Q: Describe the scriptural support for the dogma of Mary's Assumption.

A: Like the dogma of Mary's Immaculate Conception, the dogma of the Assumption is not explicitly stated in the Bible. The teaching that 'at the end of her earthly course, Mary was assumed into heavenly glory, body and soul' was dogmatically defined by Pius XII in 1950 in Munificentissimus Deus. This encyclical mentions many "holy writers who ... employed statements and various images and analogies of Sacred Scripture to illustrate and to confirm the doctrine of the Assumption...." (#29) Though admitting that these "theologians and preachers ... have been rather free ... in their use of expressions taken from Sacred Scripture to explain their belief in the Assumption" (#26), Pius XII maintained that in defining the dogma of Mary's Assumption, he merely fulfilled his divine commission to "faithfully propose the revelation delivered through the Apostles" not to "manifest new doctrine." (#12) The Catholic Church believes this dogma to have been present in Sacred Scripture or Apostolic Tradition, at least implicitly. Hence, scriptural interpretations accommodated to Mary by 'prophetic expandability' may be legitimate, not because of academic evidence or "any merely human effort" (#12), but as signs of the "protection of the Spirit of Truth" (#12) in the Church.

Some of the biblical texts used in the encyclical to illustrate the doctrine of Mary's Assumption include:

    Arise, O Lord, into thy resting place: thou and the ark, which thou hast sanctified. (Ps 131:8)

    [the Spouse of Canticles] that goeth up by the desert, as a pillar of smoke of aromatical spices, of myrrh, and frankincense [Cant 3:6)

    The Woman clothed with the Sun [Rev 12]

    I will glorify the place of my feet. [Is 61:13]

    Who is this that cometh up from the desert, flowing with delights, leaning upon her beloved? [Cant 8:5]

Consider how these passages could be related to the Assumption dogma. Commentators often compared Mary to the bride in Canticles. Her arising like incense to God, or coming up to lean on her beloved could be interpreted as assumption into Jesus' company. Mary was also likened to the Ark of the Covenant; since she contained the Eternal Word in her Womb. Hence, arising to rest with the Lord could allude to Mary's Assumption. The Woman of the Apocalypse appeared as 'a great sign in the heavens'. Mary is called 'Woman' in John's Gospel. At her Assumption, she is said to enter 'into heavenly glory'. Revelation 12 could be a poetic description of these facts. Finally, the place of the Lord's feet mentioned in Is 61, His resting place at the Incarnation, was Mary. The glorification mentioned could refer to glorification in heaven.

The encyclical also offers a number of scripturally based arguments of fittingness in support of Mary's Assumption. For example, the fullness of grace ascribed to Mary in Lk 1:28, and the accommodation of Gen 3:15 to her, indicate that Mary "was exempted from the fourfold curse that had been laid upon Eve." (#30) (e.g. bodily death and corruption) Also, the commandment to honor parents (cf. Ex 20:11) was seen to imply Jesus' care for Mary's body after her death (cf. #35). Finally, the bodily resurrection won by Jesus' Resurrection in which "Death is swallowed up in victory," (I Cor 15:54) is applicable to Mary as to all believers. However, because Scripture and Tradition indicate the close link between Jesus and His Mother on earth, the link between Jesus' bodily Resurrection and Mary's share in it was assumed to be equally close. None of this constitutes explicit Scriptural proof of the doctrine of Mary's Assumption. Its status as infallibly revealed dogma rests on the living authority of the Church as the interpreter of Scripture, especially as to its comprehensiveness and overall finality. However, the Catholic Church considers this Marian privilege to be "in wonderful accord with those divine truths given us in Holy Scripture." (#24)

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This page, maintained by The Marian Library/International Marian Research Institute, Dayton, Ohio 45469-1390, and created by Kris Summers , was last modified Tuesday, 09/28/2010 12:59:01 EDT by Michael P. Duricy . Please send any comments to jroten1@udayton.edu.