Peace On Earth, Good Will Toward Men

This is part of the Exegetical Insight of Chapter 7, each written by a different author, from William Mounce’s Basics of Biblical Greek Grammar, this one written by Verlyn Verbrugge. I’m going to do a bit of explanation to make it more understandable to those who know nothing about Greek (which is practically me), to try to put it into my own words, which is very risky, and expand on it. So let me know where I get it wrong.

The typical Christmas card greeting is, “Peace on earth, good will toward men” taken from, Luke 2:14b KJV “on earth peace, good will toward men.” This is what the angels sing to the shepherds in the fields of Bethlehem.

Since the 1600s when the KJV was written and revised, many more older transcripts (closer to the originals, which isn’t necessarily better but in this case they are numerous) have been found. Because a letter was dropped in the manuscripts used to translate the King James/Authorized Version, the word for ‘good will’ or ‘favor’ changes from the nominative (subject), to the genitive (generally, possessive).

Verbrugge says, on pg. 43 of the 2nd Edition:

[T]he 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!

ESV “on earth peace among those with whom he is pleased!”

NIV “on earth peace to those on whom his favor rests.”

NLT “peace on earth to those with whom God is pleased.”

NRSV “on earth peace among those whom he favors!”

I thank God it’s not like computer programming where one wrong character will bring the whole thing down! I’ve had my share of those experiences. These improvements made in translations don’t change any major doctrine (teaching) of the Bible and in fact goes directly against the arguments of those think the Bible is handed down and changed by each generation. Scholars and archeologists are actually going the other way and getting closer to the original manuscripts. We can be confident that the Bible contains God’s Word which is comprised of accurate truth which brings salvation to those who hear or read it, believe what it says and trust Jesus Christ for their salvation as opposed to being a good enough person or whatever ideas of their own one may have.

2 Timothy 3:14-17 NLT
But you must remain faithful to the things you have been taught. You know they are true, for you know you can trust those who taught you. 15 You have been taught the holy Scriptures from childhood, and they have given you the wisdom to receive the salvation that comes by trusting in Christ Jesus. 16 All Scripture is inspired by God and is useful to teach us what is true and to make us realize what is wrong in our lives. It corrects us when we are wrong and teaches us to do what is right. 17 God uses it to prepare and equip his people to do every good work.

For more context of the original verse:

Matthew 10:34-42 NLT
“Don’t imagine that I came to bring peace to the earth! I came not to bring peace, but a sword. 35 ‘I have come to set a man against his father, a daughter against her mother, and a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law. 36 Your enemies will be right in your own household!’ 37 “If you love your father or mother more than you love me, you are not worthy of being mine; or if you love your son or daughter more than me, you are not worthy of being mine. 38 If you refuse to take up your cross and follow me, you are not worthy of being mine. 39 If you cling to your life, you will lose it; but if you give up your life for me, you will find it. 40 “Anyone who receives you receives me, and anyone who receives me receives the Father who sent me. 41 If you receive a prophet as one who speaks for God, you will be given the same reward as a prophet. And if you receive righteous people because of their righteousness, you will be given a reward like theirs. 42 And if you give even a cup of cold water to one of the least of my followers, you will surely be rewarded.”

Matthew 24:6
And you will hear of wars and threats of wars, but don’t panic. Yes, these things must take place, but the end won’t follow immediately.

Jesus came to bring us peace with God.

Acts 10:36
This is the message of Good News for the people of Israel– that there is peace with God through Jesus Christ, who is Lord of all.

Romans 2:9-11
There will be trouble and calamity for everyone who keeps on doing what is evil– for the Jew first and also for the Gentile. 10 But there will be glory and honor and peace from God for all who do good– for the Jew first and also for the Gentile. 11 For God does not show favoritism.

Romans 5:1
Therefore, since we have been made right in God’s sight by faith, we have peace with God because of what Jesus Christ our Lord has done for us.

Romans 14:17-18
For the Kingdom of God is not a matter of what we eat or drink, but of living a life of goodness and peace and joy in the Holy Spirit. 18 If you serve Christ with this attitude, you will please God, and others will approve of you, too. (emphasis added to keep you awake)

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