“you will hear wars nearby and reports of wars far away.” This phrase is traditionally translated as “wars and rumors of wars.” But we feel that is misleading even though some of the “reports” may in fact turn out to be rumors. We should keep in mind that this statement of Jesus is a prophecy of the last days, and in our modern time world-wide communication and reporting is both more immediate and more accurate than it was years ago. In our common English, a “rumor” is a report that is most likely false, and that is not the meaning of the Greek here. In this verse the “reports” are reports of war, not false or unsubstantiated reports of war. The Greek word usually translated “rumors” is simply akoē (#189 ἀκοή pronounced ah-ko-āˈ), a noun, and it means the ear (the organ of hearing), or what is heard by the ear, in this case, a report.
In the first part of the sentence, “you will hear wars nearby,” the word “hear” is a verb, akouō (#191 ἀκούω; pronounced ä–koo-ō), and it means “hear.” The verb “hear” is followed by the noun “wars,” and the whole phrase is usually translated as, “you will hear of wars,” as if the word “wars” was in the genitive case, but it is not. The word “wars” is accusative, the direct object of “hear,” meaning the people will “hear wars.” To understand what Jesus is saying we must remember that the Bible is Israel-centered. So in the first part of the sentence Jesus is saying that as the times of the end approach, the people in Israel will be able to hear wars going on (which they may themselves be involved in). Then, the second part of the sentence tells us the people will also hear “reports” (or “news”) of wars that they cannot hear themselves; wars far away.
B. Newman and P. Stein (A Translator’s Handbook on the Gospel of Matthew) write: “The word ‘rumors’ in English is usually used for news about things that may or may not have happened, but it is important to note that the sense here is that there will be wars everywhere. The TEV rendering [given below] is thus a good model to follow.” Also, H. Meyer (Meyer’s Commentary on the New Testament) notes that Jesus is speaking “with reference to wars near at hand, the din and tumult of which are actually heard, and to wars at a distance, of which nothing is known except from the reports that are brought home” (see also, John Bengel, Bengel’s New Testament Commentary; D. Hagner; Word Biblical Commentary).
Today’s English Version (TEV) translates the sentence as, “you will hear the noise of battle close by and the news of battles far away.” The New English Bible is very similar to that, saying “near at hand” instead of “close by.” The Source New Testament has: “You will hear wars nearby and you will hear reports of wars.” Other versions that have a similar translation include the Complete Jewish Bible and the Concordant Literal New Testament.