"You" in Greek - singular or plural?

Discussion in 'Languages' started by bmdowns, Oct 8, 2017.

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  1. bmdowns

    bmdowns Puritan Board Freshman

    I do not know Greek - and occassionaly use simple resoueces to further investigate the meaning if I can (ie blueletterbible).

    Is there an easy way to determine whether "You" in the Greek is singular or plural? In English, I may say "you" to one person or "you" to many people and only the context would reveal the meaning.

    Is there a way to understand more fully the meaning in the Greek?
    A few examples: (I'm using the ESV)
    Plilippians 1:6 - "He who began a good work in you will bring it to completion" (should I think of this individually or as the member of Christ's body, the church? (i understand that Paul is writing to the saints in Philippi

    Philippians 2:12 - "Work out your salvation with fear and trembling" - is this an imperative that I should think of individually? or corporately? And is there a way from knowing by looking at the original greek? (i'd type if but don't know how to type the greek alphabet here

    Jude 21: "Keep yourselves in the love of God" - this is translated as plural. Is there a way for me to see that in the Greek or is it the context?

    It significantly changes the meaning and applicaiton of the verses, so I'm very hopeful to have a way to read these passages correctly.

    One website I found that may be helpful in answering my question is this one:

    Thank you!
  2. ADKing

    ADKing Puritan Board Junior

    The King James Bible keeps the singular and plural distinctions of the Greek words through its use of thee/thou/thy (singular) and ye/you/yours (plural). An easy way for you may be to refer to the KJV and spot the distinction in English. (Of course if you want to learn Greek, I wouldn't discourage that either--although that is significantly less easy :)).

    And yes, in the Greek language, you can tell by the word itself whether it is singular or plural.
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  3. TheOldCourse

    TheOldCourse Puritan Board Sophomore

    All of those instances are plural but I don't know how significantly that changes the application. These are epistles to churches, congregations of many people, but that doesn't prevent the passages from having application to the individual hearer or reader.
  4. bmdowns

    bmdowns Puritan Board Freshman

    This is far easier than I expected - I almost feel like I took the cheap way out. Thanks!

    Is this fail proof? Are there any neuter "yous" in the Greek that the King Jimmy is forced to translate as either singular or plural?
  5. bmdowns

    bmdowns Puritan Board Freshman

    Chris, (and anyone else - this is just as much a question as a statement) if the "you" is plural, does it not primarily have corporate application? When Paul says "He who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ - Phil 1:6", and that "you" is a plural (you all), it seems that Paul is thinking that the body corporately is being thought of, not the individual.

    Is it not the result of our individual, lone ranger version of western culture Christianity that we read it as a singular "you"; as if Paul is thinking of individuals when he writes to the church?

    The consequence of this individual reading is that it disregards the union we have we each other as a result of our union with Christ. This in turn would force us to apply the promise of God keeping us in verse 6 as individual people, but I think Paul is saying that Paul is protecting the church body - Christ's body, made up of individuals.

    This doesn't deny individual application, but it prioritizes corporate application.
  6. kainos01

    kainos01 Puritan Board Senior

    "Neuter" refers to gender, not number. With regard to number (i.e., singular or plural*), the Greek will always use one or the other, and this will be reflected as such in the KJV.

    * There was a dual number in Attic Greek, but it had disappeared by the time of NT koine.
    Last edited: Oct 8, 2017
  7. TheOldCourse

    TheOldCourse Puritan Board Sophomore

    It's not that simple. The plural actually is a recognition that the church corporate is a collection of individuals. When the corporate body is referred to directly, an impersonal singular pronoun is used (e.g. Gal 1:13). You must consider the context. When Paul writes to a church, he often defines it as the saints (individuals) in an given location and many of the exhortations in the letters can only be properly ascribed to the individuals within the church. The Western error sometimes is to emphasize the individual so much that the church is lost. When we think of the spiritual life of the individual saint as primarily in the context of their church we will be free of that error. Hence Ch. 25.2 of the Westminster Confession:

    ii. The visible Church, which is also catholic or universal under the gospel (not confined to one nation as before under the law), consists of all those throughout the world that profess the true religion; and of their children: and is the kingdom of the Lord Jesus Christ, the house and family of God, out of which there is no ordinary possibility of salvation.

    There is an opposite error that is equally as dangerous to emphasize the corporate to the loss of the individual. We see this in the "corporate election" motif of New Perspective on Paul proponents and their ilk.
  8. Dachaser

    Dachaser Puritan Board Doctor

    Try http://mylanguages.org/greek_plural.php
  9. KeithW

    KeithW Puritan Board Freshman

    A tool which identifies the exact form of a Greek word is the Interlinear Scripture Analyzer available at:
    For those interested in the KJV and TR look for ISA2 on the Download page.

    This tool though does not explain Greek grammar. The interlinear shows a very literal translation. Searches can be done either on Strong's numbers (root words, same as BLB) are on the exact form of a word. Attached is a screenshot of Phil. 1:6, and what you see when you click on the Greek word for "you".

    Attached Files:

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