Know YE Not?

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:

Original frontispiece of the 1611 King James Bible
  1. It’s not copyrighted, so you don’t have to bother with version references and footnotes about copyrights.
  2. 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.

About Paul Pavao

I am married, the father of six, and currently the grandfather of two. I run a business, live in a Christian community, teach, and I am learning to disciple others better than I have ever been able to before. I believe God has gifted me to restore proper foundations to the Christian faith. In order to ensure that I do not become a heretic, I read the early church fathers from the second and third centuries. They were around when all the churches founded by the apostles were in unity. I also try to stay honest and open. I argue and discuss these foundational doctrines with others to make sure my teaching really lines up with Scripture. I am encouraged by the fact that the several missionaries and pastors that I know well and admire as holy men love the things I teach. I hope you will be encouraged too. I am indeed tearing up old foundations created by tradition in order to re-establish the foundations found in Scripture and lived on by the churches during their 300 years of unity.
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