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The Catholic belief of “Mary’s Assumption” is the idea that after Mary, the mother of Jesus, died, she was taken up body and soul into heaven by God. This means that she did not undergo physical death like everyone else but was instead assumed to go directly into heaven. This belief is based on the idea that Mary was a special and holy person, chosen by God to be the mother of Jesus, and that it was fitting for her to receive this special honor of being assumed into heaven. This belief is not mentioned in the Bible but has been held by the Catholic Church for many centuries and is celebrated as a feast day on August 15th.
NOTE: The Jerusalem Bible (JB) is a Roman Catholic translation of the Bible into modern English, first published in 1966. It is named after the city of Jerusalem, as it was primarily translated by scholars from the Ecole Biblique in Jerusalem. It is widely used by Catholics and is used here in this article.
Pope Pius XII announced on November 1, 1950, that the Catholic Church considers Mary’s assumption into heaven, both in body and soul, to be an infallible belief. “THE immaculate mother of God, Mary ever Virgin, when the course of her life on earth was finished, was taken up body and soul into heaven.” Thus spoke Pope Pius XII.
Christians believe in the Bible as the source of truth from God. People who are sincere in their faith strive to understand the truth and are willing to change their beliefs to align with God’s teachings. This was the case with a minority of Jews who became the first Christians, including the apostle Paul, who believed that God’s word should be accepted as truth, even if it goes against the beliefs of others, including the pope. The apostle Paul wrote: Let God be found true, though every man be found a liar.” (Rom. 3:4)
The papal pronouncement mentioned above raises some concerns when examined. Firstly, the statement “the immaculate mother of God” contains two inaccuracies. The Catholic belief of the “immaculate conception” holds that Mary was free from original sin from the moment of her conception. However, the Bible states that all people have sinned and are subject to death, with the exception of Jesus. Additionally, Mary cannot be considered the mother of God as God has no beginning or mother. Mary was the human mother of Jesus, who is the Son of God.
“Mary ever Virgin.” This is not true. Of Joseph and Mary, it is written: “He had no relations with her until she gave birth to a son; and he called his name ‘Jesus.’” The meaning is clear that they did have sexual relations after the miraculous, virgin birth of Jesus. The Scriptures also abundantly testify that Mary had sons and daughters, brothers and sisters of Jesus, after Jesus’ birth. Of Jesus his hometown acquaintances queried: “Is this not the carpenter’s son? Is not his mother called ‘Mary’, and his brothers ‘James and Joseph and Simon and Judas’? And his sisters, are they not all with us?”—Matt. 1:25; 12:46-50; 13:53-56; John 7:3, 5, 10; Acts 1:14; Gal. 1:19.
The statement that Mary was taken up body and soul into heaven is not supported by the Bible. In 1 Corinthians 15, Paul explains that the physical human body cannot be taken to heaven and that flesh and blood cannot inherit God’s kingdom. He states that when a person dies, their physical body is sown and a spiritual body is raised. These verses refute the assumption dogma and suggest that Mary, like all people, would not have taken her physical body with her after her life on earth was finished.
The Assumption of Mary is one of the four Marian dogmas of the Catholic Church, which was defined in 1950 by Pope Pius XII in his apostolic constitution Munificentissimus Deus. The belief that Mary was taken up into Heaven, both in body and soul, has been part of the Catholic teaching since the 5th century. The doctrine of the Assumption of Mary began with a historical tradition and was developed over time through the writings of various Church Fathers and Doctors of the Church. Eventually, over the centuries, the Church defined the dogma of Mary’s Assumption and declared it as a doctrine of the Catholic faith.
The Roman Catholic Church does not have any specific Bible text that supports the doctrine of the Assumption of Mary. The doctrine is based upon tradition and is not explicitly stated in Scripture.
In commenting on the proclamation made by Pope Pius XII in 1950 that made this dogma an official article of the Catholic faith, the New Catholic Encyclopedia (1967, Vol. I, p. 972) states: “There is no explicit reference to the Assumption in the Bible, yet the Pope insists in the decree of promulgation that the Scriptures are the ultimate foundation of this truth.”
Was Mary Always a Virgin?
Matt. 13:53-56, JB: “When Jesus had finished these parables, he left the district; and, coming to his home town, he taught the people in their synagogue in such a way that they were astonished and said, ‘Where did the man get this wisdom and these miraculous powers? This is the carpenter’s son, surely? Is not his mother the woman called Mary, and his brothers [Greek, a·del·phoiʹ] James and Joseph and Simon and Jude? His sisters [Greek, a·del·phaiʹ], too, are they not all here with us?’”
Jesus Was Not Mary’s Only Child
The New Catholic Encyclopedia (1967, Vol. IX, p. 337) admits regarding the Greek words a·del·phoiʹ and a·del·phaiʹ, used at Matthew 13:55, 56, that these “have the meaning of full blood brother and sister in the Greek-speaking world of the Evangelist’s time and would naturally be taken by his Greek reader in this sense. Toward the end of the 4th century (c. 380) Helvidius in a work now lost pressed this fact in order to attribute to Mary other children besides Jesus so as to make her a model for mothers of larger families. St. Jerome, motivated by the Church’s traditional faith in Mary’s perpetual virginity, wrote a tract against Helvidius (A.D. 383) in which he developed an explanation . . . that is still in vogue among Catholic scholars.”
Mark 3:31-35, JB: “His mother and brothers now arrived and, standing outside, sent in a message asking for him. A crowd was sitting round him at the time the message was passed to him, ‘Your mother and brothers and sisters are outside asking for you’. He replied, ‘Who are my mother and my brothers?’ And looking round at those sitting in a circle about him, he said, ‘Here are my mother and my brothers. Anyone who does the will of God, that person is my brother and sister and mother.’”
The Bible makes a clear distinction between Jesus’ natural brothers and his spiritual brothers, who were his disciples. In the Gospels, the reference to Jesus’ mother and his brothers is straightforward and does not suggest any deviation from the literal meaning. However, when referring to relatives, the Greek language uses a different word, “syg·ge·nonʹ,” as seen in Luke 21:16. So, it would not be consistent to interpret Jesus’ natural brothers as cousins instead of siblings. The distinction between natural and spiritual relationships is emphasized in the passage from Mark 3:31-35, where Jesus replies to the message from his mother and brothers by saying that anyone who does the will of God is his brother, sister, and mother.
Was Mary the Mother of God?
The angel who informed her of the coming miraculous birth did not say that her son would be God. He said: “You are to conceive and bear a son, and you must name him Jesus. He will be great and will be called Son of the Most High. . . . The child will be holy and will be called Son of God.”—Luke 1:31-35, JB; italics added.
Heb. 2:14, 17, JB: “Since all the children share the same blood and flesh, he [Jesus] too shared equally in it . . . It was essential that he should in this way become completely like his brothers.”
But would he have been “completely like his brothers” if he had been a God-man?
The New Catholic Encyclopedia says: “Mary is truly the mother of God if two conditions are fulfilled: that she is really the mother of Jesus and that Jesus is really God.” (1967, Vol. X, p. 21) The Bible says that Mary was the mother of Jesus, but was Jesus God? In the fourth century, long after the writing of the Bible was completed, the Church formulated its statement of the Trinity. (New Catholic Encyclopedia, 1967, Vol. XIV, p. 295; see page 405, under the heading “Trinity.”) At that time in the Nicene Creed the Church spoke of Jesus Christ as “very God.” After that, at the Council of Ephesus in 431 C.E., Mary was proclaimed by the Church to be The·o·toʹkos, meaning “God-bearer” or “Mother of God.” However, neither that expression nor the idea is found in the text of any translation of the Bible.
Was Mary Herself Immaculately Conceived,
The Immaculate Conception is a doctrine in the Catholic Church that states that Mary, the mother of Jesus, was conceived without original sin. This means that from the moment she was conceived in her mother’s womb, she was free from the stain of sin that has affected all human beings since the fall of Adam and Eve. The Catholic Church teaches that this special grace was given to Mary by God so that she could be a fitting mother for Jesus, who was conceived by the Holy Spirit and born without original sin. The Immaculate Conception is not to be confused with the virgin birth of Jesus, which is a separate doctrine that states that Jesus was born of Mary while she was still a virgin.
The New Catholic Encyclopedia (1967, Vol. VII, pp. 378-381) acknowledges regarding the origin of the belief: “ . . . the Immaculate Conception is not taught explicitly in Scripture . . . The earliest Church Fathers regarded Mary as holy but not as absolutely sinless. . . . It is impossible to give a precise date when the belief was held as a matter of faith, but by the 8th or 9th century it seems to have been generally admitted. . . . [In 1854 Pope Pius IX defined the dogma] ‘which holds that the most Blessed Virgin Mary was preserved from all stain of original sin in the first instant of her Conception.’” This belief was confirmed by Vatican II (1962-1965).—The Documents of Vatican II (New York, 1966), edited by W. M. Abbott, S.J., p. 88.
The Bible itself says: “Well then, sin entered the world through one man [Adam], and through sin death, and thus death has spread through the whole human race because everyone has sinned.” (Rom. 5:12, JB; italics added.) Does that include Mary? The Bible reports that in accord with the requirement of the Mosaic Law, 40 days after Jesus’ birth, Mary offered at the temple in Jerusalem a sin offering for purification from uncleanness. She, too, had inherited sin and imperfection from Adam.—Luke 2:22-24; Lev. 12:1-8.
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