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Gabriel addressed Mary as "O favored one" in Luke 1:28 (ESV).

From Strong's, according to http://blueletterbible.org:

χαριτόω charitóō, khar-ee-to'-o; from G5485; to grace, i.e. indue with special honor:—make accepted, be highly favoured.

Did he speak Greek? or is this just how the Gospel writer recorded it? (I would think Mary was fluent in Aramaic. Was she familiar with Greek, as well?)

The word is only used in one other verse, so it seems uncommon.

Did she have any context for understanding the word Gabriel was using? If so, where would her biblical understanding of that designation have come from? (Is there an equivalent word in the penteteuch, Psalms or prophets?)


2 Answers 2


It is generally understood that the sayings in the Gospels were in Aramaic, and there is no need to make an exception here. The Eerdmans Bible Dictionary (revised edition of 1987 edited by Allen C. Myers), on page 72 states: "It is generally agreed that Aramaic was the common language of Palestine in the first century A.D. Jesus and his disciples spoke the Galilean dialect, which was distinguished from that of Jerusalem (Matt. 26:73)." Although, Hebrew was the liturgical language of the synagogue, and Nazareth was close to Sepphoris - a Hellenized city where Greek was spoken.

According to Rodney Stark, in The Triumph of Christianity: How the Jesus Movement Became the World's Largest Religion (HarperCollins: New York. 2011), page 53: Jesus "usually preached in Aramaic, but in Hebrew to more sophisticated audiences. Some scholars believe that he also spoke Greek, since Nazareth is only about five miles from Sepphoris, then the capital of Galilee and a Greek-speaking city."

Aramaic was a Semitic language, more closely related to Hebrew than Greek. Looking to the Old Testament, we find an expression similar to that used in the annunciation to Mary - ִמְצֹא־חֵ֖ן בְּעֵינֵ֥ (m'tzo khane b'tzeneh) - and means "find favor in the eyes of." (Brown, Driver and Briggs, page 336). This is found under the entry for חֵ֖ן (khane), which is Strong's #2580, meaning "favour, grace." (BDB)

One Old Testament account which is a forerunner to the conception of Jesus is that of the conception of the prophet Samuel. His mother's prayer on that occasion is the basis for Mary's magnificat. (Compare 1 Sam. 2:1-10 with Luke 1:46-55.) After praying for a son, Samuel's mother Hannah requested of the high priest Eli: "Let your servant find favor in your eyes," using the Hebrew expression discussed above. (1 Sam. 1:18, ESV, emphasis added) Or, in the KJV: "Let thine hand maid find grace in thy sight." The contrast between the two women is that Hannah wanted to find favor in the eyes of a man, but Mary had found favor in the eyes of God.

So in conclusion, Gabriel told Mary (either in Hebrew or Aramaic) that she had found favor in the eyes of God.

  • 2
    There is a pattern here that cannot be ignored. The conceptions of Isaac, Samson and Samuel were all miraculous in that the women were "barren" and needed divine intervention. It is true they were not virginal conceptions. Mary's magnificat is patterned after Hannah's prayer, and therefore it is reasonable to look for other correspondencies.
    – Pilgrim
    Commented Oct 25, 2017 at 12:20
  • @Nigel J Do you consider the "answer"ing of Zechariah's "prayer" resulting in the fertility of Elizabeth 'natural'? Commented Oct 25, 2017 at 14:28
  • 1
    @Nigel J By "forerunner" I do not intend equality. John the Baptist is commonly referred to as the "forerunner" of Jesus, but there is no intention that the two are on a par.
    – Pilgrim
    Commented Oct 25, 2017 at 14:30
  • @Pilgrim Yes, that thought (John the Baptist) occurred to me as well. I am just trying to be careful about terminology. And especially in such an important matter as the birth of Jesus Christ. I have deleted my first comments.
    – Nigel J
    Commented Oct 25, 2017 at 14:55
  • 1
    I don't think it's accurate to say it is 'generally understood that the sayings in the Gospels were in Aramaic'. The unanimous consensus is that Luke was composed in Greek. There is also growing thought that internal and external evidence suggests Luke's birth narrative was an addition (as late as the mid-second century), further distancing it from the possibility of an Aramaic original.
    – user2910
    Commented Oct 25, 2017 at 14:56

There are seven blessings pronounced upon Mary, in all.

Three are from Gabriel who says 'favoured', or it may be translated 'highly favoured', the word recorded by Luke, in Greek, being charitoo, Luke 1:28. Then the word eulogeo, 'blessed' is recorded, of Gabriel's words, in 1:28. And finally, the word charis is recorded 'favour with God' in 1:30.

Simeon also blesses Mary and the child, eulogeo being the Greek record.Luke 1:34.

Elisabeth is recorded saying 'blessed art thou among women' with the word eulogeo; then 'blessed is she that believed' using makarios. Luke 1:42 and 45.

Lastly, and seventhly, Mary states that all generations shall count her 'blessed', makarizo being the Greek record. Luke 1:48.

Mary was closely related to Elisabeth, the word suggenia suggesting, possibly, cousin, but not necessarily. Elisabeth was of the daughters of Aaron; thus Mary must have had at least one parent who was of the tribe of Levi. Elisabeth lived in the hill country of Judaea, almost certainly Kirjath Arba, which is Hebron, the city given to the Levites out of Judah's inheritance.

Thus, presumably, Mary grew up in Hebron, among those who were descended of Aaron and Levi, and would, certainly, have spoken Hebrew. Later she is found in Nazareth as an adult where she may well have, also, spoken the dialect Aramaic which is Hebrew mixed with Chaldee, the result of the Babylonian captivity. Galilee was also called, 'Galilee of the Gentiles' being close to, and influenced by, Greek speakers.

Hebrew, Chaldee and Aramaic are dialects, not distinct languages. Anyone who knows one will speak, or pick up, the others.

It would not be unreasonable to suppose that the Archangel, come to make a most singular announcement to a woman of the tribe of Levi, and perhaps, like Elisabeth, being also a daughter of Aaron, would have spoken - assuming this was a matter of audibly conducted speech - in Hebrew.

In which case I expect the word which Mary heard would have been chen, or a derivative of chen, the Hebrew equivalent of charis.

But there still remains the matter of the word charitoo, the precise one recorded by Luke to document the wording. It is only used once more in scripture, in Ephesians 1:6, 'accepted in the beloved'. Some concordances list the word twice in Ephesians due to the KJV translation 'made accepted' which is two words, requiring two listings.

Thayer's Lexicon says of charitoo : to pursue with grace, compass with favor; to honor with blessings

Liddell & Scott (1864 American Edition) gives 'highly favoured' and mentions that it is used in the Septuagint but I have not been able to determine where. It may be an apocryphal book.

This subject is dealt with in detail here :

Translation of Luke 1:28 "Greetings, favored one!"

The first answer is the one that was accepted and it is quite comprehensive.

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