There is a new error to add to the list:
5. The second person singular pronoun is used as an informal pronoun, and therefore implies a more intimate relationship with God and the saints when we use it for them. This argument has some pedigree in that it may serve as justification for an RSV-styled usage.I will rebut the arguments in order.
- Thee/Thou is traditional liturgical English and therefore most appropriate for translating liturgical texts.
It is true that, historically, liturgical texts in English were produced using Thee/Thou because that was the language used in the predominant biblical translations. However, the majority of American Orthodox are not from English-language liturgical traditions. They are cradle Orthodox. Of the converts, a large chunk are from the Low Church and therefore are not necessarily in a liturgical tradition and certainly not necessarily Thee/Thou tradition. Of the ones that are from an English-language liturgical tradition, I presume a majority are former Catholics, which by no means implies that they are used to "traditional liturgical English" as such.
Further, a large proportion of the "traditional" liturgical English dates back to the 17th century. While it was archaic even then, it was still in living memory. Efforts at translating into an archaic style always fall short. If you are going to translate into an old style, go for the whole kit and kaboodle, using -eth and everything. However, cf my post yesterday on why this is a terrible idea, not just because the attempt at doing so will fail terribly, but because the text will be unreadable.
- The language of the liturgy should not be dumbed down.
Writing in a formal register can be accomplished without resorting to using Thee/Thou. The complex sentence structure of the Greek/Slavonic and the use of theological vocabulary usually prevents the translator from making things too simple, anyway.
- Thou/Thee has the potential to be more theologically accurate.
Indeed, this was Tyndale's motivation for using it. By his time, usage of it as a strict singular/plural distinction was dying out and a more French system was predominant - and "thou" itself was on the decline in general. He used it strictly as a singular/plural marker in his translation following the Greek and Hebrew and, later, the Authorized Version followed suit.
However, modern translators of liturgical texts introduce their own inaccuracies when they use Thee/Thou. Consider two different texts:
You descended...These imply different underlying texts and a translator will rarely choose the latter without some indication in the original text that this is a better translation. However, translators use Thou will always and only say, "Thou didst descend...". This is bad English and unidiomatic in the 16th century.
You did descend...
The mild confusion that may appear when using only one second person pronoun (You) rarely has semantic meaning. There are a handful, less than a dozen, places in the Bible where it makes a difference. Introducing an awkward new pronoun with its ugly verb conjugations hardly worth the hassle: a footnote in the Bible will do. If it's a text being read in church, I would be very concerned if the people have not already figured out that we believe in one God in three persons and are thus confused by one of the dozen ambiguous uses of "you" in the Bible where it really matters.
- Complete sets of liturgical texts exist in Thou/Thee.
This is the only one with the potential for relevance. However, a significant portion of the texts do exist in real English, and some of the texts in Thou/Thee are so horribly stilted as to be practically useless without correction.
- Thou is informal and personal.
Perhaps in the 16th century. In most dialects of English, it was dead by the beginning of the 17th century except in church, and then only because the books wanted to preserve singular/plural distinctions - not distinctions of familiarity. They also wanted an archaic feel, which sometimes led to erroneous usages in other areas - cf Tyndale botching the yes/yea no/nay distinction and Sir Thomas More botching his correction (this is another reason why I strongly recommend against intentionally archaic styles - you will get them wrong and the people correcting you will get them wrong). From that point on, the second person singular was not an informal, personal pronoun, but a special religious pronoun marked and set apart for sacred use. That is fine if that is what is wanted, but that is now what is argued for here.
So that makes a new argument:
- Thou is a special pronoun that marks the text as a special religious text for sacred usage.
It is certainly a cheap way to let people know that you're in church: they're singing, "Thou didst descend..." instead of, "You descended...". Therefore, you must be in church. Another cheap way to do this is to sing it in Slavonic. I submit that the fact that we are cantillating everything, are singing at all, and using words such as "ineffable" and "consubstantial" are pretty good markers of something that is set apart for God. It would be one thing if the use of the pronoun were colloquial, beautiful, and did not ever present any barrier to reading and comprehending the text, but it is not.
Still, if going this route, I would perhaps recommend using the RSV usage and what was once a standard OCA usage: using Thou/Thee for God, you for everybody else. This cuts down on the amount of Thou/Thee used, which is a benefit, while retaining it somewhere in a reasonable consistent fashion for those who feel they need it.
Anyway, the positive case for using You/Your is as follows:
- It is the English that everybody speaks and is therefore capable of being read and comprehended.
This makes it easier for everybody to read and comprehend, especially non-native speakers. Even for native speakers, reading aloud is a hard thing, singing from marked text is also very hard, adding another layer of complexity is enough to make either act "snag". How much more for your non-native population? Better to use contemporary English than the English of 500 years ago.
- Translations will be better.
The problem with writing in an English that you do not speak and that nobody has spoken for 500 years is that the translation will be unidiomatic. The Jordanville translations rely heavily on awkward constructions like "Do Thou Thyself". Every modern translation of liturgical texts I have seen overuses the "Thou didst descend..." construction. It occurs probably 100 times as often as it does in the Authorized Version with "thou" and in idiomatic contemporary English with "you".
- It sounds terrible read or sung.
Especially with all the "didst" constructions. But, generally, "-est" and "-dst" aren't particularly nice to have in read or sung texts. Fluent, intelligent native speakers of English stumble over these constructions much more than natural, idiomatic English.
- Using "Thou" creates distance, not informality.
"Thou" has not been used as a pronoun in standard dialects of English for 500 years. Rather than being an informal mode of address in English, it is the realm of the sacred. It is "set apart". Whatever meaning you get from that is your own, not an intrinsic part of using the pronoun. For most, it creates distance.