I Hate “You”!

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I seriously HATE the English word “you” and all its ambiguity! It is hard enough figuring out the context of someone saying, “Hey you!” is it to an individual or to the group? For me, this context is even harder to discern in writing. I do not believe we were created to think predominantly in terms of a singular “you.”

Every language that I am aware of (other than English) has a plural you. I am not suggesting we should return to using, “thee,” “thou,” “thine,” etc; however, if this were not an issue we would not have regions of the USA that say, “y’all,” “all y’all,”  “yous guys,” “yuns,” “you all” etc.

Eight years ago when I was serious about learning Spanish, I decided the best way to learn was to read the Bible. I was stunned when I read Jeremiah 29: 11-13 and that “I know the plans I have for you”  was ustedes which is a plural “you.” While God certainly knows the plans He has for us as individuals, this passage’s original audience, intent and meaning was to Israel, the plural remnant. [Pastors who insist on preaching this out of context, could at the very least focus on the plural rather than the individual.] This was a defining moment for me and the Lord started me on a quest to learn about the Bible in its original form.

This is both an OT and NT frustration for me. A few months ago I was reading Philippians 1 and I was amazed by how many times the  “you” and “your” Paul was addressing was plural (vv. 3-10; 19-30). Most who read this blog are not wired like this (myself included). We think of “you” first as being singular/individual rather than plural.

The Psalms are rife with plurals. One of my MOST favorite Psalms and verses that I quote when I am excited is “Oh taste and see that the Lord is good” (Ps 34:8). Both taste and see are plural imperatives meaning that all of David’s audience is commanded to taste and see the Lord’s goodness!  In verses 13-14 it switches, “Keep your tongue from evil and your lips from speaking deceit. Turn away from evil and do good; seek peace and pursue it” are singular (ESV, emphasis mine). David is now addressing the individual.

We truly need the Holy Spirit’s wisdom and discernment when it comes to reading the Bible! Whenever you read the word “you” I would love if you would take a moment to find out if the “you” is plural or singular. Then, I would love for you to dig in further and learn if the “you” is addressing Israel, an individual and/or the church. This small three letter word has serious theological implications and consequences. I have suggested that English Bible translators make a footnote when a “you” is plural. At the least it would inform the reader how the “you” was meant in the original text.

The singular and plural is a tension that God has created us to live with. The sooner we realize this, the better off we will be as Christians both individually and corporately!

I look forward to reading any and all comments and feedback from Y’ALL!

Father God, You care about individuals and You care about Your Bride as a whole. Lord, help those who are in a more individual culture to read the Bible with community in mind. For those in a pluralistic culture, help them read the Bible knowing that You do ascribe worth to individuals and that You have created each person uniquely with their own set of gift(s) to glorify You and build up Your Body. Lord, help us to be a people who is truly known for our love. Lord, help us to discern “you.” Help us to know what is for Israel, for individuals and for the church. Lord, thank You for this individual reader and thank You for this blogging community as a whole. In Jesus’s Name I pray. Amen.

 

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Blue Collar Theologian

My name is Mandy Sweigart-Quinn, I live in Lancaster, PA and I am a “Blue Collar Theologian.” I love Jesus! I am passionate about His Word (The Holy Bible)! I come alive when I can encourage others in their walk with Jesus (whether by writing or speaking). As a “Blue Collar Theologian” it is my aim to live/practice/work out my Christian hope with sincerity, authenticity and genuineness. As a “Blue Collar Theologian,” I strive to meet people right where they are (“Incarnational Theology”). I graduated in May 2019 from Capital Seminary and Graduate School with a Master's in Biblical Studies. In the Fall I will begin working on my PhD in Biblical Studies from the same Seminary. I am a passionate, excited and enthusiastic person! I love flowers, sports and sunsets. Since January 2, 2018 I have had the privilege of being married to Nathan.

15 thoughts on “I Hate “You”!”

  1. Great post, Mandy. Reading the Bible in context is becoming more and more a lost practice these days, primarily because pastors in general are not doing it. I’m with you regarding Jeremiah 29:11, which I hardly hear any pastor teach in the context of Israel. I think it’s all right to make a personal application, but the original context must be taught first!

    Regarding the use of the word “you,” your suggestion is fantastic: English Bible translators should make an asterisk indicating whether it is singular or plural.

    I know that I will start looking at the word “you” (in the Bible) differently from now on!

    Great job!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Hi David! WOW thank you so much for your encouragment! Your approval really matters to me and I am humbled! The Sunday before I left Florida, the Pastor preached on Jeremiah 29:11 and it took everything I had not to scream, “NO! Don’t do it!” Regardless of one’s stance on Israel today does NOT change the fact that this passage is for Israel! Context is king, application second. I am so tired of the “what does the text mean to me?” reading/interpretation of the Bible. I will continue to suggest and petition Bible translators to indicate plural and singular “you” until it happens or the Lord calls me home! You, David, are a boon to my spirit! Blessings, Mandy

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Excellent contextual point. Text without context is pretext. In this case, that three-letter word makes all the difference, depending on the target reader. Good call, Mandy. Which translation do you enjoy the most? I use different versions depending on why I’m reading. God’s grip – Alan

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Hi Alan! Thank YOU for your time and feedback. In my personal quiet time I use the NLT. From the moment I was introduced to this translation in April 2010, I felt the Word really came alive. When I am studying (whether personal or school) I use the ESV. When I do a text comparison I use the ESV NIV NASB NLT and CSB, it is really interesting to see the similarities and differences! Thank you Alan for reading! Blessings, Mandy

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Oh, my. This is fascinating. Really puts a new light on these verses and probably could with many others. I took two years of Spanish in school ( Back in the covered wagon days. 😊) but I never thought of how differently it could cause a verse’s perspective to be reading a Bible in another language! My middle son is currently taking Spanish and an avid Biblical scholar. I’ll have to encourage him to read a Spanish Bible with me and see what we discover. Thanks for sharing this with us. Blessings! ☺️

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Yep, the King James has its problems, but it does express the singular and plural “you” more clearly. Since moving to the South, I’m learning to speak Southern. I’ve learned that “y’all” around here seems to be the singular, and if you want to make it plural, it’s “ALL y’all.”

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Hi Ann! I agree with you about the KJV. What part of the South are you in if I may ask? I have some really good friends in TN and they have always stressed it is “y’all” not “all y’all” but, North Carolina and parts of Texas say, “all y’all.” I am from PA and some areas says “yuns” I am not a fan of that word/sound, but at least I know who they’re talking to! Thank you, Ann, for your time and comments! How are you decorating your yard for Halloween this year?! YOU, Ann are one neat lady! Love and blessings, Mandy

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    1. Hey Jim! I would totally buy that! I just read Psalm 100 in my God time and all the imperatives are plural: Psalm 100:1–3 (ESV): “Make a joyful noise to the Lord…” “Serve the Lord with gladness!” “Come into his presence with singing!” “Know that the Lord, he is God!” We are to be doing this together. I don’t know about you Jim, but it grieves my heart that English is so undefined. In every other language it would be clearly marked that this is plural, “y’all make a joyful noise…” “y’all serve the Lord” “y’all come…” Thank you Jim for taking time to read and comment! Blessings, Mandy

      Liked by 1 person

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