inclusive vs. exclusive pronoun (2Cor. 5:4)

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 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).

complete verse (2 Corinthians 5:4)

Following are a number of back-translations of 2 Corinthians 5:4:

  • Uma: “For while we are still living in this world, we groan/suffer for our burden is heavy. But let’s not say thus, we want to die in order to leave this body. Our desire is that we not die but that this body be immediately exchanged for a body that lives forever.” (Source: Uma Back Translation)
  • Yakan: “As long as our (dual) body in this world still lives, we (incl.) groan because we (incl.) are being burdened (lit. feel heavy). It is not that we (incl.) wish that we (incl.) easily/soon die, but our (incl.) desire is that right now we (incl.) would be given the new body so that this our (dual) body that will die would be exchanged with a body that does not die.” (Source: Yakan Back Translation)
  • Western Bukidnon Manobo: “For as for us believers who are still alive here on the earth, we have a difficult time because we are weighted down by the hard things that we have to endure here in this earthly body of ours. However, we really don’t want to leave this body of ours, but rather what we want is that we might be given right now, that new body which comes from Heaven, so that the body which is subject to death might be replaced by the body that has life forever.” (Source: Western Bukidnon Manobo Back Translation)
  • Kankanaey: “It is certainly true that we are burdened on the earth, so it’s as if we are groaning, but I’m not saying that we want to leave our original bodies that die, but rather that we want our new bodies that never-die to replace (them).” (Source: Kankanaey Back Translation)
  • Tagbanwa: “Well at present when we are still here in the world, (it’s) like we can’t-be-at-peace because of the weaknesses and deficiencies of this earthly body of ours. It’s not that we are eagerly-awaiting-the-arrival-of death so that we can have these bodies removed, but rather what we are really eagerly-awaiting-the-arrival-of, (it’s) when our present body will be replaced by a far-from-ordinary heavenly body. For when it’s like that, this life of ours that has an end, it will be replaced by a life which has no end.” (Source: Tagbanwa Back Translation)
  • Tenango Otomi: “While we live here, we sigh because of what we suffer. I do not mean to say that I want to separate from my body. Rather that which we are eager for is that we live there in the home God will give us forever, where no one dies.” (Source: Tenango Otomi Back Translation)