2

"Therefore God also has highly exalted Him and given Him the name which is above every name, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of those in heaven, and of those on earth, and of those under the earth," NKJV.

Some thoughts:

  1. The word "should" introduces uncertainty as to whether something may happen. People often should/ought to do something which they put off or don't get round to.

  2. Kempse is aorist and so open to the possibility of being translated "will" or "should".

  3. If kempse is open to possibility is it not the context that must help us decide between "will" and "should"?

  4. Versions which have "should" are e.g. NKJV, KJV, NIV and ESV but New American Standard Bible, Christian Standard Bible, NET Bible and Contemporary English Version are examples of those that have "will".

1

The New English Translation translates it appropriately,

10 so that at the name of Jesus
every knee will bow
—in heaven and on earth and under the earth— NET, ©1996

Many Greek learners fall into the trap of translating every occurrence of a subjunctive verb into English with a preceding “may,” “might,” or “should,” all expressing some semblance of uncertainty.

Contextually, there is no doubt that this is incorrect. Isaiah 45:23, which the apostle Paul quotes, states,

23 I have sworn by Myself. The word has gone out of My mouth in righteousness and shall not return: “Every knee shall bow to Me, every tongue shall swear.”

The verbs in Hebrew are both conjugated in the imperfect tense and appropriately translated into English by the future tense. With Yahveh Himself speaking, and in fact, swearing by Himself, there is no uncertainty that every knee will bow and every tongue will swear to Yahveh. The apostle Paul understood this when he quoted Isa. 45:23.

Daniel Wallace wrote,1

Paul here is not declaring only God’s intention in exalting Christ. Much more than that. The apostle is indicating that what God intends he will carry out. The evidence for this is that he is quoting Isa 45:23 here, though weaving it into his text in such a way that he alters it by turning it into a purpose clause (in the LXX it is a declarative statement using future indicatives after ὅτι)...

The point is simply that since Paul is not directly or formally quoting the OT here, but has worked that quotation into his text by making it the purpose of the exaltation, the subjunctive is required after ἵνα.

Moreover, he wrote,2

Not only is ἵνα used for result in the NT, but also for purpose-result. That is, it indicates both the intetion and its sure accomplishment... In other words, the NT writers employ the language to reflect their theology: what God purposes is what happens and, consequently, ἵνα is used to express both the divine purpose and the result.

The Greek verbs in Phil. 2:10 are conjugated in the subjunctive mood because of the preceding conjunction ἵνα. As others have stated, this is a classic ἵνα clause expressing purpose, also known as a telic subjunctive.

As Heinrich Meyer commented,3

Observe, moreover, how he emphasizes the universality of the divine purpose (ἵνα) with regard to the bowing the knees and confession with the tongue so strongly by πᾶν γόνυ and πᾶσα γλῶσσα, that the arbitrary limitation which makes him mean only those who desire to give God the glory (Hofmann) is out of the question.

So, how would I translate the clause? Replace “should” with “will.”


Footnotes

1 Wallace, p. 474
2 id., p. 473
3 Meyer, p. 84

References

Meyer, Heinrich August Wilhelm. Critical and Exegetical Handbook to the Epistles to the Philippians and Colossians, and to Philemon. Trans. Moore, John C. Ed. Dickson, William P. New York: Funk, 1889.

Wallace, Daniel B. Greek Grammar, Beyond the Basics: An Exegetical Syntax of the New Testament. Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1996.

THE NET BIBLE®, New English Translation (NET). Richardson: Biblical Studies Press, 1996.

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  • I would be interested in any other occurrences of ίνα + subjunctive aorist verb that are rendered into the English future tense. After all, the verb does have a future form in Greek.
    – user33125
    May 8 '20 at 1:34
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"Should" in English is not only used to denote possibility, but also fittingness, or a hypothetical or future action or state. The latter is the sense in which the word is used in translating the Greek here; namely, God did x, to the effect that it both would and should happen after his action that y. This is why modern English translations also use "will" in place of the more archaic or formal "should."

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What a wonder verse is Phil 2:10 for a variety of reasons. The first and most obvious reason is its quotation from Isa 45:23. (It is also quoted in Rom 14:11) Let me quote Isa 45:21-24 (in part):

Was it not I, the LORD? There is no other God but Me, a righteous God and Savior; there is none but Me. Turn to Me and be saved, all the ends of the earth; for I am God, and there is no other. … Every knee will bow before Me, every tongue will swear allegiance. Surely they will say of Me, ‘In the LORD alone are righteousness and strength.

Note that Isa 45 is talking about and quoting the LORD, YHWH, Himself, which the NT applies to Jesus directly, in a very unambiguous way in both Phil 2:10 and Rom 14:11.

The verb used in Phil 2:10 and Rom 14:11 for "bend the knee" is very slightly different.

  • In Phil 2:10 we have κάμψῃ (kampsē) which is Aorist Subjunctive Active - 3rd Person Singular. Thus, the reasonable translation, "should bend".
  • In Rom 14:11 we have κάμψει (kampsei) which is Future Indicative Active - 3rd Person Singular. Thus, the reasonable translation, "will bend".

This difference is subtle. The original Hebrew verb in Isa 45:23 is תִּכְרַ֣ע (tiḵ·ra‘) which is Qal - Imperfect - third person feminine singular. Thus the translation, "will bow".

The Pulpit commentary observes when commenting on Phil 2:10:

That at the name of Jesus every knee should bow; translate, in the name, not at (comp. Isaiah 45:23, quoted in Romans 14:10, 11). The words may mean, either that all prayer must be offered to God in the name of Jesus, through his mediation; or that all creation must offer prayer to him. Both alternatives are true, and perhaps both are covered by the words; but the second seems to be principally intended (comp. Psalm 63:4, "I will lift up my hands in thy Name." Comp. also (in the Greek) Psalm 43:9; 104:3; 1 Kings 8:44; also the common Septuagint phrase, Ἐπικαλεῖσθαι ἐν ὀνόματι Κυρίου). Observe, the words are, not "the name Jesus," but "the name of Jesus;" the name, that is, which God freely gave to him (Ver. 9), It is the name which is above every name, that is, the majesty, the glory of Jesus, which is to be the object of Christian worship.

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κάμψῃ is subjunctive in a ἵνα clause that denotes purpose or result. There is no word “should” in Greek, but since the verb is contingent or a result of what precedes it, the word “should” is frequently used in this construction.

(NA28) 10 ἵνα ἐν τῷ ὀνόματι Ἰησοῦ πᾶν γόνυ κάμψῃ ἐπουρανίων καὶ ἐπιγείων καὶ καταχθονίων

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