John Dyer, the director of web development at Dallas Theological Seminary, quite literally uncovered a problem of Biblical proportions. Realizing that some things really are lost in translation, he set out to create a useful plugin that takes the Christian scriptures and adds a little bit of Texas into the mix.
Dyer realized that a simple language issue could be hampering the way in which people understand the text, so he crafted a technological solution. In thousands of verses within the Bible, his simple plugin replaces the “you” plural with “ya’ll” — a common, southern method of referring to more than one individual.
In a recently-written blog post, Dyer explained his reasoning for creating what many might assume is a silly or comical Bible service. But, there’s a method to his madness.
See, the original Hebrew and Greek forms of scripture may, in fact, have been written in the you plural form rather than the singular. While some people might simply shrug their shoulders and utter, “Who cares?,” Dyer makes the point that understanding the difference could impact meaning.
Really, it all goes back to the complexities of the English language.
“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’),” he explained. “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.”
“Ya’ll” may seem foreign to some, but, according to Dyer, it satisfies the “perfect equivalent” to what one finds in the Greek or Hebrew versions of the Bible (“you guys” is another form of you plural). The Texas Bible plugin, which works with Google Chrome, also gives readers some additional options. He explains:
…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”).
It turns out that this “you” confusion happens in 4,720 verses (2,698 times in the Hebrew Bible and 2,022 times in the Greek), according to Dyer’s analysis.
To be clear, the tech guru’s efforts are being waged to be sure that people know the difference between what the book’s writers intended to be direct messages to individuals versus those means for groups of people.
“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,” he explained, noting that he’s attempting to right that wrong.
You can read more about the Texas Bible plugin on Dyer’s website.
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