Christmas Calvinism: The Grammar of Luke 2:14

“Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace
among people with whom he is pleased.”
– Luke 2:14 [NET]

Until a few days ago, I’ve always read this verse in a Calvinistic way (I’ll use the term “exclusivist” for the rest of this post). That is to say, the peace being announced here is for a select group of individuals (not all of humanity) who have pleased God. Indeed, this is is how the ESV, NIV, and NRSV all steer their readers, replacing the above noun “people” with the pronoun “those” for a phrase that reads similar to “peace among those with whom his favor rests/he is pleased.”

However, I recently heard a sermon where the preacher read the text in a very inclusive way. That is to say, he read the peace being announced here as for all people, who as a collective, have God’s pleasure. The NET (quoted above) and NASB both leave this reading as an option, depending on how you mentally organize the clause. Does the phrase “with whom he is pleased” describe the type of people who are recipients of this peace or is it more of a simple description of the broad category of “people/humanity”? Thus reading: “Peace on earth among people/humanity, with whom he is pleased.”

It’s easy to see the various theological leanings which would play into how one chooses to read this verse. Surely God is not pleased with everybody, right? Or could it simply be God’s pleasure to send the Incarnate Son to redeem his perfectly loved, if not damaged, Image Bearers? Indeed, just before this angelic announcement there is another very inclusive phrase from the lips of the divine messenger: “I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people (παντὶ τῷ λαῷ).” [Lk. 2:10]

I know there are some issues with the Greek (and variant manuscripts) of this verse (see below*), but . . .

What do you think?
Should Luke 2:14 be read in an exclusive or inclusive way?
Why or why not?


Greek text of Luke 2:14 (marked off as poetry)

δόξα ἐν ὑψίστοις θεῷ
καὶ ἐπὶ γῆς εἰρήνη
ἐν ἀνθρώποις εὐδοκίας

A quick consult with some of my more proficient Greek friends offered no help as to why exactly different translators have made the decisions they did or as to whether the Greek gives a definitive nod toward an exclusive or inclusive reading.