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Luke 2:52 (ESV) states that "Jesus increased in wisdom and in stature and in favor with God and man." The word "favor" in this passage is translated from the Greek word "charis" (Strong's G5485), which the Strong's defines as "graciousness (as gratifying), of manner or act."

In my modern, American, English-speaking context, I don't see a straight-forward connection between graciousness and favor, specifically not the kind of favor implied by the common usage of "charisma" (i.e. I don't assume a person who has charisma will necessarily be gracious).

How were "graciousness" and "favor" associated in the ancient Greek context? How is it that the Greek word for "graciousness" also carried a connotation of "favor?"

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Technically speaking, a "charisma" is a God-given talent or grace. The conventional English meaning is derived from that. – lonesomeday Oct 22 '11 at 16:00
Yes, you are correct: the dictionary definition contains that meaning. However, I don't think that would make sense to the average person on the street - not even the average Christian (unless they were charismatic and paying attention). I think I meant in my question to focus on the contextual meaning of the Greek word - let me try to re-phrase my question. – awmckinley Oct 22 '11 at 17:14
up vote 3 down vote accepted

You might be interested in Moral Transformation, page 166ff, in which Wallace and Rusk argue that "charis" did not have the technical sense many now give it, but always meant "favor" in a reciprocity system, or "favorable" as we would understand it, and that most of the passages in which we see "charis" used in a technical sense, it is referring to the favor that God did for us when he sent his son. They cite Malina and Harrison, among others--might be worth reading their sources.

In other words, perhaps it meant "favor" and has come to imply "charisma" instead of the other way around.

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Sounds plausible to me. I wonder if the book is in one of my local libraries... – Jon Ericson Oct 25 '11 at 17:17

There's no doubt that the word is primarily translated as "grace" (130 times in the King James version). However, there are a few times (6 in total) that this word is translated as "favor".

Luke 1:30, Acts 2:47, Acts 7:10, Acts 7:46, and Acts 25:3 are the other five places (beyond the passage in question).

If you look at all six passages, the idea used is having found "grace" with someone, "grace" for someone, or "grace" towards someone.

The idea is always grace in motion.

If we look at the English definition of "favor" it might help make this translation clearer:

Merriam Webster: favor

  1. (1): a friendly regard shown toward another especially by a superior (2): an approving consideration or attention
  2. archaic appearance
  3. a : gracious kindness; also : an act of such kindness

The first definition shows that "favor" is a regard shown toward another. This is the same type of concept shown in the six passages above. Furthermore, the third definition shows that the idea of favor is connected with grace: "gracious kindness".

This link between "favor" and "grace" can also be seen in that second definition of "grace" is "approval, favor".


Ultimately, "finding grace with God and man" and "finding favor with God and man" are the same. If someone offers you grace, then they favor you. If someone finds favor with you, they will offer you grace. These two concepts are inextricably linked, to the point of being able to translate between the two.

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Hmm... not my best work. :\ – Richard Oct 24 '11 at 12:37
One point of confusion in Christian contexts is that grace is a technical term and favor isn't. It would be strange to say that Jesus increased in "grace" with God even though that's what the passage says. Substituting "favor" seems a good idea in this case. – Jon Ericson Oct 24 '11 at 19:32

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