The Greek that is translated into English as “delivered (to us)” or “handed down (to us)” is rendered as “we had heard them from the mouth of men who…” (Sranan Tongo), “to make known” (Kannada), “to show causing (us) to know” (Thai) or “to cause-to-receive” (Balinese, using a verb that also has the meaning “to bequeath an inheritance”).
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.”
Following are a number of back-translations of Luke 1:2:
- Uma: “What they wrote, it is the same as the story that was announced to us by people who had seen [with their] eyes all that happened from the beginning and who became carriers of the Lord’s Word.” (Source: Uma Back Translation)
- Yakan: “It was written by them what was told to us (excl.) by those who saw what he did from the beginning, and they are the people who proclaim God’s Word.” (Source: Yakan Back Translation)
- Western Bukidnon Manobo: “They wrote down what was related to us people who were the ones who saw these works and were the ones who spread the Word of God.” (Source: Western Bukidnon Manobo Back Translation)
- Kankanaey: “What they wrote is indeed also what was related by those who saw it beginning-from the first and preached concerning the Lord Jesus.” (Source: Kankanaey Back Translation)
- Tagbanwa: “The things they wrote were what was related to us (excl.) by those who observed them from the past and who now go teaching concerning this which is being testified to.” (Source: Tagbanwa Back Translation)