Advent translation #4: limited approval
Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men.Christmas carols and cards continue the idea that Christ's birth brings peace to everyone.
However, more recent versions, other than the NKJV, use a different Greek textual base for the end of Luke 2:14, resulting in a translation with peace not coming to all men (people), but, rather, those who please God:
on earth peace among men in whom he is well pleased (ASV, 1901)The difference in the Greek text used by the KJV and NKJV, and these other versions is just one letter, whether or not s occurs at the end of the word eudokia 'good will.' Bruce Metzger (A Textual Commentary on the Greek New Testament, Second Edition, New York: United Bible Societies, 1994, page 111) explains:
on earth peace among men who please Him (Weymouth, 1912)
on earth peace among men with whom he is pleased (RSV, NASB)
on earth peace among those with whom he is pleased (ESV)
on earth peace among those whom he favors (NRSV)
on earth peace among people with whom he is pleased (NET)
on earth let there be peace among the people who please God (NCV)
peace on earth to people He favors (HCSB)
peace on earth to those with whom God is pleased (NLT)
peace on earth to those with whom he is pleased (TEV)
Peace on earth to everyone who pleases God (CEV)
The difference between the AV [KJV], "Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men," and the RSV, "Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace among men with whom he is pleased!" is not merely a matter of exegesis of the meaning of the Greek, but is first of all one of text criticism. Does the Angelic Hymn close with eudokia [nominative] or eudokias [genitive]?I remember struggling with the translation of this verse with the Cheyenne lady with whom we were translating at the time. Her view of God did not allow God to "have favorites". She wanted the translation to indicate that God's peace and favor is upon everyone. I was able to make the change to what I consider closer to Luke's original meaning without her knowing.
The genitive case, which is the more difficult reading, is supported by the oldest representatives of the Alexandrian and the Western groups of witnesses. The rise of the nominative reading can be explained either as an amelioration of the sense or as a palaeographical oversight...
The theme that certain people find favor with God is widespread throughout the Bible. Noah "found grace in the eyes of the Lord." David was a "man after God's own heart." Jesus made it clear that not everyone who called him "Lord, Lord" would enter the kingdom, but, rather, only those who has truly treated him as Lord, who have done the will of God. I want to be that kind of person.
The "message of Christmas" is universal, for all people, but it carries a kind of limited approval, where the angelic pronouncement of peace is not simply for everyone but for those who please God. Let us be those people. What a gift to give to the King!