Dialogue: Luke 1:28 and the Immaculate Conception

Dialogue: Luke 1:28 and the Immaculate Conception December 8, 2015
Sistine Madonna (1513-1514), by Raphael (1483-1520) [public domain / Wikimedia Commons]




Ken Temple is a Baptist pastor. His words will be in blue, and mine from an earlier related paper in purple.

* * * * *

Protestants are hostile to the notions of Mary’s freedom from actual sin . . . purpose of being the Mother of Jesus Christ, and don’t see that this is “fitting” or “appropriate” (as Catholics do).

Mary was chosen as the woman who would bring Christ into the world, in that sense she was highly favored or “has been graced” or “has been favored” for that great purpose. She was set apart for that task and God put His favor and grace on her for that purpose.

Exactly. That’s why He made her sinless, because that was fitting to simply make ONE woman (the Mother of God) by grace to be what Eve was before the Fall and what all of us would have been but for that Fall: sinless.

So, we agree that it is fitting to understand “the highly favored one” as the one chosen to bear the Messiah, the Son of God, but, yes, it’s not fitting to distort the text and read into it too much to get sinless-ness out of it, and then to build a doctrine of the Immaculate conception upon that eisegesis.

I shall see how you try to overcome my arguments.

The great Baptist Greek scholar A.T. Robertson exhibits a Protestant perspective, but is objective and fair-minded, . . .

Here, he is emphasizing the passive aspect of the Greek verb, which is a Perfect (tense – “have been” ) Passive (she received grace, she is not giving grace)

Exactly; as we teach . . .

and it is a Participle , a verbal adjective or adverb that modifies the main verb in a sentence. Participles are helping verb forms that qualify the main verb. The main verb in the verse is the greeting, chaire, “greetings”, “hail” or “rejoice!” the Participle is showing who and why she should rejoice and find greetings – because she is “the one who has been favored” and “the one who is blessed”.

Of course you omit the part where Robertson says that “full of grace” is one possible rendering. you only cite the second half below. Nice try at cynical half-presentation of Robertson’s statement . . .

wrong, if it means ‘full of grace which thou hast to bestow'” (Plummer).

Robertson is right in stressing that this RC view is wrong if they take the fullness of grace to mean a resource which she can then give out.

This isn’t the “RC” view in the first place, so you construct a straw man. “Full of grace” refers to her. Only God bestows grace, as its sole source. He chose to use Mary as a means to distribute His grace, just as he chooses all of us who are trying to evangelize or do works of charity, to a lesser degree. If you deny that creatures can be channels of grace then you deny the Bible, and that is your problem, not “RC” teaching.

He is sticking to the grammar of the verb being passive, meaning that Mary recieived grace, not that Mary can dispense grace, which she cannot do. Only the Tri-une God gives spiritual grace.

We agree. The crucial distinction is between source (God only) and vessel (Mary and potentially all of us).

The Perfect tense means “you have been graced” or “you have been favored”. If the tense was simple past, as in Aorist – it would be “you were favored” Or “favored one” or “graced one”. The Perfect merely points to past action with continuing results up to that point.

I’ll stick by the linguistic sources I cited.

Nothing here about “fullness”, that seems to be imported from the Latin term, “plena”.

Then why does A.T. Robertson allow the Vulgate rendering? He seems to know something that you do not.

Passive – the grace was received by Mary. It is not hers to dispense to others.

I haven’t argued that Mary dispensed grace based on this verse. I use this passage as a support for the belief that she is sinless. So let’s not war against what I haven’t even asserted in the first place. The topic is whether she is sinless, based on Luke 1:28.

Greek scholar Marvin Vincent noted that even Wycliffe and Tyndale (no enthusiastic supporters of the Catholic Church) both rendered kecharitomene in Luke 1:28 as “full of grace”

They were probably working with the Latin also, and it influenced them.

Nevertheless, they did it, and that is because it is a fully permissible rendering. Your low Protestant bias “influences” you, too.

and that the literal meaning was “endued with grace” (Vincent, I, 259).

Likewise, well-known Protestant linguist W.E. Vine, defines it as “to endue with Divine favour or grace” (Vine, II, 171). All these men . . .

“To endue with favor” or “grace” is no problem, that is the meaning, but the idea of “fullness” was and is a translation bias, coming from the Latin, “plena” (full).

Robertson stated that this translation was “right” if intended in a certain sense (which is exactly the sense that Catholics hold. I submit that he knows more about this issue than you do.

Even a severe critic of Catholicism like James White can’t avoid the fact that kecharitomene

(however translated) cannot be divorced from the notion of grace, and stated that the term referred to “divine favor, that is, God’s grace” (White, 201).

Of course, White is correct, and says much more correct things that you don’t deal with; the root of the word is grace, favor. Noah also found grace or favor with God. (Genesis 6:8.) The grammar and syntax of the Greek LXX of this is similar to Luke 1:30. Notice the grace of God comes before any “righteousness”, blameless, and walking with God. (Genesis 6:9) But Noah also still had a sin nature, which is proved, (Genesis 9:21) and is one of the main points of the story in Genesis 9, after the flood and God’s judgment on all of mankind, except for those eight people, the “wickedness of mankind” again spread out all over the earth, for even those eight people had the seeds of the sinful nature within them.

No disagreement here, except that none of these people were “full of grace”, so that this has no bearing on our present subject (i.e., that Mary was full of grace, and what this means).

Mary found favor with God in that the sense that she was chosen to be the Mother of Christ, the Son of God. And she was saved from her sin by God’s grace, as she admits, by calling God her Savior in Luke 1:46-47.

Saved by the Immaculate Conception from the inherited results of the Fall . . .

Of course, Catholics agree that Mary has received grace.

As we also agree that Mary received grace. And we who are saved have also received God’s grace. That does not mean we are sinless.

Of course we are not, because we didn’t receive it in the same measure as Mary.

The Greek in John 1:16, is even stronger terms for all believers, as it says that we have all received “His fullness” and “grace upon grace”. Does that mean that we are sinless? No.

That’s right, because the context shows Jesus being referred to as “full of grace” (Jn 1:14; RSV); we Christians then receive some of the grace that is intrinsically His to give (1:16). Obviously, we are not “full of grace” in the sense that He is here, but Mary is insofar as she is without sin. Moreover, “his fulness” is not the same as “fullness of grace.” It’s similar, but not identical.

So, the weaker term for Mary cannot point to sinlessness, when stronger terms are used for all believers. The same goes for Ephesians 1:6. As White explains, “No lexical source that we have found gives a meaning of caritoo ‘sinlessness’.”

That’s because the meaning is grace. The implication of sinlessness has to be done deductively by Scripture comparison: so that’s exactly what I did.

The term refers to favor – in the case of Luke 1:28, divine favor, that is, God’s grace. The only other occurance of caritoo is in Ephesians 1:6, “to the praise of the glory of His grace, which he freely bestowed (caritoo) on us in the Beloved.” “If the bare term caritoo means “sinlessness”, then it follows that the elect of God throughout their lives have been sinless as well.” (James White, p. 201)

A typical wrongheaded White argument, fighting a straw man. I haven’t made this argument. I don’t think anyone does (but someone might; I don’t know).

This is assumed in the doctrine of the Immaculate Conception: it was a grace from God which could not possibly have had anything to do with Mary’s personal merit, since it was granted by God at the moment of her conception,

You jumped from assumption of received grace to “at the moment of her conception”. That is the biggest assumption.

Here I was speaking about the Catholic doctrine; not Luke 1:28, from which one cannot get all this information; it is deduced from several conjoining factors.

to preserve her from original sin (as appropriate for the one who would bear God Incarnate in her very body).

Since God is all powerful, and Jesus had no human father, can He not preserve Jesus from inheriting original sin by the fact that He had no human father? Is that not enough? Is that not the main reason why Jesus was protected from having a sinful nature, because He had no human father, as the sin nature is passed down genetically through the man. For all sinned in Adam – Romans 5:12, I Cor. 15:22.

God can do whatever He wants. Mary could have been a sinner; it was not necessary that she was sinless. We only argue that it was fitting and proper.

Jesus derived His human nature from Mary, but was protected from sin because the Divine nature is powerful enough to do that.

Indeed. Catholics do not make the Immaculate Conception a necessary precondition for Jesus’ sinlessness. How could it be, anyway, since Jesus must be without sin, and perfectly holy, being God. He could not be otherwise.

The Catholic argument hinges upon the meaning of kecharitomene.

This is why that doctrine and dogma is the second, or third weakest of all Roman Catholic Dogmas, the most weak being the Bodily Assumption (1950) and the second or third weakest being the Papacy and Infallibility of the Pope. (1870)

So you have a rating system, huh? Two can play that game: the weakest of all Protestant dogmas is clearly sola Scriptura, since it has no biblical support whatsoever for itself, even though (by its very nature) it must (thus making it viciously, ludicrously circular). The second weakest is sola fide (“faith alone”), which has only seeming “biblical support” which must be strained and eisegeted and rationalized out of the Bible, while a host of clear verses refuting it (just as with sola Scriptura) are largely ignored. These two happen to be the two pillars of the “Reformation.” I conclude, then, that the “Reformation” has collapsed long since, in light of the utter absence of biblical support for its key positions which are supposedly eminently biblical.

For Mary this signifies a state granted to her, in which she enjoys an extraordinary fullness of grace.

All it means is, “you have received favor or grace” or “you who have received grace” or “have been graced”. There is no linguistic reason for the idea of “fullness” to come it, as it was imported by tradition and the Latin language.

This is untrue. In my book, A Biblical Defense of Catholicism, I wrote (p. 178):

It is permissible, on Greek grammatical and linguistic grounds [footnote], to paraphrase kecharitomene as completely, perfectly, enduringly endowed with grace. Thus, in just this one verse, pregnant with meaning and far-reaching implications, the uniqueness of Mary is strongly indicated, and the Immaculate Conception can rightly be deemed entirely consistent with the meaning of this passage.

The Bible speaks only implicitly of many things which Protestants strongly believe, such as the proper mode of baptism (immersion, sprinkling, or pouring?). The Immaculate Conception is entirely possible within scriptural presuppositions.

[Blass & DeBrunner, Greek Grammar of the New Testament, Chicago: Univ. of Chicago Press, 1961, 166; Smyth, H.W., Greek Grammar, Cambridge: Harvard Univ. Press, 1968, sec. 1852:b.]

Charis often refers to a power or ability which God grants in order to overcome sin (and this is how we interpret Luke 1:28.).

Charis can point to that, but first of all, it never implies sinless perfection in this life;

Dealt with above; again, I have not made that argument. Mine was much more subtle, and I’ll let it speak for itself.

and secondly, it only points to that after one has been saved out of sin. For example in Titus 2:11, “for the grace of God has appeared to all men, bring salvation, teaching us to deny ungodliness and worldly desires . . . ” Grace brings salvation first, then it trains and sanctifies us to be able to resist sin. But overcoming sin is not the context of Luke 1:28. The context is about the privilege and honor, which is a grace from God, to be chosen to bring Messiah into the world.

I’ll wait and see how you deal with my in-depth analogical argument from “grace” as the antithesis of sin.

Grace is the basis of justification and is also manifested in it ([Rom.] 5:20-21). [Kittel]

This presupposes sin and sinfulness first. “Where sin increased, grace abounded much more”

Yes; no quarrel there.

Hence grace is in some sense a state (5:2), although one is always called into it (Gal. 1:6), and it is always a gift on which one has no claim. Grace is sufficient (1 Cor. 1:29) . . . The work of grace in overcoming sin displays its power (Rom. 5:20-21) . . . [citing Protestant linguist Kittel again]

Go back and look at I Cor. 1:29 and the quote; looks like a confusion or mistake.

it is the correct quote; I checked it again.

“where sin abounds, grace much more”. Means that God’s grace can forgive and cleanse from the guilt of sin. Says nothing about sinlessness, in fact presupposes a change from a state of sinfulness to being forgiven and freed and justified from sin.

I didn’t say it did refer to sinlessness. I never stated that “possession of grace” means sinlessness; rather, “fullness of grace” seems to me to entail sinlessness, from cross-referencing.

Romans 6:14: “For sin will have no dominion over you, since you are not under law but under grace.”

Amen! So to be full of such grace wipes out all sin. It’s very straightforward; seems to me.

Yes, we are freed from the slavery and dominion of sin over us, but that no where, even here, does the Bible indicate one can progress into a sinless state.

Of course you can’t. Once having sinned, one can never again be sinless. This is why Mary had to be granted the special miracle at her conception. There is such a thing as sinless creatures: the unfallen angels are that. You act as if such a thing is inconceivable. It is not at all.

Furthermore, it understands our past, that we were all born sinners, and that way from conception and birth.

Yep; all but Mary.

We are saved by grace, and grace alone: (quotes Ephesians 2:8-10) . . .

Thus, the biblical argument outlined above proceeds as follows:

1. Grace saves us.

Yes – (out from our sin, presupposing the prior state of being “dead in sin” – Ephesians 2:1-7).

Mary would have been as fallen as the rest of us but for this miracle.

2. Grace gives us the power to be holy and righteous and without sin.

“holy and righeous” yes, and “able to choose not to sin”, but not completely every time, and not in a state “without sin”, No, not completely or perfectly.

Not if we lack the fullness of this power.

Even you agree with that, as your RCC has a doctrine of Purgatory that everyone who is in state of grace when they die, still must go through the fires of purgatory to burn off and cleaned up before being admitted into the presence of God.) right?


Can any human ever be “without sin” completely? I John 1:8-10

Sure: Adam and Eve were before the Fall. That is good Protestant theology and undeniable. God could choose at any time to wipe out the original sin of a person, thus enabling them to be sinless and sin-free. We believe that He did so with Mary, and that Scripture teaches that she was sinless, based on the argument I have made. The Immaculate Conception is a development of the essential biblical kernel.

Therefore, for a person to be full of grace is both to be saved and to be completely, exceptionally holy.

Again, You jumped back to “full of grace” again, which is a wrong translation,

Not according to Robertson and Wycliffe and Tyndale . . .

wrong interpretation for Mary at Luke 1:28, and yet used for all believers in John 1:16 and for Stephen in Acts 6:8, and you and I know that that description does not make us or Stephen sinless.

I dealt with that elsewhere.

It’s a “zero-sum game”: the more grace one has, the less sin. One might look at grace as water, and sin as the air in an empty glass (us).

Bad analogy, grace is not a substance, just as “being filled with the Spirit” is not a physical, substance-like issue.

Both Kittel and Vine maintain that the Bible indicates that grace can be a state, which is all that is necessary for my argument to succeed.

To be full of grace is to be devoid of sin.

Not true, believers are also full of grace – John 1:16,

The text doesn’t say that, as I have shown above; it is eisegesis.

Stephen also in Acts 6:8.

That’s (for what it is worth) a different Greek phrase, as I showed in my paper (and book).

You cannot use the Latin translation of “full of grace” to make your point for Luke 1:28, and then later, when the other person does find a clearer verse that says, “full of grace (Stephen, Acts 6:8.); turn around and say that doesn’t count because the words are different.

If the words used are different, then obviously it stands to reason that the sense of the phrase is probably different also, right? Now, I don’t know Greek, and someone who did would have to explain what precisely is the difference. But it’s common sense that there probably is some kind of difference (even if only slight), or else different words wouldn’t have been used in inspired Scripture.

Furthermore, it is perfectly conceivable that Stephen was without sin at the time he was martyred. I have argued that “full of grace” means sinless, but that can be in different senses: “never sinned and never will” or “without sin right now.” St. Stephen could have easily achieved the latter at that remarkable moment. Conversely, even if Lk 1:28 only meant (linguistically; literally) that Mary was sinless at that moment, this would still be consistent with our belief that she was so all her life; it simply wouldn’t have all that additional information within itself. I’ve never argued that Lk 1:28 proved the Immaculate Conception (that would be ridiculous to assert); only that it was perfectly consistent with it, and suggests sinlessness.

You really messed up big time on that point, Dave. Usually, you are careful, but here, you are really sloppy in exegesis and logic.

You must be greatly influencing me, then (if so)! I’m picking up your bad habits. :-)

By your analogy, “to be filled with the Spirit” is to be without sin also, and we know that is not true.

If one were truly filled with the Spirit, that would indeed have to be true (in the temporary sense). It comes down to how Scripture variously describes the indwelling. In some places, it teaches that being “full of the Spirit” precludes sin, just as being “full of grace” does. For example, 1 John 3:6: “No one who abides in him sins” (cf. 3:24; 5:18; Jn 15:4-7). This is essentially idealistic, proverbial language; yet it is true that the more one is filled with the Spirit, the less one could sin. So to be entirely filled with the Holy Spirit would be, in effect, sinless, or at least potentially so (see Rom 8:2-15). That we are not always in such a state and have to seek it is strongly implied in Paul’s statement “be filled with the Spirit” (Eph. 5:18). It’s not a one-time thing. Paul teaches a very Catholic, “progressive sanctification” view also in Philippians 1:9-11:

9: And it is my prayer that your love may abound more and more, with knowledge and all discernment,
10: so that you may approve what is excellent, and may be pure and blameless for the day of Christ,
11: filled with the fruits of righteousness which come through Jesus Christ, to the glory and praise of God.

What? “Pure and blameless”? Doesn’t Paul know this isn’t possible, according to Ken Temple and all his Baptist teachers and other Protestants who deny the sort of sanctification that folks like John Wesley taught? And what brought about this pure and blameless state? Love (i.e., works of charity); not abstract belief in forensic, extrinsic, imparted justification. No one is arguing that people are sinless their entire life; yet the Bible seems to teach that we can actually have the power to be sinless and holy if only we will let God have His way with us. Of course, extremely few of us ever reach that state of profound sanctity (Eph 4:30; Heb 10:29), or get anywhere remotely close (this poor sinner is Exhibit #1 of that!). All the more reason that we Catholics highly admire those who approach or perhaps sometimes achieve this. We call them saints.

Thus we might re-apply the above two propositions:
1. To be full of the grace that saves is surely to be saved.

(again, from a state of already being a sinner and having already sinned, and having already been guilty)

That doesn’t affect the overall principle: to be full of grace (or of the Spirit) is to be sin-free.

2. To be full of the grace that gives us the power to be holy, righteous, and without sin is to be fully without sin, by that same grace.

Nowhere in the Bible is this taught.

It’s taught in Luke 1:28, in comparison with many other passages, as I have shown!

I John 3:6, 9 and 5:18 are saying, “no one who has been born of God continues to live in sin” or “constantly lives in sin”. the Present continous tense is key here. The exact opposite of what you are trying to say is taught all through I John.

The Spirit and grace are antitheses of sin. That remains true whether anyone actually achieves a sin-free state.

He knows we will sin, but the true believer hates his sin and confesses and repents of his sin. And a true believer walks in the light, meaning he quickly exposes his sin and is open, exposed, honest.

Amen! But – thanks be to God – there is one creature who never did sin.

A deductive, biblical argument for the Immaculate Conception, with premises derived directly from Scripture, might look like this:

1. The Bible teaches that we are saved by God’s grace.

2. To be “full of” God’s grace, then, is to be saved.

3. Therefore, Mary is saved (Luke 1:28.).

No problem, she confessed her sin and need of a Savior – Luke 1:46-47.

Yes; she needed a savior like all of us; so God saved her from original and actual sin by preventing the fruit of the former to make the latter inevitable.

5. To be “full of” God’s grace is thus to be so holy that one is sinless.

(No, as John 1:16 and Acts 6:8 proves, along with the whole book of I John, which never teaches sinlessness or perfection, but rather, it teaches against a cavalier attitude toward sin, and teaches that true believers don’t continue to practice sin continuously and it assumes we will sin, and a true believer exposes himself in the light and lives honestly and openly, confessing and hating his own sin.

I basically agree, yet there are a host of verses which teach (at the very least) the possibility of attaining by God’s grace a sublime holiness and sanctity (Mt 5:48, Rom 6:17-22, 1 Cor 15:34, 2 Cor 7:1, 2 Cor 13:7, Eph 1:4, 4:24, Phil 2:15, 1 Thess 3:11-13 [holiness again tied to love, not belief in a soteriological formula], 1 Thess 4:7, 5:23, 1 Tim 5:22, 2 Tim 3:17, 1 Pet 1:16, 1 Peter 4:1 [“ceased from sin”], 2 Pet 3:11,14, 1 Jn 2:1, 3:3 Why would it be presented as a real, attainable goal, if in fact it is not possible at all?

6. Therefore, Mary is holy and sinless.

This does not follow at all.

It certainly does. You have not disproven this conclusion from the premises.

7. The essence of the Immaculate Conception is sinlessness.

(which you have not proved at all, and in fact, the evidence is just the opposite, that grace implies a prior state of sinfulness, and guilt of actual commission of sin.

The potential of Mary being subjected to the Fall . . .

8. Therefore, the Immaculate Conception, in its essence, can be directly deduced from Scripture.

Not at all, as was demonstrated. It can neither be deduced reasonable or logically, and it is even less directly derived from Scripture.

Whatever. I can’t convince you, but I can convince some readers out there, so I need not despair of your disagreement.

The only way out of the logic would be to deny one of the two premises,

This is not true, because you leave out the full meanings of the two premises. Both premises presuppose sinfulness (that we are all conceived in sin and born sinners by nature – Psalm 51, Romans 5:12, Genesis 6:5, 8:21, Psalm 58:3, Ephesians 2:1-3); and that all humans are guilty and have sinned before God. (Romans 3:23)

This affects not my argument in the least, as already explained.

and hold either that grace does not save or that grace

(this is a non-sequiter, it does not follow, as I showed.)

is not that power which enables one to be sinless and holy.

I would agree that grace is the power to enable a believer to “not sin”, and live a progressively holy life, but disagree that is the power “to be sinless”. To choose to “not sin” in a particular instance is much different than to live constantly and continuously without sin, or “to be sinless”. If anyone says that he is without sin, he is a liar and the truth is not in him. John 1:8, see also 1:10)

That doesn’t mean it is impossible to grow into a state of being sin-free. It’s extremely rare, of course, but I don’t see that the Bible rules this out. Quite the contrary . . .

Also, the truth is that being saved from sin presupposes that one was already a sinner and already sinned. All have sinned and come short of the glory of God. (Romans 3:23) “death spread to all men, because all sinned.” Romans 5:12

Is there an echo in here? I believe in original sin. That is not part of our dispute.

In this fashion, the essence of the Immaculate Conception (i.e., the sinlessness of Mary) is proven from biblical principles and doctrines accepted by every orthodox Protestant.

No, it is not proven, only manipulated by your own eisegesis and tradition. To have grace means to have been shown mercy and love and forgiveness of sin in spite of that sin.

I see; well thanks for your input. I want my Catholic readers to fully understand the Protestant mind on these matters. You do a great job in fulfilling that end.

Certainly all mainstream Christians agree that grace is required both for salvation and to overcome sin. So in a sense my argument is only one of degree, deduced (almost by common sense, I would say) from notions that all Christians hold in common.

One possible quibble might be about when God applied this grace to Mary. We know (from Luke 1:28.) that she had it as a young woman, at the Annunciation. Catholics believe that God gave her the grace at her conception so that she might avoid the original sin that she otherwise would have inherited, being human. Therefore, by God’s preventive grace, she was saved from falling into the pit of sin, rather than rescued after she had fallen in.

Preventative grace is a presumption, for the whole Bible, as we have shown teaches that sin and sinfulness comes first, and the whole idea of grace is to be shown favor in spite of sin and sinfulness and guilt.

Simply repeating your fallacies over and over do not make them cease to be fallacies . . .

Yes, that is a big jump from the time of the annunciation to her conception. A young person can realize they are a sinner and repent and be saved by faith in the true God and His promised Messiah. Mary was old enough to realize her sin, repent, and believe in God. She was a godly woman, a believer, a God-fearer.

No particular reply. Of course I strongly disagree . . .

All of this follows straightforwardly from Luke 1:28 and the (primarily Pauline) exegesis of charis elsewhere in the New Testament.

Every Pauline passage, in our discussion, as we have shown, presupposes sin first.

It would be strange for a Protestant to underplay grace, when they are known for their constant emphasis on grace alone for salvation. . .

We do not underplay grace here.

Protestants keep objecting that these Catholic beliefs are speculative; that is, that they go far beyond the biblical evidence.

Yes, you still did and do the same, speculating, and going far beyond the biblical evidence.

But once one delves deeply enough into Scripture and the meanings of the words of Scripture, they are not that speculative at all.

You did not go deep at all into the scripture or the meanings of words, but James White and Eric Svensen did go much deeper into words and grammar, in context, in the material and pages that you left out and ignored. You are here indeed truly speculative.

No need to respond to summary statements, which are not arguments.

Rather, it looks much more like Protestant theology has selectively trumpeted the power of grace when it applies to all the rest of us Christian believers, but downplayed it when it applies to the Blessed Virgin Mary.

Not at all, we have never taught that anyone can attain sinless perfection.

Obviously you are unfamiliar with John Wesley’s doctrine of entire sanctification, which teaches something not unlike this, though not in an absolute sense.

How is it downplayed on Mary, when it never means completely without sin, and we agree with what it means for Mary, God’s grace to be the mother of the Messiah, and that God did save her out from her sin (which she already had, as seen in Luke 1:46-47, ?

The dialogue is now going round and round, with you not really addressing my actual arguments. We’re at an impasse, and I can’t really reply unless you give me something different; not just this repetition based on fallacies and misunderstandings of my argument.

Also, the testimony of the earliest church fathers and Roman Catholic authors is against you. As Geisler says, “Besides the lack of scriptural support for Mary’s sinlessness the argument from the Fathers is weak. Even Ott admits that many Greek Fathers (Origen, St. Basil, St. John Chrysostom, St. Cyril of Alexandria) taught that Mary suffered from venial personal faults, such as ambition and vanity, doubt about the message of the angel, and lack of faith under the cross.

This is true. You can always find Fathers who will be wrong on something.

Likewise, almost all the scholastic fathers, including Aquinas, rejected the immaculate conception.

St. Thomas Aquinas was dealing with something different from what was later developed.

This being so, Mary’s consequent sinlessness must also be brought into question, despite scholastic protest to the contrary.” (Geisler and MacKenzie, Roman Catholics and Evangelicals: Agreements and Differences, p. 310)

Not when there is solid biblical evidence that she is sinless!

What we have, then, is not so much a matter of Catholics reading into Scripture,

That is your claim, but you are doing just that, “reading into Scripture” – you and your tradition reads “fullness” or “full of”, and “sinlessness”, and “preventative” grace back into the text.

Nodding off by now . . .

as Protestants, in effect, reading certain passages out of Scripture altogether (that is, ignoring their strong implications),

Not true, the strong implication is just the opposite, that some one who has favor or Grace from God is one who is a sinner and has already sinned and is in need of grace, and knows their own need, as Mary did. And we fully honor the verse by our commitment to her godly role in being the mother of Jesus Christ, commitment to the doctrines of the incarnation, the Virgin Birth and conception of Christ, and that this is a cardinal doctrine in Jesus being God, and His sinlessness, which is clearly taught – John 8:46, 10:30, 2 Cor. 5:21, Heb. 4:15, Heb. 7:26, I Peter 2:22, I John 3:5. without this faith, one cannot be a Christian, as faith in the efficacy of His atonement and resurrection are called into question and faith in Him being the son of God and God in the flesh are questioned. “Unless you believe that I am, you will die in your sins.” John 8:24

Thanks for the sermon!

First, it was argued that St. Stephen was also described as “full of grace” in Acts 6:8. But in that verse, the phrase is pleres charitos, not kecharitomene. If the Greek terminology is different, then the argument loses most or all of its relevance and force.

Actually, your point is not true, the argument is very powerful, and does not loose its relevance or force, because there is a phrase that actually does mean “full of grace”, which the Latin of Luke 1:28 and many Roman Catholics read back into it. It does not lose its force, because “full of grace” is even stronger than “the one who has been graced”. And you would not want to argue that Stephen was sinless are you?

at that time, probably so, as I argued above.

And “full of grace” is even more powerful than “you have been shown favor” or “you have been shown grace”.

Those are not the only ways that kecharitomene has been defined, as shown.

But you would agree that Stephen was a sinner, and saved by God’s grace, right?


The second argument was from Eric Svendsen, . . . It also occurs in Eph. 1:6 where it is applied to all believers . . . Are we to conclude on this basis that all believers are without original sin?

(Svendsen, 129)

Ephesians 1:5-6 reads, “He destined us in love to be his sons through Jesus Christ, according to the purpose of his will, to the praise of his glorious grace which he freely bestowed on us in the Beloved.”

Svendsen thinks this defeats the Catholic exegesis at Luke 1:28, but the variant of charitoo (grace) here is different (echaritosen).

Actually, he did indeed defeat the Roman Catholic exegesis, and yours.

But of course! He always does, right?

The “variant” is only the difference in the verb tense, the verb mood, and the verb voice. But it is the same Greek word. In Luke 1:28 it is the perfect tense, which is “have been graced” or “have been favored”. But in Ephesians 1:6, it is Aorist tense, “he bestowed” or “he graced” or “freely graced”. If it was in the perfect tense, it would be “he has freely bestowed” or “he has freely graced us”. But Luke 1:28 is a passive participle. The passive aspect of charitoo communicates, “received”, whereas in Ephesians 1:6 the verb is active, describing God’s action “he bestowed grace”. A participle is which is a verbal adjective, describing the one who is receiving the greeting, “the one who”, whereas the verb in Ephesians 1:6 is active, not passive, God “gave grace”, or “he bestowed”. You show that you don’t know Greek very well here;

Not at all, which is why I refer to scholars.

and the text screams against you, and this is why this is one of the weakest arguments for the RCC of all. The other two being the Papacy and 1870, and 1950, the bodily Assumption of Mary.

I can’t comment on all the above, not knowing Greek, but I did make some exegetical arguments as well. I will see if you deal with those.

He holds to “endued with grace” as the meaning in Luke 1:28, so he expressly contrasts the meaning here with that passage.

I think you are making an unwarranted jump here, but again, you will have to provide more context in his quotes. There is not much difference between “endued with grace” and “freely” or”“graciously bestowed”. The difference is in trying to express it in good English, which is awkward. But the Greek verbs are the same, the only difference is the tense, mood, and voice, which communicate the time, the person doing or receiving the action, and the syntax of the verb in relation to other words in the sentence.

But even so, all he is showing is that “freely bestowed” is the verb form of caritoo in Ephesians 1:6, and that Paul also uses the noun, charis in that verse. Whereas Luke does not use the noun, charis in Luke 1:28, only the verb, caritoo. But Luke does use the noun charis in Luke 1:30.

A.T. Robertson also defines the word in the same fashion, as “he freely bestowed” (Robertson, IV, 518.).

As for the grace bestowed here on all believers being parallel to the fullness of grace bestowed upon the Blessed Virgin Mary, this simply cannot logically be the case, once proper exegesis is undertaken.

Yours is not proper exegesis, but eisegesis. It is also not logical at all. The main difference, which we both agree with in the context is that in the context of Luke 1:28, he is speaking of the grace and favor to be the Messiah’s mother, whereas in Ephesians 1:6, the context is clearly the grace of election, salvation from sin, forgiveness, love, being freely bestowed on us as His elect people.

I’m still waiting for your counter-argument to my exegetical one.

Apart from the different meanings of the specific word used,

It is not a different word, it is the same word, Dave! The only differences are in the forms of the word, in tense, mood, and voice, relating to how it is used in a sentence. This is called syntax.

1. Tense: Perfect- Tense (time or state of being) “have been favored”-Luke 1:28
Aorist Tense in Ephesians 1:6 “he graced” or “he graciously gave” or “he freely bestowed”

2. Voice – Passive –Voice (Doing the action or receiving the action) in Luke 1:28, Mary is receiving the grace, whereas in Ephesians 1:6 it is active voice, God is giving and bestowing grace.

3. Mood: “the feature of the Greek verbal system that denotes the nature of the verbal idea with regard to its actuality or potentiality. The moods are the imperative (commands, exhortations), indicative (real historical of facts, happenings), optative (wishes), and subjunctive ( possibilities, and potentials.)”

In Ephesians 1:6 it is in indicative mood, that is God has acted in real time and history and the verb “indicates” this as fact. In Luke 1:28 it is a Participle, which is really not a full verb, but a verbal adjective or adverb that modifies the main verb, “Greetings”. It explains who the main verb is talking to, “the one who has been shown favor”.

Great. I can’t argue about Greek grammar, so there is little I can say here.

[a great gap in your citations of my paper occurs here: see below]

No attempt to downplay or diminish the significance of this will succeed. The meaning is all too clear.

Clear as mud. You jumped from speculation and possibilities to “all too clear.”

Ah! I was waiting to see if you would ignore my cross-referenced, exegetical argument. Sure enough, you did. You jumped right past it (a total of 332 words from my paper), even though it was absolutely key to my argument regarding Ephesians 1:6. Since you ignored it, for the convenience of our readers, I shall reproduce that portion of my argument, lest they entertain a delusion that you answered me point-by-point:

. . . as shown, grace is possessed in different measure by different believers, as seen elsewhere in Scripture:

2 Peter 3:18: “But grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. To him be the glory both now and to the day of eternity. Amen.”

Ephesians 4:7: “But grace was given to each of us according to the measure of Christ’s gift.” (cf. Acts 4:33, Rom 5:20, 6:1, James 4:6, 1 Pet 5:5, 2 Peter 1:2)

The “freely bestowed” grace of Ephesians 1:6, then, cannot possibly be considered the equivalent of that “fullness of grace” applied to Mary in Luke 1:28 because it refers to a huge group of people, with different gifts and various levels of grace bestowed, as the verses just cited show. Svendsen’s argument is as fallacious as the following analogy:

Suppose a group of Christian baseball players – some of the greatest and the least talented alike – prayed to God before a game:

“He destined us in love to be his ballplayers through Jesus Christ, according to the purpose of his will, to the praise of his glorious gift of athletic ability and talents which he freely bestowed on us in the Beloved.”

Obviously, God granted the talents and abilities of each ballplayer, in the sense of being Creator and source of all good things. But are these talents given in equal measure? Of course not (see especially Ephesians 4:7). Likewise, grace is given in different measure to believers. Therefore, Svendsen’s argument that Ephesians 1:6 is a direct parallel to Luke 1:28 collapses. The mass of Christian believers as a whole possess neither the same degree of grace nor of sanctity, and everyone knows this, from experience and revelation alike.

But Mary (as an individual person) was addressed in an extraordinary fashion by a title that, biblically, means the one so addressed is particularly exemplified by the characteristics of the title. Mary was “full of grace”; kecharitomene here takes on the significance of a noun.

* * *

Svendsen points out that Luke 1:28 uses the perfect tense, whereas Ephesians 1:6 does not, and that Catholics might use this argument to bolster their case (since that indicates a difference between the two passages). But, he writes:

[T]his does not help their case since the perfect tense speaks only of the current state of the subject without reference to how long the subject has been in that state, or will be in that state.

(Svendsen, 129)

So he tries to show by cross-referencing and Greek grammar that Luke 1:28 is neither unique nor a support for Mary’s sinlessness or the Immaculate Conception. But the perfect stem of a Greek verb, denotes, according to Friedrich Blass and Albert DeBrunner, “continuance of a completed action” (Greek Grammar of the New Testament [Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1961], 66).

Blass and DeBrunner are pointing out the difference between “have been” (perfect tense- was and continues to be) and “were” or “was” (simple past, Aorist). But the aorist does not say either way, if it continues or not. It is merely “without respect to continuance”. Does grace stop being given to believers, automatically, just because Ephesians 1:6 says it happened in the past? Those other verses you cite point to the fact that God continues to give believers grace. The verb tenses alone do not determine theologically whether the grace stops or continues. That has to be determined by bringing all the verses in.

Fair enough. Sounds good to me. That’s why I did cross-referencing; yet you ignored those. Perhaps it was an inadvertent oversight. But I would love to see how you try to counteract that portion.

Eric Svendsen’s attempt to lump in Luke 1:28 with other “similar” passages has failed, because reputable linguists demonstrate that there are enough differences to cast doubt on his argument. “

You did not prove that these linguists show any differences between the verb charitoo in Luke 1:28 and Ephesians 1:6. It is the same word.

Whether it is or not, they define it differently, as I showed with regard to Robertson and Vincent. You may regard this as a very slight difference, but it is not a case of absolutely identical meanings. You claim I didn’t prove that they saw “any” differences at all. This is untrue. And the fact that I don’t know Greek and that you can run rings around me, talking about participles, passive voices, and optative and subjunctive moods, doesn’t affect that fact in the slightest. :-) But I realize that you have yet again conveniently skipped over another exegetical argument of mine. This time you omit 229 words from my paper (bringing the grand total to at least 561), in your supposedly exhaustive reply.

That leads me to believe that this is not simply inadvertent oversight, but a deliberate design to avoid that which you selectively want to avoid, for whatever reason. This is precisely why I highly recommend point-by-point replies. I think our readers (of whatever theological stripe) are entitled to see an entire reply to you, not a pick and choose affair, where you want to repeatedly say the same things over and over, when you think you have a strong case, while ignoring other portions.

Now, in fairness, it is true that many times above I gave only cursory one-line replies, when I got tired of repetition and/or had nothing further to say (after writing for hours and hours), but the difference is that I preserved your portions, so readers can see what I didn’t reply to, to any appreciable degree. But you almost act as if certain parts of my paper weren’t even there. Why? Because you have no answer for those? If you have an answer, by all means, produce it for all of us (why wasn’t it there in the first place?). We wait with baited breath. But how can you think you have “refuted” my overall case when you have now ignored wholesale two major sections of it? Here is the latest missing section of my paper:

Mary, therefore, continues afterward to be full of the grace she possessed at the time of the Annunciation. That cannot, of course, be said of all believers in Ephesians 1:6, because of differences of levels of grace, as shown earlier.

As for Svendsen’s cross-reference to Sirach 18:17, where the word is in the same form (kecharitomene), that verse also applies generally: “Indeed, does not a word surpass a good gift? Both are to be found in a gracious man.”

Moreover, this is proverbial, or wisdom literature. According to standard hermeneutical principles, this is not the sort of biblical literature on which to build doctrines or systematic theology (or even precise meanings of words). The reason is that proverbial expression admits of many exceptions. If one says, for example, “Happy people smile” [it] may be true much of the time, but it is not always true. Proverbial language is, therefore, too imprecise to use in determining exact theological propositions. Meaning depends on context, as any lexicon will quickly prove.

Even apart from the important factor of the proverbial style of writing found in Sirach, linguists attribute different meanings to kecharitomene in the two verses. As Joseph Thayer, another great biblical Greek scholar, writes:

Luke 1:28: “to pursue with grace, compass with favor; to honor with blessings.”

Sirach 18:17: “to make graceful i.e., charming, lovely, agreeable.”

(Thayer, 667; Strong’s word no. 5487)

And the contexts show Mary’s situation is a greeting and being favored with being chosen as the instrument to bring the Son of God into the world. And the context in Ephesians is being elected, forgiven, redeemed, and saved from sin, and it presupposes that all humans have sinned. As in Ephesians 2 . . .

None of the linquists have said what you are attempting to make them say.

All I stated was that they defined the two instances differently, and I was also commenting on another instance in Svendsen which you utterly ignored. You act as if I transformed them into Catholics or something. Not impressive . . . 

Context, grammar, and hermeneutical principles alike sink his case.

Yes, they sink your case.

One can only shake their head at a tactic which wants to ignore two major parts of an opponent’s argument, and then rhetorically proclaim that the opponent’s case is “sunk.” At least I gave my argument as to why I believed this to be the case with regard to the illustrious Dr. Svendsen (unlike “Dr.” White, I grant that at least his doctorate degree may be legitimate)!

Context with Mary is a greeting – “Greetings”, “hail”, favored one, “one who has found favor” Also, in context, in Luke 1:46, Mary says, “My soul rejoices in God my Savior”. She realized she was a sinner and needed a savoir from sin. If she was protected beforehand, then she was not saved out of already having sinned, but as the RCC tradition says, “protected from entering into sin”.

Is this now the fifth time you have brought up this non sequitur?

But this is contradicted by “all have sinned and come short of the glory of God”, except the only exception, which has clear verses, that Jesus never sinned. (as quoted above)

Not at all. I answered that years ago.

The context of the other passages are different. (Romans 6:14, etc.)

You don’t seem to know much about grammar or Greek grammar,

I freely grant that I don’t know Greek or Greek grammar (I do know a bit of English grammar; being a published writer by trade); do you grant that you don’t know much about point-by-point replies or (by implication) comparative exegesis, since you avoided two relevant instances of the latter?

and the forms or endings and beginnings of a Greek word, and the same word is used in Ephesians 1:6 as Luke 1:28 and the differences are in the Tense, Mood, and Voice. I guess you did the best you could with those sources about Greek words, for those with no or little knowledge of Greek. But even they do not in any way say what you tried to make them say.

Readers can be the judge of that.

Most Protestant thinkers and opponents of Catholic doctrine would, I think, assume that the Immaculate Conception could easily be disproven from Scripture.

Yes, it was easy to disprove, which both James White, Eric Svendsen, and Norman Geisler and others, and which I have also shown, have done.

But from an analysis of the verses cited, we see that, although it cannot be absolutely proven from Scripture alone, it cannot be ruled out on the basis of Scripture, either. What is more, a solid deductive and exegetical basis for belief in Mary’s sinlessness, and thus her Immaculate Conception, can be drawn from Scripture alone.

The deduction is not from good exegesis, rather from traditions of man, wrong translation into Latin, speculation on a supposed need to have Mary as “sinless”, when the Scriptures clearly teach that Jesus was sinless, and that He had no human father, so the doctrines of the Virgin birth, incarnation, and sinlessness of Jesus are held intact. The deduction came from history and traditions and wanting to exalt Mary over and above of what she really was.

I see.

What is more, a solid deductive and exegetical basis for belief in Mary’s sinlessness, and thus her Immaculate Conception, can be drawn from Scripture alone.

The deduction is not from good exegesis, rather from traditions of man, wrong translation into Latin, speculation on a supposed need to have Mary as “sinless”, when the Scriptures clearly teach that Jesus was sinless, and that He had no human father, so the doctrines of the Virgin birth, incarnation, and sinlessness of Jesus are held in tact. The deduction came from history and traditions and wanting to exalt Mary over and above of what she really was.

You’re a regular echo machine . . .

You think you have made a case by quoting Protestant secondary Greek word study sources for English speakers (mostly). Vines, Vincent, and A. T. Roberston’s works are Greek word studies for English speakers, as is Kittel. None of what they said goes as far as you tried to make it out to be regarding Luke 1:28.

I didn’t claim that they made the same overall claims as I do; only that they agree with specific portions of my overall case, as is my usual methodology when citing Protestant scholars. Therefore, it is not necessary for them to totally agree; only that they agree in certain instances, which adds up to a total cumulative case.

But we have lots of Roman Catholic scholars who agree that the exegesis of Biblical passages does not teach the sinlessness or Immaculate Conception of Mary.

I never claimed that the Immaculate Conception was taught in Luke 1:28 or anywhere else; only that it is not contradiictory to what we do find in Scripture. Mary’s sinlessness in Luke 1:28 is not apparent, which is why I wrote my long paper, making the case.

“The majority of Roman Catholic scholars candidly admit with Perkins that most of the Marian dogmas in Roman Catholicism have little or no basis in Scripture: Dogmas of this sort are not directly derived from New Testament evidence.” (Svendsen, p. 33, quoting, Perkins)

It depends on what they mean by “evidence,” and hinges upon one’s conception of doctrinal development. Also, a biblically deduced doctrine is different from one based on explicit evidences. So the Immaculate Conception is not explicitly taught; I agree. It derived from pious reflection of what we do know about Mary. Mary’s sinlessness is, I believe, taught, but it is not apparent at first glance at all.

The Assumption of Mary is not taught, but is in complete harmony with Mary being sinless, which would mean that she didn’t have to undergo decay (if the sinlessness extended to original sin). And there are analogies such as Enoch and Elijah for bodily assumptions without death, as we understand that term. There are also analogies to the Immaculate Conception, such as the fascinating “types and shadows” argument from Luke 1:35.

“McKenzie puts it even more bluntly: ‘the New Testament affords no historical basis for the beliefs in the immaculate conception or the assumption of Mary.'” (ibid, Svendsen, p. 33)

In a certain sense, I would agree with this, but it is not troublesome to the Catholic, because we don’t believe that everything has to be explicitly laid out in Scripture. It can also be presented implicitly, indirectly, or deduced from things which are fairly clear. You guys want everything explicitly in Scripture, but the Bible doesn’t teach that, and not even sola Scriptura is taught in the Bible.

So our theology and doctrines are not inconsistent with the Bible (“unbiblical”), within the framework of how we approach Holy Writ and our stance on the relationship of Scripture, Church, and Tradition, whereas your sola Scriptura is viciously self-defeating. Since it is your pillar of authority, and it is groundless and intellectually and biblically bankrupt, the superstructure built upon it cannot stand, as a house built on a foundation of sand will fall.

Since you have the book, ( I assume by including it in your bibliography, you can look up the quotes.)

More Roman Catholic scholarship that actually agrees with the Protestant position:

“As even McHugh grants, “there is no doubt that Luke uses the word in the same sense as the author of Ephesians.” ( Ibid, Svendsen, p. 129)

I’d have to see the overall argument there. But even if this is true, you still have to overcome my exegetical argument that you ignored, about inherent differences between the two applications.

“Modern scholarship has dismissed the translation ‘full of grace’ as a nonviable rendition of xaritow (caritoo). BAGD (Bauer, Arngt, Gingrich, and Danker’s A Greek English Lexicon of the New Testament and other Early Christian Literature. Chicago, 1979) BAGD, for instance, translates the word as “one who has been favored by God.” Louw and Nida has “you to whom (the Lord) has shown kindness.” Even a Catholic sourse such as Zerwick avoids the translation “full of grace”, opting instead for the less theologically loaded phrases “endowed with grace; dearly loved.” The MNT (Mary in the New Testament) taskforce translates it as “graciously favored by God”, while noting that the Douay Rheims translation, “full of grace”, “is not literal and is gradually being replaced among Roman Catholic translators.” The most recent standard Catholic translations, the NAB and the JB, have followed suit in the renditions (NAB, “O highly favored daughter”; JB, “so highly favored”). (ibid., Svendsen, p. 129)

I’m not so concerned with the actual translation “full of grace” as I am with the implication of the original word, so none of this really adversely affects my argument.

“Nearly all Roman Catholic NT scholars in recent years, including Raymond Brown and Joseph Fitzmeyer, agree that the older Roman Catholic interpretations of this word “clearly go beyond the meaning of Luke’s text.” (Ibid, Svendsen, p. 130, quoting from Mary in the New Testament, Raymond Brown, editor, p. 128.)

Well, if you (actually Svendsen) insist on citing liberals to bolster your case against Catholicism: folks who don’t even fully believe Catholic doctrines, then feel free, but I think that is a cynical, intellectually dishonest presentation. Fr. Brown questioned the virgin birth and a host of Catholic doctrines (see Msgr. Kelly’s critique). Sam Shamoun, a Reformed Protestant friend of mine who specializes in outreach to Muslims, wrote in a letter dated 12-19-03:

By the way, do you plan on writing an exposition of Father Raymond Brown’s unorthodox, liberal views? I would love to see you tackle this from a Catholic perspective. I find myself having to expose his heretical viewpoints due to the fact that the Muslims love to appeal to his writings. It would be nice to see a Catholic write a response against him, seeing that he was a member of the Roman Catholic [Church] and was considered one of the great NT scholars.

So it is fascinating to see you utilizing the same unworthy tactic (by citing Svendsen in agreement) that Muslims (who you are trying to evangelize) do. I am very familiar with the Jehovah’s Witness tactic along the same lines. They habitually cite both Protestant and Catholic liberals to make a “case” against both belief-systems. I later wrote the paper that Sam urged me to write, chronicling a great deal of of Fr. Brown’s heterodox nonsense (including questioning of the Resurrection and the Transfiguration, the infancy narratives). But if you want to consult his opinions (and those of Fitzmyer, who is hardly better, as I recall from past interaction with it) as to New Testament exegesis, well you go right ahead, my friend. That won’t impress anyone who holds to a high view of biblical inspiration and all the basic Christian beliefs that we all hold in common.

Just as I would never cite Bishop Spong or Clark Pinnock as representatives of your sort of conservative Baptist theology, I would respectfully ask that you show us the respect of at least citing orthodox scholars or bishops, or how about popes and ecumenical councils, rather than these liberal clowns who carry no authority in the magisterium anyway?

In any event, thanks for the interaction, as always, and far above average, but still (sorry!) woefully inadequate Protestant objections to Catholic theology.

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