Revelation

The Roman Catholic Church teaches that God has revealed Himself fully and that there will be no further revelation.

73. God has revealed himself fully by sending his own Son, in whom he has established his covenant for ever. The Son is his Father's definitive Word; so there will be no further revelation after him.--Catechism of the Catholic Church (CCC), 2nd Ed., © 1994/1997 United States Catholic Conference, Inc.

Christ completed His salvific labors on the cross before the first words of what is now the New Testament were set to parchment. The Gospels tell us of Jesus of Nazareth and what He did and taught. The pastoral letters for the most part explain His teachings and how they are to be applied in Christian living. Really nothing new there. Revelation speaks to us of events and conditions yet in the future. Wasn't the Book of Revelation written some 60 years after the death of Jesus of Nazareth?

Could it be that the Magisterium got this right? Not according to one Catholic fundamentalist.

It is the constant teaching of the Church that all public revelation by God ended with the death of the last apostle (the Apostle John around the year 100 A.D.). This means that all Church doctrines come from the apostolic age – either taught directly by Christ Himself or delivered by the apostles to the Church under the infallible guidance of the Holy Spirit (John 14:16-17, 26; 16:13)--Adam S. Miller, The Final Word, © 1997 Tower of David Publications, p. 2

No matter whether the Catechism or Miller has the answer, how to explain all the new stuff infallibly defined by popes and general councils? Miller explains:

When the Catholic Church formally defines some doctrine centuries after Jesus and the apostles taught, Protestants have failed to recognize these definitions as being biblical, apostolic and handed down from the beginning because they mistakenly identify the timing of the proclamation and the technical language used to clearly define the doctrine with the origin and invention of the doctrine itself.-- Ibid.

In other words, When Boniface VIII defined the necessity of submission to the pope for salvation, he was merely defining what Christ or the apostles taught. (Unam Sanctam, Denzinger 468f). I reckon Paul had a momentary lapse when, moved by the Spirit, he wrote:

For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God: Not of works, lest any man should boast.--Ephesians 2:8-9

Perhaps what he really intended to write was more along these lines: "For by grace are ye saved through faith; and by submission to the pope." Poor Paul, when compared with the pronouncements of the Magisterium, his work so often appears flawed, or so it Rome would have us believe.

The Council of Trent declared the dogma that by special Divine privilege May was free from every personal sin during her whole life (Denzinger 833)

In 1854, Pope Pius IX promulgated Ineffabilis Deus, in which he defined the dogma of Mary's immaculate conception as revealed by God and to be believed firmly and constantly by all the faithful, are we to believe that he was merely formalizing what Jesus or the apostles had taught? (Denzinger 1641)

Ludwig Ott, in discussing the dogma of Mary's freedom from the stain of Original Sin, admits that: “The doctrine of the Immaculate Conception of Mary is not explicitly revealed in Scripture.” (Ludwig Ott, Fundamentals of Catholic Dogma, © 1974 Tan Books and Publishers, Inc, p. 200

So, if this bit of revelation is not explicitly found in Scripture, it must be there implicitly. Doctor Ott explains that the teaching might be found in the Protoevangelum, which reads:

And I will put enmity between thee and the woman, and between thy seed and her seed; it shall bruise thy head, and thou shalt bruise his heel.--Genesis 3:15 (KJV)

Well, I suppose one could find something in those words to hang the Immaculate Conception doctrine on, but he would have to really work at it. The author of this textbook for seminarians tried to explain the eisegesis, but I don't think he pulled it off.

The literal sense of the passage is possibly the following: Between Satan and his followers on the one hand and Eve and her posterity on the other hand, there is to be a constant moral warfare. The posterity of Eve will achieve a complete and final victory over Satan and his followers, even if it is wounded in the struggle. The posterity of Eve includes the Messias, in whose power humanity will win a victory over Satan . Thus the passage is indirectly Messianic, Cf. D. 2123--Ibid. (Emphasis not in original)

I doubt there are many true believers who would disagree strongly with the foregoing. On the other hand, I doubt that many believers would find anything in this verse to support the position that Mary was conceived without sin. Not to worry, Ott continues:

The seed of the woman was understood as referring to the Redeemer…and thus the Mother of the Redeemer came to be seen in the woman. Since the second century this direct messiannic-marian interpretation has been expounded by individual Fathers, for example, St. Irenaeus, St. Epiphanius, Isador of Pelusium, St. Cyprian, the author of the Epistola ad amicum aegrotum, St. Leo the Great. However, it is not found in the writings of the majority of the Fathers, among them the great teachers of the East and West. According to this interpretation, Mary stands with Christ in a perfect and victorious enmity towards Satan and his following. Many of the later scholastics and a great many modern theologians argue, in the light of this interpretation of the Protoevangelum that: Mary's victory over Satan would not have been perfect, if she had ever been under his dominion. Consequently she must have entered this world without the stain of original sin.--Ibid. (Emphasis not in original)

Isn't it fascinating to see how hard Catholic theologians are willing to labor in order to force Scripture to say something it clearly never was intended to say? Isn't it interesting that “the majority of Fathers” never mentioned the idea of Mary's immaculate conception in their writings? Did you notice that Dr. Ott failed to mention whether any of the Fathers disagreed with the idea that Mary was conceived without the stain of original sin? Don't you wonder whether, just maybe, some of them may have been opposed to this idea?

Gregory the Great proclaimed that Christ alone was conceived without sin, as was the tradition till 12th century as with the Greek and Russian Orthodox Church. Duns Scotus: Mary was immunized against original sin before she was born by the foreseen events of Christ. He proclaimed this dogma on his own thereby going against Anselm, Bernard, Bonaventure, Thomas Aquinas who all denied Mary's immaculate conception and Irenaeus, Jerome, Chrysostom, who in common with Paul and Peter, never even thought about it.----Addendum to Source Document I: The Papacy: Its Corporate Culture. © 1995 The Benedictine Network, White Robed Monks of St. Benedict

Did Gregory the Great ever really say anything that can be construed to mean he believed only Christ was born without sin? I found such a comment in one of his letters. The pope was writing about a lady Dominica, a prioress, when he penned these words:

that she herself may so much the more speedily be absolved from all her sins as, through her life and her tongue, the souls of others also shall have broken loose from the bands of sins. Moreover, since no one among men in this world is without sin (and what else is sinning but flying from God?)--Gregory I, Epistle 30, "The Book of Pastoral Rule and Selected Epistles of Saint Gregory the Great," The Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers, Second Series, Vol, 12, (Emphasis not in original)

The Venerable Bede quoted from a letter written by Pope Honorius I to the Scots urging them to crush the Pelagian heresy that was springing up again in Scotland.

And we have also understood that the poison of the Pelagian heresy again springs up among you; we, therefore, exhort you, that you put away from your thoughts all such venomous and superstitious wickedness. For you cannot be ignorant how that execrable heresy has been condemned; for it has not only been abolished these two hundred years, but it is also daily anathematised for ever by us; and we exhort you, now that the weapons of their controversy have been burnt, not to rake up the ashes. For who will not detest that insolent and impious proposition, 'That man can live without sin of his own free will, and not through God's grace? And in the first place, it is the folly of blasphemy to say that man is without sin, which none can be, but only the Mediator of God and man, the man Christ Jesus, who was conceived and born without sin; for all other men, being born in original sin, are known to bear the mark of Adam's prevarication, even whilst they are without actual sin, according to the saying of the prophet, “For behold, I was shapen in iniquity; and in sin did my mother conceive me.”--Bede, Ecclesiastical History of the English Nation, Book II, Chapter XIX (Emphasis not in original)

That great scholar of the early church, Ambrose, did not appear to believe that Mary could have been conceived without the stain of original sin:

133. So, then, no one is without sin except God alone, for no one is without sin except God.--Ambrose, Three Books of St. Ambrose, Bishop of Milan, on the Holy Spirit, Book 3, Chap. 18, The Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers, Second Series, Vol, 10, . p3

Seems that some of those Fathers who did not mention the possibility of Mary's immaculate conception did clearly believe that something like it could not be. Even Augustine, that favored backstop of RCC theologians and apologists, seems to have held some strong ideas concerning the impossibility of anyone but Jesus of Nazareth having been conceived in sin or having lived a sinless life. The man's writings are liberally peppered with statements to that effect.

There now remains our fourth point, after the explanation of which, as God shall help us, this lengthened treatise of ours may at last be brought to an end. It is this: Whether the man who never has had sin or is to have it, not merely is now living as one of the sons of men, but even could ever have existed at any time, or will yet in time to come exist? Now it is altogether most certain that such a man neither does now live, nor has lived, nor ever will live, except the one only Mediator between God and men, the Man Christ Jesus.--Augustine, A Treatise on the Merits and Forgiveness of Sins, Book 2, Chap. 34, The Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers, First Series, Vol, 5,

Let us hold fast, then, the confession of this faith, without filtering or failure. One alone is there who was born without sin, in the likeness of sinful flesh, who lived without sin amid the sins of others, and who died without sin on account of our sins.--Ibid., Chap 57

Well, Dr. Ott offered six examples of Fathers who believed in the fantasy of Mary's immaculate conception, I think it only fair that I offer six examples in rebuttal. So far, I have shown examples from the writings of Gregory the Great, Ambrose, Honorius I and Augustine. Here's what Cyril of Jerusalem had to say on the subject:

For we tell some part of what is written concerning His loving-kindness to men, but how much He forgave the Angels we know not: for them also He forgives, since One alone is without sin, even Jesus who purgeth our sins. And of them we have said enough.--Cyril, Archbishop The Catechetical Lectures, Lecture 2, The Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers, Second Series, Vol, 7,

Tertullian is often referred to as the Father of Latin Christianity. Seems he did not support the idea that anyone other than Christ could have been without sin.

For God alone is without sin; and the only man without sin is Christ, since Christ is also God.--Tertullian, A Treatise on the Soul, Chapter 41, The Ante-Nicene Fathers, Vol. 3

I saved the best for last. Thomas Aquinas did not believe that Mary could have been free of the stain of original sin and explained why that is so.

The sanctification of the Blessed Virgin cannot be understood as having taken place before animation, for two reasons. First, because the sanctification of which we are speaking, is nothing but the cleansing from original sin: for sanctification is a “perfect cleansing,” as Dionysius says (Div. Nom. xii). Now sin cannot be taken away except by grace, the subject of which is the rational creature alone. Therefore before the infusion of the rational soul, the Blessed Virgin was not sanctified.

Secondly, because, since the rational creature alone can be the subject of sin; before the infusion of the rational soul, the offspring conceived is not liable to sin. And thus, in whatever manner the Blessed Virgin would have been sanctified before animation, she could never have incurred the stain of original sin: and thus she would not have needed redemption and salvation which is by Christ, of whom it is written (Matthew 1:21): “He shall save His people from their sins.” But this is unfitting, through implying that Christ is not the “Saviour of all men,” as He is called (1 Timothy 4:10). It remains, therefore, that the Blessed Virgin was sanctified after animation.--Thomas Aquinas, Treatise on the Incarnation, Question 27, Of the Sanctification of the Blessed Virgin, Summa Theologica, Vol. 5 - The Third Part,

Quoting from the Catechism, I showed Rome's position that revelation ended with Christ. Following that, I cited a fundamentalist RCC position that public revelation ended with the death of the last Apostle. Then I pointed out that Pius IX defined the dogma of the Immaculate Conception in 1854, something that was not even hinted at in Scriptures. Rome has a canned response for to cover such inventions: The pope merely defined formally what the Church has always held to be true. In supporting this dogma, Catholic theologian and educator Ludwig Ott mentioned that “individual Fathers” had expounded on a messianic-marian interpretation of Genesis 3:15, and he cited a few of them. I cited the works of six Fathers who clearly did not support the fantasy that anyone but the Incarnate Word was born without sin and lived a sinless life. How might Catholic apologists respond to this?

82. As a result the Church, to whom the transmission and interpretation of revelation is entrusted, 'does not derive her certainty about all revealed truths from the holy Scriptures alone. Both Scripture and Tradition must be accepted and honoured with equal sentiments of devotion and reverence.'[DV 9.] (Catechism of the Catholic Church, Op. cit.

That's it! The bishops at Trent and Pius IX got the word by the Tradition grapevine. And here it would appear we have yet another instance of Rome's Tradition being in clear opposition to the Scriptures.

What we know of Mary from the Scriptures strongly suggests she was an observant Jew. This may be seen in her keeping Mosaic Law concerning her days of purification and the requisite offerings following the birth of her Son.

And when the days of her purification according to the law of Moses were accomplished, they brought him to Jerusalem, to present him to the Lord;--Luke 2:22

(As it is written in the law of the Lord, Every male that openeth the womb shall be called holy to the Lord)--Luke 2:23

And to offer a sacrifice according to that which is said in the law of the Lord, A pair of turtledoves, or two young pigeons.--Luke 2:24

What is this about? We are talking Levitical Law, the Law that God Himself gave to Moses. To believe that Mary was without sin all her life is to make a liar of God. Mary's purification was in keeping with the dictates of the Law:

And when the days of her purifying are fulfilled, for a son, or for a daughter, she shall bring a lamb of the first year for a burnt offering, and a young pigeon, or a turtledove, for a sin offering, unto the door of the tabernacle of the congregation, unto the priest:--Leviticus 12:6

Who shall offer it before the LORD, and make an atonement for her; and she shall be cleansed from the issue of her blood. This is the law for her that hath born a male or a female.--Leviticus 12:7

And if she be not able to bring a lamb, then she shall bring two turtles, or two young pigeons; the one for the burnt offering, and the other for a sin offering: and the priest shall make an atonement for her, and she shall be clean.--Leviticus 12:8

After waiting the prescribed number of days, Mary went to the Temple to be cleansed of the Levitical defilement symbolically attaching to the beginning of life, and a burnt offering, that marked the restoration of communion with God. Why would Mary be required to make a sin offering if she were free of sin? Why would a priest have to make atonement for her?

To argue that she was merely going through the motions in conformance to the expectations of the Law is to make God a hypocrite, for He frequently declared His repugnance of empty ritual in the Old Testament as, for example:

To what purpose is the multitude of your sacrifices unto me? saith the LORD: I am full of the burnt offerings of rams, and the fat of fed beasts; and I delight not in the blood of bullocks, or of lambs, or of he goats. When ye come to appear before me, who hath required this at your hand, to tread my courts? Bring no more vain oblations; incense is an abomination unto me; the new moons and sabbaths, the calling of assemblies, I cannot away with; it is iniquity, even the solemn meeting. Your new moons and your appointed feasts my soul hateth: they are a trouble unto me; I am weary to bear them. And when ye spread forth your hands, I will hide mine eyes from you: yea, when ye make many prayers, I will not hear: your hands are full of blood.--Isaiah 1:11-15

Why did Mary go to the Temple to be purified and to make an offering for sin? Simple. Because, as a sinner she needed to.

Seek God's truth in the Scriptures, not the often contradictory and always self-serving teachings of the Roman Catholic Magisterium

Home | Mariology | Catholic Stuff | PTG Forum