According to The Catholic Encyclopedia (TCE) under the topic of Hail Mary it says, "Hail (Mary) full of grace, the Lord is with thee, blessed art thou amongst women" embodies the words used by the Angel Gabriel in saluting the Blessed Virgin (Luke, I, 28)." The Roman Catholic Church derives all sorts of teachings concerning Mary from the phrase "full of grace." Two of them are . . .
- She was conceived without sin.
- " . . . It was fitting that the mother of him in whom "the whole fullness of deity dwells bodily" should herself be "full of grace." She was, by sheer grace, conceived without sin . . . " (Catechism of the Catholic Church, par. 722)
- That she was redeemed from conception and was without sin.
- "Through the centuries the Church has become ever more aware that Mary, "full of grace" through God, was redeemed from the moment of her conception. That is what the dogma of the Immaculate Conception confesses, as Pope Pius IX proclaimed in 1854: The most Blessed Virgin Mary was, from the first moment of her conception, by a singular grace and privilege of almighty God and by virtue of the merits of Jesus Christ, Savior of the human race, preserved immune from all stain of original sin, (CCC, 491).
- "From among the descendants of Eve, God chose the Virgin Mary to be the mother of his Son. "Full of grace," Mary is "the most excellent fruit of redemption" (SC, 103): from the first instant of her conception, she was totally preserved from the stain of original sin and she remained pure from all personal sin throughout her life," (CCC, 508).
Catholic.com says under "Full of Grace" that "These blessings included her role as the New Eve (corresponding to Christ's role as the New Adam), her Immaculate Conception, her spiritual motherhood of all Christians, and her Assumption into heaven." As you can see, Mary is greatly exalted even to the point of having "spiritual motherhood of all Christians"--whatever that means.
Also, since she has been so highly exalted, prayer is also offered to Mary. Catholics recite "The Hail Mary" which says, "Hail Mary, full of grace. The Lord is with thee. Blessed art thou amongst women, and blessed is the fruit of thy womb, Jesus. Holy Mary, Mother of God, pray for us sinners, now and at the hour of our death, Amen." Prayer should be offered to God alone--not to any creature no matter how blessed, including Mary.
As you can see, a great deal is derived from the phrase "full of grace." But, does the phrase justify such adoration and doctrinal proclamation? Can the Roman Catholic church rightfully derive so much from so little? In fact, is the phrase "full of grace" used of Mary in the Bible at all? The answers to these questions is "No."
The Bible and "full of grace"
The phrase "full of grace" in Greek is "plaras karitos," and it occurs in only two places in the New Testament; neither one is in reference to Mary.
- "And the Word became flesh, and dwelt among us, and we beheld His glory, glory as of the only begotten from the Father, full of grace and truth," (John 1:14).
- "And Stephen, full of grace and power, was performing great wonders and signs among the people," (Acts 6:8).
The first citation refers to Jesus who is obviously full of grace. Jesus is God in flesh, the crucified and risen Lord, who cleanses us from our sins. In the second citation it is Stephen who is full of grace. We can certainly affirm that Jesus was conceived without sin and remained sinless, but can we conclude this about Stephen as well? Certainly not. The phrase "full of grace" does not necessitate sinlessness by virtue of its use. In Stephen's case it signifies that he was "full of the Spirit and of wisdom," along with faith and the Holy Spirit (Acts 6:3, 5). But Stephen was a sinner. Nevertheless, where does the phrase "full of grace" come from regarding Mary?
The Latin Vulgate and other translations
The Latin Vulgate is the Latin translation of the Bible done by St. Jerome in the fourth century. It is here in Luke 1:28 that is found the unfortunate Latin translation which says "ave gratia plena "Hail full of grace.'" Remember, the New Testament was written in Greek--not Latin--but the Roman Church has derived its doctrine from the Latin translation--not the Greek original. Therefore, it constructed its doctrine on a false translation. Of course, it cannot correct itself since so much is invested in the worship, adoration, and prayer to Mary in the Roman Catholic Church; and to recant of this false teaching would greatly lessen its credibility. Unfortunately, this means that millions of Catholics will continue to look to Mary for help--not Christ who is truly full of grace.
So what do the other translations say about Luke 1:28? Let's find out.
- The Nestle Aland 26th edition, Greek New Testament Interlinear--"having gone into her he said rejoice one having been favored, the master is with you."
- The NRSV English Greek Reverse Interlinear New Testament--And he came to her and said, "Greetings, favored one! The Lord is with you."
- American Standard Version--"And he came in unto her, and said, Hail, thou that art highly favored, the Lord is with thee."
- English Standard Version--"And he came to her and said, Greetings, O favored one, the Lord is with you!
- Today's English Version--'"The angel came to her and said, “Peace be with you! The Lord is with you and has greatly blessed you!”
- King James Version--"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."
- New American Standard Bible--"And coming in, he said to her, Hail, favored one! The Lord is with you.
- New International Version--"The angel went to her and said, Greetings, you who are highly favored! The Lord is with you.
- New King James Version--"And having come in, the angel said to her, Rejoice, highly favored one, the Lord is with you; blessed are you among women!"
- Revised Standard Version--"And he came to her and said, 'Hail, O favored one, the Lord is with you!'
- New Revised Standard Version--And he came to her and said, “Greetings, favored one! The Lord is with you.”
- The New Century Version--The angel came to her and said, “Greetings! The Lord has blessed you and is with you.”
- New Living Translation--Gabriel appeared to her and said, “Greetings, favored woman! The Lord is with you!'”
- The Cambridge Paragraph Bible--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.'
- The Holman Christian Standard Bible--"And the angel came to her and said, “Rejoice, favored woman! The Lord is with you."
- International Standard Version--'"The angel'' came to her and said, “'Greetings, you who are highly favored! The Lord is with you!"
What does the Greek say here for "highly favored one? It is the single Greek word kexaritomena and means highly favored, make accepted, make graceful, etc. It does not mean "full of grace" which is "plaras karitos" (plaras = full and karitos = Grace) in the Greek.
- 5923 χαριτόω (charitoō): vb.; Str 5487; TDNT 9.372—LN 88.66 show kindness graciously give, freely give (Eph 1:6); as a passive participle, subst., “one highly favored.”1
- 5487 χαριτόω [charitoo /khar·ee·to·o/] v. From 5485; TDNT 9:372; TDNTA 1298; GK 5923; Two occurrences; AV translates as “be highly favoured” once, and “make accepted” once. 1 to make graceful. 1a charming, lovely, agreeable. 2 to peruse with grace, compass with favour. 3 to honour with blessings.2
Therefore, we conclude that the Roman Catholic Church has manufactured far too much doctrine concerning Mary out of the erroneous translation of the Latin Vulgate Bible and that the RCC needs to recant its false teaching concerning Mary.
Mary was a very blessed woman. She was graced with the privilege of being able to bear the Son of God. We should never forget her high privilege in this respect. However, we must not elevate her to a level beyond that which is prescribed in Scripture. To do so is to be in error--the very error that is taught in the Roman Catholic Church.
We urge Roman Catholics not look to Mary. Instead, they should look to Jesus alone. He alone is the sinless one, the perfect one, the Lord, the mediator, the forgiver of our sins. It is he alone to whom we should appeal and trust for the forgiveness of our sins. We should not look to any creature no matter how blessed that creature may be.