inclusive vs. exclusive pronoun (Matt. 19:27)

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 typically select the exclusive form (excluding Jesus).

Source: Velma Pickett and Florence Cowan in Notes on Translation January 1962, p. 1ff.

formal pronoun: disciples addressing Jesus

Like many languages (but unlike Greek or Hebrew or English), Tuvan uses a formal vs. informal 2nd person pronoun (a familiar vs. a respectful “you”). Unlike other languages that have this feature, however, the translators of the Tuvan Bible have attempted to be very consistent in using the different forms of address in every case a 2nd person pronoun has to be used in the translation of the biblical text.

As Voinov shows in Pronominal Theology in Translating the Gospels (in: The Bible Translator 2002, p. 210ff.), the choice to use either of the pronouns many times involved theological judgment. While the formal pronoun can signal personal distance or a social/power distance between the speaker and addressee, the informal pronoun can indicate familiarity or social/power equality between speaker and addressee.

Here, individual or several disciples address Jesus with the formal pronoun, expressing respect. Compare this to how that address changes after the resurrection.

In most Dutch translations, the disciples address Jesus before and after the resurrection with the formal pronoun.

complete verse (Matthew 19:27)

Following are a number of back-translations of Matthew 19:27:

  • Uma: “From there, Petrus spoke up too: ‘But we, we have left behind all/everything in order to follow you (sing.). What reward/return will we receive?'” (Source: Uma Back Translation)
  • Yakan: “So-then Petros spoke, ‘Look at us,’ he said, ‘we have left everything and we are following you. What is our reward?'” (Source: Yakan Back Translation)
  • Western Bukidnon Manobo: “Then Peter said, ‘Look, we’ve left all of our possessions so that we might follow you. What will be paid to us?'” (Source: Western Bukidnon Manobo Back Translation)
  • Kankanaey: “Then Pedro said, ‘And as for us (excl.) now? What will we (excl.) enjoy/gain? Because we (excl.) left everything so-that we (excl.) would become your (singular) disciples.'” (Source: Kankanaey Back Translation)
  • Tagbanwa: “Pedro spoke, saying, ‘Well as for us (excl.), who have left everything and followed/obeyed you now, well what will be given-in-reward to us?'” (Source: Tagbanwa Back Translation)
  • Tenango Otomi: “Peter said to Jesus: ‘As for us, we have left everything we owned to follow you. What is coming to us?'” (Source: Tenango Otomi Back Translation)