Often in stain glass and other art, both Mary and Joseph are seen to have the 'halo' around them that also surround those of saints.

I was once told (by I think my religion teacher) that for Jesus, the son of God, to be born, he had to be born of parents possessing the holiness of God. Other than Jesus having to be of the house of David, were they any other requirements (preferably with a reference)? Or is this a distortion?

Also, if this was true, that only those with the holiness of God could parent His son, would that not require that all their parents before them have the same requirements to birth them?

Also, another thing I find interesting is I believe (as do my parents) is that we all possess the holiness of God, as we are all God's children with no favorites. While our decisions in this life effect our outcome in the after life, if not this one, does it in any way effect how God effects our lives other than our lack of letting him?

Sorry if I went off topic a bit with some additional questions, but if any of these are possible duplicate would love the link.

  • "possessing the holiness of God" - this is hard to define, sounds like you are asking if they were more God like than everyone else? At my church there isn't really much talk about either of them, rather that God used Mary's body for birthing His son. – Greg McNulty Jun 16 '12 at 0:15
  • @GregMcNulty More God like, or favored more by God, than everyone else. I had religion class 5th grade-end of high school, and sometimes I'm not sure what is the teacher's beliefs vs the church vs the bible. – user1760 Jun 16 '12 at 0:24
  • In case it was not clear from the question and the comment above: "my question is kind of a duplicate question asking about how Catholics view Mary" (For the record, it's not really a duplicate.) – Alypius Apr 12 '13 at 4:01

The Catholic Church has a uniquely developed perspective on this question. It is a dogma of the Catholic faith that Mary was immaculately conceived -- or in the words of Pope Pius IX:

We declare, pronounce, and define that the doctrine which holds that the most Blessed Virgin Mary, in the first instance of her conception, by a singular grace and privilege granted by Almighty God, in view of the merits of Jesus Christ, the Savior of the human race, was preserved free from all stain of original sin, is a doctrine revealed by God and therefore to be believed firmly and constantly by all the faithful

The Pope lays out the arguments from Scripture and Tradition in the 1854 document from which that quote is drawn, Ineffabilis Deus. But to briefly address your questions from a Catholic perspective:

  • Yes, Mary is uniquely holy among mere human beings -- and I use the word "mere" to distinguish her from Jesus, who is human but also divine and so uniquely holy among human beings in a different way.

  • By the same token Mary is uniquely favored. See especially Luke 1:28, 1:30, 1:42 and 1:48, which all seem to indicate fairly clearly (whatever one thinks about the dogma of the Immaculate Conception) that Mary holds a special place in God's providence and is worthy of our special attention.1

  • No, there is not an infinite regress of ancestors of Mary who would themselves have needed to be just as holy -- she was personally and individually given a unique grace.
  • St. Joseph, being the spouse of Mary and the adoptive father of Jesus, is held in greet esteem in the Catholic Church -- Scripture attests his righteousness unequivocally, and after Mary he would have known the Lord more intimately than anyone else, at least in an earthly sense.
  • But Joseph is not on the same level as Mary, who is called in a true sense the mother of God. As the Wikipedia article nicely explains it, summarizing what the Council of Ephesus taught in the year 431 (principally to combat the error of Nestorius about the person of Jesus): "her son Jesus is one person who is both God and man".

1 For less clear but still evocative indications of Mary's special role, see Luke 2:35, John 2:5, and Acts 1:14. And then there are texts that have additional significance if one already accepts the Catholic perspective, such as John 19:26-27 and Revelation 12:1-6.

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    This is a very clear and direct answer to a complicated question. Well done. – Alypius Apr 13 '13 at 1:50

Your questions and observations seem quite contrary to the Protestant faith. I am not sure from what faith you are deriving these ideas. However I can say from the Protestant faith that Mary and Joseph were sinners and all are born into sin. Therefore Mary and Joseph did not need to posses the holiness of God; rather they needed the Christ to die for their sin:

Surely I was sinful at birth, sinful from the time my mother conceived me. (Psalm 51:5)

From Romans 3:9-18 we see how bad this state is:

9What shall we conclude then? Are we any better d? Not at all! We have already made the charge that Jews and Gentiles alike are all under sin. 10As it is written: “There is no one righteous, not even one; 11 there is no one who understands, no one who seeks God. 12 All have turned away, they have together become worthless; there is no one who does good, not even one.” 13 “Their throats are open graves; their tongues practice deceit.” “The poison of vipers is on their lips.” 14 “Their mouths are full of cursing and bitterness.” 15 “Their feet are swift to shed blood; 16 ruin and misery mark their ways, 17 and the way of peace they do not know.” 18 “There is no fear of God before their eyes.”

'All are under sin' includes Mary and Joseph, but not Jesus. The Protestant faith thinks that unless Jesus died for Mary, she would have been cast into hell upon her death. Catholics believe that Mary was immaculately conceived.

What was 'needed' was a virgin for the Spirit to create a body for the Christ, from her womb. God provided a body for the eternal Son to assume human nature through the Virgin Mary. This way Jesus was the only human not born in sin, because he was born a God-Man. He was God and Man in one person, human and divine. Mary was only needed so that the eternal Son, who is God, would become a human also. If Jesus has been born from Mary and Joseph, then he would have been a sinner needing a Christ to save him.

God needed to assume human nature so that He could offer the human soul and body of Jesus as an atoning sacrifice for the sins of the whole world, including the great and many sins of all those people with halos on paintings.

“For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. (John 3:16)

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    Just a brief clarification on the Catholic doctrine: We too believe that Christ died for Mary. The immaculate conception is a unique grace, but like all grace it flows from the passion, death, and resurrection of the Lord. – Ben Dunlap Jun 18 '12 at 3:25
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    "The Protestant faith thinks that unless Jesus died for Mary, she would have been cast into hell upon her death." Uh, I'm pretty sure this isn't a view that all of Protestantism holds. After all, Abraham and other OT saints were saved by faith... – El'endia Starman Jun 18 '12 at 5:06
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    @El'endiaStarman - Sorry I must respectfully disagree. Protestant theologians (possibly all) believe that people before Christ could be saved from faith in his future death, just as we are saved from his past death. Without Christ, Abraham, Kind David, Mary, the Apostle Paul, ect. would all suffer eternal fire for their very many and great sins without that faith in Jesus. Look up any Bible commentator on the verses I have quote and you may confirm if what I am saying is true. I encourage you to do so, you may be surprised what you find. Just make sure they were a Protestant. Cheers – Mike Jun 18 '12 at 5:31
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    @Mike Catholics also believe that Christ died for the past, present, and future sins of all (not just a Protestant belief). – Andrew Jun 18 '12 at 6:34
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    @Mike Yes. CCC 493: By the grace of God Mary remained free of every personal sin her whole life long. – Ben Dunlap Jun 19 '12 at 20:59

I believe that the Catholic Church exalts Mary above her true status. first, she is not the mother of God; she is the mother of the earthly incarnation of God, which is a very different thing. God Almighty has always existed, and created all things. (Maybe a small point, but an important one) Second, Jesus Himself did not give her special status; in Luke 11:27-28, a woman says, "Blessed is the mother who gave you birth and nursed you", and He replied, "Blessed rather are those who hear the word of God and do it." (NIV) Third, there is a movement in the Catholic Church, which I have heard referred to as the Cult of Mary, which teaches that Mary is equal to Christ in granting salvation, and we can pray only to Mary and be saved. (Pope John Paul II and Mother Teresa both believed and promoted this) There is nothing in Scripture that even hints at this as a doctrine. Jesus said (John 14:6, NIV),"I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me." He did not say "Mom and me." Mary is important, but we need to be careful not to give her a status she does not deserve.

  • "Blessed is the mother who gave you birth and nursed you" - Good quote, both in context and out. – user1760 Jun 21 '12 at 12:26
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    Nice one, Nestorius. But wrong. After all, who is the mother of my Lord and who is the Lord, but God? If Jesus didn't give her special status, neither did He give anyone else special status, except Peter. Although, He did give her special status, when He said "woman, behold your son" when He made her mother of the Church. The last part about Pope John Paul II and Mother Theresa is absolutely untrue, everything they ever said about Mary pointed the faithful to Jesus and never attempted to sidestep Him. – Peter Turner Jun 21 '12 at 18:33
  • The Catholic Church doesn't exalt Mary to be higher than or equal to Jesus. However, Jesus respected his mother, even to the point of performing a miracle before his time for miracles had come (John 2), so who are we to disrespect her? – Bobo Aug 19 '13 at 23:01