In choosing a word for the Greek that is typically translated as “gospel” in English, a number of languages construct a phrase meaning “good news,” “joyful report” or “happiness-bringing words.” In some instances such a phrase may be slightly expanded in order to convey the proper meaning, e.g. “new good word” (Tzotzil), or it may involve some special local usage:

  • “good story” (Navajo)
  • “joyful telling” (Tausug)
  • “joyful message” (Toraja-Sa’dan) (source for this and all above: Bratcher / Nida)
  • cohuen ñoñets or “message of God” (Shilluk) (source: Nida 1964, p. 237)
  • “good news” (Yanesha’) (source: Martha Duff in Holzhausen 1991, p. 11)
  • “voice of good spirit” (San Blas Kuna)(source: Claudio Iglesias [Mr. and Mrs.] in The Bible Translator 1951, p. 85ff. )
  • suviśēṣattinṟe (0സുവിശേഷം) or “good narrative” (Malayalam)
  • susmachar (ସୁସମାଚାର) or “good matter” (Odia)
  • suvārteya (ಸುವಾರ್ತೆಯ) or “good word” (Kannada) (source for this and two above: Y.D. Tiwari in The Bible Translator 1962, p. 132ff. )
  • the German das Buch translation by Roland Werner (publ. 2009-2022) translates as “all-transformative good news” (alles verändernde gute Botschaft), also “good news”
Vitaly Voinov tells this story about the translation into Rutul (click or tap here to see the rest of this insight):

“In Rutul, it was only during the most recent consultant checking session that I realized that the Rutul word for Gospel – Incir (from Arabic إنجيل — Injil) — sounds and looks exactly like the word that means ‘fig’ in Rutul. This is a case of homonymy, in which two completely non-related words from differing historical sources have come to sound exactly alike. Most Rutul speakers know that incir means ‘fig’ because they grow this fruit in their yard or buy it at the market every week. However, because the religious sphere of discourse was heavily disparaged during the Soviet era, most people simply never encountered Incir with the meaning of ‘Gospel.’ This meaning of the word, which Rutuls of the pre-Soviet era knew from the Koran, simply fell into disuse and never had much reason for returning into contemporary Rutul since there is no Christian church established among the people. So if the translator continues to use the term Incir as the rendering for ‘Gospel,’ he runs the risk that most readers will, at best, read the word with a smile because they know that it also means ‘fig,’ and, at worst, will completely misunderstand the word. The seemingly ‘easy’ solution in this case is for the translator to use a Rutul neologism meaning ‘Joyful Message’ or ‘Good News,’ [see above] instead of Incir; but in fact it is not all that easy to make this change if the translator himself insists on using the historical word because at least some Rutuls still understand it as meaning ‘Gospel.’ This is a situation in which the translation team has to gradually grow into the understanding that a fully intelligible translation of Scripture is preferable to one that maintains old words at the cost of alienating much of the readership.”

For “good news,” see also Isaiah 52:7.

complete verse (Luke 3:18)

Following are a number of back-translations of Luke 3:18:

  • Nyongar: “John preached the Good News to the people. He used many different ways. John urged them, they must change their bad lives.” (Source: Warda-Kwabba Luke-Ang)
  • Uma: “Like that Yohanes carried the Good News to the people, and he advised them with many kinds of teaching.” (Source: Uma Back Translation)
  • Yakan: “Yahiya used still many different ‘preachings’ in proclaiming the good news to the people and he begged them telling them to change their behavior.” (Source: Yakan Back Translation)
  • Western Bukidnon Manobo: “Now one of those days when all the people had finished being baptized, Jesus also had himself baptized by John. And then Jesus prayed, and while He was still praying, the heaven was opened and there landed on him the Holy Spirit who looked like a dove. And then God was heard speaking in Heaven, and He said, ‘You are my precious son; I am very pleased with you.’ There were very many things still that John taught those people, because he caused them to understand the good news. And as for John, he told the people that the custom of Governor Herod was bad because Herod had stolen his sister-in-law, Herodias, who was the wife of his younger brother Philip. And that which John told about was not the only evil doing of Herod because there were many other very evil things that he did. And that’s not all the evil that he did because he put John in prison.” (Source: Western Bukidnon Manobo Back Translation)
  • Kankanaey: “This and much more as well is what Juan was teaching the many-people in his preaching the good news to them.” (Source: Kankanaey Back Translation)
  • Tagbanwa: “There were many more things which Juan taught to those people in his explaining the Good News.” (Source: Tagbanwa Back Translation)

Translation commentary on Luke 3:18


men oun indicates that the clause it introduces serves to summarize and bring to a close what has been described in the preceding verses, in order to form a transition to what follows, since it is a combination of the particle oun, which is retrospective, with men, which is prospective, i.e. preparing the way for a new subject to be introduced by subsequent de .

polla … kai hetera ‘many other things,’ accusative of content with parakalōn. kai is redundant in English.

heteros ‘other,’ or ‘different,’ here best understood in the former sense.

parakalōn ‘exhorting.’ The semantic problem involved here is the relationship between parakalōn and euēggelizeto ‘he preached the good news.’ The exhortations are either (1) part of John’s preaching, or (2) identical with it, or (3) different from it, preferably (1).

parakaleō ‘to exhort,’ ‘to entreat,’ ‘to comfort.’

euēggelizeto ton laon ‘he preached the good news to the people,’ cf. on 1.19. The content of the preaching is to be supplied from the context, cf. preceding note.


Many other exhortations, or in a verbal clause, ‘he was exhorting in many other ways’ (cf. Kituba), ‘John taught the people many more things’ (Manobo), ‘J. still used many other words to exhort the people’ (Chinese Union Version). As shown in these examples the verb often requires an explicit reference to those who were exhorted, i.e. ‘the people,’ which may entail the shift to a pronominal reference with the next verb. — Other is referring here to non-specified examples of the same category; it may have to be rendered by ‘more such,’ ‘similar,’ ‘of the same kind.’ Exhortations. The verb ‘to exhort’ has been rendered ‘to point-out’ (Tae’), ‘to teach’ (Javanese, Manobo), ‘to remind-of’ (Batak Toba), ‘to stir’ (Nyakyusa), ‘to work upon the heart’ (Sranan Tongo).

He. The pronominal reference will often have to be specified, unless this has already been done in what precedes.

To preach the good news. This verbal phrase renders a Greek verb that is derived from the noun eu-aggelion ‘good news,’ ‘gospel’ (which noun, however, does not occur Luke’s Gospel); it refers to the news or message about man’s salvation by God through Jesus the Messiah and about the kingdom he is establishing, the messenger being John the Baptist (here), the Messiah (4.18), Jesus (4.43; 7.22; 8.1; 20.1), the twelve disciples (9.6), Jesus and/or the disciples (implied agents of the passive form in 16.16). In a less specific sense the verb is used in 1.19 and 2.10, where an angel is the messenger. To preach, or, ‘to tell/make-known/announce,’ ‘to cause-to-be-heard’ (Hindi). Good news.

The people, here referring to Israel, the people of God, as in 2.10; therefore, the rendering may have to differ from that in v. 15.

Quoted with permission from Reiling, J. and Swellengrebel, J.L. A Handbook on the Gospel of Luke. (UBS Handbook Series). New York: UBS, 1971. For this and other handbooks for translators see here . Make sure to also consult the Handbook on the Gospel of Mark for parallel or similar verses.