Some Early Fathers did NOT Believe in the Immaculate Conception

Mariano: My question as to how you know that doctrines that are particular to Roman Catholicism predated the canonized New Testament. Let us consider the “Sinlessness of Mary/Immaculate Conception of Mary.”

The following is a partial list of those who considered Jesus alone to be sinless, and or considered Mary to have sinned, and or considered her to not have had an immaculate conception:
The New Testament, Pope Leo I, Pope Galatius, Pope Gregory I, Pope Innocent III, Clemet of Alexandria, Ambrose, Bernard, Aquinas, Augustine, Antonitus, Tertullian, Irenaeus, Chrysostom, Origen, Basil, Cyril of Alexandria, Anselm, Peter Lombard, John of Damascus, Bonaventure.

BFHU: Your list is interesting but I will need documentation of exactly what was said and where so that I can read the context. I know for a fact that the New Testament does not state anywhere that Mary sinned or that Jesus was the only sinless person. So, this brings the whole list into question for me.

I know Protestants interpret by way of eisegesis, that the NT says Mary sinned along with the rest of us. Adam and Eve were sinless and could have remained immaculate. But they fell into sin.

On another point: your list brings something up that is not widely understood. The Dogma of the Immaculate Conception was not defined and officially made an article of faith until the 19th Century. It was believed and taught in the Church, even Luther believed in Mary’s Immaculate conception. So, my understanding is, that it was generally accepted. However, because it had not been dogmatically defined, theologians were still permitted to question, explore, and discuss it. I would guess that these are the sort of writings you may be referring to above.

For instance, before the canon of the OT and NT was closed in the 5th Century, St. Jerome argued vehemently against the inclusion of the deuterocanonical books of the OT. However, once the pope closed the canon, and against St. Jerome’s advice, included the deuterocanonicals in the OT, St. Jerome, a faithful son of the Church accepted the decision and translated the OT into Latin, deuterocanonicals and all.

Similar agreements and disagreements, discussions and questions abounded regarding the exact way to understand the Trinity, before the Doctrine of the Trinity was dogmatically defined at the Council of Nicea in 325 AD. That doesn’t make the doctrine wrong. Before a doctrine is dogma disagreement is acceptable. After a doctrine is dogma disagreement is heresy.

I have said this elsewhere but it fits in this context and it really is helpful. Ever since Adam & Eve God ordained marriage  between man & woman. Ok, historically and even today in some cultures there may be multiple wives. But marriage has never been between people of the same sex. So the Church has never dogmatically defined  marriage as between one man and one woman. But in the near future this may indeed need to be done because our modern culture is becoming confused about the issue and confusing Catholics about the isssue. So, if the Catholic Church dogmatically defined marriage as between a man and woman in 2020, that would not mean at all that that is the date it was first believed.  But no doubt in 2075 people will accuse the Catholic Church of inventing the dogma that marriage is only between a man and a woman in the year 2020.

9 Responses

  1. okey dokey, I have said before I am a simple girl.
    “Born of the Virgin Mary”.
    How else would you have a virgin birth without Immaculate conception?

  2. Dear Happy,

    Many, many people, Catholics included think that the Immaculate Conception refers to the miracle of the incarnation in the womb of Holy Mary. But, the Dogma actually refers to the teaching that Mary was conceived without sin –immaculately.

  3. Dear bfhu,
    To be honest, I have never heard that anyone else doesn’t believe that Mary concieved without sin- immaculately. Like I said, Born of the Virgin, I always understood to mean just that. Is the teaching that she remained a virgin? I know it is believed that she didn’t have more children.

  4. Dear Happy,

    The Immaculate conception = Mary was sinless from her conception

    Virgin Birth=Mary was a virgin despite conceiving and giving birth to Jesus.

    Perpetual Virginity of Mary = Mary had no other children

    Incarnation=The Divine 2nd person of the Trinity joined His divinity to human flesh to become both fully God and fully man in the hypostatic union.

    For other posts on these topics regarding Mary click HERE

    All Protestants that I have ever known believe in the Virgin Birth and the Incarnation but they mostly do not believe in the Immaculate Conception or the Perpetual Virginity of Mary even though Martin Luther did and Calvin believed in the Perpetual Virginity of Mary.

  5. Hmmm thanks.

    The only belief I have heard is perhaps the Perpetual Virginity. I thought the rest was agreed upon, but I don’t know that I have studied deeply from the PR. point of view or had a discussion.

    My mom(methodist pastor and we talked about it!) I think believes all but the perpetual Virginity. She agreed that it is probable, though, as the text translation could have been cousins. I don’t know if this is a “methodist” belief to tell you the truth though.
    Maybe I just always assumed they believed this as you have explained it.


  6. Wow I have never heard of a Protestant believing in the sinlessness of Mary. I don’t think that is Methodist. It might be your mom’s own belief.
    I would be interested to know if Methodists as a denomination believe in the immaculate conception.

  7. Very well could be. We have dicussed the whole “Jesus is the only sinless one”. We do agree that there were and I believe are others. I don’t think babies can sin. I don’t believe the mentally ill can. I don’t have a problem believing that Mary is but again, I am in alot of agreement with the Catholic Church, so I am not the best protestant to talk with! I will check on Methodist as a denomination and see what the belief is there. I was not raised Methodist. I have attended alot of different denominations growing up, but of course, I didn’t have any deep discussions on this subject!

  8. Ok…. Here we go…. This is from the F.U.M.C. webpage questions and answers:

    “The Immaculate Conception is different from the Virgin birth. It is a teaching of the Roman Catholic Church that the Virgin Mary was conceived without any stain of original sin. It is a belief about Mary, not about the birth or conception of Jesus.
    The United Methodist Church does not subscribe to the doctrine of the Immaculate Conception. John Wesley and others in the Anglican Church and the non-conforming Protestant churches of England held negative views of some Roman Catholic doctrine and practice, thus this teaching is not part of our doctrinal heritage.”

    There you have it! I guess I have just misunderstood this whole time!:)

  9. Actually Pope Sixtus lV put a stop to all theological debate on the Immaculate Conception when he established its feast on 8 December 1476. As part of the Sacred Liturgy this doctrine now belonged to the deposit of faith notwithstanding a formal papal definition.

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