Did Jesus talk like the King James?

I recently heard someone say “Jesus didn’t talk like the King James”.

Scripture does not record Jesus speaking like any English translation of the Bible.

The languages of scripture — Hebrew, Aramaic, Greek — all have distinct personal pronouns that differentiate between singular and plural.

The second person singular pronouns of thee, thou, thy, and thine which were in common in use in Old English (Anglo-Saxon 5th-12th Centuries), and fell out of common use in Middle English (12th – 15th Century) and are not commonly used in Modern English (15th Century onward).

Even after falling out of common use, these singular pronouns were used in the major English translations of Bible up through the Authorized Version of 1611 (a.k.a. King James Bible) to preserve the Greek and Hebrew distinction between singular and plural personal pronouns and adjectives.

Here is a breakdown of how these pronouns are most commonly used:

Case Singular Plural Usage
Objective Thee You When the object of the sentence
Nominative Thou Ye When the subject of the sentence
Possessive Thy Your Commonly used before a noun that begins with a consonant/consonant sound (like the article, “a”)
Possessive Thine Yours Commonly used before a noun that begins with vowel/vowel sound (like the article, “an”). Also used when indicating that something is “absolute and understood”

Mockers often criticize the use of the “thees and thous”, saying it makes it difficult to read.

Far from difficult, just remember this simple rule of thumb:

T=Singular

Y=Plural

Easy right?

Now, keep in mind, every word is significant.

Luke 4:4 – And Jesus answered him, saying, It is written, That man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word of God.

So, exactly how DID Jesus speak?

Take for example His discussion with Nicodemus in John 3:7

ESV KJB
Do not marvel that I said to you, ‘You must be born again.’ Marvel not that I said unto thee, Ye must be born again.

We can see that the KJB preserves the singular and plural distinction in pronouns, where the ESV does not.

Also, compare Matthew 26:62-64

ESV KJB
And the high priest stood up and said, “Have you no answer to make? What is it that these men testify against you?” But Jesus remained silent. And the high priest said to him, “I adjure you by the living God, tell us if you are the Christ, the Son of God.” Jesus said to him, “You have said so. But I tell you, from now on you will see the Son of Man seated at the right hand of Power and coming on the clouds of heaven.” And the high priest arose, and said unto him, Answerest thou nothing? what is it which these witness against thee?  But Jesus held his peace. And the high priest answered and said unto him, I adjure thee by the living God, that thou tell us whether thou be the Christ, the Son of God.  Jesus saith unto him, Thou hast 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.

and compare Luke 22:31-32

ESV KJB
“Simon, Simon, behold, Satan demanded to have you, that he might sift you like wheat, but I have prayed for you that your faith may not fail. And when you have turned again, strengthen your brothers.” And the Lord said, 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.

In the KJB it is clear that the “you” in verse 31 is plural and the four pronouns in verse 32 are singular.

The ESV, NKJV, NIV, and other modern translations all lose the singular/plural distinction that was present in the actual words Jesus spoke.

So, technically speaking, because the King James Bible preserves this singular/plural distinction, Jesus DID speak more like the King James than any of the modern English translations.

Leave a Reply