Another King James Bible Believer

Why those "thee"s and "ye"s are more accurate.

Is archaic language always a bad thing? What about all those "Ye"s and "Thee"s? Would you change all those words like "ye, thee, thine, and thy"? Do you know the difference in meaning and why they are actually more accurate than the modernized, generic "you" as found in the NKJV, NIV, NASB, Holman, and ESV?

The popular NIV introduction erects a strawman argument and gives misleading information regarding the use of "thou" "thee" and "thine". On page xviii of my NIV Scofield edition, the editors state: "As for the traditional pronouns "thou" "thee" and "thine" in reference to the Deity, the translators judged that to use these archaisms, along with the old verb forms such as "doest", "wouldest" and "hadst" would violate accuracy in translation. Neither Hebrew, Aramaic nor Greek uses special pronouns for the persons of the Godhead."

To put it kindly, this NIV introduction is pure baloney. First of all, the use of the words thou, thee, and thine are not used only in reference to Deity. They express the Hebrew and Greek singular "you" as opposed to the plural "you" which is rendered as "you", "ye" and "your". Thou, thee and thine are used not only when addressing God but also when speaking to the common man and even to the devil himself. "Then saith Jesus unto him, Get THEE hence, Satan: for it is written, Thou shalt worship the Lord thy God, and him only shalt thou serve." Matthew 4:10.

Secondly, instead of "violating accuracy in translation", the fact is the use of such pronouns is FAR MORE accurate to the Hebrew and Greek languages than the generic "you" for both singular and plural.

Most languages have a singular and a plural form of the second person - the person being spoken to - "you". There is the singular "you" and then there is the plural, like "you all". This is found in the Hebrew and Greek languages as well as Spanish, French, Italian, Portuguese and many other world languages.

In English this distinction is expressed by "Thou" meaning "you singular, and you alone" and "Ye" meaning "all of you, plural". This distinction makes a big difference in hundreds of passages in the Bible.

The common use of "thee, thy, thine and thou" had for the most part dropped out of common spoken English by the time the King James Bible was published. However you can still see  in the Preface to the Reader a mixture of the terms "thee" and "you" being used to refer to one person. 

At one point in the Preface we read: "Many other things we might give THEE warning of, gentle Reader...it remaineth that we commend THEE to God..YE are brought unto the fountains of living water which YE digged not...Others have labored, and YOU may enter into their labours."  In the Preface to the Reader, they also address one man, the king, using "you". You can see it several times on the very first page. "firmly knit the hearts of Your Majesty's loyal and religious people unto YOU, that YOUR name is precious among them: their eye doth behold YOU with comfort, and they bless YOU in their hearts...." 

However the continued use of words like "thee, thy, thine and thou" to refer to one person and "you, your and ye" to refer to many people is far more accurate to the underlying Hebrew and Greek that is the generic "you".  This important distinction is ALWAYS maintained and never mixed in the written text of the King James Holy Bible.

For instance, in Luke 22:31-32 the Lord says to Peter: "Simon, Simon, behold, Satan hath desired to have YOU, that he may sift YOU as wheat: But I have prayed for THEE, that THY faith fail not: and when THOU art converted, strengthen THY brethren."

Here the word YOU is plural in both the Greek and the English, meaning Satan was going to sift all of the disciples, "you all"; but Jesus is letting Peter know that He had prayed for him (thee) specifically as an individual.

In John chapter four, the Samaritan woman at the well is speaking to Jesus and says: "Sir, I perceive that THOU art a prophet. Our fathers worshipped in this mountain; and YE say (all you Jews) that in Jerusalem is the place where men ought to worship."

Then the Lord says to this individual: "Woman, believe me, the hour cometh, when YE shall neither in this mountain, nor yet at Jerusalem, worship the Father. YE worship YE know not what: we know what we worship; for salvation is of the Jews." Here the YE means "all of you who are Samaritans", not just the individual woman to whom He was speaking.

One of many cases where a lot of confusion is caused by not following the "ye" and "thee" pattern is seen in Jeremiah 5:14. In Jeremiah 5:13-14 the Lord says: "And the prophets shall become wind, and the word is not in them: thus shall it be done unto them. Wherefore thus saith the LORD God of hosts, Because YE speak this word, behold, I will make my words in THY mouth fire, and this people wood, and it shall devour them."

God is referring to the false prophets when He says "because YE speak this word" but He is talking to Jeremiah, the true prophet, when He says "I will make my words in THY mouth fire".

The confusion is seen in such versions as the NKJV, NASB, NIV, ESV. The NKJV says: "Because YOU speak this word, Behold, I will make my words in YOUR mouth fire." The NKJV meaning ends up being nonsense.

The NKJV badly misses the correct Hebrew reading of Jeremiah 27:2. The King James Bible, as well as the Hebrew texts, the RV, ASV, Young's and many other translations correctly have God saying to Jeremiah: "Thus saith the LORD to me; Make THEE bonds and yokes, and put them upon thy neck, And send them to the king of Edom...." Even the NASB and ESV have the singular "yourself". However the NKJV changes this singular "thee" into a plural "make for YOURSELVES bonds and yokes". The NIV simply omits the word altogether.

Another among many verses that are cleared up by recognizing this difference between Thee and You is found in Acts 13:34. Here Peter is preaching in a synagogue about Christ, the Son of God. Peter says: "And as concerning that he raised him up from the dead, now no more to return to corruption, he said on this wise, I will give YOU the sure mercies of David."

If you neglect this distinction between Thee and You, one would naturally think God is saying to the risen Christ "I will give YOU the sure mercies of David." But He isn't referring to Christ. God is speaking to all HIS PEOPLE - YOU.

In 2 Chronicles 7:17-19 after the dedication of the temple, God speaks to Solomon. He says: "And as for THEE, if THOU wilt walk before me...and do all that I have commanded THEE...Then I will establish the throne of THY kingdom...But if YE turn away, and forsake my statutes and my commandments...and shalt go and serve other gods..."

First God is speaking individually to king Solomon with THEE, THOU, and THY; but then He addresses all the people of Israel with "YE".

Matthew 26:64 - "Jesus saith unto him, THOU has said: nevertheless I say unto YOU, hereafter shall YE see the Son of man sitting on the right hand of power, and coming in the clouds of heaven." THOU refers to the High Priest. YE and YOU are open to some interpretation, but AT LEAST include all those who were standing there IN ADDITION to the high priest.

John 3:7, 11, "Marvel not that I said unto THEE, YE must be born again." These words were spoken to the individual Nicodemus, but obviously have a wider application. So also at verse 11, "I say unto THEE, we speak that we do know, and testify that we have seen, and YE receive not our witness."

A subtle yet important nuance is found in king David's letter to Joab when he wanted Uriah, the husband of Bathsheba, killed. "David wrote a letter to Joab, saying, Set YE Uriah in the forefront of the hottest battle, and retire YE from him, that he may be smitten and die." 2 Samuel 12:15.

Here David writes to a single individual Joab, yet he uses the plural form YE. This use of the plural form lessons the personal guilt and responsibility of Joab and places it on the group who is in command of the army. These subtle distinctions are lost in most modern versions.

Another of hundreds of such examples that could be given shows this important distinction between "thee" (an individual) and "you" meaning "you all". The young shepherd David had gone out to meet Goliath the Philistine and he was speaking to one individual, the giant. David says to him: "THOU comest to me with a sword, and with a spear, and with a shield, but I come to THEE in the name of the LORD..for the battle is the LORD's, and he will give YOU into our hands." David was not just telling Goliath that God would deliver him up, but ALL the Philistines as well - "you all". 

Again, in Genesis 18:1-4 we see the account of when the LORD appeared to Abraham along with two angels. Abraham sees the three "men" and runs up to them and bows himself and says to the one "My Lord, if now I have found favor in THY sight, pass not away, I pray THEE, from THY servant."

Then immediately in the next verse he begins to address all three instead of just the Lord, and says: "Let a little water, I pray YOU, be fetched, and wash YOUR feet, and rest YOURselves under the tree: And I will fetch a morsel of bread, and comfort YE YOUR hearts; after that YE shall pass on: for therefore are YE come to YOUR servant."  All these subtle distinctions are lost in the modern versions by their use of the generic "you".

A simple rule of thumb is if the word begins with a T, as in thou, thy, thee, and thine, then it is singular; and if it begins with a Y, as in you, your, and ye, then it is plural, meaning "you all".

The use of "thou" and "ye" may be "archaic" because we don't speak this way today, but it is far more accurate and reflects the Hebrew and the Greek languages that underlie the King James text. In fact, not even in 1611 did they speak this way. Read the preface to the KJB and you will see they did not use the "thee"s and "ye"s as they are found in the Scriptures.

Thy and thine  

"Thy" and "thine" are very close in meaning, but "thine" is used in two ways. "Thine" is used either as a possessive pronoun acting as a noun - "For thine is the kingdom" (Mat.6:13) "Take that is thine and go thy way." (Mat.20:14) "If thou therefore wilt worship me, all shall be thine." (Luke 4:7) - and most commonly thine is used in the same way as thy (a possessive adjective) but "thine" is used immediately before a noun that begins with a vowel or a vowel sound - like thine eyes, thine arm, thine increase, and thine heart.

 

The "h" in English is a mixed word, sometimes considered to have a vowel sound and sometimes a consonant sound. So you will see both thine heart and sometimes thy heart. The same applies to “my heart” and “mine heart”.  Sometime the KJB translators and earlier English bibles as well went with “my heart” and at other times with “mine heart”.  This may well be due to which one sounds better in any given line of Scripture.


We still see this same vowel or consonant sound carried over into modern English today with "a" and "an" or “the" pronounced either as thuh or as thee, with a long “e” sound. We just do this automatically. We say a boy, a girl, a car, a mouse - all start with a consonant. And likewise thuh boy, thuh girl and thuh car.


But we say an apple, an eye, an increase, an idea, and an hour. And thee apple, thee eye, thee increase, thee idea, and thee hour. "hour" has a vowel sound; the "h" is silent. But we say a horse and a haircut. These have a consonant sound. Pretty interesting once you learn how the English language works.   


 

 

 The second person singular pronouns in English had largely passed from the language by the time of the writing of the AV. Thus it was "archaic" then as well. So getting rid of it because it is "archaic" is ridiculous, because it was archaic in the first place. The important thing is not whether the word is archaic (for goodness sake, they can look it up in a dictionary or ask someone else who knows) but whether the word is the correct translation. It is, so use it.

The King James translators correctly used these words because it is Biblical language that more accurately expresses the thoughts of God in inspired Scripture.

Not only does the King James Bible use "thy" and "thee" and "ye" but so also do Tyndale 1525, Coverdale 1535, the Great Bible 1540, Matthew's Bible 1549, Bishops' Bible 1568, the Geneva Bible 1587, John Wesley's New Testament 1755, Webster's Bible 1833, Young's 1898, Darby's 1890, the Revised Version of 1885, the American Standard Version 1901, the Jewish translations of 1917, the 1936 Hebrew Publishing Company bible, the Douay version 1950,  the KJV 21st Century version 1994, the Third Millennium Bible 1998, The Yah Sacred Scriptures 2001 and The Tomson N.T. 2002.

 

Even the RSV of 1952 and the NASB from 1960 to 1977 used "thee" and "thou" when addressing God in prayer, though the words "thee" and "thou" are not just used to show reverence for God, but rather express the second person singular of anyone, including the devil himself. The NASB, RSV both say in John 17:2 " THOU HAST given him power over all flesh, to give eternal life to all whom THOU HAST given him." But then in 1995 the NASB changed their texts again and now employ the generic "You".

Again, in the RSV of 1952 and the NASB of 1977 we read in Romans 3:4 "That THOU MIGHTEST be justified in THY words, and MIGHTEST prevail when THOU ART judged."

Take a look at any of the Psalms in the NASB 1977 edition.  Let's briefly look at Psalm 45 in just verses 2 through 7.  "THOU ART fairer than the sons of men; Grace is poured upon THY lips; Therefore God has blessed THEE for ever. Gird THY sword on THY thigh, O Mighty One. In THY splendor and THY majesty ride on victoriously...Let THY right hand teach THEE awesome things...THOU HAST loved righteousness, and hated wickedness. Therefore God, THY God, has anointed THEE with the oil of joy above THY fellows." 

"So were "thou" and "thee" and their respective verb forms "mightest" and "art" and "hast" not archaic in 1977, but then became so in the next few years?

In 2 Samuel 7:23 we read part of king David's prayer: "An what nation in the earth is like THY people, even like Israel, whom God went to redeem for a people to himself, and to make him a name, and to do for YOU great things and terrible, for THY land, before THY people, which THOU redeemedst to THEE from Egypt."

Here David prays to God in the second person singular, but refers to the people of Israel as YOU. What confusion can result if this distinction in proper pronouns is removed? It could incorrectly be thought that David was praying in part to the nation, or that the land belonged to the people instead of to God.

Once you realize there is an important difference between "thou" and "ye" that exists in the English language as well as the Greek and Hebrew, then many passages are cleared up and more light is shed on the true meaning of the Holy Bible.

The King James Bible is more precise and accurate with its use of "thou" and "ye". When you "update and modernize" these "archaic" words to the generic "you", you do so at the expense of sacrificing an important distinction God has placed in His inspired words.

Will Kinney

More Thoughts about Ye and Thee from various Authors. Here are some very good links:

Excellent 14 minute video by Brandon Staggs explaining the history and use of "thou" and "ye"

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mgM9OSPKFAg 

The Bible is not so muddy. See this next link that shows how to distinguish you-singular and you-plural, whereas modern versions like the NKJV, NASB, NIV,  ESV ARE much more ambiguous:


http://www.ecclesia.org/truth/thou.html


More than one dictionary will inform you that these words were gone from everyday speech long before the KJB came along. 


Even at http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Thou   you'll find this: 


One notable consequence of the decline in use of the second person singular pronouns thou, thy, and thee is the obfuscation of certain sociocultural elements of Early Modern English texts, such as many character interactions in Shakespeare's plays. In Richard III, for instance, the conversation between the Duke of Clarence and the two murderers takes on a very different tone if it is read in light of the social connotations of the pronouns used by the characters.


and...


As William Tyndale translated the Bible into English in the early 16th century, he sought to preserve the singular and plural distinctions that he found in his Hebrew and Greek originals. Therefore, he consistently used thou for the singular and ye for the plural regardless of the relative status of the speaker and the addressee. By doing so, he probably saved thou from utter obscurity and gave it an air of solemnity that sharply distinguished it from its original meaning. Tyndale's usage was imitated in the King James Bible, and remained familiar because of that translation.

 

Philemon 21-25. "Having confidence in THY obedience I wrote unto THEE, knowing that THOU wilt also do more than I say ... I trust that through YOUR prayers I shall be given unto YOU ... There salute THEE ... the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with YOUR spirit." The singular THEE refers to Philemon, but as this short letter was also addressed to "Apphia ... Archippus ... and to the church in thy house" (v. 2), the plural form YOU, YOUR is used in verses 3, 22, and 25.

PREVIOUS GENERATIONS EDUCATED THE PEOPLE UP TO THE BIBLE, AND THAT IS WHAT WE SHOULD DO TODAY.

"Instead of lowering the Bible to a lowest common denominator, why should we not educate people to rise to the level required to experience the Bible in its full richness and exaltation? Instead of expecting the least from Bible readers, we should expect the most from them. The greatness of the Bible requires the best, not the least. ... The most difficult of modern English translations -- the King James -- is used most by segments of our society that are relatively uneducated as defined by formal education. ... research has shown repeatedly that people are capable of rising to surprising and even amazing abilities to read and master a subject that is important to them....

 

Previous generations did not find the King James Bible, with its theological heaviness, beyond their comprehension. Nor do readers and congregations who continue to use the King James translation find it incomprehensible. Neither of my parents finished grade school, and they learned to understand the King James Bible from their reading of it and the preaching they heard based on it. We do not need to assume a theologically inept readership for the Bible. Furthermore, if modern readers are less adept at theology than they can and should be, it is the task of the church to educate them, not to give them Bible translations that will permanently deprive them of the theological content that is really present in the Bible" (Leland Ryken, The Word of God in English, pp. 107, 109).

THOUGH THE TERMS "THOU" AND "THINE" HAVE BEEN OUT OF COMMON USAGE OF THE ENGLISH LANGUAGE FOR MORE THAN 400 YEARS, IT WAS ONLY A FEW DECADES AGO THAT PEOPLE STARTED COMPLAINING ABOUT IT.

Even then it was done largely at the prompting of Bible publishers greedy to make ever larger profits by introducing an ever more bewildering smorgasbord of "up-to-date" Bibles. Believers of the 1600s, 1700s, 1800s, and even most of the 1900s, loved the "quaint" old English of the King James Bible. They did not think it strange that their Bible did not sound like the morning newspaper. It is the Bible! It was written thousands of years ago! It is the Word of the eternal God! It is nothing like the morning newspaper; why, pray tell, should it sound like one? "I believe that it is correct for an English translation to preserve an appropriate archaic flavor as a way of preserving the distance between us and the biblical world. Joseph Wood Krutch used an evocative formula in connection with the King James Bible when he spoke of 'an appropriate flavor of a past time'" (Ryken, The Word of God in English, p. 182).

THE MOST IMPORTANT THING IN A BIBLE TRANSLATION IS NOT SIMPLE LANGUAGE BUT FAITHFULNESS TO THE ORIGINAL.

Dr. Donald Waite has made the following excellent comments on this subject: "The Bible is not a first grade primer. It is God's book. It is a book that must be diligently read. It is only by 'searching the Scriptures' that we find what pertains to life and death. It tells of creation, of the mighty universe, of the future or the past, of the Mighty God and His wonders, of the Holy Spirit's ministry among Christians, of the Son of God's great sacrifice for sin, of home in Heaven for the believer, and of a fiery hell for the unsaved. How dare we assume that His Word can be capsulated in a comic book [or a version that reads 'like the morning newspaper']. Some people say they like a particular version because 'it's more readable.' Now, readability is one thing, but does the readability conform to what's in the original Greek and Hebrew language? You can have a lot of readability, but if it doesn't match up with what God has said, it's of no profit. In the King James Bible, the words match what God has said. You may say it's difficult to read, but study it out. [At times it's] hard in the Hebrew and Greek and, perhaps, even in the English in the King James Bible. But to change it around just to make it simple, or interpreting it instead of translating it, is wrong. You've got lots of interpretation, but we don't want that in a translation. We want exactly what God said in the Hebrew or Greek brought over into English" (Waite, Defending the King James Bible, p. 242).

Also consider this statement by Leland Ryken, a professor of English at Wheaton College: "An English Bible translation should strive for maximum readability only within the parameters of accurately expressing what the original actually says, including the difficulty inherent in the original text. The crucial question that should govern translation is what the original authors actually wrote, not our speculations over how they would express themselves today or how we would express the content of the Bible. The fact that the New Testament was written in koine Greek should not lead translators to translate the Bible in a uniformly colloquial style. Finally, a good translation does not attempt to make the Bible simpler than it was for the original audience" (Leland Ryken, The Word of God in English, pp. 100, 101).

PART OF THE ANTIQUATED FEEL OF THE KING JAMES BIBLE IS ITS USAGE OF THE SECOND PERSON SINGULAR PRONOMINAL FORMS, "THEE," "THOU," AND "THINE."

These should be retained because their use allows the distinction in English between singular and plural pronouns. In other words, "you" and "ye" are plural, while "thou" and "thine" are singular. The singular forms have disappeared from contemporary English, so that there is no difference today between "you" plural and "you" singular. The Hebrew and Greek languages, though, have both a singular and plural form of the pronoun, and the King James Bible was able to pass this distinction along to the English reader.

The use of thee, thou, thine was already antiquated when the King James Bible was translated. The King James translators did not adopt thee, thou, thine because those forms were common to their day, but because they wanted to faithfully translate the original Scripture text into English.

These expressions had already dropped out of common English by 1611 when the King James Bible was published. We can see this by reading the translator's Preface and other writings by the translators. The distinction between the singular and plural in English began in the late 13th century and continued commonly until the 1500s.

The British biblical scholar J.B. Lightfoot wrote, "Indeed, we may take courage from the fact that the language of our English Bible is not the language of the age in which the translators lived, but in its grand simplicity stands out in contrast to the ornate and often affected diction of the literature of the time" (The Divine Original, Trinitarian Bible Society, London, England).

"It is often asserted or assumed that the usage of the AV represents the speech of 300 years ago, and that now, three centuries later, it should be changed to accord with contemporary usage. But this is not at all a correct statement of the problem. The important fact is this. THE USAGE OF THE AV IS NOT THE ORDINARY USAGE OF THE EARLY SEVENTEENTH CENTURY: IT IS THE BIBLICAL USAGE BASED ON THE STYLE OF THE HEBREW AND THE GREEK SCRIPTURES. The second part of this statement needs no proof and will be challenged by no one. It is undeniable that where the Hebrew and Greek use the singular of the pronoun the AV regularly uses the singular, and where they use the plural it uses the plural. Even in Deuteronomy where in his addresses, and apparently for rhetorical and pedagogical effect, Moses often changes suddenly, and seemingly arbitrarily, from singular to plural or from plural to singular, the AV reproduces the style of the text with fidelity. THAT IS TO SAY, THE USAGE OF THE AV IS STRICTLY BIBLICAL" (Oswald T. Allis, "Is a Pronominal Revision of the Authorized Version Desirable?"

This article is available in the Bible Version section of the End Times Apostasy Database at the Way of Life Literature web site -- http://www.wayoflife.org).

Linguistic scholar A.T. Robertson made the following important observation about the King James Bible: "No one today speaks the English of the Authorized Version, or ever did for that matter, for though, like Shakespeare, it is the pure Anglo-Saxon, yet unlike Shakespeare IT REPRODUCES TO A REMARKABLE EXTENT THE SPIRIT AND LANGUAGE OF THE BIBLE" (A Grammar of the Greek New Testament, p. 56).

-EST AND -ETH ARE NOT SO BAD ---Taken from By Definition The Difficult Words of the Holy Bible Made Understandable, by James W. Knox. Appendix D, pp. 131-132

Once the importance of the "thees" and "thous" has been mastered, the next thing to tackle are the seemingly strange endings on so many Bible words.

In Romans 14:7 we read: For none of us liveth to himself, and no man dieth to himself. One might wonder why we do not revise the Bible to the more broadly understood "No man lives to himself, and no man dies to himself."

As we all know, "-s" and "-es" are suffixes added to words to make them plural. One apple is added to one apple to get two apples. In modern English we have no such suffix to prevent confusion between the rendering of a noun in its plural form and the rendering of a verb in its active and ongoing form. The old English made this distinction by use of an "-eth" or"-est" ending.

None of us liveth to himself means that life is ongoing. Such a one is in the continual process of being alive. "No man dies to himself" means the act of dying, but this leaves us short of the meaning of the verse. Dieth tells us that he is in the continual process of dying.

So when they had dined, Jesus saith to Simon Peter, Simon, son of Jonas,lovest thou me more than these? [John 21:15]

Notice first that Jesus saith. To revise this to "Jesus said to Simon Peter" (as do the NKJV, NIV, NASB) results in our losing the vision of the moment. That would put the episode in the past tense. In the language of the KJV we are present that morning watching as the conversation takes place. (By the way, the Greek texts ARE in the present tense here as the King James Bible has it. The NKJV, NIV, NASB and others are wrong.)

Then we have the word lovest. To modernize this to, "Do you love me?" is to miss the whole point. Jesus doesn't want to know if there are moments when Peter loves Him. He wants to know if Peter possesses a constant, ongoing love for His redeemer.

"He saith unto him, Yea, Lord; thou knowest that I love thee". Peter's reply is a testimony to his understanding that Jesus' knowledge of his heart is continuous.

Far from being burdensome, the word endings "-est" and "-eth" help to make the King James Bible so very meaningful. They carry the stories we are reading out of the past-tense mode and present them in such a way as to make us eyewitnesses to, yea, partakers of the action.

It takes only a day or two to teach an elementary school reader the use of "-ed," "-s," or "-ing." Once these simple rules are learned his enjoyment of reading climbs to new heights. So the new Christian needs but a day or two to learn this simple rule of grammar and he can trade his past-tense, modern version for an active and exciting KJV.

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