Biblical Concept: Christmas, Luke 2:14
The purpose of this study: To determine the meaning of Luke 2:14.
The contextual setting of Luke 2:14: In Luke 2:13, “a multitude of the heavenly host” spoke verse 14 in praise of God. Luke 2:8-12, the previous context, is an instructive announcement of the Savior’s birth to certain Bethlehem Shepherds by “an angel of the Lord.”
A word for word translation of the Koine Greek Text of Luke 2:14: The reason a word for word translation is necessary, is the deficiency of many English translations. Luke 2:14, Greek word by Greek word: “Glory in highest-places to God and on earth peace with men of good thinking.” (Do,xa evn u`yi,stoij qew/| kai. evpi. gh/j eivrh,nh evn avnqrw,poij euvdoki,ajÅ)
“Glory” is the subject (nominative inflection) of 2:14a. Glory (doxa) comes from the root word dokeo meaning: “to think, imagine, suppose, presume, pleased.” Vines says that doxa “primarily signifies an opinion, estimate, and hence the honor resulting from a good opinion.” The birth of the Lord Jesus Christ brought glory to God in the highest heavenly places. Note the angelic thinking in 1 Peter 1:10-12.
“Highest-places”: Six of the eight English Bibles (see below) have translated this word “highest.” Their translations appear to give the meaning: ‘highest glory possible to God.’ Two of the eight translate this word: “in heaven” and “highest heaven.” What is the intended meaning? The Greek word here is huphistos and Luke has also used it in: 1:32 (“High”), 1:35 (“High”), 1:76 (“High”), 6:35 (“High”), 8:28 (“High”) and 19:38 (“highest”). Each time huphistos is used directly of, or related to the Person of God, the NASB capitalizes it and translates it: “High.” Huphistos in 2:14 and 19:38 do not comment directly on the person of God and are not capitalized. Both are dative neuter plural adjectives. Perhaps most significant in this inflection (ending) is that they are plural. If, for example, the NASB translation is retained, at the very least 2:14a should read: “Glory to God in the highests.” Given the angelic multitude of heavenly hosts praising God with this phrase in 2:14a, “highests” possibly concerns glory to God in the highest heavenly places? This is indeed how other forms of huphistos (huphos, huphoma, huphoo, huphelos) are commonly used. Among the following examples particularly note the Luke passages. See: Hebrews 1:3 (“high”), 7:26 (“exalted above”), Luke 1:78 (“high”), Luke 10:15 (“will be exalted”), Luke 24:49 (“high”), Ephesians 4:8 (“high”), John 12:32 (“be lifted up”), Acts 2:33 (“having been exalted”). In addition to the previous ‘high heavenly places,’ the huphistos vocabulary is used of high earthly places. Mark 9:2 (“high”) for example. The huphistos vocabulary is also used of metaphysical high places. See Matthew 4:8 (“high”), Ephesians 3:18 (“height”), James 4:10 (“exalt”), Romans 8:39 (“height”), 2 Corinthians 10:5 (“lofty thing”) and Revelation 21:10 (“high”). “Highest-places” conclusions: Given the angelic speakers, the praise of God, the contrast with “earth” in 14b, the common fashion in which huphistos is used of high places elsewhere in Luke and many other Scriptures, it seems reasonable to translate huphistos in Luke 2:14a as “highest-places.” Or, alternatively, “highests” is also a good translation of huphistos in Luke 2:14a and has the same ‘places’ connotation because of the plural inflection. The ‘highest glory possible to God’ English translations, though a possibility, appear less probable in intended meaning.
“On earth” stands in contrast to the previously mentioned “high-places.”
In Luke 2:14b, the main subject is “peace” because of the nominative ending. The other words in 2:14b elaborate on “peace.” (Glory and peace are the subjects of Luke 2:14.)
The next words to consider in determining meaning are: “with men.” “With” is the dative preposition en. “In, on, within, by, among” are also translation options. The translation chosen depends on if the men are viewed as producing or receiving the “peace” in some fashion. I happen to like “with” or “among” because it can be read with either a receiving or producing nuance. Because of the final words of the literal translation (“of good thinking”), I think “with men” can be read with a double nuance of receiving and producing, because “good thinking” provides both.
“Of good thinking” are the final words of the word for word translation from the Greek text. This translation is quite different from each of the English translations noted. For example, the NASB translation reads: “with whom He is pleased.” “He” being capitalized to delineate God as the One Who is pleased. However, the only word in the Greek text is “eudokias.” Eu, in this compound word means: “good.” Dokias, from dokeo means: “to think, imagine, suppose, presume, pleased.” (Recall dokeo, “glory,” and angelic thinking previously.) Thus, “good thinking” is a good literal translation. The “of” in the translation comes from the use of a genitive inflection (ending). This is significant because the intent of the writer is to describe further the “peace with men.” “Of good thinking” describes how to have “peace with men.” God is not directly mentioned in relationship to the descriptive phrase “of good thinking.” Indeed, this is quite a different translation and meaning compared to any of the English translations cited previously! A majority of the translations cited previously add many words not in the inspired text to bring God into 2:14b. The KJV has not added words and the translators chose “good will” for the definition of eudokias--a more literal option. For additional (all) examples of eudokias and the root word eudokeo in Luke, see: 3:22, 10:21, and 12:32. Conclusions about “good thinking”: “Good thinking” results in peace among men who have such thinking. When men are focused on the “Savior, who is Christ the Lord” (Luke 2:11b in the previous context), there is peace on earth every day, received by them and produced through them. Christmas indeed! Everyday. It seems best to not add many words to this last phrase in Luke 2:14b, to make an interpretation. “And on earth peace with men of good thinking” stands on its own and has great meaning.
Luke 2:14 verse titles:
Luke 2:14a, God is worthy of glory in the highest heavenly places.
Luke 2:14b, Good spiritual thinking (Savior in 2:11b) = peace on earth.
Luke 2:14b, Good thinking = peace = Christmas (2:11b).
Examples of English translations: NASB - Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace among men with whom He is pleased. NIV - Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace to men on whom his favor rests. KJV - Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men. RSV - Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace among men with whom he is pleased. TEB - Give glory to God in heaven, and on earth let there be peace to the people who please God. NET - Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace among people with whom he is pleased! NKJV - Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men! NRSV - Glory to God in the highest heaven, and on earth peace among those whom he favors!
VINES Expository Dictionary of Old and New Testament Words, p.153.