Mary and Romans 3:23

Romans 3:23 
“since all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God”   RSV

Some people contend that the above verse means that Mary must have sinned.  However, consider the following.

1.  Protestant Dictionary - Strong’s : “all”
2.  Consistency
3.  Biblical Examples 
4.  How Was Mary Saved ?

See related issue:        
Romans 3:10   – “None  is  righteous” 
and  Jesus' Unique Quality to Redeem Us

 1.  Strong’s Definition for the word: “all”

 Consider the Greek.  Romans 3:23 and 5:12, (“all have sinned”) use the Greek word “pantes” for “all.”   
“Pantes” is a derivative of  “pas,”  which has the following meaning, according to Strong's Lexicon:


Strong's Lexicon 

3956 pas  { pas}      . . .

GK - 4246  { pa`” }

1) individually 
1a) each, every, any, all, the whole, everyone, all things, everything 
2) collectively 
2a) some of all types

“.... the whole world has gone after him” [John 12:19 ]  Did all the world go after Christ?

“then went all Judea, and were baptized of him in Jordan.”  [Matt. 3: 5-6]  Was all Judea, or all Jerusalem, baptized in Jordan?

“Ye are of God, little children”, and the whole world lieth in the wicked one”.    [1 John 5:19]  Does the whole world there mean everybody?

The words “world” and “all” are used in some seven or eight senses in Scripture, and it is very rarely the “all” means all persons, taken individually.  The words are generally used to signify that Christ has redeemed some of all sorts -- some Jews, some Gentiles, some rich, some poor, and has not restricted His redemption to either Jew or Gentile ...

C.H. Spurgeon from a sermon on Particular Redemption 
Enhanced Strong’s Lexicon, (Oak Harbor, WA: Logos Research Systems, Inc..) 1995.

End Quotation:
[The Scriptural passages have been identified which is not done in the original text.]



 2.  Consistency
Actually if the word "all" could only mean "each and ever individual without exception,"  then it would end up proving even more than what the Protestant would want it to.  Since Jesus is fully human it would have to mean that He also sinned, but this is obviously false. Cf. Hebrews 4: 15.   Once a person accepts an exception to the word  "all"  it then becomes impossible to prove that there are no other exceptions by simply quoting this same verse.  The word  "all"  is to be understood in the collective sense rather than in the distributive sense to ever individual.  In the collective sense it applies to some of all types, and allows for some exceptions.

Webster’s New International Dictionary second edition unabridged 1934, page 67, gives as the seventh definition for the word  "all"  as  "Nearly the whole of; nearly every one of; - used hyperbolically; as, all men held John as a prophet."

Luke 1:5-6  "… there was a priest named Zechariah … his wife … Elizabeth.   Both were righteous in the eyes of God, observing all the commandments and ordinances of the Lord blamelessly."   NAB

However, if one assumes that the word  "all"  does not allow for exceptions then, Zechariah and Elizabeth, who observed "all"  the commandments and ordinances of the Lord blamelessly,  are exceptions to   "all have sinned" in  Romans 3:23.   However, if this person maintains that Zechariah and Elizabeth must have sinned in some way then he is forced to accept that the word  "all"  in Luke 1: 6    is to be understood so as to allow for some exception.   Either way the word  "all"  must be allowed to be understood in the collective sense and permitting some exceptions.  With that demonstrated it is no longer possible to maintain that the definition of the word "all" in Romans 3:23 never allows for exceptions.

Some Protestants might be hesitant to accept the Catholic teaching because they know that no one is righteous apart from Christ.  However, this is where they misunderstand Catholicism.  Catholics agree that all righteousness comes from Christ.  Mary was never separated from Jesus and His Saving Grace.   She was saved by God’s grace from the first moment of her conception as a special gift from God.

That she would always be protected from the Devil and never on his side was prophesied when God said to the Devil in  Genesis 3: 14-15   "The Lord God said to the serpent … I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your seed and her seed;  he shall bruise your head, and you shall bruise his heel."   RSV    This is a prophesy about the Devil, and a woman, and the Messiah - the seed of the woman who would give Him birth.   To be at enmity means to be an enemy of and in opposition to.  This could not be true if the “woman” ever sinned.  1 John 3:8   “Whoever sins belongs to the devil, because the devil has sinned from the beginning. Indeed, the Son of God was revealed to destroy the works of the devil.”  NAB   Jesus calls Mary  “woman” in John 19:26 and 2:4 and every Christian agrees that it was she who gave birth to the Messiah.  Therefore, Mary is the “woman” in Genesis 3:15.  And by the grace that was won by the Life, Death, and Resurrection of Jesus Christ which was applied to her at the moment of her conception in her mother’s, Saint Anne’s, womb and by Mary’s total cooperation with that grace she remained without sin, and thus she was at enmity with Satan.  Therefore, God’s prophesy of Genesis 3:15 was fulfilled in His work in Mary.

Revelation 12:1, 5, 17  "A great sign appeared in the sky, a woman clothed with the sun, with the moon under her feet, and on her head a crown of twelve stars…  5 She gave birth to a son, a male child, destined to rule all the nations with an iron rod. Her child was caught up to God and his throne…  17 Then the dragon became angry with the woman and went off to wage war against the rest of her offspring, those who keep God’s commandments and bear witness to Jesus."   NAB

That Mary is without sin is evident by the fact that the Angel who delivers God’s message, says that she is full of grace in   Luke 1: 28  "Hail, full of grace, the Lord is with thee.  Blessed art thou among women."   In the Greek the word for "full of grace"  is  "kecharitomene."     She is full of grace so there is no room for sin in her.

3.  Biblical Examples of the word  “all.”

 The following are more examples of the word  “all”  being used in the collective sense meaning a very large number, but allowing for some exceptions. 

 Romans 15:14 
“I myself am satisfied about you, my brethren, that you yourselves are full of goodness, filled with all knowledge, and able to instruct one another.”  RSV

However, only God has infinite “all” knowledge. 

1 Corinthians 15:22 
“For as in Adam all die, so also in Christ shall all be made alive.”  RSV

And the Bible tells us that Enoch and Elijah did not die, Genesis 5:24 and 2 Kings 2:11.   Also see Hebrews 11:5  “By faith Enoch was taken up so that he should not see death; and he was not found, because God had taken him.”   RSV

And not “all” choose to follow God.  Some chose death and eternal damnation.

 Romans 1:29 
“Being filled with all unrighteousness, fornication, wickedness, covetousness, maliciousness; full of envy, murder, debate, deceit, malignity; whisperers”  KJV

 Matthew 3:5-6 
“Then went out to him [John the Baptist]   Jerusalem and all Judea and all the region about the Jordan, and they were baptized by him in the river Jordan, confessing their sins.”  RSV

And yet did “all” Jerusalem to him ?  Did the Pharisees go too ?

Luke 2:1  
“And it came to pass in those days, that there went out a decree from Caesar Augustus, that all the world should be taxed.” 

Did Caesar tax the people from South Africa, India, China, and South America ?  How could he when he did not even control the whole world ?

 Matthew 2:3  
“When Herod the king heard this, he was troubled, and all Jerusalem with him”

  Matthew 26:56   
“ … Then all the disciples left him [Jesus] and fled.”

But we read in just two verses later that Peter did follow Christ in  Matthew 26:58.  Cf.   Luke 22:54 .    And in John 18:15-16  We read that another disciple followed Christ along with Simon Peter.  And this other disciple knew the high priest and was therefore able to get Peter into the gate.   

This  “other disciple,”  is John.  He even follows Christ all the way to the cross where he is identified as the “beloved disciple.”   See  John 19:26.   The passage in John 21: 20-24  clarifies that he is none other than John, the author of the fourth Gospel. 

Therefore, the word  “all”  in Mat. 26:56  as well as these other examples allows for exceptions.  And so therefore, the word  “all”  in Romans 3:23 also can allow for exceptions.


4.  How Was Mary Saved ?

However, a person might contend that the word “sin” in Romans 3:23  “all have sinned”  does not refer to personal sin.   For example, for a reference to Jesus see   2 Corinthians 5:21   “For our sake he made him to be sin who did not know sin, so that we might become the righteousness of God in him.”  NAB   Sin in the first instance refers to “a sin offering” not to “personal sin.”

Another example is found in Romans 5: 12, 19  “Therefore, just as through one person sin entered the world, and through sin, death, and thus death came to all, inasmuch as all sinned …  19 For just as through the disobedience of one person the many were made sinners, so through the obedience of one the many will be made righteous.”   NAB   Here  “sinners” is referring to mankind who is in need of redemption and who is subject to original sin.  It does not refer to everyone having personal guilt due to each person having personal sin, but rather the penalty of separation for everyone because of Adam’s sin.  

So, if “sin”  in Romans 3:23 just means the need to be redeemed then Catholics could agree that this verse applies to Mary.  Catholics believe that Mary, as a child of Adam, would have contracted Original Sin, but that she was saved from the stain of Original Sin by the merits of Jesus Christ.  She was saved from sin and redeemed in a special way from the beginning of her life by the grace of Jesus Christ in an unearned gift to her from God.   Genesis 3:15 (and Luke 1: 28)  implies that Mary is without sin.  The doctrine of Mary’s Immaculate Conception shows how God fulfilled that prophecy.