I have a very poor grasp of Chinese, being only a beginner learning.

These are two parallel translations of John 1:17.

1) 因為律法是藉著摩西賜下的,

2) 律法本是藉着摩西传的

The best I can make sense of them is:

1) because law is via moses bestow[ed] inferior[ly] clear

2) law source is via moses propagate[d] clear

For proper context, the source text these lines are translating is this:

  • ὅτι ὁ νόμος διὰ Μωϋσέως ἐδόθη,
  • oti o nomos dia moyseos edothi,
  • for the law via Moses was-given,

What seems to differentiate these two in meaning, is the reading of 下的 that I have come up with. I seem to have, perhaps, made some amatuer error in generating that reading of the characters.

What is a proper rendering of 下的 here, and what is the meaning of 的 in this context in general? How does the 是---的 construction work here, if its wrong to read 的 as "clear"?

  • 藉着 by means of 摩西 Moses 賜下:verb 賜 with directional complement 下, hand down, 传: verb, hand down, 的 functions the same way after 賜下 as after 传, both phrases are examples of 是。。。的 sentences
    – user6065
    Commented Apr 18, 2017 at 23:17
  • Yes, this was the crux of what I was trying to ask, but I wasn't sure how to phrase it. How does the 是。。。的 construction work here?
    – Caoimhghin
    Commented Apr 18, 2017 at 23:19
  • reformulations of 律法藉著摩西賜下,藉着摩西传律法本, resp. emphasizing 藉著摩西, it was through Moses that ...
    – user6065
    Commented Apr 19, 2017 at 0:35
  • This actually answers my question, but I don't know how to mark you as having answered it because I am new to the site. Forgive my ignorance, but what does "resp. emphasizing" mean in your answer?
    – Caoimhghin
    Commented Apr 19, 2017 at 0:54
  • "resp. = respectively" is a mistake since " emphasizing 藉著摩西" applies to both
    – user6065
    Commented Apr 19, 2017 at 2:11

2 Answers 2


As a native speaker, I find the Chinese translation of the bible very hard to read. :)

Here are some tips on understanding sentences ending with 的.

的 as you may or may not know, can be used to create relative clauses. For example, 我看过的电影 (a movie that I have seen). The order is actually the reverse of that in English.

Sometimes, we omit the stuff after 的. Usually, the sentence is in the form "X是Y的". To understand this kind of sentence structure, you just need to add something appropriate after 的. Usually, adding 东西 (thing) works. For example


If you add the word 东西 after 的, it becomes:


Now you can translate it as

This movie is a thing that I have seen

Then you can make it more natural

I have seen this movie.

Now let's go back to the sentence in the bible. I will use the second one here because I have no idea what 賜下 means... I am an atheist who knows nothing about christianity...


Now we add 东西 after 的 again:


Now we translate each word:

律法 - law

本 - originally

藉着 - via

传 - propagate

Great! Now we have the whole sentence:

The law originally was a thing that is propagated via Moses.


是...的 is one of several ways to translate English passive into Chinese. Zhang Peiji's book A Course in English-Chinese Translation (張培基英漢翻譯教程, p. 130) gives several examples:

The decision to attack was not taken lightly. 進攻的決定不是輕易作出的。

Sir Charles' body was found at the end of the alley. 查爾斯爵士的屍體就是在小道的盡頭發現的。

For the rest, 賜下 means to give (from one in a higher position to one in a lower position) and 藉著 translates dia (through). This is the 中文標準譯本 (CSB) version, first published in 2008.

傳 (传) means "to teach; to preach," or more generally, "to pass on; to make known." This is the 中文和合本 (CUV) version, published in 1919, and the standard translation up until the 2000s.

For what it's worth I find the older version to be clearer; word for word is not always the best way of translating

  • Thank you very much. Sorry if this is an obvious question, but is 下 being read as "down" in the sense of 賜下 as "to pass down"?
    – Caoimhghin
    Commented Apr 24, 2017 at 20:41
  • I would call 下 in 賜下 a resultative ending, rather than a directional ending. 上 and 下 don't always literally mean up and down after a verb. For example, in 把門關上, the 上 does not mean 'up' and I think the same here. It simply signifies the completion of the action, hence the term resultative ending. English 'pass down' perhaps is similar?
    – wpt
    Commented Apr 25, 2017 at 15:30

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