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Saturday, August 20, 2005

Can πατήρ mean 'parent'?

Andrew Dionne blogs that Vern Poythress says that Greek πατήρ cannot mean 'parent,' contra the revised entry for πατήρ in the latest edition of the BDAG lexicon.

It is clear, including to Dr. Poythress, that sometimes the plural, pateres, can mean 'parents.' But whether or not the singular can then mean 'parent' is the question. The answer determines whether or not πατήρ can ever be translated as 'parent' in an English Bible translation, at least one whose translators strive to have it be as accurate as possible.

What do you think?

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At Mon Aug 22, 07:30:00 AM, Blogger Peter Kirk said...

There is no evidence that I know of that any Greek noun can have a meaning in the plural which it cannot have in the indefinite singular. That is if the plural statement "All X's are good/bad" is correct, so also can the singular equivalent "Every X is good/bad". So, for example, if the plural "Our πατέρες pateres disciplined us" (Hebrews 12:10) can have the gender generic sense "Our parents..." (as in TNIV), then the same sense is applicable (in the same context) to "what υἱός huios is not disciplined by his πατήρ patēr?", Hebrews 12:7, which can reasonably be understood as "what child is not disciplined by their parent?"

At Mon Aug 22, 03:45:00 PM, Blogger Rich said...

Howdy, Peter. Can generalized statements prove something about a specific word? Even if the observation as stated ("no evidence that I know of that any Greek noun can have a meaning in the plural which it cannot have in the indefinite singular") were true most of the time, this does not guarantee that it applies in the specific use of a word, in this case πατήρ. Thus, my concern for accuracy (as is everyones' concern on this blog!) leads me to be more cautious in applying a general observation.

But as always, you (and Wayne and Mike and Dan and Mark and Trevor ...) cause me to think. And for that I am grateful.


At Tue Aug 23, 01:43:00 PM, Blogger Don said...

As I have meditated and prayed on this area, I believe Paul and others were writing for 2 audiences, believers and authorities. The authorities were concerned about anything that would subvert the public morality of the times, the family morality based on Aristotle's household codes. Believers would use the expansive meaning, but could point to the limited meaning to show it did not subvert Aristotle if pressed.

Therefore I think the best translation is to show both meanings as intended for different audiences.


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