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


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.


If you should discover the real purpose of the subjunctive, you would never experience disgust with it. (Please note that “should” in the preceding sentence is in the subjunctive mode).

The only matter here,with which I feel a touch of disgust, is the grammarians use of the word “mood” for “mode.” Grammatically the word is used in the subjunctive mode. There’s nothing moody about it!


I rejoice in that, Paidion!!
MODE - I like it. I am not disgusted with it; in fact I should share that with a couple of my friends. :wink:
If I have any left after the sweating, grinding, damn-the-torpedo fusillades on another thread!


Luckily, standard definitions of the word should indeed allow for interpreting should as will. From Merriam-Webster, one sees this apt definition of should: “used in auxiliary function to express futurity from a point of view of the past.” That definition is essentially the same as Merriam-Webster’s definition of the word will: “used to express futurity.”

Thus, these words CAN express the same meaning. In fact, that some Bible versions use should and others will in translating the same verse is compatible with the view that these words DO mean the same thing in these instances.


Excellent! Thx.


All 16 Bible translations that I have on my Online Bible program use the English subjunctive in Philippians 2:10. Fourteen of them use the English subjunctive “should” to translate the Greek subjunctive and the other two use the the English subjunctive “may.”

Personally I have encountered NO translation that uses the simple future “will” instead. To do so would be an incorrect translation.

Also, it’s a mistake to presume that using the subjunctive in this verse makes “every knee bowing” any less certain. As has been pointed out already, the subjunctive shows God’s purpose. God highly exalted Jesus and gave Him a name above every name SO THAT every knee will bow and every tongue confess that Jesus is their Lord.

The word “should” does NOT mean “ought to” in this verse, nor, if it is translated as “may” does it mean “might or might not.” Used in that way, the words are NOT subjunctives. Again, the subjunctive mood simply expresses God’s purpose in highly exalting Jesus.


Well, I have encountered three translations that do use or imply the word will in Philippians 2:11 at the Blue Letter Bible Site.

CSB version of Philippians 2:10-11 “so that at the name of Jesus every knee will bow — in heaven and on earth and under the earth — and every tongue will confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.”

NASB version of Philippians 2:10-11 “so that at the name of Jesus EVERY KNEE WILL BOW, of those who are in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and that every tongue will confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.”

NET version of Philippians 2:10-11 “so that at the name of Jesus every knee will bow - in heaven and on earth and under the earth - and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord to the glory of God the Father.”


It seems that 23 versions use “will” in verse 10 here:

And an additional 4 versions there use the synonym “shall” at v.10.

I think it was davo who referred to this earlier in the thread.


Thanks for that, Origen.

It is not surprising that so many Bible versions in English use will instead of should. The reason is likely to avoid ambiguity that would exist in translating a word expressed in the subjunctive mood in Greek to that same word expressed in English.

In Greek, as in English, the subjunctive mood is used to express uncertainty or conditions other than fact. But in Greek, unlike in English, the subjunctive mood is used also to express a purpose, and that is the use of the verb in the Philippians verses in question (and in many other verses in the Bible). In this case, there is no uncertainty or condition other than fact: should means will.

So, how does one clearly and accurately express in English a Greek verb usage that does not exist in English, i.e., the purpose use of the subjunctive? Well, the approach taken by the NASB and many other Bible versions seems to be avoiding ambiguity by using will instead of should because will is the intended and unambiguous English meaning of should in this case.

This usage is supported by the Merriam-Webster dictionary, as I said above: one of the definitions of should indeed is essentially equivalent to a definition of will.


These three simply give the MEANING of the subjunctive, rather than translating the subjunctive. I did exactly the same myself in my most recent post in this thread. Here is part of that post which brings this out…


Quoted from the url below:

"Matthew: I will ask you again. Do you know what it means to “BE” in Jesus. When, and if, you can answer, Rose will be pleased to continue. In the meantime, my beloved partner of 60 years has issued an ultimatum to Rose and I have learned to listen!

"Let us hear from the apostle St. Paul again>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>

"That IN the Name of Jesus EVERY knee shall bow, and EVERY tongue confess…

“You are Lord to the glory of God the Father.”

I assume, Matthew, you grasp what it means to be IN Jesus, if so, you will appreciate the fact that every being, in every dimension of Father’s universe will ultimately bow and confess in His Holy Name! That would be every being on earth, every being in heaven, and every being under the earth.

And Matthew, let me assure you and all that read>>>>>>>>>

This is NOT perfunctory genuflections! NOT!"


Regardless of what is written in the url, the word “will” is a “SUBJUNCTIVE” not a simple “FUTURE.”