Bill Mounce

For an Informed Love of God

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Exegetical Insight (Chapter 7)

“Peace on earth, good will toward men” (Luke 2:14, KJV). You have probably all received Christmas cards containing this part of the angels’ song to the shepherds on the fields of Bethlehem. But most modern translations read differently: “on earth peace to men on whom his [God’s] favor rests” (NIV); “and on earth peace among those whom he [God] favors” (NRSV). The difference between the KJV and the others is the difference between the nominative and the genitive.

The Greek manuscripts used to translate the KJV contain eujdokiva (nominative), whereas the older manuscripts used to translate the modern versions contain eujdokivaV (genitive) —literally translated, “of good will” or “characterized by [God’s] good pleasure.” In other words, the peace that the angels sang that belonged to the earth as a result of the birth of Christ is not a generic, worldwide peace for all humankind, but a peace limited to those who obtain favor with God by believing in his Son Jesus (see Romans 5:1). What a difference a single letter can make in the meaning of the text!

Verlyn Verbrugge