inclusive vs. exclusive pronoun (2Cor. 5:3)

Many languages distinguish between inclusive and exclusive first-person plural pronouns (“we”). 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 typically select the exclusive form (excluding the addressee).

Source: Velma Pickett and Florence Cowan in Notes on Translation January 1962, p. 1ff.

The Mal, Karbi and Copainalá Zoque translators chose an inclusive form. D. Filbeck says: “We do not feel that Paul expected to be made an exception to believers in general. Informant insists on inclusive.”

Source: Roy and Margaret Harrison in Notes on Translation with Drills, p. 173ff. (Mal), David Filbeck in The Bible Translator 1994, p. 401ff. (Copainalá Zoque) and Source: W. R. Hutton in The Bible Translator April 1953, p. 86ff. (Karbi).

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