inclusive vs. exclusive pronoun (Luke 24:20)

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”).

According to Pickett / Cowan, this verse, the inclusive form (including Jesus) should be chosen because “undoubtedly they consider him (Jesus) to be a Jew or they would not have invited Him to eat with them (vv. 29-30).” (Source: Velma Pickett and Florence Cowan in Notes on Translation January 1962, p. 1ff. and Velma B. Pickett in The Bible Translator 1964, p. 88f.)

The Huautla Mazatec, Tok Pisin, or Yagua translators also chose the exclusive form. The Yagua translators justify this by saying “Would Cleopas and his companion in­clude the stranger who had joined them in this ‘we’? We think not in view of his previous estimate of the stranger. [‘Are you the only visitor to Jerusalem who does not know, etc.?’] This implies Cleopas would not consider Him as being sub­ject with himself and companion to the Jerusalem authorities. We would use the exclusive here” (source: Paul Powlison in Notes on Translation with Drills, p. 165ff.) SIL International Translation Department (1999) concurs.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *