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Adv Historical Theology CGST 15 Feb 2016 L-5: Mary pt 1 Do not copy without written permission 2016 Rev.

. E. Manges, Ph.D.

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Lecture 5, H ours 33-40

L ECTURE 5 - M ARY - part 1

Mary in the early Church
Ignatius, Justin, Infancy Gospel of James, Irenaeus, Tertullian, Ascension of Isaiah, Odes of Solomon, Origen
Ephesus and after
Ambrose, Excursus on Theotokos, Nestorius, Cyril of Alexandria, The Council of Ephesus, Germanus
Development of the Immaculate Conception
Eadmer, Bernard, Aquinas, Duns Scotus

Discussion of the readings are distributed throughout the lecture.


[Expanded from RCTh L12 2015 CGST]

The earliest post-Apostolic witness to thinking about Mary is Ignatius of Antioch. He was the
bishop of Antioch who was arrested and during his transport to Rome for trial and execution,
wrote several letters to churches (and one individual), letters which we still have. He probably
was martyred sometime between 108 and 118.
He affirms the virginal conception and the genuine human birth of Jesus. His main concern is to
refute some false teachers (docetics) who denied the real human nature of Jesus. Of course the
fact that he had a real mother goes a long way to defeating docetism.

JUSTIN MARTYR (c. 100 - c. 165)

[Most from HT Mary L3 2004 CGST]

Justin draws a parallel between Eve and Mary, probably being the first in the history of the
Church to do so. This is the first distinct theological conclusion in the church on Mary. His
parallel revolves around the fact that a word entered both women: for Eve it was the word of
the serpent and for Mary it was the divine word, the Logos. For Eve the word she received
resulted in disobedience, and for Mary, her reception of the Word resulted in her own obedience
and the salvation of people.

Adv Historical Theology CGST 15 Feb 2016 L-5: Mary pt 1 Do not copy without written permission 2016 Rev. E. Manges, Ph.D.

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Justin believes the basis of our salvation is the incarnation of Christ, which only could happen
through the use of Mary as his mother. Justin says:
He became man of a virgin according to the will of the Father (6"J J< J@
A"JDH $@L8<) for the salvation of those who believe in Him. (1 Apol 63).
Justin includes belief in the virginal conception as part of the creed that Christians recite and as
part of what the Gospels say. He knows that some Christians of a Jewish background deny the
virginal conception (Dial. 48).
The virginal conception and real birth from Mary are important to Justin as proofs of the miracle
of the incarnation, fulfillment of OT prophecy and evidence of the true humanity of the Son.
Two separate groups tend to attack the virginal conception: Jews and pagans. Justin replies to
the Jews in his Dialogue with Trypho and to the pagans in his two Apologies.
Of course the main attack used by the Jews against the virginal conception was to say Christians
have misread Isaiah 7.14. Trypho the Jew is depicted as saying the Isaiah text should read young
woman, not virgin. Also, the prophecy refers not to the Messiah, but to King Hezekiah.
Justin rejects these arguments. (Dial 43, 45, 84, 100).
In the Apologies, Justin argues against the pagans that the story of the virginal conception is very
different from stories in the pagan mythologies of various gods impregnating human women.
Justin clearly asserts that God did not use intercourse in the virginal conception of Mary:
But lest some, not understanding the prophecy referred to, should bring against us
the reproach we have been bringing against the poets who say that Zeus came
upon women through lust, we will attempt to explain clearly the words. This then,
Behold the virgin shall conceive signifies that the virgin should conceive without
intercourse. For if she had had intercourse with anyone, she was no longer a
virgin; but the power of God having come upon the virgin overshadowed her, and
caused her to conceive while still a virgin. @ FL<@LF4"F2,F"< .... 88
*b<":4H 2,@ B,82@F" J A"D2X< B,F6\"F,< "JZ<, 6"
6L@N@DF"4 B"D2X<@< @F"< B,B@\06,.1 (1 Apol 33)
The non-sexual nature of the conception of Jesus is not a rejection of sex, per se, but rather a
direct fulfillment of prophecy.
Justin also provides (in Dial 78) a detail of the nativity story not found in the canonical Gospels:
that the actual birth took place in a cave near Bethlehem.

1 Apol. 33, ACW 56.46, Corpus Marianum Patristicum, ed. by S. Alvarez Campos (Burgos, 1970), 11;
hereafter cited as CMP.

Adv Historical Theology CGST 15 Feb 2016 L-5: Mary pt 1 Do not copy without written permission 2016 Rev. E. Manges, Ph.D.

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Justin seems interested in Mary for three reasons:

1) to show the ancestry of Jesus goes back to David and then to Abraham, thus showing Christian
roots are as old as pagan philopsophy
2) the virginal conception was a miracle of God
3) Mary and Eve both conceive through a logos but with opposite results
However, Justin never connects Mary the Virgin with the virgins in the church. She is not a
model for asceticism in the thought of Justin.


This is a work that was probably written around 150 AD. In English it runs to 23 pages, divided
into 25 short chapters. The document says it was written by James, the brother of Jesus, but no
serious scholar accepts this: there are very basic mistakes in the text of the document that show it
could not have been written by any Jew living in Judea of the first century. These mistakes range
from geographical blunders to placing a young girl as actually living inside the Temple in
We actually do not know where or exactly when it was written, but since Origen knows of it
around the year 230 or 240, it is earlier than that.
The ProtJs purpose is to describe the exceptional holiness and purity of Mary. The work was
composed in order to glorify the purity of Mary, and so it is extremely significant in the history of
Marian doctrines. It may be that it was written to answer the question: how could a holy being
like Jesus appear on the earth? It is because he was born of a very holy and pure mother, Mary.
The work can be divided into five sections: 1) Marys holy birth, 2)Marys purity as a girl, 3)
Marys pure conception of Jesus, 4) Marys purity during the birth of Jesus, and 5) a postscript
identifying the author as James.
Marys parents were very holy. Mary as a baby was protected from contamination, after her first
steps, she is carried until her feet touch only the sacred ground inside the Temple, where she is
brought to live at the age of three. She is already so dedicated to God that when her parents leave
her at the Temple to be raised away from her family, she does not even say goodbye to them. Her
food is brought to her in the Temple by an angel.
When she reaches the age of puberty, she must move out so she wont pollute the Temple. An
elderly man, Joseph, is assigned to take her into his house. The ProtJ stresses that Joseph is too
old to have any sexual interest in Mary. In any case, after taking her in, Joseph goes away on

Adv Historical Theology CGST 15 Feb 2016 L-5: Mary pt 1 Do not copy without written permission 2016 Rev. E. Manges, Ph.D.

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The story of the annunciation comes straight from Luke 1, but it changes it a bit: emphasizing the
holiness of Mary. When it is found out that Mary is pregnant,she is brought before the High
Priest who tests her innocence in an ordeal.
Then the ProtJ proceeds to describe the birth of Jesus. The text explicitly explains that the hymen
of Mary is unbroken after Jesus is born. The midwife who doubts this goes to Mary and subjects
her to a physical examination. The midwifes hand is attacked by flames, but she is healed by the
infant Jesus.
This document is the earliest source for several extra-Biblical themes on Mary: her purity at birth
and throughout her life, and her virginity during the birth process. However this depiction of
Mary is not a glorification of her as a virgin, but rather of her ritual purity, i.e., she is pure from all
possible contamination.
Virginity is not relegated only to the category of asceticism. In the ancient pagan world virginity
often had more to do with cultic purity than it did with ascetic concerns.2 The most famous
example is the Vestal Virgins. Their celibacy was temporary, not life-long, and related directly to
their status as sacred daughters of the Roman nation, and not as an expression of asceticism.3
While this document is not promoting asceticism nor, in fact, glorification of Mary per se (she is
mostly a passive figure in the Gospel) it was read in later times as both advocating ascetic practice
and as evidence of Marys elevated status.

IRENAEUS (c. 130 - c. 202)

[Expanded with HT Mary L 4 2004 CGST]

He is the first systematic theologian in the history of the Church, and since Mary plays a part in
his theology, he can be considered the first to apply a system of theological thinking to the figure
of Mary.
Irenaeuss main concern was to defeat the false teaching of the Gnostics, who also denied the true
humanity of Jesus, among many other things.

See R. Lane Fox, Pagans and Christians 346-348 for a delineation of the pagan practice of sexual

In Roman families the duty to maintain the sacred hearth-fire fell to a daughter. The Vestal Virgins
were thought of as daughters keeping a hearth flame for the entire nation. Their virginity is not a depreciation of
sexuality per se but rather an essential element of their daughter status. This is borne out by the fact that the term
incestus applies to a Vestal who broke her vow of celibacy. See T. C. Worsfold, The History of the Vestal Virgins
of Rome 63.

Adv Historical Theology CGST 15 Feb 2016 L-5: Mary pt 1 Do not copy without written permission 2016 Rev. E. Manges, Ph.D.

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The Gnostics found it hard to explain Jesus. If he was a visitor from the highest levels of the
Pleroma, this threatens their view that those high levels have no contaminating contact with this
sinful physical world.
Some try to explain Jesus by saying that his birth was not a true birth. Rather somehow Jesus
passed through his mother Mary (per Mariam) as water passes through a pipe. He took nothing
from his mother, for flesh is evil. This is a very passive idea of the role of Mary.
Others said the man Jesus was a natural son born of a sexual union between Joseph and Mary.
This view is held by the Ebionites, who were a heterodox Jewish sect, not Gnostics.
Irenaeus rejects these views by citing OT prophecies that were fulfilled in the birth of Jesus. He
especially defends the messianic interpretation of Isaiah 7.14.4
But Irenaeus does not merely see the virginal conception as a fulfillment of OT prophecy. He also
sees it as an essential part of the faith.5 He refers to it some seventeen times in the short work
Proof of the Apostolic Preaching, which was probably composed to train candidates for baptism.6
But also the physical fact of the birth of Jesus from Mary is important for Irenaeus to refute the
Gnostic idea to separate Jesus from the Christ:
The falsely-called Gnostics...are again in error, when saying that the Christ and
Saviour from above was not born, but that also, after the baptism of the
dispensational Jesus, he [the Christ of the Pleroma,] descended upon him as a
dove. . .For neither was Christ nor the Saviour born at that time, by their account;
but it was he, the dispensational Jesus, who is of the framer of the world, the
[Demiurge], and upon whom, after his baptism, that is, after [the lapse of] thirty
years, they maintain the Saviour from above descended. (AH 3.10.3) 7
So neither shall we look for another Christ and Son of God, but Him who [was born] of the
Virgin Mary. No separation of the Christ from Jesus is possible in light of the evidence from the
apostolic sources.8

AH 3.21.6, ANF 1.453 and Dem. 66, ACW 16.90.

AH 1.10.1, ACW 55.48-49 and AH 3.4.2, ANF 1.417.

References to the virginal conception of Christ in the Proof where the concern is impartation of the faith
to catechumens are found in: Dem. 32, 35, 36, 37, 40, 53 twice, 54, 57 twice, 59, 63, and 66. Dem. 51 is not a
direct reference, but an allusion to the same doctrine. Even catechumens must be warned against various heretics
who despise the dispensation of his incarnation (Dem. 99 and 100). So there is some polemical content in three
further references to the virginal conception, in Dem. 33, 38 and 39.

AH 3.10.3, ANF 1.425. That which descended upon the Savior at the baptism is the Holy Spirit, not
the Christ, AH 3.17.1. Those who deny this are Antichrist, AH 3.16.5.

AH 4.9.2.

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And Mary is refutation against the docetics. Christs flesh must come from Adam, and the path
through which Christ gets his human flesh from Adam is Mary. A docetic Christ has no
connection with real human flesh. If Christ did not take on the very plasmatio of Adam, he
could not save any of Adams race:
And I have proved already, that it is the same thing to say that He appeared merely
to outward seeming, and [to affirm] that He received nothing from Mary. For He
would not have been one truly possessing flesh and blood, by which He redeemed
us, unless He had summed up in Himself the ancient formation of Adam. Vain
therefore are the disciples of Valentinus who put forth this opinion in order that
they may exclude the flesh from salvation, and cast aside what God has fashioned.
(AH 5.1.2) 9
Irenaeus constructs his theology around the idea of recapitulation. It is a parallel between the two
figures of Adam and Christ (based on Pauls teaching of Christ as the second Adam). Everything
Adam did in the fall into sin, Christ undoes with a direct opposite action which cancels out the
effect of Adams acts.
Therefore Christ must be linked directly to Adam, he must have the same flesh as Adam did: thus
the importance of Mary as the real human mother of Jesus. Irenaeus says:
Why then, did not God again take dust, but wrought so that the formation should
be made of Mary? It was that there might not be another formation called into
being, nor any other which should [require to] be saved, but that the very same
formation should be summed up [in Christ as had existed in Adam], the analogy
having been preserved. (AH 3.21.10) 10
A subsidiary parallel of Adam-Christ is one between Eve and Mary. Irenaeus discusses the EveMary parallel at some length, and he is often quoted by modern Catholic documents on Marian
In accordance with this design, Mary the Virgin is found obedient, saying, Behold
the handmaid of the Lord; be it unto me according to thy word. But Eve was
disobedient; for she did not obey when as yet she was a virgin. And even as she,
having indeed a husband, Adam, but being nevertheless as yet a virgin (for in
Paradise they were both naked, and were not ashamed, inasmuch as they, having
been created a short time previously, had no understanding of the procreation of
children: for it was necessary that they should first come to adult age, and then
multiply from that time onward), having become disobedient, was made the cause
of death, both to herself and to the entire human race; so also did Mary, having a

AH 5.1.2, ANF 1.527. The key phrase is nisi antiquam plasmationem Adae in semetipsum
recapitulasset SC 153.24. In summing up Adam, Christ effectively sums up all of Adams race. As the second
Adam, Christ also has no human father, but sprung from a virginal source: AH 3.21.10.


AH 3.21.10, ANF 1.454. Christ takes on Adams flesh, so Adam is the archetype of Christs human

Adv Historical Theology CGST 15 Feb 2016 L-5: Mary pt 1 Do not copy without written permission 2016 Rev. E. Manges, Ph.D.

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man betrothed [to her], and being nevertheless a virgin, by yielding obedience,
become the cause of salvation, both to herself and the whole human race. And
on this account does the law term a woman betrothed to a man, the wife of him
who had betrothed her, although she was as yet a virgin; thus indicating the backreference from Mary to Eve, because what is joined together could not otherwise
be put asunder than by inversion of the process by which these bonds of union had
arisen; so that the former ties be cancelled by the latter, that the latter may set the
former again at liberty. And it has, in fact, happened that the first compact looses
from the second tie, but that the second tie takes the position of the first which has
been cancelled. For this reason did the Lord declare that the first should in truth be
last, and the last first. . . .And thus also it was that the knot of Eves
disobedience was loosed by the obedience of Mary. For what the virgin Eve
had bound fast through unbelief, this did the virgin Mary set free through
faith.11 (Bold emphasis is mine).
Virginal disobedience is exactly matched with virginal obedience and thus the effects of Eves sin
are done away.12 The obedience of Mary is her response in faith to her part in the plan of the
incarnation as announced to her by the angel. This is set over against the unbelief of Eve: the
knot of Eves disobedience was loosed by the obedience of Mary. For what the virgin Eve had
bound fast through unbelief; this did the virgin Mary set free through faith.13
It must be noted that the purpose of Irenaeus to set up this Eve-Mary parallel is not in any way to
glorify Mary. The typological link between Eve and Mary is subordinate to the main link between
Adam and Christ. It is here that the center of his recapitulation theory lies. The comparison
between Eve and Mary is supplemental to the governing axis between Adam and Christ.

TERTULLIAN (d. c. 222)

[Expanded with HT Mary L 5 2004 CGST]

Tertullian is the first significant theologian to write in Latin. He is credited with the first Latin use
of the term trinity.14 Most of what Tertullian has to say about Mary are in two works where he
also is combatting docetic heresy, the Against Marcion and On the Flesh of Christ.
Jesus is born of Mary to show that he has true human flesh. Tertullian takes the virginity of Mary
to be a sign of the divinity of Jesus as well as a fulfillment of OT prophecy. This is significant


AH 3.22.4, ANF 1.455.


AH 5.19.1 SC 153.250


AH 3.22.4, ANF 1.455


Prax. 2.4, CCSL 2.1161: trinitas. The Greek triad (JD4VH) appears in Theophilus, ad Autolycum
2.15 around 180 A.D., at least 28 years before adversus Praxean according to the revised chronology of Barnes,
which I follow, Tertullian 328.

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since the heretic Marcion rejected the OT as not being from the true God.
Tertullian stresses the reality of the physical birth (against docetics like the Valentinian Gnostics)
to the extent that he explicitly denies the doctrine we found earlier in the Protevangelium of
James, the virginity during birth.
The Valentinians15 held that Mary was a way for Jesus to come to earth, but that this did not
entail physical birth. Tertullian is very clear that Mary contributed to the human nature of Jesus:
But if the Word was made flesh out of himself, and not out of what the womb
contributed, how did a womb which had wrought nothing, performed nothing,
experienced nothing, decant its fountain into those breasts in which it causes
change only by the process of giving birth? It cannot have possessed blood for the
supply of milk without also having reasons for the blood itself, namely the tearing
away of flesh which was its own.16
Tertullian affirm the virginal conception:
What novelty there was in Christ, in his being born of a virgin, is plain: namely this
and nothing else, that he was born of a virgin according to the rationale we have
given, to the further intent that our regeneration should be virginal in a spiritual
sense, sanctified from all defilements through Christ, who himself was a virgin even
in the flesh, as he was born of the flesh of a virgin.17
But he denies that Mary remained a virgin after giving birth to Jesus (perpetual virginity / post
partum virginity). She went on to be a true wife to Joseph. She thus serves as a model for both
virgins and married women:
It was a virgin who gave birth to Christ and she was to marry only once, after she
brought Him forth. The reason for this was that both types of chastity might be
exalted in the birth of Christ, born as He was of a mother who was at once virginal
and monogamous.18


This is the view of the Italian school, Rudolf, Gnosis 166-167, also Filoramo, Gnosticism 120-123,


carn. Chr. 20, Evans 69; cf. carn. Chr. 19.4-5, Val. 27.1.


carn. Chr. 20.7, Evans 68 = CCSL 2.910: Quid fuerit nouitatis in Christo ex uirgine nascenti, palam
est, solum hoc scilict, quod ex uirgine secundum rationem quam edidimus et ***, uti uirgo est et regeneratio nostra
spiritaliter, ab omnibus inquinamentis sanctificata per Christum, uirginem et ipsum, etiam carnaliter, ut ex uirginis

mon. 8, ACW 13.86 and pud. 6.16 where the use of the participle of resignare in reference to Mary and
the gerundive in reference to Jesus is to be noted: At ubi sermo Dei descendit in carnem ne nuptiis quidem
resignatam et sermo caro factus est ne nuptiis quidem resignanda. CCSL 2.1291 = ACW 28.67: But when the
Word of God descended into flesh which not even marriage had unsealed, and when the Word was made flesh
which not even marriage was ever to unseal.

Adv Historical Theology CGST 15 Feb 2016 L-5: Mary pt 1 Do not copy without written permission 2016 Rev. E. Manges, Ph.D.

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This quote above is the earliest known use of Mary as a model for the ascetic life. Beginning with
Jerome we have a rapid acceleration of this theme leading to the Middle Ages and beyond where
Mary is the premier model for celibacy and the consecrated life of both nuns and monks.


[HT Mary L 5 2004 CGST]

This apocalyptic work was composed in Greek in Syria, probably between 112 and 138 A.D.19
The contents of this document describe two visions given to the prophet Isaiah and of his
martyrdom. These visions describe the descent, incarnation, life, death and ascent to God of the
beloved one, the name given to Christ.
The second vision (ch. 6-11) sets out details of the descent of the Beloved One from heaven to
earth culminating in ch. 11 where he is born from Mary as a human child. Mary is of the family of
David, and while betrothed to Joseph and still a virgin she was found to be pregnant.20
The birth of Jesus was far from normal: Mary gives birth before she is aware of what is
happening, she has no attending midwife and no birth pains. The lack of pain and this description
in verse 9: her womb was found as (it was) at first, before she conceived comprise the earliest
witness to Marys virginity in partu.21
The true nature of the incarnation is hidden from the world at large even in the fact that Jesus
takes Marys breast as was customary, that he might not be recognized.22


[HT Mary L 5 2004 CGST]

The Odes of Solomon is a collection of hymnic and poetic material which comes from the early
Syrian church.23 While most scholars place the date of composition of the Odes in the second


J. Knight, Disciples of the Beloved One: The Christology, Social Setting and Theological Context of the
Ascension of Isaiah (Sheffield: Sheffield Academic Press, 1996), 21, 33.

Asc. Isa. 11.3, all translations cited are by M. A. Knibb in OTP, Charlesworth, ed., 2.174-5.


Asc. Isa. 11.8-14. Gambero, Mary and the Fathers of the Church 33, Kelly, Early Christian Doctrines
492 and Burghardt, Mary in Eastern Patristic Thought 102.

Asc. Isa. 11.17.

The consensus is that the original language was the Aramaic dialect Syriac, see AbouZayd, Ihidayutha:
A Study of the Life of Singleness in the Syrian Orient 14-15. The work is not Gnostic as has been conclusively
shown by J. Charlesworth, The Odes of Solomon - Not Gnostic Catholic Biblical Quarterly, 31 (1969), 357-369
and E. Yamauchi, Pre-Christian Gnosticism: A Survey of the Proposed Evidences (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans,
1973), 91-94.

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century, there is a case to be made for a later date possibly extending into the early third century.24
Ode 19 is the only passage which refers to Mary.25 This Ode begins with explictly sexual
imagery which serves to set the process of incarnation apart from all normal activity of human
procreation.26 All three persons of the Godhead work together to provide the salvation found in
Christ. The Son issues from the Father by the agency of the Holy Spirit:
A cup of milk was offered to me,
and I drank it in the sweetness of the Lords kindness.
The Son is the cup,
and the Father is he who was milked;
and the Holy Spirit is she who milked him;
Because his breasts were full,
and it was undesirable that his milk should be released without purpose.
The Holy Spirit opened her bosom,
and mixed the milk of the two breasts of the Father.
Then she gave the mixture to the generation without their knowing,
and those who have received (it) are in the perfection of the right hand.27
Now the Odist proceeds to the incarnation where the Virgin Mary has an essential part:



The womb of the Virgin took (it),

and she received conception and gave birth.
So the Virgin became a mother with great mercies.
And she labored and bore the Son but without pain,
because it did not occur without purpose.
And she did not seek a midwife,
because he caused her to give life.
She bore as a strong man with desire,
and she bore according to the manifestation,
and possessed with great power.
And she loved with salvation,
and guarded with kindness,
and declared with greatness.28

H. Drijvers makes a strong case for the earliest date being A.D. 200, The 19th Ode 337-355.


Ode 19.1-11, CMP 358-359. For translations see Charlesworth, OTP, 2.735-771 and Drijvers, The
19th Ode 339-340.

J. Lagrand, How was the Virgin Mary Like a Man? Novum Testamentum, 22 (1980), 97-107, 103.


Ode 19.1-5, Charlesworth, OTP 2.752.


Ode 19.6-11, Charlesworth, OTP, 2.752-3.

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An alternative translation for verse 6 has been proposed: The womb of the Virgin blossomed, and
she conceived and gave birth.29 In any case what stands out is the clear affirmation of the virginal
conception by divine agency and the references to the lack of pain in birth and the absence of a
midwife. The latter two items seem to indicate the Odist held to a virginity in partu as well as
ante partum. Both are indications of Gods direct power in bringing about the birth of his Son
through Mary.30
The Odes are a witness to the virginity in partu in the Syrian church in the late second or early
third century, but apart from any ascetic application.31 This work lends no support, even
implicitly, to any veneration of Mary.32
The focus of Ode 19 is not on Mary but on the divine power which accomplished the incarnation,
a process in which Mary actively cooperates. The explicit absence of a midwife in the birth
indicates that the Odes are drawing from different traditions than the Protevangelium of James.


[HT Mary L 6 2004 CGST]

Origen ( c. 185 - c. 254) was the product of a Christian upbringing in Alexandria which
culminated in the arrest and martyrdom of his father, an event that at age seventeen probably
sealed Origens loyalty to the Church.33 Origens own view of his work was that he was first and
foremost a Biblical exegete and preacher. By the end of his life he had written commentaries on
nearly every book of the Bible. Most of this work now only exists in magnificent wreckage. But
even what has survived is enough to inspire awe. Jerome knows of some 2,000 different works
authored by Origen. Some 300 of his sermons have survived as well as large portions of his
commentaries on the Song of Songs, John, Matthew and Romans, although much of this only in


Cameron, The Crux in Ode of Solomon 19:6, 595.


Drijvers, The 19th Ode 347: Gods delivering of Mary functions as His life-giving to the world, for
this life is in His and Marys Son.

This is congruent with another work in which we find the in partu virginity in a setting which is nonGnostic, probably Syrian and also non-ascetic, the Protevangelium of James.

Pace P. F. Buck, Are the Ascension of Isaiah and the Odes of Solomon Witnesses to an Early Cult
of Mary? in De Primordiis Cultus Mariani: Acta Congressus Mariologici-Mariani in Lusitania Anno 1967
Celebrati (Rome: Pontificia Academia Mariana Internationalis, 1970), 4.371-399.

J. W. Trigg, Origen: The Bible and Philosophy in the Third-Century Church (London: SCM, 1985),
30. Concerning Origens chronology, I am following the tableau rcapitulatif of P. Nautin, Origne: Sa vie et
son oeuvre (Paris: Beauchesne, 1977), 409-412. The chief sources for biographical details are Eusebius, HE 6; the
panegyric of one of his students, identified as Gregory Thaumaturgus; and Jerome, one of his chief translators, in
various places, especially De viris illustribus 54.

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Latin translations. His are the earliest surviving commentaries on Scripture.34

Several topical treatises have survived, among them ones on prayer, martyrdom, and the
Passover. Two apologetic works still extant are a dialogue with Heraclides and the pivotal
Against Celsus. One scholar believes he may well have been the most prolific writer of the
ancient world.35 The sheer creative force of his thinking has meant there is no period since in
which he can be ignored.
Celsus was a middle Platonist and pagan critic of Christianity. Sometime in the years before
Origens birth (c. 185), Celsus wrote his True Discourse, an attack against Christian beliefs. He
appears to have been well read both in Christian apologists and in the Scriptures, OT and NT.
For some sixty or seventy years no Christian writer tackled this compendium of charges against
the faith. Then Origens wealthy friend and patron, Ambrose, asked him to write a refutation.
The result is Origens Against Celsus, which is so comprehensive that it reproduces in citations
some 90 percent of the original work of Celsus, which otherwise would be lost.
Mary the historical figure is a virgin in at least two of the three classic aspects according to
Origen. He vigorously defends the historicity of the virginity ante partum and he is one of the
very first witnesses to the perpetual, or post partum virginity of Mary. It cannot be established
that he affirmed the miraculous preservation of virginity in the process of birth, the so-called
virginity in partu.
The virginal conception is accepted as part of the clear testimony of Biblical history. Origen takes
Lam 4.20 (We thought that under his shadow we would live among the nations) as a prophecy
of the process of the virginal conception: the Holy Spirit overshadowing Mary.36 Jesus is
begotten not of male seed but directly by the Holy Spirit.37 Origen carefully distinguishes the
roles of the two parents of Jesus: Joseph, who arranged matters for the Lords birth, and Mary,


Heracleons Commentary on John has not survived and the Commentary on Daniel by Hippolytus did
not treat the entire book: M. Simonetti, Biblical Interpretation in the Early Church (Edinburgh: T & T Clark,
1994), 40; cf. Quasten, Patrology 2.171-176.

Crouzel, Origen 37. Useful summaries of his work are found in Crouzel, Origen 41-49; Quasten,
Patrology 2.43-74 and Westcott, Origenes 96-142, still helpful in its details.

hom. Num. 27.12; arch. 2.6.7, not in CMP or Vagaggini, see Appendix 28; com. Cant. 3.5, CMP
239. Crouzel (SC 87.19 and Origen 194) concludes this shadow is actually the pre-existent soul of Jesus.
Elsewhere Origen follows precedent and takes this verse as a general prophecy of Christs presence in both
testaments: frag. 116 com. Lam.

hom. Lev. 9.2.3, not in CMP or Vagaggini, hom. Ex. 6.12, CMP 243; com. Rm. 3.10.5, CMP 244;
com. Rm. 5.9.5, CMP 245; com. Matt. 16.12, CMP 249.

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p. 13

who bore Jesus in childbirth. He calls Joseph the foster-father of Jesus.38

Origen is also not afraid to ascribe some imperfections to Mary. She even suffered some doubts
and lapses in her faith.39 In a sermon he interprets the sword prophesied by Simeon in Luke 2.35
as a lapse of Marys faith.
Mary overtly sinned when she succumbed to shame as her son was crucified, thus showing her
need to be included in that redemptive death:
Why do we think that if the apostles were scandalized the mother of the Lord
would be immune from the scandal? If she did not suffer scandal from the passion
of the Lord, then Jesus did not die for her sins.40
Mary is important to Origen for another reason than her role as the physical mother of the Lord.
Along with other Biblical figures from both the OT and the NT, she serves as an example of one
who has ascended spiritually.
But Origen goes beyond this to also present Marys maternity as a model for the individual
Christians transformation of self through ascetic practice. This makes Mary an ascetic symbol,
and this is a true innovation in thought about Mary.
This is not a doctrine of Mary as mother of the church, especially given that for Origen other
women also serve as maternal examples, but it is a view that her bringing forth the Savior is
something that can be replicated in the soul of any believer who ascends to a high spirituality.
This idea stems from his broader concept of the fecundity of the soul. Each soul is inherently
generative - its fruit determined by the influences it places itself under, for, as Origen says, There
is no time when the soul is not giving birth; it is constantly giving birth.41 The fruit of this fertility
reflects the spiritual state of that soul. Origen often cites to this effect Gal 4.19: My dear


hom. Lc. 13.7, CMP 252 = SC 87.214: Ioseph dispensatorem ortus Dominici et Mariam, quae Iesum
fudit in partum. hom. Lc. 16.1, CMP 177 = SC 87.238: Ioseph, quia nutricius fuit, and hom. Lc. 18.2, SC
87.266, cf. com. Io. 10.169.

hom. Lc. 20.4.


hom. Lc. 17.7, my translation from CMP 179: Quid putamus quod scandalizatis apostolis Mater
Domini a scandalo fuerit immunis? Si scandalum in Domini passione non passa est, non est mortuus Iesus pro
peccatis eius. = SC 87.258. Crouzel among others is scandalized at Origens lack of Mariological correctness,
accusing him of a completely gratuitous allegorical exegesis here and in hom. Lc. 20.4 (SC 87.56). This is
unjustified on Crouzels part since both these incidents, that of Mary and Joseph questioning the boy Jesus in the
temple, and that of Marys sharp pang of doubt at the foot of the cross, are spiritualized in a manner consistent
with Origens exegesis in general.

hom. Num. 20.2, SC 29.397 = GCS 7 (30).189: Numquam est ergo quando non pariat anima; anima
semper parit, semper generat filios. Cf. ser. Matt. 54. The Father is constantly begetting the soul of the righteous
man in each good act the man performs: hom. Ier. 9.4, SC 232.392.

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p. 14

children, for whom I am again in the pains of childbirth until Christ is formed in you.42

Origen spiritualizes the Biblical figure, Mary, the mother of Jesus. He presents her as a symbol of
the individual believers soul as it ascends.
(What follows is condensed from ETS paper, 2003 November)

The historical figure of Mary is spiritualized to signify the soul which has ascended to the point
that as a virgin it gives birth to the highest virtue, a spiritualized virginal conception:
But you also, if you mortify your members which are earthly, if you cast off all the
passion of lust and keep your body dead and at the mercy of none of these vices,
you as well can produce the best fruits from him: You can produce an Isaac, that
is, joy; and this is the first fruit of the Spirit. Your seed, that is to say, your works,
can ascend to heaven and become works of light and be conferred with the
splendor and glory of the stars, so that when the day of resurrection arrives, you
will stand out in brightness as one star differs from another star. I will say still
more: If you become as pure in mind as you are holy in body, if you become
spotless in your deeds, you can even produce Christ, in accordance with the words
of the one who said: My little children, for whom I am again in the pain of
childbirth until Christ is formed in you [Gal 4:19]. The Lord himself also speaks
in this way concerning himself: Whoever should do the will of my father in
heaven, he is my brother and sister and mother [Mt 12:50]. Who then shall be a
mother of Jesus if not the one whose womb is dead in this way so that only then
she might afterward bring forth sons of chastity. As the apostle says of the
woman: Yet she will be saved through childbearing, provided she continue in faith
and chastity [1Tim 2:15]. On this account, I believe Paul has fittingly added:
And it was reckoned to him as righteousness. For how could righteousness fail
to be reckoned to a man who has attained perfection not only by faith but by all the
other virtues as well?43
It must be noted that Mary is not the only woman whose biological maternity has spiritual
significance for Origen. He uses Hannah and Rebecca in the same way.44
It is the maternity rather than the virginity of Mary that Origen prefers to apply to believers. He
repeatedly sets her out as an example of someone who has progressed in her soul to a heightened

hom. Lev. 6.6.3. Also hom. Gen. 6.3; hom. Ex. 1.3; 10.3; hom. Lev. 12.7.2; frag. 10 from hom. Ier.;
com. Io. 1.92; com. Rm. 4.6.9; 7.4.14; 7.7.4; 8.10.7; cf. Clement of Alexandria, str. 3.15.99. Ultimately it is the
Lord himself who supervises this spiritual giving birth of Christ in each ascending believer: com. Cant. 3.12.

com. Rm. 4.6.9, trans. Schenk, 4.23. Here Origen directly connects the Galatians 4.19 text with Mary.

euch. 16.3, trans. J. Oulton, Alexandrian Christianity, LCC (Philadelphia: Westminster, 1954), 272;
and hom. Gen. 12.3.

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p. 15

state of spirituality.45 This state can be described as spiritual virginity. Mary is a being
transformed by God. In a sense it is the achievement of this virginity of the soul, its freedom from
base things, that allows it to bear fruit and become a mother of the Lord like Mary. But this
blessing was not reserved to Mary alone. Others may follow her example:
They who do not know the mystery of the virgin say to Jesus: your brothers [Mk
3.32; Lk 8.20], for if they had known they would have believed in him. It is from
doing the will of his Father in heaven that one becomes the brother or sister or
mother of Jesus. When the wholly virginal and uncorrupted soul, although not by
nature a brother, etc., to Jesus, conceives of the Holy Spirit in order to give birth
to the will of the Father, it becomes the mother of Jesus.46
So with Origen we now have Mary presented as a model for asceticism and also a precedent for
moving well beyond the historical Mary of the NT into constructing her as a figure of spiritual
power and maturity.


(c. 342-420)

[Expanded with HT Mary L 7 2004; bio from Patristics L 4 2014, CGST]

Two hundred years after Tertullian, a debate on the issue of the brothers of Jesus broke out
among theologians. A man named Helvidius, of whom we know very little, proposed that these
brothers were actual siblings, natural sons of Mary and Joseph. Helvidius proposed this view
because he was very concerned by a growing trend in the church of the fifth century: an exaltation
of virginity above marriage. Helvidius proposed that Christians who were married were equal in
holiness to those who were life-long virgins. He put forward Mary as a model of both (in this
following Tertullian). His opinion was quickly attacked by one of the giants among the Church
Fathers, Jerome.
Jerome is most famous for being the translator of the Bible into Latin (Vulgate). He is also
known for his vehement advocacy of the ascetic life, in fact he is called a champion of
He was born Eusebius Hieronymus48 in a remote part of the Western Empire, Dalmatia, roughly
corresponding to Yugoslavia today. We know little of his family: his given name strongly


hom. Lc. 7.1, 7.2, 7.5, 6.7, com. Io. 1.220 (31), 2.224 (37), 6.256 (49), 6.259 (49).


frag. com. Matt. 281 on Mt 12.48, trans. Daly, 753, Spirit and Fire, 270-271


J. N. D. Kelly, Jerome: His Life, Writings and Controversies (Peabody, MA: Hendrickson, 1998 reprint of
1975 edn, London: Duckworth), 104, cf. 179 ff.

Jerome from Hierome from Hieronymus, a Latinized Greek name meaning of sacred name.

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p. 16

suggests it was a Christian home into which he was born, a fact which he himself affirms.49
He moves to the East, where he was to live the rest of his life (except for a three year stay in
Rome from 382-385). He stayed for a while in Antioch, and it was here he experienced a spiritual
crisis, probably in the year 374. A result of this was a vow he took, Lord, if ever again I possess
worldly books, if ever I read them, I shall have denied You.50 Twenty years later as a man in his
sixties he revises this prohibition and we do find throughout his writings many allusions to pagan
literature.51 Nevertheless, this oath is a significant turning point of his energies towards Biblical
and theological literature.
As a result of this crisis he also began his forays into asceticism. He retreated into the desert of
northern Syria, probably early in 375, as a man in his mid-forties. This was not a complete
isolation; there was a loose community of fellow ascetics scattered nearby. Moreover, Jerome
was regularly visited by friends bearing letters from all over. And he took to his cave an extensive
personal library, now mostly if not exclusively, Christian. He even had several assistants in
attendance, doing secretarial work and copying for him. This ascetic venture was a far cry from a
fellow hermit Jerome mentions who lived in the bottom of an abandoned cistern and restricted
himself to eating five dates a day.52
It is during this period of his life that he begins to seriously learn both Greek and Hebrew. He
studied his Hebrew under a Jew who had converted.
Jerome was in Constantinople during the Council of 381, which is generally recognized as a
turning point towards a reaffirmation of Nicene orthodoxy. It was now that Jerome encountered
Gregory of Nazianzus, a man Jerome is not afraid to call his teacher, despite their being on
different sides of some issues. Yet both were enthusiasts for asceticism, above all for virginity
and it may well be that Gregory was the one who introduced the writings of Origen of Alexandria
to Jerome.53
Jerome at this time produced a work which began to make him famous, his Chronicle, which he
saw as a continuation of the work of Eusebius of Caesarea, who had died about 40 years earlier.
It became popular despite its drawbacks which show that Jerome was no historian: he is careless
on dates, is unable to cull out trivial matters from his writing and is uncritical of anyone with


Preface to Job (PL 28.1082B) and Letter 82.2, cited in Kelly 7.


Letter 22.30, cited by Kelly 42.


Cf. Letter 70. He defends his allusions by saying the oath was to not continue to read the pagans, but
that it did not erase his memory, Apology 1.30, both cited by Kelly 43.

Kelly 47-48, cf. Life of Paul 6.


Kelly, 70-71.

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p. 17

whom he agrees.54
When Paulinus of Antioch went to Rome in 382, seeking an affirmation of his post as bishop of
Antioch, Jerome went along and soon became an assistant to Damasus, bishop of Rome. It seems
Jerome was no mere secretary; rather he functioned more like a law clerk to a judge (i.e., he was
given original work to do which was then appropriated by the bishop). His knowledge of
Hebrew, almost unique in the West, was a factor. He had at least some connections with the Jews
of Rome, using their books to keep up his Hebrew ability.55
It is during his time in Rome that Jerome associates with several wealthy Christian widows who
are seeking to live ascetic lives as well as to learn from Jerome more of Scripture. Most notable
among these is Paula. Jerome would visit her and other widows in their large homes, and conduct
Bible studies with them (always in groups, not individually). However he was criticized for
having too many associations with women.
While there is some hint that Jerome fancied himself to be a candidate as the next bishop of Rome,
in fact when Damasus died in 384 and Siricius was elevated, Jerome saw fit to depart (August
385). Paula and Eustochium soon joined him and together they proceeded to settle eventually in
Bethlehem where they established a monastic community funded by Paula.
Settled in Bethlehem and near to the library at Caesarea which among other treasures was said to
contain all of Origens works, Jerome begins a period of intensive literary production. He
composed his summary of Christian biography, De viris inlustribus (Concerning Famous Men).
He also turns his energies to a study of the Hebrew OT.
During his sojourn in Rome Jerome, in probably 383, wrote a work we still have called On the
Perpetual Virginity of Mary against Helvidius. The title is a good summary of its contents, but
not of its tone. A leading Catholic historian of Marian doctrine calls Jeromes language
vitriolic.56 Jeromes vigorous defense of asceticism and of Marys perpetual virginity was at
once both successful and vituperous. The same tone can be found a decade later, in his Against
Jovinian (393), a tract attacking the opinions of the monk Jovinian who also questioned the rising
status of virginity in the Church.
Jerome does argue from his vast knowledge of Scripture against the views of Helvidius, but he
also attacks Helvidius as a person, denying him any measure of good faith and accusing him of
attacking Marys perpetual virginity only to increase his own reputation:
You have brought disgrace upon the Virgin with your madness . . . you have
defiled the sanctuary of the Holy Spirit, from which you would have issue four


Kelly 74-75.


Kelly 83-84.


Hilda Graef, Mary: A History of Doctrine and Devotion (London: Sheed and Ward, 1985), 1.89.

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p. 18

brothers and a host of sisters . . . you uttered this blasphemy . . . you have become
famed through your crime . . .57
For Jerome, Mary is the model virgin: Take as your example blessed Mary, whose purity was so
great that she merited to be the Mother of the Lord.58
Jeromes vehement defense of Marys perpetual virginity has had influence down to today. So in
the 1997 universal Catechism of the Catholic Church:
The Church has always understood these passages as not referring to other
children of the Virgin Mary. In fact James and Joseph, brothers of Jesus, are the
sons of another Mary, a disciple of Christ, whom St. Matthew significantly calls
the other Mary. (CCC 500).

35 Jerome Against Helvidius = Saint Jerome, On the perpetual virginity of the blessed Mary
against Helvidius, John N. Hritzu, trans., Fathers of the Church, vol. 53 (Catholic University
Press, 1965), pp. 11-43 = 33 pages.

Section / page
1 / 11
Helvidius is mainly known through this treatise by Jerome.
Note the abusive ad hominem argumentation of Jerome (J) against Helvidius (H).
2 / 12

J states his thesis: the perpetual virginity of Mary, which is Biblical.

3 / 12

J summarizes Hs arguments:
- the word betrothed (mnsteuein) means Mary would go on to be a normal wife
- phrase before they came together means later they did come together sexually

4 / 13
J dismisses Hs point first with more ad hominem attacks.
J says before (ante in Latin) may mean only a future action is planned, not inevitable
J is probably arguing beyond the grammar of the text here.
4 / 14
J is correct that wife (gyne) can properly apply to Mary due to Jewish customs of the time


Jerome, On the Perpetual Virginity of the Blessed Mary against Helvidius, 16, John N. Hritzu, trans.,
Saint Jerome: Dogmatic and Polemical Works, Fathers of the Church, 53 (Washington, D.C.: Catholic University
of America, 1965), 34-35.

Jerome, Ep. 22.38, in Luigi Gambero, Mary and the Fathers of the Church (San Francisco: Ignatius,
1999), 213.

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p. 19

4 / 15
J gives three reasons why Mary and Joseph are betrothed:
1) Joseph normally would take a wife from his own tribe (see fn 13 on p. 15)
2) The pledged relationship protects Mary from accusations during the pregnancy
(people simply assume the couple have engaged in premature relations)
3) Joseph is committed to Mary and the child after the birth takes place
4 / 16
J discusses the role of Joseph as the presumptive father: he functions as adoptive father for Jesus
5 / 17
H argued the phrase in Mt 1.25, He had no union with her until she gave birth to a son, means
later Joseph and Mary did have union as indicated by the word until. H argues the verb to
know here has a sexual meaning.
J accepts that to know here has a sexual meaning, so he concentrates his refutation on Hs
interpretation of the adverb until.
6 / 18 and 7 / 19
J searching Scripture for other examples of indefinite time meaning for until.
NB: Modern interpreters hold that the language in Mt 1.25 is inconclusive. So Brown says
As for the marital situation after the birth of the child, in itself this verse gives us
no information whatsoever. In my judgment the question of Marys remaining a
virgin for the rest of her life belongs to post-biblical theology.59
8 / 20-21
J notes Josephs hesitation to sleep with Mary during the pregnancy was due to his respect for
the holy child she was carrying. J argues the womb, indeed the very person of Mary was
sanctified by the presence of the unborn Jesus.
7a / 21-22
H responds that if Matthew wanted to be clear that Joseph and Mary never had sexual relations,
there are much more specific ways to express that in Greek. H asserts the text means Mary and
Joseph had normal sexual relations after Jesus was born.
8a / 22
J now puts words into Hs mouth to the point of absurdity. If Joseph waited until after the birth,
perhaps he forced himself onto her immediately. J then mis-applies Jeremiah 5.8; a text speaking
of adultery J takes and applies to married sexual relations.


Raymond E. Brown, The Birth of the Messiah: A Commentary on the Infancy Narratives in the Gospels
of Matthew and Luke, revised edn (New York: Doubleday, 1993), 132.

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p. 20

8a / 23
J dismisses the historical value of the Infancy Gospel of James: asserting there was no midwife.
9 / 23
Hs view: Mary had other children based on the use of firstborn for Jesus
10 / 23
J says firstborn does not mean other children follow. He cites Numbers 18 to show that an only
child can be firstborn, but by doing this he implicitly gives up any affirmation of the virginity in
J does not affirm the virginity in partu perhaps, according to H. Graef, because its main basis is
found in suspect documents like the Infancy Gospel of James.60
10 / 24-25
J explicitly denies the virginity in partu.
11-12 / 25-27
H says the brothers of the Lord texts prove Mary had other children.
13 / 28
Js first response is again an attack on the person of H: calling him crazy.
J says if Jesus had brothers, where were they during the crucifixion?
J notes that at the foot of the cross were at least two women named Mary.
14 / 30
J asserts the brothers of the Lord are really sons of the other Mary, the sister of the Virgin
Mary, and thus cousins, not full siblings of the Lord.
J says the word brother has a wide range of meaning apart from full sibling.
15 / 33
J says brother can refer to one not a relative held in close affection.
16 / 33-34
J accuses H of the complete lack of any good faith. He charges H with publishing his theories just
to gain fame, like the man who set a fire in the temple of Diana (a popular story).
16 / 35
J is vitriolic against H by saying he would have Mary give birth to four brothers and a host of


Hilda Graef, Mary: A History of Doctrine and Devotion (London: Sheed & Ward, 1985), 1.90.

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p. 21

J implies H has no purity of heart.

16 / 36
J says that since Joseph is called the father of Jesus though biologically he was not, so also can
these be called the brothers of Jesus though they are not. The logical connection J pushes here
does not stand up.
17 / 36
H must have cited Tertullian, who also denied the virginity post partum by saying Mary had other
children by Joseph after the birth of Jesus.
J dismisses Tertullian as not a man of the Church, because of his sympathy with the Montanists.
This is a very unfair and inaccurate charge.
17 / 37
Footnote 104 is inaccurate: none of these writers affirm the virginity post partum: Irenaeus,
Ignatius of Antioch, Justin Martyr. Remember the Fathers of the Church series is published by the
Catholic University of America.
18 / 37
H dared to assert that married Christians were equal in status to Christians who have taken vows
of virginity.
18 / 38
J now lifts language straight from Tertullian (without credit, as was his usual dishonest practice;
he did it a lot with Origen as well) to describe the disgusting process of physical birth.
19 / 39
J now argues from silence that Joseph also was a life-long virgin. He is rejecting the view put
forth by some (Epiphanius of Salamis, d. 403) that the brothers of Jesus were children of Joseph
by his first wife, now deceased.
But a previous marriage of Josephs would defile him and make him unsuitable to be the adoptive
father of Jesus. This affirmation says much about Jeromes view of marriage.
20 / 39
J says he is not rejecting any good in Christian marriage.
20 / 40-41
Yet J goes on to disparage marriage. Married women hardly have any time to think of God.
21 / 42
Married women who refuse sexual advances from their husbands may achieve some holiness.

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p. 22

J says the heavenly reward for virgins is higher than that for married Christians.
J cites Rev 14.4 as a Biblical basis for viewing marriage as a soiled activity. NB: this is not the
force of that text.
21 / 43
Virgins must not engage in business, that also soils them.
22 / 43
H had dared to propose that virgins and those married are equal in glory.
J belittles H by comparing him with a woman disciplined by her lord husband who then pouts in a
corner (an interesting insight into Js view of women, his long friendship with Paula


[From HT Mary L 7 2004 CGST]

Ambrose of Milan ( c. 339 - 397) defended against Jovinian the perpetual virginity of Mary,
Would the Lord Jesus have chosen for his mother a woman who would defile the
heavenly chamber with the seed of a man, that is to say, one incapable of
preserving her virginal chastity intact?61
Many in the Empire were still pagan, and one of the most influential of pagan cults was the one
devoted to Cybele, the Magna Mater (Great Mother). Some apparently were importing her
devotion into the Church by asserting that Cybele was really a representation of the Virgin Mary.
So Ambrose has this warning:
Without doubt the Holy Spirit too must be adored when we adore him who is born
of the Spirit according to the flesh. But let none apply this to Mary: for Mary was
the temple of God, not the God of the temple. And therefore he alone is to be
adored, who worked in the temple.62
In the East, Chrysostom also believed Mary always remained a virgin, though he did explicitly
deny she was free from sin.63


De Inst. Virg., 44, cited by Hilda Graef, Mary: A History of Doctrine and Devotion (London: Sheed &
Ward, 1985), 1.80.

On the Holy Spirit 3.80 cited in Ambrose in Theotokos: A Theological Encyclopedia of the Blessed
Virgin Mary, Michael OCarroll (Wilmington, DE: Michael Glazier, 1983 revised edn).

Graef, Mary, 1.74-76, cf. Hom. in Matthew 44, 45; Hom. in John 21.2.

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p. 23

Augustine (d. 430) is one of the earliest witnesses to the now standard motif of viewing Marys
virginity in three aspects: Virgo concepit, virgo peperit, virgo permansit, which I translate:
She conceived as a virgin, gave birth as a virgin and remained a virgin permanently.64
Augustine has a section in his de sancta virginitate (dated to 401) which is cited famously in the
section on Mary in the Vatican 2 document on the Church, Lumen Gentium:65
She is clearly the mother of the members of Christ . . . since she has by her charity
joined in bringing about the birth of believers in the Church, who are members of
its head.
And in 429 Cyril of Alexandria in his Paschal Homily 17 uses the title Meter Theou intentionally
as a synonym of Theotokos. 66


[From HT Mary L 8, 2004, CGST]

The word Theotokos apparently was coined by the Church, it seems to have had no pre-Christian
usage at all.67 Professor David F. Wright reminds us that one of its early occurances is in the
mouth of Emperor Constantine, who may have coined the word. In his Address to the Assembly
of the Saints, the Emperor is recording as saying:
There was conception, yet apart from marriage; childbirth, yet pure virginity; and a
maiden became the mother of God.
The word Theotokos (2,@J`6@H) is, of course, Greek, and means one who bears God, in
reference to Marys maternity of Jesus. To be consistent, when translated into Latin it should be
rendered Deipara. But it has become standard to translate it as Mater Dei, which is Mother of
God and has been taken as a justification for an entire doctrine of Mary as the mother of all
Christians and the mother of the Church. The two, bearer of God and mother of God are not
the same, the first only referring to the act of physical generation and birth, while the second
carries with it a reference to the entire mother-child relationship, which is exactly what is used in


Augustine, Sermon 51.11.18, (PL 38.343) cited in Ludwig Ott, Fundamentals of Catholic Dogma
(Rockford, IL: Tan, 1960), 207, my translation.

Augustine, de S. Virginitate 6, PL 40.399, Lumen Gentium 53, Flannery, 414. We note that this is not
explicit and the earliest clear application of the title Mother of the Church, is in the 12th century in Berengaud,
Mother of the Church in Theotokos: A Theological Encyclopedia of the Blessed Virgin Mary.

John A. McGuckin, St. Cyril of Alexandria: The Christological Controversy: Its History, Theology, and
Texts (Leiden: Brill, 1994), 32.

D. F. Wright, Mother of God? in Chosen By God: Mary in Evangelical Perspective, D. F. Wright,

ed. (London: Marshall Pickering, 1989), 131.

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p. 24

developing later Marian dogma.68

While we have no evidence of devotion to Mary among the Ante-Nicene theological writings, we
do have another piece of evidence, a papyrus published in 1938 which appears to be an early
version of a prayer to Mary. This prayer, the sub tuum (under your . . .) was a well-known
medieval prayer to Mary, and until the publication of this papyrus, was thought to have originated
in the Middle Ages.
However the papyrus, which contains a Greek version of the prayer, dates to either the fourth or
even possibly the third century, thus is important as the earliest known prayer to Mary. It
contains the title Theotokos in the vocative. Here is a reconstruction and translation of the entire
Under your mercy, we take refuge, Mother of God, do not reject our supplications
in necessity. But deliver us from danger. You alone [are] chaste, you alone [are]
Then arose a controversy about the word Theotokos as applied to Mary, the mother of Jesus.
This debate revolved around Nestorius, who objected to the term, but before we enter into the
details, perhaps some background will prove helpful.
The term had an increasing usage, especially at first in the East. The first witness we have for this
is Alexander, the bishop of Alexandria (so before 328). A number of textbooks and reference
works will incorrectly cite Origen of Alexandria as the first witness to the term Theotokos. Even
W. H. C. Frend, in his Rise of Christianity makes this mistake.70
However, the term is found in ever widening circles after Alexander.71 It was used by Eusebius of
Caesarea, the Cappadocian Fathers and Cyril of Jerusalem. But it was the usage by Apollinarius
which became a problem for Nestorius.


See Wright, Mother of God, 129-131. The mistranslation is reaffirmed in the 1994 Catechism of the
Catholic Church, 495.

Sub Tuum, the, in Theotokos: A Theological Encyclopedia of the Blessed Virgin Mary, Michael
OCarroll (Wilmington, DE: Michael Glazier, 1983 revised edn).

Frend, Rise, 755, cf. Socrates, Church History 7.32 who claims Origen used the term in his
Commentary on Romans. This is very probably not genuine to Origen, which is why Rufinus omitted it in his
translation of the Commentary. Even Michael OCarroll admits Origen should not be cited as an early witness to
the word, Theotokos, God-Bearer in Theotokos: A Theological Encyclopedia of the Blessed Virgin Mary.

The usage in Athanasius is based on accepting the Coptic sermons as genuine. They are not affirmed as
genuine by Quasten, Patrology 3.51-2 and the doubts are even registered by M. OCarroll in his article on
Athanasius in Theotokos: A Theological Encyclopedia of the Blessed Virgin Mary.

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p. 25

Apollinarius taught that Christs flesh could have no separate existence apart from the Logos.72
He was trying to emphasize the unity of the person of Christ against dualism that he traced back
to Paul of Samosata. So he could speak of God born of a woman and he did use the term
Theotokos for Mary, but by this he did not have the same meaning as others who used the same
So we find one of the Cappadocians, Gregory of Nazianzus, in an effort to combat Apollinarian
Christology, as being the first we know of to put forth a statement on Mary as a test for
orthodoxy: If anyone does not accept the holy Mary as Theotokos, he is without the Godhead.73
There were some who were reluctant to apply this title to Mary; we find this reticence in both
Chrysostom and Augustine,74 and in Theodore of Mopsuestia, who says:
Mary bare Jesus, not the Word, for the Word was and remained omnipresent,
although from the beginning he dwelt in Jesus in a peculiar manner. Thus Mary is
properly the Mother of Christ (Christotocos) but not the mother of God
(Theotocos). Only figuratively, per anaphoram, can she be called Theotocos also,
because God was in Christ in a remarkable manner. Properly she bare a man, in
whom the union with the Word was begun, but was still so little completed, that he
was not yet called the Son of God.75
Yet elsewhere Theodore does allow for the term Theotokos:
So when they ask, Is Mary the mother of God or the mother of man? -- let us
say, Both: the one by the nature of the thing, the other by relation. For she is the
mother of man by nature, since what was in the womb of Mary was a man. . . . But
she is the mother of God, since God was in the man who was born, not confined
within him by nature, but in him by the disposition of the will.76
This openness would not remain for long; the word Theotokos became part of the definition of the
Council at Ephesus in 431 and was reiterated in the Chacedonian statement twenty years later.


J. N. D. Kelly, Early Christian Doctrines, 5th edn (San Francisco: Harper, 1978), 290-295.


Epistle 101, cited in Graef, Mary, 1.64, from where this discussion is adapted.


Graef, Mary, 1.94-95.


Cited in History of Theotokos in NPNF series 2, vol. 14, under section on Council of Ephesus. I have
yet to confirm this citation, which is cited in NPNF from C. J. Hefele, Histoire des conciles daprs les documents
originaux, 11 vols (1907-1952), 3.9.

Cited in R. A. Norris, Manhood and Christ: A Study in the Christology of Theodore of Mopsuestia
(Oxford: Clarendon, 1963), 215, citing Swete, 2.310.

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p. 26

[From HT Mary L 8, 2004, CGST]

Nestorius (c. 381-451) may have been born the year Apollinarianism was condemned at the
Council in Constantinople. However there is a connection between the two apart from the fact
that Nestorius was made bishop of Constantinople in 428. The connection is the term Theotokos,
a word employed, as we have seen, by Gregory of Nazianzus against Apollinarius (despite the fact
that Apollinarius himself could and did use the term). It becomes an issue for Nestorius who
feared its implications.
Nestorius was an ascetic, a monk, and had been a student of Theodore of Mopsuestia. Like his
teacher, he gained a reputation as an excellent preacher; some said he was better than John of
Twenty-four years after John Chrysostom, from Antioch, was made bishop of Constantinople,
another Antiochene, Nestorius, was elevated to that see (428). As Nestorius took this office he
was entering shark-infested waters as an outsider.77 This did not deter him; in his installation
speech he asked Emperor for support in a campaign to rid the Imperial capital of heresy, making
the following wide-ranging promise to Theodosius 2 (reign: 408-450):
Give me, my prince, the earth purged of heretics, and I will give you heaven as a
recompense. Assist me in destroying heretics, and I will assist you in vanquishing
the Persians.78
His target was the Arians; when he ordered the destruction of one of their churches, a city-wide
riot ensued and many put the blame squarely on Nestorius. He also went after Novatianists and
those who differed on the date of Easter (Quartodecimans, who followed the Jewish passover
chronology), and others.
In the year 428 a celebrated guest speaker at the cathedral in Constantinople spoke during a
liturgical service. He was Proclus and in 434 he would succeed Nestorius as bishop of the
Imperial city. His sermon, later incorporated into the acts of the Council of Ephesus, says in part:
The reason we have gathered here today is the holy Theotokos Virgin Mary,
immaculate treasure of virginity, spiritual paradise of the second Adam, workshop
of the union of [Christs two] natures, marketplace of the saving exchange, bridal
chamber in which the Word was wedded to the flesh, living bush that was not
burned by the fire of the divine birth, the true light cloud that bore the One who, in
his body, stands above the cherubim, fleece moistened by celestial dew, with which
the Shepherd clothes his sheep.79


Chadwick, Church in Ancient Society, 528.


Socrates, Church History 7.29.


Oratio 1.1, PG 65.681 A-B, cited in Luigi Gambero, Mary and the Fathers of the Church: The Blessed
Virgin Mary in Patristic Thought, T. Buffer, trans. (San Francisco: Ignatius, 1999), 235.

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p. 27

Proclus concludes his homily with this, Behold, holy Mary is openly proclaimed as Theotokos.80
Nestorius the bishop saw such language as dangerously diminishing the full nature of the humanity
of Christ (an error of Apollinarius). Furthermore, it veered too close, in his view, to deifying
Mary.81 She had not given birth to God, but to a man. Perhaps it would be better for Mary to be
called anthropotokos or even Christotokos, but Theotokos was going too close to the edge of
pagan goddess worship.
But the crowd chose to read this cautious rejection of a very popular devotional term as an
outright denial of the deity of Christ himself.
Nestorius in a letter defending his views cites Matthew 22.42-44, which in turn contains this OT
quotation employed by Jesus, the Lord said to my Lord, sit on my right. Nestorius says, it is
because he is entirely Davids son acording to the flesh, but Davids Lord according to the
Godhead that a distinction must be made. So to attribute to the Godhead . . .the properties of
the flesh that is associated with it (and I mean generation, suffering, and death) then is either the
error of a pagan mentality, brother [the letter is to Cyril of Alexandria], or a spirit sick witht he
madness of Apollinarius and Arius.82


[From HT Mary L 8, 2004, CGST]

We now must introduce another character, Cyril of Alexandria (c. 375-444).83 Cyril had become
bishop of Alexandria in 412, succeeding his uncle, Theophilus (Bp: 384-412), infamous to later
generations as the primary agent in the deposition of John Chrysostom. Cyril had been elevated
after a bloody and contested election84 and like his uncle before him was always on the look-out
for ways to increase the influence of his see.
Nestorius had interfered in a disciplinary matter which Cyril regarded as belonging to him and so
the Egyptian bishop did not need much prompting to engage with his rival in Constantinople over
what he, Cyril, saw as a clear case of false teaching.
Cyril proposed what later is to become known as the hypostatic union which he says allows Mary
to be thought of as Theotokos, a term important for the Alexandrian school of theology because


Oratio 10, PG 65.692 B, Gambero, 235.


Chadwick, Church in Ancient Society, 528.


Nestorius, Reply to Cyrils Second Letter, in McGuckin, 367.


Not to be confused with the earlier anti-Arian writer, Cyril of Jerusalem, who died in 386.


Lionel R. Wickham, Cyril of Alexandria, in Encyclopedia of Early Christianity. Frend compiles a

list of charges against him, Rise, 753.

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p. 28

of their view that the Logos is the subject of the incarnation, in other words, the person of the
Savior is the cause rather than the result of the incarnation.85
Cyril viewed the term Theotokos as a bulwark of Christology, protecting the doctrine of
Christs deity.86 Cyril is known for preaching what Quasten calls the most famous Marian
sermon of antiquity.


[From HT Mary L 8, 2004, CGST]

Nestorius had backpedalled a bit on the title, Theotokos, so Cyril, determined to see his rival
disciplined, wrote a set of twelve points in a Third Letter to Nestorius known as the Twelve
Anathemas.87 These twelve condemnations were designed to cause Nestorius to reject them,
which he did, seeing in them an Apollinarian tinge. So Nestorius turned to the Emperor.
In mid-November of 430, the Emperor called a council to discuss these matters of doctrine. It
was to meet in the summer in the city of Ephesus. Meanwhile, Nestorius complained in a sermon
that he was being attacked with golden arrows, by which he meant bribes were being handed
out to various officials in preparation for the council deciding against him.88 Suspicion naturally
accrues towards Alexandria and its bishop.
When the Council assembled, Cyril and his allies were first to arrive, and when they attempted to
call the council together before Nestorius could come, they were cautioned by an imperial official,
the commander of the Emperors bodyguard and appointed by him specifically to maintain order
among the quarrelsome bishops. Of course Cyrils party accused him of pro-Nestorian bias.
They went ahead and issued a condemnation of Nestorius.
After some days Nestorius arrived and Cyril was deposed. Then the delegation from Rome
arrived and reversed the decision back to an anti-Nestorian, pro-Cyril state. But despite the
messy politics, some important doctrinal decisions were made, not the least of which was a firm
pledge to never change the Creed of Nicaea.89
Included in the definition of Ephesus is the use of Theotokos as a safeguard of the full deity of the
Logos in Marys womb (in other words, what she carried was not just a man but also God).


Gerald Bray, Creeds, Councils and Christ (Fearn, Rossshire, UK: Mentor, 1984), 155.


John A. McGuckin, St. Cyril of Alexandria: The Christological Controversy: Its History, Theology, and
Texts (Leiden: Brill, 1994), 29.

NPNF series 2, vol 14.


Chadwick, 531.


Gerald Bray, Creeds, Councils and Christ, 156.

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p. 29

However, as Wright reminds us, if the Council had wished to call Mary the Mother of God they
would have used the term Theomtr or Mtr Theou, which terms were not used.90
Nestorius himself has been wrongly placed in the Nestorian camp. Nestorius condemned the
heresy falsely attributed to him--the extreme view that the human Jesus and the divine Christ were
two different persons.91 But he was nevertheless sent into exile where he languished for twenty
years before his death.
The Council of Chalcedon in 451 not only accepted Theotokos as part of its definition, it became
the standard for Christology.
This council said Christ's divine nature did not join or unite with a separate, distinct human individual
person. Instead, there is a perfect union of human and divine in Mary's womb, from the moment of
conception by the Holy Spirit. So as a man, Jesus is always fully human while he also remains fully
Gerald Bray sums up the impact of the Chacedonian definition:92
The Council of Chalcedon marks a turning-point in the history of theological
thought. It welded Western and Eastern traditions into a unity which would not be
seen again, though the price paid for this in the East was to be very high.
As early as Epiphanius of Salamis ( c. 315 - 403) discussions appear concerning the fate of Marys
body at the end of her life. Epiphanius says the Scriptures are silent on the issue and then says
there are three possibilities: she died and was buried; she died as a martyr or she was taken
directly to heaven. He uses Rev 12.13-14 to support this, although he says that he is not certain
this is what happened to Mary.
This is significant as possibly the first Marian interpretation of Rev. 12, as Gambero notes.93
However it is also significant as a very early discussion of the possibility of Mary being assumed
into heaven without dying first.
Around the year 630 John of Thessalonika preached a sermon on this issue and made the
following points:


D. F. Wright, Mother of God? in Chosen By God: Mary in Evangelical Perspective, D. F. Wright,

ed. (London: Marshall Pickering, 1989), 124.

Nestorius, Susan A. Harvey, in Encyclopedia of Early Christianity.


Bray, Creeds, Councils and Christ, 163.


Luigi Gambero, Mary and the Fathers of the Church: The Blessed Virgin Mary in Patristic Thought,
Thomas Buffer, trans. (San Francisco: Ignatius Press, 1999), 126.

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p. 30

- Mary deserves thanks second only to God - an indication of highly developed devotion to
- Mary did die and was buried, but soon after her body was taken into heaven.

[ Germanus material from HT Mary L 8, 2012 CGST ]

36 Germanus On the Dormition = Germanus, Archbishop of Constantinople, On the most

vererable dormition of the holy Mother of God, Homily 1, On the dormition of Mary: Early
patristic homilies, Brian E. Daley, trans. (St Vladimirs Seminary Press, 1998), pp. 153-168 = 16

1, p. 153
Gs purpose is to praise Mary on the occasion of her feast of dormition.
2, p. 154
Note ornament to heaven language.
4, p. 156
Immaculate flesh of Mary = G. holds to an early version of the immaculate conception.94
4, pp. 156-7
Mary has communion with believers now.
5, p. 157
Marys presence is a caring one; she does not turn any away among those whom you saved.
Note twice in this section that Marys body is asserted to be free of corruption = assumption.
6, p.158
Assumption here coupled with belief in death of Mary.
Note title, Mother of Life (also in 4, p. 157).
7, p. 160
Intercessory ministry of Mary.
Graef: the power of her intercession and her part in our redemption are emphasized more


H. Graef, Mary: A History of Doctrine and Devotion says he did not hold to the immaculate conception,
see 1.148-149.

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p. 31

strongly than in any Father before him.95

8, p. 160
No one is saved except through Mary.
8, p. 161
Mary pleads our cause before God.
As the mother of God Marys entreaties cannot be ignored by God.
Graef notes: the language in which Germanus expressed himself was certainly extremely
God obeys you as his true and immaculate Mother in every way, always, and in all respects.
Graef: However much allowance might be made for the enthusiasm of the preacher, it is
not permissible to say that God obeys Mary as his Mother. . . even less can one say that Christ in
his Godhead obeys her, because she is his creature and handmaid.. . . she obeys him, not he her.97
Mary turns aside the wrath of God = language of propitiation ascribed to Mary.
Graef says, here are the roots of another aberration of Marian devotion: the idea that
God wants to destroy the sinner, who is saved only by the intercession of Mary in flat
contradiction to the saying in St. Johns Gospel. . . [Jn 3.16]98
9, p. 162
Marys help is described in terms that approach divine attributes of omnipresence, omnipotence.
10, p. 163
Marys role supplants that of the Holy Spirit in conforming us to Gods image


( c. 640 - c. 733)

Germanus was the Patriarch of Constantinople from 715 until he was forced to resign in 730 by
the Emperor Leo 3 ( r: 717 - 741) who opposed the use of images in worship, a practice endorsed
by Germanus. This brought about a controversy known as the Iconoclastic Controversy (an
iconoclast is one who destroys icons). It was resolved at the seventh ecumenical council, held at
the same place as the first, Nicaea, in 787.
One might dismiss Germanus as an insignificant and long-forgotten blip on the theological radar

Graef 1.146.


Graef, 1.146.


Graef 1.147.


Graef 1.147

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p. 32

screen of the Catholic faith, and so not be too concerned about his excesses in Mariology, except
that he is often cited in important recent Catholic documents on Mary:
- Pope Pius 12, Munificentissimus Deus (1950) 22 (cites this homily), (Trouv 44).
- Pope Pius 12, Ad Caeli Reginam (1954).
- Vatican 2 Council, Lumen Gentium (1964) 56, 59 (this homily) and 61
(Trouv 75, 77, 78).
- Pope John Paul 2, Marialis Cultis (1974), 26 (Trouv 148).
- Pope John Paul 2, Redemptoris Mater (1987), 10 (Trouv 258).99


[From HT Mary L 8 & 9, 2004, CGST]

The earliest stratum of evidence has no direct discussion of the immaculate conception of Mary
since this is a much later theological concept. However, we do find a number of early Fathers
who discuss the possibility of Mary committing sin.
Certainly some NT texts are consistent with a view that Mary was not perfect. Foremost among
these is the gentle rebuke given to Mary from her son at the Cana wedding, Dear woman, why do
you involve me? My time has not yet come. (John 2.4).
A cooperative exegetical study states that at the least this text must be taken to mean that Mary
falls into a general category of those who, despite their good intentions,
misunderstand Jesus. . . . until she appears at the foot of the cross, she is not yet a
model for believers and indeed is kept distinct from the disciples who at Cana saw
his glory and believed in him (2:11 notice the continued discussion between the
mother and disciples in 2.12). 100
The question of the possibility of Mary sinning is not discussed at all by many early witnesses, at
least not in any surviving portions of the following: Ignatius of Antioch, The Ascension of Isaiah,
Justin Martyr, Clement of Alexandria, Melito of Sardis, Hippolytus of Rome, Cyprian of
Carthage, Novatian, Odes of Solomon. Jerome also never explicitly discusses this, although he
does describe Mary as overflowing with the graces of the Holy Spirit. (PL 22.422, 700).101


Mother of Christ, Mother of the Church: Documents on the Blessed Virgin Mary, Marianne Lorraine
Trouv, ed. (Boston: Pauline Books & Media, 2001). First three items from article Germanus of Constantinople
in Theotokos. The last two I discovered in my own survey of Trouv.

Raymond Brown, Karl Donfried, Joseph Fitzmyer and John Reumann, eds., Mary in the New
Testament: A Collaborative Assessment by Protestant and Roman Catholic Scholars (New York: Paulist, 1978),

Cited in Jerome in Theotokos, fn 22.

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p. 33

Some early witnesses take time to specifically assert that Mary did sin:
-Irenaeus of Lyons (d. c. 202): AH 3.16.7
-Tertullian (d. c. 222): On Flesh of Christ 7.9, 13 and Against Marcion 4.26.13
-Origen of Alexandria (d. c. 254): Homilies on Luke 14, 17.7 and 20.4
-Athanasius of Alexandria (d. 373): who asserts she had bad thoughts Letter to the Virgins
-Basil of Caeserea (d. 379): follows Origen - the sword of Lk 2.35 as Mary doubting, Ep 260.9
-John Chrysostom (d. 407) reads Mt 12.46-50 and John 2 as both demonstrating faults in Mary,
(Homilies on Matthew 44.2, Homilies on John 21.2). He said Mary did not understand the
mystery of Christs true identity (Exp. 1 in Ps 49) and at Cana she wanted to make herself look
good to others by having her son perform the miracle of the wine (Hom. Jn 21.2).
On the other hand, Mary is spoken of as pure and undefiled:
-Marcellus of Ancyra (d. c. 374) said she was undefiled (Exposition of the Faith 1).
-Ephraem the Syrian (d. 373) in one of his hymns sang:
You [Christ] alone and your Mother are good in every way; for there is no blemish
in thee, my Lord, and no stain in thy Mother. (Nisibene Hymns 27.8).102
He argues that when Jesus was conceived in her, his holy presence sanctified Mary completely.
So his is not a full understanding of the Immaculate Conception, but an assertion of her purity.103
-Gregory of Nazianzus (d. 390): does not follow his friend Basil but instead does call Mary
-Ambrose of Milan (d. 397): calls Mary a virgin by grace free from all stain of sin. (Exp. in Ps.
118.22, 30).104
In the East: sometime between 715 and 731 (during his reign as Patriarch of Constantinople)
Germanus of Constantinople describes her flesh as immaculate and calls her most immaculate


Nisibene Hymns 27.8 cited in Graef 1.57.


Graef 1.58.


Cited in Graef 1.84.

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p. 34

In the West: Paschasius Radbert (d. c. 860) was the head (abbot) of a Benedictine monastery in
France. He wrote
But because she is the object of such solemn cult, it is clear from the authority of
the Church that, when she was born, she was subject to no sins, nor did she
contract original sin, being sanctified in the womb . . . it is clear that she was free
from original sin.106

Eadmer (d. c. 1128) was a protege of Anselm during the latters reign as Archbishop of
Canterbury. He wrote a biography of Anselm. He also wrote what is probably the earliest
theological work promoting the doctrine of the Immaculate Conception.
He picks up the theme of Mary as more merciful than her son. In his Book on the Excellence of
the Virgin Mary he states that:
Sometimes salvation is quicker if we remember Marys name than if we invoke the
name of the Lord Jesus.
Her Son is the Lord and Judge of all men, discerning the merits of the individuals,
hence he does not at once answer anyone who invokes him, but does it only after
just judgement. But if the name of his Mother be invoked, her merits intercede so
that he is answered even if the merits of him who invokes her do not deserve it. 107
Hilda Graef comments on this text:
So we have here the nave idea that it takes Christ some time to weigh the pros
and cons of a case, whereas if we turn to his mother he no longer judges but only
considers her merits and grants a mans prayer at oncea view which became quite
common and explains why, in the Middle Ages and after, prayer to Mary so often
almost superseded prayer to Christ in popular devotion.108
In his treatise on the Immaculate Conception he argues that it must be true because it is possible.


Homily 1, On the Dormition, 4 in Brian E. Daley, On the Dormition of Mary: Early Patristic Homilies
(Crestwood, NJ: St Vladimirs Seminary Press, 1998), 156. Second citation from Orat. 2 in dorm. B. Mariae in
PG 98.357 cited in Immaculate Conception in Theotokos: A Theological Encyclopedia of the Blessed Virgin
Mary, Michael OCarroll (Wilmington, DE: Michael Glazier, 1983 revised edn).

De partu sanctae Mariae cited in Paschasius Radbert, St. in Theotokos.


Liber de Excellentia Virginis Mariae 4 (PL 159.565B) and 6 PL 159.570B) cited in Graef 1.216.


Graef 1.216.

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p. 35

This is summed up in a famous motto that predates Eadmer: potuit, voluit, fecit (He could do it,
He willed it, so He did it).
He also connects the exaltation of Mary as mistress and empress of heaven with the propriety of
her having been conceived without sin. So Eadmer is an important milestone in the growth of the
doctrine of the Immaculate Conception, which he held.109

Bernard (1090-1153) was the head (Abbot) of the monastery at Clairvaux in France. He was a
major figure in Church politics: he influenced the election of Pope Innocent 2 and Pope Eugenius
3, who had been his pupil, was elected to the papacy in 1145.
Bernard opposed the idea of the immaculate conception because he said it is not found either in
the NT nor in the early Fathers of the Church. He did believe Mary was sinless in her life.
Bernards rejection of the Immaculate Conception generated controversy. One writer, Nicholas
of St. Albans (d. after 1174), criticized Bernard (twenty years after his death) and argued for the
immaculate conception thus: if John the Baptist could be sanctified in the womb of Elizabeth, then
why not Mary in the womb of her mother also be made holy?

Thomas Aquinas ( c. 1225-1274) is often regarded as the most important theologian since
Augustine (d. 430). A popular introduction to Aquinas summarizes his vast reach:
Thomas Aquinas ranks among the three or four most influential thinkers in the
history of not merely Christianity but of Western thought in general. Aquinass
theory of natural law shaped our modern concept of human rights. His views of
the state supplied the model for the arguments of Thomas Jefferson in the
Declaration of Independence.110
Aquinas is known as the angelic doctor and was made a Doctor of the Church in 1567 by
Pope Pius 5. In 1879 Pope Leo 13 required in a bull (Aeterni Patris) that all theology students in
Catholic seminaries to study Aquinas.
For Mariology the most significant fact about Aquinas is that he opposed the doctrine of the

Tractatus de conceptione S. Mariae 11 (PL 159.306A), cited in Graef 1.220.


Timothy M. Renick, Aquinas for Armchair Theologians (Louisville, KY: Westminster John Knox,

2002), 1-2.

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p. 36

Immaculate Conception. He does believe Mary was made holy before she was born, but not at
the moment of conception. The reason he gives is: if Mary is holy from her very beginning, how
can she then need a redeemer? Aquinas says Jesus is presented as the savior of all, and this must
include Mary. The most significant text:
If the soul of the Blessed Virgin had never been stained with the contagion of
original sin, this would have taken from the dignity of Christ in his capacity as the
Saviour of all.111
Aquinas does also hold that Mary lived a sinless life: she would not have been capable of being
the Mother of God if she had ever committed a sin.112
It is important to note that writers like Thomas Aquinas and Peter Lombard can at the same time
deny the immaculate conception and yet hold a view that Mary lived a sinless life.

Duns Scotus ( c. 1265-1308) was a Scottish Franciscan monk and theologian. He taught at
Oxford and perhaps at Cambridge. He wrote a commentary on Lombards Sentences, which
everyone used as their main theological textbook. He was a strong advocate of free will. He was
a critic of Aquinas in several areas, including Mariology.
Duns Scotus proposes a solution to the conundrum that Marys exemption from sin seemed to
negate the universality of the redemption of Christ (this was Aquinass reason for rejecting the
immaculate conception).
In order to get around this difficulty, Scotus proposes that in the case of Mary, the redemption
preserves her from sin rather than freeing her from it. This places Mary in need of the salvific
work of her son, but preserves her from sin during her entire lifetime, from conception onward.
The idea is that a redemption that preserves one completely from sin is even more perfect than
one that only frees a person from sins committed.113
Scotus also denies the concept we met in Germanus of Constantinople that Mary could command
obedience from her Son even in heaven. Scotus states: The blessed Virgin has authority to
intercede by prayer, not to command.114


Summa Theologiae, Part 3, q. 27, Art. 2, cited in Thomas Aquinas, St. in Theotokos.


Summa Theologiae, Part 3, q. 27, Art. 4, cited in Graef 1.279.


Graef 1.300.


From the collected Marian text of Scotus in C. Bali, Theologiae Mariane Elementa (1933), 171, cited
in Graef 1.302.

Adv Historical Theology CGST 15 Feb 2016 L-5: Mary pt 1 Do not copy without written permission 2016 Rev. E. Manges, Ph.D.

p. 37

Scotus also states a general principle of Mariology which allows open-ended magnification of her
role and attributes:
If it is not opposed to the authority of the Church or to the authority of Scripture,
it seems probable that what is more excellent should be attributed to Mary.115

37 Duns Scotus on the sinlessness of Mary = Luigi Gambero, The virgin is preserved from
original sin and John Duns Scotus, The immaculate conception and the mediation of Christ,
Mary in the Middle Ages: The blessed Virgin Mary in the thought of medieval Latin theologians,
Luigi Gambero, trans. by Thomas Buffer (Ignatius Press, 2000), pp. 248-252 = 5 pages.
Introduction by the editor (Gambero)
248: A feast on the Immaculate Conception appears in England c. 1050.
248 (bottom): Note Gamberos admission that the basis for the I.C. has no Scriptural foundation
and even little in the Fathers.
249 (and fn 13): the principle of ascribing to Mary any honor that is not directly contradicted in
DS Q: What are the two objections that were raised against the I.C.? (249, 2nd paragr). How
does Duns Scotus overcome these? (3rd paragr and into p. 250)
Transmission of original sin and the universal need of all for Christs redemption.
Key phrase for overcoming: based on the forseen merits.
251, paragr 1: Mary receives a more excellent degree of mediation than any other so that she
would be preserved even from original sin.
DS Q: Evaluate his three arguments (251):
1) Mary is the one person whose sin is perfectly placated.
2) Marys reconciliation is the most perfect because it removes the greater sin: original sin.
(into p 252): Christs work for most only applies to our original sin (implication is that we need to
expiate sins we commit via the sacraments). But with Mary her redemption not only removed
original sin but prevents her from committing sins subsequently.
3) Marys redemption means there is at least one person who owes the highest possible
debt to her savior because of the all-encompassing nature of her redemption.

Mary part 2 next lecture.


Bali, Theologiae Mariane Elementa, 31, cited in Graef 1.301.

Adv Historical Theology CGST 15 Feb 2016 L-5: Mary pt 1 Do not copy without written permission 2016 Rev. E. Manges, Ph.D.

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