Alpha & Omega Ministries Apologetics Blog
Jimmy Akin: The Immaculate Conception has to be Read into Luke 1:28
05/09/2011 - James SwanRoman Catholic Apologetics never ceases to amaze. For years I've read through (or listened to) explanations of Luke 1:28 (And coming in, he said to her, "Greetings, favored one! The Lord is with you"). A typical Roman Catholic explanation would hold the Greek word kecharitomene means an "indication of an unparalleled grace given by God to our Lady: She was conceived without the defect of original sin" [New Catholic Answer Bible, Insert R-1]. Or take Karl Keating's explanation from Catholicism and Fundamentalism:
The newer translations leave out something the Greek conveys, something the older translation conveys, which is that this grace (and the core of the word kecharitomene is charis, after all) is at once permanent and of a singular kind. The Greek indicates a perfection of grace. A perfection must be perfect not only intensively, but extensively. The grace Mary enjoyed must not only have been as "full" or strong or complete as possible at any given time, but it must have extended over the whole of her life, from conception. That is, she must have been in a state of sanctifying grace from the first moment of her existence to have been called "full of grace" or to have been filled with divine favor in a singular way. This is just what the doctrine of the Immaculate Conception holds... (p.269)
Or, consider Patrick Madrid's comments from the December, 1991 This Rock Article,"Ark of the New Covenant":
Look first at two passages in Luke 1. In verse 28, the angel Gabriel greets Mary as "kecharitomene" ("full of grace" or "highly favored"). This is a recognition of her sinless state. In verse 42 Elizabeth greets Mary as "blessed among women." The original import of this phrase is lost in English translation. Since neither the Hebrew nor Aramaic languages have superlatives best, highest, tallest, holiest), a speaker of those languages would have say (sic), "You are tall among men" or "You are wealthy among men" to mean "You are the tallest" or "You are the wealthiest." Elizabeth's words mean Mary was the holiest of all women.
Recently I heard a fascinating explanation of Luke 1:28 on Catholic Answers live:
In this short mp3 clip, Akin translates kecharitomene as "lady who has been graced." He explains the word means she has been graced by God in the past which continues to the present. Akin says, "That's a passage that many people have thought echoes, um, the immaculate conception because certainly Mary's immaculate conception was something that happened, she's a woman, and it happened to her in the past, namely at the very beginning of her life, and it continues to effect her in the present, because she's still immaculate as a result of that."
Now this alone appears to be the typical Roman Catholic answer on Luke 1:28. Akin though goes on to state that this type of understanding is consistent with what the Greek word means, but it's not something the word kecharitomene requires: "This is a Greek term that you could use in that exact grammatical formation for someone else who wasn't immaculately conceived and the sentence would still make sense." He then gives the example of using the term of Mary's grandmother. But next was the real gem in Akin's answer. At the end of the clip, he states, "This is something where I said previously, we need the additional source of information from tradition and we need the guidance of the magisterium to be able to put these pieces together."
This is a frank admission that the text does not plainly support the Roman Catholic interpretation and needs to be supplemented by another ultimate authority. For all of Keating's appeals to hidden meaning from the Greek, and for Madrid's "The original import of this phrase is lost in English translation," we now have Jimmy Akin finally admitting that the immaculate conception has to be read into the text.