Philippians 2:9-11 – ‘should’ vs ‘will’


Why does the NASB (and NAS 1977) translate Phil.2:10 as:

New American Standard Bible
so that at the name of Jesus EVERY KNEE WILL BOW, of those who are in heaven and on earth and under the earth,

Do the caps indicate a quote? Does the NASB have any footnotes explaining the translation as “will” instead of “should” or “may”(YLT)?

Is there a textual variant as this claims:

"The “debate” mentioned in the quotation is over a textual variant – a spelling difference between different Greek copies of Paul’s letter. It’s a difference of just one letter: ἐξομολογήσεται v. ἐξομολογήσηται. The translation difference is thus “every tongue will confess” v. “every tongue should confess.” "


Ok, thanks, yep I did not get it, still don’t, but I do understand what you are saying in the quote above.
In and of itself, the verses don’t ‘sew up the case’ for UR - Paul could have, I reckon, used the word for ‘will’ instead of that subjunctive mood.

Do you think Paul was thinking ‘will’?


NT Wright is considered a leading NT scholar. His version has “shall”.


I’ve read a ton of Wright and respect his scholarship immensely. I’m heartened to hear his ‘shall’ in this context.


I’ve read a ton of Wright and respect his scholarship immensely. I’m heartened to hear his ‘shall’ in this context.

I think the context is about exalting Jesus so Paul may be simply saying that in Isaiah it says “everyone knee will bow” to God and now that Jesus is Lord , every knee should now bow to Jesus that had been destined to bow to God.


This is a comment by Greek scholar & popular author Bill Mounce:

"Is the subjunctive “shall” or “might”? (John 3:16)

I was asked about the subjunctive in John 3:16. The concern was that the NIV/NLT reads “shall,” which makes it a promise of salvation. His contention is that the subjunctive makes it a “condition of salvation” and it should be translated as “may,” and the Greek grammar does not “allow” the translation “shall.”

First of all, let’s have a little humility. To say that two major translations mistranslate a famous verse, choosing a translation that the Greek does not “allow,” is quite a claim.

Is it possible for two major translations to make a major mistake? Sure. I think that translating οὕτως in John 3:16 as “so” is precisely that. But is it possible that two major translations violate Greek grammar in the same verse? Highly unlikely.

Please people. Be very careful before claiming that major translations have chosen a translation that the Greek (or Hebrew) does not allow. You may disagree. You may not like it. But to claim that the translators violate Greek grammar requires too much hubris.

The NIV reads, “For God so loved the world that (ὥστε) he gave his one and only Son, that (ἵνα) whoever believes in him shall not perish (ἀπόληται) but have (ἔχῃ) eternal life.”

Why are ἀπόληται and ἔχῃ in the subjunctive? Is it because they are giving a “condition of salvation”? To be frank, I am not even sure what that means. Is there any question that if a person truly believes, he or she will truly be saved from perishing and will truly receive eternal life?

ἀπόληται and ἔχῃ are in the subjunctive because they are in a purpose clause. God sent his son for the purpose saving those who believe and for the purpose of bringing them safely to eternal life. Because purpose is not a statement of reality (indicative), it must be moved into the subjunctive.

The only remaining question is how to convey purpose in English. Some use “shall/will” (NIV, NLT, NASB, HCSB). Other translations use “should” (ESV, KJV) or “may” (NRSV,NJB). I don’t think there is any real difference in meaning.

Do you hear any difference?" … -john-3-16

There are interesting comments following the above quote.


Here’s another comment from NT Greek scholar Bill Mounce re the subjunctive:

"A few blogs back I talked about my growing apprehension with connecting may and might by default with the subjunctive. Many of you responded with helpful information. Thanks.

Mike Aubrey left a comment about Margaret Sim’s book Marking Thought and Talk in New Testament Greek: New Light from Linguistics on the Particles Hina and Hoti, and it was repeated by Carl Conrad on the Biblical Greek forum. Richard Walker is correct; It seems that the use of may/might in purpose clauses now belongs to a higher register of English and is to be eliminated from modern translations that aspire to a certain type of clarity. Thanks.

The comment by David Croatia was also helpful. He started polling people and found that almost every person hears the idea of contingency or probability in may/might. His examples of misuse were especially interesting. (Translations are from the NIV.)

And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another advocate to (ἵνα) help you and be (ᾖ) with you forever (John 14:16, NIV). Is there any question that the Holy Spirit might be with you?

For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us (ἵνα) to do (περιπατήσωμεν) (Eph 2:10). Does this mean, as David heard preached, that sanctification is probable, but not a reality, because of the subjunctive verb. It is true that we do not always do what the Lord has prepared for us to do, but that doesn’t come from the subjunctive. The NIV got this one right.

Therefore I endure everything for the sake of the elect, that (ἵνα) they too may obtain (τύχωσιν) the salvation that is in Christ Jesus, with eternal glory. 2 Timothy 2:10. Does this mean that the elect might, but not necessarily, obtain their salvation? The NIV committee needs to look at this one.

So I am more encouraged than ever to remove may/might as default translations for the subjunctive." … -and-might


“2:9-11 Subjunctive Purpose-Result Ina Clause”

“Normally the subjunctive mood refers to potential action. However, this use of ina
with verbs in the subjunctive mood indicates not only intention, but also its sure accomplishment
(Wallace, 473). Therefore, Paul is not merely arguing God’s desire that pa/n go,nu ka,myh | i.e.
“every knee should bow” and pa/sa glw/ssa evxomologh,shtai i.e. “every tongue should confess”,
he is declaring the intention that God will most certainly carry out. “The fulfillment of this
divine intention will take place at the parousia” (O’Brien, 239).” … 2_1-11.pdf

“What may be influencing the translation of Philippians 2:10 is the verb “confess” in Philippians 2:11. Some texts have this verb in the subjunctive mood, but there are a good number of texts with it in the indicative mood (the difference is a single letter).” … 7-13a.html


Thanks Origen! Very interesting.


I wonder if the early manuscripts have it in the indicative mood?


The comments i’ve seen don’t go into detail re specific MSS:

[Re confess in Phil.2:11]:

“The verb can be taken as a future passive indicative (exomologesatai) or as an aorist subjunctive (exomologesetai).
The manuscript evidence is about evenly divided. The aorist subjunctive parallels KAMPSE (bow) in 2:10. The change
to the aorist subjunctive could have been intended to bring the two verbs in line with each other, or a scribe
could have been influenced by Isa 45:23, where both verbs - KAMPSEI and EXOMOLOGESETAI - are in the future
indicative. In either case the meaning is not changed.”

“Philippians and Philemon (2009): A Commentary By Charles B. Cousar” [p.51] … ve&f=false

“All that the Prophets Have Declared: The Appropriation of Scripture in the …By Matthew R Malcolm” [see endnotes # 66ff] … ve&f=false


Here is the paragraph from Bill Mounce (quoted by Origen) that makes the same point that I made:



I thought I would never say this, and perhaps it has never been said: I am disgusted by the subjunctive mood. I’m a moodist. I would round up all the subjunctives and send them back to Latin school, or Greek school, and good riddance to them all. They have no place in the crystal-clear empyrean intellectual heights in which I dwell. UP here, we see a subjunctive flappin’ around, we shoot 'em. Yep. We load up with a… load of indicatives packed in gerunds and hang a few dangling participles on that load and fire away. 'Subjunct THAT" we yell. Or someone will do the Michael Jackson crotch-grab and bellow “Yo I got yer subjunctive right here, yo!”

Okay okay, I made a little bit of that up out of thin Empyrean air. But someone said let your yes be yes, and your no your no. It was actually put a bit more elegantly if I remember.

So when the good St. Paul says the S -word - ‘should’ - someone, Timothy maybe, or Mark, or Chip or someone - ‘should’ have jumped up and said “Paul, I mean, what the hey? Say what you mean. Will everyone confess? What’s this ‘may’ stuff and this ‘should’ stuff?? Are you getting moody? (ha).”

Peace. The fit has passed, I accept the grammatical realities and will rest contentedly, sorta, within them.


Your opinion is subjective and indicative of subjunctive mood swings so it’s imperative that you stop before you become an objective mess of mental breakdowns which is attributive to your mood swings :stuck_out_tongue:


We have the use of the subjunctive which does indicate the aspect of
futurity but with the possibility that this may not happen, without
getting into a doctrinal statement i will refrain from saying why this
may not happen(I’d be happy to talk about it off-list if anyone so
desires). One would think that the future indicative would be used for
future statements of absolute surety. “will” should be reserved for
sure events of the future which occur in the indicative mood.

There is no need to get into doctrine here. The above assertion is
simply not borne out by the facts. The subjunctive in a purpose clause
in and of itself cannot help us determine whether the writer or
speaker thinks there is a possibility that the purposed action or event
will not happen. This is a simplistic and reductionistic view of the
construction that does not take into account other factors that may
clarify whether or not the writer or speaker considers the purpose
certain or not. The subjunctive is normally used in a purpose clause
because a purpose by its very nature is unfulfilled at the point of
intention. This has nothing to do with the certainty or lack thereof of
the purpose being fulfilled. Whether there is a possibility that the
purpose will not be fulfilled must be determined by other
considerations. For example, one must consider whether or not the
person who intends an outcome has the ability and determination to
fulfill the purpose, as well as the nature of the intended outcome
itself. There are so many exceptions to your above formula that it
would be impossible to list them all here, so I will offer just one
that disproves the universal assertion you have made:


Note that Paul portrays all of us (TOUS … PANTAS hHMAS) appearing
before the judgment seat of Christ as necessary and thus
certain (FANERWQHNAI DEI). He further portrays the purpose of
this necessary event as being the reception of each one’s due for the
things done in the body, whether good or evil. Does anyone really think
Paul has in mind that once the necessary and certain appearance
before the judgment seat of Christ occurs, God’s very purpose for that
appearance may fail to materialize? Paul certainly does not doubt that
the divine purpose will be fulfilled. This is a case where the person
who purposes has both the ability and determination to fulfill the
purpose. And the nature of the purpose is such that another
necessary and certain event is rendered meaningless without its
stated purpose being fulfilled.

It should also be noted that hINA may be used to mark a consecutive
clause (result) with the subjunctive (see BDAG 3.; L-N 89.49), and
sometimes it is not easy to determine whether purpose or result is
intended. Note the important comments in BDAG in this regard:

“In many cases purpose and result cannot be clearly differentiated, and
hence hINA is used for the result that follows according to the purpose
of the subj. or of God. As in Semitic and Gr-Rom. thought, purpose and
result are identical in declarations of the divine will” (see examples

Steven R. Lo Vullo
Madison, WI … 25250.html … 25248.html … 25246.html


Thanks to you both!

I should be getting to work now… :smiley:


All this grammar stuff is over my head, but TLDR it sounds like Phil 2:9-11 doesn’t teach universalism, right?


I’d agree with this quoted earlier in the thread:

“This is a case where the person who purposes has both the ability and determination to fulfill the purpose.”

And that it also applies to our passage.


I am going to take that and run with it!! :smiley:


Well, I’ve just come across this topic while trying to catch up with some of the discussions going back several years now.

I am no Greek or Hebrew scholar although I do own and occasionally refer to my copy of “The Englishman’s Greek New Testament” for some insights. I can’t really comment, therefore, on what the word “should” in the KJV translation of Phil. 2:10 means definitively. Does the word mean “shall” or “will” or “should”?

The author, Caroline Noel, of the following great hymn seemed to have no doubt about the meaning of the word. I have no idea what her knowledge of Greek might have been.

“At the name of Jesus every knee shall bow,
Every tongue confess him King of glory now;
'Tis the Father’s pleasure we should call him Lord,
Who from the beginning was the mighty Word”

One last thought: the KJV translation of the Septuagint in Exodus 20 is full of "thou shalt not"s. We know exactly what that is saying to us.