Alpha & Omega Ministries Apologetics Blog
The Catholic Verses: Luke 1:28 (Part IV)
01/03/2005 - James WhiteNow, all of this, up to this point, has simply been to work through the first of two issues I myself raised regarding what a serious Roman Catholic would have to explain to make a serious Protestant feel at all "confounded" at Luke 1:28. If kecaritwme,nh is telling us that Mary was sinless due to the possession of a perfection of grace from the time of her immaculate conception (i.e., due to the application of the merits of Christ at the very point of conception, protecting her from the stain of original sin---and all of that in a single word in an angel's greeting! Ponder that a moment!), then this must be communicated to us either by the root meaning of the term itself or by its form and syntax. Despite his best efforts, Mr. Armstrong has completely failed to deal with the reality that if the root meaning is the key, then this proves way too much, for believers are likewise "graced" in Christ Jesus in eternity past, not given graces like sports abilities, but graced in Christ Jesus, that is graciously united with Christ by the will of the Father, all the praise of His grace. Obviously, therefore, carito,w does not communicate the concept of sinlessness or anything relevant to the Roman Catholic claims regarding Luke 1:28. And this was Dr. Svendsen's point as well, and all Mr. Armstrong did in attempting to respond to Svendsen was prove that in reality, Dave Armstrong does not understand the basics of how to respond to sound, simple scholarly observations regarding the subject.
So, in case the details overwhelmed you, here's a summary statement: the Greek verb "to grace," which is at the root of the Greek participle used by the angel in greeting Mary, as well as appearing in Eph. 1:6, does not mean "sinless," and there is nothing in its range of meaning that would positively lead us to the conclusions Rome has defined as dogma.
Now, the second issue I raised was that failing the first route, the defender of Rome would need to establish that it is the perfect tense of the participle, or perhaps its passive voice, or maybe its vocative case, that, when combined with the meaning of carito,w in Luke 1:28 leads to the conclusion that Luke was, in fact, communicating to us all that the angel's words indicate the sinlessness of Mary through a possession of a "plenitude of grace." It is very clear that this is part of the Roman explanation, even when their defenders (especially the more knowledgable) seek to avoid admitting it. I think Keating expressed it well:
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. . . . (Catholicism and Fundamentalism, p. 269)
The reader will note that the emphasis here is upon the form of the verb. So we have a perfect passive participle that, somehow, takes the meaning of the verb "to grace" and packs into itself this entire, huge theology of Marian sinlessness. But once again, if we find in the form this kind of significance, we once again prove too much, for while there is only one other use of the root verb in the NT (Eph. 1:6), there are lots of perfect passive participles floating about. One that would be especially relevant is found here:
Matthew 25:34 "Then the King will say to those on His right, 'Come, you who are blessed (euvloghme,noi) of My Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world.
Here we have the use of a perfect passive participle, euvloghme,noi, in a very, very similar context of address. What is more, the verb is similar in meaning as well. It would be very easy to speak as Rome speaks of a "fulness of blessing," and you could fill pages with discussions of the meaning of the verb euvloge,w (to bless) or the noun euvlogi,a. So why can't we say that those who enter into God's presence have likewise experienced a "strong or complete as possible" blessing, etc.? Because that simply isn't what the context or grammar or form communicates. And the same is true regarding Luke 1:28. Numerous other examples, such as 1 Thessalonians 1:4 and 2 Thessalonians 2:13 (here using "beloved") could be presented as well.