A Bible for Y'all

June 05, 2013

A new app transforms biblical translations into a "Texan (Southern US)" The app changes biblical translations so that every time the text uses a second-person plural "you" it now reads "y'all." The app's creator explained why he made it:

...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.
This is a great idea! There are two wonderful aspects to this app. First, it puts the Bible in the vernacular of the people. A Bible translation is only really a translation if it is in contemporary language that people use and understand. The use of "y'all" will help people in the Southern part of the U.S. better understand and enjoy the Bible. And the app comes with an option to customize it for Western US ("you guys"), New York/Chicago ("youse"), Pittsburgh ("yinz"), United Kingdom ("you lot"), and others. Second, it helps separate the difference between the use of singular "you" and plural "you." Too often our American individualistic ideals lead us to interpret verses individually when the passages are actually supposed to bring communal meanings. Hopefully this app will help gives scriptures greater clarity and interest.