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In Luke 1 vs 28 - 29, why was Mary troubled by the greeting of the angel when it seemed like a favourable greeting?

28 The angel went to her and said, “Greetings, you who are highly favored! The Lord is with you.” 29 Mary was greatly troubled at his words and wondered what kind of greeting this might be.

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  • 3
    Compare with receiving a letter from the President of the United States that begins with "GREETING:". You dread what you expect will follow: "You are hereby ordered for induction into the Armed Forces of the United States, and to report …". Oct 21 at 15:49
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    Or a firing letter that makes it sound like you ave won a prize.....
    – mckenzm
    Oct 21 at 17:56
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The pulpit commentary observes:

Verse 29. - She was troubled; more accurately, she was greatly troubled. Different to Zacharias, who evidently doubted in the mission of the angel, and who required some sign before he could believe, Mary simply wondered at the strangeness of what was about to happen. Her terror at the sudden appearance of the angel, who probably appeared to her as a young man clad in garments of a strange dazzling whiteness, is most natural. Luke 1:29

Gill provides some further information:

she was troubled at his saying; at his speaking to her; she was surprised at the sight of him, and more at what he said to her, and cast in her mind, or thought and reasoned within herself, what manner of salutation this should be; for it was not usual with the Jews for a man to use any salutation to a woman; with them it was not lawful to be done in any shape or form; not by a messenger, nor even by her own husband (u); so that Mary might well be thrown into a concern what should be the meaning of this; and especially, that she should be addressed in such language, and saluted as a peculiar favourite of God, and blessed among women

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  • The second quote seems very reasonable once it's put into historical context. For the rookies among us, would you please expand on "Thye pulpit commentary" and "Gill"? I presume they're Biblical references/commentaries, but not everyone is immediately familiar with them.
    – FreeMan
    Oct 21 at 17:53
  • @FreeMan - you can find a range of commentaries here >> biblehub.com/commentaries/luke/1-29.htm
    – Dottard
    Oct 21 at 20:16
  • Thank you good sir!
    – FreeMan
    Oct 21 at 20:56
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Luke 1:

29 Mary was greatly troubled at his words and wondered what kind of greeting this might be.

In Luke 1 vs 28 - 29, why was Mary troubled by the greeting of the angel?

It was a common reaction when a human saw an angel, even to the point of fear.

Luke 1:

12 And when Zacharias saw him, he was troubled, and fear fell upon him.

Luke 2:

8 And there were shepherds living out in the fields nearby, keeping watch over their flocks at night. 9An angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified. 10But the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid. I bring you good news that will cause great joy for all the people.

Mark 16:

5 As they entered the tomb, they saw a young man dressed in a white robe sitting on the right side, and they were alarmed.

Matthew 28:

1After the Sabbath, at dawn on the first day of the week, Mary Magdalene and the other Mary went to look at the tomb.

2There was a violent earthquake, for an angel of the Lord came down from heaven and, going to the tomb, rolled back the stone and sat on it. 3His appearance was like lightning, and his clothes were white as snow. 4The guards were so afraid of him that they shook and became like dead men.

5The angel said to the women, “Do not be afraid, for I know that you are looking for Jesus, who was crucified.

In Luke 1 vs 28 - 29, why was Mary troubled by the greeting of the angel when it seemed like a favourable greeting?

The initial reaction was feeling alarmed and troubled. After that, she was fine.

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In Luke 1 vs 28 - 29, why was Mary troubled by the greeting of the angel?

There are two things to note about Mary's reaction: the common view of women during that time period and Mary's attitude.

According to Jewish tradition, men were discouraged from talking to women in public: Mishnah Pirkei Avot 1:5

Engage not in too much conversation with women. They said this with regard to one’s own wife, how much more [does the rule apply] with regard to another man’s wife. From here the Sages said: as long as a man engages in too much conversation with women, he causes evil to himself, he neglects the study of the Torah, and in the end he will inherit gehinnom.

This can be seen when Jesus is speaking to the Samaritan woman at the well:

Just then his disciples returned and were surprised to find him talking with a woman. (John 4:27 NIV)

So Mary would have been "greatly troubled" not just because a male was speaking with her, but with the words "Greetings, you who are highly favored! The Lord is with you.”

Mary's attitude is also to be noted. At the end of this conversation Mary says:

“I am the Lord’s servant,” Mary answered. “May your word to me be fulfilled.” Then the angel left her. (Luke 1:38 NIV)

So Mary's humble reaction to hearing the words the angel speaks to her in verse 28 would have "greatly troubled" her.

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Per biblehub.com the word diatarassó, rendered here as greatly troubled, occurs just once in the text.

Strong’s Concordance
 
diatarassó: to agitate greatly
Original Word: διαταράσσω
Part of Speech: Verb
Transliteration: diatarassó
Phonetic Spelling: (dee-at-ar-as'-so)
Definition: to agitate greatly
Usage: I trouble greatly, agitate.

That Mary was greatly troubled by the angel’s praise is indicative of her humility. Mary’s reaction reveals much about her character and contrasts with that of Zechariah’s just a few verses earlier.

And there appeared unto him an angel of the Lord standing on the right side of the altar of incense. 12 And when Zacharias saw him, he was troubled, and fear fell upon him. – Lk 1:11-12 KJV

And the angel came in unto her, and said, Hail, thou that art highly favoured, the Lord is with thee: blessed art thou among women. 29 And when she saw him, she was troubled at his saying, and cast in her mind what manner of salutation this should be. – Lk 1:28-29

Whereas Zechariah was troubled (tarassó) at the sight of the angel, Mary was "greatly troubled" (diatarassó) by his words/greeting. Mary’s reaction is consistent with other passages in the text that show her to be a quietly observant and introspective person.

And all they that heard it wondered at those things which were told them by the shepherds. 19 But Mary kept all these things, and pondered them in her heart. – Luke 2:18-19

And he went down with them, and came to Nazareth, and was subject unto them: but his mother kept all these sayings in her heart. – Luke 2:51

Mary was troubled by and attentive to the words of the angel. She clearly understood that his words constituted a message from God. Both her humility and attentiveness to God’s word are evident in her answer.

And Mary said, Behold the handmaid of the Lord; be it unto me according to thy word. – Luke 1:38

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