In a recent Q&A on Hermeneutics.SE, I made an arguement that carried the implication that Jerome's translation of κεχαριτωμένη ('favored one’) as gratia plena ('full of grace’) in Luke 1:28 was misleading, conflated as it is with another phrase that has a different meaning in Greek. It was rightly pointed out that I didn't discuss the reason why Jerome made that decision. Since I don't see an obvious linguistic explanation,* I wondered if there might be a doctrinal and/or sociological explanation.

In another Q&A on Christianity.SE, Jerome is cited as a key proponent of the doctrine of the perpetual virginity of Mary. I'm not sure whether that has anything to do with the appellation “full of grace” or not. Other aspects of Mariology seem more relevant.

I'm interested in knowing:

  1. What did Jerome believe about the immaculate conception?
  2. What did he believe about Mary as Mediatrix of graces?
  3. Did he use Luke 1:28 in defense of any Mary-related doctrine?

† Glosses extracted from ESV and Douay Rheims, respectively.
*Particularly with regard to translation decisions, even if I disgree with the choice, I can sometimes see the reasons for a different decision. Here I don’t.


1 Answer 1


This isn't a full-blown answer to your question, but instead a partial one. I suppose one would have to write some sort of magnum opus to answer all three of your questions in a way that does justice to them.

But as a sort of beginning, I do know that translators over time have moved away from away from the Vulgate because of its emphasis of Mary in places she does not belong. The best known example of this is Genesis 3:15. To so many Christians this is the protevangelium (the first gospel promise pointing to Christ) in the bible. Genesis 3:15 reads as follows:

‏”וְאֵיבָה אָשִׁית בֵּינְךָ וּבֵין הָאִשָּׁה וּבֵין זַרְעֲךָ וּבֵין זַרְעָהּ הוּא יְשׁוּפְךָ רֹאשׁ וְאַתָּה תְּשׁוּפֶנּוּ עָקֵב׃“‎ (Gen 3:15 BHS-T)

“I will put hostility between you and the woman, and between your seed and her seed. He will strike your head, and you will strike his heel.” (Gen 3:15 HCSB)

You'll notice the "he" vs. "he" construction. But in the Vulgate we find this:

“inimicitias ponam inter te et mulierem et semen tuum et semen illius ipsa conteret caput tuum et tu insidiaberis calcaneo eius” (Gen 3:15 VULG-T)

Instead of "he will crush your head," it reads "She (ipsa) herself will crush your head." In this we see a strange, unfounded translation of a clearly masculine word in the Hebrew (הוּא) into a feminine word (i.e. Mary).

I hope this helps, at least a little in working toward the bigger, better explanation this question deserves.

  • 1
    Thanks, Steve. Re. a clearly masculine word in Hebrew (הוּא): I’m nitpicking, but in the Pentateuch the pronoun “she" is spelled הִוא, which would be identical to הוּא in the unpointed Hebrew Jerome worked with. (The verb ישופ is masculine any way you cut it though. Although Latin verbs (AFAIK - not much) aren’t marked for gender, this shows the subject in Hebrew and should be reflected in the Latin pronoun, so I agree that this seems inappropriate based on what you’ve said here.)
    – Susan
    Commented Dec 5, 2015 at 21:48
  • In all of the paradigm lists I've worked through there is a difference in spelling between the personal pronouns (not just vowel pointing). הִיא is the 3f singular form, while הוּא is the 3m singular form. Is there some archaic form I am not aware of? Cf: Paul Joüon and T. Muraoka, A Grammar of Biblical Hebrew (Subsidia biblica 27; Accordance electronic ed. Roma: Pontificio istituto biblico, 2006), 619. Commented Dec 5, 2015 at 22:10
  • See J-M (your ref.) § 39c: In the consonantal text of the Pentateuch... we find the spelling הוא not only for the masculine, but almost always (18 exceptions) for the feminine, for which the Naqdanim write הִוא (Qre perpetuum, § 16), e.g. הָאָ֫רֶץ הַהִוא Gn 2.12. This rather strange phenomenon, it seems, may be explained fairly plausibly as being derived from a certain late recension of the Pentateuch.... Yah it’s weird - only in the Pentateuch - and you’ve probably just pronounced it (correctly) as הִיא and not noticed.
    – Susan
    Commented Dec 5, 2015 at 22:31
  • In case you or anybody else is interested, a Q&A on qere perpetuum from Hermeneutics.SE that discusses this phenomenon.
    – Susan
    Commented Dec 5, 2015 at 22:38
  • Fascinating! And yet, somewhat frustrating too. And yet, as you well point out, you can't get around the masculine of ישופ). Thanks for the 'heads up.' Commented Dec 5, 2015 at 22:41

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