inclusive vs. exclusive pronoun (2Cor. 1:20)

Many languages distinguish between inclusive and exclusive first-person plural pronouns (“we”). (Click or tap here to see more details)

The inclusive “we” specifically includes the addressee (“you and I and possibly others”), while the exclusive “we” specifically excludes the addressee (“he/she/they and I, but not you”). This grammatical distinction is called “clusivity.” While Semitic languages such as Hebrew or most Indo-European languages such as Greek or English do not make that distinction, translators of languages with that distinction have to make a choice every time they encounter “we” or a form thereof (in English: “we,” “our,” or “us”).

For this verse, translators either select the exclusive form referring only to Paul, Silvanus, and Timothy, or the inclusive form, referring to Paul and the Corinthian Christians.

Source: SIL International (1999).

The Mal translators used an inclusive form.

Source: David Filbeck in The Bible Translator 1994, p. 401ff.

The Copainalá Zoque translators also chose an inclusive form, because “it seems to us that this refers back to 19a (we preach) and 20a (promises fulfilled). Therefore it could hardly be exclusive since the Apostles would not say ‘Amen’ to their own preaching. Neither would they exclusively say ‘Amen’ to the fulfillment of the promises. It seems reasonable to us therefore that it means ‘we and Corinthian Christians (inclusive) say Amen.'”

Source: Roy and Margaret Harrison in Notes on Translation with Drills, p. 173ff.

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