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Jeremy Hazenberg wrote:

Hi, guys —

I am confused with why Mary is considered full of grace by the Church when modern Bibles don't translate the passage in Luke 1:28 as full of grace but favored one.

  • Why don't Catholic Bibles like the (NAB) New American Bible and (JB) Jerusalem Bible translate this passage as full of grace?


  { Why don't Catholic Bibles like the (NAB) and (JB) translate Luke 1:28 as full of grace? }

Eric replied:

Hi Jeremy,

The two terms are really equivalent. The word in Greek for grace and favor is the same, and while grace has more a theological connotation in English, fundamentally they express the same concept. The form of the word indicates a kind of fullness or plenitude that favored one doesn't really completely express but it is still a valid translation.

As for why the NAB and the JB translators chose one over the other, your guess is as good as mine.

  • perhaps it's an anti-traditional mind set
  • perhaps it was a desire to follow contemporary translation trends or contemporary language.

You'd have to ask them to find out.


Mary Ann replied:

Hi Jeremy,

The Greek, kecharitomene, is an unusual form, which literally means most being filled with grace. it is a feminine passive superlative participle with no English equivalent. 

Some translations use highly favored daughter in an attempt to anglicize the text.  I don't think we should stray too far from the literal when we translate, otherwise we get things like I heard yesterday in Spanish: he who knows how to behave himself rather than he who knows how to do good

Mary Ann

John replied:


Thanks for the question.

Translating the text to full of grace and or highly favored one are both accurate, but dreadfully inadequate translations of a Greek word layered with deep meaning.

The text original reads: kecharitomene. It means one who has been perfected by grace.
The operative part of the word (for our purposes) is the root word Karis (grace). The word grace in Greek also means favor; additionally it is the root word for thanksgiving as in  Eucharist.

So the Angel greets Mary by calling her the one who has been perfected by grace and is highly favored of God. As he announces her pregnancy, on a more subtle level, he is telling her she's going to literally have the Body, Blood, Soul, and Divinity of Our Lord in her womb.  All that meaning and more is conveyed in the one Greek word kecharitomene.

When you or I read highly favored in the context of our society it does not have the same impact as it would have to those reading Luke's Gospel. We would treat the word favored or favorite, as though we were talking about pistachio or rum raisin ice cream.

That is not the way the original readers or hearers of Luke's Gospel would have understood this. They would have understood the full meaning of the one word which takes a series of sentences to explain in English.

We see the English expression full of grace elsewhere in Scripture as it relates to Christ Himself.

14 And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we beheld His glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father, full of grace and truth. 15 John bore witness of Him and cried out, saying, "This was He of whom I said, 'He who comes after me is preferred before me, for He was before me.'" 16 And of His fullness we have all received, and grace for grace.

John 1:14-16

That said, in the Greek, it is not the same phrase used in relationship to Mary.

With respect to Mary, (as we have described), the phrase is the superlative, passive verb kecharitomene. It means having been perfected by grace.

However in John 1:14 the Greek says Pleres Karitos which means replete with grace.
By implication, which is confirmed in verse 16, it also means source of grace.

  • So in Mary's case she is the object (or recipient) of grace and thus becomes a conduit of grace.
  • The Eternal Word, on the other hand, is the eternal source of grace. In becoming man,
    the Eternal Word becomes the conduit (mediator) as well as the source of grace.


Jeremy replied:

Dear Mary Ann, Eric, and John —

I just wanted to let you know that I received all your e-mails.

They were very helpful.



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