Do you want a "thy" with that?

March 3, 2011

As I have been working on more “theological translations” of some
older prayers a brief conversation with a friend has kept popping up in
my mind:

“I find as I try to encourage people to read and learn ancient prayers that the thees, thous and thys are enough to discourage people from ever considering it.”

“Yes, but on the other hand, there are those who relish the ancient character of prayers so much that to remove the thees, thous and thys is sacrilegious.”

I still think most Protestants and Evangelicals are more willing to
read, study and learn about church history and liturgy if the language
has been modernized to a degree. As I modernize language, I always try
to keep the height or commonplace aspects of the language as my reading
understands it. Yet, are there people who enjoy the archaic language?
Are you one of them? Do you know one? I’d enjoy hearing from you if you
do, and why you do.

Originally posted at Everyday Liturgy.


Both, please, if thou wouldst

Thank you for the interesting post. I am one of the breed that still enjoys a smattering of thees, thous, and thys, but have also been very keen for decades on using a variety of translations (and even paraphrases--gasp!) when it helps convey meaning. I fell in love with the NIV when only the New Testament was available and still love that work. However, to this day I cannot bring myself to recite the 23rd Psalm or the Lord's Prayer in anything but KJV!

While I enjoy new translations, archaic language can be good stuff, too. I had fun preparing a note that focuses on KJV's use of the word "assuaged" when the waters of the Genesis flood receded. New translations are spot on, but "assuaged" includes an intriguing suggestion that God used the abating flood waters themselves to provide comfort. Does this language make some people run screaming into the night? Probably. But with the right audience in the right setting, it is a powerful lesson of looking for comforting, nurturing provisions from God in unlikely places when we feel helpless or hopeless on our own.

New translations always seem to be more useful when first introducing people to Bible study. After a while, though, a hunger grows to learn more about history and tradition. When this happens, tracing modern teachings to older texts helps construct a bridge to the past. When that bridge is in place, a deeper (or at least different) understanding of faith takes root. So I will gladly plant a new seed with new (contemporary) language, but won't hesitate to use older language when it helps connect people to their roots in the faith.

Spot On!


I agree fully with your last paragraph. I think an introduction to "archaic" language should happen as a disciple grows in knowledge of Christian history and tradition.

"a thy with that"

There is a beauty in the ebb and flow of language. It expands within the human breast in much the same way as music, and it can carry us to heights and depths that reach beyond our understanding.
I am among those who find empathy in the "thee's" and "thou's;" and other ancient soft or gentle phrasing; for me they infuse the "fear of the Lord" with an immanent intimacy that the vernacular cannot produce. More formal language may permit us to touch God, and, perhaps, each other in ways that might be offensive in vulgar terms of daily conversation. ceb

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