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


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:


This quote comes from the following topic:

"CLEMENT OF ALEXANDRIA (150-220 A.D.) likewise has sounded these words: “The Lord, [says John in his First Epistle,] is a propitiation, ‘not for our sins only,’ that is, of the faithful, ‘but also for the whole world.’ Therefore He indeed saves all universally; but some as converted by punishments, others by voluntary submission, thus obtaining the honour and dignity, that ‘to Him every knee shall bow, of things in heaven, and things in earth, and things under the earth,’ that is [to say,] angels, and men, and souls who departed this life before His coming into the world.”The Fate of the Lost — A Fourth View?


In fact, I DO affirm that this text teaches the reconciliation of ALL people to God. What I wrote in no way denied that. All I was trying to do was explain that there is no problem with the fact that Paul uses the subjunctive to teach that God exalted Christ IN ORDER THAT (or for the purpose that) every knee would bow, and thus it is unnecessary for translators to change the subjunctive “should” to the simple future “will” in order to bring this truth out.

Thank you, Origen, for explaining my position to qaz.


Clement wasn’t a universalist. He affirmed hopeless punishment in his writings.


Are you confusing Clement of Alexandria with another ancient Clement?


No. The quote you gave from him is taken out of context.


Can you post the context?


“All souls are immortal, even those of the wicked. Yet, it would be better for them if they were not deathless. For they are punished with the endless vengeance of the quenchless fire. Since they do not die, it is impossible for them to have an end put to their misery.”


What does this purported fragment of Clement have to do with the “context” of his remark i posted? You claimed the quote i “gave from him is taken out of context”. Where is your evidence in support of that claim?

As to your quote above, koine_lingua says “it seems that perhaps there’s been some early mix-up, as this is actually related to pseudo-Clement (of Rome!), Homily 11.11”:αἰώνιος_aiōnios_in_jewish_and_christian/

BTW, Scripture never uses language such as that. If it did this site wouldn’t exist.


Maybe I’m mistaken but I seem to remember reading the whole piece that your Clement quote is from, and reading an affirmation of hopeless punishment within it.

So Clement of Alexandria didn’t say what I quoted? It was Clement of Rome? That’s worse for universalism.


People change their views over time. If someone quoted my forum posts about God over my 30 year span, no doubt I could be for anything. Unless you get an official statement at the end of their life, you will no doubt find contradictory statements.

Uhg. Android auto correct is abysmal.