Texas Bible Preview

Texas Bible (plugin): Fixing the Second Person Plural Problem One Website at a Time

TExas Bible Example

Download Google Chrome Extension Try Now in BibleWebApp

KERA, Dallas’s NPR affiliate, covered this: Southern-Style Scripture And Other Technological Leaps Of Faith

Texas Has What English Lacks

As a preteen on my first visit out of the South, I remember hearing giggles from some people on the New York Subway whenever I spoke. Since I grew up in a large city, I knew that I didn’t have a traditional Texas twang, so it took me a while to realize what was so funny – my use of the word “Y’all” to refer to a group of friends.

Fast forward 20 years, and just about any time I teach from the Scriptures I have to point out a place where the English Bible says “you,” but the original Hebrew or Greek indicates you plural rather than you singular. This means the original author was addressing to a group of people, but a modern English reader can’t detect this because in common English we use “you” for both singular (“you are awesome”) and plural (“you are a team”). This often leads modern readers to think “you” refers to him or her as an individual, when in fact it refers to the community of faith.

Here in Texas (and in the Southern US more generally), I tell my audience that we have a perfect equivalent to the original Greek/Hebrew second person plural: “y’all” the contraction of “you all.” This of course always gets me a good laugh. And this is not unique to the Southern US – many other areas of the English speaking world also have spoken forms of you plural such as “you guys,” “yinz,” and “you lot.”

A few weeks ago, I decided to see how many times this happens. It turns out there are at least 4,720 verses (2,698 in the Hebrew Bible and 2,022 in the Greek) with you plural translated as English “you” which could lead a reader to think it is directed at him or her personally rather than the Church as a community.

So I initially set out to develop a plugin for a Bible software project that would convert all “You plurals” to “Y’all” for my Bible project. I liked it so much I decided to create a Google Chrome extension that does the same thing for some popular Bible websites (youversion.com/bible.com, biblegateway.com, biblehub.com).

Texas Bible – Google Chrome Extension

If you’d like to try to the plugin, here’s the URL: Texas Bible Extension

When the plugin is running, here’s what it looks like on YouVersion.com and BibleGateway.com

YouVersion.com example

 

BibleGateway.com exampleNot Just for Texans

As I mentioned, the Southern US is not the only place to have a spoken version of the second person plural. Pennsylvania (Pittsburgh) has “yinz,” the UK has “you lot,” and many Americans say “you guys” to refer to mixed gender groups. So I made all these selectable allowing you to read the any English version as it would sound read to your regional congregation.

Once the extension is installed in Google Chrome, you can go to the Options area and select which second person plural version you like and see all the variants (some of which I had to make up like the Reflexive rendering of Old English “Ye”).

Texas Bible - Options

 

Why, Why Did You Make this?

And now here’s the fun part. Why in the world would someone do this? Here’s a few reasons:

1. For Fun and Joy

I enjoy the programming gifts God’s given me, I like to tinker with the Bible, and I like to learn new programming techniques such as making a browser extension which before this I had never tried.

2. Commentary on The Individual vs. The Community

On a more serious note, it seems that since the Protestant Reformation we’ve tended to emphasize the salvation of the individual and, with inverse proportion, downplayed God’s work in the Church as a community of people.

There are, of course, many reasons for this, but I think that two technologies (i.e. human inventions) have exacerbated the issue: (a) The technology of the book which encourages us to encounter Scripture textually in isolation rather than orally in a group; and (b) The technology of the English language (again, a human creation) which doesn’t have an agreed upon second person plural and therefore discards or hides important biblical data.

I can’t do much about the first issue, but the “Texas Bible” extension does work to overcome the second. Here’s a few examples of the human community emphasis in Scripture:

And God said, “Behold, I have given y’all every plant yielding seed that is on the face of all the earth, and every tree with seed in its fruit. Y’all shall have them for food. (Gen 1:29, tESV – Texan ESV)

For I know the plans I have for yinz, declares Yahweh, plans for welfare and not for evil, to give yinz a future and a hope. (Jeremiah 29:11, pESV – Pittsburgh ESV)

…Work out your guys’s salvation with fear and trembling;  for it is God who is at work in you guys, both to will and to work for His good pleasure. (Phil. 2:12-14, usESV)

To me, it’s a very different Bible and one that tells us something important about the the body of Christ.

3. Commentary on Language

You might notice that in the second example above, the term “the LORD” has been switched to “Yahweh.” In English translation, the Hebrew name for God (the four letters YHWH) has been traditionally translated as “the LORD” (usually in small caps) in an effort to revere the name of God and carry on a a tradition of the Jews not to speak his name

However, I find that outside nerdy academic circles almost no one knows that “the LORD” (Yahweh) is different from “the Lord.” What was originally meant as reverence may now actually be unintentionally hiding something important about God himself. This leads to the question: Which is worse, not revering the name of God or not knowing it exists to revere?  In the Chrome extension this is an option, so you get to decide.

I, too, want to revere God and his holy name, and yet I also want to take this chance to point out how powerful language itself is in shaping what we see in the world. Just as Adam formed his world by naming the animals, we continually form and reform our world by what we words we assign to it (are you pro-life or anti-choice?). These words are not simple references or tags, they color what we see… and what we cannot see.

Bible translators, therefore, have an enormously complex task of trying to transfer whole worlds between cultures and inevitably things get “lost in translation.” Hopefully, this plugin will offer some options as to what we read.

4. Commentary on “Text” in the Age of Remixes

Penultimately, I am doing something rather radical here: I am messing with God’s word.

But is it really “God’s Word” which which I am messing? As we’ve said, isn’t a translation already that but also more?

This means I am only taking the work of translation one step further. But what right do I as an individual have to remix, reuse, and change someone else’s hard work? Zondervan/Biblia is free to update the NIV1984 to the NIV2011, but what about me? If I were to publish these changes, I could rightfully be sued. So what have I done exactly?

To answer this question, we must realize that in the Age of the Internet, a “text” is something very different than it was in the Age of Print. Texts are not fixed entities sitting on shelves, reflecting only the notes and highlights that one person has added. On the web, a “text” is something more like an oral story from the age before Print, in that anyone can take, change, and edit the “text,” and then reproduce it.

And yet, I have not even done that. I have only provided the tools to mass produce a change that is stored as data. Ah, what a strange new world in which we live where a “text” is not a “text”!

5. Commentary on Scripture Itself

Finally, I am deeply interested in talking about what exactly Scripture is and how mediums contribute to our understanding of them.

Is the Bible, “a love letter from Jesus” or a storehouse of “timeless truths” captured in chapters and verses? Is it the very words of God dictated through several different men or does it merely record events of revelation? Does it become revelation as we read it and does it have a single meaning in all ages or multiple meanings that expand with the canon? Is it like other books or it is somehow sanctified and holy? Can a nonbeliever study it the same way Christian do, or does the Spirit have an ineffable role in interpretation? Furthermore, is Scripture it something to be studied, proclaimed, and understood, or does it change us as we hear it spoken aloud in a community? Does any of this change if we hear a scroll read aloud, read a printed book in our own room, scan the text on our phones, or hear it on the radio in a closed country?

However you y’all answer these questions, I do hope you y’all like the tool, and it helps you y’all grow closer to the LORD Yahweh!

Published by

John Dyer

In my day job, I work at Dallas Theological Seminary, and at night I write Bible software for countries whose leaders could be called "overlords." This one time, I wrote a book about technology and Christian faith. You can find out more about what I'm up to at http://j.hn/.

129 thoughts on “Texas Bible (plugin): Fixing the Second Person Plural Problem One Website at a Time”

  1. I got so excited and laughed solidly for about 14 minutes that someone…
    A.) Noticed the plural
    B.) Actually wrote a Chrome plug-in to modify YouVersion

    Funny thing though… No one else here seemed excited when I shared this with them. All I got was rolled eyes, and “Ugh. Brad, you’re such a nerd!”

  2. Nice. Interestingly, though, “you” actually (historically speaking) already _is_ the plural form, the singular being “thou” (nominative) or “thee” (objective). Of course, back when those words were common, we would have used “ye” instead of “you” for the subject of a sentence as well. As you point out in your reasons for doing this, it is actually a helpful thing to be able to make the singular/plural distinction, and I wonder why the English language drifted away from having that difference built in…and apparently Texans and some other Southerners wondered the same thing, saw the need, and brought it back!

    1. To answer your question, over-politeness was the culprit. The King/Queen used the royal “we”, and people who wanted to butter up other people used the “royal you” (instead of thou) to refer to them. This eventually made its way throughout society. The French have a similar thing going on, but it stopped halfway. Personally I’d prefer to see the second-person singulars resurrected (and for that matter, the nominative ye).

  3. This is great! How did you do it specifically? Did you just build up a list of all verses that contained the plural you, and crossing-fingers hoped that those verses did not also contain instances of the singular you? Then with the text shown you could just check if any of those verses were displayed and do a blind search and replace within them? Maybe you should add a section to your post with how you did it.

    Also, I have a bugfix for Phil. 2:12-14a usESV. It currently reads:

    Work out you all’s salvation with fear and trembling.

    When it should read:

    Work out your-guys’s salvation with fear and trembling.

    :-)

  4. John, this is great! I’ve actually proposed a “y’all” translation to my friends before, but I never actually took the time to do anything about it. Thanks for this!

    And now we wait for a KJV-er to jump in about how his translation has always had the singular/plural distinctions.

  5. This is great, John. Beyond the chuckle that I get from this, it is really helpful. It wouldn’t be necessary if only the translators would place a “pl” or “sing” next to every “you”, but it’s much more readable as “y’all” and “you”. I just wish I could have this on iPhone.

  6. If I (secretly) installed the .js on a few church websites what would happen? I can just imagine folks reading along and suddenly seeing the [y’all] phrase….

  7. John Dyer, if Baptists ‘sainted’ folks, they would sure make you a saint! I’m from the South Plains of TX and now pastor in a Philly ‘burb. Can’t wait to use this!!

  8. I don’t care for the Bible, but it’s about damn time that people outside the South recognize that y’all is not just some funny word but it has a great function. Virtually, every other modern language has a seperate word for you (sing.) and you (pl.). It clears up some confusion.

  9. John, the New Testament commentary by Hendriksen and Kistemaker always made the distinction in translating you plural by spelling it with spaces between the letters ( as in y o u and y o u r). But as a Southerner, I’ve always read the Scriptures I preach with y’all substituted. Nice work.

    1. Ha! Yes, it was tough to come up with a memorable name. Somehow, “Second Person Plural Bible,” didn’t have quite the same ring to it. “YallVersion” was a close second :)

      1. ‘Y’allVersion’ is great.
        ‘Southern Bible’ would make me happy.

        Too much family in or from Texas to let the credit for this rest in the one state with independence and superiority issues. lol

  10. Question: how did you differentiate between the plural and singular you? Was it manual, a cross-reference to the Greek, or something else?

    1. Joel,
      I did searches on the Hebrew and Greek texts for verbs in the 2P form and pronouns in the 2P form (also Hebrew pronominal suffixes) and then created a list of the ~4,500 verses with a 2P form. I confirmed that in the Greek, none of the 2,022 verses with 2P also had a 2S which means that its very simple to just do a find/replace in just those verses with 2P.

      You can see the list of verses by viewing the source code on http://biblewebapp.com/study/js/docs/plugins.texan.js

  11. Hi John,
    I’ve been a fan of your work for a long time now, and today I went to use biblewebapp.com and noticed
    – first, that you’ve updated it and changed the name of the browser – nice update!
    – and second, “I am the Lord y’all’s God.” I thought the NASB had just gotten hijacked John Wayne!
    So then I jumped over to your blog and saw this post.. hilarious. I speak Hebrew and so this makes perfect sense to me.

    One idea that might be helpful is if you made a small pop-up explaining what was happening when you clicked the word – the green highlighting kind of begs you to click.

    I REALLY like the fact that you are including “Yahweh” instead of “the LORD.” Refusing to say His Name expresses (maybe creates?) distance between God and people. This distance is not usually seen in the OT. I personally feel that we were made for intimacy with God and each other, and even if we don’t say Yahweh/Yehovah exactly right – I think He enjoys it when we try to say His Name and begin to appreciate it’s meaning. We certainly assume so when we say “Jesus”!!!

    One note on the WLC on the new version of biblewebapp.com – I see you are overlaying texts of different colors, which include different elements. I’m sure you know this, but it does not line up well many times, like the third word in Lev 15:14 יקח. Also, copying and pasting has become impossible, because each word is copied four times. You may want to find a better solution for this.

    One last thing I noticed was that the chapters disappear when you turn off the titles. Because you have a separate button for chapters, I’m not sure you intended it to be that way?

    Keep up the great work. I think its awesome.

  12. John, I really appreciate the thought behind this, both theologically and practically — especially morphing the indefensible “the LORD” –> “Yahweh”. I love it!

    After doing a few tests with it I have a question, and a bug report (with screen captures) — what would be the best place to post these, your email? Thanks again for this snazzy tool.

  13. In years past, when I was teaching Greek 1, and I encountered ὑμεῖς or something similar, I would “interpret” it for my students in a New Jersey “youse guys.”

  14. I grew up with the King James Bible so, even though I know there is nothing really wrong with modern translations, they feel wrong to me. I’ve had people tell me I’m wrong and maybe I am but you can’t talk someone out of a feeling.

  15. ya’ll dun a gut jab. I like your thought process on this interesting change. As a Biblical studies major anything like what you have done can give God’s Word deeper meaning. Look at where the Bible has come since the first version of the KJV. As better understandings of ancient languages developed the revisions of the Bible are far better to the original intent of the writers. Who knows maybe Jesus was really a Texan?

  16. Thank you for providing a tool to renew an awareness of the need for thoroughness in knowing what the LORD would have us know through the scriptures which He has inspired by His Holy Spirit. It is encouraging to know that you care.
    Does it not seem ironic that many who profess to love the Lord Jesus Christ generally scoff at precision and clarity with regard to the inspired Word of GOD, yet would be distraught if merely a single digit (perhaps a one or a zero) were missing in their paycheck? No man can serve two masters.

  17. Hello John. I love this app and have installed it…to bad there isn’t an analog fix!!!

    I did notice that Phil. 4:4 on biblegateway doesn’t say “ya’ll rejoice” even though it is a second person plural form of the word for rejoice!

    Blessings!

  18. Thank you for this! And for restoring YHWH. I need to address my deity, and HerHis true name could not be pronounced by us anyway!
    Mostly though this is to say you’re contributing to hundreds of thousands already, and by the time I click ‘Post’, maybe millions. Thank you.

  19. Thanks John, this is just what I was looking for!
    By the way, if you ever feel like adding another variation, in Australia just plain ‘youse’ is the plural form of you, generally looked down on as being something that only very poorly educated people would use. My New Testament lecturer used to use it when reading passages. I kind of like the idea of Jesus talking the language of the looked-down-upon. And ‘youse’ has the advantage of being gender-neutral, too!

      1. Hi John,

        Unfortunately, I don’t think there are possessive terms. Australian’s have traditionally been regarded as being kind of lazy with our speech, so I think adding a possessive ‘s’ on the end of a word that ends with that sound already was too much effort. There is a reflexive: ‘yezselves’. As I though more about ‘youse’ I realised that, depending on the emphasis in the sentence, you would either say ‘youse’ (if the sentence emphasises the ‘you’), or a shortened word that is more like ‘yez’ if the emphasis is on one of the other words. It’s probably not going to be very helpful for your extension, but hopefully interesting anyway.

  20. This is just a suggestion… But if you would like to do this to a modern English Bible, I know one that is in the Public Domain and doesn’t care if you modify it, as long as you change the name of the translation once modified. I am speaking of the World English Bible. If interested in such a project, I would be glad to help in any way possible. Also, the Old Testament already uses Yahweh instead of “the LORD”.

    I think this extension is great! And theolically significant, both for plural 2nd pronouns and for restoring the name Yahweh!

  21. I’m from New Zealand and we use “yous” too.

    So I’d love it if you added a “yous” version, with two caveats:
    1. It should rightly be called Australasian rather than Australian.
    2. It should be spelt “yous” not “youse.” There are no standard spellings of course, and I’ve seen people spell it both ways. But the “e” makes no sense whatsoever. It’s probably added because of phonetic similarity to “use,” but “yous” has nothing to do with “use.” The “s” is added to pluralise the word, and no other words I can think of add “se” to pluralise.

    The full list of forms would be:

    Subject/Object: You
    Possessive determiner: Yous’s
    Possessive pronoun: Yous’s
    Reflexive: Yourselves (No need for a new form because this is already a plural distinctive. If you’re committed to changing “yourselves,” you could try “yous-selves”)

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  43. YES!!! Awe.Some!!! Thank you so much for this!

    Church friends and I talked about the need for a “Y’all Bible” over 20 years ago. About 5 years ago, my husband and a friend of his began work to apply the concept to Ephesians. Recognizing NIV-readers as those with the greatest need to understand the Biblical you-plurals, they approached Zondervan/Biblica, but to no avail. You found a brilliant way to avert that problem!

    I grew up in Oklahoma, and have long enjoyed the friendly Oklahoma/Texas rivalries, but I think I shall have to give those up entirely in honor of you, Texan brother. God bless you!

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