Translating Luke 2:14

Jim West asks for a better translation of Luke 2:14:

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

Jim proposes, “Glory to the highest God; and on earth, peace to men of good will.”

Rich Rhodes’ comments about information flow on this blog go a long way toward helping us understand the strange order of the phrases.

There are several good suggestions in the comments on Dr. Jim’s post. See also the posts by Doug and J.K. Gayle.

I’ll offer a rendering that isn’t pretty sounding but tries to explicitly get at the meaning of the phrase as I interpret it:

Glory to God in heaven and peace to people on earth who please him.

How would you translate this verse?

P.S. Sorry for posting twice in one day!

47 thoughts on “Translating Luke 2:14

  1. Mitchell Powell says:

    As unprogressive as it is, I’m tempted to just have us keep the old “goodwill to men” in the text and attempts at a better translation in the footnotes. But it does seem to be a problem. Sorry if that’s completely unhelpful.

  2. Wayne Leman says:

    As unprogressive as it is, I’m tempted to just have us keep the old “goodwill to men” in the text and attempts at a better translation in the footnotes.

    Yes, that’s one solution. But it would be inaccurate translation and most recent English translators these days, even ones who attempt to preserve as much traditional Bible English as possible, try not to use any inaccurate wordings.

  3. Peter Kirk says:

    The problem with “goodwill to men” as a translation (apart from the gender issue) is that it is based on a different Greek text, eudokia (nominative) rather than eudokias (genitive). The latter is almost certainly original. You could if you like translate “people of goodwill”, but that may sound too Arminian in suggesting, but not completely implying, that “goodwill” is an attribute of the people rather than of God – something which I think is ambiguous in the Greek, but maybe someone else can clarify that issue.

  4. David Ker says:

    Thanks for comments and the link to Martin’s translation which is similar to mine. I would like to eulogize my translation but there is a lack of euphony.

  5. Charles Roy says:

    Of his good pleasure fits much better:
    14 δοξα εν υψιστοις θω και επι γης ϊρηνη εν ανθρωποις ευδοκιας
    14 Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace among mankind of his good pleasure. Codex Sinaiticus

  6. Kenny says:

    “Glory to God among the highest [beings] and peace on earth among people pleasing [to God].”

    ‘Among’ is a usual translation for εν with a plural, and since it is used twice in such close proximity, there is some reason to suppose that there might be a parallel. Taking ὑψίστοις as an adjective, presumably describing the angels, gets this kind of parallel.

  7. Wayne Leman says:

    Glory to God in heaven and peace to people on earth who please him.

    I like your version the best, David. It’s accurate. It’s clear. It’s concise and direct. It’s pleasantly pleasing without being pretentious. (Did you notice your own g-g and p-p-p alliteration?)

  8. rob culhane says:

    I would go with Wayne Leman’s endorsement of David’s translation for the same reasons. Don’t forget that the dative tw thew is ‘to God’ which some seem to overlook. Sometimes the Gk will suffer from tautology which doesn’t mean we have to translate it exactly if it means repeating the same tautology.

  9. Iver Larsen says:

    I think that David Ker’s translation is much better than Jim West’s. The original song was Semitic poetry, whether in Hebrew or Aramaic I don’t know. So, we have two parallel lines:
    1. Glory/praise to God in Heaven
    2. peace to people on earth …
    Many people would prefer to stop here and offer universal peace to (hu)mankind on this joyous occasion. But there is a qualification about who will experience that peace.
    First, the Greek ἐν ἀνθρώποις is probably better translated “peace to people”, because this preposition is often used like a dative for the recipients of a concept like peace.
    There is an interesting parallel in Luk 12:51: δοκεῖτε ὅτι εἰρήνην παρεγενόμην δοῦναι ἐν τῇ γῇ (Do you think that I have come to bring peace to the world?) Again the same preposition ἐν is used, and this verse clearly shows that the coming of Jesus did not bring universal peace, because so many people did not accept him as the Messiah.
    The most difficult part is the genitive ἀνθρώποις εὐδοκίας, (and I agree that the genitive εὐδοκίας is most likely to be original.) The noun εὐδοκία and the corresponding verb εὐδοκέω basically mean to consider something to be good, to accept something as good and meeting a certain standard, to approve something. It often refers to the will of God, because God always wills what is good and acceptable to him. The corresponding Hebrew is probably ratzon which can also mean the favour, will and approval of God, and in the Dead See Scrolls the Essenes liked to call themselves the “people of his ratzon”. That is, they considered themselves to be the favoured people of God, because they believed to be more in line with his will than others.
    Therefore, I agree that the phrase refers to people who do the will of God, people whom he can approve of, people whom he can be pleased with like He was pleased with Jesus.
    It doesn’t sound right to me to talk about “people of his favour”. I have a slight problem with “please” in English, because it might be too much of a feeling word, but I am not sure there is a better translation. In our Danish version we said (as translated into English): peace to those who do the will of God. (Plus a long footnote with alternatives and background information. The Danish says “fred til dem, der gør Guds vilje.)
    There is still the problem that the text does not say “people of his eudokia” but “people of eudokia”. This means that theoretically we have three options for “people of approval”:
    a) God approves of people
    b) People approve of God
    c) People accept/approve of the peace God offers
    In a sense all three could apply, and it is not easy to choose, but probably a) is most likely.
    We decided in the Danish version to explicate on what grounds God approves of people and then make the actual approval implicit, but obvious.

  10. Sue says:

    I agree with John’s exegesis that peace is intended to be universally to all mankind, but I think mine is a less ambiguous translation than most others.

    Glory to God in highest heaven,
    And on earth peace
    to mankind whom God favours.

    Kenny’s suggestion that heavenly beings contrast with humans is also interesting, but I think the primary contrast is between heaven and earth, God and mankind. The ESV sets the precedent by translating anthropos in the plural as “man” in Mark 3:28.

  11. iverlarsen says:

    Sue, if you mean that the peace God offers is intended for and available to everyone, I agree. But how do we express that only those who actually believe and receive it, will experience that peace?
    Regarding your translation, who is it that God favours? Is it all of mankind? I don’t understand the meaning of your translation.

  12. Sue says:

    Yes, it is all of mankind that God shows favour to when he sent Christ into the world. Maybe, “mankind to whom God wants to show favour.”

  13. iverlarsen says:

    I do agree that God showed a favour to the whole world by sending Christ. However, the noun ANQRWPOIS is plural and it does not mean mankind, but rather real, individual people. And the genitive EUDOKIAS narrows down the group of people that will actually receive that peace, and that is far from all mankind. So, I do not think your translation is faithful to the intended meaning of the Greek text, People of EUDOKIA refers to people who can be described as having EUDOKIA, which means God’s approval, not his favour.

  14. Sue says:

    I am going to focus on my theory that anthropos in the plural meant “mankind” and really stands in for “adam” in the Hebrew. For examples, two phrases that come to mind are:

    “the work of men’s hands”

    2 Chron. 32:19

    מַעֲשֵׂה, יְדֵי הָאָדָם

    ἔργα χειρῶν ἀνθρώπων

    Psalm 14:2

    “the sons of men”

    בְּנֵי-אָדָם

    τῶν υἱῶν τῶν ἀνθρώπων.

    Even the plural of aner in classical Greek could be translated as “mankind.”

    ἐξ οὗ Κενταύροισι καὶ ἀνδράσι νεῖκος ἐτύχθη

    From hence the feud arose between the centaurs and mankind. Odyssey 21:303

    τὴν δ’ ἠμείβετ’ ἔπειτα πατὴρ ἀνδρῶν τε θεῶν τε:

    In answer to her spoke the father of men and gods: Iliad 1.544

    I suggest that in Greek the plural of anthropos (and sometimes aner) simply represents “mankind.”

    That’s my thesis.

    PS Its good to see you on the blog. Welcome.

  15. iverlarsen says:

    Thanks, Sue and David.
    The growing use of “mankind” in English versions is caused by the fact that Modern English no longer uses “men” in the generic sense. For those of us who come from languages that have a perfectly normal word for Mensch, this is difficult to follow. The word is fairly common in the OT in english versinos, but rare in the NT. NIV uses mankind in Luke 3:6 (Greek sarks) and Rev 9:15, which does use anthroopoon and refers to one third of all the people on the earth. KJV uses mankind in James 3:7 where Greek has fusis anthroopinos (human species) which is a more common way of talking about the concept of mankind in Greek.
    Hebrew has different ways of referring to mankind. ha-adam is one of them, and it is often translated in the LXX by the singular antroopos. The common Hebrew “sons of men” is often translated as “hoi huioi toon anthroopoon. (Should I use Greek letters?)
    In certain contexts, it is possible that anthroopos can refer to mankind, but never when qualified by a genitive as here. If you are basing your translation on the KJV which is based on eudokia, then I accept that mankind is a possibility. But I really don’t think that is the correct Greek text to translate. I have to run now.

  16. Sue says:

    Iver,

    I see what you are saying now, that it is eudokias which prevents it from being mankind, as a universal. So here is another piece of the puzzle from Martin Shields blog.

    A close parallel exists in the LXX in the Odes 14:1-3 which reads:

    δόξα ἐν ὑψίστοις θεῷ καὶ ἐπὶ γῆς εἰρήνη ἐν ἀνθρώποις εὐδοκία

    If this is the original then eudokia is not in the genitive. If Luke 2:14 is based on this passage and “men” is contrasted with “God” then the intent is universal.

    Perhaps it all boils down to the fact that we might as well stick with the KJV. I think its better this way, if we think of this as a poetic praise of God’s intent toward humankind, and not think of it as a proof text for “which people” and “what do we have to do to please God.”

  17. Sue says:

    I am not going to attempt to seek some definitive translation but just note that it has been a very interesting text to study together.

  18. David Ker says:

    Iver, you can do whatever you like for including Greek in posts and comments. Capitalizing transliterations is one convention but I don’t think there is a single way of doing it here.

  19. J. K. Gayle says:

    Iver says,

    the noun ANQRWPOIS is plural and it does not mean mankind, but rather real, individual people. And the genitive EUDOKIAS narrows down the group of people that will actually receive that peace, and that is far from all mankind. So, I do not think your translation is faithful to the intended meaning of the Greek text, People of EUDOKIA refers to people who can be described as having EUDOKIA,…. The growing use of “mankind” in English versions is caused by the fact that Modern English no longer uses “men” in the generic sense. For those of us who come from languages that have a perfectly normal word for Mensch, this is difficult to follow.

    In English, can’t “men and women” be a synecdoche for “mankind”? Elizabeth Cady Stanton reads back into Thomas Jefferson’s statement “all men are created equal” and insists it must mean “all men and women are created equal” – clearly, the emphasis in the Declaration of Sentiments is on inclusiveness that is not immediately apparent in the Declaration of Independence. We could quickly, rightly, say that neither Cady Stanton nor Jefferson meant other other than “all individual people.” And yet, who is going to complain when, in 1776, a German translator renders the original Declaration as saying, “alle Menschen gleich erschaffen”? Can’t “Menschen” mean “mankind”?

    Analogously, can’t an English translator of Luke’s Greek in 2:14 render ANQRWPOIS as “mankind”? Even if the writer of the Odes is looking at Luke’s text (and not vice versa), then I’m not sure the presumed single meaning of the Greek matters. Luke himself may actually be translating or else has likely transcribed a translation (unless the angels are singing in Greek). I seriously doubt the angels sang over Bethlehem in Greek. The point of that is that authors may intend one thing but mean several. In other words, Jefferson as author may have intended all individual persons or even all males when writing “all men,” and yet he also certainly meant “alle Menschen” if allowing German readers in. Cady Stanton, by spelling out “all men and women,” gets English readers attentive to the fact that Jefferson neglects “women”; and yet she also would likely agree that she also means “alle Menschen.” Wouldn’t Luke let Suzanne translate his ANQRWPOIS as her “mankind” (even if the genitive adjective gives the sense that he’s pointing to individual people also)?

    The most compelling evidence that the individual people the angels are singing about may be “mankind” or humanity in general is what Luke has the first angel saying first; in verse 10, PANTI TO LAȬ (παντὶ τῷ λαῷ) less ambiguously refers to “all people” universal (even if we might translate “each and every person” or as Eugene Peterson does “everybody, worldwide”). Here the angel is speaking to Mary in Hebrew Aramaic, and Luke is translating into Greek. Has Luke, by translating, just reflected or simply restricted those to whom the angels refer as merely “only all the people of God’s favor”? Or can we readers of Greek and English and German (“allem Volk” und “das ganze Volk”) allow the wiggle room in what the angel said and what the angels sang to be universal (“mankind” as all “men” and “women”)?

  20. iverlarsen says:

    To Sue,
    Martin Shields suggests that this part of Odes is a copy of Luke 2:14. I can see from http://www.textexcavation.com/lxxodes.html that other parts of this Odes have been copied from Luke. I agree that the eudokia reading is old, but I am pretty sure it is not original. If you like archaic English and are happy with the Greek text they used, then KJV is fine. It does not appeal to me, since I did not grow up with this dialect of old English.

    To J. K. Gayle, the problem you English speakers have with “mankind” and “men” is a problem that does not exist in German nor in my language, Danish. The German Mensch does not correspond to English mankind, but to the old English “man” in the generic sense. Mankind in German would be Menschheit. It is true, of course, that the joy is open to the whole people. God does not have favourites, and all are invited. But you don’t need to go beyond John 3:16 to see that only believers receive eternal life.
    I looked at different English versions using mankind. NLT uses it only once, in John 2:25, where it translates ANQRWPOS in the simgular. If a Greek person wants to refer to mankind in general, he is more likely to use singular than plural.
    In order to attempt to respond to David’s question, I looked at our Danish Bible to see where we used our eqvuivalent to mankind or Menschheit. It was actually used about 10 times in the NT. It corresponded to various Greek words: SARX (twice), hEKASTOS, hOI POLLOI, EQNOS, PAS. Twice it corresponded to ANQRWPOS in the singular (Eph 2:15, Rev 16:18) and once in the plural (Rev 14:4, a difficult text).
    All the German translations I have looked at use Menschen (people) rather than Menschheit (mankind). So, “people” is the most obvious translation for 2:14 in modern English. In 2:10 the word is LAOS which we translated by “folk” in Danish, like the German Volk. (It is not the same as English “folk”).

  21. Sue says:

    I agree that the eudokia reading is old, but I am pretty sure it is not original.

    Right. I missed that. I suppose as a reader of classical Greek the phrase “gods and men” always meant “the class of gods and the class of men” as collectives. So, it somehow does not ring true that in this verse it could mean “God and only some people.” That just doesn’t sound right to me but I can’t necessarily defend it grammatically.

  22. iverlarsen says:

    Sue, Are you suggesting that I would understand your phrase (QEOI KAI ANQRWPOI ?) as “gods and only some people”? What is wrong with “gods and people” or “gods and humans”? Or would you prefer “gods and mankind”? I just don’t understand what you are trying to say. I don’t see Luke 2:14 talking about “gods and people” or “God and only some people.”

  23. jkgayle says:

    The German Mensch does not correspond to English mankind, but to the old English “man” in the generic sense. Mankind in German would be Menschheit.

    Iver,
    More accurately, wouldn’t the English “human” be closer to “Mensch” (and humans to “Menschen”) just as “humanity” or “humankind” would be more analogous to “Menschheit”? The male specific gender in English is the problem with “man,” and (for some English speakers) it’s a problem with “mankind.”

    My point is that a German translator decided to use “alle Menschen” and not something like “alle Männer” (for Thomas Jefferson’s phrase “all men”); and that when a German translator, like Luther, decides to use “Menschen,” he may use it as a synecdoche for “Menschheit.” Here, for example, his how Luther translates Luke into German (after Luke has translated Peter’s and the other apostle’s Hebrew Aramaic into Greek):

    “Man muß Gott mehr gehorchen denn den Menschen.”
    “Πειθαρχεῖν δεῖ θεῷ μᾶλλον ἢ ἀνθρώποις.”
    (Acts 5:29b)

    Isn’t a Danish version of that:
    “Man bør adlyde Gud mere end Mennesker.”?

    And in all three translation languages (i.e., Greek, German, and Danish), the word denoting “humans” works to refer to “all humankind” (in contrast to God alone)?

  24. Sue says:

    Iver,

    I think there is some misunderstanding. I don’t think there is anything wrong with “gods and people.” But in the context of Luke 2:14 I think using a collective term for humanity is better. So how about “Glory to God in heaven and on earth peace to humanity whom God favours.” But it is beginning to sound a little off so I vote for Kurk Gayle’s translation intead.

    “Brilliant renown to god in the highest places and on the ground peace in blessed honor to mortals.”

    How about –

    “Our love to God in the highest heaven and on earth peace to beloved humanity.” 😉

  25. iverlarsen says:

    Hi, Sue,

    Well, I am afraid I cannot agree with your translation. It is too far removed from the meaning of the text (assuming ἀνθρώποις εὐδοκίας). “Love” does not properly represent Δόξα, which should be glory, honour or praise. “Highest heaven” may be OK if it is a poetic English idiom, but I would recommend simply “heaven”. “beloved” does not represent εὐδοκίας. As far I can see there is some theological presupposition that makes you want to read into the Greek text an all-inclusing sense of ἐν ἀνθρώποις εὐδοκίας. Maybe it is the spirit of Christmas? Partly based on the otherwise attested sense of the word and the use of this phrase in the D.S. scrolls, I am pretty sure that “beloved” is not the intended meaning. I am not saying that God does not love people. John 3:16 says that clear enough. Whether he loves humanity I don’t know.

  26. iverlarsen says:

    Hi, Gayle,
    As you probably know, there is no exact parallel between words in different languages. You are right that the English “human” is best translated into German as Mensch and Danish as menneske. But the English “men” is also best translated by Menschen, if and when it is used as Jefferson used it, namely in the sense of “every human being”. If the German translator had use Männer, he would have made a serious mistake by confusing the different senses of English “men” and ignoring the context. (This is a mistake often done by Bible translators who produce literal versions.) Of course, if you were to translate Jefferson from the English used in his day to modern English, you would have to change “men” to “human beings” or “people”. I don’t think “mankind” or “humanity” would work. It might not work to say “men and women” either, because that seems to give the statement an unintended slant and an anachronistic focus.

  27. Sue says:

    Iver,

    Calvin had both versions available to him through the Vulgate O good will) and Erasmus.(good will in the nominative) Here are his thoughts,

    “Among men good-will 160 The Vulgate has good-will in the genitive case: to men of good-will. 161 How that reading crept in, I know not: but it ought certainly to be rejected, both because it is not genuine, 162 and because it entirely corruptsthe meaning. Others read good-will in the nominative case, and still mistake its meaning. They refer good-will to men, as if it were an exhortation to embrace the grace of God. I acknowledge that the peace which the Lord offers to us takes effect only when we receive it. But as εὐδοκία is constantly used in Scripture in the sense of the Hebrew word רצון, the old translator rendered it beneplacitum, or, good-will. This passage is not correctly understood as referring to the acceptance of grace. The angels rather speak of it as the source of peace, and thus inform us that peace is a free gift, and flows from the pure mercy of God. If it is thought better to read good-will to men, or towards men, 163 it will not be inadmissible, so far as regards the meaning: for in this way it will show the cause of peace to be, that God has been pleased to bestow his undeserved favor on men, with whom he formerly was at deadly variance. If you read, the peace of good-will as meaning voluntary peace, neither will I object to that interpretation. But the simpler way is to look upon εὐφοκία as added, in order to inform us of the source from which our peace is derived.”

    Such an eloquent solution. When you look at the phrase in bold you can see that Calvin referred to “men” meaning “all human beings.” I don’t have the original Latin for Calvin at the moment.

    I want to stress that I am not looking for a final solution but rather I am interested in the process of exploring this text. The strongest influence on English speakers is likely the traditional treatment of this phrase rather than theological presuppositions.

  28. Sue says:

    I missed something. The Vulgate had the Latin genitive of good will and the Erasmus text the nominative (both Greek and Latin).

  29. iverlarsen says:

    Hi, Sue,

    If Calvin were living today and know what we know today, I am sure he would have arrived at a different and better solution. If you want to explore the text, I suggest you explore how רָצֹון֙ (ratzon) is used in the OT and how it is translated by the LXX in different contexts, and also how εὐδοκία is used in the NT. The words are far too often mistranslated by English “favour”, which you can see if you have the time to investigate.

  30. Joel H. says:

    “Highest heaven” may be OK if it is a poetic English idiom, but I would recommend simply “heaven.”

    One problem with just “heaven” here is that there are two Greek words: ouranos, the common word for “heaven” or “sky”; and upsistos, which we find here. Did the two words differ? I think so, though it’s hard to know exactly how. Two possibilities that come to mind (I have more detail here) are that upsistos reflects the Greek view of multiple heavens, and this is “seventh heaven” or the “highest heaven”; or upsistos is just a Hebraism for m’romim.

  31. jkgayle says:

    Did the two words differ? I think so, though it’s hard to know exactly how.

    Joel, The LXX makes a sharp difference in Genesis 14:22b:

    “ἐκτενῶ τὴν χεῖρά μου πρὸς τὸν θεὸν τὸν ὕψιστον [hypsyston] ὃς ἔκτισεν τὸν οὐρανὸν [ouranon] καὶ τὴν γῆν [gEn]”

    It’s the translation of Moses talking with the king of Sodom, on the one hand describing God in relation to where his raised hand must point (i.e., UP HIGH, for he calls God אֶל־יְהוָה אֵל) – while, on the other hand, describing God in relation to the sky and ground that he owns (i.e., שָׁמַיִם and אֶרֶץ)

    Luke (in 19:38b) makes the contrast when translating the crowd quoting Ps 118 of Jesus then adding:

    εἰρήνη ἐν οὐρανῷ [ourano] καὶ δόξα ἐν ὑψίστοις [hypsyistois]
    (or “peace in the sky and brilliant fame in the highest place“).

    Among early Greeks, the word Luke uses (in 2:14) for the angels’ song does not alway imply “the sky.” In Sophocles’s play “Women of Trachis” (1190), Heracles asks his son,

    “Good, then do you know the summit of Oeta, Zeus’s sacred mountain?” Οἶσθ’ οὖν τὸν Οἴτης Ζηνὸς ὕψιστον [hypsyston] πάγον

    Clearly, the reference is to a high peak and not to the sky.

  32. Sue says:

    If Calvin were living today and know what we know today, I am sure he would have arrived at a different and better solution.

    This is an interesting comment in and of itself. Jerome believed that this refered to some humans, Calvin to all humans, and now we are once again in Jeromes ballpark. Yes, they are different solutions, but do we truly believe in scientific progress as the vehicle of God’s revelation. I am quite sure many do. On one level, I might have to agree, but on another, I have inner doubts.

    I undertand what you are saying technically but I can’t easily assimilate into my belief system the notion that the angels sang that God willed peace on earth to those humans who do his will, especially considering that it should be “to all people” in verse 10.

    However, I will think on it. Thanks for the conversation.

  33. jkgayle says:

    Ivers,

    Thanks for suggesting this:

    But the English “men”… Jefferson used it, namely in the sense of “every human being”… Of course, if you were to translate Jefferson from the English used in his day to modern English, you would have to change “men” to “human beings” or “people”. I don’t think “mankind” or “humanity” would work. It might not work to say “men and women” either, because that seems to give the statement an unintended slant and an anachronistic focus.

    Some time ago, I posted on what sense Jefferson might have had. Whether “mankind” or “humanity” works to update his English phrase “all men,” I’m not really sure – but I do know there have been a number of updates and translations of it — the first link in my post mentioned here in this paragraph is a link to a post where I list several of the translations and updates. Thanks again.

  34. Peter Kirk says:

    It seems strange, at least at first sight, that Calvin preferred the Arminian to the Calvinist reading of this verse. Is this proof that Calvin wasn’t a Calvinist? Answers on a postcard please, but probably not on this blog!

  35. iverlarsen says:

    To Joel and Gayle,

    One of the names of God in the OT is ‘elyon, (the high one) and this word if and only if it refers to God is normally translatied with τὸν ὕψιστον (the High One) in the LXX (I only found one exception).
    The plural form ὕψιστοi (the High (Places)) refers to where God and the angels live. It is a synonym of οὐρανός (ouranos, heaven) which often occurs in plural without any difference in meaning, since the Hebrew word is in plural.
    I agree that there is a slight difference in nuance. It is rare to find synonyms in any language which do not have a slight difference in nuance. Whether to keep that nuance in a translation, depends on your translation philosophy and your target audience.
    Since Luke 2:14 has a Hebrew or Aramaic origin, the words need to be understood from the old Hebrew world view which had 3 heavens, and God resided in the highest one. One of the differences between different translation strategies is whether the translator expects and requires the readers to first learn the original wolrdview before they can fully understand the text or whether they do not require this of the readers.

  36. iverlarsen says:

    Gayle wrote:

    Luke (in 19:38b) makes the contrast when translating the crowd quoting Ps 118 of Jesus then adding:

    εἰρήνη ἐν οὐρανῷ [ourano] καὶ δόξα ἐν ὑψίστοις [hypsyistois]
    (or “peace in the sky and brilliant fame in the highest place“).

    You are not suggesting, are you, that οὐρανός corresponds to English “sky”?

    English happens to have different words for sky and heaven. Greek and most other languages do not have such a distinction in words, so the Greek οὐρανός can mean sky or heaven according to context, and in Luke 19:38 all agree that it refers to heaven rather than sky. Luke uses οὐρανός 35 times, 4 of which refer to the sky.

  37. J. K. Gayle says:

    The plural form ὕψιστοi (the High (Places)) refers to … the Greek οὐρανός can mean sky or heaven according to context

    Ivers, In Greek mythology, when humans look up from where they stand, they see the domains of the gods. In Philosophy in the Flesh, George Lakoff and Mark Johnson talk about embodied metaphors such as “self control” is “being on the ground.” Relative to that “being high” is “euphoria.” How we humans use language (whether we’re ancient Greeks, or Luke translating into Greek, or English users translating from Greek and blogging in the 21st century) is to make signs and meanings by embodied metaphors. I think we could conjecture all day what Luke must have surely meant by any particular word in its context. Joel does make a good point, nonetheless, that in Luke 2:14 ὑψίστοις isn’t to be necessarily understood as οὐρανος.

  38. Peter Kirk says:

    Iver, welcome to this blog. I wonder to what extent the (modern, largely post-KJV) English distinction between “sky” and “heaven” corresponds to the Greek distinction between ouranos (singular) and ouranoi (plural). If I remember correctly the plural is never used for the literal sky, but for heaven as the abode of God the plural is more common than the singular. Matthew’s repeated “kingdom of heaven” (5:3,10 etc) is more literally “kingdom of the heavens”. I don’t have with me in Italy the reference books I need to check this one.

    I’m sure there is some link here with the idea of multiple heavens, referred to in the plural when no specific one of them is referred to. Here in the land of Dante I am reminded that the idea of multiple heavens is not just an ancient one. It was certainly still alive in the late Middle Ages, and is reflected also in modern literature, e.g. that of C.S. Lewis in “The Last Battle” and “Out of the Silent Planet”.

    I noted this singular/plural distinction because in the (Turkic) language I was working with the usual word for “heaven” is the plural of the word for “sky”, although the singular can also be used for “heaven” – just as in Greek, I think.

  39. iverlarsen says:

    Hi, Peter,
    Yes, I believe you are correct that for the sense of sky, οὐρανός is always in the singular. For the sense of heaven, the word may be in singular or plural without any apparent difference in meaning. In the LXX, my computer counted 59 plurals and 626 singulars. In the NT the count was 90 plural and 128 singulars.

    The semantic change over time of the word sky in English is interesting, but has nothing to do with better bibles. It is one of those words you have borrowed from my forefathers, the vikings. There was a phonological shift in English long time ago which changed all sk- sequences to sh-, for instance, shy (which in Danish is sky). I have been told that all sk- sequences in English are borrowed from Danish. The word sky in Danish means cloud, ant that seems to have been the original sense in English, too. But over time, the sense shifted from cloud to sky, and this shift has apparently continued after the time of KJV.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s