I’ve got two lessons under my belt in my new GD teaching gig, and it’s going fine. Being the teacher has forced me to actually, you know, read the scriptures (when I’m a student in class I tend not to actually read the assignments), and I’ve been noticing a lot of little things that most class members aren’t aware of or that just sort of slip by them, which if properly appreciated I believe could enhance the experience of reading that venerable version. So I thought I’d share some of those thoughts here and solicit your additional insights.
1. People get confused about archaic second person pronouns. But if nothing else, just remember this rule: th- forms are always singular (thou, thee, thy, thine) and y- forms are always plural (ye, you, your, yours).
2. In modern English we don’t use the pronoun as part of the imperative. So Isaiah 40:1 would be “comfort, comfort my people.” Jacobean English put the pronoun after the imperative: “Comfort ye, comfort ye my people.” And since ye is a y-form, we now know that imperative there is plural, not singular.
3. Italics in the KJV are not used for emphasis.
4. Modern translations are set up in paragraph form rather than the verse-centric presentation in our 1979 LDS KJV. The paragraph is a more natural thought unit for understanding the text. But there is some help for the reader that most people don’t even notice: the KJV has pilcrows (paragraph signs) designating paragraphs. Paying attention to those can help you see that a group of verses belong together as a thought unit. (For some unknown reason these symbols cease somewhere in the book of Acts.)
5. The KJV block-verse presentation obscures the fact that Isaiah was a poet. For my first class I took the text of Isaiah 28 and put it into a word processor and then manually reformatted it in poetic lines so the class could see this clearly. Imagine taking an English poem, smushing it together in a block text format, and people trying to read it as if it were historical narrative. It’s not gonna work!
6. When you see the word Lord with an initial capital only, it is a generic term for Lord, usually adonai. Conversely, when you see that word printed in SMALL CAPS, it is a translation of the divine tetragrammaton, YHWH, which is the actual name of God, “Yahweh” or “Jehovah.”
7. This isn’t specific to reading the KJV. But one thing I’ve noticed is that people read so quickly, when they encounter a relative or a pronoun they don’t stop to figure out what the antecedent is. A “which” or a “he” is referring to something or someone else, and unless you figure out what that is, you’re not going to understand what you’re reading.
Those are just some things I’ve thought about the last couple of weeks as I’ve been reading the KJV for the first time in a while. What other reading tips do you have to help improve the experience of reading our common English Bible?