The Bodily Assumption of Mary

mary assumptionThe Bodily Assumption of Mary is the Roman Catholic teaching that Mary, the mother of Jesus, was bodily assumed into heaven.

"Finally the Immaculate Virgin, preserved free from all stain of original sin, when the course of her earthly life was finished, was taken up body and soul into heavenly glory, and exalted by the Lord as Queen over all things, so that she might be the more fully conformed to her Son, the Lord of lords and conqueror of sin and death."508 The Assumption of the Blessed Virgin is a singular participation in her Son's Resurrection and an anticipation of the resurrection of other Christians 1:

This is a Roman Catholic dogma, which means it is a required and essential teaching that must be believed by all Roman Catholics.

"the Blessed Virgin Mary's bodily Assumption into heaven --which surely no faculty of the human mind could know by its own natural powers, as far as the heavenly glorification of the virginal body of the loving Mother of God is concerned--is a truth that has been revealed by God and consequently something that must be firmly and faithfully believed by all children of the Church," 2

Some Roman Catholics maintain that Mary physically died and was then assumed bodily into heaven, while others teach that she did not experience death at all.  The consensus seems to be that Mary died, but that her body did not see corruption and was instead assumed into heaven.  Consider this quote from the Vatican website which strongly implies that she died.

Belief in the glorious destiny of the body and soul of the Lord's Mother after her death spread very rapidly from East to West."3

"Regarding the day, year, and manner of Our Lady's death, nothing certain is known." 4

For such a supremely important dogma of the Church that must be believed to be a faithful Christian, one would think that it would be found in God's Inspired Word, the Bible.  But, it is not.  There isn't a single mention in God's word.  The Vatican admits as much:

"the New Testament does not explictly affirm Mary’s Assumption," (General Audience, # 3, Pope John Paul II, vatican.va/holy_father/john_paul_ii/audiences/1997/documents/hf_jp-ii_aud_02071997_en.html)

So, if it isn't in the Bible, where did the Roman Catholic church get this teaching?

Tradition

Because the doctrine of the Assumption of Mary is not found in the Bible, it must be derived from what Roman Catholicism calls Sacred Tradition--the oral tradition handed down from the apostles that is equal in authority to the Bible.  Unfortunately, the first few hundred years of "tradition" make no mention whatsoever of the bodily assumption of Mary.  In fact, we find contradictory evidence in Early Church Tradition.

The Roman Catholic scholar Michael O'Carroll explains that Epiphanius (4th Century), a Church Father, gives the earliest mention of anything concerning the end of Mary's Life when he says regarding Epiphanius' mention of Mary in A.D. 377,

"In a later passage, he [Epiphanius] says that she [Mary] may have died and been buried, or been killed--as a martyr. 'Or she remained alive, since nothing is impossible with God and he can do whatever he desires; for her end no one knows.'" 5

In light of this evidence, it is obvious that the Roman Catholic dogma of the Assumption of Mary has no early attestation.  In fact, the first reasonable mention, according to the Roman Catholic Church, is found in St. John Damascene who lived in the 700's.  This is a blatantly obvious historical (not to mention biblical) vacuum concerning Mary's Assumption.  Obviously, such a dogma, such an all-important essential of the Christian church, would have been mentioned by at least some of the Church Fathers within the first few centuries.  But, it wasn't.  Why?  Because it wasn't taught, and it is not a true doctrine of Christianity.

Questions

  1. If The Bodily Assumption of Mary is a dogma, why is it not found in any of the early church Father's writings until St. John of Damascene in the 8th Century?
  2. If The Bodily Assumption of Mary is a dogma, why does the early church father Epiphanius say that regarding the end of her earthly life, that no one knows what happened to Mary?
  3. Romans 6:23 says the wages of sin is death, and 1 Cor. 15:56 says that "The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law."  If Mary was sinless, why did she die?
  • 1. Catechism of the Catholic Church, 966
  • 2. Munificentissimus Deus, Pope Pius XII, 1876--1958, underline added
  • 3. General Audience, # 2, Pope John Paul II, vatican.va/holy_father/john_paul_ii/audiences/1997/documents/hf_jp-ii_aud_02071997_en.html
  • 4. Catholic Encyclopedia, "Feast of the Assumption"
  • 5. Theotokos [Wilmington, Delaware: Michael Glazier, Inc., 1988], p. 135

 

 

 

 
 
CARM ison