PART III: THE EARLY CHURCH FATHER COMMENTARIES
When we turn to the writings of the Early Church Fathers, we aren’t doing so to compare what they teach to what Scripture teaches; rather we are comparing their understanding of Scripture and Apostolic Tradition to the understanding of more modern minds. The Church Fathers lived in an age of the Apostles through the first centuries extremely closer to Christ and the Apostles, some being direct disciples of the Apostles (even mentioned by name in the New Testament). The age of the Church Fathers was before English emerged as a language, when translations were between the co-existing languages of Aramaic, Hebrew, Greek, and Latin. It is the commentaries of the Church Fathers that learned from the Apostles and spoke these languages thag provide immense insight on the meaning and context of the original Greek language used in the New Testament writings, particularly "kecharitomene" and the view of Mary as the New Eve:
Early Signs of Immaculate Conception: No Labor Pangs
Eve, who was made without sin, only after original sin had to bear the burden of birthing pangs (Genesis 3:16). In the earliest extra-biblical and orthodox documents about Jesus Christ, Mary is described as being immune from this penalty that resulted from Eve’s sin:
Ascension of Isaiah (A.D 1st Century)
“And the story regarding the infant was spread abroad in Bethlehem. Some said: “The Virgin Mary has borne a child, before she was married two months.” And many said, “She has not borne a child, nor has a midwife gone up (to her), nor have we heard the cries of (labor) pains” [Ascension of Isaiah 11:12–14 (c. A.D. 90)].”
Odes of Solomon (A.D. 2nd Century)
So the Virgin became a Mother with great mercies. And she labored and bore the Son, but without pain, because it did not occur without purpose. And she did not seek a midwife, because he caused her to give life [Odes of Solomon 19:7–9 (c. A.D. 125)].”
Protoevangelium of James (AD 2nd Century)
“And the midwife said to him: “Is this true?” And Joseph said to her: “Come and see.” And the midwife went away with him. And they stood in the place of the cave, and behold a luminous cloud overshadowed the cave. And the midwife said: “My soul has been magnified this day, because my eyes have seen strange things — because salvation has been brought forth to Israel.” And immediately the cloud disappeared out of the cave, and a great light shone in the cave, so that the eyes could not bear it. And in a little that light gradually decreased, until the infant appeared, and went and took the breast from His mother Mary. And the midwife cried out, and said: "This is a great day to me, because I have seen this strange sight.""
[Protoevangeloum of James 19 (A.D.145)]
Mary Depicted as the New Eve
St. Justin Martyr (A.D. 2nd Century)
“[Jesus] became man by the Virgin so that the course which was taken by disobedience in the beginning through the agency of the serpent might be also the very course by which it would be put down. Eve, a virgin and undefiled, conceived the word of the serpent and bore disobedience and death. But the Virgin Mary received faith and joy when the angel Gabriel announced to her the glad tidings that the Spirit of the Lord would come upon her and the power of the Most High would overshadow her, for which reason the Holy One being born of her is the Son of God. And she replied ‘Be it done unto me according to your word’ [Luke 1:38]”
(Dialogue with Trypho the Jew 100 [A.D. 155]).
St. Iraneus (A.D. 2nd Century)
“Consequently, then, Mary the Virgin is found to be obedient, saying, ‘Behold, O Lord, your handmaid; be it done to me according to your word.’ Eve, however, was disobedient, and, when yet a virgin, she did not obey. Just as she, who was then still a virgin although she had Adam for a husband—for in paradise they were both naked but were not ashamed; for, having been created only a short time, they had no understanding of the procreation of children, and it was necessary that they first come to maturity before beginning to multiply—having become disobedient, was made the cause of death for herself and for the whole human race; so also Mary, betrothed to a man but nevertheless still a virgin, being obedient, was made the cause of salvation for herself and for the whole human race. . . . Thus, the knot of Eve’s disobedience was loosed by the obedience of Mary. What the virgin Eve had bound in unbelief, the Virgin Mary loosed through faith”
(Against Heresies 3:22:24 [A.D. 189]).
Tertullian (A.D 3rd Century)
“And again, lest I depart from my argumentation on the name of Adam: Why is Christ called Adam by the apostle [Paul], if as man he was not of that earthly origin? But even reason defends this conclusion, that God recovered his image and likeness by a procedure similar to that in which he had been robbed of it by the devil. It was while Eve was still a virgin that the word of the devil crept in to erect an edifice of death. Likewise through a virgin the Word of God was introduced to set up a structure of life. Thus what had been laid waste in ruin by this sex was by the same sex reestablished in salvation. Eve had believed the serpent; Mary believed Gabriel. That which the one destroyed by believing, the other, by believing, set straight”
(The Flesh of Christ 17:4 [A.D. 210].
Mary Created without Sin or Blemish
Origen (A.D 3rd Century)
"So, as virtue is a grace, which produces someone possessing fullness of grace
(kecharitōménon), when this [grace] has gone on prosperously by way of free choice in us, in these circumstances what is from God becomes present, and this is what is to give grace for grace from God"
(Gospel of John, fragments 11).
Ephraim the Syrian (A.D. 4th Century)
“You alone and your Mother are more beautiful than any others, for there is no blemish in you nor any stains upon your Mother. Who of my children can compare in beauty to these?”
(Nisibene Hymns 27:8 [A.D. 361]).
St. Ambrose of Milan (A.D. 4th Century)
“Come, then, and search out your sheep, not through your servants or hired men, but do it yourself. Lift me up bodily and in the flesh, which is fallen in Adam. Lift me up not from Sarah but from Mary, a virgin not only undefiled, but a virgin whom grace had made inviolate, free of every stain of sin”
(Commentary on Psalm 118:22–30 [A.D. 387]).
St. Augustine of Hippo (A.D. 5th Century)
“Having excepted the holy Virgin Mary, concerning whom, on account of the honor of the Lord, I wish to have absolutely no question when treating of sins—for how do we know what abundance of grace for the total overcoming of sin was conferred upon her, who merited to conceive and bear him in whom there was no sin?—so, I say, with the exception of the Virgin, if we could have gathered together all those holy men and women, when they were living here, and had asked them whether they were without sin, what do we suppose would have been their answer?”
(Nature and Grace 36:42 [A.D. 415]).
St. Romanos the Melodist (A.D. 6th Century- Greek Hymns)
"Then the tribes of Israel heard that Anne had conceived the immaculate [female] (éteken Ánna tên áchranton). So everyone took part in the rejoicing. Joachim gave a banquet, and great was the merriment in the garden. He invited the priests and Levites to prayer; then he called Mary into the center of the crowd, that she might be magnified."
Collectively, the Fathers understood Mary to be the New Eve, immaculately conceived, free of any stain of sin, exempt from the penalty of labor pangs that resulted from Eve's sin in the Garden of Eden.
PART IV: First English Translations
1587 Douay Rheims “Full of Grace” vs 1611 KJV “Highly Favoured”
Does Being “Highly Favoured” Disprove the Immaculate Conception?
Important to Note: While we don't accept the KJV as an authoritative translation of Sacred Scripture, we understand many of our Protestant brothers and sisters participating in the Catechism in a Year with us may struggle with understanding the dogma. It is being cited here to help assist our Protestant brothers and sisters to see how it’s translation of "Highly Favoured" (in 17th-18th Century English) is not at odds with the dogma of the Immaculate Conception, but ultimately means what the Catholic Church means when we say Mary is "Full of Grace," conceived without sin.
The state that God made Man and Woman, without sin/ "blemish"
Christ our Paschal Lamb is now sacrificed" (1 Corinthians 5:7)
Pascal Lamb- lamb without blemish. (Exodus 12:5)
1611 King James "That art highly favoured"
Closest dictionaries to 1611 that define "grace" and "favour": Dictionarium Anglo-Brittanicum (1708 and 1730)
"favour or goodwill, (in Divinity) the mercy of God in finding out means for the Redemption of Mankind" (1708)
“favour, goodwill; (in Divinity) a gift which God gives to Man of his own free will (1730)
n- gracious, kindness, favorable (1708)
V- to shew favour
Adj “favourable”- apt to favour, good, gracious
1730- favour is opposed to rigor, especially in matters of JUSTICE
1708- "Gracious" - endued with grace
("Endued" past participle"- 1708- "qualified with, supplied with, furnished with") literally "supplied with grace"
18th Century English Meaning of “Charitoo/ Kecharitomene”
"My son, blemish not thy good deeds,
neither use uncomfortable words when thou gives anything.
Shall not the dew asswage the heat?
So is a word better than a gift.
Lo, is not a word better than a gift, but both are with a gracious* man." (Sirach 18:15-17 KJV 1611)
* "kecharitomeno" - "justified man" Douay Rheims (1609)
cleared or proved innocent of any crime, charge, or accusation; also verified, maintained for good. (1730)
“Kecharitomeno”- A gracious man is a man endued with grace, a gift which God freely gives to man, which is opposed to rigor, especially in matters of justice. A gracious man is a justified man, innocent and maintained for good.
Root word of kecharitomene/o is "charito"- "to make graceful, to endow with grace"
According to Luke, Paul, the Author of Sirach’s Greek, and the English translations according to 18th Century Dictionaries, “Highly Favoured” carries the Catholic meaning of “Full of Grace.”
Douay Rheims Bible (1582 Translation of Latin Vulgate)
Interlinear Greek Septuagint (Strong’s Concordance)
“Behold Your Mother” by Tim Staples
“Jesus and the Jewish Roots of Mary” by Dr. Brant Pitre
“The Fathers Know Best: Your Essential Guide to the Teachings of the Early Church” by Jimmy Akin
Article By Fr. Christiaan Kappes (watch “Pints with Aquinas” Episode here)
1611 King James Version
Dictionarium Anglo-Brittanicum (1708 and 1730)