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Why No Mention Of Mary's Assumption?

Discussion in 'Mariology & Hagiography' started by Jason Engwer, Jun 7, 2009.

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  1. Jason Engwer

    Jason Engwer Newbie

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    Much can be said about the absence of evidence for the concept of Mary's bodily assumption to Heaven and the dubious history of the doctrine. See "The Historical Roots Of The Reformation And Evangelicalism" in my sig below. But there's a particular line of evidence related to the assumption of Mary that's been neglected by the sources I've read on the subject. An assumption of Mary isn't mentioned in a large number of early patristic passages in which it would have been relevant to discuss such an event.

    The church fathers of the earliest centuries repeatedly cite Enoch and Elijah as examples of people who didn’t die, were translated to Heaven, etc. (Clement of Rome, First Clement, 9; Tertullian, A Treatise On The Soul, 50; Tertullian, On The Resurrection Of The Flesh, 58; Tertullian, Against Marcion, 5:12; Methodius, From The Discourse On The Resurrection, 14), yet they never say any such thing about Mary or include her as an example. Irenaeus, for instance, writes about the power of God to deliver people from death, and he cites Enoch, Elijah, and Paul (2 Corinthians 12:2) as illustrations of people who were "assumed" and "translated", but he says nothing of Mary (Against Heresies, 5:5).

    Like the ante-Nicene sources, writers in later centuries often discuss subjects such as bodily assumptions and what happened to men like Enoch and Elijah without mentioning a bodily assumption of Mary (Apostolic Constitutions, 5:7; Cyril of Jerusalem, Catechetical Lectures, 3:6; John Chrysostom, Homilies On John, 75; Jerome, To Pammachius Against John Of Jerusalem, 29, 32; etc.). An opponent of Augustine summarized Augustine’s beliefs on this subject:

    "Besides that, it is not only Elias, but Moses and Enoch you believe to be immortal, and to have been taken up with their bodies to heaven." (cited in Augustine, Reply To Faustus The Manichaean, 26:1)

    Why no mention of Mary? On another occasion, Augustine mentions that people sometimes ask where humans who have been bodily removed from earth would go (On The Grace Of Christ, And On Original Sin, 2:27). He mentions that people ask about Enoch, Elijah, and Paul, but, once again, Mary isn’t mentioned. The same is true of John Chrysostom when he discusses the same issue Augustine addressed (Homilies On Hebrews, 22).

    It's a reasonable possibility that people would believe in an assumption of Mary, yet sometimes not mention it in such contexts. But the pattern described above, involving such a diversity of sources over so much time, seems to me to be significant evidence against the notion that the bodily assumption of Mary was an apostolic tradition that was understood by the church and was handed down since the time of the apostles.
     
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  2. simonthezealot

    simonthezealot have you not read,what God has spoken unto you?

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    In this regard Jason i am curious if you know who were some of the first to write of a belief in the assumption of Mary?

    Obviously the Roman Church has set forth the maxim that doctrine need not be grounded in either scripture or the early church, but i am curious just how far away from the roots they are willing go.
     
  3. Kristos

    Kristos Servant

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    So you agree then that Moses was assumed based on the quote from Augustine, eventhough he wasn't mentioned in the quotes from Clement nor Tertullian?

    One correction to what you have implied - Orthodoxy teaches that Mary died, so comparing to Elijah & Enoch would not make sense. We celebrate her death on the feast of the Dormition of the Theotokos. The central theme of the feast is Mary's death. Like all of us, she was subject to death, not be her own will, but by her mortal human nature. I assume you would agree with that. Is the assertion that Mary died supported by the ECFs? When they talk about other people who died, do they include Mary? If it's not supported by the ECFs (that Mary died), then why can we agree that she did?

    Do you believe in the Nicene Creed? Does is not say that we except the Resurrection of the dead?

    Hopefully, I have not made too many grand assumptions. We agree that Mary died and that we expect the resurrection of the dead.

    Since we agree on that, then I would think we could also agree that since Mary died, she would be candidate for resurrection.

    In the Orthodox Church, the Litugical year typifies the Christain life in it's whole. We are born, we live, we die and we are resurrected. Never mind the how (grace faith works yaddda yadda). The life of the Church is like a microcasm of our own life. Mary's life is used as a model within this frame work to express these spiritual truthes. Why Mary? Because she litterally achieved physically, what we strive to achieve spiritually - to be bearers of God - to put on Christ, to be filled with the Holy Spirit. And so the Liturgical year starts with the Nativity of the Theotokos. If we start the year, and our lives with birth, then how do we end them? With death? Surely not! Christ has trampled down death by death, so how could we conclude the year and our Christain lives with death? Unthinkable. So, the year ends with life - with resurrection, our resurrection into the life in the age to come.

    When you are resurrected, do you expect that Mary will be there?

    If yes, then I guess we agree on that too;)
     
  4. Jason Engwer

    Jason Engwer Newbie

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    simonthezealot wrote:

    "In this regard Jason i am curious if you know who were some of the first to write of a belief in the assumption of Mary? Obviously the Roman Church has set forth the maxim that doctrine need not be grounded in either scripture or the early church, but i am curious just how far away from the roots they are willing go."

    I have two articles on the assumption of Mary, which address your question, under "The Historical Roots Of The Reformation And Evangelicalism" in my sig below.
     
  5. Jason Engwer

    Jason Engwer Newbie

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    Kristos wrote:

    "So you agree then that Moses was assumed based on the quote from Augustine, eventhough he wasn't mentioned in the quotes from Clement nor Tertullian?"

    I wasn't citing those sources because I agree with everything they said. I was citing them to demonstrate what they believed.

    Scripture doesn't refer to an assumption of Moses. Whether individual Christians believe in such an event would depend on whether they trust other sources that refer to that event. Some Christians have believed in an assumption of Moses, and some haven't.

    But if the assumption of Mary was an apostolic tradition always held by the church, we wouldn't expect only some Christians to believe in it. That's especially true of Christians who are considered fathers of the church, a church that supposedly was faithfully handing down all apostolic traditions, including a tradition of Mary's assumption. And Roman Catholicism holds a higher view of Mary than Moses, which makes an absence of any mention of her alleged assumption even more difficult to explain, if the concept was an apostolic tradition. If people were concerned enough about an assumption of Moses to write about it early on, wouldn't it be even more likely that they would write about an assumption of Mary, if they held as high a view of Mary as we see in Roman Catholicism and Eastern Orthodoxy and if they believed she was assumed?

    Like I said earlier, though, I don't deny that an individual assumed to Heaven could be mentioned in one context, but not another. One church father might mention Enoch, but not mention Paul, whereas another church father might mention Paul, but not mention Enoch. But the more often bodily assumptions are discussed without any mention of Mary, the more difficult it becomes to maintain that there was a widespread belief in an assumption of Mary. Though the issue of whether Moses was assumed has been disputed, at least the belief is sometimes mentioned early on. Belief in an assumption of Mary, by contrast, is absent in the earliest centuries.

    And this is just one line of evidence among others. I discuss some of the other relevant evidence in the articles I referenced in response to simonthezealot.

    You write:

    "One correction to what you have implied - Orthodoxy teaches that Mary died, so comparing to Elijah & Enoch would not make sense."

    I didn't single out Eastern Orthodoxy. And I wasn't limiting the discussion to individuals who didn't die. If Mary died prior to being assumed, that death doesn't explain the absence of any mention of her in all of the passages I cited from the fathers.

    You write:

    "Since we agree on that, then I would think we could also agree that since Mary died, she would be candidate for resurrection."

    Yes, she'll be part of the resurrection. It doesn't follow that she's been resurrected already or was bodily assumed without a resurrection. What's the significance of your point, then?
     
  6. Kristos

    Kristos Servant

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    Is there an apostolic church that doesn't believe it?

    Greeks, Copts, Ethiopians, Armenians, Georgians, Romans, Russians, Antiochians, Assyrians, Malankara?

    Is your hypothosis that all these churches somehow independently and without strife "invented" this event and then quitely inserted it into the liturgical life of the church without anyone noticing?

    You seem to only want to use the ECFs when is suits you. If the ECFs are only good enough for disproving something, then you're not being honest. There is not proof of anything, regardless of how many people talked about it. Prove that Christ is Risen. You might have some circumstantial evidence, and some very biased eyewitness, but no real proof.

    Anyway - seems like you completely missed the point. We worship in spirit and in truth - you can keep your history.
     
  7. Fenstermacher

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    IMO the problem here is not the doctrine itself but the REQUIREMENT to believe it.

    It may or may not be true. Since it's not mentioned in Scripture, yet does no violence to any revealed truth and since there is biblical precedence for the event (Enoch), we may believe it or not believe it according as our conscience guides us.

    Men err when they seek to bind consciences to things like this.
     
  8. Kristos

    Kristos Servant

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    There is no requirement.
     
  9. Fenstermacher

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    Fine then.

    Or at least your church has the right of it but Rome teaches that this is a dogma, a truth which must be believed in order to be saved.
     
  10. Kristos

    Kristos Servant

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    Forget Rome.

    Ask an Ethiopian. Or better yet, an Assyrian because they were the first to celebrate the feast of the Dormition. August 15th.
     
  11. Fenstermacher

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    On August 15th we celebrate the feast and commemoration of St. Mary, the Mother of God.

    Traditionally, as I am sure you know, commemorations celebrate the day of a particular saint's going to his or her reward, thus, we do not call it the feast of the dormition or the assumption though it is true that in many early Lutheran calendars this feast was specifically called such.

    Frankly, and for what little it is worth, I have no problem with the doctrine. And it may surprise you to know that, along with her perpetual virginity, I tend to accept it as true.

    As for which fathers accepted the doctrine, well, with all due respect to them, their belief does not establish the incontrovertible truth of a thing apart from Scriptural attestation.
     
  12. Kristos

    Kristos Servant

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    So it's a bit of a caucus race. Back to the OP - if ECFs are not enough to believe something, they why say that they did not affirm it? Because even if they did, that wouldn't be enough to make any difference to him.

    Romaphobia running wild...
     
  13. Jason Engwer

    Jason Engwer Newbie

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    Kristos wrote:

    "Is there an apostolic church that doesn't believe it?"

    A lot of churches claim a succession from the apostles, and they widely contradict each other on doctrinal matters. There are some Anglicans, for example, who claim a succession from the apostles without believing in an assumption of Mary. Eastern Orthodoxy doesn't require belief in the concept. And we don't just look at what such groups believe today. We also look at what they believed in the past. For example:

    "Furthermore, the notion of Mary's assumption into heaven has left no trace in the literature of the third, much less of the second century. M. Jugie, the foremost authority on this question, concluded in his monumental study: 'The patristic tradition prior to the Council of Nicaea does not furnish us with any witness about the Assumption.'" (Raymond Brown, et al., Mary In The New Testament [Mahwah: Paulist Press, 1978], p. 266)

    "In a later passage, he [Epiphanius] says that she [Mary] may have died and been buried, or been killed - as a martyr. 'Or she remained alive, since nothing is impossible with God and he can do whatever he desires; for her end no one knows.'...A Palestinian with opportunity for some research, E. does not speak of a bodily resurrection and remains noncommittal on the way Mary's life ended. He nowhere denies the Assumption, or admits the possibility of Assumption without death, for he has found no sign of death or burial. He suggests several different hypotheses and draws no firm conclusion." (Michael O'Carroll, Theotokos [Wilmington, Delaware: Michael Glazier, Inc., 1988], p. 135)

    "Epiphanius's approach suggests strongly the absence of a fixed tradition on Mary's final lot....Isidore of Seville (d. 636) breaks the general silence, but only to attest profound ignorance on the way Mary left this earth. A century later, the English Bede confessed his ignorance of the final disposition of Mary's body. With this background, it is not surprising to find the first orators on the feast of August 15 in the west consistently wary of pronouncing on Mary's corporeal resurrection; not surprising to find in Spain, as the eighth century closes, some Asturians denying Mary's assumption (perhaps the first to do so); not surprising to see develop in the ninth century, beside the tradition favorable to an assumption represented by Pseudo-Augustine, another current of thought represented by Pseudo-Jerome and hostile, if not to the doctrine, at least to its unequivocal affirmation as somehow binding." (Everett Ferguson, ed., Encyclopedia Of Early Christianity [New York: Garland Publishing, Inc., 1999], pp. 134-135)

    "It is now generally agreed that the belief [Assumption of Mary] was unknown in the earliest ages of the Church. St Ambrose (Exposit. Evan. sec. Luc. 2. 35; PL 15. 1574) and St Epiphanius (Haer. 79. 11; PG 42. 716) were apparently still ignorant of it. It is first met with in certain NT apocrypha dating from the later 4th cent. onwards, some of them Gnostic in sympathy....It appears that one such work was condemned in the Decretum Gelasianum, though the condemnation may have been directed against its Gnostic teachings rather than specifically against the doctrine of the corporal assumption. A homily attributed in most MSS to Timothy of Jerusalem (prob. 4th-5th cent.) may imply the alternative belief that the BVM was assumed in body and soul during her natural life. The doctrine of the corporal assumption was first formulated in orthodox circles in the W. by St Gregory of Tours (d. 594), who accepted as historical the account attributed [falsely] in MSS to Melito." (F.L. Cross and E.A. Livingstone, editors, The Oxford Dictionary Of The Christian Church [New York: Oxford University Press, 1997], p. 117)

    The fact that many people believe in the doctrine today doesn't have much significance in light of such a poor reception of the doctrine in past generations. It should be noted that the doctrine wasn't just absent in some of these sources. Rather, some of these people denied the doctrine or denied that anybody knows what happened at the end of Mary's life.

    You write:

    "Is your hypothosis that all these churches somehow independently and without strife 'invented' this event and then quitely inserted it into the liturgical life of the church without anyone noticing?"

    As my citations above demonstrate, there was "strife". But even if there hadn't been, such a lack of strife would have to be weighed along with other evidence. It's not as though a lack of strife would be the only data to take into account. Such a lack of strife could have some significance without being conclusive by itself.

    You write:

    "If the ECFs are only good enough for disproving something, then you're not being honest."

    I neither stated nor suggested that the fathers are "only good enough for disproving something".

    You write:

    "Prove that Christ is Risen. You might have some circumstantial evidence, and some very biased eyewitness, but no real proof."

    Historical conclusions are matters of probability, not certainty. The resurrection can be shown to be probable. That's why the New Testament authors and other early Christians appeal to evidential categories such as eyewitness testimony.

    And calling the eyewitnesses "very biased" doesn't give us reason to distrust them. Some of the eyewitnesses apparently weren't Christians prior to seeing the risen Christ. If you're going to call them "very biased" anyway, because they believed that what they were claiming to have eyewitnessed did occur, then you'll have to classify all eyewitnesses as "very biased". Do we reject eyewitness testimony in a court of law on the basis that the eyewitnesses believe in what they claim to have eyewitnessed and are therefore "very biased"? What about the early non-Christian sources who acknowledge that Jesus' tomb was empty or acknowledge that He rose from the dead, but attribute the resurrection to Satan? Were they "very biased" in favor of Christianity as well? There's no such thing as an unbiased human. Eyewitness testimony carries a lot of weight, despite the existence of bias on the part of the eyewitnesses. That's why our system of justice and so many other elements of our society are built upon eyewitness testimony.

    We have far better evidence for Jesus' resurrection than we have for an assumption of Mary. You should be ashamed of yourself for speaking so disparagingly of the evidence for the resurrection in an attempt to make the lack of evidence for an assumption of Mary seem more acceptable. Nobody who calls himself a Christian ought to be behaving that way.

    You write:

    "Anyway - seems like you completely missed the point. We worship in spirit and in truth - you can keep your history."

    What a remarkable thing for somebody to say who claims to be part of the one true church founded historically by Christ and historically handing down all apostolic tradition, as the assumption of Mary allegedly is.
     
  14. Fenstermacher

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    Romaphobia...Bibliophilia, potayto, potahto
     
  15. E.C.

    E.C. Well-Known Member

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    The Anglicans only particularly care about England and not the rest of the world or else they would not be "Anglicans", a word derived from "Anglo", but rather some other word that would not be limiting to just the Anglos or just the Anglo-Saxons.

    Even then I have to give the Anglicans a mild bit of credit for upholding the truth of the Dormition. Along with the Assyrian Church of the East, the Oriental Orthodox Church, the Roman Catholic Church and even the Eastern Catholics no matter how much the aforementioned groups have schismed away from the Church.


    Read from the East and not just the West, but only if you leave your Romaphobic reading glasses at home. Abandon thine scholasticism and all shall be made clear. If I remember correctly, Lutherans will accept traditions unless it is made abundantly clear that said tradition does not jive with Scripture.

    Given that there is no versage negating the Dormition, I fail to see why you insist upon denying it.

    Not really. One is fear of an institution along with any/all doctrines of which said institution teaches. The other is mere love of a book.

    Big difference :)
     
  16. E.C.

    E.C. Well-Known Member

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    I think the greater question is this: why would mention of the Dormition be necessary unless it was at some point not believed?

    Consider:
    -the Bible was not even compiled until the 5th century, thus the Bible has never been 'the sole and ultimate authority' for the Church.
    -the Theotokos has always been given a bit of honor and respect since Christ's time on this earth. It is only a fairly recent (past 500 years) man-made development which treats her like dirt.

    To reiterate the question: why would mention of the Dormition be necessary unless it was at some point not believed?
     
  17. Jason Engwer

    Jason Engwer Newbie

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    E.C. wrote:

    "The Anglicans only particularly care about England and not the rest of the world or else they would not be 'Anglicans', a word derived from 'Anglo', but rather some other word that would not be limiting to just the Anglos or just the Anglo-Saxons."

    That's irrelevant to the point I was making, and Anglicans don't call themselves Anglicans because they "only particularly care about England and not the rest of the world". Do Eastern Orthodox only "particularly care" about the East? Do Roman Catholics only "particularly care" about Rome? They sometimes call themselves by other names, but so do Anglicans.

    You write:

    "Read from the East and not just the West, but only if you leave your Romaphobic reading glasses at home."

    If you had read what I've already posted, you should have noticed my citation of Eastern sources. I haven't just cited sources from the West.

    You write:

    "Given that there is no versage negating the Dormition, I fail to see why you insist upon denying it."

    The issue is whether belief in an assumption is justified. You aren't interacting with what I've said.

    You write:

    "I think the greater question is this: why would mention of the Dormition be necessary unless it was at some point not believed?"

    There were many points when it seems to have not been believed. See my argument that opens this thread, as well as my later comments on Epiphanius, Bede, etc.

    And we don't just assume that a doctrine absent from the historical record went unmentioned only because it hadn't been disputed. There would be many contexts in which an assumption of Mary could have been mentioned if people believed in the concept, as my first post in this thread illustrates. Why should we think that people would remain silent on the issue in our extant sources for hundreds of years just because, allegedly, nobody was disputing the concept? And why would Epiphanius and the other sources I've cited say what they said about the end of Mary's life if there was an apostolic tradition of her assumption that everybody accepted?
     
  18. Kristos

    Kristos Servant

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    I'm confused, your quotes seem to reinforce my view, not yours. Based on what you have posted, the Dormition/Assumption is recorded in multiple writings date from no later than the 4th century. These writings have been found in multiple languages - Coptic, Ethiopian, Greek - indicate widespread belief that did not happen overnight. Liturgically, the feast was celebrated in Assyria already by the 4th century and in Jerusalem by the 5th century. So the early church emerged from the catacombs after the edict of Milan, and there it is. It's all academic anyway - to me it doesn't really matter. The Church has kept it in the liturgical calendar for a reason all these years. It wasn't by chance or ignorance or malice that it came to be there. The spiritual truth of the resurrection of the dead is certainly important enough to be remember every year. I don't understand why anyone would resist this.
     
  19. Kristos

    Kristos Servant

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    You might want to check on the Anglican thing - sounds to me like they don't deny it:

    The Prayer Books of the Scottish Episcopal Church and the Anglican Church of Canada mark 15 August as the Falling Asleep of the Blessed Virgin Mary. In the Episcopal Church in the United States of America, the day is observed as a Holy Day of St Mary the Virgin, and in the Church of England the day is a Festival of The Blessed Virgin Mary. In all churches of the Anglican Communion Anglo-Catholics often observe the feast day under the same name as Roman Catholics.
    The Anglican-Roman Catholic agreed statement on the Virgin Mary assigns a place for both the Dormition and the Assumption in Anglican devotion.
     
  20. Kristos

    Kristos Servant

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    :p

    The scriptural truth in the feast is not found in the historical details, but in the expecation of our own resurrection, as those who have put on Christ and strive to "bear Him" as true icons of His image, through the Holy Spirit whom dwells within us.

    I'm glad this is still on the Lutheran calendar. The wisdom of the calendar is often overlooked or marginalized.
     
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