Why is the carol “peace on earth and good will to all men”, when the Luke 2:14 says “to men of good will”?

OP, but I’m answering a question raised elsewhere by Zeibura S. Kathau.

Luke 2:14? The source of the confusion is a manuscript variant.

Δόξα ἐν ὑψίστοις θεῷ καὶ ἐπὶ γῆς εἰρήνη ἐν ἀνθρώποις εὐδοκία[ς].

The version I as a Greek grew up with has “good will” in the nominative, εὐδοκία. “Peace on earth, among people good will.” That’s Erasmus’ text, which is the established Greek Orthodox text (the Receptus).

It kinda looks odd, and modern editions of the Greek go instead with the genitive reading in manuscripts, which is also what the Vulgate has: people of good will, hominibus bonae voluntatis.

The wording “good will to all men” comes from someone looking at the old Receptus Greek text.

Which is what the King James did: Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men.

What’s interesting is what contemporary English translations do with the genitive of εὐδοκία:

  • NIV: and on earth peace to those on whom his favor rests.
  • RSV: and on earth peace among men with whom he is pleased.
  • The Message: Peace to all men and women on earth who please him

See what’s happened there? The contemporary interpretation is that it’s people of Good Will alright; but it’s not their own Good Will. It’s God’s Good Will. People in God’s eudokia.

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