What is the correct way to translate Luke 6:21b and 6:25b?

When translating the word (γελάσετε), some translators have used "you will laugh" or "you shall laugh."

Blessed are you who hunger now, For you shall be filled. Blessed are you who weep now, For you shall laugh. (Luke 6:21 NKJV)

However I am getting the feeling that this Greek:

Stephanus Textus Receptus 1550 - Luke 6:21b

μακάριοι οἱ κλαίοντες νῦν ὅτι γελάσετε

Google Translate Gives

Blessed are you crying now that laugh

What is the intended meaning?

  • The person should instead of laughing be weeping
  • The person should weep because other people laugh
  • Laughing = a reward for weeping.

The correct answer will break down the Greek and say this declension "σετε" (if that's the declension) means (this) and that it's second person plural, which either means plural laughing or plural people (stuff stuff stuff). And this word means this, and this word means this, and together because of (this) we can see that it means (this) and here are some examples of how these two words go together. And that this is why the conjunction was used, for it was to mean this they would have wrote it (this way).

  • I think you are confusing the English conjunction "for" (=because) with the preposition "for". ὅτι corresponds to the former.
    – fdb
    Apr 21, 2015 at 11:40
  • @fdb Thanks for pointing that out. The word has indeed been translated as "because" many times. I updated the question. I still need the answer however. Does it really mean, because they laugh we should weep?
    – Decrypted
    Apr 22, 2015 at 11:26
  • 1
    @Decrypted - Some better resources than Google Translate: A.) logeion.uchicago.edu B.) http://biblehub.com/greek/1070.htm - C.) perseus.tufts.edu/hopper/… Mar 29, 2016 at 15:28
  • The source provided: logeion.uchicago.edu/… gives γελάω a possible meaning of "deride". Interesting
    – Decrypted
    Mar 29, 2016 at 21:15
  • @Decrypted - A small clarification: A.) There are a lot of pretty smart people here, who know classical theology and languages, and may be able to give you great answers. B.) I am just a programmer that is almost good at finding references and also computational searches - C.) BUT: - When I first saw your question - I had only had researched it for minutes when I was overwhelmed - and gave up trying to find consistent definitions - in any language; D.) Remember, Google can do "Modern Greek" - but not ancient Greek dialects, (Scripture is primarily Koine Greek). Mar 30, 2016 at 7:19

2 Answers 2


1. Question Restatement :

In Luke 6:21 and 6:25, What is the intended meaning of "to laugh / γελάσετε"?

Quick Answers:

  1. James 4:5-5:4 - Instead of laughing - [arrogantly], the person should instead be weeping - [humbly].
  2. Luke 6:23 - The person should [not] weep, [but rather rejoice] because [justice will come upon] other people [who] laugh [to scorn]*.
  3. Isaiah 61:1-3 - Laughing = a [gift] for [the] weeping [who are oppressed]

2. The Future and Present Tenses of γελάω - Together With νῦν:

The verbs in this context, are Second Person Plural - because Jesus was directing his comments to two specific groups of people - that were there, (Jesus said: "Now / νῦν").

First: Jesus spoke to those who were Weeping NOW - stating that they WILL Laugh - and then: Jesus commanded them: to rejoice:

Luke 6:21-23 - Blessed are, (μακάριοι) - the ones weeping, (οἱ κλαίοντες) - NOW, (νῦν) - because you all Will Laugh, (ὅτι γελάσετε, future tense). 6:23 - Rejoice!

Then: Jesus spoke to those Laughing NOW - stating that they Will Weep - but: Jesus didn't correct them, (though James does later):

Luke 6:25 - Woe to you all who are laughing, (οὐαί, οἱ γελῶντες, present tense) - NOW, (νῦν) - because you all Will Mourn and Weep, (ὅτι πενθήσετε καὶ κλαύσετε).

2.1. Joyful and Derisive Laughter :

This Context includes Two Senses of "Laughter": εὐφραίνω / שָׂשׂוֹן which is "Laughter in Celebration and Gladness" -

But also, Laughter that is Derisive - which provokes shame and sorrow, (ὀνειδίζω, Luke 6:22)***.

In order to convey both senses of the term in Greek - γελάω would have been a perfect word choice - as it does not necessarily imply a positive, or negative sense.

Therefore if true, this distinction should be seen throughout Scripture: A.) "Coming From Gladness / Joy"; B.) Or, "To Insult / Shame".

2.2. Jesus Explicitly Explained Himself - with a Reference About the Prophets:

Luke 6:23 - Be glad χαίρω - in that day, [their judgment] and leap for joy, for behold, your reward is great in heaven - *because in in the same way their fathers used to treat the prophets, *[laughing at them], (ἐμπαίζοντες ἐν τοῖς προφήταις, 2 Chronicles 36:16)***.

NASB, Prov. 1:22&26 - “How long, O naive ones, will you love being simple-minded? And scoffers delight themselves in scoffing And fools hate knowledge? I will also laugh, (ἐπιγελάσομαι / אֶשְׂחָ֑ק), at your calamity; I will mock when your dread comes.

2.3. James Repeats the Same Commandment, with more Detail:

Jesus, James, and Isaiah - explicitly stated, (repeatedly), that God was condemning the haughty, the scoffers, and oppressors - those who unjustly pursued riches in this life - at the expense of others.

It is apparent that James is writing to correct arrogant laughter - and not prohibiting "laughter and joy", altogether:

James 4:6 - ... “God is opposed to the proud, but gives grace to the humble.” 4:9. - Be miserable and mourn and weep; let your laughter (γέλως) be turned into mourning and your joy to gloom. 4:10. Humble yourselves in the presence of the Lord, and He will exalt you. 5:1 - Come now, you rich, weep and howl for your miseries which are coming upon you. 5:4 - Behold, the pay of the laborers who mowed your fields, and which has been withheld by you, cries out against you; and the outcry of those who did the harvesting has reached the ears of the Lord of Sabaoth.

2.4. Jesus Referred to Isaiah - Affirming Joy, and Condemning Derision and Oppression:

NASB, Luke 4:18, Citing Isaiah - “The Spirit of the Lord is upon Me, Because He anointed Me to preach the gospel to the poor. ... Is. 61:1-3 -To grant those who mourn in Zion, Giving them a garland instead of ashes, The oil of gladness [שָׂשׂוֹן֙] instead of mourning, The mantle of praise instead of a spirit of fainting.

NASB, Luke 6:24-26 & Isaiah 65:13-14 - Therefore, thus says the Lord God, “Behold, My servants will eat, but you will be hungry. Behold, My servants will drink, but you will be thirsty. Behold, My servants will rejoice [εὐφρανθήσονται] but you will be put to shame. 14 “Behold, My servants will shout joyfully with a glad heart, But you will cry out with a heavy heart, And you will wail with a broken spirit.

Luke 16:19-25 - 19. “Now there was a rich man, joyous living [εὐφραινόμενος] ... 20 And a poor man named Lazarus was laid at his gate, covered with sores, 21 and longing to be fed with the crumbs ... 25. But Abraham,(Isaiah 63:16) said [to the rich man], ‘Child, remember that during your life you received your good things, and likewise Lazarus bad things; but now he is being comforted here, and you are in agony.

NASB, Isaiah 3:14-15 - The Lord enters into judgment with the elders and princes of His people, “It is you who have devoured the vineyard; The plunder of the poor is in your houses. Isaiah 3:15 “What do you mean by crushing My people And grinding the face of the poor?” Declares the Lord God of hosts.

Isaiah 28:12-22 - 12 He who said to them, “Here is rest, give rest to the weary,” ... but they would not listen. 14 Therefore, hear the word of the Lord, O scoffers, Who rule this people who are in Jerusalem, ... do not carry on as scoffers (in celebration) [εὐφρανθείητε / תִּתְלוֹצָ֔צוּ], Or your fetters will be made stronger;

3. The Greek, Hebrew and Aramaic Words for Laugh / γελάω are Incredibly Ambiguous:

Some Terms in this Context:

A.) Laugh - שָׂחַק ; B.) Laugh - צָחַק ; C.) Joy - שָׂשׂוֹן ; D.) Celebrate, Cheer, Laugh - εὐφραίνω and εὐφροσύνη ; E.) Laugh - γελάω and Laughter - γέλως, (Greek Instances in Scripture) ; F.) παίζω, (Greek Instances in Scripture) ; G.) To Shame - ὀνειδίζω; H.) To Rejoice - χαίρω; etc ...

3.1. There are Many Terms in this Context, used Interchangeably:

The same exact Greek AND Hebrew words, in the same exact forms, can either mean "Laughter" in the "Joyous" sense, or "Laughter" in the mocking sense.

"γελάω" is sometimes used synonymously with παίζω, (to laugh / play: in the playful sense, and even musical sense);

The same Hebrew words "שָׂחַק" and "לְצַחֵֽק" are translated into Greek as either "γελάω" or "παίζω";

3.2. The Context, not the Syntax - Clearly Defines the Kind of Laughter:

Genesis 18:12 - Sarah laughed [ἐγέλασεν, וַתִּצְחַ֥ק] within herself, saying, “After I have grown old will I have pleasure, my lord being old also?”

Isaac's name is, "יִצְחָ֑ק" which literally means "To Laugh":

Genesis 21:6 - Sarah said, “God has made me laugh (γέλωτά / צְחֹ֕ק). Everyone who hears will laugh with me (συγχαρεῖταί / יִֽצְחַק־לִֽי).”

1 Chronicles 13:8 - Israel were celebrating [παίζοντες, לְצַחֵֽק] before

NASB, Job 30:1 - than I mock [שָֽׂחֲק֣וּ, (laugh) κατεγέλασάν] me, Whose

Ecclesiastes 3:4 - a time to weep, and a time to laugh [LXX Greek, γελάσαι & לִשְׂח֔וֹק]; a time to mourn, and a time to dance;

Ecclesiastes 7:3 - Better is sorrow than laughter, (γέλωτα / מִשְּׂחֹ֑ק), For when a face

Ecclesiastes 10:19 - a meal for enjoyment (εἰς γέλωτα / לִשְׂחוֹק֙) and wine

NASB, Jeremiah 15:17 - I didn’t sit in the assembly of those who make merry [παιζόντων / מְשַׂחֲקִ֖ים], nor rejoiced;

Jeremiah 20:7 - I have become a laughingstock (εἰς γέλωτα / לִשְׂחוֹק֙) all the day

Jeremiah 31:4 - and shall go forth in the dances of those who make merry [ παιζόντων / מְשַׂחֲקִֽים].

  • I do respect the amount of effort that went into this. I personally have found it completely possible to be full of joy without laughing. While of course the concept of "joy" comes from the Holy Spirit, and something to desire. I personally after doing a long long laughing fast learned about laughing, and can define the triggers of laughing as sin and pride. Abraham did name his child Isaac which does mean laughing, and it was his child that was to get sacrificed. Could this be an analogy to the sacrifice of the actual laughter instead of the actual child?
    – Decrypted
    Mar 29, 2016 at 20:48
  • The correct answer will break down the Greek and say this declension "σετε" (if that's the declension) means (this) and that it's second person plural, which either means plural laughing or plural people (stuff stuff stuff). And this word means this, and this word means this, and together because of (this) we can see that it means (this) and here are some examples of how these two words go together. And that this is why the conjunction was used, for it was to mean this they would have wrote it (this way). Hope you can understand, thanks again for the effort +1.
    – Decrypted
    Mar 29, 2016 at 20:56
  • @Decrypted - A.) I updated this to differentiate between the "semantic denotations" and "metaphorical connotations" in these terms; B.) The argument here is that it is clear the "Plain Meaning" isn't being used - but that the meaning must be understood "Metaphorically" - which can only understood from the Context, not Syntax; C.) I also appealed to Hebrew/Aramaic - and how these terms innately have ambiguity - and are often used interchangeably. - D.) So, many, many, references have been provided so people can independently verify the interchangeable quality of the terms. Mar 29, 2016 at 22:51
  • I will admit that you understand this better then I'm understanding. I come in weakness and admit that I'm not understanding the great logic of you. I stand in hope that the understanding will come. At this time I choose to digest this information and let it grow, and I consider this step three. And I agree that the complete meaning should be inferred from the context, not its syntax. However its the details of the syntax that I so need to digest, then with that foundation I should be able to see. I'm the blind man, and I admit that I do not see. Sorry and thank you. Reading answer again later
    – Decrypted
    Mar 30, 2016 at 2:21
  • @Decrypted - A.) It is certainly not you. You aren't the only person to say I am confusing - I have no skill at this - yet! B.) I think I understand what you want to achieve with the "Syntax" portion - so: C.) In Section 2, I addressed each numbered question; D.) In section #3 - "Terms" - I added "Instances in Greek Scripture - which will show you the how each syntax form was was used - including Isaiah and the New Testament; E.) I added more examples how the meanings would be ambiguous - if not for their context. Thank you for your patience! Mar 30, 2016 at 6:07

A full well thought out translation of Luke 6:21, one that seems as accurate as possible, is here, showing the same translation as in most, if not all Bibles ('you will laugh'). Note that 'laughter' should be γέλως, which is noticeably different to γελάσετε and so does not fit into this verse.

We can go further, to look at what the original author expected the passage to mean. Scholars say the authors of Matthew and Luke both copied this 'beatitude' from the hypothetical 'Q' document. Although each evangelist amended the original text, we can look at both Matthew and Luke to identify a common meaning:

Matthew 5:4: Blessed are they that mourn: for they shall be comforted.

Luke 6:21: . . . Blessed are ye that weep now: for ye shall laugh.

We can see how the beatitude has a common origin that both evangelists understood and would have agreed with: Blessed ... mourn/weep now: shall be comforted/ shall laugh. Matthew chose rather more moderate language (mourn ... comforted) than Luke, who probably followed the original more closely. Looked at in this way, it is not that Luke (or Q) thought of laughing as a reward for weeping, but that those who mourn or weep will be comforted: in fact they will laugh.

In this example, the Greek root 'I laugh' is γελάω, with a stem γελά

  • The tense suffix σ is affixed to the stem before adding the primary endings, distinguishing the future from the present active indicative tenses
  • The primary ending ετε indicates second person plural

Thus γελάσετε is correctly translated as 'you (plural) will laugh'.

Craig A. Evans (The Bible Knowledge Background Commentary: Matthew-Luke, Volume 1, page 152) describes Luke 6:24-26 as a typically Lukan theme of reversal. Those who have, will lose all: those who are laughing now will weep.

  • 2
    γέλιo is modern (Demotic) Greek. The word for ‘laughter’ in Classical and NT Greek is γέλως (James 4:9).
    – fdb
    Apr 20, 2015 at 9:48
  • 1
    shouldn't that be 'some scholars say'? Apr 20, 2015 at 18:57
  • 1
    @fdb Thank you for your assistance on this. I know modern/attic/koine Greek is a minefield and I appreciate a review by someone who can help avoid the pitfalls. Based on your advice, I have corrected my wording and hope this is now a more informative answer. Apr 20, 2015 at 21:33
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    @JonathanChell. I think this site is supposed to be about Biblical hermeneutics, not "Christian scholarship" "across the whole church".
    – fdb
    Apr 21, 2015 at 11:36
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    @Onlyheisgood. I'm not sure if I understand your question. Luke 6:21 refers to the many (abstract) persons implied by Ye (archaic English) or γελάσετε. Jesus is simply addressing his followers in the second person. Have I missed something? Apr 23, 2015 at 20:26

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