Sunday, October 24, 2021

Luke Against Roman Catholic Mariology

I've written a lot of material over the years about inconsistencies between Luke's writings and a Roman Catholic view of Mary. I thought I'd post a collection of some of that material and add some further comments. Since the posts I'll be linking address other subjects as well, you'll have to look for the relevant content, such as by doing a Ctrl F search. And these are just posts with relevant material, not exhaustive treatments of each subject.

Concerning how Luke 2:7 and other passages in the gospel relate to the perpetual virginity of Mary, see here.

On Luke 2:35 and whether Mary sinned, see here.

Regarding whether Mary sinned in Luke 2:48-50, see here.

Go here for a discussion of whether Mary is portrayed as a sinner in Luke 8:19-21.

See here for some discussion of Luke 11:27-28.

The lack of reference to particular beliefs related to Mary is also worth noting. The significance of that lack varies from one context to another. Since Luke wrote so much (his gospel and Acts), more than any other New Testament author, and he was covering more than half a century of Christian history (from the late B.C. era to the 60s A.D.), an absence of something in his writings can be more significant than its absence elsewhere accordingly. And the historical genre of his documents is significant, since certain subjects have more potential to come up in such a genre.

Luke's writings are part of the widespread pattern of Biblical and early patristic documents that explicitly and frequently refer to praying to God, but never advocate praying to the deceased. Praying to Mary is an explicit and frequent practice in Roman Catholicism, but prayer to the deceased, the larger category to which praying to Mary is a subcategory, is absent in Luke's writings.

George Salmon noted:

"Suppose, for an example, a Roman Catholic reads the Bible; how can you be sure that he will not take notice himself, or have it pointed out to him, that, whereas [Pope] Pius IX. could not write a single Encyclical in which the name of the Virgin Mary did not occupy a prominent place, we have in the Bible twenty-one Apostolic letters, and her name does not occur in one of them?" (The Infallibility Of The Church [London, England: John Murray, 1914], 123)

Similarly, she's mentioned in Acts 1:14, but not in the three decades of church history narrated afterward. No assumption of Mary is mentioned either. And notice the relationship between the two issues I've just mentioned. If Mary lived through much or all of the history recorded in Acts, why does she get so little attention? (Even if she died earlier rather than later, we'd expect her to be mentioned more if the early Christians held a Catholic view of Mary or something like it. But her dying earlier would at least make the Catholic position less problematic in this context.) On the other hand, if she died within the history covered by the document, especially if she died earlier rather than later, why is there no mention of an assumption?

It's possible to reconcile a Catholic view of Mary with what we see in Acts. But, of course, the primary issue isn't what's possible. Rather, we should be concerned about which view of Mary best explains the evidence. Something like a Protestant view of her makes better sense of what we see in Acts (and the gospel of Luke).

Luke's writings can be an important part of a cumulative argument when considering an issue like the assumption of Mary. The more sources we have that show interest in relevant subjects, yet don't mention an assumption of Mary, the less likely it is that she was assumed (e.g., Luke's failure to mention an assumption despite multiple references to Jesus' ascension, an event that Pope Pius XII and other Catholics have said is closely connected to Mary's assumption). Luke is the sort of author who would have been in an unusually good position to have referred to an assumption if one had occurred. He wrote a lot in relevant contexts, including a substantial amount about Mary, he probably was writing after the time of Mary's death, he was in contact with at least one relative of Jesus (Acts 21:18), he traveled widely, he was in contact with some sources who were prominent in early Christian circles, and he had a lot of interest in Jesus' ascension, an event similar to Mary's assumption and one that Pope Pius XII and other Catholics have said is closely connected to the assumption of Mary.


  1. Hi Jason,

    Out of curiosity, have you seen James Prothro's essay in the ProEcclessia journal re yhe perpetual virginity of Mary? It's the only sustained exegetical case I've seen (of late atleast) trying to argue for the PV.

    You can find it on his Academia page if you want to access it for free but I think it's much better than the typical stuff put forward. Interacting with that would be helpful I think, unless what you say there are just updated version of what you've seen before.


    1. Hi Swrath,

      No, I haven't read James Prothro's article. I don't know enough about it to make much of a judgment about whether it would be worth reading or responding to.