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Is κεχαριτωμένη synonymous with πλήρης χάριτος?

Why did Jerome translate the Greek word κεχαριτωμένη into Latin as gratia plena (full of grace) in Luke 1:28?

καὶ εἰσελθὼν πρὸς αὐτὴν εἶπεν Χαῖρε, κεχαριτωμένη, ὁ κύριος μετὰ σοῦ.
Luke 1:28 (Westcott and Hort 1881)

Et ingressus angelus ad eam dixit: Ave gratia plena: Dominus tecum
Luke 1:28 (Latin Vulgate)

The phrase πλήρης χάριτος literally means "full of grace" and it occurred twice in the New Testament (John 1:14, Acts 6:8).

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No, it is not. As they are used in the New Testament, πλήρης χάριτος describes one's own character and capacity to bestow favor; κεχαριτωμένος is a designation of God's attitude and actions toward the one so labeled.

Κεχαριτωμένος

χαῖρε, κεχαριτωμένη, ὁ κύριος μετὰ σοῦ.
Greetings, O favored one, the Lord is with you!1

Κεχαριτωμένος is a perfect passive participle (a verbal adjective) derived from χαριτόω, "to show favor". Here it is inflected as a feminine singular in the vocative (addressing) case. The inflected meaning is roughly, "O woman who has been shown favor". No agent is stated as the originator of favor. This is sometimes termed a "divine passive”; the agent is unstated on the grounds that it is obvious to everyone that it is God.

"Χαῖρε" can be understood as either a simple greeting or an exhortation, "rejoice!".

Commentators have seen parallels between Luke 1:28 and certain passages in the Hebrew Bible:

This is much more than a greeting, for this language is often used in the OT with reference to a person chosen by God for a special purpose in salvation history; in such contexts this phrase assures human agents of divine resources and protection.2

Most striking are those that follow a similar formula as the angel’s words to Mary: rejoice! + address + reference to the divine action or attitude to which joy is the proper response. One such parallel is Zephaniah 3:14ff:3

Χαῖρε σφόδρα, θύγατερ Σιων....
Rejoice, O daughter Sion!....

εὐφραίνου καὶ κατατέρπου ἐξ ὅλης τῆς καρδίας σου....
Be glad, and be delighted with your whole heart....

κύριος ὁ θεός σου ἐν σοί,
   δυνατὸς σώσει σε
The Lord your God is in you;
   a mighty one will save you

The point is assurance of divine provision. This is a statement about God's attitude and character and the appropriate response of people; it is not primarily about the the character of the one being greeted. Luke 1:28 follows this pattern.

Πλήρης χάριτος

As pointed out by the OP, there are two uses of the phrase πλήρης χάριτος in the New Testament:

  1. John 1:14-16

    Καὶ ὁ λόγος σὰρξ ἐγένετο καὶ ἐσκήνωσεν ἐν ἡμῖν, καὶ ἐθεασάμεθα τὴν δόξαν αὐτοῦ.... πλήρης χάριτος καὶ ἀληθείας.... ὅτι ἐκ τοῦ πληρώματος αὐτοῦ ἡμεῖς πάντες ἐλάβομεν καὶ χάριν ἀντὶ χάριτος·

    And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory....full of grace and truth....For from his fullness we have all received, grace upon grace.4

  2. Acts 6:8

    Στέφανος δὲ πλήρης χάριτος καὶ δυνάμεως ἐποίει τέρατα καὶ σημεῖα μεγάλα ἐν τῷ λαῷ.
    And Stephen, full of grace and power, was doing great wonders and signs among the people.

In both examples, an implication of the "fullness of grace" is stated:

  1. Because the Word was πλήρης χάριτος, "we have received [he has provided] grace upon grace".

  2. Because Stephen was πλήρης χάριτος, "[he] was doing great wonders”.5

The attribute πλήρης χάριτος, then, refers to one's own capacity to dole out some measure of goodness.

*Χαριτ

The shared root contains the idea of grace or favor. From TLNT entry on χάρις regarding the relationship between subject and object:6

Those who are under obligation strive to find favor with the powerful, who in turn give notice that they have granted the favor that was asked. It is in this sense that God shows mercy and benevolence toward his favored ones; his “grace,” then, is suggestive of loving care and condescension...

Conclusion:
Πλήρης χάριτος (with reference to the divine) denotes one who condescends grant favor; κεχαριτωμένος denotes the one having been so favored.


  1. Quotations are NA28/ESV (New Testament) and Rahlfs/NETS (Septuagint).
  2. Joel B. Green, The Gospel of Luke (NICNT; Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1997).
  3. See also, Zech 9:9; Joel 2:21.
  4. I have no idea why there is a comma in that sentence.
  5. OK, the cause and effect relationship is not fully explicit here, but there is at least an implication that they are related.
  6. Ceslas Spicq, Theological Lexicon of the New Testament. (Hendrickson Publishers, 1994). Quoting here from the portion of the entry discussing divine χάρις. There are other senses, such as that illustrated by the Acts 6:8 example.
  • 1
    This is a very good answer. But you do sidestep the question of why, if κεχαριτωμένος and πλήρης χάριτος do NOT mean the same thing, did Jerome decide to translated the former by the literal rendering (gratia plena) of the latter. – fdb Aug 24 '15 at 9:55
  • You’re right. That’s because I don’t know. I just asked for more information on Christianity.SE. – Susan Aug 24 '15 at 13:35
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Both phrases express the same idea, but with different wording. πλήρης χάριτος is an adjective ("full") followed by a noun in the genitive case ("of grace"). κεχαριτωμένη is the perfect passive participle feminine of a post-classical denominal verb from the same noun χάρις, with the meaning "having grace bestowed on her". It is a nice example for the way that in koine Greek the classes of contracted verbs have been mixed up with each other. ἐχαρίτωσεν in Eph.1.6 implies χαριτόω, but κεχαριτωμένη implies χαριτάω.

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Greek Text and English Translations

Luke 1:28 according to the Nestle-Aland 28th edition Greek text states,

ΚΗʹ καὶ εἰσελθὼν πρὸς αὐτὴν εἶπεν· χαῖρε, κεχαριτωμένη, ὁ κύριος μετὰ σοῦ. NA28, ©2012

English Bible translations translate the Greek word κεχαριτωμένη in a variety of ways:

 __________________________________________________________________________
|             Version                 |         Translation               |
| American Standard Version (ASV)     | thou that art highly favored      |
| English Standard Version (ESV)      | O favored one                     |
| King James Version (KJV), 1769      | thou that art highly favoured     |
| New American Bible, Rev Ed (NABRE)  | favored one                       |
| New American Standard Bible (NASB)  | favored one                       |
| New English Translation (NET)       | favored one                       |
| New International Version (NIV)     | you who are highly favored        |
| New King James Version (NKJV)       | highly favored one                |
| New Living Translation (NLT)        | favored woman                     |
| Revised Standard Version (RSV)      | O favored one                     |
|_____________________________________|___________________________________|

The Greek word κεχαριτωμένη is conjugated from the lemma χαριτόω in the perfect tense, passive voice, participial mood and declined in the feminine gender, nominative case, and singular number. It is related to the Greek noun χάρις primarily meaning “grace, favor.”1 The verb χαριτόω occurs only twice in the Greek New Testament, here in Luke 1:28 and also in Eph. 1:6.2

The Greek –οω Verb

According to Smyth,3

Verbs in -οω are usually factitive, denoting to cause or to make.

Hence, there exist Greek verbs such as (data from LSJ):

  • ἀθανατόω, formed from the adjective ἀθάνατος (“immortal”), and thus meaning “to make immortal.”
  • βαρβαρόω, formed from the adjective βάρβαρος (“barbarous”), and thus meaning “to make barbarous.”
  • γυναικόω, formed from the noun γυνή (“woman”), and thus meaning “to make a woman of; to make womanish or effiminate.”
  • δουλόω, formed from the noun δοῦλος (“slave”), and thus meaning “to make someone a slave; enslave.”
  • ἑνόω, formed from the adjective ἕν, (“one”), and thus meaning “to make one; unite.”
  • ζῳόω, formed from the noun ζῷον (“animal; creature”), and thus meaning “to make/fashion into an animal.”
  • ἡμερόω, formed from the adjective ἥμερος (“tame”), and thus meaning “to make tame.”
  • θυμόω, formed from the noun θυμός (“anger”), and thus meaning “to make angry; provoke.”
  • ἰσχυρόω, formed from the adjective ἰσχυρός (“strong”), and thus meaning “to make strong; strengthen.”
  • κοινόω, formed from the adjective κοινός (“common”), and thus meaning “to make common; share.”
  • λευκόω, formed from the adjective λευκός (“white”), and thus meaning “to make white; whiten.”
  • μονόω, formed from the adjective μόνος (“only; solitary”), and thus meaning “to make alone; to make solitary.”
  • νεκρόω, formed from the adjective νεκρός (“dead”), and thus menaing “to make dead; mortify.”
  • ξυλόω, formed from the noun (“wood”), and thus meaning “to turn into wood; to make of wood.”
  • ὁμοιόω, formed from the adjective ὅμοιος (“like; similar”), and thus meaning “to make like; to make similar.”
  • παλαιόω, formed from the adjective παλαιός (“old”), and thus meaning “to make old.”
  • ῥιζόω, formed from the noun ῥίζα (“root”), and thus meaning “to cause to strike root.”
  • σαρκόω, formed from the noun σάρξ (“flesh”), and thus meaning “to make fleshy.”
  • τελειόω, formed from the adjective τέλειος (“perfect”), and thus meaning “to make perfect; to make complete.”
  • υἱόω, formed from the noun υἱός (“son”), and thus meaning to make into a son.”
  • φιλιόω, formed from the noun φίλος (“friend”), and thus meaning “to make a friend of.”
  • χρυσόω, formed from the noun χρυσός (“gold”) or adjective χρυσοῦς (“golden”), and thus meaning “to make golden.”

However, not all -οω verbs yield the meaning of “to cause or make” something; some -οω verbs yield the meaning of “to fill, endow, or furnish with” something. For example:

Table 1

| Verb (Lemma) | Formed From            | Meaning                     | LSJ  |
| ἀνδρειόω     | ἀνδρεία (“courage”)    | to fill with courage        | 128  |
| διαλφιτόω    | ἄλφιτον (“barley”)     | to fill full of barley meal | 402  |
| ζωόω         | ζωή (“life”)           | to endow with life; quicken | 760  |
| θυόω         | θύος (“burnt sacr.”)   | to fill with sweet smells   | 811  |
| θυρόω        | θύρα (“door”)          | to furnish with doors       | 812  |
| οἰνόω        | οἶνος (“wine”)         | to intoxicate; fill w/ wine | 1208 |
| οὐσιόω       | οὐσία (“being”)        | to invest with being        | 1275 |
| πνευματόω    | πνεῦμα (“wind”)        | to fill with wind; inflate  | 1424 |
| πυλόω        | πύλη (“gate”)          | to furnish with gates       | 1554 |
| στομόω       | στόμα (“mouth")        | to furnish with a mouth     | 1649 |
| τεκνόω       | τέκνον (“child”)       | to have children            | 1769 |
| τριχόω       | θρίξ (“hair”)          | to furnish/cover with hair  | 1825 |
| ψυχόω        | ψυχή (“soul”)          | to endow with a soul        | 2028 |
|______________|________________________|_____________________________|______|

Full of Grace

Jerome translated the Greek New Testament into Latin in a work known as the Latin Vulgate.4 In Luke 1:28, he translated the Greek phrase κεχαριτωμένη into Latin as gratia plena.

XXVIII et ingressus angelus ad eam dixit have gratia plena Dominus tecum benedicta tu in mulieribus. Vulgate

The Latin phrase gratia plena translates into English as “full of grace.” Excluding Luke 1:28, the English phrase “full of grace” occurs twice in some English translations of the Bible, in John 1:14 and Acts 6:8:

  • John 1:14

14 And the Word became flesh, and dwelt among us, and we saw His glory, glory as of the only begotten from the Father, full of grace and truth. NASB, ©1995

ΙΔʹ Καὶ ὁ λόγος σὰρξ ἐγένετο καὶ ἐσκήνωσεν ἐν ἡμῖν, καὶ ἐθεασάμεθα τὴν δόξαν αὐτοῦ, δόξαν ὡς μονογενοῦς παρὰ πατρός, πλήρης χάριτος καὶ ἀληθείας. NA28, ©2012

  • Acts 6:8

8 And Stephen, full of grace and power, was performing great wonders and signs among the people. NASB, ©1995

Στέφανος δὲ πλήρης χάριτος καὶ δυνάμεως ἐποίει τέρατα καὶ σημεῖα μεγάλα ἐν τῷ λαῷ. NA28, ©2012

Both John 1:14 and Acts 6:8 lack a conjugation of the verb χαριτόω, like that encountered in Luke 1:28. Instead, they both have πλήρης χάριτος, a phrase which means “full of grace.” Accordingly, Jerome translated πλήρης χάριτος in both verses into the Vulgate by the Latin phrase plenus gratia, which, like gratia plena, means “full of grace” when translated into English.

  • John 1:14

14 And the Word was made flesh, and dwelt among us, (and we saw his glory, the glory as it were of the only begotten of the Father,) full of grace and truth. Douay-Rheims, 1582

XIV et Verbum caro factum est et habitavit in nobis et vidimus gloriam eius gloriam quasi unigeniti a Patre plenum gratiae et veritatis Vulgate

  • Acts 6:8

8 And Stephen, full of grace and fortitude, did great wonders and signs among the people.

VIII Stephanus autem plenus gratia et fortitudine faciebat prodigia et signa magna in populo Vulgate

If Jerome translated both the Greek phrase πλήρης χάριτος and κεχαριτωμένη into Latin by a declension of the phrase plenus gratia, then this suggests that both πλήρης χάριτος and κεχαριτωμένη have the same meaning and may be translated into English by the same phrase, “full of grace.” But, can these two different Greek phrases actually share the same meaning?

Koine Greek is (was) a flexible language, allowing the author to render a thought with a variety of words. For example, the apostle Paul wrote, «μὴ μεθύσκεσθε οἴνῳ», meaning “do not be drunk with wine,”5 although he could have also wrote, «μὴ οἰνοῦσθε» to convey the same meaning. Similarly, one way to render the idea of being full of grace is πλήρης χάριτος, yet another equally valid way is a conjugation of the verb χαριτόω. The Greek verb χαριτόω, being an –οω verb, theoretically could mean “to make grace; to cause to be grace”; however, these meanings are nonsensical. Consequently, according to the analogy of the verbs listed in Table 1, χαριτόω must mean “to endow or fill with grace,” and when conjugated in the passive voice, it means “to be endowed or filled with grace.” Hence, Jerome was correct by translating κεχαριτωμένη into Latin as gratia plena, meaning “full of grace.” As an –οω verb, χαριτόω can certainly possess the meaning of “to endow or fill with grace.”


Footnotes

1 LSJ, p. 1978
2 In Eph. 1:6, it is conjugated in the 3rd person, singular number, aorist tense, active voice, indicative mood.
3 p. 182, §614
4 The Codex Amiatinus, dated to the 8th century A.D., is the earliest extant manuscript of the nearly complete Latin Vulgate.
5 Eph. 5:18

References

Liddell, Henry George; Scott, Robert; et al. A Greek-English Lexicon. 9th ed. Oxford: Clarendon, 1940.

Nestle-Aland Novum Testamentum Graece. Ed. Aland, Barbara; et al. 28th ed. Stuttgart: Deutsche Bibelgesellschaft, 2012.

Smyth, Herbert Weir. A Greek Grammar for Colleges. New York: American Book, 1920.

  • 1
    Thanks for this, and +1. To me whether “full of grace” is appropriate rests largely on whether that phrase in English conveys the passive idea of the Greek (i.e. the focus is Mary’s status as a recipient of grace rather than an intrinsic quality), which to me it does not. – Susan Oct 19 '15 at 0:56
  • @Susan: Personally, I'm aware of no one (including Catholics) who believes Mary was inherently or intrinsically full of grace. For those in favor of the translation "full of grace," all those I've read understand it as her receiving God's grace, thus making her "full of grace." The issue is, after having thus received God's grace, and being full of grace, can/does Mary bestow that same grace on other Christians? I think there are Catholics who believe that she can, hence she is referred to as "the Mediatrix of all graces." I've not come to any conclusion on that matter. AFAIK, it's not a dogma – user862 Oct 19 '15 at 1:17
  • 1
    Interesting. In the English phrase full of [abstract noun] (e.g. full of energy, full of love, full of wisdom), I think about the emphasis being on a quality of the person, not his/her status as a recipient of said quality. That’s why full of grace seems inappropriate to me. The passive idea present in the Greek is not the expected meaning of that English construction. To my ear anyway. – Susan Oct 19 '15 at 1:23
  • 1
    @Susan, indeed. I can see where you're coming from. But I assure you, no Catholic believes Mary was inherently or intrinsically full of grace, just as we do not believe Stephen was inherently or intrinsically full of grace (cp. Acts 6:8; also, see this thread). – user862 Oct 19 '15 at 1:31
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Yes indeed, the doctrine of the Catholic Church DOES teach that the Blessed Mother was/is "Full of Grace". It is the theological foundation of the Feast of the Immaculate Conception. Four years after the official proclamation by Pope Pius IX, Our Lady appeared to Bernadette Soubrious. When Bernadette asked for her name, the reply came in her own Gascon dialect (“Que soi era Immaculada Concepcion”). She repeated the words to herself all the way back to relay them to her parish priest, Fr. Dominique Peyramale, for fear of forgetting them! Only later was the meaning explained to her, and she realised that her ‘Lady’ was indeed the Mother of God.

Our Lady had also announced her Immaculate Conception to Sister St. Catherine Labouré during the apparitions at the Rue du Bac back in 1830. She also taught Sister Catharine the following prayer:

“O Mary conceived without sin, pray for us who have recourse to Thee”

This teaching of the Church was shared among the early Church fathers. It is based on sound tradition, well-formed theology and Scripture itself. It is confirmed by Our Lady's own pronouncements. Please try not to perpetuate the distortions that are so rampant on the internet. The person who conceives and bears God Incarnate cannot have borne the stain of original sin. When the angel Gabriel addresses Her in Luke 1:28, he is not describing Her; he invokes Her very name among the Heavenly Host, to whom She is known by Her most distinguishing aspect from all other beings. Just as we address the Pope as "Holiness", or the chief executive as "President", out of respect, Gabriel addresses Her by Her title where he hails from : "Full of Grace."

  • I am the former user862. You stated, “Yes indeed, the doctrine of the Catholic Church DOES teach that the Blessed Mother was/is "Full of Grace."”—Right. There's no question about whether it teaches that. The question is what such doctrine implies. Does it imply Mary was intrinsically full of grace, or that this grace was imparted to her from God? Susan’s comment reiterates the question at hand. I am of the opinion that Mary's plenitude of grace was imparted to her from God. She did not intrinsically possess it. – Der Übermensch Jan 6 at 22:23
  • Der Übermensch : – PHILLIP KAPLER Jan 16 at 7:26
  • Welcome to BH.SE! Please take the tour to get a feel for how the site functions. – enegue Jan 18 at 0:13
  • You say, "Gabriel ... invokes Her very name among the Heavenly Host, to whom She is known by Her most distinguishing aspect from all other beings", but Gabriel's words are "blessed art thou among women". You are free to read something else into his words, but you really need to provide further Biblical evidence that they were more than just a declaration (not an invocation) to Mary and other human beings who would hear/read about her, that the "great things done to me" (Mary's words) involved anything other bearing and nurturing a child. – enegue Jan 18 at 0:25

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