Christianity Stack Exchange is a question and answer site for committed Christians, experts in Christianity and those interested in learning more. Join them; it only takes a minute:

Sign up
Here's how it works:
  1. Anybody can ask a question
  2. Anybody can answer
  3. The best answers are voted up and rise to the top

The Catholic prayer referred to as a "Hail Mary" ascribes the phrase "full of grace" to Mary. The Scriptures describe both Jesus and Stephen as being "full of grace". In Greek, this is "πλήρης χάριτος".

And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth. John 1:14 ESV

And Stephen, full of grace and power, was doing great wonders and signs among the people. Acts 6:8 ESV

However, there doesn't seem to be any place where the Bible describes Mary in this way. The only place that is close is in Luke 1:28 where the angel greets Mary and indicates that she has been given grace, often translated as "highly favored" (κεχαριτωμένη in Greek).

So, certainly Jesus was "full of grace" and Stephen was identified as being "full of grace". Yet, why does Mary also receive this ascription?

share|improve this question
The Bible I use (RSV-CE) has "Hail, full of grace" for Luke 1:28. So there is precedent in translation. – Andrew Leach Jan 28 '13 at 19:06
@AndrewLeach Interesting... the Greek word really does not translate to that at all. – Narnian Jan 28 '13 at 19:10
up vote 5 down vote accepted

The English translation of "full of grace" is derived from St. Jerome's Vulgate, the Latin translation of Luke 1:28 wherein we find the phrase gratiā plenă, which translates into English as "full of grace."

Gratiā is a noun in the ablative case ("ablative of plenty"), singular number, meaning "of grace," and plenă is an adjective in the nominative case, feminine gender, and singular number, meaning "filled" or "full," modifying Mary (a female).

share|improve this answer
So, this is a translation of a translation? – Narnian Jan 28 '13 at 22:15
As the Latin Vulgate is a translation of the Greek manuscripts of the NT which Jerome had in his possession to produce the Vulgate, and the English phrase "full of grace" is a translation of the Latin phrase gratia plena, then yes, you are correct. Now, "translations of translations" aren't necessarily erroneous just because they are translations of translations. Otherwise, every English translation would be erroneous. I would recommend studying the original Greek word, and if the Latin does not sync, well, then dismiss the Latin. It is true that Jerome did not always stay true to the Greek. – Simply a Christian Jan 28 '13 at 22:21

Your Answer


By posting your answer, you agree to the privacy policy and terms of service.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.