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


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.”


Or OP can be Original/Opening Poster.


"Vincent’s Word Studies

At the name of Jesus (ἐν τῷ ὀνόματι)

Rev., better, in the name. The name means here the personal name; but as including all that is involved in the name. See on Matthew 28:19. Hence the salutation is not at the name of Jesus, as by bowing when the name is uttered, but, as Ellicott rightly says: “the spiritual sphere, the holy element as it were, in which every prayer is to be offered and every knee to bow.” Compare Ephesians 5:20."


If it means that then wouldn’t it have been God’s “purpose” to still be saving Judas, Pharaoh & anyone who had already died in their sins when Paul wrote Phil.2:9-11, since that passage refers to “every” one? In which case the author would have to agree to the possibility of postmortem repentance.

BTW the same book says:

“Gregory of Nyssa is particularly keen to ground his belief in universal salvation in Scripture: besides 1 Corinthians 15:28, he uses Phillipians 2:10…8…He even tentatively suggests that the words ‘under the earth’ refers to demons who will also be saved.9” (p.193)

  1. Gregory of Nyssa (1988), p.461; see also Ludlow (2000), pp.77-82.
  2. Gregory of Nyssa (1988), p.444.


“Gregory has Phil 2.10 in mind. The Pauline affirmation that even under the earth every knee will bend leads Gregory to the conviction that none will remain definitively excluded from union with God.”

“Origen had already reached the same conclusion, interpreting that this bending of the knee must be understood as an authentic adoration and voluntary homage…” (p.279)

The Brill Dictionary of Gregory of Nyssa
edited by Lucas Francisco Mateo Seco, Giulio Maspero

Likewise also states p.51 of:

“All Shall Be Well”: Explorations in Universal Salvation and Christian …
edited by Gregory MacDonald, Robin A. Parry


The way we have been raised leads to our thinking that “should” means “ought to.” And it does!
But it does NOT mean “ought to” when used as a subjunctive as In Philippians 2:9-11.

Here is a website that illustrates the use of “should” as a subjunctive in English:


Please note my rebuttal in the pro-universalism section. Here I would only add:
(1) tthere is no scholarly consensus that the NT always used the Septuagint for OT quotations and (2) that there is a scholarly consensus that Phil 2:6-11 is a pre-Pauline hymn (not a Pauline hymn) inspired by (but not a quotation of ) Isaiah 45:22-23.


What exactly were you rebutting?

Paul wrote in Romans 14:

…for it is written, “As I live, says the Lord, every knee shall bow to me, and every tongue shall confess to God.”

Doubtless Paul was quoting from Isaiah 45. the verb for “shall bow” is a simple future in the Greek.

In Philippians 2:9-11 Paul says it in a somewhat different way:

Therefore God has highly exalted him and bestowed on him the name that is above every name, so that at the name of Jesus every knee should 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.

Here Paul is saying that God had highly exalted Jesus with a purpose in mind. That purpose was that every knee should bow (read “would bow” if you don’t use or understand English subjunctives) and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord.


Don’t confuse the English subjunctive with the Greek subjunctive and its introduction of a result clause. Scholars debate whether 2;9-11 is merely Christological or soteriological. Even if it were merely Christological, it seems absurd to assume that the confession (which in Hebrew implies gratitude) is coerced before a lever is lifted and these poor souls fall, screaming back to Hell. The invitation to universal salvation in the underlying Isaiah text and it proclamation of the confession that will (not should) happen is decisive, together with the fact that the confession “Jesus is Lord” is redemptive and implies the inspiration of the Holy Spirit (so 1 Cor 12:3).


The Greek subjunctive is broader in use than the English subjunctive, but it may be used to indicate purpose as in the English subjunctive.

This was understood by translators most of whom translated the subjunctive in Philippians 2:9-11 with the English subjunctive word “should.” That is done in the following versions:
ASV, AV, Darby, Diaglot, ESV, HCSB, JB2013, LEB, NHEB, NIV, NKJV, RSV, NRSV, Webster, Wey, and Williams.

Were the translators of all these versions wrong?


“In the NT κάμπτω is found only in combination with γόνυ (γόνατα), and in this connection it is used trans. with γόνυ (γόνατα) as obj. (R. 11:4; Eph. 3:14) and instrans. with γόνυ as subj. (R. 14:11; Phil.2:10).”

“κάμπτειν γόνυ (γόνατα) is the gesture of full inner submission in worship before the one whom we bow the knee. Thus in R. 14:11 bowing the knee is linked with confession within the context of a judgement scene, and in Phil. 2:10 it again accompanies confession with reference to the worship of the exalted Kyrios Jesus by the cosmos. At R. 11:4 κάμπτειν γόνυ τῇ Βάαλ signifies surrender to Baal, and at Eph. 3:14…is a solemn description of the attitude of submission to God in prayer” (Theological Dictionary of the New Testament (TDNT), Vol.3, p.594-595, Heinrich Schlier, ed. Kittel., Eerdmans, 1978).


When the subjunctive occurs with the particle hina, as in Rom.11:32 & Gal.2:16, for examples, it does not indicate “possibility & potentiality” but rather “purpose or result”. “When hina is used with the subjunctive, the mood changes from one of possibility or probability, to one of purpose or result.”

“nevertheless knowing that a man is not justified by the works of the Law but through faith in Christ Jesus, even we have believed in Christ Jesus, so that we may be justified by faith in Christ and not by the works of the Law; since by the works of the Law no flesh will be justified.” (Gal.2:16, NASB)

“Again, “may” here is an idiomatic way of translating purpose in English. The purpose of belief is justification. Indeed, one can also see here the hina clause being used to indicate result. Paul, by using the subjunctive, is not intending to communicate any kind of uncertainty with regard to justification. Rather, by using the subjunctive in a hina clause, he is proclaiming that our faith in Christ has its purpose in our justification, and also has its end result in our justification.”


Yes, ἱνα (hina) means “in order that” or “so that” expressions which indicate purpose.


So paidion, if this text doesn’t teach universalism, what verses do you think do?


You might want to see Paidon’s comment on Phil.2:9-11 here & the whole thread: