What Do We Mean By Full of Grace?

No greeting has ever been more troubling—or controversial.

Hail Mary, full of grace.

The words are beautiful, angelic, and rich in meaning. They are also a centuries-long fault line between Protestants and Catholics. Everything, it seems, hangs upon what is meant by full of grace, or whether full of grace is even the correct translation of Luke 1:28. In Latin, the phrase becomes two words: plena gratia. In the original Greek, it’s just one, the phonetically unwieldy but potent in meaning verb, kecharitōmenē.

The case for the Catholic reading of this is not only far more compelling than Protestant critics will let on, but also far stronger than many Catholics today probably realize.

But first, a word about how to read Scripture. A common Protestant critique is that it is irresponsible for Catholic apologists to read so much into just one word, phrase, or a single verse. It’s something we often hear in familiar Catholic-Protestant debates. Does the rock in Matthew 16:18 refers to Peter (the Catholic position) or his faith (the Protestant claim)? Or what is the meaning of “is” in the words of institution at the Last Supper? No matter how convincing the Catholic claim becomes, it becomes the ultimate fallback for the Protestant skeptic: one verse can hardly be the foundation for an entire dogma.

Setting aside for the moment that the dogmas at issue in the above debates actually have broad Scriptural support, such criticisms are extraordinarily disingenuous for a group that has made Sola Scripture the shibboleth of faith. It’s also out of character with the spirit of the early Church. Take this reflection from one Church Father, St. Basil:

Every deed and every word of our Savior Jesus Christ is a canon of piety and virtue. When thou hearest word or deed of His, do not hear it as by the way, or after a simple and carnal manner, but enter into the depths of His contemplation, become a communicant in truths mystically delivered to thee.

Basil is talking about Christ’s words in particular, but his statement could just as easily describe how the Church has traditionally approached all Scripture. They are just a few words, but God’s declaration to Moses in Exodus 3:14—I am Who I am—have shaped centuries of theological thought about God’s being. Christ is referred to as the Word just four times in Scripture (John 1 and 1 John 1), but Christology today is unthinkable without the epithet. The same goes for Christian anthropology and Genesis 1:27 (man was made in the “image” and “likeness” of God).

Now let’s return to Luke 1:28. The theological debate begins with a textual question. What exactly does Luke 1:28 say? Is he talking about grace, that most potent of theological words? Or is Mary simply ‘favored’ by God, as so many Protestant translations read?

Some evangelical Protestant apologists will play a semantic shell-game. They seize upon the fact that full of grace is taken from the Latin plena gratia, not directly from the Greek text. Full of grace, they point out, appears in the Greek in two other verses, not this one. (Click here to see one example.) The argument is presented as a rebuttal of the Catholic position and it plays neatly into Protestant stereotypes about Catholics not knowing their Bibles.

This raises the question as to how to translate the word at issue (kecharitōmenē) in the first place.  The word is a form of the verb charitoō. This word should look familiar, even to non-Greek speakers. It’s where we get our word charisma, which refers to someone’s gift as a leader. In ancient Greek, the companion noun was charis, the stock New Testament word for grace. Although it’s sometimes translated as favor, it overwhelmingly is rendered in the King James Bible as grace. (Out of 156 instances, 132 read as grace, while just 7 are favor. Most of the rest appear to be translated as a form of thanks.)

We are right to suspect that charitoō then has something to do with grace as we understand it. And that’s exactly how it’s defined. Vine’s Expository Dictionary of New Testament Words defines the verb this way: “to endow with charis, primarily signified ‘to make graceful or gracious,’ … ‘to cause to find favor.’” Thayer’s Greek Lexicon puts it this way: “to pursue with grace, to compass with favor.” Another dictionary drops “favor” altogether and gives us this definition: “kecharitōmenē … means endowed with grace.”

However, these definitions do leave it open-ended as to whether grace or favor is the way to go. Although favor and grace have related meanings they remain distinct. In a theological context, grace is a free and unmerited gift of God. Grace is something given to someone. Usually we think of a favor as something done for someone else. So which way do we go in Luke 1? Unlike the noun, the verb is used only one other time in the New Testament, so we don’t have too many verses to guide us on how it’s used. (For the record, the other instance is Ephesians 1:6 and the most common translation is grace.)

Fortunately, the text does not leave us hanging. After Mary’s initial apprehension, the angel tells her, “Fear not, Mary, for thou hast found grace with God” (Luke 1:30). Grace here is the noun charis, which we’ve already established usually means grace and only rarely favor (in the New Testament at least). If Luke 1:28 was unclear, Luke 1:30 is our clarification. This should settle it. We’re talking about grace.

Now our question becomes: How much grace did Mary receive and when? The dogma of the Immaculate Conception holds that Mary was fully graced from the moment of conception, that through the grace of God, Mary’s life was one without sin. Is this supported by Luke 1:28?

For the answer, we now turn from the dictionary to the grammar book. As mentioned above kecharitōmenē is a form of the verb charitoō. Our focus will be on the tense. A verb tense at the most basic level refers to the time of action. “I wrote an article” is an example of the past tense. “I am writing” is present and “I will write” is future. Now in ancient Greek there were more than just these three simple tenses. There were other tenses that tell us something about the action done and its enduring impact. And that’s where things get exciting.

Kecharitōmenē is the “perfect” tense of charitoō. According to Herbert Weir Smyth’s A Greek Grammar for Colleges—still the bible for Greek grammar today—defines the perfect tense this way: “The perfect denotes a completed action the effects of which still continue in the present.” So Mary received grace in some complete way and remains completed in that grace. We’re coming awfully close to the Catholic dogma.

Or are we reading too much into this? Here’s the conclusion two scholars draw: “It is permissible, on Greek grammatical and linguistic grounds, to paraphrase kecharitōmenē as completely, perfectly, enduringly endowed with grace” (Blass and DeBrunner, Greek Grammar of the New Testament, as cited by Catholic apologist Phil Vaz here).

Indeed, to say that Mary was “completely, perfectly, enduringly endowed with grace” is not only a restatement of the dogma of the Immaculate Conception, it also points forward to the traditional teaching that Mary is a “Mediatrix of all graces” (yet to be dogmatically defined). If anything, “full of grace,” seems to understate what the Greek text is saying. But “filled completely, perfectly, and enduringly” is a mouthful, so it’s easy to see why the Vulgate went with the more poetic approximation “full of grace.”

By turns the dictionary, concordance, and grammar argue for the Catholic reading of Luke 1:28.

Three facts from the narrative seal the case. First, as St. Thomas Aquinas notes in his commentary on the Hail Mary, the angel’s reverent salutation of Mary is a complete reversal of roles from the Old Testament, in which men revered angels. Such reverence was due to angels because angels have a spiritual and incorruptible nature, are more familiar with God, and “partake most fully of the divine light.” In revering Mary, then, then Angel Gabriel is showing that she surpasses the angels in these three aspects. Only someone “full of grace” could merit such extraordinary reverence.

Second, in the Greek text, as Aquinas points out, Mary’s name is missing from Luke 1:28. The text literally reads as “Hail, full of grace.” Mary has become so “full of grace” that it has consumed her completely—it has become more who she is even than even her very name.

This omission makes the most sense if we translate the verb as grace and not as favor. A favor does not involve the interior man (or woman). It chiefly is concerned with their exterior circumstances. I can do a favor for you without changing who you are (for example, buy you a car, or get you a job). God’s grace changes who we are. Grace implies a spiritual state or interior condition (hence the phrase “state of grace”). One can imagine, then, that someone could be in such an intensive state of grace that it defines their whole personality.

Third, Mary’s reaction to the angel’s words is a giant clue as to their significance. Here is the text again (Douay-Rheims translation):

[28] And the angel being come in, said unto her: Hail, full of grace, the Lord is with thee: blessed art thou among women. [29] Who having heard, was troubled at his saying, and thought with herself what manner of salutation this should be. [30] And the angel said to her: Fear not, Mary, for thou hast found grace with God.

[31] Behold thou shalt conceive in thy womb, and shalt bring forth a son; and thou shalt call his name Jesus. [32] He shall be great, and shall be called the Son of the most High; and the Lord God shall give unto him the throne of David his father; and he shall reign in the house of Jacob for ever. [33] And of his kingdom there shall be no end. [34] And Mary said to the angel: How shall this be done, because I know not man? [35] And the angel answering, said to her: The Holy Ghost shall come upon thee, and the power of the most High shall overshadow thee. And therefore also the Holy which shall be born of thee shall be called the Son of God.

This is a lot to take in. Mary is “blessed among women.” Her son will be the “Son of the Most High” and a king after David. And she will do this while remaining a virgin. Instead, she will conceive by the “power of the most High.” Terror-inducing words for any mortal ears, not to mention an unmarried teenage virgin. Readers may recall that Mary was “troubled” by the words of the angel.

But go back and read at what point she was “troubled.” Mary’s apprehension comes before the angel foretells the birth of Christ and His kingdom. It comes after just this one line: Hail, full of grace, the Lord is with thee: blessed art thou among women. One wonders, were this just an act of divine “favor” what would be so troubling to Mary? Favors are always welcomed, never feared. Divine grace, on the other hand, is powerful, awesome, even fearsome.

The doctrine of the Immaculate Conception can indeed be “troubling.” Our best response, however, is to follow the example of Mary and accept God’s words in faith.

Stephen Beale


Stephen Beale is a freelance writer based in Providence, Rhode Island. Raised as an evangelical Protestant, he is a convert to Catholicism. He is a former news editor at GoLocalProv.com and was a correspondent for the New Hampshire Union Leader, where he covered the 2008 presidential primary. He has appeared on Fox News, C-SPAN and the Today Show and his writing has been published in the Washington Times, Providence Journal, the National Catholic Register and on MSNBC.com and ABCNews.com. A native of Topsfield, Massachusetts, he graduated from Brown University in 2004 with a degree in classics and history. His areas of interest include Eastern Christianity, Marian and Eucharistic theology, medieval history, and the saints. He welcomes tips, suggestions, and any other feedback at bealenews at gmail dot com. Follow him on Twitter at https://twitter.com/StephenBeale1

Subscribe to CE
(It's free)

Go to Catholic Exchange homepage

  • BillinJax

    Today, as we are having our faith tested and our very spiritual lives challenged on all sides by the seen and unseen forces of Evil, we need all the help we can get to hold on to the traditions and teaching which have kept the lamps of truth and light burning over the centuries for the children of God.

    Unfortunately many of us, through the scattering of the flock, lost all appreciation of and devotion to Our Blessed Mother. It is particularly shameful that so many Catholics, both
    practicing and non-participating, have chosen to leave even the “Mother of God”
    out of their daily lives and prayers. Mary was, is, and always has been the new
    Eve and spiritual womb through which we were graciously given passage to be
    born again anew and become brothers and sisters with Christ. We, in Faith,
    accept and believe in the real presence of the Eucharist so why would this be
    so hard to understand and accept.

    My Mother Mary…….yes, that Mary…
    ….who was living a simple life dedicated to serving the God
    of Israel from her very early Immaculate childhood.

    …who was full of grace and awaiting the angel’s salutation
    to share a child with the Holy Spirit and cherish and carry our Lord in her
    womb for nine months that He might carry the Cross of Salvation for all of us.

    …who, in union with God’s plan, willfully in true charity
    and sacrifice accepted the prophecy, announced on her son’s first visit to the
    temple by Simeon, that because of this child her heart would be pierced like
    none before her.

    …who cared for and nourished that child sharing house, home,
    and daily family and personal exchanges of love and devotion with Him for
    thirty years as He grew to manhood.

    …whose mutual love
    had so entwined its trust in her young son that it would allow Him leave of her
    during the journey of faithful from Jerusalem for nearly two days in their
    humble land (a preview of his passion and burial) until she would become aware
    of His absence from friends and her own loving care.

    …who, as His closest companion over many years, knew exactly
    where to look for Him upon her return to Jerusalem.

    …who would accept His decision to “be about His Fathers
    work” but with a mothers love guided His youthful ambitions to a more proper
    time and place for fulfillment where at her wish and petition He initiated His
    ministry with the miracle at the wedding feast of Canna.

    …who faithful to words of God to Simeon had to watch with a
    bleeding heart the horrid brutality thrust upon her child during His powerful

    …and finally that Mary, who though weeping in sorrow would
    be so willing to lovingly listened to and carry out her son’s dying request
    along side the disciple whom He loved well that she now take John under her
    wing in place of Him and that John in turn protect and defend her among men
    until she rejoined her son the Prince of Peace in heaven.

    This Mary, the world’s very first “Christian”, is my mother
    and should be recognized in faith as truly the mother of all Christians.

  • Ed Snyder

    Excellent Bible study. Thanks! 🙂

  • noelfitz

    I find articles here excellent, and consider that any one by Stephen Beale will be solid and thoughtful.

    But I respectfully disagree with him here. The Immaculate
    Conception was not defined dogmatically until 1854 and Mediatrix of All Graces
    has not been defined. So reading later theological ideas into Luke 1:28 is not appropriate.

    I have looked at almost 50 translations of this verse. Most modern versions seem to have ‘favored one’ or similar, for example the Catholic version of the NRSV and the NAB,
    which is solidly Catholic.

    So saying Protestants hold ‘favored one’ and Catholics ‘Full of Grace’ is not the full story.

    Please let me know if you disagree with me.

  • Stephen Beale

    Dear Noel,

    I always appreciate your thoughtful comments and you are right, we disagree on this one.

    I said early on that most translations that are Protestant use highly ‘favored’ or some version because of their obvious anti-Catholic bias. My guess is most of the 50 you looked at were Protestant editions.

    As for the few Catholics ones, you are right the NAB does have ‘favored.’ I think the translators do a enormous disservice to Catholic readers. I could only speculate as to their motives. (Ecumenical sensitivity? Modernist influences?) If you’re looking at the NAB, Revised Edition, I disagree that that is a reliable one to use. The NAB, Rev. Ed. is littered with footnotes and introductory texts which undermine the inerrancy and traditional understanding of traditional authorship. I will post a link about that from an archdiocesan Web page. If you look at the Douay-Rheims, it uses ‘full of grace.’ That’s taken from the Vulgate which has been in use for centuries, certainly longer than the NAB.

    More importantly, after all the analysis and authorities I cite above, I’m honestly a bit befuddled as to why you are still trusting the NAB version. What about what I said above was unconvincing? Where does the analysis fail? Which authorities that I cite are not credible?

    Furthermore, I strongly disagree that the Immaculate Conception is a “later theological idea.” This had been believed for most of the history of the Church, going back to the Fathers. It was just not dogmatically defined until later. If you want I can post a resource on the different levels of faith. But basically something can be widely believed without necessarily being dogmatically defined. I would argue the Immaculate Conception is rooted in Luke 1:28, rather than it being read into Luke 1:28.

    Finally, this is a big, big deal. If ‘full of grace’ is the wrong translation then we should not be saying the Haily Mary in its current form, as it is taken directly from Scripture. If ‘full of grace’ is the wrong translation, then we have just lost one of our greatest Scriptural supports for the dogma of the Immaculate Conception, thereby weakening it and leaving it vulnerable to (false!) criticisms that it is unbiblical.

    Stephen Beale

  • Stephen Beale

    Here is an explanation of multiple problems with the NAB. And this isn’t from some fringe trady site. It’s on the blog for the Archdiocese of Washington! Note that the author specifically cites the translation of Luke 1:28 as problematic and says that ‘full of grace’ is more accurate. http://blog.adw.org/2011/03/reflection-on-the-soon-to-be-released-new-american-bible-revised-edition/

  • Some more insights, I believe, can be added to these excellent observations by Mr. Beale, from the also excellent book, “Mary in the Mystery of the Covenant”, by Ignace de la Potterie, SJ. (Alba House, New York 1992. p. 17-20). I post one paragraph:

    …..(begin block quote)…..
    The verb utilized here by Luke (charitoun) is extremely rare in Greek. It is present only two times in the New Testament: in the text of Luke on the Annunciation (Lk 1:28) “kecharitôménê,” and in the Epistle to the Ephesians (Eph 1:6), “écharitôsén.” In both cases a form of the verb “charitóô” is used. The verbs in “óô” are causative; they indicate an action which effects something in the object. Thus, for example, “leukóô,” to whiten; “doulóô,” to reduce to slavery , to enslave; “eleutheróô,” to render free, to free. These verbs, then, effect a change of something in the person or the thing affected. Thus, the radical of the verb “charitóô ” being “charis” (=grace), the idea which is expressed is that of a change brought about by grace. In addition, the verb used by Luke is in the past perfect participial form. “Kécharitôménê” signifies then, in the person to whom the verb relates, that is, Mary , that the action of the grace of God has already brought about a change. It does not tell us how that came about. What is essential here, is that it affirms that Mary has been transformed by the grace of God.
    …..(end block quote)…..

    I was greatly helped by the fact of the causitive ending in the verb used: the grace that Mary was given, caused an effect in her – a change was made in her, by God – and this, before the Annunciation itself. Before the angel came to her, God had accomplished something in her. “Mary has been transformed by the grace of God.”

    Fr. de la Potterie continues in a later paragraph:
    …..(begin block quote)…..
    In what then would this transformation of grace consist? According to the parallel text of the Letter to the Ephesians 1 :6 the Christians have been “transformed by grace” in the sense that “according to the richness of his grace, they find redemption by his blood, the remission of sins” (Eph 1 :7). This grace, in reality, takes away sin. This is elucidating for our particular case. Mary is “transformed by grace,” because she has been sanctified by the grace of God. It is there, moreover, in the Church’s tradition that we have the most customary translation. Sophronius of Jerusalem, for example, interprets the term “full of grace” in this manner: “No one has been fully sanctified as you…: no one has been purified in advance as you.”
    …..(end block quote)……

    A possible translation it seems to me, then, of the Angel’s opening words to Mary, including the alternative sense in “Hail!” as “Rejoice!” could be:

    “Rejoice, ‘One having been Transformed by Grace unto Holiness,’ the Lord is with you!”

  • Daniel BearMan Stewart

    Great piece!

  • Stephen Beale

    Thank you so much! If I had had this source I would have certainly included it in the article. Thanks for sharing.


  • Most excellent article, enduringly and completely endowed with helpfulness. I consider it helpful for my family and for general discussion with protestants.

  • noelfitz

    Dear Stephen,

    I really am most grateful to you for your reply to me. Thank you so much.

    You are correct that most of the versions I looked up were Protestant, as I used BibleWorks 9. However today I looked up my The Jerusalem Bible and it has “so highly
    favoured”. I admit the Douay-Rheims 1899 American Edition has “full of grace”. I
    have also looked up my copy of the Navarre Bible, which has “full of grace”,
    with a footnote (without comment) of “Or O favoured one”. The Navarre Bible
    claims to use the RSV, but my BW9 gives “favored one!” for the RSV.

    I have read Msgt Charles Pope’s reflection and the comments and I appreciate the reference.

    Perhaps discussing the Immaculate Conception is not relevant to translating Luke 1:28. I agree with what you say, mostly. However did St Thomas deny the Immaculate
    Conception he “The Blessed Virgin did indeed contract original sin.” [Summa theologiae IIIa, q. 27, a. 2, ad 2], but until a dogma is defined one has freedom of opinion.

    We are not a Sola Scriptura people, so as a Cradle Catholic perhaps I am more relaxed about Scripture than those of a Protestant background.

    “Full of Grace” is not wrong, it is a possible translation, but perhaps “favoured one” is preferable.

    I do not believe in the Immaculate Conception because it is in the Bible. It is dogmatically defined by the infallible Church.

  • Chris

    Great post Stephen–although from my understanding she was already married to Joseph–I will quote St. Ambrose and Origen below:

    AMBROSE; Scripture has rightly mentioned that she was espoused, as well as a virgin, a virgin, that she might appear free from all connection with man; espoused, that she might not be branded with the disgrace of sullied virginity, whose swelling womb seemed to bear evident marks of her corruption. But the Lord had rather that men should cast a doubt upon His birth than upon His mother’s purity. He knew how tender is a virgin’s modesty, and how easily assailed the reputation of her chastity, nor did He think the credit of His birth was to be built up by His mother’s wrongs. It follows therefore, that the holy Mary’s virginity was of as untainted purity as it was also of unblemished reputation. Nor ought there, by an erroneous opinion, to be left the shadow of an excuse to living virgins, that the mother of our Lord even seemed to be evil spoken of. But what could be imputed to the Jews, or to Herod, if they should seen to have persecuted an adulterous offspring? And how could He Himself say, I came not to abolish the law, but to fulfill it, if He should seem to have had his beginning from a violation of the law, for the issue of an unmarried person is condemned by the law? Not to add that also greater credit is given to the words of Mary, and the cause of falsehood removed? For it might seem that unmarried becoming pregnant, she had wished to shade her guilt by a lie; but an espoused person has no reason for lying, since to women child-birth is the reward of wedlock, the grace of the marriage bed. Again, the virginity of Mary was meant to baffle the prince of the world, who, when he perceived her espoused to a mall, could cast no suspicion on her offspring.

    ORIGEN; For if she had had no husband, soon would the thought have stolen into the Devil’s mind, how she who had known no man could be pregnant. It was right that the conception should be Divine, something more exalted than human nature.

  • Edward Mulholland

    Excellent points. The absence of Mary’s name also indicates her mission and role within Salvation history, as with Gideon in Judges 6:12. (Hail, the Lord is with you, might warrior.)

    One correction. Although the Archangel is revering Mary as St. Thomas says, she does not surpass the angels in all three aspects mentioned by St. Thomas, since she is not of a spiritual and incorruptible nature. (Were it so, Mary would not possess a body naturally.)

    Grammar-wise, it would be easy to think that one could translate the Greek perfect participle with the Latin perfect participle, thus rendering “kecharitôménê” “gratiata” or something similar. Beyond Latin not having an exactly equivalent verb, the fact is that the Latin perfect participle merely indicates that the action is completed with reference to the present. New Testament Greek participles indicate more the type of an action than the time of an action. So the Vulgate got it right with “gratia plena.”

    As Thomas Richard pointed out, the verb “charitóô” is only used twice in the New Testament, but only in Luke 1:28 is it in the perfect tense.

    It is also in the Septuagint (Sirach 18:17) in the perfect tense. For a good discussion of the grammar and a comparison of various translations, see http://digilander.libero.it/domingo7/kekaritomene.htm.

  • mollysdad

    The only woman capable of surviving the coming of the Holy Spirit in power – this because she was completely without sin.

  • jdr

    behold, from now on will all ages call me blessed. Definition of blessed – holy,sacred. The definitions of holy and sacred should convince anyone with an honest heart how to understand what was being said in the Gospel of Luke.

  • Rene

    Not every dogma of the Faith is necessarily explicit or deduced directly from the Sacred Scripture. Remember the Vatican II says that the Word of God is both oral and written. As far as some dogmas of the faith defined by the Magisterium they always have their root and source in Divine Revelation and the Word of God and through the Scriptures all that may be excellent grounds for the Solemn definition of truth is that it does not contradict the statement to be declared as De Fide. Hence, it can and is argued that the Immaculate Conception is not contradicted by the Sacred Scripture and hence it supports it since it was upheld before its definition by a different school. Once you narrow down to it, Aquinas’ contribution to the debate Did help to favor the triumph of its definition by upholding a different opinion, when it was opened for debate and through clearing the necessary distinctions that eventually strengthen the outcome. Really he only held that the instant of conception was not free from original sin due St Paul’s All men have sinned and in Adam All sinned. But it was always upheld that She was saved from Original Sin….although Aquinas upheld She was first conceived in OS and immediately saved. Scotus and victors upheld She was preserved at the instant of conception, but always redeemed and saved from Original Sin.

  • Believer

    Then what do you do about the verse, For all have sinned and come short of the glory of God?

  • Peregrinus

    She was “espoused” or engaged, and not married. There is a distinction between the two conditions, granted that the distinction was even finer in her day than in ours. Still the difference allowed her the protection of marriage without necessarily the physical union of it, which, of course, St. Joseph refrained from demanding when he realized that she was the spouse of the Holy Spirit.


    I am only an ordinary person never fully understand the meaning of our beliefs as a Catholic I have defended my faith against some religions here in the Philippines namely; burn-again Christian,Dating daan,saksi ni Jova, Islam or muslim,Iglesia ni Kristo,Yahwehh,I THANK YOU with all your efforts as considered to me as scholars of Catholic faith. A.) but one thing I hold into: a prayer I start with “Our Father in Heaven” and “Hail Mary full grace” these was all repeatedly prayed with different intentions from my day today living.
    To me I could only site as an example the true meaning as Jesus Hold a child
    as he said one can only inherit the heaven if one could become and like a child in a character ‘King James Bible
    said, Verily I say unto you, Except ye be converted, and become as
    little children, ye shall not enter into the kingdom of heaven.’
    , deep in me to become like child posses a full trust to his/her father or mother, no malice whatsoever, and intentionally pure heart,”
    B.) Reading the Bible is not the same as reading a book, I could not understand it without the Grace of God accompanying me and I noticed many who reads the Bible always come into contradictions. I remember I had read the Bible when I was in 2nd year High School from the beginning and continuously reading it until at the last page. And I understand now why so many who read found contradictions among each others because the Bible have so many generations,so many attitudes, so many traditions and so many intentions. I only read once in that manner from the start to the end of the Bible pages.What I can share now that I can read the Bible not because I am educated,not because I am bright not because I was told to,not because You invited me to, not because just to defend my Catholicism and most of all not because with malice of anything, It is because I am hungry for Heaven and It is because with God’s Grace that if I read I could fully understand the true meaning in Gods directions not evil directions because many times we are tempted and guided by evil because of our Human weaknesses even small weakness and small sin could ruin our beliefs and be twisted and we are all sinners that is why God’s Grace is always needed in everyday living. My brothers and sisters in Christ “GOD BLESS” and Please continue the good faith in you so that it also helps others.

  • noelfitz

    I wrote previously “Perhaps discussing the Immaculate Conception is not relevant to translating Luke 1:28”. The posts may have wandered from discussing the best translation of Luke 1:28.

    For me the key impression of the original article was its excellence. The article
    certainly caught the interest of many of us here and the discussions were
    courteous and respectful.

    It is a great blessing to have such solid articles, that are insightful, deep and solidly Catholic.

    So I am grateful to all who contribute here and especially want to thank Stephen.

  • QuoVadisAnima

    Short answer: because “all have sinned” doesn’t mean, literally “all”. We know that there are exceptions–one big one would be, of course, Jesus Christ Himself. And, of course, there are millions of other exceptions to the “all have sinned” verse: all the little babies and wee ones younger than the age of reason (about age 7). We know that they can’t sin until they make a free choice to sin.

    So if there are millions of exceptions, why couldn’t Mary be another exception?

    Thus, we can see that belief in Mary’s sinlessness in no way contradicts Scripture, in particular, Romans 3:23.

    In fact, if anyone wants to argue that “all have sinned” is, literally, every single human being, then this person will have a difficult time convincing a Muslim that Jesus is divine…for all the Muslim has to do is say, “Well, even your own holy Bible declares that Jesus sinned–does it not say that ‘all have sinned’?” and the only response for this person would be to admit, yes, all have indeed sinned, including Jesus.

    A Catholic, however, is in good position to provide apologia to a Muslim for he can say: “We don’t believe that ‘all have sinned’ means a literal every single human being.” And thus, we can confidently assert to this Muslim that Jesus was divine and that our Scriptures do not declare that He sinned.

    Incidentally this Sunday’s Gospel from Matthew proclaims another example of “all” not meaning, literally, every single human being:

    At that time Jerusalem, all Judea,
    and the whole region around the Jordan
    were going out to him
    and were being baptized by him in the Jordan River
    as they acknowledged their sins.–Matt 3

    We know that, in fact, not every single person in Judea was baptized by John the Baptist. This is confirmed in the Gospel of Luke which declare that the Pharisees in Judea were never baptized by John the Baptist:

    (All the people who listened, including the tax collectors,
    and who were baptized with the baptism of John,
    acknowledged the righteousness of God;

    but the Pharisees and scholars of the law,
    who were not baptized by him,
    rejected the plan of God for themselves)–Luke 7

    Thus, we can see that “all” does not necessarily mean “all”.


  • QuoVadisAnima

    But what about Romans 3:23, “all HAVE sinned”? first, let’s look at this verse in its proper context. Let us look at the context in which this verse is written, who was St. Paul referring to? What was the purpose behind the verse? St. Paul was attempting to eradicate the division between the Jewish converts and those of the Gentiles. St. Paul was specifically talking to those Jews and Jewish converts who felt themselves spiritually better than the Gentiles. It is this error that St. Paul wishes to dispel “What then? are we better than they? No, in no wise: for we have before proved both Jews and Gentiles, that they are all under sin;”(3:9).

    St. Paul goes on to explain that even the Law states that they by themselves and are not righteous (3:10-18) he explains that those outside the law are just as equally accountable to God is those inside the law. “…So that every mouth may be silenced and the whole world held accountable to God.” (3:19) St. Paul explains, observance of the Jewish law is not enough to bring righteousness, but knowledge the Law does bring consciousness of sin(3:20). And that we can achieve the righteousness of God apart from the Jewish law (3:21). This righteousness from God comes through faith in Jesus Christ to all who believe. There is no difference between Jew or gentile (3:22). For both Jew and gentile are in need a salvation “For all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God”(3:23) but that true justification comes freely by God’s grace through the redemption of Christ Jesus (3:24-26)

    St. Paul teaches that those of Jewish descent should not be “boasting” and explains On what principle justification is achieved, On that of observing the Jewish law? No, but on that of faith.(3:27)and that we as Christians maintain that a man is justified by faith in Christ apart from observing the Jewish law.(3:28) “Is God the God of Jews only? Is he not the God of Gentiles too? Yes, of Gentiles too, since there is only one God, who will justify the circumcised by faith and the uncircumcised through that same faith. Do we, then, nullify the law by this faith? Not at all! Rather, we uphold the law.”(29-31)

    So we see the true reason behind Romans chapter three verse twenty three was to promote Christian unity and not to denounce every single solitary human beings (including Christ’s mother Mary) as having sinned and offended God, as many Protestants attempt to distort the verse as meaning. Some Fundamentalists think this verse means more than that everyone is subject to original sin. The problem with this line of thinking should be obvious, the word “have” shows distinct action on the part of the person, therefore St. Paul could not have been referring to original sin in this verse. The Fundamentalists also think it means everyone commits actual sins. They conclude it means Mary must have sinned during her life, and that certainly would speak against an Immaculate Conception. But is the Fundamentalists’ reasoning solid? No.

    Think about a child below the age of reason. By definition he can’t sin, since sinning requires the ability to reason and the ability to intend to sin. If the child dies before ever committing an actual sin, because he isn’t mature enough to know what he is doing, what act of his brings him under their interpretation of Romans 3:23? None, of course.

    This is indicated by Paul elsewhere in the epistle to the Romans when he speaks of the time when Jacob and Esau were unborn babies as a time when they “had done nothing either good or bad” (Rom. 9:11). Thus there is a time in people’s lives before they have sinned, meaning Paul’s statement earlier in Romans must be a general rather than an exceptionless principle.

    We also know of another very prominent exception to the rule: Jesus (Heb. 4:15). So Paul’s statement in Romans 3 must also include an exception for Jesus. But if it includes an exception for Jesus, the Second Adam, then it also includes an exception for Mary, the Second Eve.

    Paul’s comment to the Christians in Rome thus would seem to have only one meaning. It refers not to absolutely everyone, but just to mankind as a whole (Note: the term ALL can be defined “the whole of.” [The World Book Dictionary, copyright 1999] ). which means unborn babies (at a time when they “had done nothing either good or bad” [Rom. 9:11]), young children and other special cases, like Jesus and Mary, would be excluded without having to be singled out.