The Assumption of Mary: A Non-Controversy Even Among Most of the Reformers

We continue with this excerpt from my book MARY, MOTHER OF THE SON (available on Kindle at the link):


A Non-controversy Even for Most Early Reformers

This tradition remained non-controversial well into the Reformation. For Luther, the Assumption was a settled fact, just as the Theotokos and Perpetual Virginity were. Indeed, Luther’s burial vault in the Wittenberg church, “on whose door he had posted his 95 Theses, was adorned with the 1521 Peter Vischer sculpture of the Coronation of the Virgin.”[1] Similarly, Martin Butzer wrote in reference to the Assumption in 1545 that, “[N]o Christian doubts that the most worthy Mother of the Lord lives with her beloved Son in heavenly joy.”[2] So, too, according to Fr. Peter Stravinskas, “[i]n Zwingli’s Zurich . . . even the feast of the Assumption of Mary was apparently specifically retained.”[3] Moreover, Zwingli’s successor, reformed scholar Heinrich Bullinger, noted that the notion of Mary being taken bodily to heaven had precedent in the Old Testament:

Elijah was transported body and soul in a chariot of fire; he was not buried in any Church bearing his name, but mounted up to heaven, so that . . . we might know what immortality and recompense God prepares for his faithful prophets and for his most outstanding and incomparable creatures . . . It is for this reason, we believe, that the pure and immaculate embodiment of the Mother of God, the Virgin Mary, the Temple of the Holy Spirit, that is to say her saintly body, was carried up to Heaven by the angels.[4]

The Assumption of Mary is, like her Perpetual Virginity and the title Theotokos, a feature of apostolic Tradition reflected in Scripture, broadly affirmed by various ancient sources, and accepted with remarkably little controversy by the whole Church until about four centuries ago. There is no evidence it’s anti-biblical. There is only a case that it’s partly extra-biblical—which places it in the same class as our knowledge of the canon of Scripture, our belief that abortion is a grave sin, our belief that monogamy is the only valid form of Christian marriage, and our faith that public revelation closed with the death of the apostles. If we accept the Tradition of the Church concerning these other doctrines, there’s no good reason not to accept her testimony on the Assumption as well.

[1] Fr. Peter Stravinskas, “The Place of Mary in Classical Fundamentalism, Part 1Faith & Reason (Front Royal: Christendom, Spring 1994). Link available as of June 22, 2023.

[2] Marienlexikon, vol. 13, 200.

[3] Stravinskas, “The Place of Mary in Classical Fundamentalism.”

[4] Heinrich Bullinger, De origine erroris, 16.


One Response

  1. Re. footnote no. 2, is this a different Marienlexikon than the one I’m familiar with, the one published between 1988 and 1994 by EOS Verlag? There are only 6 vols. in that one.

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