Bodily Assumption of Mary:
From Catholic Doctrine: A[T]he testimony of Tradition does seem to favor the theological opinions that she died and was most likely buried near the Garden of Gethsemane in Jerusalem, and that, in the likeness of her Son=s Resurrection, her body did not decompose after he death and burial but instead Mary was gloriously assumed intact. As in the case of Christ=s Resurrections, so with Mary=s Assumption, what the dogma actually defines is seen to be readly and truth only by those with the gift of faith, who freely accept and respond to what is contained in Divine Revelation.@ (35)
AIf the Holy Virgin had died and was buried, her falling asleep would have been surrounded with honour, death would have found her pure, and her crown would have been a virginal one…Had she been martyred according to what is written: ‘Thine own soul a sword shall pierce’, then she would shine gloriously among the martyrs, and her holy body would have been declared blessed; for by her, did light come to the world.” Epiphanius, Panarion, 78:23 (A.D. 377).
“[T]he Apostles took up her body on a bier and placed it in a tomb; and they guarded it, expecting the Lord to come. And behold, again the Lord stood by them; and the holy body having been received, He commanded that it be taken in a cloud into paradise: where now, rejoined to the soul, [Mary] rejoices with the Lord’s chosen ones…” Gregory of Tours, Eight Books of Miracles, 1:4 (inter A.D. 575‑593).
“As the most glorious Mother of Christ, our Savior and God and the giver of life and immortality, has been endowed with life by him, she has received an eternal incorruptibility of the body together with him who has raised her up from the tomb and has taken her up to himself in a way known only to him.” Modestus of Jerusalem, Encomium in dormitionnem Sanctissimae Dominae nostrae Deiparae semperque Virginis Mariae (PG 86‑II,3306),(ante A.D. 634).
“It was fitting …that the most holy‑body of Mary, God‑bearing body, receptacle of God, divinised, incorruptible, illuminated by divine grace and full glory …should be entrusted to the earth for a little while and raised up to heaven in glory, with her soul pleasing to God.” Theoteknos of Livias, Homily on the Assumption (ante A.D. 650).
“You are she who, as it is written, appears in beauty, and your virginal body is all holy, all chaste, entirely the dwelling place of God, so that it is henceforth completely exempt from dissolution into dust. Though still human, it is changed into the heavenly life of incorruptibility, truly living and glorious, undamaged and sharing in perfect life.” Germanus of Constantinople, Sermon I (PG 98,346), (ante A.D. 733).
“St. Juvenal, Bishop of Jerusalem, at the Council of Chalcedon (451), made known to the Emperor Marcian and Pulcheria, who wished to possess the body of the Mother of God, that Mary died in the presence of all the Apostles, but that her tomb, when opened upon the request of St. Thomas, was found empty; wherefrom the Apostles concluded that the body was taken up to heaven.” John of Damascene, PG (96:1) (A.D. 747‑751).
“It was fitting that the she, who had kept her virginity intact in childbirth, should keep her own body free from all corruption even after death. It was fitting that she, who had carried the Creator as a child at her breast, should dwell in the divine tabernacles. It was fitting that the spouse, whom the Father had taken to himself, should live in the divine mansions. It was fitting that she, who had seen her Son upon the cross and who had thereby received into her heart the sword of sorrow which she had escaped when giving birth to him, should look upon him as he sits with the Father, It was fitting that God’s Mother should possess what belongs to her Son, and that she should be honored by every creature as the Mother and as the handmaid of God.” John of Damascene, Dormition of Mary (PG 96,741), (ante A.D. 749).
“Venerable to us, O Lord, is the festivity of this day on which the holy Mother of God suffered temporal death, but still could not be kept down by the bonds of death, who has begotten Thy Son our Lord incarnate from herself.” Gregorian Sacramentary, Veneranda (ante A.D. 795).
“[A]n effable mystery all the more worthy of praise as the Virgin’s Assumption is something unique among men.” Gallican Sacramentary, from Munificentis simus Deus (8th Century).
“God, the King of the universe, has granted you favors that surpass nature. As he kept you virgin in childbirth, thus he kept your body incorrupt in the tomb and has glorified it by his divine act of transferring it from the tomb.” Byzantine Liturgy, from Munificentis simus Deus (8th Century).
“[T]he virgin is up to now immortal, as He who lived, translated her into the place of reception.” Timotheus of Jerusalem (8th Century).
2. Summary of Evidence: The New Advent summary follows. This a fairly comprehensive summary of the evidence from a Roman Catholic Position.
The fact of the Assumption
Regarding the day, year, and manner of Our Lady’s death, nothing certain is known. The earliest known literary reference to the Assumption is found in the Greek work De Obitu S. Dominae. Catholic faith, however, has always derived our knowledge of the mystery from Apostolic Tradition. Epiphanius (d. 403) acknowledged that he knew nothing definite about it (Haer., lxxix, 11). The dates assigned for it vary between three and fifteen years after Christ’s Ascension. Two cities claim to be the place of her departure: Jerusalem and Ephesus. Common consent favours Jerusalem, where her tomb is shown; but some argue in favour of Ephesus. The first six centuries did not know of the tomb of Mary at Jerusalem.
The belief in the corporeal assumption of Mary is founded on the apocryphal treatise De Obitu S. Dominae, bearing the name of St. John, which belongs however to the fourth or fifth century. It is also found in the book De Transitu Virginis, falsely ascribed to St. Melito of Sardis, and in a spurious letter attributed to St. Denis the Areopagite. If we consult genuine writings in the East, it is mentioned in the sermons of St. Andrew of Crete, St. John Damascene, St. Modestus of Jerusalem and others. In the West, St. Gregory of Tours (De gloria mart., I, iv) mentions it first. The sermons of St. Jerome and St. Augustine for this feast, however, are spurious. St. John of Damascus (P. G., I, 96) thus formulates the tradition of the Church of Jerusalem:
St. Juvenal, Bishop of Jerusalem, at the Council of Chalcedon (451), made known to the Emperor Marcian and Pulcheria, who wished to possess the body of the Mother of God, that Mary died in the presence of all the Apostles, but that her tomb, when opened, upon the request of St. Thomas, was found empty; wherefrom the Apostles concluded that the body was taken up to heaven.
Today, the belief in the corporeal assumption of Mary is universal in the East and in the West; according to Benedict XIV (De Festis B.V.M., I, viii, 18) it is a probable opinion, which to deny were impious and blasphemous.
3. From the official statement of P. Pius XII:
A. Death/sin/Mary: Now God has willed that the Blessed Virgin Mary should be exempted from this general rule. She, by an entirely unique privilege, completely overcame sin by her Immaculate Conception, and as a result she was not subject to the law of remaining in the corruption of the grave, and she did not have to wait until the end of time for the redemption of her body. &5. B The doctrine of the Immaculate Conception had been dogma since, December 8, 1854, Pius IX.
B. The investigation of the question of the doctrine was begun on May 1, 1946 by a letter from Pius XII to the bishops: AHence, on May 1, 1946, we gave them our letter >Deiparae Virginis Mariae,= a letter in which these words are contained: >Do you, venerable brethren, in your outstanding wisdom and prudence, judge that the bodily Assumption of the Blessed Virgin can be proposed and defined as a dogma of faith? Do you, with your clergy and people, desire it?=&11
C. There was an almost unanimous affirmative response to the question. &12
D. The first affirmative historical evidence provided in the document is the presence of shrines and images to the doctrine: AThe innumerable temples which have been dedicated to the Virgin Mary assumed into heaven clearly attest this faith. So do those sacred images, exposed therein for the veneration of the faithful, which bring this unique triumph of the Blessed Virgin before the eyes of all men. Moreover, cities, dioceses, and individual regions have been placed under the special patronage and guardianship of the Virgin Mother of God assumed into heaven. In the same way, religious institutes, with the approval of the Church, have been founded and have taken their name from this privilege. Nor can we pass over in silence the fact that in the Rosary of Mary, the recitation of which this Apostolic See so urgently recommends, there is one mystery proposed for pious meditation which, as all know, deals with the Blessed Virgin’s Assumption into heaven.@ &15
E. The next item of affirmative evidence was the use in various liturgies. &17.
F. In terms of particular persons who testify to the doctrine, the first mentioned is St. John Damascene (6th Century). &21. Next mentioned is St. Germanus I (715-30). &22. (Germanus, Partriarch of Constantinople, known for his defense of the veneration of images.)
G. All remaining historical proves from a later date still.
4. There are is no explicit biblical basis for this doctrine.
5. There is no mention of the assumption of Mary in Ecclesiastical History of Eusebius, nor any of the other early church histories.
1. Pelikan summarizes the evidence,
A. Athe doctrine of the assumption of Mary received it validation from >ecclesiastical tradition,= primarily from liturgical tradition and only later from doctrinal tradition.@ 5 Christian Doctrine and Modern Culture, Jaroslav Pelikan, p. 265. Later, referring to Newman, Pelikan writes of Marian doctrine, generally: ANewman freely admitted that the >special prerogatives= being attributed to Mary, including her immaculate conception, >were not fully recognized in the Catholic ritual till a late date,= but he insisted nevertheless that >they were not a new thing in the church, or strange to her earlier teachers.= Therefore they had, in his sense of the word, >developed.=@ Id., p. 279.
B. In volume 3, Pelikan gives this explanation of the doctrine at the time of the Middle Ages: AThere was a similar absence of consensus regarding the end of Mary=s life, on which dogmatic determination came only in the twentieth century. It was recognized that the principal accounts both of her beginning and her end were apocryphal and did not enjoy acceptance as canonical by the church, and that >no catholic history gives an account of the way she ascended to the heavenly realm.= It was a mistake, Paschasius Radbertus warned to >accept doubtful things as certain,= for on the basis of reliable accounts, as distinguished from apocryphal ones, it was certain only that Mary had >left the body,= but not how she had done so. In part, therefore, the case for the doctrine of the assumption had to ban argument from silence, since there did not exist an explicit theological tradition concerning the death of Mary.@ 3 Pelikan 72.
2. In short:
A. There is no plain biblical warrant.
B. There is no early historical evidence.
C. There is no early historical tradition.
D. The first explicit doctrinal statements are from 600 years or so after Mary=s death. The place of the alleged assumption is not even fixed, varying between Jerusalem and Ephesus.
E. The proof of the doctrine, as given by the Pope was the practice of the Church. In short, since many people had believed the thing to be true, it was.
Abstract: The ancient Dormition traditions, a collection of narratives recounting the end of the Virgin Mary=s life, first emerge into historical view from an uncertain past during the fifth and sixth centuries. Initially appearing in Syro‑Palestine and Egypt, these legends rapidly spread throughout the Christian world, resulting in over 60 different narratives from before the tenth century preserved in nine ancient languages. The first half of this dissertation largely concerns the organization of these diverse traditions. The search for the Aoriginal@ tradition has led many previous interpreters to attribute their diversity to a process of unilinear dogmatic development. According to such interpretations, the various narratives types were adopted in succession to suit changes in Christian belief. Nevertheless, evidence for either an Aoriginal@ tradition or such a process of unilinear development is lacking. In light of this, I argue that we should dispense with the search for origins and such developmental models, replacing both with an acceptance of the various extant Dormition traditions as independent, rival accounts of the end of Mary=s life.
The second half of this study considers the contribution of these legends to Mary=s emergence during late antiquity as a locus of Aorthodox@ Christian identity. Although many of the earliest narratives associate the Virgin with a variety of heterodox opinions, in the course of transmission these were either eliminated or gracefully reshaped, removing these obstacles to the Virgin=s identification with Christian orthodoxy. Certain other features of these legends, however, were more congenial to the needs of early Byzantine Aorthodoxy.@ During this age, the discourse of Christian orthodoxy provided vital ideological cement for an empire composed of culturally and linguistically diverse peoples. The Virgin Mary, who was by this time a widely‑revered figure, often featured prominently in this discourse of Christian truth. Consequently, the concerns for religious truth and social cohesion that lie at the heart of the early Byzantine discourse of orthodoxy are likewise manifest in the contemporary traditions concerning the end of the Virgin=s life, particularly in their polemics against Jews and other religious non‑conformists.
The Passing of Mary. Transitus Mariae: although not strictly a gospel of the Nativity notice may here be taken of the account of John the Theologian of the Falling Asleep (koimesis) of the Holy Mother of God or as it is more commonly called ??the Passing of Mary?? (transitus Mariae). It was originally written in Greek, but appears also in Latin and several other languages. Two years, it seems, after the ascension of Jesus, Mary, who paid frequent visits to the, ??Holy tomb of our Lord to burn incense and pray?? was persecuted by the Jews and prayed her Son that He would take her from the earth. The archangel Gabriel brings an answer to her prayers and announces that after three days she shall go to the heavenly places to her Son, into true and everlasting life. Apostles from their graves or from their dioceses are summoned to her bedside at Bethlehem and relate how they were occupied when the summons reached them. Miracles of healing are wrought round the dying bed; and after the instantaneous transportation of Mary and the attendant apostles to Jerusalem, on the Lord?s Day, amidst visions of angels Christ Himself appears and receives her soul to Himself. Her body is buried in Gethsemane and thereafter translated to Paradise. Judged by its contents which reveal an advanced stage of the worship of the Virgin and also of church ritual, the document cannot have been produced earlier than the end of the 4th or the beginning of the 5th century, and it has a place among the apocryphal documents condemned by the Gelasian Decree. By this time indeed it appears as if the writers of such documents assumed the most unrestricted license in imagining and embellishing the facts and situations regarding the gospel narrative. Orr, J., M.A., D.D. (1999). The International standard Bible encyclopedia : 1915 edition (J. Orr, Ed.). Albany, OR: Ages Software.
I found a copy of this book on books.google.com. The translation is somewhat different: AThe holy virgin may have died and been buried B her falling asleep was with honor, her death in purity, her crown in virginity. Of she may have been put ot death B as the scripture says, >And a sword shall pierce through her soul@ B her fame among the martyrs and her holy body, by which light rose on the world, [rests] amid blessings. Or she may have remained alive, for God is not incapable of doing whatever he wills. No one knows her end.@ P. 619. Text:
http://books.google.com/books?hl=en&id=DAP‑uJTfc84C&dq=Epiphanius,+Panarion&printsec=frontcover&source=web&ots=UoRuR7K4lb&sig=uX6hOimHVTmxEIeztSdULFpkjSU&sa=X&oi=book_result&resnum=6&ct=result#PRA1‑PA619,M1. The Panarion of Epiphanius of Salamis, Books II and III, translated by Frank Williams.
McCarthy in The Gospel According to Rome notes that the Vatican statement could point to no support from (1) any of the first 20 ecumencial councils; (2) any church creed; (3) there was only support from two recognized AChurch Fathers@, Germanus (634-733) and John Damascene (675-749); (4) there was no support for the doctrine among the major Doctors of the Church; (5) there was support from only one minor Doctors of the first eleven centuries, John Damascene. In short, there was only practice to support the doctrine.
Catholic Doctrine agrees with this basic statement of the evidence. The greatest weight, according to CD was the consensus of the Aprelates and the faithful@. (36)
Catholic Doctrine refers to what is Aimplicitly contained@ in Scripture for support. (35). I also found a website which listed the following Asupport@ for the assumption from Scripture:
VI. Mary’s Assumption into Heaven
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.