Article No. 22

GOOD WILL TOWARDS MEN

"Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will towards men." Luke 2:14.

With these words a multitude of angels praised the Almighty at the time of the miraculous birth of His Eternal Son. The heavenly host called upon men to ascribe glory to God and to lift up their hearts in praise to Him. They proclaimed God's message of peace and reconciliation and made known His good will towards sinful men. The words should be understood in this sense, "Let there be glory to God. Let there be peace on earth, for in the birth of His Son God is showing His good will towards His people."

THE MODERN VERSIONS

As the result of the undue influence of a small group of ancient manuscripts this passage is robbed of its true significance in many of the modern translations. e.g. Revised Version, "... peace among men in whom He is well pleased" (with a marginal note alleging that the Greek means "men of good pleasure"). Revised Standard Version, "... men with whom He is pleased". Moffat, "... for men whom He favours". Berkeley Version, "... among men of His favour". Alford, "... peace among men of good pleasure". Weymouth, "... men in whom He is well pleased". New World (Jehovah's Witnesses), "... among men of good will". New English Bible-New Testament, "... His peace for men on whom His favour rests", (with a marginal note, "some witnesses read, And on earth peace, His favour towards men").

DISCORDANT TESTIMONY

A comparison of the modern versions with the older ones reveals that the former all have something in common with the Rheims-Douay Roman Catholic Version which was translated from the Latin Vulgate. This was influenced by the Old Latin copies, which have some affinity with a small group of ancient Greek copies often at variance with the majority. It is observed also that "Men of good will" is found in the Latin Mass Book.

The Authorized Version has three statements, (1) Glory to God in the highest, (2) and on earth peace, (3) Good will to men; while the other versions have only two, (1) Glory to God ... (2) Peace on earth to men, etc. The versions thus disagree as to whether the angels spoke of God's good will or man's good will, and it is evident that the modern translations are not only opposed to the Authorised Version, but are also at variance with each other.

The thoughtful reader is entitled to enquire into the cause of this disagreement. The versions say totally different things, and they cannot be all right. Without question the great majority of the Lord's people from the earliest period of the history of the Christian Church have read the text precisely as we have it in our Authorised Version. On what authority are we now required to adopt as entirely different reading?

THE MANUSCRIPTS

It is alleged that the new versions are based on more reliable manuscripts than those available in the 16th and 17th centuries, but this allegation is not supported by the facts. it may be admitted that the earlier translators had fewer manuscripts at their disposal, but the vast majority of the documents discovered since exhibit the same kind of Greek Text as that which underlies our Authorised Version. There are now about 4500 manuscripts of the New testament, varying greatly in their age, extent and state of preservation. The bulk of these documents contain the Greek text in a form similar to that found in the copies available in A.D. 1516 or A.D. 1604.

 

THE DISSENTING MINORITY

A small minority of ancient manuscripts contain a very large number of readings different from those found in the great majority. In the 19th century it became the fashion among Biblical scholars of the schools of Lachmann, Tischendorf, Tregelles and Westcott and Hort to evaluate this small cluster of ancient but defective manuscripts to a position of supreme and infallible authority. Five of these copies were held to be of greater weight than one thousand or more documentary witnesses arrayed against them.

The 4th century Vatican and Sinai manuscripts, the 5th century Codex Alexandrinus, Beza's 6th century copy D, and Charles Freer's 5th century W are quoted for the revised rendering of this verse, supported by the Latin, Sahidic and Gothic versions, and by alleged quotations in the writings of Origen in the 3rd century and Irenaeus in the second century. (Actually Origen's Greek writings quote the text three times as we have it in the A.V. Jerome's Latin translation of Origen's homilies on Luke gives only the Latin version familiar to Jerome. The Greek of Irenaeus is lost and we have only a Latin translation giving the verse both in the erroneous form common to the Latin version and also in the correct form.)

ANCIENT WITNESSES SUPPORT THE AUTHORISED VERSION

In favour of the Authorised Version rendering Irenaeus testifies in the 2nd century and Origin in the 3rd. Eusebius, Chrysostom and numerous others of the 4th century quote the text at least 29 times as in the A.V. These men flourished when the Vatican and Sinai manuscripts were newly written, but they did not adopt the erroneous readings. They quoted from copies of greater antiquity and reliability, and the true text which they quoted was faithfully preserved in the later manuscripts which were available to the 15th and 16th century translators.

It would be tedious to enumerate the whole company of ancient Christian writers who knew this text as Erasmus, Tyndale and Stephens knew it, and as we know it in our Authorised Version. All over the Christian world the majority of the ancient Greek copies, the majority of the ancient writers and the majority of the ancient translations exhibit the text in this form.

UNRELIABLE TESTIMONY

The few ancient witnesses hostile to the true text abound in omissions, alterations and transpositions of words and phrases, and have no valid title to be regarded as the sole trustworthy guides to the text of Holy Scripture. Mere antiquity is no guarantee of authority. These are old copies but they are bad old copies and the Greek Church as a whole in the 4th century rejected their unreliable testimony and permitted them to sink into undignified oblivion. They have been recently disinterred and permitted to foist their ancient errors upon undiscerning readers of our own times.

THE EXPLANATION

How did the error arise in the first place? The simple explanation is that a very early scribe inadvertently omitted the first two letters of the last clause (EN)ANTHROPOIS EUDOKIA -(among) men good will. The now defective manuscript was used as the pattern for a later copy and the next copyist tried to correct the obvious error without referring to a better copy and wrongly added a letter to the last word of the abbreviated text, writing EUDOKIAS -of good will.

A manuscript unintentionally corrupted in this way influenced a number of other Greek copies and became the parent of the Latin versions. In a few early defective Greek copies the missing EN was restored without rejecting the intrusive 's' after EUDOKIA, and these are responsible for the incorrect rendering in the modern versions.

ERRONEOUS DOCTRINE

Translators who have insisted upon following the corrupt reading have been faced with the problem of the unscriptural doctrine that it seems to support. Does God promise peace to men because they have "good will", or does He promise peace because of His "good will" to men? The majority of the modern versions do not accurately translate the corrupt Greek text they profess to follow. With the exception of Alford and Jehovah's Witnesses, they either add something to it or paraphrase it or in some way try to make it apparent that the angel spoke not of man's good will, but of God's, but the corrupted Greek is not really capable of this interpretation.

SOUND COUNSEL

One of the members of the Revision Committee responsible for the Revised Version of 1881-1885, Prebendary Scrivener, strongly dissented from the majority and wrote appropriately of this verse, "To those with whom the evidence of this little group of manuscripts appears too mighty to resist we would make one request, that in their efforts to extract some tolerable sense out of EUDOKIAS they will not allow themselves to be driven to readings which the Greek language will not endure. When they come to translate, it must be their endeavour to be faithful, if grammatical faithfulness be possible in a case so desperate." Some of the attempts to translate the impossible and erroneous Greek "can be arrived at only through some process which would make any phrase bear almost any meaning the translator might like to put upon it."

INSPIRED WORDS

The reader of the Authorised Version may be assured that in this passage he has an absolutely trustworthy English rendering of the Greek words uttered by the angels, recorded by the evangelist under the inspiration of the Holy Ghost, and in the gracious providence of the Most High preserved and transmitted by the majority of the Greek copies, the majority of the ancient commentators and the majority of the ancient version.

"Thy Word is very pure"

Those who are burdened with a sense of the world's great spiritual need, and have a reverent regard for the divine inspiration, authority and inerrancy of the Holy Scriptures are invited to join with the Trinitarian Bible Society in its endeavour to feed the souls of the hungry with the pure food of God's Holy Word, which He has promised to bless and prosper.

 

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