Mary (mother of Jesus) - Christian Doctrines

Christian Doctrines

There is significant diversity in the Marian doctrines accepted by various Christian churches. The key Marian doctrines held in Christianity can be briefly outlined as follows:

  • Mother of God: holds that Mary, as mother of Jesus is therefore Theotokos (God-bearer), or Mother of God.
  • Virgin birth of Jesus: states that Mary miraculously conceived Jesus by action of the Holy Spirit while remaining a virgin.
  • Dormition: commemorates Mary's "falling asleep" or natural death shortly before her Assumption.
  • Assumption: the doctrine which states that Mary was taken bodily into Heaven either at, or before, her death.
  • Immaculate Conception: states that Mary herself was conceived without original sin.
  • Perpetual Virginity: holds that Mary remained a virgin all her life, even after the act of giving birth to Jesus.

The acceptance of these Marian doctrines by Christians can be summarized as follows:

Doctrine Church action Accepted by
Mother of God First Council of Ephesus, 431 Roman Catholics, Eastern Orthodox, Anglicans, Lutherans, Methodists,
Virgin birth of Jesus First Council of Nicaea, 325 Roman Catholics, Eastern Orthodox, Anglicans, Lutherans,
Protestants, Latter Day Saints
Assumption of Mary Munificentissimus Deus encyclical
Pope Pius XII, 1950
Roman Catholics, Eastern Orthodox, some Anglicans, some Lutherans
Immaculate Conception Ineffabilis Deus encyclical
Pope Pius IX, 1854
Roman Catholics, some Anglicans, some Lutherans, early Martin Luther
Perpetual Virginity Council of Constantinople, 533
Smalcald Articles, 1537
Roman Catholics, Eastern Orthodox, Some Anglicans, Some Lutherans,
Martin Luther, John Wesley

The title "Mother of God" (Theotokos) for Mary was confirmed by the First Council of Ephesus, held at the Church of Mary in 431. The Council decreed that Mary is the Mother of God because her son Jesus is one person who is both God and man, divine and human. This doctrine is widely accepted by Christians in general, and the term Mother of God had already been used within the oldest known prayer to Mary, the Sub tuum praesidium which dates to around 250 AD.

The Virgin birth of Jesus has been a universally held belief among Christians since the 2nd century, It is included in the two most widely used Christian creeds, which state that Jesus "was incarnate of the Holy Spirit and the Virgin Mary" (the Nicene Creed in what is now its familiar form) and the Apostles' Creed. The Gospel of Matthew describes Mary as a virgin who fulfilled the prophecy of Isaiah 7:14. The authors of the Gospels of Matthew and Luke consider Jesus' conception not the result of intercourse and assert that Mary had "no relations with man" before Jesus' birth. This alludes to the belief that Mary conceived Jesus through the action of God the Holy Spirit, and not through intercourse with Joseph or anyone else.

The doctrines of the Assumption or Dormition of Mary relate to her death and bodily assumption to Heaven. While the Roman Catholic Church has established the dogma of the Assumption, namely that Mary went directly to Heaven without a usual physical death, the Eastern Orthodox Church believes in the Dormition, i.e. that she fell asleep, surrounded by the Apostles.

Roman Catholics believe in the Immaculate Conception of Mary, as proclaimed Ex Cathedra by Pope Pius IX in 1854, namely that she was filled with grace from the very moment of her conception in her mother's womb and preserved from the stain of original sin. The Latin Rite of the Roman Catholic Church has a liturgical feast by that name, kept on 8 December. The Eastern Orthodox reject the Immaculate Conception principally because their understanding of ancestral sin (the Greek term corresponding to the Latin "original sin") differs from that of the Roman Catholic Church.

The Perpetual Virginity of Mary, asserts Mary's real and perpetual virginity even in the act of giving birth to the Son of God made Man. The term Ever-Virgin (Greek ἀειπάρθενος) is applied in this case, stating that Mary remained a virgin for the remainder of her life, making Jesus her biological and only son, whose conception and birth are held to be miraculous.

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