This passage occurs in the Revised Common Lectionary during Advent.
Many commentaries reading this passage display
a hermeneutic of suspicion. For example, the anchor Bible commentary
was lamenting that Luke put everything in an OT style. Strangely
enough, this was proof that he was making this stuff up. (Imagine, God
works in a consistent manner over time). The virgin birth becomes
highly problematic within this hermeneutic of suspicion!
do not think Luke wants us to read with such cynical eyes. First, Luke
goes to great lengths here to give us names and dates, indicating he
intends to write history, not fiction. He even has the angel offer Mary
a sign (the pregnancy of Elizabeth), reminding us of Mary's human need
for proof. While his characters may follow patterns of other Biblical
characters, they seem to me to be real people with hopes and fears.
think Luke offers us another hermeneutic: belief in God's word to do
miracles. I use the word hermeneutic because Luke plays on the word
herma in this passage; the word for "thing" in verse in 37 is "rema",
but because of the heavy breathing on the "r", this comes into
English"herma"; the word for "word" in verse 38 is also "rema" (herma).
We should read the Bible, not ready to doubt, but ready to be amazed at
what God has done. This hermeneutic, I believe, is what Luke intends
that we might echo the angel and Mary in declaring that “All things
(hermas) are possible through God” and “Let it be done according to your word (herma).”
("name"; appears throughout the section) It is curious that the word
name appears four times in this section. In addition, every character
has a name; even people not part of the immediate story, David and
Elizabeth, are named.
καλεω ("call"/"invite"; appears
throughout the section) It is also curious that the word "call" appear
four times in this section. Clearly calling things a name is a vital
part of this pericope.
παρθενου ("virgin" or "young
woman"; 1:27) Let's settle this debate. Linguistically it is possible
to imagine that Mary is simply referred to hear as a young woman and not
a "virgin." However, the word for virgin is parthenos (like the
Parthenon building, to the virgin Athena). Furthermore, Mary's very
objection to the pregnancy is the fact that she has never known a man.
("grace"; 1:28; 1:30) In 1:28 this appears as a verb in the perfect
passive form: "Having been graced." It is interesting that the grace is
in the perfect, in that the graceful event occured previous to the
angel's announcement. What was the event that already gave her this
grace? Perhaps her own immaculate conception?! Another tough thing
about this idea of Mary's grace is found in the NET's translation
notes. They lament the vulgate translation, "full of grace" because
it presents the idea that Mary has grace to bestow on others. While it
is true that Mary's grace comes from God, it is hard to make the
argument that Mary does not bestow grace on the rest of us through her
role in the birth. Catholics go to far, but we protestants have never
quite done Mary justice!
Grammar Review: Missing words
phrase the "The Lord be with you" is not really what the Greek says. It
simply reads "The Lord with you." (ο κυριος μετα σου) This can be read
as an imperative, as in it expresses a wish, "The Lord be or will be
with you." Or as an indicative: "The Lord is with you." Interestingly,
most translators translate a similar construction at the end of the
Gospel of John (Peace to you) with an imperative/wish "Peace be with
you." Using the same translation method they use here, that phrase
should read there "Peace is with you." In this case, I would probably
argue for the translation, "The Lord is with you" because a) the angel
is standing right there and b) the angel says she is graced.