13 And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God, and saying,
14 Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men.
1901 ASV Translation:
13 And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God, and saying,
14 Glory to God in the highest, And on earth peace among men in whom he is well pleased.
The Textus Receptus of 2:14 omits the final "s" on the word "good will" which the Nestle/Aland 26 retains. This significantly alters the realm of possible meanings. This issue is addressed below.
I. The issue of the paragraph is the angelic announcement of a message of great joy.
II. The issues of great joy have everything to do with the arrival of the Savior and little to nothing to do with the other "arrivals" -- circumstances, people, etc.
I. Beyond the "Sign"...
A. The word "suddenly" is a little used word, both in the New Testament as well as in the larger linguistic world. It seems to signify "suddenness" as both a totally unexpected issue as well as a fully developed happening. It seems to be like "voila!", or the sudden appearance of the bird in the hand of the magician when there was nothing to signal its coming or presence.
1. There is the suspicion that Luke was deliberate in avoiding the typical "and straightway..." that Mark's Gospel uses so often.
2. The impression of the word is that the host of heaven was scarcely able to be restrained long enough for the angel to inform the shepherds of the enormous event.
a. This suggests that the angelic realm knows far better than we do what enormous good this event has accomplished.
b. It also suggests that the host of heaven is "given" to verbal outbursts of praise to God for His great mercies.
3. The "suddenness" does not seem to address the issue of whether the angelic host was invisibly present and were going to be permitted to become visible for a short time for the shepherds' sake, or whether that host had suddenly arrived at this place and time. It would be odd indeed, however, if the latter was the case as there is no indicator as to why such a host would "suddenly arrive" when the plan to reveal the Birth to the shepherds was obviously "in the works" for a long time. So, we assume that this host was present and invisible and only became visible so the shepherds could witness their outburst.
B. The phrase "...there was with the angel..." again brings the historical outworking of the detailed plans of God into view.
1. It was not "enough" that the Savior come as a human child of a virgin in Bethlehem's manger.
2. It was not "enough" that the angel tell the shepherds of the event.
3. There had to also be this step taken: the host of heaven had to break through the veil between the spheres to let their perspective be known to those men in that dark pasture.
4. This raises this question: what is the point of this specific detail of the process? What impact does it have on the shepherds to be given such a peek into that "other" realm? Clearly, since the issue is a "message of great joy", there is a part that this manifestation of the heavenly host plays in that. For the individuals out there that night, it was to be an "event" of memory for the rest of their lives. Who could forget seeing such a thing? But, that Luke records the event for his reader also signals a "benefit" for those of us who only "hear" about it. This is a majorissue in the entire "faith" scenario: highly "impactual" events occur to some individual or group (like crossing the Dead Sea on dry ground) and everyone afterwards is supposed to have, at least, some benefit from the event because they "believe" it happened. Luke's main "buddy" (Paul) had his Damascus Road experience and the rest of us are supposed to believe his record of it as well as all of the doctrinal content that poured out of Paul after that experience. The questions are several: 1) Was the "experience" the "cause" of the consequent "faith"? 2) Was the "experience" not the "cause", but a validation of the legitimacy of the "faith"? 3) Since the hearer, who comes after the experience has fallen into history and memory, did not have a similar experience, what value does "hearing about it" have? 4) Is it true that "experience" must be subject to "doctrine" so that we are not led astray (as in "if we or an angel from heaven preach unto you any other Gospel...let him be accursed"--who can stand so firmly against such an "experience" unless he is committed to evaluating what happens against the revelation of God's words?), or is the opposite true -- that "doctrine" must be "remolded" to embrace the experience (as in Saul's adamant rejection of the "doctrine" that Jesus is the Christ until his experience)? Does legitimate faith arise from the words of God, or the experiences of man?
a. There is a biblical order: the "doctrinal claim" comes first; then "experiences" develop to subject the "hearer" to the process of "testing" the claim.
b. The original "test" was that of Adam and Eve who decided that "experience" was the only way to really "know the truth". But, their "test by experience" was "sin" and it brought all manner of horrendous consequences to pass.
c. There seems to be this reality: God "tells" us the Truth and surrounds us with "validations of the claims" (the Word of God came to Adam and Eve in the context of Eden's superfluity of beneficent provisions at all levels). He then permits us to go forward with the claims "in place" and face counter-claims that offer their own form of experiences for validation.
d. But, there has to be something that is absolutely bottom-line. It cannot be "an experience" because "experiences" don't mean anything apart from the mental processes that go into assigning them their "meaning". Thus, the absolute bottom-line has to be a governing, over-arching, all-encompassing, inviolable "Truth" -- a concept that is to be graspedmentally and held without exception or vacillation no matter what "experience" seems to claim.
e. That bottom-line is the divine revelation of the selflessness of genuine love as the willingness to sacrifice any and all self-interest for the real benefit of another. The "tempation" accounts of Scripture all have this in common: the individual is being subject to the pressures of putting his own desires before those of "others". Thus, Peter says that the corruption that is in the world is here "through lust" (2 Peter 1:4) -- i.e., the willingness to permit "my" desire to trump the true need of "someone else". Thus it is highly likely that Jesus told His disciples that if they did not embrace the Kingdom as "of children", they would not enter it at all (Mark 10:15 in context) because it forces this issue: the "truth", to be "true", must be the handmaid of the pursuit of the real benefit of others. This is why Jesus is the Christ: He loved others without inserting His own self-interests. He demonstrated His "love" by dying for sinners while they were sinners without regard to His own losses. This truth marks Christianity as unique and true in the light of all of the other "truth-claiming-religions" of manipulators ("thieves and robbers"). Thus, "pure religion, and undefiled, before God ... is this, To visit the fatherless and widows in their affliction..." (James 1:27). Every "doctrinal claim" and every "experience" must be subjected to this "love" test.
C. The "multitude"...
1. This is a favorite word of Luke's (in comparison to the rest of the writers of the New Testament).
2. It signals a large number that have been gathered together into a unit of one sort or another; a bundle made of a large number of pieces.
D. The "host of heaven"...
1. A word deeply associated with the military; a "troop".
2. The issue has roots in that "ordered form" which mark a organizational structure with everyone having a place and being in it.
3. A derivation of the word is the typical word "soldier"...the "soldiers of heaven".
4. One wonders if the "host" was "on hand" because of the level of conflict that is associated with the reality of a fallen universe of angels and men. One also wonders if that "host" has been on hand since the conception of the Son in Mary's womb. That "angels ministered to Him" after the extended fasting of the Great Temptation, might also signal that presence of the "host" in the near proximity to our sighted world.
E. "Praising God".
1. Of the nine uses of this particular word for "praise", seven are Lukan.
2. The impression of its use is that of someone who has, like the lame man of Acts 3:8-9, been brought by the experience of great benefit to an emotional outburst.
3. This is not a "manufactured" emotion, generated by music and rhythm; it is a result of an experience of great benefit that is recognized for what it is. It may be that a great deal more true "praise" would be expressed in the churches if the "song service" was held after the morning study of the Word and all of His great benefits.
F. "And saying..."
1. The word means "to communicate significant content of information" as the chief difference from simply "speaking" as "utterances of sound".
2. Luke apparently wanted us to realize that the troops of heaven were about to give us a "battle cry" for the days to come.
G. The "Battle Cry"
1. Contrasts "the highest" with "the earth".
2. Gives prominence to "glory to God" in respect to the highest.
3. Gives prominence to "peace to men" upon the earth.
a. There is a problem of meaning associated with this expression of a desire for "peace among men".
1) The Textus Receptus has "good will" as a nominative (sans the final "s").
2) The Nestle/Aland 26 has "good will" as a genitive by reason of that "s".
b. The difference in meaning is that the Textus Receptus indicates that both "peace" and "good will" are to be "to men", while the Nestle/Aland 26 identifies the type of man to whom the peace will be given.
c. The likelihood is that Luke was saying that God, in the highest, ought to be seen as worthy of the credit for the good of Life, and those men on the earth who are willing to give that credit to Him will experience a very satisfying "peace" -- hence, the message of great joy. Those who know the God of Glory experience the peace of those who willingly yield to that "good will".