I write in response to an article in Vol. 93, No. 14 of the Standard Bearer [April 15, 2017] by Rev. Kuiper entitled “Psalter Revision: Governing Principles (3) Text (cont.).”
Depending on Synod 2017’s decision regarding the protest of a brother regarding the Psalter revision, this may become irrelevant, but I write regardless and will leave it to the discretion of the editor whether a response is warranted.
First, I wish to comment positively. I appreciate Rev. Kuiper’s articles regarding the principles the committee is following with the Psalter revisions. Breaking the principles down and providing examples has been very helpful in understanding what actually is going on with the revisions.
I write with concern as well. In the portion where he writes about archaic language, Rev. Kuiper writes they “stand ready to change them, as well as the word ‘ye,’ when they refer to people or places.” He goes on to give examples from Psalter #4. My concern boils down to this: Is changing this language a necessary change? Does this change benefit the church in the worship of God? In these cases at least, I do not think the change provides a benefit. It does not clarify the meaning. It does not make the sentence “flow” better.
It seems even detrimental, as the language of the Psalter currently is similar to that of the KJV, which language is beautiful and reverent. I dare say we all (members of the PRCA), as readers of the KJV, know the meaning of “ye” in these verses. I would argue that changing it should not be done when it does not provide a distinct benefit. Changing it just to change it because it is deemed archaic is unnecessary and, I would contend, detracts rather than benefits. In addition, an advantage of the use of this archaic language is the ability to distinguish singular from plural, something that is lost when changing to “you” and “your.”
I know our Psalter is not perfect, but I do have concerns. Changes in language bring to mind changes in the language of versions of the Bible and the language of prayer in the nominal church world, changes that seem never to have been for the better. So why make the changes if not needed? We are capable of understanding the language, even if it is deemed archaic.
Member of Wingham PR Church
I thank Mr. Hilt for expressing both his positive comments about Psalter revision, and his concern regarding the change of pronouns from the archaic “ye, thou, thee, thy” to the more modern “you, your.”
Mr. Hilt’s concern regards part of the mandate that the PRC Synod (and the synods of the FRC and HRC) gave its committee. Even before I was asked to be involved in this work, our synod was informed that updating archaic language would be included in this work, with one exception: “Replace when possible all instances of unfamiliar and archaic words. All pronoun references to the Lord will be retained in their Old English form” (Acts of Synod 2015, Art. 46, A, 3, a, 3, p. 46). The one exception implicitly made clear that other Old English pronouns would be considered for revision. Later, Synod 2016 approved this as one of the principles that guide the committee in its work: “Are there any archaic or unfamiliar words that should be replaced?”
Mr. Hilt’s basic question is whether this is necessary. For me to agree that this is unnecessary in every instance, so that we should not even face the question, would be to speak contrary to Synod’s wish and mandate. In my article to which Mr. Hilt responds, I was explaining how the committee is facing the question and implementing the principle where possible, without destroying the rhyme. (As an update from my previous SB article, the committee is now recommending to keep “thee” at the end of the last stanza of Psalters 237-239, precisely because to change to “you” would destroy the rhyme. Because of this, we are also recommending to keep all the archaic pronouns the same in those Psalters, so that we are not singing “you” and “thee” in the same song with reference to the same antecedent.)
Regarding Mr. Hilt’s point that the archaic pronouns help distinguish singular from plural, my response is that a pronoun usually has as an antecedent a noun, and to my knowledge that noun is found in the Psalter numbers. Whether the noun is singular or plural will help us know whether the “you” is singular or plural. I can appreciate that in some verses of Scripture, (as a case in point), the distinction between “thee” and “you” is important for an accurate understanding of the text. But in the revised Psalter, the antecedent will be obvious.
Rev. Doug Kuiper