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"God My Savior" (Lk 1:47) vs. Mary's Sinlessness

By Luke Lancaster

Many Protestants argue that Jesus's mother had to have been a sinner like the rest of us. For when Mary visited her cousin Elizabeth in Luke 1, she called God her "savior" (Lk. 1:47). Only a sinner would need a savior, so Mary must have sinned. Boom - Catholics are wrong when they say that Mary was sinless. However, I think this is assuming too much. For one of God's titles in Scripture is "Savior," for God saved Israel out of Egypt. There are many ways to call God your "savior" without meaning a sin-savior. The Jews did not even think that they needed a savior from sin, but hoped for a different kind of saving from God. Finally, even if Mary intended to mean God's saving from sin, it still would not prove that she was a sinner.

Argument #1

God is called "Savior" in numerous non-sin-saving contexts. For example, God saved Israel from slavery in Egypt through the Exodus, so Israel can call God her “savior.” Exodus 15:2 says, "The Lord is my strength and my song, and he has become my salvation." The context there is about God saving Israel from Pharaoh's chariots. Psalm 106:21 says, "They forgot God, their Savior, who had done great things in Egypt." Again the context is the Exodus. Zephaniah 3:17 says, "The Lord your God is in your midst, a mighty one who will save." The context there is about God saving Israel from various temporal sufferings.

1 Samuel 2:1 says, "My mouth derides my enemies, because I rejoice in your salvation." The context is Hannah calling God her “savior” probably because she was barren and God saved her from that by giving her a child (Samuel). King David calls God "the horn of my salvation" in Psalm 18:2, but the context is him being saved from his enemies. David does the same thing in 2 Samuel 22:2-3, calling God "my savior." King Hezekiah was saved from his sickness and he said that "The Lord will save me" (Isaiah 38:20). So, there are many instances of God's "salvation" which do not primarily have to do with His power to save from sin. So, to dogmatically assume that Mary is thinking in terms of salvation from sin does not work.

Argument #2

In the 1st century, Israel was not thinking in terms of salvation from sin. For when Jesus came on the scene talking about freedom, the people denied it (John 8:31-39). They said that they did not need to be set free and that Abraham was their father. When Jesus then described how anybody who practices sin is a slave to sin and needs saving, they denied it. They even went so far as to say that Jesus had a demon (Jn. 8:48)! The Jews were thinking that they needed salvation from the dominion of the Romans. The Roman Empire had conquered Israel decades before, and Israel longed for independence. Based on the atmosphere of the 1st century, then, Mary calling God her "savior" could have meant salvation from Rome.


"God my Savior" does not have to mean "savior from sin" but could have been in the sense of the rest of Hebrew Scripture. God saved Israel from Egypt, from enemies, from plagues, from barrenness, etc. Mary was a Jewish person, in the Family of God, and not someone who recently accepted Jesus as her personal Lord and Savior. She thought like the Jews, for Jesus had not preached salvation from sins yet. Mary might have even been thinking of salvation from Rome like the rest of the 1st century Jews.

Yet even if Mary were saying that God was her savior from sin, it still would have no bearing on her sinfulness. For there are also two senses to which someone can be “saved.” Someone can be saved by prevention, such as by warning a friend about a hole they are about to fall into. Someone can also be saved after the fact, such as by helping somebody out of a hole which they fell into. The former is the example the Early Christians gave to explain Mary’s sinlessness. Mary can call God her “savior” because she also needed to be saved from falling into sin. She probably did not realize it, but God had intervened and saved her at the moment of her conception (before she ever fell into the pit). Mary was prevented from falling into sin by being infused with Divine Grace which kept her from sinning, thereby giving Jesus a perfect human mother to emulate. The Tradition of the Church says that Mary was immaculate, so check out this article for evidence from the Tradition of Mary's sinlessness.

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