King James vs. Catholic Bible

Dear Catholic Exchange,

Would you be kind enough to elucidate the correct translation of Luke 2: 14 and why the KJV is wrong? That is, if it is.

Mr. Perez-Santalla

Dear Mr. Perez-Santalla,

Peace in Christ!

The KJV translates the passage, “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men.” In doing so, the KJV translates the Greek word for “good will” in the nominative case; that is, the KJV understands “good will” (Greek word: “eudokias”) to be the subject of its clause. The translation of the KJV was finished in the early 1600s.

A Catholic translation of the same era is the Douay Rheims Version (DRV), which is based on the Church’s Latin Vulgate. The DRV relied on manuscripts that presented “good will” in the genitive case (“eudokia”). The genitive case can be described as creating an “of relationship” between two words, or as a case that describes a characteristic of a person, thing, etc. Thus, the DRV translation: “Glory to God in the highest: and on earth peace to men of good will.”

Ancient biblical codices, discovered after the KJV’s translation, support the genitive case translation put forth by the DRV, as they render the Greek word in Luke 2:14 as “eudokias,” not “eudokia.” Consequently, both Catholic and Protestant modern biblical translations support the genitive case translation. The Catholic translations include the New American Bible, “Glory to God in the highest and on earth peace to those on whom his favor rests”; and the Revised Standard Version — Catholic Edition, “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace among men with whom he is pleased!”

Protestant translations include the more scholarly New American Standard Bible, “Glory to God in the highest, And on earth peace among men with whom He is pleased”; and the more paraphrased and popular New International Version, “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace to men on whom his favor rests.”

Given the scholarly consensus that the genitive case translation is the correct one regarding Luke 2:14, the question becomes who are the “men of good will,” or with whom God is “pleased,” or on whom “his favor rests”? Luke does not clarify in this passage, but we can make a conclusion based on the entire context of the Gospel of Luke in particular and Catholic doctrine in general. God offers the gift of salvation to all (1 Tim. 2:4, 2 Pet. 3:9), yet He is pleased with those who respond to His grace and become sons and daughters of God through Baptism and persevere thereafter, again relying on His grace to do so. The cognate verb of eudokia is used in Luke and the other synoptic gospels’ presentation of Jesus’ baptism. Similarly, God is “well-pleased” with His obedient divine Son (also translated that His “favor rests” on Jesus).

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