These four questions pertain to the King James Version Bible: (1) Why is it that, in the Old Testament, the word “Lord” is sometimes printed as “Lord” and other times as “LORD”? (2) Why are some of the words italicised? (3) Why are some of the verses marked with the ¶ symbol? (4) Why are there so many different second person pronouns, i.e., Thou, Thee, You, Ye, etc.?

(1) The two ways in which the word “Lord” appears in the Old Testament distinguish between two Hebrew words. When it appears as “Lord,” it refers to the Hebrew Adonai, which means “Lord” or “Master.” On the other hand, when it appears as “LORD,” it refers to the covenantal name of God, namely, “Yahweh” or “Jehovah” (yhwh). This name is probably derived from “I AM” (Ex 3:14), and therefore stresses the self-existence of God. When the Hebrew Old Testament was translated to Greek in the Septuagint, yhwh was generally rendered either as kurios (Lord), or theos (God), with the former clearly being preferred. The reason for this preference was probably because the Jews generally read yhwh as Adonai as they consider the name of God to be too sacred to be pronounced, and so after a while no one was sure how it was originally pronounced. The King James translators followed the same rationale, though more consistently, to translate yhwh as LORD, with the full capitalisation to distinguish it from Lord (Adonai). The name “Jehovah,” which is used by many English speakers and some translations such as the NASB, is derived by anglicising YHWH to JHVH, and then adding the vowel sounds of Adonai as it is pronounced in English.

(2) The italicised words in the KJV are the words that are added by the translators to smoothen the reading in English though the words are not found in the original manuscript. Most modern versions do not have this feature because their translation technique is one of equivalence or even paraphrase, in which the meaning or thought of the original Hebrew or Greek is rendered into English. The KJV, however, uses what is known as formal or complete equivalence, where each Hebrew or Greek word is translated with an Equivalent English (or sometimes phrase). Naturally, some rearrangement of the words will be made so that the sentences make sense in English. At the same time, some connective words that are implied but not expressed in the Greek or Hebrew will also be inserted for clarity. These words are italicised to warn the readers that they are not in the inspired original. For example, Psalm 51:12, if translated literally, reads: “Restore to me the joy of your salvation and a spirit willing/free uphold me.” The KJV, with its formal equivalence, renders it: “Restore unto me the joy of thy salvation; and uphold me with thy free spirit,” but warns the reader that “with thy” are inserted and interpretative. Compare this with the NIV, which paraphrases the verse without acknowledgement of subjective interpretation: “Restore to me the joy of your salvation and grant me a willing spirit, to sustain me.” 

(3) The ¶ symbols are paragraph markings inserted by the translators or editors of the KJV to let you know where they think that a new thought is being introduced. For some reason the person(s) who did the paragraphing did not finish the job and so from Acts 20:37 onwards, the mark does not appear anymore. 

(4) The different second person pronouns found in the KJV are useful features of Old (or Elizabethan) English, which more accurately translates the numbers and cases of the original Hebrew and Greek. When you see a second person pronoun beginning with the letter “y,” realise that it is a plural pronoun, whereas if it begins with “t,” it is a singular pronoun. Thus, in the book of Philemon, “thee” (accusative case, e.g., v. 4); “thou” (nominative, e.g., v. 17); and “thy” (genitive, e.g., v. 5) refer to Philemon himself; whereas “you” (dative, e.g., v. 3) and “your” (genitive, e.g., v. 22) refer to the church that met in Philemon’s house. Other common pronouns not used here are “you” (accusative), “thine” (genitive) and “ye” (nominative). Can you see how this ‘archaism’ in the KJV is actually very helpful for English readers?