Aleteia logoAleteia logo
Saturday 25 September |
Saint of the Day: Bl. Herman “the Cripple”
home iconSpirituality
line break icon

Was John the Baptist born free of original sin?


El Greco | Public Domain

Philip Kosloski - published on 05/31/18

The answer is tied directly to the Visitation of the Blessed Virgin Mary to St. Elizabeth.

The Church’s liturgy only celebrates three births throughout the entire year: Jesus, the Virgin Mary, and St. John the Baptist. Many claim that one of the reasons for this selection of John the Baptist is tied to a popular belief that John was born free of original sin.

Is that true?

Technically speaking the Church has never proclaimed in an official document or statement that St. John the Baptist was born without original sin. On the other hand, the Church does not dismiss the idea either.

The reason why the faithful entertain such a belief is because of the visitation of the Blessed Virgin Mary to St. Elizabeth. It is recorded by St. Luke, “And when Elizabeth heard the greeting of Mary, the babe [St. John the Baptist] leaped in her womb; and Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit” (Luke 1:41).

This, many theologians have argued over the centuries, implies that while John was conceived with original sin, he was purified in the womb and born without it.

The Catholic Encyclopedia summarizes this argument, “Now as the presence of any sin whatever is incompatible with the indwelling of the Holy [Spirit] in the soul, it follows that at this moment John was cleansed from the stain of original sin.”

Some theologians view this episode as a type of “baptism,” through which, as the Catechism of the Catholic Church explains, “all sins are forgiven, original sin and all personal sins, as well as all punishment for sin.”

Yet, however convincing this argument may be, there is no binding doctrine that declares this idea as a necessary part of Catholic belief. It may have been the case, but Catholics are not bound to believe in it.

Whatever the reality of the situation was, this does not put John on par with the Virgin Mary.

Pius IX, in a dogmatic declaration, affirmed that “the Blessed Virgin Mary, from the first moment of her conception, by a singular grace and privilege of almighty God, and in view of the merits of Jesus Christ, Savior of the human race, was preserved free from every stain of original sin is a doctrine revealed by God and, for this reason, must be firmly and constantly believed by all the faithful.”

Jesus and the Virgin Mary remain the only two individuals to have been conceived without the stain of original sin.


Read more:
These are the only 3 birthdays celebrated on the liturgical calendar


Read more:
A lesson from Mary: How being OK with your neediness can put you in the best position to serve

Support Aleteia!

If you’re reading this article, it’s thanks to the generosity of people like you, who have made Aleteia possible.

Here are some numbers:

  • 20 million users around the world read every month
  • Aleteia is published every day in seven languages: English, French, Italian, Spanish, Portuguese, Polish, and Slovenian
  • Each month, readers view more than 50 million pages
  • Nearly 4 million people follow Aleteia on social media
  • Each month, we publish 2,450 articles and around 40 videos
  • We have 60 full time staff and approximately 400 collaborators (writers, translators, photographers, etc.)

As you can imagine, these numbers represent a lot of work. We need you.

Support Aleteia with as little as $1. It only takes a minute. Thank you!

Daily prayer
And today we celebrate...

Top 10
J-P Mauro
Chicago architect models Vatican City from 67,000 LEGO bricks
Cecilia Pigg
7 Ways the saints can help you sleep better at night
Philip Kosloski
Why J.R.R. Tolkien loved to attend daily Mass
The Sinai Peninsula and the Dead Sea Rift
J-P Mauro
Experts now believe Sodom was destroyed by a meteor
Bret Thoman, OFS
Exclusive photos: Meet Padre Pio and the place he lived
Philip Kosloski
How Our Lady saved Padre Pio from a violent demonic attack
Cerith Gardiner
9 Padre Pio quotes for when you’re feeling scared or uncertain
See More
Get Aleteia delivered to your inbox. Subscribe here.