Tuesday, May 26, 2020

The Kecharitomene (Luke 1:28), the Kecharitomeno (Sirach 18:17), and the Pleres Charitos (Acts 6:8)

I read an article by a non-Catholic saying if “full of grace” is the correct translation of κεχαριτωμένη, why is “full of grace” not the translation of κεχαριτωμένῳ in Sirach 18:17? Instead, the Greek word, κεχαριτωμένῳ was translated as "Gracious."  Others also compared Acts 6:8 to Luke 1:28 to prove there is no difference between the situation of Stephen and Mother Mary since it also said Stephen is “full of grace.”

Before I start clarifying this issue, I just wanted to share what one of my mentors in Biblical languages said more than two years ago. I mentioned to him how a person was inclined to look for individual words and give their own interpretation. They often presume that their understanding of Greek is correct simply because they were able to read interlinear and lexicon. 

Here is what he told me more than 2 years ago:
"It seems that people you talk to have a "fortune-cookie" approach to Scripture. They hold preconceived beliefs/opinions and then seek an individual word or a single verse that can be interpreted to "prove" it. But CONTEXT is essential"
Eugene Ulrich, M.Div., Ph.D.
In analyzing the verse, lexicon or interlinear are not enough. It is vital to know Greek grammar and the context of the verse that you are reading. 

I will discuss the three verses that were mentioned. 

In Luke 1:28 - Passive participle with a feminine ending. In Acts 6:8 - adjective plus genitive of noun "charis." In Luke 1:28 Mary was conceived full of grace. In Acts 6:8, the Greek adjective, "full" is used.  It refers to the time when Stephen was performing great wonders and signs.

In Luke 1:28, the Greek uses perfect passive vocative participle referring to Mary. She was addressed directly. It is in the perfect tense, which is the present time. It is a past action that extends to the present. In Acts 6:8, Stephen was full of grace at the time mentioned in Acts.

In Luke 1:28, the suffice "mene" is a passive participle. Mary [the subject] is acted upon. It shows she did not bring herself into this state. This was the action of God. The prefix "ke" is in the perfect tense which implies the action [Mary's being graced] was completed in the past with continuing results. 

The gender of participles is a function of the nouns that they modify in their context. Κεχαριτωμένη in Luke 1:28 is said to a woman and thus is feminine.  κεχαριτωμένῳ  in Sirach 18:17 modifies ἀνδρὶ, which is masculine.

In general words don’t have a single, absolute meaning. Their meaning is determined by the context in which they are used. The context in Luke suggests that Mary is “graced” or “favored.” Sirach 18:17 says “ls not a word better than a gift? But both are with a man κεχαριτωμένῳ.” Which should probably be translated “who has been been favored.” 

"Hail, full of grace" is a somewhat free but legitimate translation. "Χαῖρε" is a normal Greek form of greeting, with possible translations as "hello," "greetings," "hail." "κεχαριτωμένη" means "favored" or "graced" (woman). The New Revised Standard Version translates: "Greetings, favored one!" Since in Luke it is a formal greeting by an angel, any of these are legitimate: "Hail, favored one," or "Greetings, graced one," or "Greetings, woman who has been given grace," or a bit freely, but OK in context: "Hail, full of grace."

The participle κεχαριτωμένη, is derived from the word charis, “grace” or “favor”. The genitive of that noun is charitos, which provides the stem for the verb. It does not mean specifically “full of grace.”

If someone wants to translate that into Hebrew, one possible free translation (not word-for-word) is: habat roochama "graced daughter."

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