The phrase "Maria mater Domini" appears in Pseudo-Papias Fragment X (A fragment attributed by J.B. Lightfoot to Papias of Lombardy, 1040s–1060s, author of the Elementarium Doctrinae Erudimentum, a medieval Latin lexicon). http://www.textexcavation.com/papias.html#extra

What is the earliest critically attested usage of the Latin phrase "Maria mater Domini" (or, its Greek equivalent)?


Surely you can go no further back than the New Testament. After learning the news that she is to be the mother of Jesus, Mary goes to minister to her cousin Elizabeth, who is expecting John the Baptist. Here are the words of Elizabeth's greeting to Mary from Luke 1:42-43:

Εὐλογημένη σὺ ἐν γυναιξίν, καὶ εὐλογημένος ὁ καρπὸς τῆς κοιλίας σου. καὶ πόθεν μοι τοῦτο ἵνα ἔλθῃ ἡ μήτηρ τοῦ κυρίου μου πρὸς ἐμέ;

Jeromes's Vulgate translation is as follows:

Benedicta tu inter mulieres, et benedictus fructus ventris tui. Et unde hoc mihi ut veniat mater Domini mei ad me?

I'm not sure if your question is about the notion of calling Mary "Mother of the Lord" or rather the exact three-word phrase in Latin. The latter question is a bit tough because (as far as I'm aware) this wasn't ever a common Marian formula. You would have much more luck finding references to the "Θεοτόκος" (God-bearer), "Mater Dei," or "Dei Genitrix."

  • As you say, ἡ μήτηρ τοῦ κυρίου is Biblical. The question of whether Mary is in fact the "Mother of God" (Θεοτόκος) and not the mother only of Jesus's humanity but not of his divinity was a central issue in the Christological controversies of the 5th century.
    – fdb
    Feb 15 at 13:02
  • @fdb Yes--I believe "Θεοτόκος" was only defined at Ephesus in 431, though the term goes a couple centuries back from then. Regardless, the term goes way further back than the 10th c. The OP's larger intent isn't really clear from the question itself.
    – brianpck
    Feb 15 at 13:41

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