Translations are what they are… translations. As many other Catholic theologians would point out, the word ‘kecharitomene’ has a more robust and emphatic meaning when understood in the Greek. In this article, I would like to shine light on the issue of why most non-Catholics have deviated from the use of “full of grace” when translating kecharitomene in Luke 1:28. Here’s a brief exposition of the way the Protestant textual interpretation shifted when it comes to the English readings.
The earliest lucan reading in Greek is found as this:
“καὶ εἰσελθὼν πρὸς αὐτὴν εἶπεν· χαῖρε, κεχαριτωμένη, ὁ κύριος μετὰ σοῦ” (Nestle Aland)
At the time, the Textus Receptus, crucial to our understanding of several developments, read like this, very similar to the original Greek:
“καὶ εἰσελθὼν ὁ ἄγγελος πρὸς αὐτὴν εἶπεν Χαῖρε κεχαριτωμένη ὁ κύριος μετὰ σοῦ εὐλογημένη σὺ ἐν γυναιξίν” (Textus Receptus)
Χαῖρε / Chaire – undoubtedly is both a praise and greeting with reverence at the same time; not one or the other. I hope we can agree on this one. (See Mt 26:49, 27:29, Mk 15:18 & Jn 19:3)
The first English translations by Wycliffe (1380 & 1395) read this way:
“𝘈𝘯𝘥 𝘵𝘩𝘦 𝘢𝘶𝘯𝘨𝘦𝘭 𝘦𝘯𝘵𝘳𝘪𝘥𝘦 𝘵𝘰 𝘩𝘪𝘳, 𝘢𝘯𝘥 𝘴𝘦𝘪𝘥𝘦, 𝙃𝙚𝙞𝙡, 𝙛𝙪𝙡 𝙤𝙛 𝙜𝙧𝙖𝙘𝙚; 𝘵𝘩𝘦 𝘓𝘰𝘳𝘥 𝘣𝘦 𝘸𝘪𝘵𝘩 𝘵𝘩𝘦𝘦; 𝘣𝘭𝘦𝘴𝘴𝘪𝘥 𝘣𝘦 𝘵𝘩𝘰𝘶 𝘢𝘮𝘰𝘯𝘨 𝘸𝘺𝘮𝘮𝘦𝘯.”
The Tyndale Bible (1534) read like this:
“𝘈𝘯𝘥 𝘺𝘦 𝘢𝘯𝘨𝘦𝘭𝘭 𝘸𝘦𝘯𝘵 𝘪𝘯 𝘷𝘯𝘵𝘰 𝘩𝘦𝘳 𝘢𝘯𝘥 𝘴𝘢𝘺𝘥𝘦: 𝙃𝙖𝙮𝙡𝙚 𝙛𝙪𝙡𝙡 𝙤𝙛 𝙜𝙧𝙖𝙘𝙚 𝘺𝘦 𝘓𝘰𝘳𝘥𝘦 𝘪𝘴 𝘸𝘪𝘵𝘩 𝘺𝘦: 𝘣𝘭𝘦𝘴𝘴𝘦𝘥 𝘢𝘳𝘵𝘦 𝘵𝘩𝘰𝘶 𝘢𝘮𝘰𝘯𝘨𝘦 𝘸𝘦𝘮𝘦𝘯.”
Now, the Geneva Bible in 1557, changed the meaning of kecharitomene but retained the royal greeting of Chaire. The extraneous use of “beloved” instead of “full of grace” is probably attributed to the earlier 1568 Bishop’s Bible:
“𝘈𝘯𝘥 𝘵𝘩𝘦 𝘈𝘯𝘨𝘦𝘭 𝘸𝘦𝘯𝘵 𝘪𝘯 𝘷𝘯𝘵𝘰 𝘩𝘦𝘳, 𝘢𝘯𝘥 𝘴𝘢𝘪𝘥, 𝙃𝙖𝙞𝙡𝙚 𝙩𝙝𝙤𝙪 𝙩𝙝𝙖𝙩 𝙖𝙧𝙩 𝙛𝙧𝙚𝙚𝙡𝙮 𝙗𝙚𝙡𝙤𝙪𝙚𝙙: 𝘵𝘩𝘦 𝘓𝘰𝘳𝘥𝘦 𝘪𝘴 𝘸𝘪𝘵𝘩 𝘵𝘩𝘦𝘦: 𝘣𝘭𝘦𝘴𝘴𝘦𝘥 𝘢𝘳𝘵 𝘵𝘩𝘰𝘶 𝘢𝘮𝘰𝘯𝘨 𝘸𝘰𝘮𝘦𝘯.”
From this point on, there has been plenty of freedom in the non-Catholic interpretations of the text. Look at the 1611 KJB’s unprecedented rendition:
“𝘈𝘯𝘥 𝘵𝘩𝘦 𝘈𝘯𝘨𝘦𝘭 𝘤𝘢𝘮𝘦 𝘪𝘯 𝘷𝘯𝘵𝘰 𝘩𝘦𝘳, 𝘢𝘯𝘥 𝘴𝘢𝘪𝘥, 𝙃𝙖𝙞𝙡𝙚 𝙩𝙝𝙤𝙪 𝙩𝙝𝙖𝙩 𝙖𝙧𝙩 𝙝𝙞𝙜𝙝𝙡𝙮 𝙛𝙖𝙪𝙤𝙪𝙧𝙚𝙙, 𝘵𝘩𝘦 𝘓𝘰𝘳𝘥 𝘪𝘴 𝘸𝘪𝘵𝘩 𝘵𝘩𝘦𝘦: 𝘉𝘭𝘦𝘴𝘴𝘦𝘥 𝘢𝘳𝘵 𝘵𝘩𝘰𝘶 𝘢𝘮𝘰𝘯𝘨 𝘸𝘰𝘮𝘦𝘯.”
Moreover, subsequent English translations followed such rendition, and the posterior King James versions later revised themselves to read similarly to what we have today in our texts:
𝘛𝘩𝘦 𝘢𝘯𝘨𝘦𝘭 𝘤𝘢𝘮𝘦 𝘪𝘯 𝘵𝘰 𝘩𝘦𝘳 𝘢𝘯𝘥 𝘴𝘢𝘪𝘥, “𝙍𝙚𝙟𝙤𝙞𝙘𝙚 𝙝𝙞𝙜𝙝𝙡𝙮 𝙛𝙖𝙫𝙤𝙪𝙧𝙚𝙙 𝙤𝙣𝙚, 𝘵𝘩𝘦 𝘓𝘰𝘳𝘥 𝘪𝘴 𝘸𝘪𝘵𝘩 𝘺𝘰𝘶; 𝘣𝘭𝘦𝘴𝘴𝘦𝘥 𝘢𝘳𝘦 𝘺𝘰𝘶 𝘢𝘮𝘰𝘯𝘨 𝘸𝘰𝘮𝘦𝘯!” (KJV 2016)
The first recorded instance of a Bible removing the royal greeting Chaire is the Etheridge translation (1849): “𝙋𝙚𝙖𝙘𝙚 𝙩𝙤 𝙩𝙝𝙚𝙚, 𝙛𝙪𝙡𝙡 𝙤𝙛 𝙜𝙧𝙖𝙘𝙚”, followed by the Emphasised Rotherham version (1902): “𝙅𝙤𝙮 𝙩𝙤 𝙩𝙝𝙚𝙚, 𝙛𝙖𝙫𝙤𝙪𝙧𝙚𝙙 𝙤𝙣𝙚”. It’s proven, I think, these slight but significant alterations to the interpretation are not only modern, but sourced in a doctrinal bias. Ever since the KJV, non-Catholic translations like the NIV, NASB, NRSV have diminished the title-description of kecharitomene, and avoided the rightful use of ‘Hail’ in the archangel’s salutation.
Just as “Hail” has a meaning of reverence that the words “greetings” or “rejoice” cannot fully express; kecharitomene has a significance in the Greek, which expressions like “full of grace”, much less “highly favored”, cannot fully capture.