|Volume 22 Number 6 August 2020||
I was sitting in my car looking at my side view mirror, thinking that I needed to adjust it so I could see better, but then, I remembered I was not sitting upright. When I sat in the seat properly, I could see clearly in the mirror. The same thing has happened with my rearview mirror. I thought it needed to be adjusted, but really, I was the one that needed to adjust. Then, I really got to thinking. Life really is about perspective; how we choose to look at things really makes all the difference. Paul’s thorn in the flesh was meant to keep him humble, but it reminded him of the strength of God instead of his own weakness (2 Corinthians 12:7-10). “The message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God” (1 Corinthians 1:18). Every cloud has a silver lining, even if we cannot see it right away. The challenge for us, then, is to try and change the way we look at things. “And we know that God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose” (Romans 8:28).
David R. Kenney
I am a fan of the comic strip Calvin & Hobbs. Sometimes you just have to laugh! In one of the comic strips, Calvin, who is not fond of school, told Hobbs that a pronoun “is a noun that has lost its amateur status.” I thought of this definition when I came across the term “Solemnized Pronouns” in a discussion group. I had never heard the term, but it was not difficult to derive the meaning.
Some appreciate the beauty of the King James Version, and I would include myself among them. That being said, some misconceptions have arisen over time. One misconception is the belief that certain pronouns should be used to increase solemnity or reverence for what is being read or spoken. I used to feel that way myself. Who would want to read or speak of God’s Word irreverently? Not anyone I would want to fellowship. Yet, must we use certain pronouns such as “thee,” “thou” or “ye” in order to convey reverence? No. The original use of these pronouns was not a function of reverence but of grammar. The notion that pronoun usage denotes reverence is a misperception.
It may surprise some to read a comment that Alexander Campbell made in relation to old English and “solemnized pronouns” in the Preface of his translation:
The old Gothic buildings in North and South Britain are generally places of worship; hence, although this style of architecture was once as common in England and Scotland as any of the present models; yet this style being preserved only, or almost exclusively, in the places of worship which the veneration of our ancestors preserved from dilapidation, has given a sacred aspect to places of worship, and has rendered the Gothic style of architecture as sacred as the obsolete style of King Henry or King James. Had it not been for the veneration shown to places of worship, not a specimen of the Gothic style would at this day have stood upon the British Isles; and had it not been for the same species of veneration, we should not have had at this time any book, sacred or profane, written or published in the style of the 16th century. This style we have avoided in the present addition, and have, as far as was practicable in one effort, removed from the sacred writings the obsolete verily, ye, unto, liveth, keepeth, heareth, doth, hath, thou, thee, and thy: and all their kindred terms and phrases of the same antiquity. They have yielded their places to another race in all our writings and speeches, except in the pulpit or synagogue; why not also in the sacred writings? We might as reasonably contend that men should appear in the public assemblies for worship with long beards, in Jewish or Roman garments, as that the Scriptures should be handed to us in a style perfectly antiquated, and consequently less intelligible. (449-450)
The idea that the use of “thee,” “thy” and “thou” is meant to show reverence really runs aground when you examine passages such as: “And I will put enmity between thee and the woman, and between thy seed and her seed; it shall bruise thy head, and thou shalt bruise his heel” (Genesis 3:15 KJV). God is the one speaking to the serpent. Does God intend to convey reverence to the serpent with the use of the pronouns “thee,” “thou” and “thy”? Does God intend to show disrespect with the use of “his” in reference to the seed of the woman (Christ)? Of course not! I have no problem with translations using “Thee,” “Thou,” etc. in reference to deity, but I do not think one is required to do so.
I freely admit that I felt the same way about the reverent sound of the King James Version, and I still love to hear this beautiful translation being read. Of course, a comparison to the Hebrew and Greek in any translation is the benchmark. I found the following statement by Jack P. Lewis to clear the matter up for me, and perhaps it may bring clarity to you too:
From the first man who prayed in Greek until the last, the pronoun su was used both for God and man. When Jesus prayed to God he used the same pronouns that he used when he spoke to disciples, making no distinction in pronouns… When Peter, Paul, John, and all the apostles prayed, they made no distinction in pronouns. When these men, guided by the Holy Spirit, wrote the New Testament, they used the same pronouns to refer to God that they did to refer to their fellowman. The Holy Spirit made no distinction in pronouns. (370)
We may prefer matters a certain way; however, our personal preferences are not the standard by which we judge others. We must have love and forbearance for others who use a translation that may not retain our preferences. This includes capitalizing references to deity. Remember, uncials were Greek texts in ALL CAPITAL LETTERS. There is more to showing reverence to God than the kind of pronouns we prefer.
[Editor’s Note: Many things deserve greater reflection and amount to an awakening when one becomes personally acquainted with a foreign culture and especially an unfamiliar language. Except for where westerners have exported their culture along with the Gospel, dress shirts, ties, suits and shiny shoes may give way to skirt-like apparel for both men and women accompanied by colorful tribal shirts and bare feet in Christian worship. Likewise, foreign dialects have no provision for so-called solemnized pronouns. I still use Thee and Thou for God in my public prayers, but I would not have to do that. ~ Louis Rushmore, Editor]
Works Cited & Consulted
Campbell, Alexander. The Sacred Writings of the Apostles and Evangelists of Jesus Christ Commonly Styled the New Testament. 2nd Edition. Bethany: Alexander Campbell, 1828.
Lewis, Jack P. Questions You’ve Asked About Bible Translations. Searcy: Resource Publications, 1991.
Overton, Basil. Gems From Greek. Abilene: Quality Publications, 1991.