A Biblical Basis for the "Immaculate Conception"?

A Review and Rebuttal of Patrick Madrid's Article, "Ark of the New

Covenant" in "This Rock" magazine, December, 1991.

Catholic Answers has some interesting ways of grabbing your

attention. By placing the beginning paragraph or two of the lead article

of their monthly magazine, This Rock, on the very cover of the work, they

draw your attention into reading the rest of the article. True to form,

the December, 1991 edition sported Pat Madrid's article, "Ark of the New

Covenant" with the interesting lead in, "HIs face stiffened, and his eyes

narrowed to slits. Until now the Calvary Chapel pastor had been calm as

he `shared the gospel' with me, but when I mentioned my belief in Mary's

Immaculate Conception, his attitude changed." Using a "real-life"

backdrop for the presentation of some particular topic is another fine

writing tool used by the folks at Catholic Answers. As you continue to

read about this encounter, you discover that our author, Pat Madrid, is

going to provide Biblical support for his belief in the Immaculate

Conception of Mary. He writes of his encounter with the Protestant


After we'd examined the biblical evidence for the doctrine, the

anti-Marianism he'd shown became muted, but it was clear that,

at least emotionally if not biblically, Mary was a stumbling

block for him. Like most Christians (Catholic and Protestant)

the minister was unaware of the biblical support for the

Church's teaching on the Immaculate Conception. But sometimes

even knowledge of these passages isn't enough. Many former

Evangelicals who have converted to the Catholic Church relate

how hard it was for them to put aside prejudices and embrace

Marian doctrines even after they'd thoroughly satisfied

themselves through prayer and Scripture study that such

teachings were indeed biblical.

Such words indicated to me that I was going to have the opportunity of

seeing solid, Biblical argumentation for the concept of the Immaculate

Conception in what followed. Unfortunately, what was presented as

"biblical evidence" turned out to be much less than convincing.

Before examining Mr. Madrid's attempt to substantiate the Immaculate

Conception of Mary, let's set one thing straight. Mr. Madrid speaks of

"anti-Marianism" in the above quotation. From the Roman position, the

Protestant's refusal to accept the Roman Catholic teachings on Mary is

"anti-Marianism." Yet, is this a valid statement on Mr. Madrid's part?

I certainly do not believe so. Rejection of non-Biblical and anti-

Biblical teachings about Mary does not make one "anti-Mary." Indeed, one

might well assert that to be concerned about maintaining the truth about

she who was "blessed among women" would include safeguarding her against

idolatrous worship, etc. I am sure that if Mary was aware of the

millions who attempt to pray to her, ask her intercession, and dedicate

themselves to her, all in direct violation of Biblical commands, she

would be greatly distressed and grieved. I believe that God, in His

mercy, has surely shielded Mary from such knowledge. So, one might well

turn the charge of "anti-Marianism" against those who propagate such

items of belief as these:

Prayer to Our Lady: Hail Mary, etc. My Queen! My Mother! I

give thee all myself, and, to show my devotion to thee, I

consecrate to thee my eyes, my ears, my mouth, my heart, my

entire self. Wherefore, O loving Mother, as I am thine own,

keep me, defend me, as thy property and possession.

The above prayer provides a promised indulgence of 500 days for a month's

recitation. In another publication we find the promise of the Virgin

Mary concerning the "Brown Scapular of Our Lady of Mount Carmel." The

scapular is said to be a "gift to you from your heavenly mother," and is

said to be an "assurance of salvation." Mary's own promise, supposedly

given July 16th, 1251, is that "Whosoever dies clothed in this (scapular)

shall not suffer eternal fire." The following prayer, titled "The

Morning Offering," is included:

O my God, in union with the Immaculate Heart of Mary (here kiss

your Scapular as a sign of your consecration; partial indulgence

also), I offer Thee the Precious Blood of Jesus from all the

altars throughout the world, joining with It the offering of my

every thought, word and action of this day. O my Jesus, I

desire today to gain every indulgence and merit I can and I

offer them, together with myself, to Mary Immaculate, that she

may best apply them in the interests of Thy most Sacred Heart.

Precious Blood of Jesus, save us! Immaculate Heart of Mary,

pray for us! Sacred Heart of Jesus, have mercy on us!

This is surely the true "anti-Marianism," for Mary would *never* desire

that anyone consecrate themselves to her. She would recognize that any

such action takes away from the sole glory of Jesus Christ, and, as He is

her Savior and Lord as well, she would never seek to be placed in

competition with Him, even if those so doing denied that such a

competition was the end result of their teachings. Now, I recognize that

some of the sentiments expressed in the above quotations are not

considered to be items that must be believed by Roman Catholics.

Apologists such as Mr. Madrid are quick to point out the difference

between true Catholic doctrine and devotional beliefs. But in passing

let us note that if the Roman Church allows her people to believe these

things, she must either not have any concern for truth (if these beliefs

are not true), or she must believe them true as well, and simply lack the

courage to say so directly and openly. One cannot imagine the Apostle

Paul allowing believers in the churches to pray to someone other than God

and, when asked about this practice, saying, "Well, it's not really

something that you have to believe to be saved<197>they are not being

hurt by the practice, so it's a matter of individual choice." So,

denying the Roman Catholic doctrines concerning Mary is not "anti-

Marianism." It is "anti-Marian-distortionism" if anything at all.

Before providing what the "Bible has to say in favor of the Catholic

position" regarding Mary's Immaculate Conception, Mr. Madrid takes the

time to review some common objections to the doctrine from the Protestant

perspective. He asserts that Mary was indeed saved from sin, but in a

"different and more glorious way than the rest of us are." The merits of

Christ were applied to her, he says, prior to her birth, in an

anticipatory way, so that she was born without sin. By citing the

examples of babies who are aborted, or people born with mental

deficiencies, Mr. Madrid thinks to show that Paul's universal statements

of sinfulness (Romans 3 and 5) admit of exceptions. Without taking the

time to discuss the fall, sin, etc., we note in passing that we would not

wish to put Mary in the same category as aborted children and those born

with mental problems. But, Mr. Madrid is right about one thing--the

Bible does not explicitly say that Mary sinned. Of course, it doesn't

explicitly say that 99.9% of all of humanity, by name, has sinned. It

doesn't need to. I think the reason that it does not address Mary's

situation is quite simple--neither Luke, nor any other Biblical writer,

had the foggiest idea of the concept of the Immaculate Conception, so it

does not enter into their writings. Mr. Madrid, however, should be aware

of the danger of this kind of exegesis. He is an expert on Mormonism,

and must realize that there is no explicit statement that "Jesus is not

the spirit-brother of Lucifer" (an LDS belief that he and I would both

reject). As we shall see, Pat Madrid is forced to utilize "interpretive

methods" that leave the door open for any kind of teaching--whether LDS,

Jehovah's Witness, Moonie, or any other. But, I'm getting ahead of


In introducing the Biblical evidence for the Immaculate Conception,

Mr. Madrid says the following:

Now let's consider what the Bible has to say in favor of the

Catholic position. It's important to recognize that neither the

words "Immaculate Conception" nor the precise formula adopted by

the Church to enunciate this truth are found in the Bible. This

doesn't mean the doctrine isn't biblical, only that the truth of

the Immaculate Conception, like the truths of the Trinity and

Jesus' hypostatic union (that Jesus was incarnated as God and

man, possessing completely and simultaneously two natures,

divine and human, in one divine person), is mentioned either in

other words or only indirectly.

Pat makes a good point. One does not need to find the phrase "Immaculate

Conception" in the Bible for it to be Biblical anymore than one has to

find the term "Trinity" in the Bible for it to be Biblical. We agree on

this point. However, knowing that Pat, like myself, works extensively

with Mormons, and that he is familiar with Jehovah's Witnesses as well

(Mark Brumley is the expert on the Witnesses at Catholic Answers), I am

certain that he is well aware that the depth and breadth of Biblical

evidence for both the Trinity, and the hypostatic union, is light years

beyond that of the Immaculate Conception. Layer after layer of Biblical

data can be presented, in context, for the Trinity--one could fill this

entire publication with evidence of monotheism, the existence of the

three Persons, and the equality of those Persons (the three foundations

of the doctrine of the Trinity). One could dig into linguistics, for

example, and show how theotetos, that is, "deity," at Colossians 2:9,

clearly demonstrates that Jesus is God in human flesh. One could examine

John's usage of ego eimi, "I Am," and see how this, too, shows the deity

of Christ. One can note the many instances of "triadic formulae"

throughout the New Testament, where the Father, Son, and Spirit are

placed together in divine settings (Ephesians 4:4-5, 2 Corinthians

13:14). Given that Mr. Madrid parallels the Immaculate Conception with

the Trinity and the hypostatic union, then, do we find him presenting the

same kind of Biblical evidence for the doctrine? No, we do not. In

fact, Pat managed to get the specifically exegetical material (in

opposition to typological evidence, material that depends upon "types"

rather than direct assertion or teaching) into one paragraph of fifteen

lines. Here it is:

Look first at two passages in Luke 1. In verse 28, the angel

Gabriel greets Mary as "kecharitomene" ("full of grace" or

"highly favored"). This is a recognition of her sinless state.

In verse 42 Elizabeth greets Mary as "blessed among women." The

original import of this phrase is lost in English translation.

Since neither the Hebrew nor Aramaic languages have superlatives

(best, highest, tallest, holiest), a speaker of those languages

would have say (sic), "You are tall among men" or "You are

wealthy among men" to mean "You are the tallest" or "You are the

wealthiest." Elizabeth's words mean Mary was the holiest of all


That's it. That's the entirety of the specific, exegetical evidence of

the doctrine, according to Pat Madrid. Yes, he goes on to present lots

of "typological" attempts to find Mary in various Old Testament stories.

We shall examine them later. But, with reference to specific, direct

teaching, this is all that is offered, and all that is said in defense of

the interpretation put forward. Obviously, then, the Immaculate

Conception does not qualify to be included in the Trinity/hypostatic

union category of Biblical teachings that are not mentioned directly by

name, for the evidence presented is, quite simply, paltry when compared

to the direct, obvious evidence for the Trinity and the hypostatic union.

Does Mr. Madrid's interpretation stand up to scrutiny? It most

certainly does not. Let us begin with the first assertion. Luke 1:28


The angel went to her and said, "Greetings, you who are highly

favored! The Lord is with you" (NIV).

Mr. Madrid's sole comment on this passage is, "This is a recognition of

her sinless state." How does Pat know this? He doesn't say. But Pat's

boss, the head of Catholic Answers, Karl Keating, at least attempted a

fuller discussion in his book, Catholicism and Fundamentalism. In

speaking of the Greek term, kecaritomene, he alleged:

The newer translations leave out something the Greek conveys,

something the older translation conveys, which is that this

grace (and the core of the word kecharitomene is charis, after

all) is at once permanent and of a singular kind. The Greek

indicates a perfection of grace. A perfection must be perfect

not only intensively, but extensively. The grace Mary enjoyed

must not only have been as "full" or strong or complete as

possible at any given time, but it must have extended over the

whole of her life, from conception. That is, she must have been

in a state of sanctifying grace from the first moment of her

existence to have been called "full of grace" or to have been

filled with divine favor in a singular way. This is just what

the doctrine of the Immaculate Conception holds... (p. 269).

Perhaps Pat just didn't have the room to put all that into his article.

Or, we could hope, he didn't include it, because he recognizes that the

above quotation goes so far beyond anything a serious exegete of the

passage in Greek could possibly say that it rivals the attempts made by

Mormons to substantiate the concept of men being exalted to the status of

a God by citing Romans 8:17. This can be seen by examining the term in

question, the perfect passive participle kecaritwmenh. Does the term

carry an entire doctrine, unknown in the rest of the New Testament,

unheard of by the first three centuries of the Christian Church, in

itself? Or are modern Roman Catholic interpreters reading into this term

a tremendous amount of material that was never intended by Luke?

First, let's look at the lexical meaning of the root of the term,

that being the Greek word caritow. Bauer's A Greek-English Lexicon of

the New Testament and Other Early Christian Literature (edited by

Gingrich and Danker) defines the usage of caritow at Luke 1:28, "favored

one (in the sight of God)." No lexical source that we have found gives

as a meaning of caritow "sinlessness." The term refers to favor, in the

case of Luke 1:28, divine favor, that is, God's grace. The only other

occurrence of caritow is at Ephesians 1:6, "...to the praise of his

glorious grace, which he has freely given us in the One he loves" (NIV).

If the bare term caritow means "sinlessness," then it follows that the

elect of God, throughout their lives, have been sinless as well.

However, if we look at Mr. Keating's presentation, it seems clear

that he is basing his interpretation not primarily upon the lexical

meaning of the word caritow, but upon the form it takes in Luke 1:28,

that being the perfect passive participle, kecaritomene. Note that

Keating alleges that the "Greek indicates a perfection of grace." He

seems to be playing on the perfect tense of the participle. But, as

anyone trained in Greek is aware, there is no way to jump from the

perfect tense of a participle to the idea that the Greek "indicates a

perfection of grace." First, participles primarily derive their tense

aspect from the main verb of the sentence. In this case, however, we

have a vocative participle, and no main verb in what is in actuality

simply a greeting. (The fact that the Roman Catholic Church has to

attempt to build such a complex theology on the form of a participle in a

greeting should say a great deal in and of itself.) What are we to do

with the perfect tense of the participle, then? We might take it as an

intensive perfect, one that emphatically states that something *is* (see

Dana and Mantey, A Manual Grammar of the Greek New Testament pg. 202),

but most likely it is simply emphasizing the certainty of the favor

given, just as the perfect passive participle in Matthew 25:34 ("Come,

you who are blessed by my Father..."), 1 Thessalonians 1:4 ("For we know,

brothers loved by God..."), and 2 Thessalonians 2:13 ("But we ought

always to thank God for you, brothers loved by the Lord...") emphasizes

the completedness of the action as well. No one would argue that in

Matthew 25:34, Jesus means to tell us that the righteous have a

"perfection of blessedness that indicates that they had this perfection

throughout their life, for a perfection must be perfect not only

intensively, but extensively" (to borrow from Mr. Keating's

presentation). The application of Keating's thoughts to any of the above

passages results in foolishness. Hence, it is obvious that when Keating

says that the Greek indicates that Mary "must have been in a state of

sanctifying grace from the first moment of her existence to have been

called `full of grace' or to have been filled with divine favor in a

singular way," he is, in point of fact, not deriving this from the Greek

at all, but from his own theology, which he then reads back into the

text. There is simply nothing in the Greek to support the pretentious

interpretation put forward by Keating and Madrid. Therefore, Madrid's

statement, "This is a recognition of her sinless state," falls for lack

of support. The angel addressed Mary as "highly favored," for, as he

himself said, "Do not be afraid, Mary, you have found favor with God."

The second passage cited by Madrid is also found in Luke 1, this

time, the 42nd verse, which reads,

In a loud voice she exclaimed, "Blessed are you among women, and

blessed is the child you will bear!" (NIV)

Madrid is quite correct to point out that Hebrew and Aramaic do not have

superlative forms, and that the phrase "blessed among women" (euloghmenh

su en gunaixin) should be translated as a superlative. I would suggest

something like, "you are most blessed of all women." However, as it

often the case, truth can be used in a sleight-of-hand trick, and that is

what we have here. While all the discussion of the superlative force is

true, Mr. Madrid goes on to slip in a wholly unwarranted conclusion,

right on the heels of his proper discussion of the superlative force of

the passage. Note that he concludes his paragraph with the sentence,

"Elizabeth's words mean Mary was the holiest of all women." Where did

*that* come from? To substantiate such a statement, Mr. Madrid would

have to prove to us that eulogeo does not actually mean "blessed" here

(as all lexical sources say it does), but actually means "holy" instead.

But Mr. Madrid doesn't even attempt to do this. He just makes the bald

assertion, and leaves it at that--without a bit of commentary.

Does Elizabeth's words tell us that Mary was the holiest of all

women? Well, you certainly wouldn't get that idea from simply reading

the passage. There is nothing in the word eulogemene that speaks of

sinlessness or holiness. If Mr. Madrid attempts to use the form of the

term in the passage to come up with the Immaculate Conception idea, does

it follow that all the righteous in Matthew 25:34 were immaculately

conceived as well, since the same term is used of them? It seems that

would prove too much. But, it's the only route open to the Roman

apologist, who, of course, has attempted to prove too much already by

even citing this passage and asserting that being "blessed among women"

means "the holiest of all women."

Remember that Pat began his article by mentioning the "biblical

evidence for the doctrine" of the Immaculate Conception. However, we

have found no evidence in what has been presented. Yet, the article did

not end with the one paragraph cited earlier. Instead, we find a whole

section dedicated to the discussion of "types" of Mary in the Old

Testament. To give the reader a sense of what kind of interpretation the

Roman Catholic is forced to utilize to find "biblical evidence" for the

Immaculate Conception, we provide the first example from Mr. Madrid's


Mary's Immaculate Conception is foreshadowed in Genesis 1, where

God creates the universe in an immaculate state, free from any

blemish or stain or sin or imperfection. This is borne out by

the repeated mention in Genesis 1 of God beholding his creations

and saying they were "very good." Out of pristine matter the

Lord created Adam, the first immaculately created human being,

forming him from the "womb" of the Earth. The immaculate

elements from which the first Adam received his substance

foreshadowed the immaculate mother from whom the second Adam

(Romans 5:14) took his human substance.

How does one deal with interpretation such as this? Personally, *I*

don't see Mary foreshadowed in creation, do you? I don't recall any

emphasis in the original text upon the "immaculate" elements of the

earth, nor upon the idea that Adam was formed in the "womb" of the

immaculate earth. Are we to believe that Moses had these ideas in mind,

or is it just a result of inspiration? I have no problem with the types

that are directly presented to us in Scripture--Paul uses such an

allegory in Galatians 4:21-31. But I also realize that there is no end

to the "types" that one can find in Scripture, nor any controls upon how

far you can take such a method.

An examination of the types Mr. Madrid presents shows us the danger

of this kind of interpretation. Forced by lack of direct evidence to

rely upon a lesser source of information, Madrid points to Genesis 3:5

and the "proto-evangelon":

And I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between

your offspring and hers; he will crush your head and you will

strike his heel (Genesis 3:15, NIV).

After identifying the "seed of the woman" as Mary, Madrid says,

If Mary was not completely sinless this prophesy becomes

untenable. Why is that? The passage points to Mary's

Immaculate Conception because it mentions a complete enmity

between the woman and Satan. Such enmity would have been

impossible if Mary were tainted by sin....

We are forced to ask, where does the passage even address a *complete

enmity* between the woman and Satan? Upon what basis can Mr. Madrid

insert into this passage some concept of Immaculate Conception? Is there

not enmity between believers and the world? Does that make us sinless?

Does the fact that we still have sin in our lives mean that not enmity

exists at all? Hardly.

The greatest effort in typological interpretation by Mr. Madrid

comes in his attempt to parallel the Ark of the Covenant and Mary. The

first parallel he draws has to do with the fact that God took such great

pains to make sure the Ark was properly constructed. He says,

God wanted the ark to be as perfect and unblemished as humanly

possible so it would be worthy of the honor of bearing the

written Word of God. How much more so would God want Mary, the

ark of the new covenant, to be perfect and unblemished since she

would carry within her womb the Word of God in flesh.

Does this kind of interpretation bear the weight of investigation? While

we admit the force such things carry with those who already accept these

doctrine, we point out that there is no way to test the interpretation.

We can easily point out absurdities to which the parallel can be

pushed--for example, must Mary have been stolen by God's enemies for a

time, so that she could be brought back to the people of God with great

rejoicing? Who was Mary's Uzzah (2 Samuel 6:3-8)? Madrid draws a

further parallel between the three months the ark was with Obededom and

the three months Mary was with Elizabeth. What, then, is the parallel

with David's action of sacrificing a bull and a fattened calf when those

who were carrying the ark had taken six steps (2 Samuel 6:13)? See, Mr.

Madrid feels free to pick and choose what aspects of Mary's life he

wishes to parallel in the ark, and which he does not--there are no

rules in this kind of interpretation, and it can lead to just about any

conclusion. Pat seems to recognize at least some of this, for he says,

Granted, none of these verses "proves" Mary's Immaculate

Conception, but they all point to it. After all, the Bible

nowhere says Mary committed any sin or languished under original

sin. As far as explicit statements are concerned, the Bible is

silent on most of the issue, yet all the biblical evidence

supports the Catholic teaching.

We are left wondering at Mr. Madrid's definition of "biblical evidence,"

but we are glad to see that he recognizes that all that has come before

does not "prove" the Immaculate Conception. One will believe that

doctrine only if one believes that the Roman Catholic Church is

infallible and has an authority that does not need Scriptural basis. It

seems that, sadly, Mr. Madrid accepts Rome's claims.

There is one other item that needs to be addressed in this article.

Madrid says,

The Mary/ark imagery appears again in Revelation 11:19 and 12:1-

17, where she is called the mother of all "those who keep God's

commandments and bear witness to Jesus" (verse 17). The ark

symbolism found in Luke 1 and Revelation 11 and 12 was not lost

on the early Christians. They could see the parallels between

the Old Testament's description of the ark and the New

Testament's discussion of Mary's role.

We are forced to wonder again as to how Mr. Madrid is defining the phrase

"early Christians." If we take "early" to mean "prior to the year 400,"

we find that he has no basis for his statements. It is plain for all to

see that the entire concept of the Immaculate Conception is missing from

the earliest patristic sources--indeed, Mary does not enter into the

picture for quite some time, entering first because of the Christological

controversies, and only later, under the impulse of asceticism and

monasticism, as a central figure in her own right. But, for the first

four centuries, the "Virgin Mother" for Christians was not Mary, but the

Church. The woman in Revelation 12 was not Mary, but the Church as well

(see Hippolytus, _On Christ and Antichrist_, 61, in ANF, V:217). Indeed,

one will find controversies brewing over the concept of the Immaculate

Conception a thousand years later, when the Dominicans and the

Franciscans were at each other's throats over the issue. At the time,

the "infallible authority" remained silent, following a middle course

between the two sides. As late as the nineteenth century we find the

Roman Catholic bishop Milner saying,

The Church does not decide the controversy concerning the

Conception of the Blessed Virgin, and several other disputed

points, because she sees nothing clear and certain concerning

them either in the written or unwritten Word, and therefore

leaves her children to form their own opinions concerning them

(cited in Salmon, The Infallibility of the Church, p. 182).

So even tradition fails our Roman Catholic apologist in attempting to

find a basis for the Immaculate Conception. The simple fact is that this

doctrine is a very late development, a part of Roman Catholic teaching,

officially, for less than 150 years. It has no Biblical basis, nor does

it have foundation in the early writings of the Church. It was a hotly

debated topic for centuries, and no "infallible Pope" dared schism by

exercising his infallibility to end the argument until the nineteenth

century. It is one of many Marian doctrines that, as a whole, not only

greatly detract from the true, Biblical presentation of Mary, the mother

of Jesus Christ, but which promote clearly false concepts in the minds of

faithful Catholics everywhere. Given the results of our review, it seems

clear that Pat Madrid's "examination" of the "biblical evidence" for the

doctrine with the Calvary Chapel pastor took a very short period of time.

(The above article has been sent to Mr. Madrid for comment. He has been

offered a full column in the publication in which the article appears for



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