The Immaculate Conception Supported in Scripture

Many non-Catholics reject the idea that Mary, the Mother of Jesus, was herself conceived without sin and remained sinless throughout her entire lifetime by a special privilege granted to her by God known as the Immaculate Conception of Mary. In support of their position, they frequently cite verses such as Romans 3:23 which states, “For all have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God,” in support of their arguments against the Catholic doctrine.

Noting the examples of children who die before the age of reason and of mentally handicapped individuals who may not be culpable for their actions, Catholics rightly respond that Paul would have acknowledged that the word “all” in Romans 3:23 does not rule out the possibility of exceptions to the rule that “all have sinned” by their personal actions.

But is this merely a word game played by enthusiastic partisans? Or is there any scriptural support for the principle behind the Immaculate Conception of Mary? For Catholics, the happy answer is “yes”, and the verse is the following:

Jude 24-25
Now to him who is able to keep you from falling and to present you without blemish before the presence of his glory with rejoicing, to the only God, our Savior through Jesus Christ our Lord, be glory, majesty, dominion, and authority, before all time and now and for ever.

In this passage, Jude is speaking to believers who have almost certainly committed personal sins during the course of their lifetimes whether before or after they became Christians. Yet, despite those imperfections, Jude insists that God is able to prevent someone from falling (sinning) again in the future in order that he or she might appear spotless before the throne of God. What an amazing idea: God can prevent someone from sinning! This is what Catholics have been saying all along concerning Mary.

So, how might this principle of preventive salvation apply to Mary? In the 13th century, Duns Scotus, the famous Franciscan theologian, explained that falling into sin could be likened to a man approaching unaware a deep ditch. If he falls into the ditch, he needs someone to lower a rope and save him. But if someone were to warn him of the danger ahead, preventing the man from falling into the ditch at all, he would be saved from falling in the first place.

Likewise, Mary was saved by God who protected her from inheriting the stain of original sin from Adam and prevented her from sinning during the course of her lifetime…just as scripture tells us He is able to do.

This is one of the concepts I don’t get about Catholicism. The verses you post are certainly interesting, but I have a question: why? Why does Mary have to be Immaculate?

From Catholic Answers:

The Old Testament Ark of the Covenant was a true icon of the sacred. Because it contained the presence of God symbolized by three types of the coming Messiah—the manna, the Ten Commandments, and Aaron’s rod—it had to be pure and untouched by sinful man (see 2 Sam. 6:1-9 and Ex. 25:10ff; Num. 4:15).

In the New Testament, the new Ark is not an inanimate object, but a person: the Blessed Mother. How much more pure would the new Ark be when we consider the old ark was a mere “shadow” in relation to it (see Heb. 10:1)? This image of Mary as the Ark of the Covenant is an indicator that Mary would fittingly be free from all contagion of sin to be a worthy vessel to bear God in her womb. And most importantly, just as the Old Covenant Ark was pristine from the moment it was constructed with explicit divine instructions in Exodus 25, so would Mary be pure from the moment of her conception. God, in a sense, prepared his own dwelling place in both the Old and New Testaments.

The Ark of the Covenant contained three “types” of Jesus inside: manna, Aaron’s rod, and the Ten Commandments. In Hebrew, commandment (dabar) can be translated “word.” Compare: Mary carried the fulfillment of all these types in her body. Jesus is the “true [manna] from heaven” (John 6:32), the true “High Priest” (Heb. 3:1), and “the word made flesh” (John 1:14).

The glory cloud (Hebrew Anan) was representative of the Holy Spirit, and it “overshadowed” the Ark when Moses consecrated it in Ex. 40:32-33. The Greek word for “overshadow” found in the Septuagint is a form of episkiasei. Compare: “The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you; therefore the child to be born will be called holy, the Son of God” (Luke 1:35). The Greek word for “overshadow” is episkiasei.

David “leapt and danced” before the Ark when it was being carried into Jerusalem in procession in 2 Sam. 6:14-16. Compare: As soon as Elizabeth heard the sound of Mary’s salutation, John the Baptist “leaped for joy” in her womb (cf. Luke 1:41-44).
After a manifestation of the power of God working through the Ark, David exclaims, “How can the Ark of the Lord come unto me?” Compare: After the revelation to Elizabeth about the true calling of Mary, who was carrying God in her womb, Elizabeth exclaims, “Why is this granted me, that the mother of my Lord should come to me?” (Luke 1:43)
The Ark of the Lord “remained in the house of Obededom . . . three months” in 2 Sam. 6:11. Compare: “Mary remained with [Elizabeth] for about three months” (Luke 1:56).
The New Eve

It is important for us to recall that New Covenant fulfillments are always more glorious and more perfect than their Old Testament types, which are “but a shadow of the good things to come” in the New Covenant (Heb. 10:1). With this in mind, let us consider the revelation of Mary as the “New Eve.” After the fall of Adam and Eve in Genesis 3, God promised the advent of another “woman” in Genesis 3:15, or a “New Eve” who would oppose Lucifer, and whose “seed” would crush his head. This “woman” and “her seed” would reverse the curse, so to speak, that the original “man” and “woman” had brought upon humanity through their disobedience.

It is most significant here to note “Adam” and “Eve” are revealed simply as “the man” and “the woman” before the woman’s name was changed to “Eve” (Hebrew, “mother of the living”) after the fall (see Gen. 2:21ff). When we then look at the New Covenant, Jesus is explicitly referred to as the “last Adam,” or the “New Adam” in 1 Cor. 15:45. And Jesus himself indicates that Mary is the prophetic “woman” or “New Eve” of Genesis 3:15 when he refers to his mother as “woman” in John 2:4 and 19:26. Moreover, St. John refers to Mary as “woman” eight times in Revelation 12. As the first Eve brought death to all of her children through disobedience and heeding the words of the ancient serpent, the devil, the “New Eve” of Revelation 12 brings life and salvation to all of her children through her obedience. The same “serpent” who deceived the original woman of Genesis is revealed, in Revelation 12, to fail in his attempt to overcome this new woman. The New Eve overcomes the serpent and as a result, “The serpent is angry with the woman, and went off to make war on the rest of her offspring, on those who keep the commandments of God, and bear testimony to Jesus” (Rev. 12:17).

If Mary is the New Eve and New Testament fulfillments are always more glorious than their Old Testament antecedents, it would be unthinkable for Mary to be conceived in sin. If she were, she would be inferior to Eve who was created in a perfect state, free from all sin.

The Church does not proclaim dogma arbitrarily, or as an abuse of power, but rather, because such things have been revealed to and through the Church by God.

What I wonder is how Jesus was born sinless if His mother was not - if all of humanity was not. He did not suffer from concupiscence (the result of original sin), while the rest of us do. Since He had to be fully human, yet without sin (Heb 4:15), how could that be unless His mother was also without sin? Adam and his wife were created without sin, correct? Could God do that again, if the entire world were at stake? Original sin is inherited through the blood. Clearly, scripture provides no direct evidence in this regard, as it does not in many other regards.

Let us remember that all of creation came into being through the Word of God - which is the pre-incarnate Christ (John 1:1-4). Everything that was created is part of the divine plan. Thus, Jesus conceived of His own mother in the Divine intellect and brought her to flesh so that she, in turn, could give her flesh to Him. Since His flesh was to be sinless, how could that be unless hers was, too?

Since our sinful nature is passed to us via the blood of our parents, either Jesus was not sinless, or Mary was not sinful. Nothing impure exists in, or enters into Heaven (Rev. 21:27). Jesus, knowing that He was to take flesh, had the choice to create maternal flesh that was sinful, thus making his gestation an inexplicable mixture of sin and purity, or He chose to create a pure womb into which He would receive the purity of sinless nourishment - the purity and sinlessness of Mary’s womb being a form of reflection of heaven, just as Jesus is a reflection of the Father.

As to your last question :Why did Jesus’ chosen mother have to be sinful? God is not limited by man’s imagination. If He can save someone from sin after their birth, He can certainly save someone before their birth. A sinful mother can only produce a sinful Son, which would make Jesus a false Messiah.

The Catholic Church is not alleging that such things must be this way - only that they are. For a complete explanation, we will have to ask the Lord one fine day.

Logically, if Christ need his mother to be sinless to be born sinless, wouldn’t Mary’s mother also have to be born sinless for Mary to be born sinless? Then wouldn’t Mary’s grandmother have to be born sinless for Mary’s mother to be born sinless?

On your other point, Christ was born sinless because he had no human father. In the fall, the seed of man was corrupted (1 Corinthians 15). Sin passed down from father to son (and daughter) for generations. Christ, being the only human born with no human father, didn’t inherit this nature.

As man thinks and acts, yes. But, we are talking the Lord here. Last I read, all things are possible to Him. All bets are off.

Who says that this leads to sinlessness? You have not explained why Jesus would choose to dwell in a sinful womb.

But how can we consider this private interpretation of scripture to be infallible? Let me get this straight: by your private interpretation, nothing happened to Eve at the fall to corrupt her “seed.” Female seed is therefore without sin? I thought that “mankind” was fallen, and not only men? Remember that we are each a combination of male and female DNA. If female DNA was not corrupted at the fall, just how does the bible describe its later corruption? Are we only half-sinful, since Eve’s DNA was not corrupted? If Adam had not eaten the fruit, would we all be sinless?

I think pretzel logic has crept into theology here.

This is from the catechism of the Catholic Church. It is worth reading and pondering, but only because it might just be true:

The Immaculate Conception

490 To become the mother of the Savior, Mary "was enriched by God with gifts appropriate to such a role."132 The angel Gabriel at the moment of the annunciation salutes her as “full of grace”.133 In fact, in order for Mary to be able to give the free assent of her faith to the announcement of her vocation, it was necessary that she be wholly borne by God’s grace.

491 Through the centuries the Church has become ever more aware that Mary, “full of grace” through God,134 was redeemed from the moment of her conception. That is what the dogma of the Immaculate Conception confesses, as Pope Pius IX proclaimed in 1854:

The most Blessed Virgin Mary was, from the first moment of her conception, by a singular grace and privilege of almighty God and by virtue of the merits of Jesus Christ, Savior of the human race, preserved immune from all stain of original sin.135

492 The “splendor of an entirely unique holiness” by which Mary is “enriched from the first instant of her conception” comes wholly from Christ: she is “redeemed, in a more exalted fashion, by reason of the merits of her Son”.136 The Father blessed Mary more than any other created person “in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places” and chose her “in Christ before the foundation of the world, to be holy and blameless before him in love”.137

493 The Fathers of the Eastern tradition call the Mother of God “the All-Holy” (Panagia), and celebrate her as “free from any stain of sin, as though fashioned by the Holy Spirit and formed as a new creature”.138 By the grace of God Mary remained free of every personal sin her whole life long.

134 Lk 1:28.
135 Pius IX, Ineffabilis Deus (1854): DS 2803.
136 LG 53, 56.
137 Cf. Eph 1:3-4.
138 LG 56.

Because she gave birth to the Savior and only a pure vessel could hold him

From Shameless Popery:

Two points on the infinite regression argument. First, I don’t think that the argument is that “Mary had to be preserved from original sin to avoid passing it on to Jesus.” I think that the argument is that since Jesus is God, and can’t commune with sin (cf. Habakkuk 1:13; Hebrews 12:14; Rev. 21:17), and was in His Mother’s womb (not just in her presence, but bodily tied to her through the umbilical cord), she had to be sinless. So it wouldn’t be about passing sin on to the sinless, but about Divinity communing with sinfulness.

Second, whether or not the Immaculate Conception was necessary, for the reasons described above, it was certainly fitting (as Restless Pilgrim just pointed out). Suffice it to say, then, that since He is God, it is fitting that His Mother is sinless, just as the Ark and the Temple had to be spotless, and the Temple builder had to have hands free of blood. So even if He could occupy a sinful womb In this case, the infinite regression objection doesn’t hold water. After all, the Ark had to be spotless, but that doesn’t mean that the Ark had to be preserved in its own Ark (and so on, like a bunch of matryoshka dolls).


Praying For You! :crossrc:

Tired and only replying to part of your post. Will reply to the rest tomorrow)

The same reason he choose to dwell in a sinful world, surrounded by sinful people.

Consider this. Uzzah died by merely touching the Ark of the Covenant to steady himself. God merely “inhabited” it, and Uzzah’s sinfulness killed him. (quotes, because it’s an approximation. God being omnipresent, and all) Now imagine what it’d be like to touch God himself. And not just to steady yourself, but to carry him around inside your womb for 9 months. If you really need us to come up with a reason that Mary “had” to be sinless, I suppose I could say she needed to to be safe while carrying the Divine around inside her for 9 months.

I hope your operation went well. I do appreciate your offer of a catechism; however, I found one online that I will read.

A little sore, but I survived! As you read the catechism, you will note the footnotes. Those are references to either scripture, or to official Church documents in support.

In any case, once made, my offer stands.

Hi Randy,

Thanks for your most excellent thread. Great points.

I would just suggest that one point be added that addresses the emotional pull to the Protestant position.

Protestants get a lot of mileage from the emphasis on how Christ is the Spotless Lamb that was crucified for our sins. One Protestant convert to Catholicism said that his main obstacle to the Immaculate Conception was that it seemed to take away from the unique character of Christ being the only One qualified to die for our sins, the Spotless Lamb.

The uniqueness of Christ that qualified Him to Redeem us is that He is God. Even Mary’s purity would not have enabled her to redeem us as we needed an infinite price to be paid that only the God-Man could pay.


Because we have an obsessive compulsive theological disorder.

I think the argument is that it is fitting.

I also have problems understanding this. We have no Divine revelation in regards to Joachim and Anne. I can understand Mary being preserved from sin, after all She was to have the Living God in Her womb. That in and of itself is reason enough to believe that there was no sin. Taking this to the moment of conception is just OCD.

But that’s my fallible layman opinion.

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