The Greek that is translated in English as “painful” or “sorrow” is translated in Huba as “cut the insides.” David Frank explains: “Huba has just one expression that covers both ‘angry’ and ‘sad.’ They don’t make a distinction in their language. I suppose you could say that the term they use means more generically, ‘strong emotional reaction.’ (Source: David Frank in this blog post )

In Enlhet it is translated as “going aside of the innermost.” “Innermost” or valhoc is a term that is frequently used in Enlhet to describe a large variety of emotions or states of mind (for other examples see here). (Source: Jacob Loewen in The Bible Translator 1969, p. 24ff. )

truly truly - I tell you

The Greek that is often translated in English as “truly, truly, I tell you” or similar is translated in the Russian BTI translation (publ. 2015) as Поверьте Мне (Pover’te Mne) or “trust me.” (Source: Andy Warren-Rothlin)

See also Amen.

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.


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 16:20)

Following are a number of back-translations of John 16:20:

  • Uma: “These my words are very true: you will cry and wail, but people who do not believe in me will be glad anyway. Your hearts will be sad, but your sadness will change becoming joy.” (Source: Uma Back Translation)
  • Yakan: “Truly I tell you, you will weep and grieve, but the people who do not follow God will be glad. You will be troubled/sad but it will be substituted with joy.” (Source: Yakan Back Translation)
  • Western Bukidnon Manobo: “It is true what I say to you, that as for my enemies, they will be very glad at what will happen to me. But as for you, you will weep because you will be sad. But your sorrow will be replaced by great joy.” (Source: Western Bukidnon Manobo Back Translation)
  • Kankanaey: “This that I tell you is true. You will cry and mourn while-simultaneously those who don’t believe in me rejoice. You will indeed be sad (lit. your thoughts will hurt), but your sorrow, it will become happiness.” (Source: Kankanaey Back Translation)
  • Tagbanwa: “This which I will say to you is true, that you will cry and your mind/inner-being will feel really bad, but as for all my enemies, they will be very happy. Your grief will be really far-from-ordinary, but this sorrow of yours will become happiness.” (Source: Tagbanwa Back Translation)
  • Tenango Otomi: “It is true what I tell you. You will cry and be sad. But the people will rejoice. It doesn’t matter. Your sadness will turn to joy.” (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 16:20

I am telling you the truth translates the same formula first discussed at 1.51.

The second occurrence of the pronoun you is emphatic in the Greek sentence structure, and it is placed in immediate and direct contrast to the world.

The verbs cry and weep reflect the loud weeping and wailing that was (and still is) customary on the occasion of a death in the Near East. The first of these verbs appears in 11.31; 20.11: and Mark 16.10. The other verb is used of the women who mourn for Jesus on the way to the cross (Luke 23.27). Both verbs occur in the Septuagint of Jeremiah 22.10.

In this context, as in many others, the world may be rendered “the people of the world.” (See discussion at 1.10.)

The last occurrence of the pronoun you is also emphatic.

Jesus’ prediction your sadness will turn into gladness is fulfilled in 20.20. It may be difficult to render this clause literally, because in many languages there is no abstract term for either sadness or gladness. However, one can say “First you will be sad but then you will be glad” or “… become glad.”

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 .