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  • David Sutton

The Thee's and the Thou's

Many people get up in arms about the thee’s and thou’s in the King James Bible (KJV). They make comments such as this: “I can’t understand the Old English of the King James.” To them their argument justifies using a modern version. What about their reasoning?

First, the KJV was not written in Old English. The English language divides up into three periods: Old English (AD 450-1066), Middle English (AD 1066-1500), and Modern English (AD 1500-present). Old English is unrecognizable (e.g., Beowulf), Middle English is moderately recognizable (e.g., Canterbury Tales), and Modern English is recognizable (e.g., Shakespeare and Dickens). The KJV came in 1611—Modern English.

Second, the pronoun use helps the reader more accurately understand the text. Thee and thou are singular for “you,” and ye is plural for “you.” Thee is used for direct objects (“I say unto thee”), and thou for subjects (“Thou art the man”). Modern translations are more ambiguous because “you” is used for both singular and plural (cf. I Cor. 3:17).

What do we conclude? The KJV is an accurate translation for the modern reader. The Bible you read is the Bible you understand.

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