One of the most criticized characteristics of the King James translation of the Bible is the use of the old English pronouns. Some unlearned scholars go to great lengths to make fun of thee’s, thou’s, and ye’s. “Why not just use ‘you?’” they say. Yet, this is one of the strongest points of the Authorized Version.
In the language of the Greek New Testament and Hebrew Old Testament there is a very distinct difference between the second person singular and the second person plural pronouns. We make no difference in modern English — both singular and plural are translated “you.” However, in old English there exists a difference just as there is in Greek and Hebrew. As a result the old English used in the King James Version gives far more precise translation than would modern English.
In our King James Bible, “thee,”“thou,”“thy,” and “thine” are always singular. “You,”“ye,” and “your” are always plural. If the second person pronoun starts with a “t” (in the English translation) then it is singular. If it starts with a “y” it is plural. This information helps us to better interpret God’s Word.
It is interesting to note that, contrary to popular opinion, the word “you” is used in the King James Version of the Bible about 2,000 times in fact. The “thee’s” and the “ye’s” are used also for accuracy and directness of translation, perhaps the so-called “old” English could better be described as good old “Bible English.
Praise ye the Lord for it.
By Bruce Cummons in The Plains Baptist Challenger, December 1988, as reprinted by permission in The Baptist Waymark, Jan-Feb 1992