Nice to Know Ye

Nice to Know Ye

I don’t use the King James Version. It was a great word-for-word translation in 1611 when it was published. But modern Americans don’t speak Elizabethan/Jacobean English and it is very difficult for most of us to grasp the meaning of phrases like “ye are straitened in your own bowels” (2 Cor. 6:12) and “quit you like men” (1 Cor. 16:13). We are thrown off by words with archaic endings, like “overcometh” (Rev. 3:12).

Yet, there’s a feature of the KJV that was quite helpful – clear indication of the plural “you.” In the old style, second person plural in the subject is “ye.” Modern English has completely lost that distinction, replacing everything with “you.” (Sometimes when it really matters, we must add words for clarification, like “you guys” up north, or “y’all” down south, or my personal favorite, “all y’all”).

Usually, the difference between singular you and plural you is easily spotted from the context, or really doesn’t matter. But there are a few places where it helps to know that the Bible words are in second person plural.

Where the Spirit Dwells

Do you not know that you are a temple of God and that the Spirit of God dwells in you? If any man destroys the temple of God, God will destroy him, for the temple of God is holy, and that is what you are (1 Corinthians 3:16-17).

Regardless of what the Bible teaches about the Spirit of God dwelling in individual Christians (Eph. 1:13-14, 1 Cor. 6:19), a personal indwelling is not the meaning here. The old KJV reads, “know ye not that ye are the temple of God…” The NLT also help make this plain, “don’t you realize that all of you together are the temple of God…”

Thus, Paul is depicting the church as a whole as the dwelling of God’s Spirit. God dwelt among Israel in the physical tabernacle (Exodus 40:34-38) and Jerusalem temple (1 Kings 8:10-11). Today, God dwells in a spiritual temple, the living stones of His church (Eph. 2:20-22, 1 Peter 2:4-5, James 4:5, John 2:19). 

Satan’s Target

“Simon, Simon, behold, Satan has demanded permission to sift you like wheat; but I have prayed for you, that your faith may not fail; and you, when once you have turned again, strengthen your brothers” (Luke 22:31-32).

I for the longest time assumed Satan was only after Peter. The NIV renders the meaning of the second person objective plural, “Simon, Simon, Satan has asked to sift all of you as wheat…” All the disciples were his targets. Perhaps Satan sought to destroy all the disciples by destroying the preeminent disciple. If so, that would reveal the stakes involved in Jesus’ admonition, “strengthen your brothers.” Perhaps Peter’s denial would threaten to lead them all further into disbelief, and his repentance was crucial to their recommitment. 

Extent of God’s Promise

“For I know the plans that I have for you,” declares the LORD, “plans for welfare and not for calamity to give you a future and a hope” (Jeremiah 29:11).

This verse is often proof-texted during major moments in a person’s life, like a graduation or a move. However, God is speaking to all the exiled Israelites. God certainly cares about each of us individually, but the truth is much grander in that God is directing human history toward redemption.

Jesus’ Audience

“I, Jesus, have sent My angel to testify to you these things for the churches” (Revelation 22:16).

Earlier, the angel addressed John personally (22:9). But here Jesus speaks to more than John. The CEV points out the plural, “I am Jesus! And I am the one who sent my angel to tell all of you these things for the churches.” This testimony was always meant for all of us!                                                                

 --John Guzzetta