John the Baptist born without original sin?


As a new Catholic, I was looking ahead on the Catholic calendar, and I noticed the 'Feast of the Visitation of the Blessed Virgin Mary" to be celebrated this upcoming Thursday. One thing caught my eye as I had never heard or read of this before as I thought the only two humans born without original sin were Christ himself (both divine and human) and His “Blessed Mother”. But according to the Catholic Culture Calendar at John the Baptist was cleansed of original sin in his mother’s womb when the Virgin Mother visited John’s mother, Elizabeth during the visitation. :eek: I quote,

The feast of the Visitation recalls to us the following great truths and events: The visit of the Blessed Virgin Mary to her cousin Elizabeth shortly after the Annunciation; the cleansing of John the Baptist from original sin in the womb of his mother at the words of Our Lady’s greeting; Elizabeth’s proclaiming of Mary—under the inspiration of the Holy Ghost—as Mother of God and “blessed among women”; Mary’s singing of the sublime hymn, Magnificat (“My soul doth magnify the Lord”) which has become a part of the daily official prayer of the Church…]”

My question is where did this revelation come from? Is this widely accepted? How did our “Blessed Mother” do this or was it Christ in her womb that did it? Please give me some background on this. Also, anyone else born without original sin? :shrug:

As a new Catholic, I usually learn something new almost daily. But this would be huge for today’s lesson. :slight_smile:


Yes that is correct. It is not dogma, but is Sacred Tradition held in both the Catholic East and West, I’m not sure about the Orthodox. It is also held I believe that two Old Testament Saints also were Sanctified before birth. Keeping in mind this was all under the Old Covenent.


And of course, if it did happen it was by the power of God, not any power of Mary.


I was reading recently about the Transfiguration and about John the Baptist being Elijah (or did I misunderstand). If so, this does make sense to me.


This possiblity of sinlessness extends to John the Baptist’s parents, also.

“5In the time of Herod king of Judea there was a priest named Zechariah, who belonged to the priestly division of Abijah; his wife Elizabeth was also a descendant of Aaron. 6Both of them were upright in the sight of God, observing all the Lord’s commandments and regulations blamelessly.”

If they observed the law blamelessly, how could they have sinned?


John the Baptist born without original sin?

Yes, if you believe that John as a fetus was filled with the Holy Spirit when it filled Elisabeth. If it filled Elisabeth in her entirety, then that entirety extends to John as well. And since the Holy Spirit purges out Original Sin…second there had to be a reason for John to leap in the womb…that reason being that the Holy Spirit first filled John before it filled Elisabeth? Scripture says so:

15 For he shall be great before the Lord; and shall drink no wine nor strong drink: and he shall be filled with the Holy Ghost, even from his mother’s womb.

Therefore the question begs, can Original Sin exist in a body that filled with the Holy Spirit?


John the Baptsist was not Elijah.


From the online Catholic Encyclopedia: John the Baptist:

“And it came to pass, that when Elizabeth heard the salutation of Mary, the infant” – filled, like the mother, with the Holy Ghost – “leaped for joy in her womb”, as if to acknowledge the presence of his Lord. Then was accomplished the prophetic utterance of the angel that the child should “be filled with the Holy Ghost even from his mother’s womb”. Now as the presence of any sin whatever is incompatible with the indwelling of the Holy Ghost in the soul, it follows that at this moment John was cleansed from the stain of original sin (emphasis mine).

This was the work of the Holy Spirit brought about by the Infant Jesus. And because John was born without the stain of original sin (as were both Jesus and Mary, although their purity was greater than John’s in that they were also born without concupiscence), the Church celebrates his birth with a feast.


Scripture also says Jeremiah was sanctified in the womb.

Jer. 1:5 Before I formed thee in the bowels of thy mother, I knew thee: and before thou camest forth out of the womb, I sanctified thee, and made thee a prophet unto the nations.


Ok, I was reading Matthew 17:9-13, what am I reading wrong here?

Matthew 17:
9As they were coming down the mountain, Jesus instructed them, “Don’t tell anyone what you have seen, until the Son of Man has been raised from the dead.”

10The disciples asked him, “Why then do the teachers of the law say that Elijah must come first?”

11Jesus replied, “To be sure, Elijah comes and will restore all things. 12But I tell you, Elijah has already come, and they did not recognize him, but have done to him everything they wished. In the same way the Son of Man is going to suffer at their hands.” 13Then the disciples understood that he was talking to them about John the Baptist.


I think Thistle had a brain fart?


One important thing to keep in mind is, although John the Baptist was “born” free from original sin, his conception was normal, meaning he was conceived in a normal manner with original sin. Mary on the other hand was conceived free from original sin, thus the difference in a normal conception and an immaculate conception.


Yes, that is very important.


The Law did not mandate all the good that a person should do. They could keep the law blamelessly and yet not “go the extra mile” and therefore sin.

At least, that’s how I understand it. Is there any Catholic dogma that John the Baptizer’s parents were sinless?



You’re missing the fact that John the Baptist explicitly denied being Elijah:

And this is the testimony of John, when the Jews sent priests and Levites from Jerusalem to ask him, “Who are you?” He confessed, and did not deny, but confessed, “I am not the Christ.” And they asked him, “What then? Are you Elijah?” He said, “I am not.”

John’s role was as Elijah, but he was not ontologically the same person as Elijah. Or, if he was, he certainly didn’t know it!



This statement of Jesus is seen as the fulfillment of the OT prophecy in Malachi 4:1-5: Behold, I will send you Elijah the prophet before the coming of the great and dreadful day of the LORD."

This is why the Pharisees had asked John the Baptist if he was “Elijah” and he said he wasn’t. This was because this prophecy was believed to be a literal fulfillment with the bodily return of the Prophet Elijah. But, Jesus clarified that John the Baptist fulfilled this prophecy although he wasn’t Elijah. John the Baptist had the “spirit of Elijah” resting upon him, which fulfilled this prophecy.

Here are several articles that discuss this issue.


Yes, John the Baptist was a Type of Elijah, would you say? He certainly filled the shoes of Elijah who was to precede the Messiah. Look at what he wore. Does that not point back to Elijah?


The Haydock commentary from the D-R Bible.

Ver. 9. Tell the vision to no man, till the miracle of his resurrection has prepared the minds of men for the belief of this. Expose not an event so wonderful to the rash censure of the envious Pharisees, who calumniate and misrepresent my most evident miracles. Jesus Christ also gave a lesson here to his followers to observe the closest secrecy in all spiritual graces and favors.

Ver. 10. Elias must come first. The prophet Elias will come again in person before my second coming to judgment, and will re-establish all things, by the conversion of the Jews to the Christian faith, according to the common opinion. But John the Baptist who was Elias in spirit, is already come. See Matthew xi. 14. (Witham) — This was a vulgar error spread by the Scribes among the Jewish people. It proceeded from an erroneous interpretation of Scripture. They confounded the two comings of our Saviour. The Baptist was the precursor of Chist at his first coming, and was styled by our Lord Elias, because he performed the office of Elias; and he shall go before Him in the spirit and power of Elias. (Luke i. 17.) — But this prophet in person will be the precursor of the second coming of Christ. Whereby Malachias, predicting this coming of Christ, says: I will send to you Elias the Thesbite; thus evidently distinguishing him from the Baptist, who was also Elias in spirit and in the dignity of his office. (St. Chrysostom, hom. lviii.) — Jesus Christ here confirms the literal sense of the prophecy; (Malachias iv. 5,) but in the next verse, he shews a prior, though less perfect accomplishment of the same in the person of John the Baptist, who was raised by God to prepare the ways of the Lord.

Ver. 11. Shall … restore all things. According to St. Chrysostom, Theophylactus, and others, these words signify that Elias shall restore all the Jews to the one true faith towards the end of the world; or, according to St. Augustine, he shall strengthen those that shall be found wavering in the persecution of Antichrist.

Ver. 12. So also shall the Son of man. Jesus in a most beautiful manner takes advantage of this conversation, to remind them of his future passion, and from the recollection of the sufferings of John, affords them comfort in his own. (St. Chrysostom)


Just because John the Baptist was born without original sin does not mean that he never went on to sin, correct?


No, but neither does it mean he did sin either.

DISCLAIMER: The views and opinions expressed in these forums do not necessarily reflect those of Catholic Answers. For official apologetics resources please visit