Translation commentary on John 16:18

In Greek verse 18 begins with two words which may be rendered “so they were saying,” which are omitted on traditional grounds by Good News Translation.

After the question What does … mean?, the UBS Greek text includes in brackets words that New English Bible renders “that he speaks of.” Good News Translation omits these words, not only on textual grounds, but because they are redundant for the English reader.

It may be difficult in some languages to include a direct statement within a direct statement, and therefore the question asked by the disciples may have to be reconstructed as “What does Jesus mean when he says the words, a little while?” or “What is Jesus trying to tell us when he speaks the words, a little while?”

We don’t know what he is talking about (New American Bible “We do not know what he is talking about”) is rendered “We do not know what he means” by Revised Standard Version and New English Bible.

Quoted with permission from Newman, Barclay M. and Nida, Eugene A. A Handbook on the Gospel of John. (UBS Handbook Series). New York: UBS, 1980. For this and other handbooks for translators see here .

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