In “proper” English, the word “you” can be used to refer to one person or to many. For example, I could tell my wife “I love you”, or at a concert a performer could yell to the crowd, “I hope you are ready for a great show tonight!”. But those of us who are from the south know better than to leave our “you” ambiguous. Even though it might make our middle school English teacher cringe, we use the word “y’all” whenever we address groups of people.
My Paw Paw used to joke that Paul must have been a southerner, because Paul liked to say “y’all” a lot. He’s right. The Greek language is similar to southern English in that they had a separate word for the plural “you”. The problem is, our English translations always use correct English grammar. That’s why our Bibles always contain the word “you” even when the Greek contains the plural “y’all.”
Y’all need to check out the “y’all version” Bible. Go ahead and google it. The “y’all version” is a free online Bible that converts the word “you” into “y’all” every time the plural word is used in the original Hebrew or Greek. At first it might sound funny when Jesus says to his disciples “Y’all’s Father knows y’all need before y’all ask Him. Y’all should pray, then, in this way.” But sometimes seeing that second person plural actually makes a big difference in how we understand the text.
Consider Paul’s teaching about the Holy Spirit in 1 Corinthians 3:16. The ESV reads, “Do you not know that you are God’s temple and God’s Spirit dwells in you.” What does that mean? I’ve heard this text used to defend the sanctity of each individual human life, or to teach that the Holy Spirit dwells in each person individually. But if we consult the “y’all version” we will notice that Paul is actually saying something else. The sentence actually reads “Do y’all no know that y’all are God’s temple and God’s Spirit dwells in y’all?”
Do y’all see the difference in the meaning? In the context, Paul is addressing divisions in the Corinthian church. His point is that divisions in the church oppose the oneness of God’s Spirit. Since “y’all” are collectively God’s temple, “y’all” need to start acting like it.
In our individualistic western culture, reading “you” instead of “y’all” can actually reinforce the “me first” attitude instead of challenging it. Using the “y’all version” can remind us that the Bible was not addressed to us as isolated individuals. It was addressed to “us” as communities of God’s people. For better Bible study, y’all should start using the “Y’all Version.”