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"Hail, Queen of the Jews"?

Have you ever wondered about the angel's strange greeting to the Virgin Mary? Why would God's own messenger be saying "Hail" to a young girl? Why is she called "full of grace" and not "Mary, full of grace"? Is this possibly a royal title? The answer lies in the other uses of "Hail" in the New Testament.

This is an absolutely critical point in Scripture. First off, if Mary had said "No" to God, it would have changed everything. There is so much significance packed into this short verse. The Angel Gabriel says to Mary, "Hail, full of grace, the Lord is with you!" Why does the angel say, "Hail"? Is the Virgin Mary a taxi cabAnd why does the angel say "full of grace" instead of Mary's name? 

I was just immersed in a Twitter battle about the meaning of this verse with some of John MacArthur's hyper-Calvinist disciples. Check it out:

This is a trap, of course. No where in Scripture will you find two Galileans passing each other on the street and saying, "Hail, buddy!" 

If you look it up, the word "hail" is actually used only six times in the Gospels. It's used as a greeting (not a weather phenomenon), but what sort of greeting? As you will see, each time, "hail" is used as a very uncommon sort of greeting. 

(Not sure why he used "norepinephrine" there. It's a pretty ironic auto-correct, though.)

Three of the six times that "hail" is used in the Gospel (Mt 27:29; Mk 15:18; Jn 19:3) it is used as follows:

BOOM! Isn't that amazing? "Hail" is used, albeit mockingly, to revere and address the "King of the Jews." "Hail" is also followed, not by Jesus' name, but by his title, King of the Jews. In the exact same manner, Mary is addressed by the angel as "Hail, Full of Grace!" It is a greeting for royalty and "Full of Grace" (Hb. kecharitomene) is Mary's royal title. 

Also, at Matthew 26:49, Judas greets Jesus with "Hail, Master!" Hail is always used to denote authority and, in particular, royal authority. 

The John MacArthur boys brought to my attention the sixth time the word "hail" is used in Scripture:
Mary Magdalene and "the other Mary" (either Mary, wife of Clopas or Mary, wife of Alphaeus), have found the tomb of Jesus empty. Both Marys had been at the Cross with Mary, the mother of Jesus, and now they have come to Jesus' tomb. They encounter the angel, who announces the Resurrection. After departing from the angel, at Mathew 28:9, Jesus meets the women and says, "Hail!" Immediately, they turn and respond, "Howdy, J-sizzle!" ... NO! They do not.

Immediately, the women "took hold of his feet and worshiped him." 

If Jesus had just said "hello, howdy" to the women, why do they throw themselves at his feet and worship him? Because, when Jesus said "Hail!", he wasn't greeting them. He was commanding them to worship him. His resurrected body was wreathed with the glory of God, not unlike at the Transfiguration. It was only fitting that they bow before the revealed power and glory of God. Such an apotheosis could be blinding! Moses even wore a veil after speaking with God, because his shining face was frightening to the Israelites (Exodus 34:29-35) - just imagine what Jesus' face must have looked like!

Jesus, therefore, uses "Hail!" as a command to bow down and worship. This is an interesting scene with the women bowing down and "hailing" the risen King of Jews. It is perfectly symmetrical with the guards bowing down and mock-hailing Jesus prior to the Crucifixion. 

The Symmetrical Hailings: Ivan Kramskoi "Their Derision Hail King of the Jews" (c. 1870s)
& William Hobman Hunt "Christ and the Two Marys"

To summarize, every time "Hail!" is used in the Gospels, it is used to address royalty and only royalty. It is followed by the royal title. For Jesus, it is "King of the Jews. For Mary, it is "Full of Grace." Coming from the angel of heaven, "Full of Grace" is not only Mary's royal title, but her heavenly title. We also know from Revelation 12 that Mary wears a crown in heaven and, accordingly, reigns as Queen of Heaven (for more on this, read this). 

Mary doesn't just wear any crown at Revelation 12; she wears a crown of "twelve stars," representing the twelve tribes of Israel. 

Therefore, the Angel Gabriel could have also said, "Hail, Queen of Israel" ... or "Hail, Queen of the Jews!" 

Because "a sword will pierce through [Mary's] soul, also" (Luke 2:35).

What questions about Mary have you been asked? If you've ever felt boxed into a corner, please share/comment below. Together, we'll try and come up with an answer. 

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  1. Maybe a bit of a stretch with the unbiblical Titles and powers applied to Mary by mere men in recent centuries and unknown to the writers of the New Testament
    As christians we should only here the call or words of the Lord, so let's here and obey him.

    27As Jesus was saying these things, a woman in the crowd raised her voice and said, “Blessed is the womb that bore You, and blessed are the breasts that nursed You.” 28But He replied, “Blessed rather are those who hear the word of God and obey it.”… Luke 11:27

    …7So if You worship me, it will all be Yours.” 8But Jesus replied, “It is written: ‘Worship the Lord your God and serve Him only.’” Luke 4:8

    “What is written in the Law?” Jesus replied. “How do you read it?” 27He answered, “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind’ and ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’” 28“You have answered correctly,” Jesus said. “Do this and you will live.”… Luke 10:26

    15If you love Me, you will keep My commandments. 16And I will ask the Father, and He will give you another Advocate to be with you forever— 17the Spirit of truth. The world cannot receive Him, because it neither sees Him nor knows Him. But you do know Him, for He abides with you and will be in you.…John 14:15

    We should all love Mary as the mother of Christ however Christ alone is our Saviour mediator and Lord
    Can we all be honest with ourselves and let Christs word within. what we believe better be from God (cannot lie) and not men (all have lied) as our eternal welfare rests on it

  2. @Anonymous: Thanks for your comment. UnBiblical? Anti-Mary Christians have a blind spot to this but Gebirah, Hebrew for "Queen-Mother" is ALL OVER the Bible: 1 Kings 11:19; 1 Kings 15:13; 2 Chronicles 15:16; 2 Kings 10:13; Jeremiah 13:18; Jeremiah 29:2. Just look it up. If Jesus is the new King of Israel, who is the new Queen of Israel?

  3. Just came across this. Good work, Scott, on wiggling out the "Hail." But I submit that your explanation of Jesus using the word with the women after His resurrection is a little thin.

    I also think you can go farther with the "full of grace" part of it. I did a study of it a few years ago, and came up with this little essay. Not sure I got everything right, but I do think looking at the Angel Gabriel closely is spot-on.

  4. Great article . Could you please tell us the equivalent word of “ hail” in hebrew and in Greek . I’m catholic and learning the Rosary in those languages . Please don’t respond that “ shalom “ is the proper word for hail in Hebreww because it isn’t . Thanks and keep the articles coming .

    1. Sure! Luke 1:28's "hail" in Greek would be "chaire" (Χαῖρε). Does that help? Not sure on the Hebrew, but I'll check.

  5. I love how some run to Rev 12 and claim the woman is Mary! The woman in this chapter is pregnant, and in heaven, problem 1... she is pregnant and in heaven before Satan is cast out 2000+ years before Jesus is born, problem 2. In verse 14, she is given giant eagle wings to fly like a superhero. There are no references to Mary having wings in the gospel, problem 3. In verse 17 we are told Satan goes after her other children, odd, I thought she remained a virgin her whole life? Problem 4...