Sunday, December 22, 2013

Christmas: Goodwill Toward All or Some?

I admit that I have come to love Christmas. The journey to get to a point of love is long and not relevant to the post but I will say that one reason I love Christmas is because of the pervasive theme of "peace, good will toward men." Now we all know that Christians don't have a monopoly on this concept but they have packaged it in a way I find appealing with beautiful songs and art. Imagine my surprise when I saw this today:

When I read it, I immediately saw what was "wrong." That's one of the perks of having been raised Christian - you often know the KJV like the back of your hand. That version says, "Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, goodwill toward men." Big difference. One verse offers peace to all humanity. The other offers peace only to those whom Yahweh has chosen for his favor. One is inclusive. The other is exclusive. What was going on?

The first thing I did was check the source. This graphic was posted by John Hagee Ministries. I have to be honest here: if Hagee told me the sky was blue, I'd go outside and check. He has little to no credibility with me. But assuming that he was just wrong because I don't like him isn't good skepticism. It was time to do some digging.

Let me admit that I have no formal training in Greek. I'm relying solely on the Greek Bible online so if you are a scholar and you find this wrong, please say so. The best I could tell, however, this graphic is not accurate. Here is the Greek:

Δόξα ἐν ὑψίστοις θεῷ καὶ ἐπὶ γῆς εἰρήνη ἐν ἀνθρώποις εὐδοκίας. 

Let's break it down:

Δόξα - splendor, majesty
ὑψίστοις - highest, first rank
θεῷ - God
ἐπὶ γῆς - in all the inhabitable land, in all of a country
εἰρήνη - peace and prosperity
ἀνθρώποις - all humanity (male and female)
εὐδοκίας - goodwill, kindness

I see two possible ways to interpret this based on the translations provided: that either peace and goodwill were meant for all humanity or they were meant for all of Israel. I get the feeling from the translation that it's the first but who knows? I'll leave that for the scholars to say. But what we don't see is that this peace and kindness is just for those who score enough points with Yahweh.

Interestingly enough, this started a sort of debate on Hagee's page. People aren't really happy with the idea of exclusive peace. They like the idea that happiness, prosperity, and kindness are for us all. Of course, it might also be that they are just loyal to the KJV no matter what.

Whatever the case, I find that Hagee's graphic undermines the best concept of Christmas and for that I give him an F. I can't wait to see how he ruins Easter too.