Mary the least in heaven?

On Catholic Answers Live (with Tim Staples on March 24), a caller asked about Mathew 11:11 where John the Baptist is called the greatest born of women. The caller said how come we honor Mary so much if no one born of woman is greater than John the Baptist.

In his answer Tim said Mary is the least in the Kingdom of Heaven… I have heard the opposite that Mary is the greatest in Heaven. Do you think he just misspoke?


Well if Tim did say/mention Mary to be least in the Kingdom of Heaven, perhaps he was thinking more of her earthly humility. In Heaven, as Queen she is the greatest of all saints. Only God is above her, ask Jesus.

He must have misspoken. Mary remains the Queen of Heaven. That’s as certain as this year is year of Christ. The A.D., you know.

It is always dangerous to pick verses OUT of context.

11:9 Then what did you go out to see? A prophet? Yes, I tell you, and more than a prophet.
11:10 For this is he, of whom it is written: ‘Behold, I send my Angel before your face, who shall prepare your way before you.’
11:11 Amen I say to you, among those born of women, there has arisen no one greater than John the Baptist. Yet the least in the kingdom of heaven is greater than he.

Jesus is clearly telling us that John the Baptist was the greatest prophet born of women.
Perhaps Jesus knows of other prophets that were not born of women, but I digress. The point is we should not pick verses and strip them of their context.

And before people ask about John being called an “Angel” please remember that the word Angel also means “Messenger” a synonyms for Prophet.

Yes, I am sure he misspoke.
The Bible itself gives these judgments of her: she is told “blessed are you among women,” and an angel comes to the annunciation saying “Hail, full of race” (Lk 1:42 and Lk 1:28).

Amen. Amen. :slight_smile:

Good question for theologians!

Perhaps it can be said that Our Lady was not born of a woman in the sense that her conception from the very beginning was free from any stain of sin so in that sense she was not born of a woman, if the phrase can be taken in a more metaphysical sense. It was essentially a singular and miraculous event that was completely unnatural in the sense that it was the one and only the first and the last time that God granted this grace to a human being except his Son who was divine in the first place.

It could also be in the sense that Jewish literature is not meant to me taken 100% literally and in the Semitic world at the time, a type of hyperbole was often used that ought not be taken 100% literally. There are other examples of this in scripture. I think the more well versed scripture gurus here can point to some.

It is true that Our Lady was the most humble of human being that ever lived, so in that sense, she was the smallest.

Sounds like he just misspoke, but to me, his answer depended on Mary being the least in heaven. I just found it confusing.

Listen here around 15:45 into the show. The caller started around 13:56 into the show.

That makes a lot more sense to me than Tim’s answer. I had a hard time understanding what he was trying to say.

I’d agree with others that either he misspoke (because Mary’s place in the kingdom is uniquely great) or that his comment should not be considered orthodox.

As for Jesus’ comment… I’ve wondered this before. Jesus gave a uniquely high honor to John for sure. He also said it was for him and Jesus to fulfill all righteousness. Yet, John was not an Apostle either. He was not a member of the New Covenant Church. I take this as the meaning of Jesus’ comment that even the least in the kingdom (or Church whom is given the Holy Spirit and grace of the New Covenant) is greater than John.

Its a little mysterious because John is so close to overlapping into the New Covenant, yet he does not enter into it… only announcing and pointing his own disciples toward Jesus.

In the heavenly kingdom, we are all greater than ourselves, because we share in His merit. I imagine John must be in the highest places of heavenly souls. Mary was first in order of grace. John even lept at hearing her voice.

I wonder if the Church has Taught whether Mary, when assumed into heaven, was the first to enter the kingdom or if the Saints entered before her???

It is unlikely that Mary was first of the saints to enter Heaven, since there are examples of folks most likely to have died before her.

When Jesus died He emptied Limbo of the righteous who were awaiting his death and resurrection, He also promised the good thief that ‘this day thou shalt be with Me in Paradise’.

I always assumed (no pun intended) that the saints went to heaven before Mary was assumed into heaven (like Stephen who was martyred). But I don’t know of any Church teaching on the matter.

Where you think Mary is or is not has a lot to do with what kind of son you think she had.

Has no one noticed that Tim was likely referring to the rest of the passage in which John was called the greatest? John is the last and greatest of the Old Testament prophets – but even the very least member of the Kingdom (that would be us Christians) is greater than he. Because of her Immaculate Conception, Mary was essentially the very first of the saved, so she goes into the category that starts out just a little bit more awesome than John. I’d agree that she is unlikely to be actually least in honor among the saints, though. Perhaps Tim meant that even if she was (or even if you or I are), we are still even more privileged than John.


In terms of worldly fame in her own time, Mary was “the least in the Kingdom of Heaven.” That was how I took the comment. She wasn’t a famous prophet like John, or a figure who got mobbed as a prophet and messiah and king, like her Son.

Actually, people don’t talk about it much, but there were messianic expectations for the mother of the Messiah, too. One of the weirder pseudepigrapha (can’t remember which!) predicted that the Messiah’s mother would be a great general like Deborah, and that she would lead her conquering army while riding on a raging elephant and swinging her sword, killing the pagan oppressors left and right.

In a much later Jewish text from the 6th century, the Messiah’s mom is a chick named Hephzibah. She is led by God to find Aaron’s Rod, which she wields as a death ray to defend Jerusalem until the Messiah can get there.

So yeah, compared to that… Mary was “least.” But the least shall be the greatest and the last shall be first.

In Matthew 11:11 “John the Baptist” is NOT “called the greatest born of women”.

What Matthew 11:11 says is, “Amen, I say to you, among those born of women there has been none greater than John the Baptist; yet the least in the kingdom of heaven is greater than he.”

There is a big difference between “is called the greatest born of women” and “among those born of women there has been none greater than John the Baptist”, can you see the difference?

By the way, Jesus was/is among those “born of women”.

Jesus NEVER said that John was the greatest “anything” born of women what He said was that there was NONE GREATER, not that John was the greatest.

Angels can be messengers and people can be messengers, John was NOT an Angel, actually we know, from the bible, the names of his mother and father which is more than we know about the parents of Mary, from the bible.

To me those phrases mean the same thing. Yes, Jesus was born of women, but the bible is full of exceptions…

The “greatest born of women” seems to mean that no one is as great as, whereas “there has been none greater than John the Baptist” seems to mean that there could be many, even all, that are as great as but not better.

And it was/is the wording, “among those born of women there has been none greater than John the Baptist”, that is in the New American version rather than that which is written in the first post.

Do you see now that “none greater” and the “greatest” can be very different in meaning?

As far as, "Yes, Jesus was born of women, but the bible is full of exceptions… ", seeing as it seems to have been Jesus that said this, just what do you mean by “the bible is full of exceptions”?

Are you saying that Jesus did not mean what he said?

Are you saying that the translation just might be different that what Jesus said?

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