"Y'all are the Light of the World": A Dallas Professor Translates the Bible Into Texan

Categories: Religion

According to Wycliffe, the global authority of Bible translation, the complete scriptures have been rendered in some 518 languages and dialects as of 2012. There's a Bible in every language you can name, plus hundreds that you can't. Speakers of Esperanto have their own version, and Klingons soon may.

In what can only be explained as a case of gross negligence, the Good Book has never, as far as we can tell, been translated into Texan. A previous effort to do so stalled a few chapters into the New Testament.

But now, behold. John Dyer, a Dallas Theological Seminary professor, has filled Bible translators' glaring omission, creating a web app that automatically replaces the second-person plural "you" with "y'all."

For example, here's what Jesus really said during his Sermon on the Mount:

Blessed are y'all when people insult y'all and persecute y'all, and falsely say all kinds of evil against y'all because of Me. Rejoice and be glad, for y'all's reward in heaven is great; for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before y'all.

Y'all are the salt of the earth; but if the salt has become tasteless, how can it be made salty again? It is no longer good for anything, except to be thrown out and trampled under foot by men.

Y'all are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hidden; nor does anyone light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on the lampstand, and it gives light to all who are in the house. Let y'all's light shine before men in such a way that they may see y'all's good works, and glorify y'all's Father who is in heaven.

Dyer explains why he developed the app, which is available as a Google Chrome plugin or on the web, explains why he developed the app:

[J]ust about any time I teach from the Scriptures I have to point out a place where the English Bible says "you," but the original Hebrew or Greek indicates you plural rather than you singular. This means the original author was addressing to a group of people, but a modern English reader can't detect this because in common English we use "you" for both singular ("you are awesome") and plural ("you are a team"). This often leads modern readers to think "you" refers to him or her as an individual, when in fact it refers to the community of faith.

Here in Texas (and in the Southern US more generally), I tell my audience that we have a perfect equivalent to the original Greek/Hebrew second person plural: "y'all" the contraction of "you all." This of course always gets me a good laugh. And this is not unique to the Southern US - many other areas of the English speaking world also have spoken forms of you plural such as "you guys," "yinz," and "you lot."

This happens quite frequently, as it turns out: 2,698 times in the Old Testament and 2,022 time in the new, according to Dyer. And Dyer thinks it's important to point these instances out to emphasize when the Bible is addressing the community rather than the individual.

"[S]ince the Protestant Reformation, we've tended to emphasize the salvation of the individual and, with inverse proportion, downplayed God's work in the Church as a community of people," he writes.

Now that God can address his people using the proper "y'all," the pendulum's bound to swing in the opposite direction.

(h/t Christian Post)

My Voice Nation Help

Thanks for posting this. However, just a small correction: I'm not a professor at DTS. I'm a web developer, and my title is technically "Executive Director of Communications and Educational Technology".

Otherwise, thanks for posting the Sermon on the Mount. A first on the Observer?


Well, if you're gonna do somethin' like that you have to go all the way with it.  Include some "Aint", replace that whole smiting thing with, "God'll  snatch ya bald and hide your hair"; the phrase, "...and it was good." from Genesis, should be repalced with, "...and it was so good it'd make ya wanna slap your grandma"; and, the last supper would've been chicken fried steak, mashed potatas (yes, that's how ya say it) and some really good black-eyed peas with some good rolls and butter and tea so sweet it'd make any little heathen sweet again. 

mcdallas topcommenter

"Jesus wept."

Jon Eckberg
Jon Eckberg

A Texas professor needs to concentrate on doing something more useful.

James080 topcommenter

I dawned on me years ago that there are an awfully lot of Texans who seem to spend all of their time conjuring up new and different way to embarrass the rest of us.


They need to make it monosyllabic, and add bunches of "likes" and "I means".


"...indicates you plural rather than you singular"

So Dyer replaced you with y'all.  But that doesn't help the singular vs. plural issue.  In true Texan singular is y'all and plural is all y'all.   Ain't that right?


So in this version of the bible, does Samson say "Hey y'all, someone hold my beer and watch this!" before collapsing the temple of Dagon?

Lonnie Beene
Lonnie Beene

To make it truly Texan/Southern, make sure you put in unnecessary apostrophes.

Myrna.Minkoff-Katz topcommenter

The now archaic "ye" would be preferable to "y'all".


@Jon Eckberg He did something useful.  He reminded us that the message and the entity to which that message refers remain universal.  He also reminds us that the language is not the message. 


@James080 Let's see....which is more regrettable to their respective states of origin:  a mildly amusing rework of the Bible or Jersey Shore and Snooki?  Seems to me Texas comes out way ahead on that one. 

RTGolden1 topcommenter

@cynicaloldbastard I'm glad you said this.  This is the way 'yall' was explained to me as well.  Not being raised in Texas, or even in the South, I try not to wade into discussions about southern grammar.  It does fascinate me though.


@James080 @russell.allison1 We are, we are better than New Jersey.  And, we're better than Georgia-they gave us Honey Boo Boo.  And everybody is better than Mississippi.  There is a sort of backwoods grace and dignity about the guys in Swamp People and Duck Dynasty so we may be running behind Louisiana right now. 

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