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Can someone tell me about the translation of the word κεχαριτωμένη as it appears in the context of Luke 1:28 (where Gabriel greets Mary)? Specifically, is it a special word perhaps reserved to denote a very high status? Or a more common word? As a loose example, in English we might commonly say "yes, sir" to show respect to a customer or police officer but we would reserve "yes, your honor" for a judge. In the two English translations I have it says "favored one" and "favored woman" respectively. It seems a little weak considering the message that was about to be delivered. (In English 'favored' does not necessarily denote unusually high status. My favored beverages are coffee and Newcastle.)

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    Looking at Luke 1:28 only in English Bibles, I'm noticing some considerable differences due to adverbs used (or not used). While some Bibles show only "favored" (NASB, YLT), others have "highly favored" (KJV, ASV); I've also read wording such as "truly blessed" (CEV). While the Bible you're referencing shows only "κεχαριτωμενη", others will show "χαιρε κεχαριτωμενη", and I think just that wording difference will have quite an effect on interpretations here. I'll see what else I'm able to find. – John Martin Jul 6 '14 at 19:16
  • Thanks John. In fact the Greek I am looking (UBS 4th Ed., in McReynold's book) at does say "χαιρε κεχαριτωμενη" translated literally in the McReynolds book as "rejoice, one having been favored". – Pete Jul 6 '14 at 23:37
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Greek word:

Κεχαριτωμένη (source)

Transliteration:

Kecharitomene

Translation:

Literally,” You, who have been graced” (You that are highly favored, KJV)

English:

You (Second Person Singular)

Have (present tense)

Been (past participle of “to be”)

Graced (past participle of “to grace”).

Greek:

KE – perfect tense (prior event/occurrence/happening that is still existing/occurring or happening now)

CHARITO – a gift, something that is free or unmerited

MENE – a female receiver not giver.

The Latin translation “gratia plena” (full of grace, as found in Dhouay-Rheims) is not a literal translation from the Greek.

English translation of the Latin phrase “gratia plena” (Latin Vulgate):

Full of grace (noun)

Literal English translation of the Greek word “kecharitomene”:

You who have been graced (verb)

The Old Latin MSS (A.D. 150-200) had a literal translation of the Greek word “kecharitomene”:

Grafitificata (noun) (source)

English translation of the Latin phrase “grafitificata” (Vetus Latina):

You who have been graced (verb)

The Greek word κεχαριτωμένη in reference to Mary denotes her status as someone who "found favor or grace with God" (Luke 1:30).

The translation "full of grace" (from the Latin Vulgate's "gratia plena")is valid:

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

'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 [full of grace] "is right, if it means 'full of grace which thou hast received'; wrong, if it means 'full of grace which thou hast to bestow' " (A.T. Robertson, Word Pictures in the New Testament, p. 14)

In Catholic Bibles (containing the Deuterocanonicals),there is kecharitomene (a girl who is full of grace ~ Luke 1:28) and kecharitomeno (a boy who is full of grace ~ Sirach 18:17 LXX).

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The context: the greeting itself

God sends an angel, the angel Gabriel to a young virgn, Mary, with a message, a proto-Gosepl, (“for He shall save His people from their sins”) to announce that she will become Θεοτόκος (Theotokos)—God-bearer, or Mother of God (Luke 1:42-43):

Luke 1:26-29

In the sixth month the angel Gabriel was sent by God to a city of Galilee, the name of which was Nazareth, to a virgin betrothed to a man whose name was Joseph, of the house of David; and the name of the virgin was Mary. And having come in unto her, he said: “Hail, full of grace!* The Lord is with thee: Blessed art thou among women.” And at this saying she was troubled, and wondering of sort the salutation was. And the angel said to her, “Fear not, Mary, for thou has found favor* with God. And behold, you will concieve in your womb and bear a son. And you shall call his name Jesus. He shall be great and shall be called the Son of the Most High; and the Lord God will give to him the throne of his father David.”

* Χαῖρε κεχαριτωμένη

* χάριν grace or favor

The bolded prortion we will treat of below.


Aspects of the greeting


Χαῖρε (translated 'Hail')

The Greek word Χαῖρε (chaire) is synonymous with our archaic English word “hail.” It incidentally carries with it a certain 'royal' connotation we associate with the word “hail” in English, as seen by its only other usage in the rest of the New Testament, in reference to Christ’s being a “king” (even though it is used tauntingly, rather than a sincere salutation):

John 19:3

And they came up to him and said, Hail [Χαῖρε], King of the Jews! And they struck him with their hands.

cf. Mk 15:18; Mt 27:29 [Mt 26:49]


κεχαριτωμένη (translated 'full of grace;' 'highly favored' etc.)

The Greek word κεχαριτωμένη (kecharitōmenē) is the word of contention here as regards translation differences. And it is has much to do with the theology of the translator, but only to a degree—no translations of it have been strictly wrong or right since only dynamic translations (“full of..,” “highly..” etc.) are really possibible with such a grammatically rich word. That is, it is difficult to render a single Greek word so rich in meaning (grammatically) into an equivalent word in English: in fact, that is arguably impossible (without being a very ugly translation).

To make matters worse, κεχαριτωμένη is titular, meaning it is actually used as a title, or 'name' for Mary: Gabriel doesn't say, 'Hail, Mary! You are highly favored/full of grace,' He gives Mary a title of sorts: “Hail, κεχαριτωμένη!”


Grammatical aspects of κεχαριτωμένη


This word is a perfect past participle (a participle is a word formed using a verb which has the properties of an adjective, such as 'painted', 'broken'), and is composed of three grammatical features of note to us:

PREFIX κε—

Means the verb is a perfect passive participle tense verb: "having been" root-verb'd; "having had" root-verb happen/done to [you]; being [now a result of being] root-verb'd

e.g.

verb slay —> past participle slain (soldier).

verb burn —> past participle burnt (wood).

(different from an adjective which is usually identical, but which does not imply the perfected sense that a past participle does—slain, and remains dead—no resurrection yet; burnt, and there is no restoring it—and it remains in that burnt state to the present)

ROOT χαριτόω

From the root noun χάρις charisgrace or loosely favor—more specifically the verb form of this, χαριτόω charitoó—I (divinely or not) (en-)grace/bestow grace/show favor)

(dictionary form of Greek words are in the present tense first person singular)

The only other use of this verb in the New Testament is in Ephesians 1:6:

Ephesians 1:5-7

5 He predestined us for our being divinely adopted as sons through Jesus Christ, according to the good pleasure of His will, 6 unto the praise of His glorious grace with which *He graced [ἐχαρίτωσεν echaritōsen]* us in [His] Beloved. 7 In Him we have redemption through His blood: the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of His grace

SUFFIX —μένη

This means the object (Mary) of the action (being engraced) being done by the subject (God) is the passive recipient of the result (being endued/filled with grace) of the action, not actively responsible for it.

e.g. object the wood verb was burnt by the subject flame.

This is the feminine form of this ending. The masculine being —μένός.


In other words, κεχαριτωμένη rendered slavishly literally means “Having-been-graced” (Old Latin rendered it in the Latin equivalent grafitificata). Thus, it means roughly “(Fully-)Graced one.”


But I argue that “Full of grace” (Latin Vulgate grátia pléna) is a defensible translation. Perhaps the most suitable to date. The sense of 'fullness' is not explicit, but implicit. It comes from the tense of the verb, rather than the term 'full' being found anywhere in it—from the sense of completion of the being graced by God, rather than anything else.

I argue that it is valid and even a good translation for the following reasons:

1) Grace vs. Favor interpretation.

You do not 'complete' someone with or in your favor (an attitude or inclination or affection toward them). You can, however, endue/fill them with your grace (God can).

I do not believe Luke 1:30's “have found favor with God” is referring to the same thing as Luke 1:28. I believe Mary found favor with God in that she was chosen to bear His Only-Begotten Son. And that she is, in addition to that—on account of that perogative, as the Ark of the Covenant—also full of God's grace.

2) Sense of fullness vs. High level of favor interpretation.

'Highly favored' means greatly favored. However, there is not implicit a sense of the intensity of the filling with grace, or favor shown.

Where as a sense of 'being now full and complete' is very much implicit: e.g. 'a burnt stick' implies the job of burning it is done and its effects remain to the present, and bears the result of that burning action.

Ephesians 1:6, John 1:14; Acts 6:8 imply nothing of the time of occurence of their being graced or filled with grace, or its lastingness, whereas κεχαριτωμένη is very rich in this regard: Mary was already 'graced' in a completed sense by the time he came to greet her!

The additional confirmation of a 'fullness' or 'completedness' is the ridiculousness of the contrary: 'you who were at one time in the past given grace by God.' That happens to every one. That can't be used as *a new title for Mary.*It is as ridiculous as saying to aformer millionaire now begger, 'Hail, you who at one time had millions.'

It's borderline offensive, or at best, a too mundane a thing for “the angel of the Lord” (Matthew 1:20; Luke 1:26) to say to “the Mother of [the] Lord” (Luke 1:43).

3) It retains the sense which other translations disgard. Namely, the above-mentioned fact of Mary's having been filled with grace, in a completed, hence, “full” sense.


Specifically, is it a special word perhaps reserved to denote a very high status? Or a more common word?


There is no higher status or dignity than the mother of God to begin with, but besides that fact, this is not so much a unique word as its usage or circumstance of usage is.

The same word (except with the masculine ending: —μένός instead of the feminine used in Luke 1:28 —μένη—specifically, the dative form, μέν) is used in Ecclesiasticus/Sirach 18:17:

οὐκ ἰδοὺ λόγος ὑπὲρ δόμα ἀγαθόν καὶ ἀμφότερα παρὰ ἀνδρὶ κεχαριτωμένῳ

Behold, is not a word superior to a gift? yet both are with the κεχαριτωμένῳ man.

St. Jerome in the 4th century actually translates this "justified man" (hómine justificáto), probably because 'the man in a graced state' he equates with a justified state).

This could be argued for on the basis of Ephesians 1:5-7, for example.

It should be understood that the word doesn't mean justified or imply it. But it can be interpreted as meaning that the 'gracedness' is due to being in a state of grace, or, justification. This is what the word meant to St. Jerome here. 'Full of grace' seems to be the normative meaning for him, though.

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The sense in which Mary was graced (not "full of all possible grace," and the word for "full" is not used, as it is for Stephen and Christ) is not because of she possessed surpassing personal virtue, which is nowhere referred to - though no doubt she was a virtuous young women - but contextually it was because the Lord highly favored her, was with her, and graced her above women to be the mother of the Messiah, and which meaning of being graced is shown by her words in the magnificent Magnificat, and not because of anything she was full of.

Secondly, the assertion that Mary was “completely, perfectly, enduringly endowed with grace” is what is being refuted by the able Doctor Luginbill,

Excerpts from responses:

Response #2
In Greek, any given verb can potentially have hundreds of different forms (depending upon how one counts these). Therefore in any highly inflected language – like Greek, Hebrew, Latin, and virtually all of the ancient languages – trying to carry this concept which rightly belongs to core words over to individual forms is ludicrous. The word charitoo is not a true "hapax" in the Bible because it occurs more than 'once' (which is what hapax means), and because of the wide variety of forms any verb or substantive in Greek can manifest it makes no sense to apply this term to an individual form of a word and call it a "hapax"
...
1) "all possible grace" - there is nothing in the root of the verb to introduce the idea of "all possible", and the perfect tense most assuredly does not lend to the base meaning of a verb the idea of perfection implied in the words "all possible".

2) "past present and future" - the perfect tense doesn't say anything about the future; it expresses a present result based upon past action, that is all; the past action does not have to begin at 'the earliest possible time', just prior to the point in question, and, indeed, there is nothing in the verb form to indicate the time of commencement (just as in English, "I have been studying Greek" could mean a week or a decade – but certainly doesn't necessitate one to understand "from conception");

3) "The reason Bible Scholars both Catholic and Protestants translate the way they do is so the translation is flowing" – there is quite a difference between "highly favored" and "Having been Graced with all Possible Grace both past present and future." No version, no dictionary, no serious scholar would ever dream of even interpreting kecharitomene in this way, let alone translating it that way. To do so would be to place one's only speculation in place of what the Greek actually says.

Response #5
Paragraph 1: charitoo is not an "intensified form". When a root is turned into a verb using the omicron contract suffix, it makes the root factitive (i.e., to "make/cause" the idea in the root), not "intensive"; e.g., a mastinx in Greek is a "whip"; mastigoo means "to whip". Hence, since charis means "favor", charitoo means "to bestow favor". In the passive voice as we have in Luke 1:28, it means "having been the recipient of favored bestowed"; as this is an infelicitous phrase in English, the various versions both ancient and modern have attempted smooth out the expression in various ways but, sadly, have often contributed to the misunderstanding of the passage. What this participle means is that Mary "has been the recipient of divine favor". Now it is beyond question a wonderful compliment to be addressed as someone characterized by God's grace/favor, but 1) the passive voice and perfect tense make clear that this is a gift coming from God, not some inherent quality for which she is being recognized; and 2) doesn't have anything to do with sin whatsoever, either the presence or the lack of it – that concept is just not present at all as anyone with a dictionary can easily determine.
...
Paragraph 3: ... there are hundreds upon hundreds of perfect tense forms in the NT alone, and none of them does anything similar to what correspondent is claiming for this one. To use correspondent's specious analogy, saying a building "has been built" does not mean that the building is "perfect and free from fault in any way" (the structural equivalent of being immaculate) – not to mention the fact that a building is a unit of which we have a certain expectation of completeness which is not true of most other things so that any idea of completeness comes from your correspondent's clever choice of vocabulary and not from the verb form. If I "have been loved" by someone, for example, that in no way would even suggest to any rational person that I had been the recipient of "perfect love". Likewise, the Greek perfect merely indicates a present state: "You, Mary, who are the current beneficiary of God's grace". This is a wonderful thing, but does not make Mary singularly unique (and certainly not sinlessly perfect).

Paragraph 4:.. There is and remains not the slightest indication from word kecharitomene of any trace of sinlessness, at least not in text of Luke 1:28. That issue is simply not to be found anywhere in the context, the word, the root, the tense, the voice or the form of the verb in question – or anywhere else in the Bible.

I only provided a portion of the detailed rebuttal, which was still too verbose it seems as this must be, thus for more I will leave you to the link to what provided and the whole page. Once again.

  • Welcome to BH.SE! Please take the tour to get a feel for how the site functions. To begin a quote, use a '>' symbol as the first character of a new paragraph, and end it with a blank line. – enegue Oct 23 '17 at 12:44
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In order to explain how Gabriel addressed Mary, it seems a few words along with “κεχαριτωμένη” need to be considered. Seriously, regarding this being “very high status”, “more common word”, etc.; it’s hard to believe two people could give you the same answer to that specific question.

Christians of various beliefs and Bibles have considerably different interpretations. For example, the following shows Jesus’ mother addressed mostly with “Favored”, often with “highly favored”, but also with "full of grace". http://biblehub.com/m/luke/1-28.htm

Catholics and Orthodox Christians, for example, show “traditional prayer” in their explanations, then ”Hail, Mary, full of grace” and “Rejoice, Mary full of grace”, respectively.
http://traditionalcatholic.net/Tradition/Holy_Mary/Immaculate_Conception,_Scripture_and_Tradition.html http://orthodoxwiki.org/Hail_Mary

Next, some web sites might show Gabriel’s statement as “Hail, thou that art highly favoured” at one point yet “Be joyful” (with) “full of Grace” at another. That's because more than one person is answering the question. http://www.ellopos.net/elpenor/greek-texts/new-testament/luke/1.asp

http://www.ellopos.net/elpenor/koinonia/topic.asp?TOPIC_ID=113

Likewise, another web site shows both “Hail, full of grace” and “Greetings, you who are highly favored!” http://www.newworldencyclopedia.org/entry/Hail_Mary

Partial Explanation: One reason for some of the differences is the Latin Vulgate. Another includes what the word “kecharitomene” is comprised of, along with the tense. http://themichigancatholic.com/2014/05/is-mary-full-of-grace-or-just-highly-favored/

Vulgate: “At the end of the fourth century, Pope St. Damasus commissioned St. Jerome to make a fresh Latin translation of the Bible. When St. Jerome came upon Luke 1:28, he translated the angel’s title for Mary, the Greek word kecharitomene, into the Latin “gratia plena” (“full of grace”). Centuries later, Jerome’s became the official translation of the Catholic Church, and English translations, such the Douay-Rheims Bible and the Knox, rendered it as “full of grace.” “

3 parts of the word: "The word is comprised of three parts: a root, a suffix, and a prefix. Each tells us something important.

The root of kecharitomene is charitoo, which is commonly translated “grace,” a supernatural endowment gratuitously given by God (CCC 1997-1998). Scripture sometimes emphasizes what God gives — a supernatural gift (Luke 2:40, Acts 6:8) — and sometimes why God gives it — His favor or kindness (Acts 13:43, Gal. 1:15). Both are always present, because God’s gift of divine help comes from his beneficence and God’s beneficence is manifested by his divine help — which accounts for the different translations of “grace” or “favor.”

The suffix -mene indicates a passive participle, meaning Mary (the subject) is being acted upon. This is important because it shows Mary did not bring herself into this graced state, but rather it was the action of God — it describes Mary as “she who has been graced [by God].”

The prefix ke- indicates the perfect tense — meaning the action (Mary’s being graced) has been completed in the past with its results continuing in full effect. cripture sometimes emphasizes what God gives — a supernatural gift (Luke 2:40, Acts 6:8) — and sometimes why God gives it — His favor or kindness (Acts 13:43, Gal. 1:15). Both are always present, because God’s gift of divine help comes from his beneficence and God’s beneficence is manifested by his divine help — which accounts for the different translations of “grace” or “favor.” >The suffix -mene indicates a passive participle, meaning Mary (the subject) is being acted upon. This is important because it shows Mary did not bring herself into this graced state, but rather it was the action of God — it describes Mary as “she who has been graced [by God].” > The prefix ke- indicates the perfect tense — meaning the action (Mary’s being graced) has been completed in the past with its results continuing in full effect.

Greek perfect tense (additional): Another article focuses on the use of the Greek tense and shows notes of specialists from different Christian beliefs. http://www.philvaz.com/apologetics/a116.htm

For example…

" '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 [full of grace] "is right, if it means 'full of grace which thou hast received'; wrong, if it means 'full of grace which thou hast to bestow' " (A.T. Robertson, Word Pictures in the New Testament, p. 14)

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

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    So what's the inherent problem; the word doesn't appear in any other ancient Greek writings? Why is there so much freedom in translation here? – Pete Jul 8 '14 at 14:15
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    @Pete I think the "full of grace" translation shows up because of the Vulgate, but I'm not sure it can be defended based on the Greek. As for other uses of the word, check out Ephesians 1:6 for the active form, "he bestowed favor upon." Compare the (perfect) passive participle in our text, "the one upon whom favor has been bestowed." – Susan Jul 8 '14 at 14:50
  • I see that these are the only two places it appears in the NT; Gabriel greeting Mary, and Paul explaining what favor God has bestowed on us in granting us his grace. If that's all we know about this word, to me the facts argue for a much more intense translation than "favored one" and I would tend to agree with the "fancier" translations. – Pete Jul 8 '14 at 16:07
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    @Pete Here's one mentioning a bit about what happened in the 4th century and subsequently, and the Catholic Church reaching its official translation. themichigancatholic.com/2014/05/… – John Martin Jul 8 '14 at 17:49
  • @Pete At the bottom I implemented "Partial Explanation" with part of the Gary Michuta article. Also, another article focuses on Greek perfect tense and gives the same conclusion (from different Christian beliefs). Thanks. – John Martin Jul 9 '14 at 8:54
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The root of this word is the word χἀρις, "grace or favor." The Lithuanian word for this is malonė. By adding the ending οω to χἀρις, we have a verb meaning "to make gracen or favored," χαριτοω. In Lithuanian we have (pa-)maloninti by adding the "-inti" suffix (pa- is a prefix of perfective action) to make gracen, sweeter(coloq.). Its perfective past passive participle of the feminine singular is pamaloninta, "engracenment" or (coloq.) "sweetie" as in "Sweetie, how much do I love thee?"

translating the LKZ (Lithuanian version of the OED.)

malonė noun: 1. kindness, charity, benevolence shown for seniority, a good determining factor, happiness, well 2. mercy; mercy 3. favor given any gift, beneficence 4. rel. God's favor, grace 5. love; loveliness 6. bliss 7. delight

malonus adj.: 1. cute, affectionate 2. granting of satisfaction, joy 3. gracious, good, positive, friendly

maloninti verb = to make into malonė,malonus 1. kindly words, affectionately speak 2. bring pleasure, gladden 3. make pleasant. 4. court, fawn 5. attach, bind in love

pamaloninti verb = perfective of maloninti 1. make more gracious, gracen 2. make pleasurable, engladden 3. talk kindly some 4. snog, hug abit

the perfective past passive participle singular feminine nominative/vocative is "pamaloninta" which is statal like the perfect in Kione and the definitive form is pamalonintoji Thus God has made her the engracenment of mankind, the one he made out with as the real husband of Mary. His "Sweetie"

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