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Intensive Pronouns

Updated: Oct 14, 2021

Intensive pronouns, sometimes called emphatic pronouns, magnify the subject; they emphasis the antecedent. Myself, himself, ourselves and so on are also reflexive pronouns, but they function differently. (Reflexive pronouns reveal that the subject and object are the same; intensive pronouns highlight, intensify the subject–they emphasize the main character.)

There was a group discussion recently, with about a dozen folks participating, and they were using many bible versions. The question was: “What will heaven be like?” And the usual responses came out: unlimited chocolate, beautiful golf courses, no hospitals, etc. Guesses, hopes, and best wishes, but none so sure. The text used was Rev 21, describing New Jerusalem.

“…Behold, the tabernacle of God is with men…and God himself shall be with them…” (21:3).

The other versions said something like ‘God will live with his people’ or ‘God will be present with them.’ No intensive pronoun; no God himself shall be with them. If you take away the pronoun, the clause is still valid but the emphasis would be lacking: ‘God shall be with them.’

I spoke up: “ I know what heaven is like; God will be there. No, not just that, but the emphasis is God himself will be there. That’s what heaven is like.” The intensive pronoun himself highlights God’s presence over all (even pristine golf courses)!

Some other cases of this pure and accurate form of English are found in Gen. 22:8:

“…My son, God will provide himself a lamb…”

Yes, it would be technically correct to say ‘God will provide a lamb.’ But then the accuracy and the emphasis on the subject would be lost. God - verb - himself. Powerful.

‘Jesus Christ being the chief cornerstone’ – seems ok. Let me ask you, who is the chief cornerstone (Eph. 2:20)? You’d likely answer, correctly, “Jesus Christ.” But now, read the accurate version: “…Jesus Christ himself being the chief cornerstone...” – himself – emphasis on the subject, Jesus Christ. Good doctrine!

One more (but there are many in the KJV): “And I myself will fight against you with an outstretched hand…” (Jer. 21:5). The text could have been written, “And I will fight against you...”, but then the intensity, the personal emphasis of God himself, in his anger and fury, would not be fully communicated.

These are fine brush strokes that paint an incredibly detailed picture in our mind. What an awesome Bible we have!

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