3 Ways to Defend the Immaculate Conception from Scripture:
Is the Immaculate Conception Biblical?
Yes, but only if you accept typology as a valid interpretation of Scriptural texts (i.e. a method used by the Apostles and Fathers to interpret Old Testament people, things, and events as types foreshadowing New Covenant realities).
Below are three common arguments used by the early Church Fathers, the Popes, and the Catechism of the Catholic Church to justify Mary’s title as the Panagia or “All-Holy.” The first is straight-forward, the latter two rely on typology.
Argument #1 Mary is Full of Grace
Luke 1:28: “And he came to her and said, ‘Hail, full of grace, the Lord is with you!'”
The term traditionally translated “full of grace” or “highly favored” is κεχαριτωμένη or kecharitomene. This “perfect passive participle form” (Even if you never study Greek, memorize what I have placed into quotes. Burn it into your memory) denotes something that happened in the past and continues into the present. She was perfectly graced in the past and continues in that state. Luke 1:28 has served as the locus classicus for the doctrine of the Immaculate Conception of Our Lady.
When a Protestant fronts you on this, just keep the broken record approach by repeating “perfect passive participle of kecharitomene” until the Protestant grabs your Rosary beads and start praying it aloud. Works every time.
Argument #2 Mary as New Eve Having Enmity with Satan
Gen 3:15 “And I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your seed and her Seed; He shall crush your head, and you shall strike at His heel.”
In this verse God addresses Satan. The Seed here is Christ. The Woman is His Mother, that is, Mary. Thus Satan has perfect enmity with Christ and with His Mother. The Catholic Church has interpreted this as indicating the sinlessness of Christ and Mary. If either actually committed sin, then they would not be at enmity with Satan but actually a cooperator with Satan at times.
If you want to know more about the Hebrew debate over whether “he” or “she” crushes the head of Satan, read my post on it here: Does Mary or Jesus crush Satan’s head in Gen 3:15?
Argument #3 Mary as Ark of the Covenant
In the Old Covenant the Ark of the Covenant contained the Word of God on stone. In the New Covenant, the Word made Flesh was also contained – and that in the womb of the Blessed Virgin. The Catholic Church has therefore understood Mary as the mystical Ark of the New Covenant. This connection is made in the book of Revelation.
Rev 11:19-12:2 Then God’s temple in heaven was opened, and the ark of his covenant was seen within his temple; and there were flashes of lightning, voices, peals of thunder, an earthquake, and heavy hail. And a great portent appeared in heaven, a woman clothed with the sun, with the moon under her feet, and on her head a crown of twelve stars; she was with child.
The Ark of the Covenant appears in Heaven and then in the next breath (and next verse) St John describes a pregnant woman appearing in Heaven. This Woman “contains” the Messiah.
The thinking goes that if Mary is the fulfillment of the Ark of the Covenant, then she must be “all holy”. Remember that in the Old Covenant a man was killed for touching the ark. It was holy. If the box that held stone tablets was so restricted – so also would be the woman who actually carried God Himself. And so she is all pure and all holy, without the stain of sin.
- Luke 1:28 “perfect passive participle of kecharitomene,” rinse and repeat
- Gen 3:15 “Why does Satan have a perfect “enmity” with a woman and who is she?
- Rev 11-12 Mark as New Ark of New Covenant
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And now for something more advanced: Saint Thomas Aquinas on the Immaculate Conception:
Did Saint Thomas Aquinas deny the Immaculate Conception of the Blessed Virgin Mary?
In the theological video below I’ll share how Thomas Aquinas changed his position over time on the doctrine of the Immaculate Conception and share some of the nuances. Thomas may have reverted back to a belief in the Immaculate Conception after he wrote about the Immaculate Conception in the Summa theologiae. See the video below for details.
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