dogma , the Church has not yet pronounced on this subject.

"There is a solid tradition in the Church that says St. John the Baptist was purified of original sin shortly after he was conceived, while still in the womb of St. Elizabeth. So, this episode of the Gospel referring to the child in the womb hearing Our Lady’s voice, understanding her words and loving her is completely credible." - Professor Plino Correa de Olivra

Here is how Wikipedia puts it:

"Some Catholics have held to a belief that John the Baptist never sinned, though this has never been a point of doctrine and is not binding in belief upon any adherent as is the sinlessness of Mary. In her Treatise of Prayer, Saint Catherine of Siena includes a brief altercation with the Devil regarding her fight due to the Devil attempting to lure her with vanity and flattery. Speaking in the first person, Saint Catherine of Siena responds to the Devil with the following words:

...humiliation of yourself, and you answered the Devil with these words: 'Wretch that I am! John the Baptist never sinned and was sanctified in his mother's womb. And I have committed so many sins..." — Catherine of Siena, , A Treatise of Prayer, 1370.[85][86]"

St. Catherine of Sienna was declared a Doctor of the Church on October 3, 1970 by Pope Paul VI.

"Now during the sixth month, the Annunciation had taken place, and, as Mary had heard from the angel the fact of her cousin's conceiving, she went "with haste" to congratulate her. "And it came to pass, that when Elizabeth heard the salutation of Mary, the infant" — filled, like the mother, with the Holy Ghost — "leaped for joy in her womb", as if to acknowledge the presence of his Lord. Then was accomplished the prophetic utterance of the angel that the child should "be filled with the Holy Ghost even from his mother's womb". Now, as the presence of any sin whatever is incompatible with the indwelling of the Holy Ghost in the soul, it follows that at this moment John was cleansed from the stain of original sin. When "Elizabeth's full time of being delivered was come. . .she brought forth a son" (Luke 1:57); and "on the eighth day they came to circumcise the child, and they called him by his father's name Zachary. And his mother answering, said: Not so, but he shall be called John. And they said to her: There is none of thy kindred that is called by this name. And they made sign to his father, how he would have him called. And demanding a writing table, he wrote, saying: John is his name. And they all wondered" (Luke 1:59-63). They were not aware that no better name could be applied (John, Hebrew; Jehohanan, i.e. "Jahweh hath mercy") to him who, as his father prophesied, was to "go before the face of the Lord to prepare his ways; to give knowledge of salvation to his people, unto remission of their sins: through the bowels of the mercy of our God" (Luke 1:76-78). Moreover, all these events, to wit, a child born to an aged couple, Zachary's sudden dumbness, his equally sudden recovery of speech, his astounding utterance, might justly strike with wonderment the assembled neighbours; these could hardly help asking: "What an one, think ye, shall this child be?" (Luke 1:66)." - Catholic Encyclopedia.

Now if St John was in fact purified while in the womb of his mother he would the greatest of those born of women (Matthew 11:11). Mary's immaculate conception still puts her above St John!

"Truly I tell you, among those born of women no one has arisen greater than John the Baptist; yet the least in the kingdom of heaven is greater than he."

As for the Prophet Jeremiah, the biblical references are seemingly limited to a single passage.

St. Joseph’s “confirmation in grace” makes perfect sense in light of the Holy Family’s role in the Incarnation, and St. John the Baptist’s similar confirmation is biblical. But, why does tradition single out Jeremiah, of all the prophets, for a similar honor?

Most sources point to a single passage:

“Before I formed thee in the bowels of thy mother, I knew thee: and before thou camest forth out of the womb, I sanctified thee, and made thee a prophet unto the nations.” (Jeremiah 1:5, D-R)

[Cornelius] Lapide says that Jeremias was the one prophet of the OT who was sanctified in the womb for the reason that by his holiness he sustained Jerusalem and the assembly of Israel at the most difficult time in Old Testament history – the exile.

Also, Jeremias was a prophet not only to the Jews but also the Gentiles:

et antequam exires de vulva, sanctificavi te,

et prophetam in gentibus dedi te. (Jer 1:4)

So in this way, Jeremias belonged to the New Covenant in a mystical sense.

I (Dr Tallor Marshall) would also add, though Lapide doesn’t say it, that Jeremias appears again in 2 Maccabees as the special advocate of Jerusalem.

Why Was Jeremias Sanctified in His Mother’s Womb?

Here are a few helpful articles for those interested:

  • Does the word "sanctified" alone make St.John the Baptist and prophet Jeremiah "holy & blameless"? Sanctification alone is just washing away the original sin like Baptism to make holy but not blameless. How about the stain of original sin? Don't you think St.John the Baptist & Jeremiah was cleansed too of stain of original sin? The question is how? That's why the bible made in contrast the work of God in Jeremiah and the presence of Theotokos in John the Baptist, both are in the womb. Don't you think they need to be consecrated while in the womb to remove the stain? Commented Mar 24, 2019 at 5:28
  • @marianagustin This isn't the place to debate the theology of the question, but the structure of the answer. If you don't believe that the answer applies well to the question, you're free to downvote it; but comments aren't for discussion of followup questions.
    – Ken Graham
    Commented Mar 24, 2019 at 14:14
  • ok, so where is the biblical reference to your answer to addressed the question? I cannot see it upon reading it again I only see reference to Tradition and cited St.Catherine of Sienna words but no biblical passage to support that Jeremiah & St.John was born without original sin. Commented Mar 24, 2019 at 18:22
  • @marianagustin I have 7 references to Holy Scripture.
    – Ken Graham
    Commented Mar 24, 2019 at 20:36
  • Ken if mere mentioned of St.John the Baptist name ward the devil off as told by St.Catherine of Sienna would you affirmed that St.John was born too without the stain of original sin? Otherwise the devil will say to St.Catherine, John the Baptist was also infected by our malice, we also conquered him after his birth. In my case I upheld both Jeremiah John the Baptist was born without stain too as Ephesians1:4-6 upheld "holy & blameless". Commented Mar 28, 2019 at 1:16

While I have never heard this doctrine before, I assume the biblical origins of it are for John the Baptist:

Luke 1:15 - he will be filled with the Holy Spirit, even from his mother’s womb

And for Jeremiah:

Jeremiah 1:5 - “Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, before you were born I set you apart; I appointed you as a prophet to the nations.”

I don't think that these are necessarily proof of no original sin but could easily be where a doctrine derived from. The case of John the Baptist is certainly unusual having the Holy Spirit before birth. Jeremiah is just a special case of Psalm 139:16 -

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

  • Psalm139:6 is not for Jeremiah, it is more fitting for Mary flesh as unformed means only a seed not yet united to eggcell to become what we called "formed". St.Joachim generated a "spotless seed" is the "unformed body" and St.John Damascene in the 8th century already teaches this view.catholictradition.org/Mary/mary19-2.htm Commented Mar 23, 2019 at 23:50
  • @marianagustin Psalm 139 is very clearly David's words concerning God's sovereignty over him. Commented Dec 9, 2022 at 13:22

Addressing the objection that only the Blessed Virgin was sanctified in the womb, St. Thomas Aquinas says that (Summa Theologica III q. 27 a. 6 ad 1)

The blessed Virgin, who was chosen by God to be His Mother, received a fuller grace of sanctification than John the Baptist and Jeremias, who were chosen to foreshadow in a special way the sanctification effected by Christ. A sign of this is that it was granted to the Blessed Virgin thence-forward never to sin either mortally or venially: whereas to the others who were thus sanctified it was granted thenceforward not to sin mortally, through the protection of God's grace.

Thus, Jeremiah's and St. John the Baptist's being "sanctified in the womb" is not identical to being "preserved free from all stain of original sin" (Ineffabilis Deus by Pope Pius IX, dogmatic definition of the Immaculate Conception)?

  • you mentioned "full sanctification" was given to Jeremiah & St.John the Baptist if i recall it correctly but you already deleted your comment. your answers read that both Jeremiah & John was born not only cleanse of original sin but also even the stain was wash-away, is this correct? Commented Mar 27, 2019 at 23:55
  • @marianagustin Jeremiah and St. John the Baptist had original sin, but the Blessed Virgin never did.
    – Geremia
    Commented Mar 27, 2019 at 23:59
  • Yes I agree on that, what Im asking is the meaning of "sanctified in the womb"? Are they cleansed too of stain or the stain remains? Commented Mar 28, 2019 at 0:07
  • @marianagustin It's like baptism, which normally can't be done in utero: "Children while in the mother's womb have not yet come forth into the world to live among other men. Consequently they cannot be subject to the action of man, so as to receive the sacrament, at the hands of man, unto salvation. They can, however, be subject to the action of God, in Whose sight they live, so as, by a kind of privilege, to receive the grace of sanctification; as was the case with those who were sanctified in the womb."
    – Geremia
    Commented Mar 28, 2019 at 0:26
  • So, is Jeremiah & John born with stain of original sin? Commented Mar 28, 2019 at 0:57

What is the biblical basis for Jeremiah and John the Baptist being born without original sin?

The answer is Ephesians1:4-6, because both prophet Jeremiah & St.John the Baptist are chosen before the foundation of the world.The keyword is "holy & blameless".

IMPORTANT NOTE TO PONDER : God put the WORD/Logos into Jeremiah's mouth, while St.John the Baptist in the womb of her mother St.Elizabeth was visited by "the Theotokos who is bearing the Logos/Incarnate WORD in Her most pure womb."

Ephesians 1:4-6 New International Version (NIV)

"For he chose us in him before the creation of the world to be holy and blameless in his sight. In love he predestined us for adoption to sonship through Jesus Christ, in accordance with his pleasure and will to the praise of his glorious grace, which he has freely given us in the One he loves.

What is the next good question? Why is St.John the Baptist nativity was celebrated by Church Liturgical calendar along with Jesus & Mary while prophet Jeremiah was not included?

Of all the feast days in the liturgical calendar of the Catholic Church, only three birthdays are observed: the Nativity of our Divine Savior, Who is Holiness Itself; St. John the Baptist, who was sanctified in his mother's womb; and Mary, the ever-virgin Mother of God, whose birthday is celebrated on the eighth of September.http://www.thesacredheart.com/mary.htm

If St.John the Baptist nativity was celebrated alongside Jesus & Mary it would be logical to think that he was also born like Jesus & Mary free from original sin and the most important thing is St.John the Baptist was cleansed from all stain of original sin too. Now, how can the Church explain this feast of nativity of St.John the Baptist?

Let us be clear on the proper understanding on this, St.John the Baptist contracted the guilt of original sin that was passed on by his father Zechariah. The seed that comes from Zechariah was not spotless if we compare it to the "spotless seed" that was poured out by St.Joachim the pious father of the Blessed Virgin Mary.

“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 (ante A.D. 749).

"O blessed loins of Joachim, whence the all-pure seed was poured out! O glorious womb of Anna, in which the most holy fetus grew and was formed, silently increasing! O womb in which was conceived the living heaven, wider than the wideness of the heavens."

A Little Treatise on Mary by St. John Damascene

For a more fuller explanation on "spotless seed" of St. Joachim please see this link. Did St. Joachim prevent the transmission of original sin to Mary by overcoming concupiscence?

If we based our appreciation on the Church Liturgical Feast celebration of St.John the Baptist nativity over prophet Jeremiah nativity it would seem that Jeremiah was born cleansed of original sin but with the stain of original sin not fully wash away. How come? What is the biblical explanation of this mystery?

The Sacrament of Baptism washes away our soul of original sin and the sanctifying grace was poured out. But since we are all descendant of Adam, our soul live in our body with a fallen nature meaning we come from a "corrupted seed". Our bodies having inherited a fallen nature had an inclination to sin or what we called "concupiscence". The Sacrament of Baptism does not wash away the "concupiscence". The Catholic Church teaches that thru continuous worthy reception of the Holy Eucharist the "concupiscence" are wash-away and the "transformation" process will take effect. CCC1000 is the Church Teaching on the washing away of the "concupiscence" meaning our fallen nature can be healed if we received the "body,blood, soul & divinity" of our Lord Jesus Christ in the Holy Eucharist.

For a complete explanation on the "washing away" of the concupiscence" please see this link; How can a Christian be freed from concupiscence and thereby possess a sinless body?

Prophet Jeremiah and St.John the Baptist were both "sanctified" in the womb. But what makes St.John the Baptist nativity greater than prophet Jeremiah was their Mother participation in embracing God's Will or purpose for their child. The bible does not state any significance attributes for the Mother of Jeremiah, while St.John the Baptist mother was mentioned particularly as "filled with the Holy Spirit". Let's ponder the beautiful mystery of why St.John the Baptist was healed of "concupiscence" while still in her mother's womb. The secret, is how the Theotokos for three months taught St.Elizabeth the prayer of consecration by daily praying the Magnificat as revealed by Blessed Catherine Emmerich. Not only the praying of Magnificat but especially St.Elizabeth must be fed mystically too by the "Bread of Life".

More on the Blessed Virgin Mary "Mystery of Visitation" teaching St.Elizabeth and the mystical phenomenon sorrounding their daily prayer and the food that they were eating can be found here in this link;https://www.ccel.org/ccel/emmerich/lifemary.xiii.html

In the case of Jeremiah God sanctified him in the womb to make him holy or received the sanctifying grace to restore the Divine friendship with God. But God take further action on Jeremiah to make him not only holy but "blameless or righteous" too by touching his lips to receive the Word of God to proclaim it. God healed Jeremiah of his "concupiscence" before sending him on a mission.This is like receiving Jesus Christ the Bread of Life or the WORD internally like the Holy Eucharist to cleanse his soul of concupiscence.

"Then the Lord reached out his hand and touched my mouth and said to me, “I have put my words in your mouth."(Jeremiah1:9)

For St.John the Baptist, he was fortunate to have a pious mother St.Elizabeth that was timely aided by the great intercession of the Theotokos to help her in consecrating St.John the Baptist.

We are seeing here a comparison, God in the Old Testament were consecrating the chosen souls and in the New Testament the Theotokos was now the one consecrating the chosen soul the last prophet.That's why among the promises of the Holy Rosary is "predestination". God in the OT was consecrating the "predestined souls" in Ephesians1:4-6 and after the Mystery of the Annunciation, Mary the Theotokos was now involve in consecrating the chosen souls for the gift of predestination.

"Devotion of my Rosary is a great sign of predestination."http://www.themostholyrosary.com/15promises.htm

In closing, St.John the Baptist and Jeremiah was both "sanctified in the womb" of their mothers. The major difference is St.John the Baptist nativity was celebrated by the Catholic Church Liturgical Calendar as a feast meaning St.John the Baptist was born like Jesus & Mary without original sin plus the guilt or stain of original sin was removed too. The Catholic Church does not defined nor teaches explicitly that St.John the Baptist was born without the stain of original sin but Jesus Christ proclaiming St.John the Baptist as the greatest prophet of all time and praising his Mother St.Elizabeth is the key to ponder.

Jesus Testifies about John …"This is the one about whom it is written: ‘Behold, I will send My messenger ahead of You, who will prepare Your way before You.’ Truly I tell you, among those born of women there has risen no one greater than John the Baptist. Yet even the least in the kingdom of heaven is greater than he". (Matthew11:10-11)

We can infer thru the Wisdom of the Theotokos that St.Elizabeth and St.John the Baptist was praised by Jesus Christ because they overcome or was healed by "concupiscence" by the presence of "The Logos carried in the First Tabernacle overshadowed by the Holy Spirit". Truly the presence of the New Ark of the Covenant for three months in the house of Zechariah and St.Elizabeth do wonder of miraculous healing for their family. Zechariah was healed when St.John the Baptist was born and St.Elizabeth was filled by the Holy Spirit and aided by the great intercession of the Theotokos brought healing on their "concupiscence".

God put the Logos/Word in Jeremiah's mouth to heal him of his *"concupiscence".*While the Logos/Incarnate Word carried by the Theotokos on Her pure womb was brought to the pregnant St.Elizabeth to heal St.John the Baptist of his "concupiscence" while still inside the womb.

This is a great mystery to ponder and no wonder why the "Visitation of Mary to her cousin Elizabeth" was included in the Joyful Mystery.Now I know why it is very important to meditate the mystery of the Holy Rosary not just reciting it vocally. Again, Blessed Catherine Emmerich visions aided this answer to know why St.John the Baptist is the Greatest prophet in the biblical history.

  • Note: Sanctified means original sin was removed like the Sacrament of Baptism where in the sanctifying grace was given freely to restored Divine Life to a soul. But consecration means a further action was done not just sanctification. All of the baptized souls was sanctified by the merit of Christ but not all who were baptized was consecrated. Jeremiah was not only sanctified, he was consecrated by God Himself. St.John the Baptist was consecrated by St.Elizabeth with the intercession of Theotokos while St.Joseph was more privelege as Jesus & Mary was there to consecrate him.. Commented Mar 24, 2019 at 10:12
  • Can you demonstrate the "spotless seed" of St Joachim from the Bible? Commented Dec 9, 2022 at 13:24
  • @MikeBorden ponder Psalm139:16 Commented Apr 6, 2023 at 9:42
  • This is a verse explaining God's unsearchable knowledge in the middle of a Psalm extolling God's unsearchable knowledge which ends with the Psalmist humbling himself before God's great knowledge. I don't know what you are trying to pull out of this Psalm. Commented Apr 6, 2023 at 12:18
  • @MikeBorden "unformed body" is the key word to ponder. A zygote is a formed body, while a sperm not united to egg cell is still unformed. St.Joachim pour out a "spotless seed", this is the reason why Mary is preserved from stain of original sin, because St.Joachim was healed of concupiscence, and the sexual procreation act with St.Anne was sanctified, thereby, producing, an offspring so pure, it surpasses the beauty of all creatures combined, even the angels was in awe with the beauty after seeing the birth of the Virgin Mary. Commented Apr 6, 2023 at 12:23

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