The Bible was translated into English over a period of 500 years, the process began c. 1000 A.D. in part and culminated with the Authorized Version of 1611. Along with Hebrew, English is the only other major language that developed at the same time as its Bible. The difference is that the Hebrew language of Israel had no other written literature prior to the Pentateuch; the early Anglo-Saxon had few sources but with Gutenberg’s moveable type printing (1349A.D.) modern English had many printed sources from Europe.
Although not a major intent by the variety of English translators, many helps to Bible study found their way into the English Bible. In addition, the King James Bible of 1611 contains several critical linguistic helps, otherwise unknown to those without knowledge of Hebrew and Greek. This study covers one of those helps: the number of the second person pronoun.
Why does the King James Bible (KJB) have “thee” “thou” “thy” etc., and also have “you” “your”, etc.,? Primarily, because the 54 translators (1604-1611) were concerned with translating the pure words of God. Misunderstanding of this feature abounds, chiefly because those who study grammar and literature in the secular field, fail to see that the KJB was not written in strict English of the 15th century. The English in the KJB is a form of English not spoken by anyone in any century; it is Biblical English. Read the sermons and other writings by even the KJB translators, and you will find their usage of English is markedly different from their translation of the Hebrew and Greek into English.
“In late Middle English and early Modern English, the singular pronouns thou, thee, and thine (like the French tu forms) served as markers of intimacy and informality. (Thou was the subject form, thee the object form, and thy/thine the possessive.) In contrast, the plural you (like French vous) signified politeness and respect–or downright submissiveness: “Social inferiors used you to their superiors, who reciprocated by using thou” (The Oxford History of English, 2006).
This was true regarding common English usage, but the Bible is not common English. Others have imagined that “Thou” “Thee” “Thy” “Thine” were used only when speaking to Deity. This was misunderstood due to the fact that the “T” pronoun signifies a singular pronoun and rightly used when addressing God, who is one LORD. (Deuteronomy 6:4)
When the KJB reader sees a pronoun beginning with “t”, it is singular; a “y” is plural. Hebrew and Greek have distinct singular and plural identification of the second person pronouns, so does the KJB. Translation of the word of God demands the utmost ability and care to be sure the target language carries the same meaning as the former. This may not seem to be important at first glance, but Bible doctrine hangs on the proper understanding of the difference between whether one person is spoken to or a plural number is addressed.
One example is in Luke 22:31-32:
31 And the Lord said, Simon, Simon, behold, Satan hath desired to have you, that he may sift you as wheat:
32 But I have prayed for thee, that thy faith fail not: and when thou art converted, strengthen thy brethren. (King James Bible, AV 1611)
(NOTE: Some may object that the KJB also inserted words that were not in the Hebrew or Greek texts. Although not the purpose of our study here, the KJB actually has six reasons for italicized words. All languages have peculiarities that make a word for word translation impossible. These are understood in the base language, but in translation to a target language there must be added words that make the original intent and meaning clear. The KJB put all such words into italics, thereby showing the honesty of the translators to the reader and providing another amazing Bible study principle. Compare Deuteronomy and Matthew: Deuteronomy 8:3 with Matthew 4:4. The Hebrew has no “word” in the language, it is understood by the Hebrew reader. Greek does have “word” and it is essential to the Greek and English. When Jesus quoted Deuteronomy 8:3 in Greek, He removed the italics and thereby proved the inspiration and authority of the future KJB OT quote!)
KING JAMES BIBLE: 31 And the Lord said, Simon, Simon, behold, Satan hath desired to have you (PLURAL–all of the apostles), that he may sift you (PLURAL) as wheat:
32 But I have prayed for thee (SINGULAR-Peter), that thy (SINGULAR-Peter) faith fail not: and when thou (SINGULAR-Peter) art converted, strengthen thy(SINGULAR-Peter) brethren. (KJB)
NIV: 31 “Simon, Simon, Satan has asked to sift all of you as wheat. 32 But I have prayed for you, Simon, that your faith may not fail. And when you have turned back, strengthen your brothers.”
NIV ANALYSIS: 31 “Simon, Simon, Satan has asked (“HAS ASKED” AND “HATH DESIRED” ARE DIFFERENT) to sift (THE FORCE OF “HAVE YOU” REMOVED. SATAN DESIRED THE PERSONS, THE “SIFTING” OCCURS AFTER HE HAS THE PERSONS) all of you as wheat. 32 But I have prayed for you, Simon,(THE NIV HAD TO INSERT “SIMON” WHICH IS NOT IN ANY GREEK TEXT) that your faith may not fail. And when you have turned back (“TURN BACK” IS NOT THE SAME AS “CONVERTED”), strengthen your brothers.”
AMPLIFIED BIBLE: 31 Simon, Simon (Peter), listen! Satan [e]has asked excessively that [all of] you be given up to him [out of the power and keeping of God], that he might sift [all of] you like grain,
32 But I have prayed especially for you [Peter], that your [own] faith may not fail; and when you yourself have turned again, strengthen and establish your brethren.
AMPLIFIED BIBLE ANALYSIS: 31 Simon, Simon (Peter), listen! (“LISTEN” IS NOT IN ANY GREEK TEXT) Satan [e]has asked excessively (“EXCESSIVELY” IS ADDED TO GIVE THE SIMPLE “ASKED” INTENSIVE FORCE) that [all of] you be given up to him [out of the power and keeping of God], that he might sift [all of] you like grain, (AMP. BIBLE MISSES THE POINT OF “HAVE YOU” JUST AS THE NIV DOES. THE GENERAL “GRAIN” IS NOT THE SAME AS THE SPECIFIC “WHEAT”. ALSO, THE TERM “WHEAT” IN OTHER PASSAGES IS ESSENTIAL TO PROPER INTERPRETATION.)
32 But I have prayed especially (“ESPECIALLY” IS NOT IN ANY GREEK TEXT) for you [Peter], that your [own] faith may not fail; and when you yourself have turned again, (“TURNED AGAIN” IS NOT THE SAME AS “CONVERTED”) strengthen and establish (“ESTABLISH ” ADDED) your brethren.
Other errors and the same in ALL the so-called translations could be mentioned, but the point is made: the modern translations have done nothing but repeated the same sin of Eve in Genesis 3.
- Accepted the doubting attitude of what God said: “Yea, hath God said…”(Genesis 3:1)
- Added words to what God said: “…neither shall ye touch it…”(Genesis 3:3)
- Subtracting words from what God said: “…surely…”(Genesis 3:3)
- Changing what God said: “…surely…” changed to “…lest…”(Genesis 3:3)
- Accepted the “new” translation: “Ye shall not surely die…”(Genesis 3:4)
“Updated” and “new”, as well as “easy to understand” English translations since the late 1700’s have done nothing but remove the pure words of God from the readers, and substituted careless, confusing and deceptive terms that hide those words, words the Lord Jesus Christ deemed so important, He said:
“But he answered and said, It is written, Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceedeth out of the mouth of God.” (Matthew 4:4)
“Heaven and earth shall pass away, but my words shall not pass away.” (Matthew 24:35)
“5 Every word of God is pure: he is a shield unto them that put their trust in him.
6 Add thou not unto his words, lest he reprove thee, and thou be found a liar.” (Proverbs 30:5-6)
“Ye shall not add unto the word which I command you, neither shall ye diminish ought from it, that ye may keep the commandments of the LORD your God which I command you. (Deuteronomy 4:2)
“And if any man shall take away from the words of the book of this prophecy, God shall take away his part out of the book of life, and out of the holy city, and from the things which are written in this book.” (Revelation 22:19)
Is the KJB hard to understand? Someone said: “What bothers me about the Bible is not what I don’t understand, what bothers me is all that I do understand.” The KJB is rated today at 5th grade reading level–it was 3rd grade thirty years ago. I know two former Bible college students, who in their adult years learned to read by the King James Bible.
Part two- PHILEMON (Illustration of the second person pronoun in the KJB)
1 Paul, a prisoner of Jesus Christ, and Timothy our brother, unto Philemon our dearly beloved, and fellowlabourer,
2 And to our beloved Apphia, and Archippus our fellowsoldier, and to the church in thy house:
3 Grace to you, and peace, from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.
4 I thank my God, making mention of thee always in my prayers,
5 Hearing of thy love and faith, which thou hast toward the Lord Jesus, and toward all saints;
6 That the communication of thy faith may become effectual by the acknowledging of every good thing which is in you in Christ Jesus.
Why ‘Thee’ and “You” vss. 1-6?
1. Philemon is the leader. (church meets in his house) “unto Philemon”, but “to Apphia, and Archippus”.
2. The letter is a personal request to Philemon and of special interest to him.
v.6 The best “communication of thy (Philemon’s) faith requires “every good thing which is in you”(all the church. No man should try to be isolated, a secluded worker in Christ Jesus.)
7 For we have great joy and consolation in thy love, because the bowels of the saints are refreshed by thee, brother. “Bowels” from “bowl”, the major organs of body protected by the skeletal frame, shoulders, backbone, ribs, pelvis. Emotions and feelings stem from here. (heart rate, stomach unsettled, largest nerve network of body in the digestive system–called the “Second Brain”.)
8 Wherefore, though I might be much bold in Christ to enjoin thee that which is convenient,
9 Yet for love’s sake I rather beseech thee, being such an one as Paul the aged, and now also a prisoner of Jesus Christ.
“enjoin” is to command, “beseech” is to make a plea, or request.
10 I beseech thee for my son Onesimus, whom I have begotten in my bonds:
11 Which in time past was to thee unprofitable, but now profitable to thee and to me:
12 Whom I have sent again: thou therefore receive him, that is, mine own bowels:
13 Whom I would have retained with me, that in thy stead he might have ministered unto me in the bonds of the gospel: 14 But without thy mind would I do nothing; that thy benefit should not be as it were of necessity, but willingly.
15 For perhaps he therefore departed for a season, that thou shouldest receive him for ever;
16 Not now as a servant, but above a servant, a brother beloved, specially to me, but how much more unto thee, both in the flesh, and in the Lord?
17 If thou count me therefore a partner, receive him as myself.
18 If he hath wronged thee, or oweth thee ought, put that on mine account;
19 I Paul have written it with mine own hand, I will repay it: albeit I do not say to thee how thou owest unto me even thine own self besides.
20 Yea, brother, let me have joy of thee in the Lord: refresh my bowels in the Lord.
21 Having confidence in thy obedience I wrote unto thee, knowing that thou wilt also do more than I say.
22 But withal prepare me also a lodging: for I trust that through your prayers I shall be given unto you.
23 There salute thee Epaphras, my fellowprisoner in Christ Jesus;
24 Marcus, Aristarchus, Demas, Lucas, my fellowlabourers.
25 The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with your spirit. Amen.
The book is the last of Paul’s epistles and records a living illustration of 2 great doctrines in this age of grace: Imputation and Justification. Romans 5:6-9. Onesimus (name means “profitable”), a servant in Philemon’s house stole something valuable. He ran away and was arrested in Rome. Paul, in prison for preaching the gospel, led Onesimus to the Lord. Paul writes this letter to Philemon and sends it to Philemon by Onesimus. Paul illustrates imputation by taking the cost of replacing the goods upon himself. Philemon is to receive Onesimus with as much love as he would have given to Paul, had Paul been able to come. Philemon is to receive Onesimus now as “above a servant, a brother beloved.” That is Justification. The debt is paid by another (imputation) and the previous offender is accepted, above and beyond what he was before (justification).