inclusive vs. exclusive pronoun (Luke 1:1)

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 either select the inclusive form (including Theophilus) (according to Velma Pickett and Florence Cowan in Notes on Translation January 1962, p. 1ff.) or the exclusive form (according to SIL International Translation Department (1999)).

M. John (in The Bible Translator 1976, p. 237ff.) explains the difficulty of the choice this way: “Here the translator working in a language with the two forms of we has to make his choice, at least in part on the basis of the answer to the question whether Theophilus was, at the time of Luke’s writing, a Christian. The choice of the form of we and the translation of the last part of the paragraph (Luke 1:4) are interconnected.”

Source: and M. John

inclusive vs. exclusive pronoun (Luke 1:2)

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 either select the inclusive form (including Theophilus) (according to Velma Pickett and Florence Cowan in Notes on Translation January 1962, p. 1ff.) or the exclusive form (according to SIL International Translation Department (1999)).

M. John (in The Bible Translator 1976, p. 237ff.) explains the difficulty of the choice this way: “Here the translator working in a language with the two forms of we has to make his choice, at least in part on the basis of the answer to the question whether Theophilus was, at the time of Luke’s writing, a Christian. The choice of the form of we and the translation of the last part of the paragraph (Luke 1:4) are interconnected.”

inclusive vs. exclusive pronoun (Matt. 15:33)

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, the translators into Karbi selected the exclusive we (excluding Jesus).

M. John explains the difficulty of the choice this way: “If we take the previous sentence (in which Jesus expresses his desire that the crowds must be fed) in close connection with this verse, the inclusive we, meaning the group including Jesus, would be natural. In verse 34, however, Jesus asks the question, ‘How much bread do you (not we) have?’ So the choice of the particular form of the pronoun will relate verse 33 either to the sentence before it or to the sentence after it. If we use the inclusive we it would mean that the disciples imply a close relation between themselves and Jesus, while Jesus sets them at a distance by his question. If we use the exclusive we, it would be the disciples themselves who make that distinction.”

Source: W. R. Hutton in The Bible Translator April 1953, p. 86ff. and M. John in The Bible Translator 1976, p. 237ff.

The Tok Pisin translators chose the inclusive form. SIL International Translation Department (1999) lists two opinions: “The disciples imply that it is Jesus alone who could provide, that it is beyond them (i.e., the disciples) to find that much food in the desert.” vs. “It seems that the disciples might easily have included Jesus with them, since it was he who had provided the abundance of food the previous time. Also, this is an intimate conversation between the Twelve and Jesus. Therefore, it would be natural for them all to consider that they are all involved in this problem.”