The Prince of Peace
Romans 5:1; Isaiah 7, 8, 9
Romans Lesson #046
December 22, 2011
Paul begins Romans 5 drawing out the first consequence or the first implication of the fact that we have been declared righteous by faith alone, which is we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ. He brought into the discussion this consequence of justification that we have peace with God, wherein we had formally been at enmity with God. Romans 5:10, “For if when were enemies we were reconciled to God through the death of His Son, much more, having been reconciled, we shall be saved by His life.” He is stressing that we were enemies—we being every human being born at enmity with God.
As I got to thinking about the concept of peace, I reflected on the fact that I have often heard that peace in the Bible was always juxtaposed to a mental attitude state of worry or anxiety. That is not quite true when you analyze the data, especially in the Old Testament. In the Old Testament, peace is almost always related to the absence of conflict. Not just the absence of conflict, but the presence of harmonious relationships—not just the absence of military conflict but the genuine alliance between those who were at one time enemies.
One of the most well-known places where the term peace is used is in the Messianic prophecy in Is. 9:6. “For unto us a Child is born, unto us a Son is given; and the government will be upon His shoulder. And His name will be called Wonderful, Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.” Now how are we to understand this phrase “Prince of Peace”? That is very important because we all are familiar with the Christmas story of how on the night the Lord Jesus was born in Bethlehem, the angels, the armies of God, appeared in heavens singing (Luke 2:14) “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, goodwill toward men [or depending on how it is translated, to men of goodwill]!”
There is a connection between that announcement and Isaiah 9:6. Often that announcement is abused, twisted, made to be a support for some sort of pacificism or absence of war, but that is not really what that verse says or what Isaiah says. It is not for today, as we will see.
The word for peace in the Old Testament is the word shalem, from whence we get our word shalom, which is used over 250 times in the Old Testament. It is usually translated with one of three words in the Septuagint (LXX), where the rabbis in Alexandria, Egypt translated the Old Testament into Greek – salvation, peace or complete, which is a very good translation for shalom. It indicates the absence of physical war, conflict or strife about 50 times. In some cases, it refers to a state of wholeness where there is not a state of antagonism or enmity with God. But it is clear from Isaiah 32:17 and other passages that that state of harmony between God and man, as Paul has said in Romans 3-5, is the result of man possessing righteousness. A third meaning has to do with the peace offerings that were given as part of the Levitical offerings.
What we first have to do now is to look at the context of Scripture. Sometimes people get the misunderstanding that when you just read something in the Bible, you can easily understand what is going on there. That is not always true. Whenever you open the Scripture, unless you are starting in Gen. 1:1, you are starting in the middle of a conversation.
One night last week, after leaving the grocery store, I turned on the radio in the car. A caller had called in and was talking about the health problems of someone and how there was possibly liver failure or some other problem. She had continued to feed him, and he continued to lose weight. I wondered if she was talking about her husband or maybe her father. Then they closed out the conversation, and the doctor made some suggestions. Then they went to the show’s closing where I found out it was a veterinarian’s show. She was talking about her dog. There are always little things that we might miss that cause us to make guesses that are wrong about whatever it is that is being talked about in Scripture. We have to always understand context.
I am going to show you a sign that appeared outside a business in Florida, and I bet most of us would think this was a rather inflammatory sign. “We would rather do business with 1,000 Al Qaeda terrorists than with one single American soldier!” What is the context? It is outside of a funeral home. Context is extremely important.
When we look at Isaiah 7, the context is war, an alliance that is developed against the house of David by the Northern Kingdom of Israel and the Syrian kingdom. They have tried to woo King Ahaz, the king of Judah, to join them in a war against Assyria. Ahaz was at least smart enough to not join them. Because Ahaz’s spiritual nature is being evaluated, he is usually painted in Scripture as one of the bad kings because he did evil in the sight of the Lord and promoted idolatry. From what we know of history, he was also a fairly powerful and intelligent king.
The issue that we find in this chapter is the issue related to the house of David. Isaiah 7:2, “And it was told to the house of David …” I have looked around in other places in Scripture, and this is an uncommon way to address the king of Judah as the house of David. So obviously if you are familiar enough with Scripture and you read this phrase, that ought to stand out and say, “Why is the emphasis on the house of David and not King Ahaz?”
We looked at the Davidic Covenant last week. There are three elements to the promise of God in the covenant. There is the promise of an eternal house, an eternal kingdom, and an eternal throne. Right away we know from the way the text is written in 2 Samuel 7:12–13 for example, God promises that this descendant identified as David’s seed is human and a male. “When your days are fulfilled and you rest with your fathers, I will set up your seed after you, who will come from your body, and I will establish his kingdom. He shall build a house for My name, and I will establish the throne of his kingdom forever.” There is an element here that suggests he is not just going to be human but eternal, not just a man who lives forever and ever. 2 Samuel 7:16 “And your house and your kingdom shall be established forever before you. Your throne shall be established forever.” Three times we have this statement that this is an eternal individual, eternal house, eternal kingdom and eternal throne.
(Points 1–4) We have the issue of the war against the house of David and the security of the Davidic Covenant. Is God able to protect the descendant of David on the throne of Judah or is the Davidic Covenant threatened? (Isaiah 7:2) God directed Isaiah to take his young son, Shear-Jashub, to meet with King Ahaz (Isaiah 7:3). This is not emphasized too much. God gives Isaiah the precise warning for Ahaz. This begins in verse 4. “Take heed, and be quiet; do not fear or be fainthearted …” There are four commands there, and all are 2nd person masculine singular pronouns. He is not addressing a group but an individual.
(Points 5–6) God then ordered Ahaz to ask for a sign. (Isaiah 7:10-12). Normally that would be presumptuous for a king to ask God for a sign or miracle, but since God is the one who has made the command to ask for a sign, it is presumptuous and arrogant for Ahaz to not ask for a sign, which he does in verse 12. “But Ahaz said, ‘I will not ask, nor will I test the Lord!’ ” It may sound good, but it is distorted.
Then Isaiah responds to him in verse 13 with a message from the Lord and addresses it to the house of David, not to Ahaz. This is the introduction to the key Messianic prophecy in verse 14. It is addressed to the house of David, which is a plural idea, not to just the singular Ahaz. Basically what Isaiah says is “Is it a small thing for y’all to weary men but will y’all weary my God also?” (I put the “y’alls” in there so you know it is the Southern Kingdom of Judah, and Isaiah has got a good Southern accent.)
Isaiah 7:14, “Therefore the Lord Himself will give you [y’all] a sign: Behold a virgin shall conceive and bear a Son, and shall call His name Immanuel.” Immanuel means “God with us.” It is two or three words in the Masoretic text. Im (with) and then manu (nu ending is first person plural meaning us) and then el (God). It literally means God with us. This is really an important term. At Christmas time, we look at Isaiah 7 and 9, but we do not look at Isaiah 8. Isaiah 8 is really important because it connects chapter 7 and 9 together as a singular unit, and the key word is Immanuel.
The sign is going to be a virgin, ha’almah. The ha there is the Hebrew definite article, indicating that it is not just any virgin but the virgin. There is precedent in Scripture, and the reader should know who this is talking about. We ought to be able to look back in Scripture and figure out if there is something that we have heard before that would tell us about this virgin.
There has been a lot of debate about the word almah. There are two words in Hebrew that are potential words for expressing a virgin, but neither are precisely equivalent to the word virgin. The word almah, if we look at all the ways it is used in Scripture, always refers to a young, unmarried woman of marriageable age. There are a couple of places where marriage is not in the context, and the word really does not have much around it to clarify it. The clear rule in interpreting Scripture is to go with the known and do not try to interpret the clear and explicit with something that is unclear and vague. Yet often people will say, “See this exception over here in this verse. Because we do not really understand this, we cannot understand these other 59 uses.” This is backward.
Almah is unmarried and young. She has just reached the age of puberty, and, unlike our culture, when that happened in the Middle Eastern cultures, she is now of marriageable age. The difference between batulah and almah is that batulah was a word that was used for a virgin, an unmarried woman of any age. Almah emphasized that she is very young and has just reached the age where she can be married and have children.
Another interesting thing here is that the Hebrew does not say, “Behold, the virgin SHALL conceive.” It is much more emphatic than that. It states, “The virgin is pregnant or behold, the pregnant virgin.” It is a sign—behold, the virgin is pregnant! How can that be? There is a sense of surprise and being astounded that this has happened. The wording indicates that there is something extremely unusual going on here.
One of the problems we have seen in the way different translations, especially liberal Christian theologians, have tried to handle this is to minimize this. “Almah really does not mean a virgin. We are going to translate this the young woman.” That happened when they translated the Revised Standard Version back in the 1950s. It so upset conservatives that there was a boycott by conservative Christians on the whole Revised Standard Version for decades. Anybody who was a Bible believer would not buy that “horrible, blasphemous, piece of trash” because it denied the virgin birth by translating Isaiah 7:14 as simply the young woman.
The Septuagint translators, the rabbis who translated the Hebrew Old Testament into Greek in the 2nd century BC, understood exactly what this was saying. In the Greek translation, they used the same word we have in Luke which is PARTHENOS, meaning the virgin. The Parthenon in Greece, which is a very famous temple to Athena, is there because she is the virgin goddess—that is the legend.
The Jewish rabbis understood this as a Messianic prophecy that she was a virgin, and it was understood to be a Messianic prophecy well into the early centuries of Christianity. It was not until almost 1000 years later that some Jewish rabbis finally were able to conjure up a way to interpret this without sounding like it supported the Christians.
The Hebrew text in Isaiah 7:14 makes it very clear that the virgin is pregnant, and she will bear a Son. Obviously this Son is human – human mother/human Son. But the Son is going to be called Immanuel, meaning God with us. They are naming a human son God, which indicates this Son will have the attributes of deity.
The idea that they should understand something about who this virgin is goes back to when God states the curse to Eve in the garden and makes it clear there is a promise there also. Genesis 3:15 (addressing the serpent) “And I will put enmity [lack of peace] between you and the woman, and between your seed [Satan’s descendants who follow him in his thinking] and her Seed [reference to the Messiah] …” This is thought to be the first indication of the gospel. “… He [her Seed] shall bruise your head, and you shall bruise His heel.”
With this name “God with us,” we know the child is going to be a human but also divine. Isaiah 7:15 says “Curds and honey He [Immanuel] shall eat, that He may know [purpose clause] …” This indicates that He is eating this diet for a purpose of coming to learn something—“… to refuse the evil and choose the good.” This is not a son who will ever choose the evil; he will always choose the good. That supports the view that the divine/human child born here is not going to sin.
There are also a lot of questions about what the significance is of the curds and honey. If we look at Isaiah 7:17 ff, we learn that this is not the diet, as some have suggested. A lot of commentaries will say that curds and honey is the diet of the aristocracy or royalty. But that is just the opposite. When you read the text, you see in verse 22 “… for curds and honey everyone will eat who is left in the land.” Those who are left in the land are those who are left after the horrible deprivations caused by the invasion of the Assyrians. Curds and honey is an expression of the somewhat restricted and impoverished diet of a people who are under oppression.
So the child of the virgin who is eating the curds and honey indicates he is living in a time when Israel is under oppression and that he is learning something in his humanity under oppression. He sees the consequence of sin and that teaches him to refuse the evil and choose the good. This gets confusing because the key to understanding verses 13–15 is the fact that in verses 13–14 we have a focus on you, plural, which refers to the house of David. Verse 15 is a continuation of verse 14 because it is still talking about Immanuel. He is speaking to the house of David. God is going to keep the promise to David; the security of the house of David is sound.
Then there is another change. There is the word “you” used (vs. 16), and it the 2nd person singular. We have all these 2nd person singulars addressing Ahaz. Then we have verses 13–15 dealing with the plural, addressing the house of David. Now we are back to the sign for Ahaz. The sign that is mentioned in verse 14 is the sign for the house of David.
This is important, but you will read 95% of evangelical scholars today who will say this is an example of dual fulfillment. You have a fulfillment in the near, immediate future for Ahaz to give him confidence that his dynasty will not go down, and then you have the far ultimate fulfillment. This idea of dual fulfillment is extremely dangerous in hermeneutics. The general principle in hermeneutics is the single meaning of Scripture. There is no such thing as dual fulfillment. The one fulfillment of verse 14 is Jesus Christ, not the son that would be born to Isaiah, which is usually suggested.
The reason they go that way is they conveniently ignore the singular and plural pronouns. That always flows from people who do not believe in the verbal, plenary inspiration of Scripture, so they play fast and loose with the text.
Isaiah 7:16, “For before the Child …” In most of your Bibles, I bet “the Child” is upper case; it is in the NKJV. But there is no upper or lower case in the Hebrew. So verse 16 says, “For before the Child shall know to refuse the evil and choose the good, the land that you [Ahaz] dread will be forsaken by both her kings.” The Hebrew with the definite article with Child is often used as a demonstrative. It should be translated “For before THIS child shall know to refuse the evil and choose the good [before he is old enough to make moral decisions], the land that you [Ahaz] dread [Northern Kingdom and Assyrians] will be forsaken by both her kings.” You do not need to worry about this threat. Then there is a promise that comes up following that that deals with what will happen when the Assyrians hit.
I want to emphasize this. There are two prophecies here: one to the house of David and one to Ahaz. The one to the house of David concerns the Messianic promise that God will fulfill his promise to David. The second prophecy is related to Ahaz, using singular pronouns, and promises deliverance before Isaiah’s young child is old enough to know the difference between right and wrong.
Just to summarize the next section, in Isaiah 7:18, “And it shall come to pass in that day that the Lord will whistle for the fly that is in the farthest part of the rivers of Egypt, and for the bee that is in the land of Assyria.” The bee is introduced and refers to the military of Assyria. It recognizes that the bee in Assyria is going to come and wipe out the land, so that nothing is left except honey and curds. In verses 21–25, the land is spoken of as being so impoverished after the Assyrian invasion that a person will have only one young cow and two sheep. The result will be that everyone is scratching for food, “everyone will eat curds and honey” (verse 22). It is the food of oppression.
Then we get into Isaiah 8:1–10, and there is a description in the first 10 verses of all that is going to happen. In verse 8 as Isaiah is describing the devastation of the Assyrian army, he says “he will pass through Judah, he will overflow and pass over, he will reach up to the neck; and the stretching out of his wings will fill the breadth of Your land, O Immanuel.” Any Jew who has read the Torah knows that the land of Israel is God’s land; it is not a human being’s land. Here the statement is that this is “Your land, O Immanuel” reinforcing the view that Immanuel is God. But Immanuel who is God is going to be born to a virgin.
In verse 9-10 “Be shattered, O you peoples, and be broken in pieces! [the destruction of the Assyrians] … Take counsel together, but it will come to nothing; speak the word, but it will not stand, for ... [for what?]”
Your English version translates this. Note it transliterated it the first two times. It is the same word in Hebrew—God is with us, Immanuel. By not paying attention to the original, you miss the dots that you need to connect to keep the string of pearls together.
You have Immanuel in chapter 7, Immanuel twice in chapter 8 to show that we are still in the same context, and then the end of chapter 8, it connects this coming of the Lord of hosts (verses 13–15) to the sanctuary, which is the temple. It says the Lord of hosts is going to be “a stone of stumbling and a rock of offense.” That phrase is used of Jesus in the New Testament, who becomes a stone of stumbling and a rock of offense. Verses 14–15 “… as a trap and a snare to the inhabitants of Jerusalem, and many among them shall stumble …” That is exactly what happens when you get into the New Testament. Over what do they stumble? They stumble over the Lord of hosts.
In verses 16-22, Isaiah emphasizes that YHWH is the only hope. But instead, Israel at that time was seeking hope in idols, New Age necromancy, mediums, astrologers—trying to get answers from everywhere except the revelation of God.
The context then in chapter 9 is one of oppression and gloom. Light appears in Galilee to the Gentiles. The first two verses are quoted in the gospels to indicate the appearance of Jesus, the Messiah, is the light appearing to the Gentiles. It is in that context of war that we have this promise of a Child who will be born, who will be called the Prince of Peace.
Remember the focus of much of Isaiah is on the coming of the Messiah. There is no suggestion in Isaiah, Jeremiah, Ezekiel or any of the prophets in the Old Testament that there is a time gap in the sense of two comings of the Messiah—that he will come once to suffer and once to reign. They are blended together. The Messiah is going to come and be a suffering Messiah (Isaiah 53). He is going to be a royal Messiah, which is the emphasis here. He is both—there are not different Messiahs. There are two different events that define His ministry.
In Isaiah 2:4, the promise is made regarding the future kingdom that “He [Messiah] shall judge between the nations, and rebuke many people …” At that time when the Messiah appears, then all the nations on the earth (Isaiah 2:1–3) are going to stream to Jerusalem to worship at the temple. There God will (vs. 4) “judge between the nations, and rebuke many people; they [the goyim, the people, the nations] shall beat their swords into plowshares, and their spears into pruning hooks …”
This is taken out of context and is emblazoned over the entry to the United Nations building. This shows they have a high view of themselves and have defined a messianic role for themselves to end all war and all violence. But what Isaiah 2:4 tells us is that only when the Messiah comes as the true King of Righteousness will there be genuine peace, physical lack of conflict, no war on earth. It will not happen until then. I do not know what the statistics are now. When I was in college and taking military science courses, they gave us statistics that between the end of World War 2 and roughly 1972 (almost 30 years, 360 months), there was something like 700–800 wars or armed conflicts. That is almost two or three a month somewhere in the world. There is no peace whatsoever—just wars and rumors of wars continue to increase. Peace is not becoming more common; it is becoming less common.
Among Jewish translators, there are a number of different ways of handling the titles in Isaiah 9:6-7 that are given to this Child who is born. The 1917 Jewish Publication Society (Tanakh) chose to ignore the problem and transliterate his name Pele-joez-elgibbor-abi-ad-sar-shalom. That way nobody is going to get confused about who this person is because they just cannot read the Hebrew. Christians do the same thing when it comes to baptism. Rather than translating it immerse, they translate it baptism. That way they avoid the problem.
It is clear from Isaiah 9:6 in the Hebrew text, which is one verse off from the English text, that it is talking about the Messianic Kingdom and the throne of David. “… upon the throne of David, and upon his kingdom, to establish it, and to uphold it through justice and through justice and through righteousness from henceforth even for ever…”
The 1985 JPS (Tanakh) translates it “The Mighty God is planning grace; the Eternal Father, a peaceable ruler.” They are inserting verbs where there is just a series of titles. The titles look something like this. The first one is pele (Wonderful), a term that is only used of God and refers to someone who works a wonder or miracle. It is used of a miracle or the one who performs the miracle, so this represents something extraordinary or is always associated only with God.
The second title is Counselor; it is not Wonderful Counselor. It is Wonderful (comma) Counselor, as it was translated in the NKJV. Ya’etz – the One who plans or Advisor. The third title is Mighty God, El Gibbor. Gibbor is often used of warriors, so it is the Mighty Warrior God (interesting because of that juxtaposition with being the Prince of Peace). Then Abiyad. Abi meaning my father or the father of, and yad meaning eternity. The Father of Eternity, which is an idiom for One who is eternal or who has existed from the earliest of times. This is similar to Micah 5:2.
The last phrase is that He is the Prince of Peace. We are in Isaiah 9 and have already read Isaiah 2, talking about when He comes and rules in the Davidic kingdom. They will at that time beat their swords into plowshares and their spears into pruning hooks. Now we are talking about His same rule in Isaiah 9:7 “… upon the throne of David and over His kingdom, to order it and establish it with judgment and justice …”
This is a time of peace. What kind of peace is this in the context of Isaiah? Is it mental peace or lack of worry? Is it peace with God in a soteriological sense like we have in Romans 5? Or is this peace in the sense that when the Messiah, the greater Son of David, comes, He will establish true world peace, and there will not be any more wars. I think it is the latter; that is the context of Isaiah.
Luke 2:1 “And it came to pass in those days that a decree went out from Caesar Augustus that all the world should be registered.” Luke was a physician by training, and he is a detail person. There are more details in Luke about the same stories than are found in Matthew and Mark. We have indication from Acts that during the time that Paul was incarcerated in Caesarea by the Sea for two years, Luke is going around in Judea and Galilee interviewing everybody who knew Jesus. It was less than 30 years from the crucifixion. He is getting eyewitness accounts; he spoke to Mary and to Jesus’ brothers and sisters. He has interviewed everybody who had anything to do with the life of Jesus. He is writing an historical account for the purpose of convincing Theophilus, the one to whom he is writing, that Jesus is indeed the fulfillment of the Old Testament prophecies. Theophilus was probably a Greek or Roman.
He locks it down in space/time on a specific incident. This is not just something that is generic; it is when Caesar Augustus sent out this decree. Then he expands on that in Luke 2:2 “while Quirinius was governing Syria.” There is some difference in terminology, but we have been able to lock down a Quirinius who governed Syria. It seems that he had an administrative position at two different times: once was from about 7–3 BC and then again from AD 5–11, which puts the birth of Jesus not at zero but probably around 4 or 5 BC.
We are told that everyone had to register, so (verse 4) “Joseph also went up from Galilee [You always go UP from Galilee because in Israel up is in elevation, not like for us where up is north and down is south], out of the city of Nazareth, into Judea, to the city of David, which is called Bethlehem [House of Bread, where the Bread of Life will be born], because he was of the house and lineage of David.” Joseph is a descendant of David and is (verse 5) “to be registered with Mary, his betrothed wife [not married yet and in that stage of betrothal], who was with child. (Verse 6) So it was, that while they were there, the days were completed for her to be delivered. (Verse 7) And she brought forth her firstborn Son, and wrapped Him in swaddling cloths, and laid Him in a manger, because there was no room for them in the inn.”
The word inn here is an unfortunate translation. It is the same word that was used when Jesus sent the disciples to find the upper room. When you go to Jerusalem, there are three or four different places where they say the upper room was. In these historical places over there, like the Church of the Nativity in Bethlehem, they say that was exactly where He was born. Historical evidence indicates that there is probably a 98% that they are right. Same thing with the Church of the Holy Seplulchre.
When it comes to the upper room, on a scale of 1 to 5—1 being that is just pure guess work and 5 being that is 98% sure—the upper room is probably at zero. It is just made up in three or four different locations. Houses were built with an upper room which is the guest room. They left it up because it was usually warmer, so it was the least comfortable room in the house. If it was in the winter months or inclement weather, there was kind of a lower area where they would let the sheep and cows come in to get out of the weather. If you did not get there in time at Christmas and your cousins got there first, they got the upper room, and you got stuck sleeping with the sheep.
There is not an inn here. It is not the concept that we have all grown up with of Motel 6 or Holiday Inn. It is more the idea that the guest room was already taken because they got there late, and they are having to sleep with the animals. That is why when Jesus is born, He is laid in the manger.
Luke 2:8, “Now there were in the same country shepherds living out in the fields, keeping watch over their flock by night.” They are there because this was where the temple flock was kept. The sheep for the sacrifices in the temple had to be kept close to the temple, within four miles. Bethlehem is very close to Jerusalem. When you are standing on the Temple Mount and look at the horizon, you see the big white wall that the Israelis have built to keep the Arabs out. Just on the other side of that white wall is Bethlehem. You can walk there, but it is not through the best part of town.
The shepherds are out on that north side of Bethlehem towards Jerusalem. (Verse 9) “And behold an angel of the Lord [It is clear there is no definite article, so it is not THE angel of the Lord from the Old Testament, who is the preincarnate Christ] stood before them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them …” Where do you get a picture of the glory of the Lord in the Old Testament? The most vivid is Isaiah 6:1–6, when Isaiah is before the Lord in all of His glory in the heavens. Here the glory of the Lord is now bursting forth on the earth. It is interesting to observe that here it is dark and when Jesus is born, everything becomes light. At the end of His life in the middle of the day at high noon when everything is to be bright and He is crucified for our sins, everything goes dark.
Verse 10, “Then the angel said to them, ‘Do not be afraid, for behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy which will be to all people.’ ” This comes right out of Isaiah; this is not just for the Jews but for all the nations. Verse 11 “For there is born to you this day in the city of David a Savior [SOTER], who is Christ the Lord [meshiach, Messiah]. (Verse 12) And this will be the sign to you: You will find a Babe wrapped in swaddling cloths, lying in a manger.” (Verse 13) Instead of one angel, there is now a multitude, almost an innumerable number. “And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host [antiquated word for army] praising God and saying: ‘Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, goodwill toward men!’ ” That is how we read it in the NJKV. In the NASB, NIV, ESV, or one of the other translations, it will read “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace among people with whom He is pleased [or people of favor, people of goodwill]!”
The difference is that the Majority Text manuscripts read “goodwill toward men” in the nominative case. The Greek word that is translated there is the word EUDOKIA. It does not mean goodwill. It is not that God is going to pat everyone on the head and give them goodwill. It is a word that is always associated with the gracious benevolence of God towards undeserving mankind. When we read goodwill, it is a word that picks up a lot of the ideas of grace. They are making an exclamation that this is a demonstration of God’s grace to mankind.
In the NASB and other translations, they base this on basically three older texts: Siniticus, Vaticanus and Alexandrinus. There are those within the history of textual criticism who think that if those three wise men agree, then so be it. But that is not right.
This coming March 2012, we are going to have three lectures on textual criticism by Dr. Ron Minton at the Chafer Conference. We are wrapping the conference with a course offering that we need to film for Chafer Seminary on textual criticism that will be about 20 hours long. I had a conversation at the Pre-Trib Conference with John Hart, who is Professor of Bible at Moody Bible Institute. He talked to Maurice Robinson, who is one of the greatest living experts since Zane Hodges died a few years ago, about the Majority Text. John Hart said Robinson made the point that there are dozens of whole verses that are in the Critical Text—not just a word here or there—that are in the NASB, NIV, ESV, but are not in the Majority Text at all. That is one of the many reasons that I tend to lean (and I am no textual critic) toward the Majority Text.
That would read that this is a subject, nominative case noun, indicating God’s gracious benevolence toward mankind in giving the Savior. Rather than He is wishing peace among people with whom He is pleased. That can have some theological problems. I think the text is better to go with the reading of the NJKV, but not quite because goodwill does not capture the idea. It is divine goodness or grace toward mankind.
What is the peace that is being announced here? We certainly know from other passages of Scripture that because of Christ’s mission to die on the cross for sins, there is peace with God. Is that what this is talking about? We know from other passages of Scripture that if you are a believer trusting in God, then we have a peace that passes all understanding. Philippians 4:6–7, “Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God; and the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus.”
The peace that is here in Luke 2:14, I believe, is a Messianic peace. What is being announced in the beginning of Jesus’ ministry is from John the Baptist. “Repent for the kingdom of heaven is at hand—the Messiah is here.” Then Jesus came and His message during the first 2-½ years of His ministry was “repent for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.” He sent out His disciples only to the house of Israel and to the house of Judah. The first 2-½ years of Christ’s ministry is presenting Jesus as the King, the descendant of David, who would establish His kingdom and a rule of peace upon the earth based on all the prophecies of Isaiah.
When the angel appears to Joseph and says not to put Mary aside because (Matthew 1:21) “she will bring forth a Son, and you shall call His name Jesus [Yeshua], for He will save His people from their sins.” This clearly anchors this whole context in the Messianic prophecies of the Old Testament, which Luke 2: 11 does as well. “For there is born to you this day in the city of David [Bethlehem, Micah 5:2 prophesied] a Savior, who is Christ the Lord.” The announcement of the angels fits all of the glory that is going on in the heavens; a huge angelic army announcing His birth. Luke does not talk about the Magi, but they come and bring gifts for royalty, for a king (gold, frankincense, and myrrh). Everything that wraps around the birth of Jesus is about the birth of a King.
This is why Herod got so upset because the Magi were looking for the King of the Jews and were not looking for him. He thought he was the king. He was scared to death because they were from Parthia. The Magi usually anointed the king, the emperor of Parthia. They had already conquered Judea once and run Herod out of town. He had to flee to Rome, whining to the Romans to come and rescue him because he could not defend his kingdom (about 30 BC).
Everything about the birth of Jesus is about the birth of this promised Old Testament Messianic King. When the angels are making this announcement, they are announcing that the King is here. That is what the gospels are about—the King came. But the King was rejected, went to the cross, and paid the penalty for sin in that crucifixion. He will come back as the King. The kingdom has been postponed, and there will be no peace, as announced here, until He returns according to Isaiah 2:4. Only when He establishes that kingdom will there be peace on earth. That peace on earth is going to be the result of the fact the He has made peace with God because of sin. He is the peace offering on the cross that provides peace for those who are justified, peace with God, so that we are no longer at enmity with Him. That is our Christmas present.