Was John the Baptist without sin?

We know that John the Baptist was born into this world for one mission: to pave the way for the Messiah (his cousin), Jesus Christ. With such a holy mission given to him by God, was there ever a time that St. John the Baptist committed sin?

John the Baptist was born with original sin.

We do not know if he ever committed actual sin, though it is possible that he did not. He may have achieved what the Church calls “spiritual perfection,” which is the complete aversion to all sin, mortal or venial.

I’m favorably inclined to that idea, but the Church has no doctrine one way or another.

All we know for sure is that the Church teaches that John the Baptist was conceived with original sin but he was born without original sin.

Conceived with but born without? Did it just disappear? What happened to it?

Jimmy Akin says,

This [born without original sin belief] is not something that the Catholic Church teaches, but it is what may be called a pious and probable belief among Catholics.

So, assuming Akin’s facts are correct (and I’ve never known otherwise) this is not actually a teaching of the Catholic Church (but it’s quite OK for Catholics to individually have that opinion).

There is a pious belief that St John the Baptist had his original sin removed when he responded to Christ’s presence when The Blessed Virgin Mary visted Elizabeth.

Scripture itself tells us (in Luke chapter 1) that St John was filled with the Holy Spirit even in the womb. How can one be filled with the Holy Spirit yet be in a state of original sin (which is primarily separation from God)? He was essentially baptized in the womb. Furthermore, St John’s nativity is celebrated as a solemnity by the Church on June 24. Only two other nativities are celebrated: that of Our Lord and that of Our Lady. What do they have in common? The only three people born without original sin. How can the Church, in her liturgy, praise and honor John’s birth if he wasn’t already at that moment sanctified? Liturgy is part of Sacred Tradition - so I respectfully disagree with Jimmy Akin and the others: I don’t see how a Catholic could argue that St John was born with original sin.
St Joseph is truly great. I am very devoted to St Joseph… But I think many modern Catholics have forgotten how important St John the Baptist is. He is so prominent in the Gospels as the forerunner of the Christ- the bridge between the two testaments. He is highly praised by Christ Himself. His own coming was prophesied in the Old Testament and his birth was, like Christ’s, foretold by an angel. Traditionally in iconography he was depicted as seating next to Our Lord in heavenly glory (Our Lady on His right and John on His left).

twf.

You asked:

How can one be filled with the Holy Spirit yet be in a state of original sin (which is primarily separation from God)?

Because St. John the Baptist wasn’t “filled with the Holy Spirit” until he was 5 or 6 months (in the womb) of age. Before that he had original sin.

We are talking about St. John being BORN without original sin. This event (John being filled with the Holy Spirit) was still before his birth. His conception is another matter, though the East also celebrates his conception liturgically…

CCC 717 “There was a man sent from God, whose name was John.” John was “filled with the Holy Spirit even from his mother’s womb” by Christ himself, whom the Virgin Mary had just conceived by the Holy Spirit. Mary’s visitation to Elizabeth thus became a visit from God to his people.

The above is a teaching. It states that John was filled with the Holy Spirit by Christ himself. That means John became free from sin, does it not?

It states that John was filled with the Holy Spirit by Christ himself. That means John became free from sin, does it not?

Exodus 31:3 says that God himself filled Bezeleel the workman with the Spirit of God.

“And I have filled him with the spirit of God, with wisdom and understanding, and knowledge in all manner of work.”

Moses then tells the people in Exodus 35:30-31:

“And Moses said to the children of Israel, ‘Behold the Lord hath called by name Bezeleel the son of Uri the son of Hur, of the tribe of Judah, and has filled him with the spirit of God, with wisdom and understanding and knowledge and all learning.’”

Nobody has ever suggested that Bezeleel was freed from original sin at that moment. He might have been, and it would have been useful for building the Tabernacle and the Ark and all the other stuff. But the Church has never taught it officially.

Being filled with the Holy Spirit does usually accompany being baptized or having hands imposed on one, so the association with the Sacraments is definitely right.

But usually, being filled with the Holy Spirit means becoming a prophet permanently or temporarily, as with John’s dad Zechariah in Luke 1:67 –

“And Zechariah his father was filled with the Holy Spirit; and he prophesied, saying…”

And with his mom Elizabeth in Luke 1:41-42 –

"And Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit, and she cried out with a loud voice, and said, “Blessed art thou among women, and blessed is the fruit of thy womb…”

I agree with you, but I also agree with Mr. Akin. I don’t think this paragraph goes far enough to conclude that the Church teaches that JtB was born free from original sin. I think it comes really close, but it requires us to draw an inference of our own which the Church does not explicitly state. It’s kinda like we’re interpreting doctrine.

I think you’re right, but I don’t think we can go so far as to call it Church doctrine. I think that’s why Akin called it a “pious and probable” belief.

St. John the Baptist presumably had privation or lack of sanctifying grace when he was conceived.

St. John the Baptist had this lack until he was “filled with the Holy Spirit”.

You and I are “filled with the Holy Spirit” when we are Baptized and Confirmed.

St. John the Baptist was the recipient of the Holy Spirit by a different means and BEFORE he was born (yet in the womb).

St. John the Baptist was sanctified in the womb. Not in the sense of being immediately Immaculately Conceived from the moment of his conception (that’s called “The Immaculate Conception” and Mary being the recipient of this was a “singular privilege”).

Rather St. John the Baptist was sanctified within the womb of Elizabeth (his mother) later into Elizabeth’s pregnancy—that’s when St. John the Baptist was “filled with the Holy Spirit”.

CCC 717 “There was a man sent from God, whose name was John.” John was "filled with the Holy Spirit even from his mother’s womb" by Christ himself, whom the Virgin Mary had just conceived by the Holy Spirit. Mary’s visitation to Elizabeth thus became a visit from God to his people.

ST. AMBROSE On whomsoever the Holy Spirit is poured, in him there is fullness of great virtue; as in St. John, who before he was born, when yet in his mother’s womb, bore witness to the grace of the Spirit which he had received, when leaping in the womb of his parent he hailed the glad tidings of the coming of the Lord. . .

(from Catena Aurea)

St. John the Baptist was sanctified in the womb of his mother Elizabeth when the Holy Spirit filled Elizabeth (who was of course pregnant with John the Baptist at the time) it was THEN that “the precursor” St. John, was “filled with the Holy Spirit”.

CATHOLIC ENCYCLOPEDIA . . .When, five months later, Elizabeth was visited in her home by the Virgin Mary, not only was her son sanctified in her womb, but she herself was enlightened from on high to salute her cousin as “the mother of my Lord” (Luke 1:43) .

Let’s look at some other CCC statements as well:

**
CCC 523a** St. John the Baptist is the Lord’s immediate precursor or forerunner, sent to prepare his way. “Prophet of the Most High”, John surpasses all the prophets, of whom he is the last. He inaugurates the Gospel, already from his mother’s womb welcomes the coming of Christ, and rejoices in being “the friend of the bridegroom” . . . . (italics original, bold mine)

CCC 524 When the Church celebrates the liturgy of Advent each year, she makes present this ancient expectancy of the Messiah, for by sharing in the long preparation for the Savior’s first coming, the faithful renew their ardent desire for his second coming. By celebrating the precursor’s birth and martyrdom, the Church unites herself to his desire: "He must increase, but I must decrease.” (italics original, bold mine)

Recall Elizabeth was pregnant with St. John the Baptist when the Blessed Virgin Mary came to Elizabeth.

Then Elizabeth was “FILLED” with the Holy Spirit.

Recall what occurred when the Blessed Virgin Mary visited Elizabeth .

LUKE 1:41 41 And when Elizabeth heard the greeting of Mary, the babe leaped in her womb; and Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit

Then St. John in a certain-sense giving testimony that he too is effected by Elizabeth’s receiving of the Holy Spirit, “leaped” with joy within the womb of Elizabeth at the very sound of the greeting of the Blessed Virgin Mary.

LUKE 1:41-42 41 And when Elizabeth heard the greeting of Mary, the babe leaped in her womb; and Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit 42 and she exclaimed with a loud cry, "Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the fruit of your womb!

This also fulfills the prophecy of the angel of the Lord gave to Zechariah in Luke chapter 1 and CCC 717 footnotes.

LUKE 1:15-17 15 for he will be great before the Lord, and he shall drink no wine nor strong drink, and he will be filled with the Holy Spirit, even from his mother’s womb. 16 And he will turn many of the sons of Israel to the Lord their God, 17 and he will go before him in the spirit and power of Elijah, to turn the hearts of the fathers to the children, and the disobedient to the wisdom of the just, to make ready for the Lord a people prepared."

The Church usually liturgically celebrates only the “death day” of saints. Not so with St. John the Baptist. Why?

Because St. John the Forerunner (the Baptist) was sanctified within the womb of Elizabeth.

When St. John the Baptist was birthed he was already “filled with the Holy Spirit even from his mother’s womb by Christ himself (CCC 717)” at the sound of the Blessed Virgin Mary’s voice.

Therefore when St. John was born, he was a sanctified infant already.

So St. John the Baptist’s BIRTH will be different than you or I, as you or I are born in an unsanctified state—we are born into original sin.

The Church is not going to have liturgical celebration days on our birthday (but it may someday on our death day).

When we are born, we are born in original sin.

We are not “filled with the Holy Spirit” when WE are birthed until we undergo Baptism.

But St. John the Baptist has his BIRTHDAY celebrated in the Church.

St. John the Baptist also has his death day celebrated (Beheading of St. John the Baptist is August 29) BUT he ALSO his birthday is celebrated liturgically (June 24th)! There are even other feast days pertaining to this great Saint, St. John the Baptist in the Eastern Churches.

Hope this helps.

God bless.

Cathoholic

Scripture, CCC and hist. quotes bold & ul mine

I can go with that.

newadvent.org/cathen/08486b.htm

Now during the sixth month, the Annunciation had taken place, and, as Mary had heard from the angel the fact of her cousin’s conceiving, she went “with haste” to congratulate her. “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.

St. John the Baptist was born without original sin!

Yes and no methinks, a single Scriptural verse is not the same as a proposition of logic because the terms are not clear and distinct.

It all comes down to what “being filled with the Holy Spirit” was intended to mean by the author of that verse.

To quickly conclude that it is perfectly equivalent to the definitions of Scholasticism 1100 years later (ie “sanctifying grace”) is really an assumption.

More likely (given that the NT is closer in culture and time to Old Testament understandings of the Holy Spirit) it would seem we are at first pass more likely talking about “actual graces.” We all know that some pretty bad dude’s in the OT were given “supernatural” gifts (eg prophecy) without concluding they were also sanctified or free from sin.

So for this and other reasons mentioned below, I think we are currently free to decide either way.

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