“My Joy Fulfilled in Themselves”?!?

“But now I am coming to you, and these things I speak in the world, that they may have my joy fulfilled in themselves.” (John 17:13 ESV)

Whatever does Jesus means when he speaks the words in John 17.13?  What does it mean to have one’s “joy fulfilled in themselves?”  At first glance, I have no clue and wonder why the ESV translators chose this sort of ponderous, opaque translation.

It’s helpful when we find strange wording like this to compare translations because that will often settle the meaning for us, or at least get us closer to the meaning or help us understand the verse better.  So, without further ado, some translations:

  • HCSB: “so that they may have My joy completed in them.”  – This is not very helpful because I don’t really understand “completed” joy any better than I do “fulfilled” joy.
  • LEB: “They may have my joy completed in themselves.” – Pretty much a reiteration of the HCSB.
  • NLT: “They would be filled with my joy.” – Ah…much better, I do understand what it means to be filled with joy.  Jesus seems to want the disciples to have the gift of having the same joy that he himself had.
  • NIV: “They may have the full measure of my joy within them.” – This tracks similar to the NLT and stays closer to the original word meaning than the NLT.  Both translations are trying to not only translate the words, but help the reader understand what the meaning of those words are.

Let’s go to the commentators and see if the NLT and NIV “get” the translation of vs. 13.

  • Don Carson: “My joy points unmistakably to [John] 15:11, where Jesus’ joy, like that of the disciples for whom he prays, turns on abiding in the Father’s love, which itself turns on obedience to him. This interpretation makes best sense of the passage.”
  • Expositor’s Bible Commentary: “There would be nothing in the attitude of the world to promote their joy; but, as with Jesus, their awareness of the approval of the Father and the consciousness of a task accomplished and the expectancy of glory would create true joy for them.”

So it would appear that the NIV and NLT do a pretty good job of translating this verse in such a way that we understand what Jesus meant.  He wanted his disciples to have the same joy in God and in the things of God that he himself had.

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