Assumption of Mary-historical perspective

Epiphanius of Salamis writes a great deal about the Virgin Mary in his work Paranion. While the exact copy was hard to find, I did find a link to his work.

I hope it works for you if you look at it.

It is a very detailed history. Suffice to say, Epiphanius is devoted to correcting several historical misconceptions about her perpetual virginity. He is very well versed in history and obviously has a passion for defending Mary from attacks.
If you wish to know more about him, this link from the Catholic Encyclopedia discusses him:

Epiphanius is writing roughly 300 years after what I would consider to be obviously the historical event that transformed these men; the literal resurrection of Jesus Christ. Because of this historical event, the world was changed. The Assumption of Mary would be a close second. The historicity of this event would have been transformative and further proof against the attacks against the church. People just do not get assumed all that often…important stuff.

I just read MUNIFICENTISSIMUS DEUS. I understand the reasons. However,
I also have a historian and a strong defender of the Virgin Mary who writes this:

11,3 11,5 I cannot decide for certain, and am not saying that she remained immortal. But neither am I affirming that she died. For scripture went beyond man’s understanding and left it in suspense with regard to the precious and chosen vessel, so that no one would suspect carnal behavior of her. Whether she died, I don’t know; and even if she was buried, she never had carnal relations, perish the thought.

78: 23,8 The holy virgin may have died and been buried-her falling asleep was with honor, her death in purity, her crown in virginity. Or she may have been put to death-as the scripture says, “and a sword shall pierce through her soul-her frame is among the martyrs and her holy body, by which light rose on the world, rests amid blessings. Or she may have remained alive, for God is not incapable of doing whatever he wills. No one knows her end.

It is very common for people on this board to assert historical arguments in discussing the antiquity of their beliefs. However, when evaluating the claims of Catholicism versus Eastern Orthodoxy, Oriental Orthodoxy, and Traditional Anglican groups they do have the same approach to this doctrine and I believe the historical support that exists supports their stance.

If X is not known - then X cannot be asserted to be or have been a fact. And, evidence of a tradition attesting belief that J was an actual event, is not a tradition that K was an actual event.

You may find Stephen J. Shoemaker informative upon the beginnings of belief in the Assumption:

Many of the traditions surrounding the Virgin Mary - including her presentation to the temple - can be found here in the Protoevangelion of James:

A Coptic writer combined elements of this along with the Gospel of Thomas to write the "History of Joseph the Carpenter"

But one of the oldest texts on the Dormition itself seems to be a text attributed to St. John the Evangelist.

Of great importance are sermons from St. John of Damascus and St. Germanus of Constantinople, which were cited in Pius XII’s dogmatic declaration. A collection of these sermons, and others, can be found here at St. Vladimir’s Press.

  1. Thus St. John Damascene, an outstanding herald of this traditional truth, spoke out with powerful eloquence when he compared the bodily Assumption of the loving Mother of God with her other prerogatives and privileges. “It was fitting that she, who had kept her virginity intact in childbirth, should keep her own body free from all corruption even after death. It was fitting that she, who had carried the Creator as a child at her breast, should dwell in the divine tabernacles. It was fitting that the spouse, whom the Father had taken to himself, should live in the divine mansions. It was fitting that she, who had seen her Son upon the cross and who had thereby received into her heart the sword of sorrow which she had escaped in the act of giving birth to him, should look upon him as he sits with the Father. It was fitting that God’s Mother should possess what belongs to her Son, and that she should be honored by every creature as the Mother and as the handmaid of God.”(17)
  1. These words of St. John Damascene agree perfectly with what others have taught on this same subject. Statements no less clear and accurate are to be found in sermons delivered by Fathers of an earlier time or of the same period, particularly on the occasion of this feast. And so, to cite some other examples, St. Germanus of Constantinople considered the fact that the body of Mary, the virgin Mother of God, was incorrupt and had been taken up into heaven to be in keeping, not only with her divine motherhood, but also with the special holiness of her virginal body. “You are she who, as it is written, appears in beauty, and your virginal body is all holy, all chaste, entirely the dwelling place of God, so that it is henceforth completely exempt from dissolution into dust. Though still human, it is changed into the heavenly life of incorruptibility, truly living and glorious, undamaged and sharing in perfect life.”(18) And another very ancient writer asserts: “As the most glorious Mother of Christ, our Savior and God and the giver of life and immortality, has been endowed with life by him, she has received an eternal incorruptibility of the body together with him who has raised her up from the tomb and has taken her up to himself in a way known only to him.”(19)

I know next to little of the iconographical tradition of the Dormition, but you can find images like this in most Eastern churches. In at least two churches I’ve seen this directly opposite the Ascension on the other wall. (This is a Russian variant which hangs in my parents’ apartment)

There’s an Orthodox tradition that claims the Apostle John is actually grandson of St. Joseph by his first wife (through the union of Salome and Zebedee), as found in the Synaxarion for Holy Myrhbearrers Sunday. One other Orthodox source, of unknown antiquity, named the wife is “Solomonia”. This puts a whole different spin on the biblical text, “Son, behold your mother.”

I grabbed this from a Monachos thread. I don’t know much about the history of this book, but it appears to be the Greek Orthodox parallel of Butler’s Lives of the Saints. I scanned a blog which asserted that the James here (brother of Jude) is James of the Seventy, not James Son of Alpheus.

The Great Synaxaristes of the Orthodox Church, December volume, p. 1068, reads:

“The Righteous Joseph’s first marriage to Salome produced children. He had four sons - James, Joses, Jude, and Symeon - and three daughters - Esther, Martha, and Salome. At the time of the Elder Joseph’s repose, most of Jesus’ step-brothers and step-sisters had already married and were living in their own houses. This included his daughter, Salome, who had married Zebedee and had two sons. However, Jesus’ step-brothers, Jude and James, were still living at home.”

There’s also a bit more here from a ROCOR source:

Church tradition indicates that St. Joseph had a wife and children. Thus, Nikiphoros, the ancient Greek historian, following St. Hippolytus says that St. Joseph was married to Salome. "But do not think he added, that this is the Salome that was in Bethlehem and was called the grandmother of the Lord. The former was a relative of Elizabeth and the Most-holy Mother of God, and the latter was a daughter of Haggai, the brother of Zacharias, the father of John the Forerunner. Haggai and Zacharias were sons of the priest Barachus. With Salome, daughter of Haggai as a wife, St. Joseph had his four sons, Jacob, Simon, Jude and Joses, and two daughters, Esther and Thamar or, as some say, Martha. The Synaxarion for the Sunday of the Myrrh-bearers adds still a third daughter by the name of Salome who married Zebedee. But George Kedrin in speaking of the two daughters of Joseph, says that one of them was Maria, who was given in marriage to Cleophas, the brother of Joseph, already after the return of Joseph from Egypt. But it seems that this Mary is the same person as Martha or Thamar (in the Georgian lists of saints among the holy Myrrh-bearing Women St., Thamar is listed under the name of Tamara).

How come he never heard of it?

The Doctrine of the Assumption does NOT deny the fact that the Theotokos suffered physical death (though some uninstructed Latin Catholic laymen think so).

That she died is preserved in the liturgical texts of the Church, West and East, including the Eastern Catholic Churches.

By the same token, none of these deny her Bodily Assumption, either.

I believe the context of my post has gone unanswered. The man is a prominant historian. In other parts of the book, when dealing with the Virgin Mary he cites early church fathers and other documents; he mentions the Protoevangelium at length to defend his view that the brothers of Christ are Joseph’s son. But he cites many others as well. It is a very very detailed book.

But once again, he states there is no tradition. He lists three things that could have happened because no one knows. She could have died and been buried. She may have been martyred or put to death. She may have not died. He states no one knows. I cannot fathom that a historian who seems to have devoted his life to recording historical details and particularly Mary would know nothing about this. Can anyone deal with why a prominant historian and defender of Mary would know nothing about what happened to her? I have my answer obviously it appears.

Let’s take a look at history in another way. Jesus existed (here I take a leap of faith and agree he is God), he goes back to his dad in heaven. Years pass Mary becomes old and ill, it’s her time to die. Here is the woman who loved you from the moment you were born, she took care of you and freely accepted your master plan (so if she gave birth to God, she must be totally pure, sinless, agreed?) Jesus did love his momma, he told John you take care of my momma, he loved her no question asked, so here she is lying on her death bed.

Think about it, your God and your mother who loved you and you loved her, you think your going to let here die and be buried like a regular person, no you would honor her and that what Jesus did, he honored her----> Assumption of Mary into Heaven.

Then again, I don’t buy any of it for a second.

Think about it, your God and your mother who loved you and you loved her, you think your going to let here die and be buried like a regular person, no you would honor her and that what Jesus did, he honored her----> Assumption of Mary into Heaven.

Then again, I don’t buy any of it for a second.

As a matter of face, she DID suffer physical death and was buried in a tomb in Jerusalem, because she wished to be conformed to her Divine Son in all things.

As Pope John Paul II pointed out in his teaching on the subject, the notion that the Theotokos did not die was never heard of before 1700.

But of course, her body was taken thence sometime between her burial and the arrival of St. Thomas 3 days later, glorified, and reunited with her soul. She lives totally in the Age to Come.

But that is the destiny of ALL of us.

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