Here is the verse in full, as it appears in NA/28:

δόξα ἐν ὑψίστοις θεῷ καὶ ἐπὶ γῆς εἰρήνη ἐν ἀνθρώποις εὐδοκίας.

NASB reads:

Glory to God in the highest, And on earth peace among men with whom he is pleased

with the marginal reading

Lit. of good pleasure; or of good will

εὐδοκίας is genitive, and this differs from the Textus Receptus reading only in that the word in that text is nominative (εὐδοκία), resulting in the translation "good will toward men." (KJV)

BAG (1957) states that εὐδοκία can refer to (1) "good will of men" or (2) "favor, good pleasure; this would refer to the persons upon whom divine favor rests."

If we accept the textual readings which employ the genitive (εὐδοκίας), why would a translator prefer 'men of God's good pleasure' rather than 'men of good will;' that is, men who are recipient's of God's good will rather than men of good will toward God? The former is what a preponderance of translators prefer. (See NASB, NIV, ESV, RSV, NRSV, etc.)

3 Answers 3


The majority of Greek manuscripts as well as the Greek text used today by Greek Orthodox favor the nominative reading (εὐδοκία).

Metzger's Textual Commentary justifies the genitive reading (εὐδοκίας) in the Nestle-Aland Greek text by virtue of its appearing in the Alexandrinus Codex (ca 400-440) as well as in corrected versions of the Sinaiticus (ca 330-360) and the Vaticanus (ca 300-325) Codices. (Interestingly the nominative reading appears in different corrected versions of the Sinaiticus and Vaticanus). The Metzger commentary notes that in print the two would appear very similar - with the final ς indicated as a "lunar sigma", something like:


Supposed new evidence from the Dead Sea Scrolls is offered as additional justification:

Prior to the discovery of the Dead Sea Scrolls it was sometimes argued that “men of [God’s] good pleasure” is an unusual, if not impossible, expression in Hebrew. Now, however, that equivalent expressions have turned up in Hebrew in several Qumran Hymns (“the sons of his [God’s] good pleasure,” 1 QH iv.32 f.; xi.9; and “the elect of his [God’s] good pleasure,” viii.6), it can be regarded as a genuinely Semitic construction in a section of Luke (chaps. 1 and 2) characterized by Semitizing constructions.1

The editors of the Metzger commentary also note that the same expression has been found in an Aramaic fragment.

1. p.111

  • Textual criticism involves more than majority texts or oldest tests. The tests are grouped by Alexandrian, Western, and Byzantine. Then, evaluated based on this. Metzger is well aware of this. Metzger & Bart Ehrman, (2005), The Text of the New Testament, OUP, ISBN 978-0-19-516122-9
    – Perry Webb
    Commented Dec 27, 2020 at 16:21
  • Lunar sigma is c not σ
    – Michael16
    Commented Dec 25, 2023 at 3:34

In what you outline above, regarding the two readings and the various translations, there are, it seems to me, three views being taken.

  1. That God is expressing something from within himself towards all men.

[Nominative] "Good will toward men."

  1. That God is responding to something good that is in a certain class of men.

[Genitive A] "men of good will"

  1. That God is actively favouring a certain class of men, irrespective of their own disposition.

[Genitive B] "men of God's good pleasure"

The first situation requires repentance from individuals within mankind, first, before they, then, believe unto justification.

The second are already righteous because of what is within them.

The third already have God's pleasure because he has decided, arbitrarily, to favour them.

With regard to the question 'Why would one of the two genitive preferences be preferred ?' I can only assume it would be as a result of personal religious experience.

Personally, I found it necessary to repent, and then I believed unto justification, so my personal experience falls into the first, nominative, category.


The textual variant here consists of a late change to the original text involving the last word of Luke 2:14 from:

  • Δόξα ἐν ὑψίστοις Θεῷ καὶ ἐπὶ γῆς εἰρήνη ἐν ἀνθρώποις εὐδοκίας (= “Glory to God in the highest heaven, and on earth peace to those on whom his favor rests.”)

to -

  • Δόξα ἐν ὑψίστοις Θεῷ καὶ ἐπὶ γῆς εἰρήνη ἐν ἀνθρώποις εὐδοκία (= “Glory to God in the highest, And on earth peace, goodwill toward men!”)

The difference is the final ς in the original which was deleted about the 8th century from the MSS tradition. UBS5 documents this change.

I agree with Ellicott's comments that sets the tone for understanding Luke 2:14 -

... the Roman empire was then at peace, and the gates of the Temple of Janus closed because there was no need for the power of the god to go forth in defence of its armies. It is obvious, however, that the “peace” of the angels’ hymn is something far higher than any “such as the world giveth”—peace between man and God, and therefore peace within the souls of all who are thus reconciled. We may see a reference to the thought, possibly even to the words of the angelic song, in St. Paul’s way of speaking of Christ as being Himself “our peace (Ephesians 2:14).

Even Jesus said this near the end of His life:

John 14:27 - Peace I leave with you; My peace I give to you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled; do not be afraid.

That is, the angel choir (Luke 2:14) was not talking about worldly or political peace, but a reconciling of sinful man with God. That is, peace with mankind can only exist where God's favor rests. Paul states this in Eph 2:14-16 that true, eternal peace is only possible through the Babe that was born in Bethlehem -

Eph 2:14-16 - For He Himself is our peace, who has made the two one and has torn down the dividing wall of hostility by abolishing in His flesh the law of commandments and decrees. He did this to create in Himself one new man out of the two, thus making peace and reconciling both of them to God in one body through the cross, by which He extinguished their hostility.

That is, no one can experience true peace without the favor of God which only comes from God's transforming gracious power in our lives. This is the internal theological reason why the original reading of Luke 2:14 had to be

  • εὐδοκίας (peace to men of good will, ie, on whom God's favor rests),
  • and NOT εὐδοκία (peace and good will to all men)

This theological reason supports the textual analysis and the text of NA28 and UBS5.

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