14 Comments

  1. James said:

    I’m a little wary of the first point. It seems to be shifting the burden of proof. “You can’t PROVE it DIDN’T happen!” Great article, though.

    March 5, 2015
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    • Matt Nelson said:

      Great point James – “absence of evidence is not evidence of absence” as they say. I suppose it is a “negative” proof in that to assert that Mary’s Assumption is not true would also not correspond precisely with any particular verse. We are left in a neutral position at best if we go by explicit Bible verses alone. Point #1 essentially addresses the objection that “the Assumption contradicts what the Bible says.” Thank you for your comments!

      March 5, 2015
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  2. Tim V said:

    Personally, I’d probably rephrase reason 7. It’s not just that there are no first class relics of Mary, but as far as we know from historical records no one even tried to claim they had first class relics. Another reason you could add is that when the feast of the Assumption (or Dormition in the East) began to be celebrated, it seems to have been unanimously accepted throughout the Church. If it were a later tradition that somehow arose, it would be strange that it independently crept into the liturgical calendars of the Catholic, Orthodox, and Coptic Churches and that Bishops and theologians didn’t protest about it as a heretical theological innovation.

    Nevertheless, I still struggle to explain the absence of knowledge regarding Mary’s final fate in the first centuries – which makes it hard to explain how this belief was part of the apostolic deposit of faith since the earliest writers either plead ignorance or make no mention of it when there was opportunity.

    March 11, 2015
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    • Matt Nelson said:

      Thanks Tim, these are great comments. I have heard of the argument regarding the liturgical feasts and think it holds a lot of weight. Thanks for drawing my attention back to it. About the writings of the early centuries, I agree wholeheartedly that it would make the case for the Assumption much more airtight if we had earlier testimony. Most likely (I speculate), earlier writers who did have an opportunity to write about this extraordinary event probably did, but anything that was written has been lost (which becomes much more plausible considering the “feast day” argument).

      March 11, 2015
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  3. Seth Murray said:

    Your article is well written. However, of your “8 Reasons to Believe the Assumption is True,” only points seven and eight really have any substance with respect to supporting the Assumption, itself, and both are so fragile that they crumble even under friendly scrutiny.

    Specifically, it does not follow from (1) Catholics venerate the relics of saints, and (2) we have no relics of St. Mary, that she was assumed into heaven. There are other possible — and many would argue much more likely — explanations. And a close reading of the references for point eight somewhat diminishes their credibility — at the very least, neither can be considered “historical” in the sense of any of those authors having anything remotely resembling direct knowledge of Mary’s Assumption. Further, the fact that the earliest known documentation supporting the Assumption does not appear until 400 AD and later is, itself, a substantial problem.

    I’m not saying it didn’t happen — I accept it as a matter a faith in the same way that I accept the assumptions of Enoch or Elijah into heaven — I’m just saying that attempts to make rational arguments to support it tend to be very flimsy. In my opinion, it may be better to simply say “we accept it as a matter of faith” than it is to put forth arguments that are easily shown to be non-sequiturs, weak, or outright invalid.

    I understand that we often want to find supplemental justification for the things we believe. The problem is that when those justifications are weak, and I am faced by someone who is positively hostile to the belief, it can turn out very badly, and (rightly) iterate into and erode other areas of belief.

    March 13, 2015
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    • Matt Nelson said:

      Seth, thank you for your comments. You’ve made some valid points. In fact, after reading your comments and revisiting the post I’ve decided that my choice of wording was not ideal. My intention was to provide several considerations which, when taken collectively, make the Assumption at least plausible. I’ve made some edits accordingly. I agree,and never meant to assert, that any one of these evidences necessarily “proves” the Assumption – they only point towards the dogma’s plausibility. But there’s no question and I agree, this is easily one of the toughest Catholic doctrines to make a solid case for with reason alone. Faith ultimately is the starting point, but it is the invitation to seek understanding of articles of faith that makes the discussion exciting.

      March 13, 2015
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  4. Jojo Lim said:

    How about the confirmed miraculous apparitions of the Blessed Virgin Mary at Lourdes, Fatima and Tepeyac Mexico City? For me these are powerful evidence of Her Body & Soul Assumption into eternal life & blessedness.

    April 20, 2015
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  5. William said:

    So nothing before the 5th century. Even some of those have been proven spurious. How can a doctrine be apostolic in orgin if it was never discussed by the church fathers?

    May 11, 2016
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    • Matt Nelson said:

      Well Jesus’ celibacy was also never explicitly discussed but surely you don’t disagree with that fact. I suppose the general rule was that the most controversial doctrines were discussed most frequently. Also the Church Fathers MAY HAVE written about the Assumption (lost?). There are no bodily relics of Mary but carefully preserved relics of most if not every other major disciple of Christ. Also, as an update to the original post both Timothy of Jerusalem and Epiphanius refer explicitly to the Assumption in the 4th century. AND there’s no record of any “Assumption heresy” at any ppint in the early Church. There is PLENTY of evidence to at least accept the Assumption as a reasonable possibility, no? Which early documents are spurious and why?

      May 11, 2016
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  6. John O'Donnell said:

    I’m looking for some discussion about what the doctrine of the Assumption of Mary means for Christians in the 21st century. We Catholics are too much concerned, I believe, with what happened; what is or is not an historical or even biblical fact; what is true or false, etc. – as if our faith relies for its validity on factual statements. There has to be, at least for me, a mystical or spiritual MEANING behind a doctrine for it to have any value for me in my life and my journey towards God.
    We should always acknowledge, I believe, that our language about spiritual matters is always metaphorical and inadequate for divine mysteries. For example, speaking about Mary’s being ‘taken up’ suggests, through the use of language, that heaven is ‘up there’ somewhere, when we know that heaven is not in the sky above the clouds (among the stars and galaxies) as ancient cosmology believed. Rather, as John-Paul II said, heaven is a state of consciousness. So even though Pius XII’s ‘Munificentissimus Deus’ has made a definition of the Assumption of Mary in factual terms, that is not enough. I can accept it only if it has meaning deeper than that. What is the church, as teacher and pastor, saying to us in this that is important for followers of Christ in today’s world? The teaching church needs to interpret this ancient tradition for us and make it applicable. After all, the church is a teacher, not just a proclaimer of facts. What is it teaching us? As a follower of our teacher, Jesus, I’m quite open to mystical language, even in our fact-obsessed scientific world in the west. That’s what I believe is the meaning of being a “Reasonable Catholic.”

    August 13, 2016
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    • NEN said:

      You are just so correct and this ought to be the stands of simple understanding and believe unto faith. If the relics were worth mentioning in the bible , I hold strong that non would missed it but being as an early tradition to believe or make concept make of it no value more again as non testifies as witness.

      August 17, 2017
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  7. In the 11th Chapter of the Gospel of John Jesus states he is the resurrection and those that believe in him will never die. Mary believed in Jesus and, therefore, in a twinkle of an eye she was with the Lord Jesus when she died. Why get into a biblical debate on her assumption. She was chosen to be a mother by the Lord Almighty and she gave birth to the Lord Christ Jesus, and, again, other children. She never claimed divinity. Men have made her into a personality that takes away from our Savior and Redeemer Christ Jesus. Yes, He’s the one that died on the cross for us, and not hs mother Mary.
    Mary never claimed to be anything but a mother of many children which included Christ Jesus. Just as the Babylonian Talmud almost replaced the Torah it is full of men’s traditions and rituals , now we even have a Jewish Talmud.. So, the church can do whatever it pleases it to do, but without God’s Word to substantiate an act or process it’s just that- a man made decision and process. ALL GLORY MUST BE TO CHRIST JESUS FOR NO ONE CAN COMMUNICATE WITH THE FATHER UNLESS THEY GO THROUGH CHRIST JESUS. THERE IS ONLY ON MEDIATOR BETWEEN GOD AND MAN , CHRIST JESUS.
    Read the Proverbs and learn how to live up to God’s commands while on planet earth, and the last chapter of Ecclasiastics regarding what the sole duty of mankind is while here on earth. And tell others of salvation through Christ Jesus, John 3:16.

    September 17, 2016
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    • John O'Donnell said:

      This is not an answer to my comment. I think you may have mixed me up with some other commentator. My question was about the meaning and value of this doctrine for us in our lives today.

      September 20, 2016
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