inclusive vs. exclusive pronoun (Mark 4:38 / Luke 8:24)

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 (“we are perishing” in English translations), Yagua translators selected the inclusive form, including Jesus (the Sierra Totonac and the Tok Pisin translators did as well). The Yagua translators justify this by saying, “Did the disciples think of their Lord as about to perish with them, or were they selfishly only thinking of their own safety, or did they feel He at least would not perish? We translated this one with the inclusive, giving the disciples the benefit of the doubt, since they had waited so long to waken Him, they couldn’t have been too selfish in their thinking.” (Source: Paul Powlison in Notes on Translation with Drills, p. 165ff.)

Different versions of the Bible in Marathi have chosen different solutions for this. The versions by Pandita Ramabai (NT publ. 1912) chose the exclusive form and B. N. Athavle the inclusive form in his translation (publ. 1931). The Bible Society’s version (initially the British, later the Indian BS) in their revision of the 1950s also chose the exclusive form, despite strong protests of the revision committee’s chair H.G. Howard who interpreted Jesus’ strong rebuke of the disciples in succeeding verses due to the fact that the disciples had included him in their worries, which would necessitate the inclusive form. (Source: H.G. Howard in The Bible Translator 1925, p. 25ff. )