Tuesday, January 18, 2022

WM 220: Text Note: Luke 2:14: Hixson or Linus?


What is the issue?

The setting: The angel of the Lord appears to the shepherds and announces the birth of Christ (vv. 9-12). This angel is then joined by the heavenly host in praising God (v. 13). The question: What was the content of that praise (v. 14)?

In the AV:

Luke 2:14 Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men.

In some modern version, such as the ESV:

Luke 2:14 “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace among those with whom he is pleased!”

This not just a difference in wording. It reflects a difference in text:

TR (Scrivener’s, 1894): δοξα εν υψιστοις θεω και επι γης ειρηνη εν ανθρωποις ευδοκια

W & H (1881): δοξα εν υψιστοις θεω και επι γης ειρηνη εν ανθρωποις ευδοκιας

It is a difference of one word, and one letter in that word. Is it the nominative ευδοκια, or the genitive ευδοκιας?

External evidence:

Taken from the NA 28:

The traditional reading is supported by the following: second corrector of Aleph, second corrector of B, K, L, P, Gamma, Delta, Theta, Xi, Psi, family 1, family 13, 565, 579, 700, 892, 1241, 1424, 2541, Lectionary 844, and the Majority Text. Among the versions it is the reading of the Syriac Harklean and the Coptic Boharic. Among the early church writers, it is found in Origin (in part), Eusebius, and Epiphaneus.

The modern reading is supported by the original hand of Aleph, A, the original hand of B, D, and W. Among the versions, the NA28 lists the Stuttgart Vulgate (2007) and the Sahidic (with some variations). Among the early church writers, it lists Cyril of Jerusalem.

Note: The NA 28 also lists a variant in the Old Latin, Clementine Vulgate, and Latin translation of Irenaeus that is closer to the modern text reading (hominibus bonae voluntatis).

Note: The modern text shows its typical favoring of the readings found in Aleph and B.

The supporting Greek evidence is particularly weak.

Pickering notes that the traditional text is supported by 99.4% of extant Greek mss., and the modern critical text only by 0.4%.

If this was the authentic reading, why was it almost completely ignored (not copied) in later generations?

Internal evidence:

See Metzger’s Commentary, which gives the modern text a {B} rating in his first edition, upgraded to an {A} rating in the second edition.

Meztzger says the noun in the genitive is the “more difficult reading,” adding, “The rise of the nominative reading can be explained either as an amelioration of the sense or as a paleographical oversight…”

If we assume the nominative is original, however, why could we not just as well see the genitive as an “amelioration of the sense”?

In support of the traditional reading is the fact that by placing “good will” in apposition to “peace” the emphasis might land more on the prepositional phrase “among men.” It is often noted that Luke, likely a Gentile, stresses Christ as the universal Savior of all kinds of men. The angel of the Lord, for example, brings “good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people” (v. 10).

Metzger also suggests that the genitive would bring stress on God’s peace “resting on those whom he had chosen according to his good pleasure” (citing a parallel in the DSS, as noted by the RC scholar J. A. Fitzmyer!).

The modern reading, however, is hardly a more “Calvinistic” one, since it could just as easily be interpreted as implying that the bestowal of God’s peace was conditioned upon the expression of good will by men.


The external evidence overwhelming supports the traditional text. Reasonable internal arguments plausibly explain why a handful of mss. changed the noun from the nominative to the genitive. The traditional reading was the clear consensus of Christians throughout the ages and should not be abandoned.

A modern pastor tries to explain his preference for the modern text:

Elijah Hixson, Associate Pastor of Fireside Fellowship Church in Kingston, TN in a sermon titled “Glory to God in the Highest” on Luke 2:14 (from December 20, 2020) made an attempt to justify translations based on the modern text.

Though Hixson never clearly addressed the issues by providing specifics as to why the traditional text should be abandoned and the modern affirmed, he picks up on the fact that people will be bothered by the changes being made in modern translations and attempts preemptively to allay their fears.

In the end, Linus got it right:

The climax of the Charlie Brown Christmas Special (originally released in 1965) gets it right, by using the traditional translation based on the traditional text. And no one even needs Mark Ward to explain it to them using modern words!!!!


1 comment:

James Snapp Jr said...

I arrived at a similar conclusion -
https://www.thetextofthegospels.com/2015/08/luke-214-peace-on-earth-goodwill-to-men.html .