Question:

Philippians 2:10 says that every knee "should" bow. I have misquoted that several times and I have heard others do the same, by saying that every knee "will" bow. What, in your understanding, is the text teaching?


Answer:

It is rendered "will bow" in the NASB, but reading my Greek books it looks like "should bow" is the better translation as the verb is in the subjunctive mood (expressing a probability or possibility).

Interestingly, this is a quote of Isaiah 45:23, which is also quoted in Romans 14:11, "For it is written: "As I live, says the LORD, Every knee shall bow to Me, and every tongue shall confess to God"" Here every translation uses "will" or "shall." In Romans 14:11, the verb is in the indicative mood (expressing certainty).

The difference is that In Romans 14:11, the passage is in the context of brethren standing before the throne. In Philippians 2:10, the context is all the world standing before the throne.

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). The NASB picked "will" for both bow and confess. The NKJV picked "should for both verbs. Then NIV picked "should" for bow and avoided either for "confess."