Who was praising God in Luke 2:14?

Grammatical notes on Luke 2:13

David Potter

“And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God, and saying,…”

A Christmas meditation: it starts out pretty technically, but stay with me to the end. It will be worth it.

Our verse could be translated literally, ‘multitude of the host of heaven’. The word “host” in Luke 2:13 is most likely what grammarians call a partitive genitive or genitive of the whole. This means that the word in the genitive (host) is the whole of which the noun it modifies (multitude) is a part. The shepherds saw and heard a multitude which was only a part of the totality, the heavenly host or army. The participles “praising” and “saying” agree with the genitive “host,” not with the nominative “multitude.” (See Alfred Plummer, A Critical and Exegetical Commentary on the Gospel according to St. Luke, p. 57.)

Here’s the point: What the shepherds saw and heard was only a small fraction of the celebration of all the heavenly host. The joy we feel as we celebrate the birth of our Savior is the same joy that all of God’s angels experienced 2,000 years ago.

David Potter serves as a missionary in Hungary with Baptist World Mission.