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Intensive Pronouns

November 1, 2017

 Understanding grammar, correct grammar, is an essential requirement to read the Scriptures correctly.  When we claim we ‘believe the word of God,’ we must realize that we believe the structure, the choice of words, the punctuation marks, and the order in which all the elements of written communication are assembled.  Therefore, although we have historically treated grammar with disdain (I speak for myself) we now relish it.   We realize it’s a vital in our understanding of God’s communication.   

 

And, so, we begin with a simple lesson about intensive pronouns: myself, himself, herself, thyself, itself, yourselves, and themselves.   (All are pronouns ending with self or selves.)  These tools add emphasis to the antecedent—any previously mentioned noun or pronoun.  And, to help us recognize an intensive pronoun, they are often teamed back to back with the pronoun they are emphasizing:        I myself, they themselves and so on.   They can also clarify gender: “She made his coffee herself.”  This declares that she alone made the man’s coffee; none else but her. 

 

“But he himself went a day’s journey into the wilderness…” (1 Kings 19:4).

 

We could remove the himself from that clause and the meaning would be unchanged, only the enhancement of his detachment from his servant would be lacking:  ‘But he went a day’s journey…’  

 

Adding the intensive himself confirms and highlights the previous sentence: “…and left his servant there.” (1 Kings 19:3).  The fact that he went on alone is emphasized. 

 

“Wherefore neither thought I myself worthy to come unto thee…” (Luke 7:7).

 

Again, we could remove the myself from his statement and the meaning would remain, but the drama of this man (who typically commands others, 7:8 ) appearing in person would be lost.   Adding the intensifier  myself enriches the narrative by painting a sharp and clear picture of this event. 

 

(The NIV, perhaps not surprisingly, by rewriting this clause, drops the intensive pronoun, and consequently dulls the description.)

 

“Who can have compassion…for that he himself also is compassed with infirmity” (Hebrews 5:2).

 

Again, we could remove the himself and the meaning would remain essentially intact— but we would lose the emphasis.  Furthermore, removing the stress, the urgency, that he himself replaces the old things would subtly undercut the doctrine of this epistle.   These intensive pronouns are there for a reason; let us recognize them and understand what they are doing.  

 

 

 

 

 

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