What is Jesus really saying in John 2:4?

John 2:4 in various translations seems to have altogether different meanings. For example:

NAB: (And) Jesus said to her, “Woman, how does your concern affect me? My hour has not yet com.”

RSV: And Jesus saith unto her, “Woman, what have I to do with thee? Mine hour is not yet come.”

DR: And Jesus saith to her: Woman, what is that to me and to thee? My hour has not yet come.

The Douay Rhiems translation seems to fit most closely to the Catholic understanding of the relationship between Jesus and the Blessed Mother. Some translations of this verse lead protestants to argue that Jesus is speaking harshly to His mother. Even though the context doesn’t really support this, I can see how someone might interpret it that way.

  1. I don’t know biblical Greek. What does John 2:4 *really * say when one takes into account the original language and the cultural context?

  2. What is the best way for Catholics who cannot read biblical Greek to defend the Catholic view of Mary with respect to a verse like John 2:4?

Dear S,

My RSV (Ignatius) has “And Jesus said to her, ‘O woman, what have you to do with me? My hour has not yet come.” This is just the opposite of your RSV translation.

The literal translation from the Greek is: “What to you and to me, Woman?”

Some people also read “Woman” as an expression of disrespect. It actually, is just the opposite. None of the translations we see here are actually speaking harshly of our Blessed Mother.

The best argument we have is the fact of who Jesus is. Would the Son of God speak disrespectfully to His mother at any time, let alone in public—and then work a miracle for her? One doesn’t need to read Greek to understand this!

Fr. Vincent Serpa, O.P.

DISCLAIMER: The views and opinions expressed in these forums do not necessarily reflect those of Catholic Answers. For official apologetics resources please visit www.catholic.com.