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

By Will Kinney


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 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.

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."

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.

One more 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".

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.

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, Coverdale, Bishops' Bible, the Geneva Bible, John Wesley's New Testament, the Revised Version of 1881, Webster's translation, the American Standard Version 1901, the Jewish translations of 1917, 1936, the Douay version 1950, Young's, Darby's, the KJV 21st Century version and the Third Millenium Bible.

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". So were "thou" and "thee" 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.




By Pastor Steve Van Nattan
Editor--  Blessed Quietness Journal


In the Old and New Testament of the Bible the King James translators used a device to distinguish between "you" singular and plural. "THEE, THOU, AND THY" are for YOU SINGULAR. "YE, YOU, YOUR, WE, AND US" are for YOU OR US PLURAL. Hebrew and Greek do this, but modern English makes no distinction. Is this important? The answer is an emphatic, YES !

Without the THEE-THOU, YE-YOU DISTINCTION, which was not even common in 1611, the translators, in the Holy Spirit, could not have made any distinction for the English reader. We will now show that it is of the highest importance in understanding the doctrine of the Lord's Church.


The reason I chose these Pauline Epistles is: 1. Paul was the Apostle who established many churches. 2. The Holy Spirit used Paul to establish the patterns of normal church life. 3. Paul taught the doctrine of the church in great detail. 4. These four Epistles without Philemon are the core of the doctrine of the Church.

Number of verses in Gal. Eph. Phil. Col. - - - 503          Number of verses in Philemon - - - - - - - - 25

Number of "thee, thou, and thy" in 4 Epistles- 17            Number of "ye, you, and your' in 4 Epistles- - 327

Number of "thee, thou, and thy" in Philemon- 25            Number of "ye, you, and your" in Philemon- - 3

So, 12% of the verses in the Philemon have "ye and you". 100% of the verses in Philemon have "thee and thou". PHILEMON WAS WRITTEN TO ONE MAN. IT IS A VERY PERSONAL BOOK. And, 3% of the verses in the Epistles have "thee and thou". 65% of the verses in the Epistles have "ye and you". THE FOUR EPISTLES WERE WRITTEN TO THE WHOLE CHURCH OF ALL AGES.


"ye, you, your, yourselves, we, us, and our" versus "thee, thou, thine" in the Apostolic letters:

Personal pronouns [ thee, thou, thy, thine type ] - - - 1430

Collective pronouns [ ye, you, your, us, and we type ] - 5000

The Apostles clearly taught the Church as a Body, not individually !




The saints are "called" into the Church, the Body of Christ. Saints are not called to stand individually. 2 Peter 1:10 Wherefore the rather, brethren, give diligence to make your calling and election sure: for if ye do these things, ye shall never fall:

Romans 1:7 To all that be in Rome, beloved of God, called to be saints: Grace to you and peace from God our Father, and the Lord Jesus Christ. [ Cf. I Corinthians 1:2. ]

Calling and election is of the Church as much as of the individual believer, in fact, it is very hard to prove, by correct use of pronouns, that the saints are individually "called" or "elected". This explains why we must never talk to a sinner about election. It will only confuse him until he is in the Body.

Over the nearly 2000 years of the Church's work in this earth we have come to see that most nations have heard the Gospel and have been "churched". For this reason many to whom we witness tell us they are "Christians". How can we test this in our day. The pronoun application is very helpful here.

The "Thee- Thou" test: They MUST have had a "Thee-Thou" experience. This is based on a good number of texts where salvation is passed on the personal pronouns. Here are a few:

Romans 10:9 That if thou shalt confess with thy mouth the Lord Jesus, and shalt believe in thine heart that God hath raised him from the dead, thou shalt be saved.

John 11:26 And whosoever liveth and believeth in me shall never die. Believest thou this?

Acts 8:36 And as they went on their way, they came unto a certain water: and the eunuch said, See, here is water; what doth hinder me to be baptized? 37 And Philip said, If thou believest with all thine heart, thou mayest. And he answered and said, I believe that Jesus Christ is the Son of God.

Acts 16:31 And they said, Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and thou shalt be saved, and thy house.

The "Ye-You" test: Those who profess Christ WILL be faithful in the local church:

Hebrews 10:25 Not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, as the manner of some is; but exhorting one another: and so much the more, as ye see the day approaching.

Those who forsake the assembling of themselves with the saints and are not sick or chastened by God are not saved. Why? Jude 1:18 How that they (the Apostles) told you there should be mockers in the last time, who should walk after their own ungodly lusts. Jude 1:19 These be they who separate themselves, (from the local church, the "you" above) sensual, having not the Spirit.

1 John 2:19 They went out from us, but they were not of us; for if they had been of us, they would no doubt have continued with us: but they went out, that they might be made manifest that they were not all of us. (The "They" are damned, the "us" are saved)

You can see above that those who are true believers have the Holy Spirit who never leaves them. And, true believers never leave the Lord's Church, therefore; these who abandon the Body of Christ were never born again. It is time for us to face up to this because some of our loved ones are on their way to Hell. Are we going to believe their claims to salvation?

He who claims to be born again and stands away from Bible believing Christians is a blasphemer. The local church is the physical manifestation of the whole Body. Christ died for the people, not brick and mortal. We are not talking about "church attendance" as defined by many preachers who are just lusting to keep the numbers up and the cash flow high. We are not only talking about the universal Church either, that is, the world of born again saints.

Jesus said, Matthew 18:20 For where two or three are gathered together in my name, there am I in the midst of them. This is why Hebrews 10:25 is in the plural. Born again people LIKE to be with other born again people. If some local church offends you, so what? Keep moving-- keep looking-- you will find saints somewhere to gather with, even if you have to meet at the local cafe.

The "one body" is not a finger alone. The "one body" is not a loner hiding out somewhere. Christ will showcase his Bride in the open in the plural, as here:

Ephesians 2:16 And that he might reconcile both unto God in one body by the cross, having slain the enmity thereby:

Ephesians 1:22 And hath put all things under his feet, and gave him to be the head over all things to the church, 23 Which is his body, the fulness of him that filleth all in all.

Those who are born again cannot show forth God's greatness unless they are gathering and showing His salvation collectively, even two or three at a time:

1 Peter 2:9 But ye are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, an holy nation, a peculiar people; that ye should shew forth the praises of him who hath called you out of darkness into his marvellous light;

Philippians 1:3 I thank my God upon every remembrance of you, 4 Always in every prayer of mine for you all making request with joy, 5 For your fellowship in the gospel from the first day until now;

1 John 1:7 But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship one with another, and the blood of Jesus Christ his Son cleanseth us from all sin.

The only question left is, do you love these people enough to confront them?  Eight of these "thee thou's" are quotes from the Old Testament.

The rest are personal salutations to individuals or where a single person is addressed such as Paul rebuking Peter.


Only the King James Bible can give you the doctrinal advantage of knowing who "YOU" are.  What dummy would purposely obscure this advantage?  Answer:  Virtually every seminary professor in the USA-- PhD notwithstanding.

Let us define our terms again:  PhD--  "Piled Higher and Deeper"


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 onging 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.

At breakfast one morning, 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" 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.

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.