Thee and Thou-ing

No, not God.

This is the interchange between Jesus and Pilate. I read the Passion narrative from St John's Gospel today in the Geneva Bible which uses the and thou to distinguish second person singular from second person plural. What immediately struck me was Pilate and Jesus both used the second person singular for each other. I checked back and it is from the Greek and also in Luke's Gospel where the same scene is recorded. While this is technically correct, in many cultures you would only use it with someone who you were familiar with (this includes modern French and Korean). Any of the idea of what the cultural use of the second person singular was in Koine Greek?

Jengie

Comments

  • EnochEnoch Shipmate
    Jengie, I've no authority for this, and it's something I've wondered about, but I've a feeling I've heard somewhere that in Koine Greek the second person singular plurals were used 'grammatically' i.e. singular if speaking to one person and plural if speaking to more than one. The translations in the Geneva Bible and the AV followed that convention. That in itself might have been confusing to C16 and C17 English speakers, who chose when to use 'thou' and 'you' in much the same way as text book modern French speakers do.
  • BroJamesBroJames Purgatory Host
    This is consistent with Paul’s use of the second person singular in addressing both Festus and Agrippa in Acts (ch 12)
  • DavidDavid Shipmate
    Did Pilate and Jesus converse in Greek?
  • BroJamesBroJames Purgatory Host
    My guess is that they probably did. Koiné Greek was the lingua franca of the region. Both would have spoken it. Pilate would probably (rightly) assume that Jesus didn’t know Latin, and it’s unlikely that Pilate would have been fluent in Aramaic - though I could be wrong about that.
  • BasilicaBasilica Shipmate
    Enoch wrote: »
    Jengie, I've no authority for this, and it's something I've wondered about, but I've a feeling I've heard somewhere that in Koine Greek the second person singular plurals were used 'grammatically' i.e. singular if speaking to one person and plural if speaking to more than one. The translations in the Geneva Bible and the AV followed that convention. That in itself might have been confusing to C16 and C17 English speakers, who chose when to use 'thou' and 'you' in much the same way as text book modern French speakers do.

    This is correct.

    The use of the second-person plural to address a superior figure is known as the "majestic plural". It is not uncommon in the Old Testament, but does not appear at all in the New Testament, which is reflected in the C16/17 translations.

    This has had some odd consequences. The RSV ended up using "thee"/etc. only for God, which was a weird choice, as it was not at all reflective of the Greek and essentially created a brand-new majestic singular. Meanwhile the Quakers, who refused to use the majestic plural at all, found themselves addressing everyone as "thou" in the name of equality, while ignoring the fact that the rest of the world had started using "you", making their stand for equality redundant.

    Gotta love English.
  • "Bend the knee, say thou and thee, and keep your hands off me."

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Uc80G6Yzu04
  • Basilica wrote: »
    Enoch wrote: »
    Jengie, I've no authority for this, and it's something I've wondered about, but I've a feeling I've heard somewhere that in Koine Greek the second person singular plurals were used 'grammatically' i.e. singular if speaking to one person and plural if speaking to more than one. The translations in the Geneva Bible and the AV followed that convention. That in itself might have been confusing to C16 and C17 English speakers, who chose when to use 'thou' and 'you' in much the same way as text book modern French speakers do.

    This is correct.

    The use of the second-person plural to address a superior figure is known as the "majestic plural". It is not uncommon in the Old Testament, but does not appear at all in the New Testament, which is reflected in the C16/17 translations.

    This has had some odd consequences. The RSV ended up using "thee"/etc. only for God, which was a weird choice, as it was not at all reflective of the Greek and essentially created a brand-new majestic singular. Meanwhile the Quakers, who refused to use the majestic plural at all, found themselves addressing everyone as "thou" in the name of equality, while ignoring the fact that the rest of the world had started using "you", making their stand for equality redundant.

    Gotta love English.

    Thanks, Basilica and Enoch, that is precisely the information I wanted. I do not think I want to take it further but others feel free to take this thread how you want.

    Jengie



  • Did the Koine Greek of the NT have a distinction between formal and informal second person pronouns? Or only between singular and plural second person pronouns?
  • HarryCHHarryCH Shipmate
    Is it possible Jesus and Pilate spoke through a translator?
  • BroJames wrote: »
    My guess is that they probably did. Koiné Greek was the lingua franca of the region. Both would have spoken it. Pilate would probably (rightly) assume that Jesus didn’t know Latin, and it’s unlikely that Pilate would have been fluent in Aramaic - though I could be wrong about that.

    Yes, Koine Greek was the administrative language of all of the Eastern Roman Provinces until the reign of Diocletian, c. 300 years after the death of Jesus of Nazareth.
  • BroJamesBroJames Purgatory Host
    Did the Koine Greek of the NT have a distinction between formal and informal second person pronouns? Or only between singular and plural second person pronouns?
    The suggestion in Enoch’s post is that it was the latter.
  • EnochEnoch Shipmate
    Basilica wrote: »
    ... This has had some odd consequences. The RSV ended up using "thee"/etc. only for God, which was a weird choice, as it was not at all reflective of the Greek and essentially created a brand-new majestic singular. Meanwhile the Quakers, who refused to use the majestic plural at all, found themselves addressing everyone as "thou" in the name of equality, while ignoring the fact that the rest of the world had started using "you", making their stand for equality redundant.
    I'm speaking from memory here, I haven't checked and I might be wrong, but I also have a sort of recollection that the RSV, being put together by people who did not use the second person singular in their normal speech, may contain one or two of the same sort of grammatical solecisms with it that those who try to write new liturgical texts in 'traditional language' are given to making.
  • EnochEnoch Shipmate
    Second post

    Yes, Koine Greek was the administrative language of all of the Eastern Roman Provinces until the reign of Diocletian, c. 300 years after the death of Jesus of Nazareth.
    Didn't it, or later variations of it, carry on being that until the final end of the Eastern Empire in 1453?

  • Gee DGee D Shipmate
    It was certainly the language of educated Romans until the papacy of Gregory the Great and then ceased for no apparent reason.
  • Enoch wrote: »
    Second post

    Yes, Koine Greek was the administrative language of all of the Eastern Roman Provinces until the reign of Diocletian, c. 300 years after the death of Jesus of Nazareth.
    Didn't it, or later variations of it, carry on being that until the final end of the Eastern Empire in 1453?

    Broadly, yes. Diocletian made Latin the administrative language of all of the empire, but that didn't last very long.
  • I'm pretty sure Koine doesn't have the difference between respectful and intimate second person forms, the way German does. Otherwise I must have been dreadfully asleep for the years I studied Greek! No, it's like modern English--one form for everybody, regardless of status.
  • I live in Yorkshire where they will still thee and thou a child if you are badly behaved.
  • MooMoo Kerygmania Host
    The distinction between the second person singular and the second person plural is sometimes very useful. In the KJV translation, Luke 18:22 says, 'Sell all that thou hast...'

    The modern translations say 'you have', which does not make it clear that Jesus was talking specifically to the rich young ruler.
  • HarryCH wrote: »
    Is it possible Jesus and Pilate spoke through a translator?
    Is is possible that the conversation wasn't overheard by anyone who'd write it down or recall it such that it entered into biblical canon. Isn't it likely that it was invented by pious people who wanted to record a "must have been"? divinely inspired by not fact?
  • Ok. So Koine Greek had singular and plural second person pronouns, but no distinction between formal and informal second person pronouns.

    Does anyone know how different modern languages that do have distinctions between formal and informal second person pronouns translate "you" in different places in the Bible? (Like Spanish, French, Italian, German, Portuguese, etc.?) What about languages like Japanese that have much more elaborate distinctions in verb forms, not just pronouns, depending on who one is speaking to?

    How do people speak to God, to Jesus, and how do God and Jesus speak to them? What about with kings, priests, Pharisees, scribes, Pilate, tax collectors, soldiers, etc, and in encounters between people of different social classes, different ethnicities, and encounters with outcastes? Or between parents and children? What about in the Epistles, the Prophets, the Psalms, the Wisdom Books? Are pronouns and formal/informal methods of address used differently in the Old Testament vs the New, or at different points in Biblical history?
  • BroJamesBroJames Purgatory Host
    If the Lord's Prayer is anything to go by, then German, French, Danish and Dutch (which AFAIK all have the formal/informal second person usage) all address God in the 2nd person singular (i.e. informally).
  • Oh, it gets worse than that. In Vietnamese, you've got markers that address 1) whether the person is older or younger than you, 2) whether they're a relation, 3) their gender, 4) probably other stuff I haven't figured out. You get the lovely fun of choosing correct pronouns (was the son who worked in the vineyard younger or older than the one who said "yes" but didn't go?) without the biblical input to let you know whether to use anh ay or em ay. You get to make indirect theological comments on Jesus' relationship to the disciples (we use "thay" rather than "ta" for his pronoun, because a teacher would use the comfortable "thay" while big.scary.divine.figure would use "ta"). You get to decide whether Paul (for instance) was addressing the whole church or just the men (anh em vs. anh chi em). And you get to decide just how snooty people are being when they address an assembly (qui vi vs. anh chi em).
    We just pray and let the Holy Spirit sort it out.
  • Ach, I forgot the "we" which includes "you" (chung ta) vs. the "we" which excludes "you" (chung toi).
  • Gramps49Gramps49 Shipmate
    How to address God? Daddy. Says so in the Koine rendition of the Lord's prayer.

    I think the reason why Koine Greek faded away is because Latin eventually became the lingua franca of the whole empire. Many parts of the empire would not have known Koine Greek.

  • EnochEnoch Shipmate
    Gramps49 wrote: »
    ... I think the reason why Koine Greek faded away is because Latin eventually became the lingua franca of the whole empire. Many parts of the empire would not have known Koine Greek.
    I don't think that's correct. I also think it's making an assumption that only the Western half of the Empire and its successor polities matter.

    The Eastern half, which carried on after 476 AD, continued to use Latin for a time for official purposes. Most of Justinian's Code, for example, used Latin, but that was in part because it was collecting together writings that were largely in Latin. But for most other purposes, the Eastern Empire used Greek. And just as knowledge of Greek died out in the west, so knowledge of Latin died out in the east. And in spite of the Muslim attacks from the C7 onwards, it remained streets ahead of the backward west until the crusaders wrecked it by sacking Constantinople in 1204.

    Obviously, Greek changed over the centuries, just English has done, but modern Greek is descended from koine Greek, just as modern English is descended from the English Chaucer wrote in.
  • Gee DGee D Shipmate
    Enoch wrote: »
    Gramps49 wrote: »
    ... I think the reason why Koine Greek faded away is because Latin eventually became the lingua franca of the whole empire. Many parts of the empire would not have known Koine Greek.
    I don't think that's correct. I also think it's making an assumption that only the Western half of the Empire and its successor polities matter.

    The Eastern half, which carried on after 476 AD, continued to use Latin for a time for official purposes. Most of Justinian's Code, for example, used Latin, but that was in part because it was collecting together writings that were largely in Latin. But for most other purposes, the Eastern Empire used Greek. And just as knowledge of Greek died out in the west, so knowledge of Latin died out in the east. And in spite of the Muslim attacks from the C7 onwards, it remained streets ahead of the backward west until the crusaders wrecked it by sacking Constantinople in 1204.

    Obviously, Greek changed over the centuries, just English has done, but modern Greek is descended from koine Greek, just as modern English is descended from the English Chaucer wrote in.


    James Keifer has it that Greek was the language of the educated classes in Rome until the pontificate of Gregory the Great, 590 - 604, when it suddenly stopped. There appears no reason for that.
  • The other thing is people in Israel today are often fluent in over three languages. monoglots, such as typical Brit (including largely myself), are not a particular common factor outside of the Anglosphere.

    Jengie
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