Posted by: frroberts | April 15, 2015

What did Gabriel Really Say to Mary?

I have been reading Dr. Taylor Marshall’s The Eternal City while exercising at the gym in recent days.  All through the book, Dr. Marshall deliciously reasserts Catholic traditions in a way that only a convert can.  For example, he provides incisive arguments for Jesus’ birth actually occurring on December 25 in the year 1 B.C. rather than accepting the secular claim that the Church has been wrong about when Jesus was born for 1500 years, as many other Catholic writers do.

One of the other points that he addresses has to do with the exact words that Gabriel spoke to Mary.  In the liturgy and pious writing, much has been made of the Latin translation of the Greek chaire, which is ave (usually translated hail or rejoice).  Ave is the reverse of Eva, the Latin for Eve.  The Fathers of the Church who wrote in Latin noted this orthographic reversal and used it as a way to illustrate creatively Saint Irenaeus’ (who wrote originally in Greek) point that Mary’s obedience untied the knot of Eve’s disobedience.  Thus the Church sings in the hymn Ave Maris Stella:

 Sumens illud Ave/Gabrielis ore,/funda nos in pace,/mutans Evae nomen.

Receiving that Ave/from Gabriel’s mouth,/establish us in peace,/changing Eve’s name.

The obvious problem is that the New Testament is in Greek, a language in which chaire and Eva correspond to the Latin ave and Eva.  The word play in Latin would seem to be only a translational coincidence and not tied to Scripture itself.

Dr. Marshall suggests that if we get behind the Greek and go to the Hebrew that Gabriel probably spoke to Mary, we would get the Hebrew chave (may you live long).  The Hebrew for Eve is chava (mother of the living).   While we are not talking about a reversal of the letters in a three-letter word, if this theory is correct Gabriel’s Hebrew greeting would point to Mary’s role as the new Eve as much as it does in Latin translation, perhaps more so.

It was through Mary’s yes that God chose to give us eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.   That yes made her the spiritual mother of all those living the supernatural life of grace.


  1. Fascinating!


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