happiness / joy

The Hebrew, Aramaic, and Greek that is typically translated in English as “joy” or “happiness” is translated in the Hausa Common Language Ajami Bible idiomatically as farin ciki or “white stomach.” In some cases, such as in Genesis 29:11, it is also added for emphatic purposes.

Other languages that use the same expression include Southern Birifor (pʋpɛl), Dera (popolok awo), Reshe (ɾipo ɾipuhã). (Source: Andy Warren-Rothlin)

See also Seat of the Mind / Seat of Emotions, rejoiced greatly / celebrated, the Mossi translation of “righteous”, and joy.

may be in you, might remain in you

The Greek that is translated in English as “(my joy) might remain in you” or “(my joy) may be in you” is translated in Tzotzil as “these things I have told you in order that your hearts may be happy-untroubled like my heart is happy-untroubled.”

“If Jesus’ words in John 15:11 were to be translated literally (…) it would infer that Jesus had given all His joy away and so not have any Himself.” (Source: Marion Cowan in The Bible Translator 1963, p. 90)

See also we might become the righteousness of God.

Christ the grapevine (icon)

Following is a contemporary Ukrainian Orthodox icon of Christ as the grapevine by Ulyana Tomkevych.


Orthodox Icons are not drawings or creations of imagination. They are in fact writings of things not of this world. Icons can represent our Lord Jesus Christ, the Virgin Mary, and the Saints. They can also represent the Holy Trinity, Angels, the Heavenly hosts, and even events. Orthodox icons, unlike Western pictures, change the perspective and form of the image so that it is not naturalistic. This is done so that we can look beyond appearances of the world, and instead look to the spiritual truth of the holy person or event. (Source )


The Greek, Latin and Hebrew that is translated with “joy” or “gladness” in English is translated with various associations of “sweetness” or taste: Bambara has “the spirit is made sweet,” Kpelle translates as “sweet heart,” and Tzeltal as “the good taste of one’s heart,” Uduk uses the phrase “good to the stomach,” Baoulé “a song in the stomach,” Mískito “the liver is wide open” (“happily letting the pleasures flooding in upon it”) (source: Nida 1952), Mairasi says “good liver” (source: Enggavoter 2004), Nyongar has koort-kwabba-djil or “heart very good” (source: Warda-Kwabba Luke-Ang), and Chicahuaxtla Triqui “refreshed heart” (source: Waterhouse / Parrott in Notes on Translation October 1967, p. 1ff.).

See also Seat of the Mind for traditional views of “ways of knowing, thinking, and feeling,” happiness / joy, and exceeding joy.

complete verse (John 15:11)

Following are a number of back-translations of John 15:11:

  • Uma: “‘I say all that to you, so that your hearts are glad with the joy that is from me, and so that your joy is complete.” (Source: Uma Back Translation)
  • Yakan: “‘The reason that I teach this to you is, so that you also experience the joy like/the same as (the joy) in my liver and that your joy is complete.” (Source: Yakan Back Translation)
  • Western Bukidnon Manobo: “The reason I told you all of this is so that my joy might make you joyful and so that you might be very joyful.” (Source: Western Bukidnon Manobo Back Translation)
  • Kankanaey: “I tell you these-things in order that your happiness will be great like my happiness.” (Source: Kankanaey Back Translation)
  • Tagbanwa: “I have told these things to you so that you may have a share in my firmly-grounded happiness, and you will be happy with happiness which has no lack.” (Source: Tagbanwa Back Translation)
  • Tenango Otomi: “I am telling you this so that like I am happy you also may be happy. And every day you will be happy.” (Source: Tenango Otomi Back Translation)

formal pronoun: Jesus addressing his disciples and common people

Like many languages (but unlike Greek or Hebrew or English), Tuvan uses a formal vs. informal 2nd person pronoun (a familiar vs. a respectful “you”). Unlike other languages that have this feature, however, the translators of the Tuvan Bible have attempted to be very consistent in using the different forms of address in every case a 2nd person pronoun has to be used in the translation of the biblical text.

As Voinov shows in Pronominal Theology in Translating the Gospels (in: The Bible Translator 2002, p. 210ff.), the choice to use either of the pronouns many times involved theological judgment. While the formal pronoun can signal personal distance or a social/power distance between the speaker and addressee, the informal pronoun can indicate familiarity or social/power equality between speaker and addressee.

Here, Jesus is addressing his disciples, individuals and/or crowds with the formal pronoun, showing respect.

In most Dutch translations, Jesus addresses his disciples and common people with the informal pronoun, whereas they address him with the formal form.

Translation commentary on John 15:11

I have told you this is literally “I have told you these things” see 14.25). It is difficult to define precisely what is referred to by this, though it certainly includes more than what is said in verse 10. It includes at least verse 9 and perhaps all of verses 7-8 as well. I have told you this may be rendered “I have told you all this” in order to indicate that the reference is not limited to the immediately preceding words.

My joy (used of Jesus) refers to the joy that grows out of absolute obedience to the Father and the perfect unity of love they share with each other. So that my joy may be in you may be rendered in some languages “so that you will have the same kind of joy that I have.” Joy may be expressed idiomatically in some languages as “dance within the heart” or “to have a happy heart.”

Joy may be complete is a favorite Johannine expression (note John 3.29; 1 John 1.4; 2 John 12). The completeness of joy may be expressed in some languages as “and so that you may be completely joyful” or “… completely happy.” In some languages, however, completeness is expressed as a negative of lacking, for example, “so that there may be nothing lacking in your joy” or “so that your joy may have nothing missing.”

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 .