ALL THEM THEES AND THOUS

The most common reason that I hear people give for not using the KJV is that they are too stupid to understand it. They do not explicitly call themselves stupid, but they most definitely say so. I never argue about it with such people. I just take their word for it. They frequently say something to prove it, so why argue? On the other hand, I do make attempts to inspire them to exercise their brains a little more and think about what they are saying when they make statements, such as “I don’t understand all those thees and thous,” or “all them thees and thous.” Of course, they are liars and do know exactly what all those thees and thous mean, nevertheless, they do claim that these words are beyond their grasp. I even had an insurance company accountant tell me that he couldn’t understand “thee “and thou. How truly sad for his company, as well as for him. Is it really possible for a grown man or woman not to be able to figure out what “thee” and “thou” mean? What troubles me is that there are thousands of people all over the world who have learned English as a second or third language. They can figure out what “thee” and “thou” mean, but the dumbed down American can’t figure it out. These foreigners will open an English dictionary if need arises, so why can’t Americans?

Personally, I have learned thousands of words (and forgotten many) each in Arabic, Hebrew, Akkadian, Sanskrit, Greek, French, Spanish, Italian, Hindi, Urdu, and Persian, between several hundred and a thousand word in Ethiopic, Aramaic, and Samaritan, Hittite, Ugaritic, and Sumerian, and between dozens to several hundred words in another dozen languages or so, including Chinese. I learned a dozen Chinese words today alone. I also look up words in English dictionaries fairly often. It irks me to no end to hear an adult with a normal IQ tell me that he can’t figure out what two words in his own language mean, especially when he has probably encountered those words tens of thousands of times in his life. Is he not capable of learning two measly words, which are actually both forms of one word? Toddlers do that much! I have taught my golden retriever more than two words in a single day! A chimpanzee can do it!

There are reasons for using “thou” and “thee”, which are the second person singular pronouns, as opposed to the plural second “you”. “Thou” is used when the pronoun is used as the subject, and “thee” is used when it is the object. “Thou” and “thee” are used when one person is being addressed as opposed to more than one. This may not be distinguished in modern English, but it is in many of the world’s languages, and it certainly is in Hebrew and Greek. Actually, the distinction was not normally made in the English of the King James era either. When the KJV translators used the singular pronoun it was in order to accurately reflect the Hebrew and Greek; it had already become more or less archaic in the English of their day. Unlike modern translation committees, they were concerned with accuracy and depth of meaning, and they did not anticipate that the English-speaking world would become so dumbed down that anyone would stumble with so simple of an issue.

There are a huge number of examples where the distinction is significant, but let us look at a few examples where the distinction is made between the two second person pronouns are made in single sentences in both Hebrew and Greek.

Genesis 17:10 This is my covenant, which ye shall keep, between me and you and thy seed after thee; Every man child among you shall be circumcised.

The Hebrew in this example includes two different second person pronouns. The first and last are translated you by the KJV and reflect the objective form of the Hebrew ‘atem’, which is the objective form of the plural second person. The word that is translated “thee” is the objective form of the Hebrew ‘at’, which is the second person singular pronoun. The distinction is important and it is still made in Modern Hebrew.

We’ll have to give the ASV credit here, because they did accurately represent the Hebrew, but the RSV, NIV, NKJV, and virtually every other modern version botched¬†it by failing to differentiate. This not only shows a lack of understanding of Hebrew grammar, but it obscures the essence of this verse and numerous others to boot. In the first and last second person pronouns Abraham’s tribe and progeny are being addressed, while in the middle occurrence it is only Abraham that is being addressed.

An even better example is in Leviticus 25:6:

Leviticus 25:6 And the sabbath of the land shall be meat for you; for thee, and for thy servant, and for thy maid, and for thy hired servant, and for thy stranger that sojourneth with thee,

Here Israel is being addressed in the first clause, but Moses is addressed personally in the second clause.

Greek examples include Acts 25:26:

” Of whom I have no certain thing to write unto my lord. Wherefore I have brought him forth before you, and specially before thee, O king Agrippa, that, after examination had, I might have somewhat to write.”

In this passage Paul is addressing the court in the first clause and Agrippa personally in the second. The first clause reflects the Greek ‘humon’, which is the genitive case of the plural second person pronoun ‘humeis’. The second clause reflects the Greek ‘sou’, which is the genitive case of the second person singular ‘su’. The RSV, NIV, NKJV and virtually all other modern versions, not surprisingly, have disregarded the Greek.

RSV: But I have nothing definite to write to my lord about him. Therefore I have brought him before you, and, especially before you, King Agrippa, that, after we have examined him, I may have something to write.

They may argue by saying that one may figure out the distinction by studying the context, but accurate translation makes this unnecessary. Furthermore, if a reader is incapable of understanding the meaning of two simple words like “thee” and “thou” it is hardly likely that he is going to be able to think deep enough to understand the context of much of anything, let alone a sentence with four commas in it. Another Greek example appears in Titus 3:15 where Paul is addressing Timothy personally in the first clause and all of the saints in the second.

All that are with me salute thee. Greet them that love us in the faith. Grace be with you all. Amen. It was written to Titus, ordained the first bishop of the church of the Cretians, from Nicopolis of Macedonia.”

Is this distinction important? Only if context is important. Knowing to whom a statement is addressed is very important. There are many instances in the Bible when the pronoun makes it clear that one specific person is being addressed. If this is an instruction, is it not important to know that all of mankind is not being addressed?

There is another important reason for the use of the singular “thee” and thou. The plural second person pronoun, in many languages of the world, has come to be used as a polite form of address to strangers, people that one does not know well, or people with which no intimate relationship exists, while the first person pronoun has come to be used for those with whom one has an intimate relationship, as between close friends, husbands and wives, siblings, and between man and God. The use of “you” to address God is an impolite form of address (if done intentionally, knowing the distinction). This distinction comes natural for speakers of French, Spanish, Italian, German, Hindi, Persian, and numerous other tongues, and it should be equally natural to those who read the King James Bible. Our use of you to address God in our speech may be a difficult habit to break due to English usage, but our Bible should be used as a guide to inspire us to speak to Him differently than we speak to our coworkers and the girl at the checkout counter in the grocery store.

The use of “you” to address God, as presented in most modern versions, is an indication of what kind of relationship these Bible “translators” have with God. It is not a close, intimate, and familial relationship, but a relationship between strangers.

We are blessed to have an instruction book that tells us how to address God. It is sad that so many choose to use faulty, poorly translated instruction books for such a lame reason.

John Hinton, Ph.D.
Bible Restoration Ministry
A ministry seeking the translating and reprinting of KJV equivalent
Bibles in all the languages of the world.