Plural You: On The Use And Abuse Of The Second Person -- By: Gerald W. Peterman
BBR 20:2 (2010) p. 201
Plural You: On The Use And Abuse Of The Second Person
Moody Bible Institute
Some biblical scholars claim that the use of the second-person plural mandates that the action or activity described refers not to individuals but only to groups. By way of critique, this understanding of the force of the second-person plural is reductionistic, is based on a fallacious argument, makes abrupt shifts in number incomprehensible, and is not supported by examples inside and outside the NT. By way of an alternative reading, this article asserts that the second-person plural, the second-person singular, and the third-person singular contain different levels of rhetorical directness. All three can be used to call for individual application.
Key Words: second person, plural, singular, verb number
Some biblical scholars claim that the use of the second-person plural mandates that the action or activity described refers not to individuals but only to groups.1 Three examples follow.
First, in The New Chosen People of God, William Klein sets out to clarify NT teaching on election. Drawing on their Hebrew heritage, NT writers envisioned election to salvation as corporate. Previously, God chose Israel; in the messianic era God has chosen the church.2 After surveying the OT, Qumran, Apocrypha, Pseudepigrapha, the rabbis, and the entire NT, Klein concludes, “Our study of the New Testament documents demands that we view election to salvation corporately. We found in the synoptics, John,
BBR 20:2 (2010) p. 202
Peter, James, and Paul evidence that God has chosen a people—a community. Plural language dominates election texts.”3
In 2 Thess 2:13, Paul says, for example, that “God chose you [ὑμᾶς] as the first fruits for salvation.”4 Therefore Klein specifies that this was God’s choice, not of individuals but of a “group of Christian believers.”5
It is important to stress here that Klein’s framing is totally disjunctive and based primarily on morphology. First, there is no middle ground, no third way, between the corporate and the individual. Since, in his view, election to salvation is corporate, individual election is not simply being deemphasized; it is being completely excluded. Second, Klein’s framing is based primarily on ...
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