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Why Which?

April 11, 2017

   A recurring criticism of the King James Bible has been the use of the word "which" in Philippians 4:13, I can do all things through Christ which strengtheneth me.  In our modern English we would say, "who strengthens me."  This has caused endless head scratching from the pundits.  I once heard a perfectly reasonable pastor announce that his study of the Greek language had unlocked why the King James translators used the word "which".  The implication was that "which" referred to the fact that Paul could do all things., not to Christ himself.   

     As usual, going back to the Greek or Hebrew to try to justify or attack the English of the King James Bible is unproductive.  The answer lies in something far more simple.  Whereas we would not use the word "which" to designate a person in modern American English, it was the established custom in 1611.  The bible is full of those instances and anyone who reads it regularly is quite comfortable with it.  

     And Lot also, which went with Abram, had flocks, and herds, and tents, Genesis 13:5.  The pronoun substituting for Lot in that passage is "which", not "who".  400 years of English readers have understood perfectly that Lot went with Abraham.  Another example that is perhaps dearer to the hearts and closer to home is the Lord's prayer.  Our Father which art in heaven, Matt 6:9 and Luke 11:12.    I have never yet heard of anyone who was confused as to whom the pronoun was  referencing in the Lord's prayer.  

     I once sat in a special meeting in a New Hampshire Baptist church brimming with men and women who wanted to separate themselves from all trappings of the administrative state.  I listened to speakers drone on with a litany of complaints about federal and state encroachment on their lives.  They all vowed a loyalty to the King James Bible and urged their listeners to embrace it rather than the state.  I sat dryly amused because the big verse on the poster behind them said, "Our Father who art in heaven".  Their theme verse was from another version.  No wonder such movements consistently fail, their leaders are as ignorant as those they assail.  

     It's time for preachers and bible readers to put their big boy pants on.  The ability to think and reason is sadly lacking in America.  Our forefathers who demonstrated a remarkable and laudable ability to do so were nourished on a King James Bible written as we find it with many rules of English established in the early 1600's.  "Which" is a perfectly acceptable pronoun to substitute for persons in King James English.  

     Only people with extensive education ever have trouble with it, which is an indictment on the quality of the education they received.  Pastor Ronald Cunningham of the Aliquippa Baptist Temple in Aliquippa, PA once said that the only education a young man really needs is enough to put groceries on the table, keep his own rear end clean, and to read a King James Bible.  Sadly, even that  minimal standard isn't being met.      

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