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Mary - “Full of Grace?”

In the following email exchange, the emailer's comments are in black and enclosed in "greater than" and "lesser than" signs. My comments are in red.

Exchange #1

>Hi Gary,

I am trying to understand a RCC position on Mary - "full of grace." They claim this is biblical evidence of her sinlessness and the Immaculate Conception.

 I searched all the version of the Bible shown in the Bible Gateway, and most state "highly favored."

 I noticed that your ALT states:

1:28  And having come in, the angel said to her, “Greetings, [one] having been bestowed grace [or, shown kindness]! The Lord [is] with you. _You_ have been blessed among women.” [cp. Eph 1:6]

 Can you please give me some insight on this passage, and the Greek relationship/translation here?

I appreciate it!

Theresa (a former RC)

Greek word is a perfect, passive participle. The passive indicates the action is done to the subject. And when the active party is not specified, as here, it generally is a "divine passive" meaning God is the active Subject.

So the verse is saying Mary was bestowed or received grace from God. The point is, she is the recipient; she does not have grace to give to others as Catholicism would have it. The Greek word can also mean "favor" or "kindness," so any of these translations would be appropriate.

The cross reference in my version is because Eph 1:6 is the only other place this verb occurs in the NT. The verse reads:

1:6  to [the] praise of the glory [or, splendor] of His grace [or, of His glorious grace], by which He bestowed grace upon [or, showed kindness to] us in the Beloved,

Note, that the same grace that was given to Mary is given to all believers. So there is nothing "special" about Mary's grace.

I hope that all helps.

Exchange #2

>Gary, here is a RC position on the translation [from a correspondence with a Catholic] down below my note.

>> I cannot find a translation with "full of grace" pertaining to Mary. Which one does occur in?<<

[The response stated that the rendering full of grace occurs in the Douay Confraternity Version, Knox’s version, and St. Jerome's Vulgate. It then quoted the following sources for the meaning of the Greek word (kecharitomene) and it’s root charitoo:

Charitoo: akin to charis, to endow with charis, primarily signified to make graceful or gracious, and came to denote, in Hellenistic Greek, to cause to find favour, Luke 1:28, "highly favoured" (margin, "endued with grace") . . . Grace implies more than favour; grace is a free gift, favour may be deserved or gained" (An Expository Dictionary of New Testament Words, by W.E. Vine).

Highly favoured" (kecharitomene). Perfect passive participle of charitoo and means endowed with grace (charis), enriched with grace as in Ephesians. 1:6, . . . The Vulgate gratiae plena is right, if it means 'full of grace which thou hast received'; wrong, if it means 'full of grace which thou hast to bestow'" (Word Pictures in the New Testament, A.T. Robertson).]

It is permissible, on Greek grammatical and linguistic grounds, to paraphrase kecharitomene as completely, perfectly, enduringly endowed with grace (Greek Grammar of the New Testament, Blass & DeBrunner).]

>This is the Catholic position, which as you can see is not only perfectly allowable, but probably is the more accurate.  "Mary, a Virgin not only undefiled but a Virgin whom grace has made inviolate, free of every stain of sin." (Ambrose,Sermon 22:30(A.D. 388))


You should have received my other email by now. In regards to this I have a couple of things to say:

1. If they want to use "full of grace" it still should be rendered as "having been filled with grace" (again a perfect, passive, participle).

2. They would then have to render Eph 1:6 as:

to [the] praise of the glory of His grace, by which He filled us with grace in the Beloved,

The point is, no matter what the translation, whatever is said of Mary MUST be true of all other believers as well. So translate as they will they can't evade the fact that nothing is said of Mary that is not also said of all other believers.

So if Luke 1:28 somehow "proves" Mary is sinless and immaculately conceived, then so are all believers. The first IS true; we are sinless as a result of being forgiven in Christ, but we weren't born that way, and neither was Mary.

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