According to Liddell and Scott’s Intermediate Greek Lexicon (also called Middle Liddell) the word δόξα or δοξης can mean: expectation, an opinion, judgment, the opinion which others have of one, estimation, reputation, credit, honour, glory. (Link to it on Perseus)

Did the English translators of basically all Protestant translations (other than the NLT) just miss this? or is there doctrinal bias involved in translating as "glory" which makes it sound like its a sin to not literally be God? After all, not falling short of the "glory" of God is impossible without literally being God. Surely that can't be what Paul really means.

“for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God,” (KJV, but same as any Standard Protestant Translation)

“for all have sinned and fall short of the expectation of God,” (makes more sense)

"For everyone has sinned; we all fall short of God’s glorious standard." (NLT)

  • 2
    I do like the question, but it comes across a little like, "I'm right, who wants to argue with me?" You might consider writing the question neutrally and then offering your own answer (this is enoucouraged!) if you want to make your point.
    – Susan
    Aug 29, 2014 at 9:29
  • (Perseus links have a habit of not doing exactly what I think they're going to. I updated it to go directly to the Liddell entry, but feel free to roll back if you don't like it.)
    – Susan
    Aug 29, 2014 at 12:30
  • perseus was neat back in the day. it'd be nice if they could refresh with some more ... useful technology and mss. nonetheless, it seems that this question simply boils down to "why did they translators choose 'glory' and not 'expectation'?" is that fair?
    – swasheck
    Aug 29, 2014 at 20:55
  • @swasheck, Yes, that's it more or less. Aug 30, 2014 at 3:15
  • I always thought the standard translation was weird. What about "short of God's approval"?
    – user10231
    Sep 20, 2015 at 11:33

4 Answers 4


This is an instant where the Greek doesn't capture it's original sense in the Hebrew.

In Hebrew 'kabod'(glory) originally meant 'weight'. We see this illustrated in 2 Chron. 5:14,

So that the priests could not stand to minister by reason of the cloud: for the glory of the LORD had filled the house of God.

In Ex. 33:22, the Lord says to Moses,

And it shall come to pass, while my glory passeth by, that I will put thee in a clift of the rock, and will cover thee with my hand while I pass by:

One's 'doxa', no matter how highly regarded, doesn't match the "kabod" of God's Presence. Another word used is 'brightness', or 'splendor", which are certainly attributes of God's glory but don't quite capture the full meaning of the word.

In John 17:5, Jesus says,

And now, O Father, glorify thou me with thine own self with the glory(doxe) which I had with thee before the world was.

God the Father's opinion of Jesus had never changed,"This is My Beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased(Matt. 3:17)." Therefore, what changed?

Jesus 'traded' His heavenly 'glory' for one of a man. He was sinless, therefore He did not "...fall short of the glory of God". But He traded the 'weight of His Presence' with the Father for the 'glory' of a man, who was made in the image and likeness of God, and made to reflect His glory, which is what we do when we walk "in His Presence" through the power of the Holy Spirit.

Therefore, when we 'exchange',

the glory of the uncorruptible God into an image made like to corruptible man, and to birds, and fourfooted beasts, and creeping things Wherefore God also gave them up to uncleanness through the lusts of their own hearts, to dishonour their own bodies between themselves: 25 Who changed the truth of God into a lie, and worshipped and served the creature more than the Creator, who is blessed for ever. Amen(Rom 1:23-25)

we exchange the 'Presense of God" for the carnal appetites and affections, and false worship-thereby falling "short" of the glory of God.

In summary; the Greek 'doxa' is inadequate in explaining the idea of 'glory'; the Hebrew word "kabod" provides a fuller measure of the truth of the word "glory".

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    I like this answer. Can you show that the Septuagint used doxa for kabod? That would really connect the dots for people.
    – Frank Luke
    Sep 2, 2014 at 18:13
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    @FrankLuke There are several scriptures one could argue are a direct translation from "kabod"; in Josh. 7:19, Joshua uses "Give glory to God'(kabod), and when the Pharisees questioned the blind man in John 9:24, they say, "Give glory to God"(doxa). Perhaps the greatest example would be the angels singing in Koine Greek, "Glory(doxa) to God in the Highest". ;>)
    – Tau
    Sep 4, 2014 at 6:21

The sources that Liddell and Scott cite for meanings other than 'glory' are all much older than the NT:

  • Homer (7-8th century BC)
  • Aeschylus (5th century BC)
  • Euripides 5th century BC)
  • Herodotus (5th century BC)
  • Pindar (5th century BC)
  • Demosthenes (4th century BC)
  • Plato (4th century BC)
  • Thucydides (4th century BC)
  • Xenophon (4th century BC)

Liddell and Scott say the word in the NT has the sense of 'glory, splendour, effulgence'. Without evidence to the contrary this looks like a case of semantic change. So I'd expect that the reason why the translators all translated it something like 'glory' is because they must believe that was the only current meaning.

  • But considering that in this verse the translation of 'glory, splendour, effulgence' is absurd, its obvious that Paul is using the word in the older meaning. Surely nobody on here really believes that its impossible that Paul knew that meaning? Especially since its entirely 150% obvious that he's using it here. Unless you buy into the theory that its a sin to not be God, so that Michael the archangel is a big sinner just because he isn't God himself! Sep 1, 2014 at 23:16
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    It really isn't 150% obvious that sense is what is intended here! "After all, not falling short of the "glory" of God is impossible without literally being God" You may think it's impossible, but most interpreters don't. Perhaps you should ask another question asking what Paul means here.
    – curiousdannii
    Sep 2, 2014 at 5:21

Go back to your Perseus link and look up the unabridged LSJ. You will see several attestations for the meaning "glory" in Koine Greek (LXX and NT). http://www.perseus.tufts.edu/hopper/morph?l=do%2Fchs&la=greek#lexicon

  • The question is not if δοξης can ever mean "glory" because obviously it can and does in some contexts. The question is why the translators have chosen to translate it as "glory" where it appears entirely inappropriate and renders the verse absurd. Aug 28, 2014 at 15:46
  • @davidbrainerd "...renders the verse absurd...". On Monday night, one could say that eleven men (or more, actually) "fell short of the glory of Manchester United" -- not an especially absurd form of words, IMO.
    – Dɑvïd
    Aug 28, 2014 at 16:15
  • @Davïd, I mean that saying its a sin to fall short of the "glory" of God is like saying "Its a sin to not be God." Doesn't Michael the Archangel fall short of God's "glory" too? It leads to an absurdity, that God is such a perfectionist that unless you're as shiny as he is, you've committed a sin. So my effulgence has to match God's? Aug 28, 2014 at 16:24
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    @davidbrainerd - but I don't think the flow of the argument is "it's a sin to fall short of the glory of God," rather "all have sinned and [thereby] fallen short of the glory of God." Falling short of the glory of God is the consequence of sin (which sets the Jew and Gentile on equal footing), not an example of a type of sin.
    – Susan
    Aug 28, 2014 at 18:53
  • @Susan, And yet the point remains that even someone sinless would fall short of the "glory" of God because we don't have his effulgence. So its obvious contextually that "expectation" is the better translation. Aug 29, 2014 at 3:49

It is telling that Liddell and Scott list only LXX and NT references for "δόξα" as "of external appearance: glory". Everywhere else, it is used to discuss the public's expectations and approval of someone's actions based on those expectations. Those who do what others expect of them (δόγμα), meaning what is proper (δίκαιος), maintain their reputation (δόξα).

Romans is rife with this vocabulary because Paul's central point is that propriety (δικαιοσύνη), and therefore being approved (δικαιόω), is not obtained by following rules but by relying on Jesus.

20 all flesh will not be approved before him out of works of law...God's propriety has been made conspicuous...through reliance of Jesus Anointed... 23 for all failed and lack the reputation of God, 24 being approved for free by his favor through the redemption in Anointed Jesus...to the indication of his propriety...into his being proper and he who approves...

The translation of the Hebrew "kabod" (heaviness) as "δόξα" (reputation) in Greek is understandable; Abraham, for example is described as "heavy in livestock, silver, and gold" in Genesis 13:2. The conflation of that with the Hebrew "Shekhinah", the settling of the presence of God, however, is not a given simply because it is also often translated "glory" or because the author of a text is Hebrew. The sheer number of cases where a person gives δόξα to God should deny that. It only applies to texts where someone's external appearance is being discussed as an object, such as Acts 7:55 ("he saw the glory of God") or even more where it is acting as a subject, such as Luke 2:9 ("glory of the lord shone around them"). Romans 3 is not such a text, and should not be interpreted to be a discussion about the effulgence of God, but about his reputation or expectations.

  • Seeing the glory of God may also refer to seeing his "pomp and circumstance". His fancy clothes, his many attendants, gold all around, etc.
    – user10231
    Oct 7, 2015 at 17:10

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