Saturday, August 15, 2020

Early Ignorance Of The Assumption Of Mary

Today is the Feast of the Assumption, commemorating Mary's alleged bodily assumption to heaven. There's a significant line of evidence that's seldom discussed that suggests the early Christians had no concept of an assumption of Mary. Many early patristic sources cite Enoch, Elijah, and Paul as examples of people who didn't die, were translated to heaven, etc., yet they never say any such thing about Mary or include her as an example (e.g., Clement of Rome, First Clement, 9; Tertullian, A Treatise On The Soul, 50; Tertullian, On The Resurrection Of The Flesh, 58; Tertullian, Against Marcion, 5:12; Origen, in Thomas Scheck, trans., Origen: Commentary On The Epistle To The Romans, Books 1-5 [Washington, D.C.: The Catholic University Of America Press, 2001], 5:4:3, p. 340; Methodius, From The Discourse On The Resurrection, 3:2:14; Apostolic Constitutions, 5:7; Cyril of Jerusalem, Catechetical Lectures, 3:6; John Chrysostom, Homilies On John, 75; Jerome, To Pammachius Against John Of Jerusalem, 29, 32; Faustus, cited in Augustine, Reply To Faustus The Manichaean, 26:1; Augustine, On The Grace Of Christ, And On Original Sin, 2:27). Irenaeus, for instance, writes about the power of God to deliver people from death, and he cites Enoch, Elijah, and Paul (2 Corinthians 12:2) as illustrations of people who were "assumed" and "translated", but he says nothing of Mary (Against Heresies, 5:5). How likely is it that all of these sources, commenting in so many different contexts, would all refrain from mentioning Mary's assumption, even though they knew of it? They're sometimes describing Christian beliefs in general, not just their own, which makes their failure to mention Mary even more significant. If these early Christians held as high a view of Mary as Roman Catholicism does, or even close to so high a view, you'd expect them to cite her more than anybody else. Instead, they don't cite her at all.


  1. Great stuff, Jason. Interested readers might find these studies of mine to be interesting:

  2. Have you ever looked at the interesting translation of Genesis 3:15 in the Douay-Rheims Bible? I once had someone respond to me by saying Mary was all the way back in Genesis...but after checking most, if not all the translations on, I was a little suspicious that only one version had a feminine pronoun.

    1. That's a subject I haven't looked into much. I have a vague recollection of having heard about it at some point, but I don't remember much of what I learned from the experience.

      My impression is that not much is at stake. It's not as though Genesis 3:15 is the only reason we have for thinking Jesus wounded or defeated Satan in some way. And a use of the feminine in the portion of the verse in question wouldn't identify Mary alone as the referent. That interpretation would require more argumentation. Furthermore, Romans 16:20 applies the role of crushing Satan to believers in general, so Catholics would have to qualify any claims they'd make about the significance of such a role accordingly.

      And I suspect the translation of Genesis 3 in question is wrong, for reasons like what you've mentioned.

    2. The Flying Couch,

      Here is an article that might grab your interest:

  3. We've been studying Hebrews as a family for 2 months and have come across Heb 11 with Enoch several times; this is timely. You would think her assumption would be mentioned in here if it had happened. Thanks for this