Q. Where in Scripture does it teach the Immaculate Conception of Mary?
A. The Doctrine of the Immaculate Conception is not clearly taught in Scripture in a way that would satisfy a skeptic. But, to be honest, neither is the Doctrine of the Trinity. I know, because I spent hours trying to discover it, in order to show a friend who was a Jehovah’s Witness.
What we do find in Scripture are oblique comments that only make sense if the underlying doctrine that gave rise to the comments are known.
For instance, Jesus instructs his disciples to baptize in the name of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit in Matthew 28. This verse is cited when arguing for the Trinity. But does it unequivocally teach the Doctrine of the Trinity? No. But if you can understand that this verse rests upon and takes for granted that the listeners have already been instructed in the Doctrine of the Trinity thus no further explanation is necessary. Why else is name singular unless it denotes a trinitarian God-Father, Son & Holy Spirit?
Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit and exclaimed with a loud cry, “Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the fruit of your womb!” (Luke 1:41-42)
Elizabeth declared both Jesus and Mary “blessed”. Sinless perhaps? Some kind of equality there.
But this verse is very soft evidence of the underlying theology of the Immaculate Conception.
A stronger implication of the doctrine is found in the greeting to Mary from the angel in Luke 1:28:
“Hail! Full of Grace!”
The Greek word, chairo means “hail” or “rejoice.” Every other use of this verb hail/chairo in the New Testament, that is followed by a noun, declares the title of the person being saluted. For example, in Matthew 26:49, Judas greets Jesus with “Hail! Master!” Similarly, in Matthew 27:29 soldiers mockingly bow before Jesus saying, “Hail! King of the Jews!” “Master” and “King of the Jews” are being uses as titles of Christ, just like “Jesus Christ.”
So, the phrase, Full Of Grace, which follows the angel’s “Hail!,” is her title. It is “Full of Grace.” This might seem like an odd name, but in OT days God often had people named with strange titles to reveal some truth. For example, in Isaiah 7:3 we find that one of Isaiah’s sons was named “A Remnant Shall Return.”
The title given to Mary is a form of the Greek word, “charitoo,” which means “to endow with grace,” “highly favored.” We see this title, given to Mary by the angel Gabriel as evidence for the truthfulness of the doctrine of the Immaculate Conception. “Kecharitomene” is the actual Greek word translated in various versions of the Bible as “full of grace,” “O favored one,” etc. This Greek word literally means “having been highly favored” or “having been full of grace” (Luke 1:28).
The phrase, “full of grace,” doesn’t jump out as a reason to consider Mary something unique—one who from conception was without sin!
But, as Origen commented, in the second century, the angel’s greeting was an expression never before used to address someone. Even Mary was puzzled by such an unusual salutation (Luke 1:29).
So, many might be convinced that the Angel was calling Mary by a new name but wasn’t it merely a new name to express the honor of her upcoming state of blessedness as the mother of the Messiah?
No, because kecharitomene is a perfect passive participle. This means that Mary was filled with grace in the past and this fullness of grace continues to the present. Therefore this fullness of grace is not new. It will not begin with the Incarnation and is not due to her maternity alone.
So, the angel’s words were a declaration of existing fact, not a prophecy of a future event. Rather than the title “You are about to be full of grace” kecharitomene would mean “You have been and still are full of grace”.
The Angel’s greeting reveals the unstated and universally accepted fact that Mary had been given the fullness of God’s grace in her past before the angel’s announcement—way in her past, from the time of her conception. Mary was created by God without the defect of Original Sin. She was created in the Fullness of Grace, The Fullness of Humanity just as Adam and Eve had been created.
Whereas, Adam and Eve disobeyed God, Mary obeyed God throughout her whole life. And, if you were God, entirely HOLY and you could create your mother in which to dwell in the incarnation would you choose a sinful woman or an immaculate one?