The Immaculate Conception doctrine states that from the instance of Mary’s conception in her mother’s womb, she was preserved free from the stain of original sin by the forseen merits of Christ. This dogma was first defined by Pope Pius IX in 1854. Since then, there have been visions of “Mary” asking for reparation of the world to her “immaculate heart.” This belief underlies the bulk of Catholic prayers and devotions. Since Rome says those who reject this doctrine are damned, we need to examine it.
The first problem with it is what the Bible says about all of humanity:
“There is none righteous, no, not one.” (Romans 3:10)
“For all have sinned and have fallen short of the glory of God” (v 23).
No exception is made here or elsewhere for Mary. She was born with original sin like every other human. Only Jesus Christ is sinless. Catholics would say: “It’s illogical that a perfect Christ would come from an imperfect Mary, therefore, Mary had to be free from original sin.” The fact is, Jesus’ sinless nature came from God the Father, not from Mary. Jesus has always existed eternally before Mary was ever born.
If the Catholic is going to be consistent with this argument, the Immaculate Conception doctrine, as it turns out, is viciously regressive. If Mary was sinless, then Mary’s parents would also have to be sinless, since an imperfect parent can’t give birth to a perfect child. And as a result, Mary’s grandparents and great grandparents would also have to be perfect and free from sin as well. Possibly this same perfection would also be present in her other relatives. So what we have here is an entire generation traced back to Eve, totally free from sin. Then Original Sin would have to be discarded. This makes no sense either logically or biblically.
Over the years, Catholic apologists have come up with other arguments to make this false doctrine appear Biblical, which I rebut below:
That the word ‘Immaculate Conception’ isn’t found in the Bible doesn’t need mean the doctrine isn’t Biblical. The Bible doesn’t have the word Trinity, but it is still orthodox
This is a fallacy of wrong parallel. There is an overwhelming data of Biblical evidence in context supporting the Trinity which cannot be presented for Mary’s Immaculate Conception.
The universe was created in an immaculate state, free from any blemish or sin or imperfection. Out of it, God created Adam from the womb of the earth. So also, Jesus received his substance from his immaculate mother.
This mode of Bible interpretation is absurd. You won’t find just one place in the Bible where the word “immaculate” is used in connection with the earth. The perfection of the earth was a temporary situation anyway, so how does that parallel Mary? This sounds more like an argument that a goddess-worshipping New Ager would trot out, not a Christian.
Gen 3:15 says the “seed of the woman” would crush the serpent. If Mary wasn’t sinless, then this prophecy is false for she had to be sinless to crush Satan.
The Catholic is influenced more by his spurious Douay-Rheims bible translation at this juncture. While every other translation renders Genesis 3:15 as “It [the woman’s seed] shall bruise thy [the serpent’s], head, and thou [Satan] shall bruise his [Messiah’s] heel.” Their bible changes it to “she [the woman] shall bruise thy head.” The import of Gen. 3:15 is about Jesus’ victory over Satan, not about Mary at all. It takes a curious interpolation to see the immaculate conception here.
Mary represents the Ark of the Covenant in the OT (Ex 40:34-8, 2Sam 6:14-16). Just as God wanted the ark to be perfect and blemish to be worthy receive His written word, He must have also wanted Mary to be perfect and unblemished to carry the Word of God in flesh.
This attempt to parallel Mary with the Ark is totally absurd and flawed. If the ark of God typified Mary: (a) That means she must also have been stolen by God’s enemies for a time, so she could be brought back to God’s people with great rejoicing (1Samuel 4). (b) A man who touched Mary must have been killed as Uzzah was (2Sam. 6:3-8). (c) A bull and calf were sacrificed at each 6 steps Mary took as during the carriage of the Ark (2Sam. 6:13). This an abuse of Biblical interpretation. Catholics just pick and choose what aspects of Mary’s life they wish to parallel with the Ark and which parts they want to ignore. Under this rule of “interpretation,” virtually anything can be proved and any conclusion can be drawn. Using such dumb typology, you can as well parallel Balaam’s ass with the pope or the land of Canaan with the Vatican city.
Elizabeth greeted Mary as “blessed among women.” This phrase has a superlative meaning implying Mary was the holiest of all women (Luke 1:42).
It is true that the term “blessed of all women” is a superlative and there are no superlatives in Hebrew or Aramaic. But the giant leap of the Catholic from “blessed” to “holy” here is fraudulent. The Greek word translated as “blessed” there is eulogeo. It is defined as “to speak well of, to praise, to invoke blessings” (Strong #2127). No Greek lexical work defines it as “holy.” No one who reads that text would get that idea, unless he is importing Rome’s myth into it. If the word “blessed” makes Mary perfectly sinless, then all Believers too are immaculately conceived, because Jesus says we are “blessed of my Father” (Mt.25:34).
When the angel appeared to Mary, he said ‘Greetings, you who are highly favoured! The Lord is with you.’ (Lk. 1:28) This is a recognition of her sinless state.
This is Rome’s favourite argument. A Catholic apologist claimed that the Greek word kecharitomene translated as “highly favoured” means “full of grace” or a perfection of grace:
“A perfection must be perfect not only intensively, but extensively. The grace Mary enjoyed must have been as ‘full’ or strong or complete as possible at any given time, but it must have extended over the whole of her life, from conception. That is, she must have been in a state of sanctifying grace from the first moment of her existence to have been called ‘full of grace’ or to have been filled with divine favor…” (Karl Keating, Catholicism and Fundamentalism, Ignatius Press, 1988, 269).
(a) There is a sleight-of-hand trick here. The Greek word “kecaritwmenh” is the perfect passive participle of the word “caritow.” This caritow is defined as “favoured one in the sight of God.” No lexical word defines it as sinlessness.
(b) The term “full of grace” is used only of Christ in John 1:14. It was never used of Mary (except in the spurious Catholic Douay Rheims version). The Greek word “caritow” used in Luke 1:28 refers to God’s favour or grace. It’s also used in Ephesians 1:6 “…to the praise of the glory of his grace [caritow] upon us in the beloved…” Unless Catholics want to tell us that all Believers have a “perfection of grace” or were immaculately conceived, this argument doesn’t fly.
(c) In that passage Luke refers to Mary as the object of divine favour, and not the source of divine grace. There is simply no justification for jumping from the perfect tense of a Greek participle (kecaritomene) to the idea that the Greek “indicates a perfection of grace.” That Rome has to resort to such complicated semantic acrobatics implies that they are not deriving this doctrine from the Bible, rather they are forcing it into it.
The Early Church believed in the Immaculate Conception.
The term “early church” has to be properly defined. If by “early” they are referring to prior to the 400 AD, then the above claim is false. The immaculate conception dogma is missing from the earliest patristic sources. Mary didn’t even enter into the picture of theological disputes of the church fathers until the upsurge of Christological heresies and the impulse of ascetism and monasticism in church history.
Catholic scholar, Ludwig Ott admits: “Neither Greek nor Latin Fathers explicitly teach the Immaculate Conception of Mary” (Fundamentals of Catholic Dogma, 1960, 201)
The New Catholic Encyclopedia (1967, 7:378-81) states: “…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 this belief was held as a matter of Faith, but by the 8th or 9th century, it seems to have been generally admitted…”
Even after then, controversies over this dogma raged on for a whole 1000 years with the Dominicans fighting the Franciscans over the issue. The so-called “infallible authority” of Rome was neutral on the issue. Even a 19th century Catholic bishop admits:
“The Church does not decide the controversy concerning the Conception of the Blessed Virgin, and several other disputed points, because she sees nothing clear and certain concerning them either in the written or unwritten Word, and therefore leaves her children to form their own opinions concerning them.” (Cited in George Salmon, The Infallibility of the Church, 182)
This proves that this dogma was a very late development and has just been around for about 150 years. It can’t be supported either with the Bible or with traditions. The Mary of the Bible was born a sinner and offered temple sacrifices for her own purification (Lk. 2:22-24, Lev. 12:1-8). She also called God her “Saviour” (Lk. 1:47), which would not have been so had she been without sin. But the Catholic Mary, modelled after the old pagan goddesses has replaced the true Biblical Mary in the minds of millions of Catholics.