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Immaculate Conception: Scripture

Immaculate Conception: Scripture

Q: Describe the scriptural support for the doctrine of Mary's Immaculate Conception.

A: Sacred Scripture does not explicitly proclaim the doctrine of Mary's Immaculate Conception (i.e. freedom from original sin from the very start of her life). The Catholic Church reflected on this question for centuries, considering biblical texts which seemed related to the topic, at least implicitly. As a result of this prolonged reflection, Pius IX issued a dogmatic definition in 1854 affirming Mary's Immaculate Conception. This declaration (Ineffabilis Deus) indicates that the teaching has been infallibly revealed by God through the living Tradition of the Church. There are also a number of scriptural passages which may be cited in support of the teaching. The angelic greeting in Lk 1:28 refers to Mary as "highly favored" or "full of grace." Both translations refer to the Greek term kecharitomene, the past perfect participle of charis which means a gift, favor or grace. In Biblical Greek, this verbal form suggests permanence and singularity. Such singular, permanent grace in Mary is essentially the same concept affirmed in the dogma of the Immaculate Conception.

Another source of biblical evidence involves the references to Mary as "Woman" (e.g. Jn 2 and Jn 19). The evangelist alludes to Eve, who is called "Woman" in Gen 2. There are other parallels between the Genesis account of Creation and its Fall and the Johannine account of the Redemption. For example, the tree of knowledge caused Adam's death in paradise. The tree of the cross caused the death of Jesus, the new Adam, in Jn 19. So there is a certain biblical parallel between Mary, the Woman of the New Creation, and Eve, the Woman formed in original justice at the first Creation (i.e. before the Fall). This parallel is stated explicitly by very early Church Fathers like Justin Martyr (d ca 160) and Irenaeus (d. ca 220). None of this is explicit proof of the doctrine. However, it is solid support from Scripture alone.

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