Today in the shower I got to singing that old charismatic chorus, “Know ye not, know ye not, ye are the temple?” I like singing the song, but most people have no idea what the temple is in 1 Cor. 3:16, nor that 1 Cor. 3:17 is not about smoking.
Those who know me know that I think the King James Version is good for two reasons:
- It’s not copyrighted, so you don’t have to bother with version references and footnotes about copyrights.
- It distinguishes plural yous from singular yous.
Otherwise I don’t recommend it, unless you just want to read it once to get a feel for the influence it has had on the English language and its idioms. It’s an average translation at best, and it is translated into a 400-year-old dialect. If you’re going to bother to translate the Bible from Hebrew, Chaldean, and Greek (or just Greek), you should really translate it into a dialect people still speak.
I’m off track again, sorry.
The point I want to make is that contrary to popular belief, “thou” is not a holy word.
It is a singular word.
“Ye” is a plural word.
So the really wonderful thing about the King James Version is that with it, you can determine, without any Greek lexicons or study aids, whether a “you” is singular or plural.
1 Corinthians 3:16-17 is a place where it really matters. Here is the KJV of that passage:
Know ye not that ye are the temple of God, and that the Spirit of God dwelleth in you? If any man defile the temple of God, him shall God destroy; for the temple of God is holy, which ye are.
I left out the italicized “temple” at the end of that passage because, in case you didn’t know, italicized words in the KJV are added to fill out the meaning of a sentence. I don’t see that the last word “temple” helps us know the meaning, so I left it out.
Anyway, notice the ye’s throughout the passage. Thou art not the temple of God, my brother. We are the temple of God.
It’s a fascinating passage. “Know ye [plural] not that ye [plural] are the temple [singular] of God?”
1 Corinthians 3:16-17 is right in line with the tenor of 1 Cor. 3. The discussion is about the ministry to the Corinthian church. Paul, Apollos, Cephas … no matter who does the building (the ministry) there in Corinth, God is the builder, and he will judge the workers. Paul laid a foundation, and anyone who comes along had better be careful to build with gold, silver, or precious stones. If he builds the Corinthian church with wood, hay, or straw, then his work will be burned up; completely lost.
Not only that, if his work is even worse that wood, hay, or straw—if he actually defiles the church of God—then God will destroy that minister.
So beware, teachers and ministers. If you minister poorly, building with a perishable rather than eternal materials, your work will reap you no rewards, but you will be saved. But if you defile the church of God … much worse. God will destroy you.
You can read more about this terrible situation in 2 Peter 2 and in Jude. God’s not very happy with those who defile the temple of God, which temple YE are.
Next time we’ll take a look at 1 Corinthians 6 and a similar passage there. The plurals and singulars are not so simple in that passage.