“Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men.”
-Luke 2:14 (KJV)
You have probably received Christmas cards containing the above part of the angel’s song to the shepherds on the fields of Bethlehem. But most modern translations read differently for example the New American Standard Bible (NASB) reads:
"Glory to God in the highest , And on earth peace among men with whom He is pleased."
And the English Standard Version (ESV) reads:
"Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace among those with whom he is pleased!"
Notice that the underlined portion of the newer translations are lacking in the KJV. Now don’t get me wrong I love the KJV, and I am not knocking it. In fact I always check it when I do sermon preparation. The difference between the KJV and the other translations is the difference between the nominative εὐδοκια[eudokia] in the KJV and the genitive εὐδοκιας[eudokias] in the NASB and ESV. The genitive case in Greek is used to show possession, but the function of the nominative case is to indicate the subject of the sentence. In other words, if a word is the subject of the verb it will have a nominative case ending. The new translations used the oldest and best manuscripts.
The Greek manuscripts used to translate the KJV contained a nominative, whereas the older manuscripts used to translate the modern version contains the genitive of the same word. The literal transition would be “of good will” or “characterized by (God’s) good pleasure.” I n other words, the peace that the angles sang that night belonged to the earth as a result of the birth of Christ is not a generic, worldwide peace for all humankind, but a peace limited to those who obtain favor with God by believing in his son Jesus (See Romans 5:1). Jesus brings peace to those who trust and believe in him, but to those who reject him their end will be judgement and he will wage war on them (see Revelation 19:11). This is why we must make the most of the Christmas season to direct people to Jesus Christ, as we should in all seasons.