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The Assumptions of Mary, Enoch and Elijah. Fr. Martin Luther believed in the Assumption; however, many people today reject it.  


There are those who deny the Assumption of Mary because it is not explicitly referenced in the Bible, therefore, they refuse to believe it. A friend claims to have left the Catholic Church and joined a Lutheran Church, in part because of Marian teachings, one of which is the Assumption of Mary into Heaven. Little did he know that Fr. Luther spoke for the Assumption of Mary.

John says, “My thoughts and feelings on this topic are one of the reasons I left the Catholic Church and now worship at a Lutheran Church. She was just too good to be left rotting in the earth like the rest of us. When did this belief in the assumption originate? Why wouldn’t something of this significance be recorded in the Bible?”

Why do we believe in the Assumption of Mary? We believe in the Assumption of Mary for two primary reasons. It was believed in the early Church and because our inspired Church tells us to believe in the Assumption. The Bible does not say that Scripture is the pillar and foundation of truth; the Bible tells us that the Church is “the pillar and foundation of truth” (1 Tim. 3:15). If all you needed was a Bible then why would you listen to the Church? We listen to the Church because Jesus tells us to; “If he refuses to listen even to the church, then treat him as you would a Gentile or…” (Mt 18:17-18).

Those who claim they will listen only to the “Bible Alone” and not the Church are at odds with the Bible and Jesus' very own words.

When Peter said to Jesus, "You are the Messiah, the Son of the living God" (Mt 16:16). Peter was inspired to say this. How do we know that Peter was inspired by the Father in Heaven? We know this because Jesus said so, "For flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but my heavenly Father” (Mt 16:17). It is this same inspired Church, and descendants of Peter, who tells us to believe in the Assumption of Mary.

The naysayers, who do not believe in the Assumption of Mary, say they don’t believe in it because it is not explicitly in the Bible and it must be in there to be believed. Yes, we follow the Bible; however, it says nowhere in the bible that all truth exists in the “Bible Alone.” The Bible says that scripture is both inspired and useful (2 Tim 3:16). However, it does not say that “Bible ALONE” is inspired and useful. The very concept of the “Bible Alone” prevents people from believing the parts of the bible having to do with the authority of the Church. The moment that we acknowledge the authority of the Church in Mathew 17, “we listen even to the Church” (Mt 17:18), the non-Biblical notion of “Bible Alone” fails. It is no longer the “Bible Alone” because now it is both the Bible and the authority of the Church.

What is the Assumption of Mary into Heaven? "Finally, the Immaculate Virgin, preserved free from all stain of original sin, when the course of her earthly life was finished, was taken up body and soul into heavenly glory, and exalted by the Lord as Queen over all things, so that she might be the more fully conformed to her Son, the Lord of lords and conqueror of sin and death. The Assumption of the Blessed Virgin is a singular participation in her Son’s Resurrection and an anticipation of the resurrection of other Christians” (1).

This was declared by Pope Pius X11, November 1, 1950. There are some people who mistakenly believe that part of this doctrine is that Mary did not die before she was assumed into heaven. The dogma of the Assumption does not make any such distinction one way or the other.

When was the Assumption of Mary first believed? Because, Pope Pius the XII raised it to the level of dogma in 1950, there are those who mistakenly believed it did not exist prior to 1950. However, the Assumption of Mary was always believed in the Church. The Eastern Orthodox Churches and the Catholic Church believe in Mary’s Assumption and both have traditions that go back to the time of Christ and the Apostles.

In 600 A.D., the emperor Marice decreed that the feast of the Assumption was to be observed on August 15, in Constantinople. One of the oldest shrines in the Holy Land is the Church of the Dormition (loosely “long sleep”), the spot venerated from which Mary was assumed into heaven. This church dates back to the 5th century. Writings containing the Assumption go back to the very earliest Church. These early Christian writings called the Transitus or the passing of Mary date back to 150 to 300 A.D. The Syrian fragments date as far back as 100 to 200 A.D.

There are some, who think that Mary is still rotting in her grave. However; Fr. Martin Luther didn't happen to be one of them. In his sermon of August 15, 1522, the last time Fr. Martin Luther preached on the Feast of the Assumption and this is what he said; “There can be no doubt that the Virgin Mary is in heaven. How it happened we do not know. And since the Holy Spirit has told us nothing about it, we can make of it no article of faith. . . It is enough to know that she lives in Christ.”

Would he make this same statement about Lazarus being brought back to life “the dead man came out” (Jn. 11:44), or about the people who came out of their tombs after the death of Jesus, "Tombs were opened, and the bodies of many saints who had fallen asleep were raised, And coming forth from their tombs after His resurrection, they entered the holy city and appeared to many” (Mt. 27:52-53). 

It is true that Lazarus physical body being brought to life after death is not the norm. And it is true that people coming out of their tombs is not the norm. Because they were not the norm, but the exception, would John say, they were “just to good to be left rotting in the earth like the rest of us”

Are there examples of assumptions in the Bible? The answer is yes. “By faith Enoch was taken up so that he should not see death, and “he was found no more because God had taken him” (Heb.11:5). “Then Enoch walked with God, and he was no longer here, for God took him” (Gen. 5:24). And Elijah was assumed into heaven as a sign that Elisha’s wish would be granted; “Elijah went up into heaven in a whirlwind” (2 Kings 2:11). There are those who believe that people cannot be assumed into heaven because there is no historical precedent for this in Scripture. They will also say that the Assumption of anyone, including Mary, is in opposition to the Bible. But of course, in the Bible, we have the assumptions of Enoch and Elijah. 

Why don't we have the bones of Mary? We have the bones of Buddha; we have the bones of Mohamed, but nowhere are we to find the bones of Jesus. No Church has ever claimed that they have the bones of Jesus. This is used as a supporting argument for the Resurrection and the Ascension of Jesus because if he didn’t rise from the dead and ascend into Heaven, where are His bones?

In the New Testament we have the bones of Mathew, Mark, Luke and John as well as many others who lived at the time of Jesus and we even have the bones of Mary’s mother Anne, but we have no bones of Mary. Even though the bones of the early Saints were highly prized among the Churches, no Church has ever claimed to have the bones of Mary. If any Church did have the remains of Mary it would have been considered a great treasure.

Just as the fact that we don’t have the bones of Jesus is a supporting argument for his Resurrection and Ascension; the fact that we don’t have the bones of Mary is a supporting argument for her Assumption, body and soul, into Heaven. The remains of Mary do not exist; however, we do have the location where she was assumed into heaven and on this site a Church was built, the Church of the Dormition.

The mighty one has done great things for me Mary has said of herself that “The Mighty One has done great things for Me” (Lk. 1:49). One of the great things that God had done for her, was of course, the privilege of being the mother of God. But what are the other things (plural)? Could one of the other things be the Assumption of Mary?

In his little book, "Daughter Zion," Ratzinger points out that the dogma of the Assumption takes its rise from doxology. It is a solemn form of hymnology, “an act of Marian veneration in the form of a dogmatic statement.” Hence, we should not look for historical evidence, as in the case of the resurrection of Jesus. Yet the dogma is grounded in the affirmations of faith. It fulfills the biblical prophecy, “behold, henceforth all generations will call me blessed” (Luke 1:48), and the words of Elizabeth, “Blessed is she who believed” (Luke 1:45). These texts give a special applicability to Mary of the teaching of Ephesians that God raises up the baptized with Christ and makes them sit with him in heavenly with Jesus" (Eph. 2:6). (2)

Many who claim belief in rapture, deny the possibility of Mary's Assumption into Heaven. Terry Frazier a convert from Evangelical Fundamentalism contrasts the Assumption with the Rapture. "I began to see it [Assumption] was very similar to the Evangelical doctrine of the rapture where, at the end of time, Christ snatches living Christians off the face of the earth, glorifies them, and transports them both body and soul into heaven. The same idea of being physically snatched away into heaven before the general resurrection lies behind both the Assumption and the rapture. There seemed little reason to say that the rapture was scripturally feasible while maintaining the Assumption wasn’t" (3).

In other words, if Mary being carried into Heaven body and soul is not Biblical then the rapture, where millions allegedly would be carried body and soul into Heaven, could not be Biblical. Terry was taught as a Protestant that 1 Corinthians 15:22-23 precluded the possibility of Mary’s assumption. “For as in Adam all die, so in Christ, the first fruits; then, when He comes, those who belong to Him.” 

Terry realized the obvious, If this verse rules out the possibility that Mary could be taken bodily into heaven before the second coming, then wouldn’t it also rule out the possibility of a rapture occurring seven years before the Second Coming” (3). 

This and other contradictions were part of the reasoning behind Terry’s moving away from Evangelical Fundamentalism. It just didn’t add up.  Many deny the Assumption of Mary because they do not find it explicitly in the Bible and yet they accept the rapture even though it is not in the Bible and not believed in the early Church. Some people are led to believe that the Assumption was never taught in the early Church which of course is false. At the same time, they follow one of the many contradictory versions of rapture, none of which are in the Bible or the early Church. Rapture was a new man-made tradition not taught prior to 1830. 

Was Mary assumed into Heaven or did she ascend just like Jesus did? Some faiths teach that the Catholic Church makes Mary into another God.  They believe this in part, because the Church teaches that Mary was assumed into heaven. They know that Jesus ascended into heaven and then confuse the Ascension of Jesus with the Assumption of Mary. They call Mary being carried into Heaven the Ascension of Mary. Thus, Mary is treated as God, equal to Jesus. Their error is in ignoring the distinction between Assumption and Ascension. Mary was assumed (carried) into heaven because she was human and Jesus ascended under His own power into heaven because He was God.  “No one takes it from me, but I lay it down on my own. I have power to lay it down and the power to take it up again “(Jn. 10:18).

Loraine Boettner, who wrote extensively against the Catholic Church, uses the word “ascension” in place of the word “assumption.” “Her resurrection and ascension are made to parallel Christ’s resurrection and ascension (4). In so doing, he misrepresents the Church in order to convince people that the Catholic Church is wrong. 

If the Catholic Church is so wrong, wouldn’t it make more sense for Boettner and others to represent the Church correctly and then try to refute it.

Boettner has led people out of the Catholic Church through this type of intellectual dishonesty; however, he is his own undoing because he unwittingly leads many people into the Church. This happens when people see his dishonesty; they check further and find themselves drawn into the very Church they were taught to dislike. The Ascension of Mary is Boettners misrepresentation and the Assumption of Mary is Catholic teaching.

Lutheran minister defends Mary: Although it most certainly was not true of the early Protestant reformers, it is true for many Protestants today, emphasis on Mary takes away from the centrality of Jesus. The concept that Marian teachings actually and ultimately points to Jesus is a foreign one to them, but not to all. 

Rev. Charles Dickson a Lutheran minister, comments on this in an article entitled; “Why all this fuss about Mary?” Having been raised in a traditional Protestant atmosphere, I was led to believe that Catholics placed far too great an emphasis on the Virgin Mary in their faith and practice and that such an emphasis deflected from the centrality of Christ. But in some 30 years of ministry in a Protestant tradition I have learned that lust the opposite is true. By upholding the importance of the Blessed Virgin, Catholics do not minimize the importance of Christ, but actually emphasize and underline His mission... When the Church ceases to focus on Mary, it loses its focus on Christ. That’s the reason for all the fuss about Mary... As Protestant theologian J. Gresham Machen admitted, ‘The overwhelming majority of those who reject the Virgin Birth, reject also the supernatural content of the New Testament’. 

Honoring Mary so much: While writing this article someone asked me the question, "Why do Catholics honor Mary so much?" The answer to her question can be found in the Bible.

The angel of the Lord honored Mary so much when he said "Hail favored one! The lord is with you" (Lk. 1:28).

Elizabeth honored Mary so much when she said, "Most blessed are you among women, and blessed is the fruit of your womb. And how does it happen to me that the mother of my lord should come to me" (Lk. 1:42-43)?

 

Mary is honored yesterday and today by all ages. "From now on all ages will call me blessed" (Lk. 1:48).

Why do some Protestants honor Mary so little when the early Protestants (especially Fr. Martin Luther) honored Mary so much? The question should not be, why do Catholics honor Mary so much?

The question should be, why do some Protestants honor Mary so little when the Bible honors Mary so much?

In summary, the Assumption was believed in the early Church. There are other examples of people being assumed (Enoch and Elijah). No Church claims to have the bones of Mary. We have the location where Mary was assumed into heaven (Church of the Dormition). Both the Church of the East and West, who have a history that go back to the time of Jesus and the Apostles, believe and teach the Assumption of Mary. There are documents going back to the early Church that speak of the Assumption of Mary. And there is a difference between the Ascension of Jesus and the Assumption of Mary.

My friend John references the Assumption of Mary and makes this statement, “That is quite an assumption.” 

I would only respond by saying that, Mary’s Assumption into Heaven is quite, “The Assumption!”

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Assumptions in the Bible:

Gen. 5:24, Heb. 11:5 – Enoch was bodily assumed into heaven without dying. Would God do any less for Mary the Ark of the New Covenant? 2 Kings 2:11-12; 1 Mac 2:58 – Elijah was assumed into heaven in fiery chariot. Jesus would not do any less for His Blessed Mother.

Psalm 132:8 – Arise, O Lord, and go to thy resting place, thou and the Ark (Mary) of thy might. Both Jesus and Mary were taken up to their eternal resting place in heaven.

2 Cor. 12:2 – Paul speaks of a man in Christ who was caught up to the third heaven. Mary was also brought up into heaven by God.

Matt. 27:52-53 – when Jesus died and rose, the bodies of the saints were raised. Nothing in Scripture precludes Mary’s assumption into heaven.

1 Thess. 4:17 – we shall be caught up in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air and so we shall always be with the Lord.

Rev. 12:1 – we see Mary, the “woman, ” clothed with the sun. While in Rev. 6:9 we only see the souls of the martyrs in heaven, in Rev. 12:1 we see Mary, both body and soul.

2 Thess. 2:15 – Paul instructs us to hold fast to oral (not just written) tradition. Apostolic tradition says Mary was assumed into heaven. While claiming the bones of the saints was a common practice during these times (and would have been especially important to obtain Mary’s bones as she was the Mother of God), Mary’s bones were never claimed. This is because they were not available. Mary was taken up body and soul into heaven.

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Protestant Reformers express high praise and exultation of Mary: 

Fr. Martin Luther: Luther exults Mary, it is the consolation and the superabundant goodness of God, that man is able to exult in such a treasure. Mary is his true Mother.. (Sermon, Christmas, 1522).  The humble shall be exulted. 

Mary our Spiritual Mother: Luther gives the Blessed Virgin the exalted position of "Spiritual Mother" for Christians:   Mary is the Mother of Jesus and the Mother of all of us even though it was Christ alone who reposed on her knees. . . If he is ours, we ought to be in his situation; there where he is, we ought also to be and all that he has ought to be ours, and his mother is also our mother. (Sermon, Christmas, 1529). 

Luther honors Mary: She is the highest woman and the noblest gem in Christianity after Christ. . . She is nobility, wisdom, and holiness personified. We can never honor her enough. Still honor and praise must be given to her in such a way as to injure neither Christ nor the Scriptures. (Sermon, Christmas, 1531).   No woman is like you. You are more than Eve or Sarah, blessed above all nobility, wisdom, and sanctity. (Sermon, Feast of the Visitation, 1537). 

Luther says, through Mary to God: One should honor Mary as she herself wished and as she expressed it in the Magnificat. She praised God for His deeds. How then can we praise her? The true honor of Mary is the honor of God, the praise of God's grace. . . Mary is nothing for the sake of herself, but for the sake of Christ. . . Mary does not wish that we come to her, but through her to God. (Explanation of the Magnificat, 1521). 

Luther, 95 theses, rejects blasphemy against Mary:  ". . . in the resolutions of the 95 theses Luther rejects every blasphemy against the Virgin, and thinks that one should ask for pardon for any evil said or thought against her." (Ref: Wm. J. Cole, "Was Luther a Devotee of Mary?" in Marian Studies 1970, p. 116:) 

Huldreich Zwingli says God esteemed Mary above other creatures:. . . God esteemed Mary above all creatures, including the saints and angels - it was her purity, innocence and invincible faith that mankind must follow. Prayer, however, must be.. . to God alone . . .  {G. R. Potter, Zwingli, London: Cambridge Univ. Press, 1976, pp.88-9,395 / The Perpetual Virginity of Mary. . ., Sep. 17, 1522} 

Heinrich Bullinger, Mary the noblest member of the Christian community:  (d. 1575) …She is 'the most unique and the noblest member' of the Christian community.. .'The Virgin Mary . . . completely sanctified by the grace and blood of her only Son and abundantly endowed by the gift of the Holy Spirit and preferred to all. . . now lives happily with Christ in heaven and is called and remains ever-Virgin and Mother of God.'   {In Hilda Graef, Mary: A history of Doctrine and Devotion, combined ed. of vols. 1 & 2, London: Sheed & Ward, 1965, vol.2, pp.14-5} 

John Wesley (Founder of Methodism) pure and unspotted virgin: The Blessed Virgin Mary, who, as well after as when she brought him forth, continued a pure and unspotted virgin.  {"Letter to a Roman Catholic" / In This Rock, Nov. 1990, p.25} 

John Calvin, perpetual virginity:  Helvidius displayed excessive ignorance in concluding that Mary must have had many sons, because Christ's 'brothers' are sometimes mentioned.  {Harmony of Matthew, Mark & Luke, sec. 39 (Geneva, 1562), vol. 2 / From Calvin's Commentaries, tr. William Pringle, Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 1949, p.215; on Matthew 13:55}

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1. Catechism of the Catholic Church, 2nd edition, paragraph 966

2.  Dulles, Avery. “The Dogma of the Assumption.”  The one Mediator the Saints and Mary, Lutherans and Catholics Dialogue VIII.  George Anderson, Francis Stafford, Joseph A. Burgess. Minneapolis: 

Augsburg Fortress, 1992.  279-294. 

3.  T.L. Frazier, Assumptions about Mary,  This Rock Magazine, Karl Keating San Diego,  May/June 1992. pg. 

4. Boettner, Loraine. The Assumption of Mary. Roman Catholicism.  Phillipsburg, New Jersey: the Presbyterian and Reformed Publishing Company, 1962.  162-164.