In current English the relative pronoun “who” refers to humans persons (more broadly, intelligent beings), as in:
- I know the athlete who took State in the pole vault.
- Women who visit this blog are outnumbered by men.
- Angels who help us have important work.
The relative pronoun “which” refers to non-humans persons:
- The dog which woke me up with its barking last night belongs to our neighbor.
- The ice which built up in the river near us is now all gone.
Yet there are some instances in the KJV where “which” refers to a human person, for example:
- And blessed be the most high God, which hath delivered thine enemies into thy hand. And he gave him tithes of all. (Gen. 14:20)
- How much more abominable and filthy [is] man, which drinketh iniquity like water? (Job 15:17)
- My help cometh from the LORD, which made heaven and earth. (Psalm 121:2)
- I can do all things through Christ which strengtheneth me. (Phil. 4:13)
- And the angel which I saw stand upon the sea and upon the earth lifted up his hand to heaven (Rev. 10:6)
At other times the KJV translators used “who” to refer to a human person, as in:
- And the children of Israel remembered not the LORD their God, who had delivered them out of the hands of all their enemies on every side (Judges 8:34)
- Rest in the LORD, and wait patiently for him: fret not thyself because of him who prospereth in his way, because of the man who bringeth wicked devices to pass. (Ps. 37:8)
- As thou knowest not what [is] the way of the spirit, [nor] how the bones [do grow] in the womb of her that is with child: even so thou knowest not the works of God who maketh all. (Eccl. 11:5)
- The people answered and said, Thou hast a devil: who goeth about to kill thee? (John 7:21)
- For the Son of God, Jesus Christ, who was preached among you by us, [even] by me and Silvanus and Timotheus, was not yea and nay, but in him was yea. (2 Cor. 1:19)
It is jarring to my ears when “which” refers to a human person. How does it impact you?
Does anyone happen to know why “which” was sometimes used in the KJV to refer to a human person? Does anyone know if “which” was acceptable at some stage of the English language for referring to a human person?