The King James Bible (1611) is among the most influential books in the world. Many words are archaic and have not been in use since the work’s first printing. Although many English-speaking readers and English Language School (ELS) students run into problems understanding words and their meanings, the KJV is still read today by a majority of evangelical Christians.
One of the most fundamental problems in reading the KJV are the words “thou” and “ye”. Both mean “you” when it’s used as a subject, but the difference between is “thou” is singular and “ye” is plural.
THOU: “Thou” is used throughout the Bible. It is the singular subject meaning “you”. Some examples come from the 10 Commandments:
Thou shalt not steal- You will not steal (Exodus 20:15). Thou shalt not kill.- You will not kill (Exodus 20:13). Thou shalt not commit adultery.- You will not commit adultery (Exodus 20:14). Or… thou shalt eat the herb of the field;..you will eat the herb of the field (Genesis 3:18).
There are many “Thou shalt”s (You will) and “Thou shalt not” (You will not, or You won’t) because God was instructing people morally how to act. So, get used to reading “Thou shalt”. In the past tense, thou is used with the verb + “th”: “Thou” is almost always used in the present tense with a verb’s medieval form such as: Thou art, thou speaketh, thou doeth, thou goeth, thou seeth, thou drinketh, thou sayeth.
But, in the past tense, thou is used with the verb + “st”: Then Abimelech called Abraham, and said unto him, What hast thou done unto us? and what have I offended thee, that thou hast brought on me and on my kingdom a great sin? thou hast done deeds unto me that ought not to be done. And Abimelech said unto Abraham, What sawest thou, that thou hast done this thing? (Genesis 20:9-10)
Thou is used with possessive adjectives: thy (your) or thine; and direct and indirect objects: thee (to you): And Pharaoh’s daughter said unto her, Take this child away, and nurse it for me, and I will give thee thy wages. (Exodus 2: 9)
But with thee will I establish my covenant; and thou shalt come into the ark, thou, and thy sons, and thy wife, and thy sons’ wives with thee. (Genesis 6:18.)
YE: This means “you” in the plural form. It follows the modern forms of verbs, possessive adjectives, and direct and indirect objects. The verbs also follow most of today’s verb forms.
“Behold now, I have two daughters which have not known man; let me, I pray you, bring them out unto you, and do ye to them as is good in your eyes: only unto these men do nothing; for therefore came they under the shadow of my roof.” (Genesis 19:8).
“And make ye marriages with us, and give your daughters unto us, and take our daughters unto you. And ye shall dwell with us: and the land shall be before you; dwell and trade ye therein, and get you possessions therein.” (Genesis 34:9-10)
Whenever Jesus speaks to His disciples, his crowd of followers, or the Pharisees, He always said, “Ye” to them: Ye are the salt of the earth… (Mathew 5:13) or Ye are the light of the world.(Mathew 5:14). But seek ye first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness; (Mathew 6:33)
Remember for now that “thou” represents the singular “you” and the “th” is present in all forms including: thou, thy, thine, thee + verb endings. The plural “you”, or “ye” in all of its forms starts with a “y”: ye, your, you.
In “Comprehending the King James Bible, Part 2” more explanations about the difficulties of reading this work will be discussed.