Did Augustine Call Mary the "Mother of God"?

A dear reader notified me that a Roman apologist (or perhaps just a friend in the Roman church) had provided the following to them as allegedly representing Augustine’s views:

“Mary was that only one who merited to be called the Mother and Spouse of God”. (Sermon 208)

You’ll notice that the person has provided a citation – the citation makes it look authentic. But, of course, I didn’t stop there.

I grabbed a copy of Augustine’s “Sermons on Liturgical Seasons,” since that contains the range of sermons including Sermon 208. The quotation, however, was not to be found in Sermon 208 – a sermon on the occasion of Lent.

So, I did a little more digging. Alfonso de Liguori’s “Glories of Mary,” provides this same quotation and gives the Latin original (“Haec est quae sola meruit Mater et Spousa vocari.”) as well as a more precise citation to an appendix of the Benedictine edition of Augustine’s works.

In fact, upon locating the sermon, I discovered that it is listed as Sermon 208(a) on the occasion of the Feast of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary. It’s not an authentic work. There are probably a variety of ways we could prove that, but the easiest way is that it is now recognized that there was no feast of the assumption in North Africa during Augustine’s lifetime. Thus, the sermon was written at some later date, and merely ascribed to Augustine.

It’s sad to see that some of Rome’s advocates either knowingly or unwittingly are using falsehoods to try to promote their religion. It’s one reason this blog exists – to shed the light of truth on the matter. And the truth is that Augustine did not call Mary “the Mother of God,” nor would he have. In his authentic works he describes Mary this way:

At that time, therefore, when about to engage in divine acts, He repelled, as one unknown, her who was the mother, not of His divinity, but of His [human] infirmity.

NPNF1: Vol. VII, Tractates on John, Tractate CXIX, §1, John 19:24-30.



10 Responses to “Did Augustine Call Mary the "Mother of God"?”

  1. kesto4 Says:
  2. kesto4 Says:
  3. kesto4 Says:
  4. kesto4 Says:
  5. turretinfan Says:
  6. turretinfan Says:
  7. turretinfan Says:
  8. turretinfan Says:
  9. Jack Lake Says:


    Mr. TurretinFan,

    The dissemination of this quotation is due to the work of the Novus Ordo apologist Dave Armstrong, who cites it as having been written by St. Augustine (http://socrates58.blogspot.com/2007/11/st-augustine-was-catholic-not-proto.html?m=1). He, in turn, got the quotation from St. Alphonsus, just as you did (http://socrates58.blogspot.com/2004/02/mary-as-mediatrix-patristic-medieval.html?m=1). Unfortunately, Mr. Armstrong did not look into the matter any further, and erroneously took it as having been written by St. Augustine (although I am nearly positive that he did so without any malice).

    This sermon, as you correctly point out, was not written by St. Augustine. Its numbering as “Sermon 208” is due it being the 208th spurious sermon published by the Benedictine Editors, and later reprinted in Migne (PL 39:2129-2134).

    However, I do take issue with some of the things which you have said. Although you did not explicitly say as much, your remarks, when taken in conjunction with what you have stated elsewhere, indicate that you think that this is a “Romish forgery” being used by “Romish” polemicists to defend “Popery” at any costs, even if it means using deception. While this sermon was not written by St. Augustine, it is not the mere work of a medieval forger. Rather, it was written by a Church Father, albeit a later one, named Ambrose Autpert (8th century). That this sermon was in fact written by him is confirmed by critical scholarship (cf. O'Carroll, Theotokos, pp. 22-23). Unfortunately, during the Middle Ages, it was mistakenly attributed to St. Augustine, hence the confusion regarding authorship.

    Next, you claim that St. Augustine would *never* have called Mary the “Mother of God,” as if he would have
    *opposed* such a title. This seems unlikely, as most of his major contemporaries in the 4th and 5th centuries used it, including his teacher, St. Ambrose. And yes, unlike what has been stated above in the comments, St. Ambrose did in fact use the title, namely “Mater Dei” (cf. De Virginitate, lib. 2, cap. 2). While he did not use the title in his extant works, St. Augustine nowhere disapproves of it. Your claim that “nor would he have [called Mary the Mother of God],” as if he denied her Divine Maternity, is without any evidence. It's mere conjecture, and is based upon an argument from silence. Yes, we can say that he never used the title in his extant genuine writings, but to go beyond that and make a positive claim is irresponsible.

    In fact, it is unwise for you to be appealing to St. Augustine in matters surrounding the Blessed Virgin. His Mariology is completely opposed to your own, as he clearly affirmed her Perpetual Virginity, her freedom from actual sin, her role as the New Eve, and her Spiritual Motherhood. He also taught, on numerous occasions, that the saints (and by logical extension, Mary) intercede for us, and that they are to be venerated.


    Jack Lake
    Salve Regina Apologetics

  10. exegesis Says:

    Turretinfan's quote from Augustine has no bearing on whether he would have used the term “Mother of God”. Augustine says that she is not mother of his divinity. This is not the term affirmed by the Church. Furthermore, to say that she was the mother of his infirmity does not contradict the term “Mother of God”. Read the first anathema adopted by the Ephesus Council. It says that Mary is the “Mother of God for she bore in a fleshly way the Word become flesh”. Augustine's quote does not in any way rule this statement out. It does not rule out that the “fleshly” person she bore in her womb was also God. She is not the mother of Christ's divinity and that term has never been used of her. She is the mother of the person Jesus who is truly God. And the above commentator is correct. Augustine certainly did hold to traditional mariology, which undermines the Reformed position on Mary

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