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Friday, December 09, 2005

Yet more on gender and anthropos

Gerald Hiestand, on his iustificare blog, has posted on Gender and the Image of God: Another Run at anthropos. His posting focuses on the meaning of this one Greek word. Suzanne McCarthy has posted a response to this on her Powerscourt blog. It seems that Gerald, Suzanne and I are in agreement that the default or unmarked reference for anthropos is male, so that the word is not used for individual females or all-female groups. But I think we also agree that the word is not primarily male and does not indicate that the referent is necessarily male, and so can be used of mixed groups, and of individuals of unknown or indefinite gender.

Gerald concludes, from the point about the default reference, that anthropos should be translated "man". I accept that that would have been appropriate in English about 50 years ago, when "man" in English could be used rather similarly to anthropos. But I would argue that English has changed over the last 50 years to the extent that, at least for many speakers, "man" can no longer be used of mixed groups or of individuals of unknown or indefinite gender. This implies that "man" is no longer an appropriate rendering, except in cases where the referent is known to be male.

I would also disagree with Gerald's comments about Hebrew 'ish in Psalm 1:1. He implies that 'ish is necessarily a male only term, and so distinct from anthropos. To an extent he is correct; in general Hebrew 'ish corresponds approximately to Greek aner, and Hebrew 'adam to Greek anthropos. But 'ish also has a more or less gender generic sense "each, everyone", used most commonly in expressions like אִישׁ... אָחִיו 'ish... 'axiw and אִישׁ... רֵעֵהוּ 'ish... re`ehu, literally "each... his brother" and "each... his friend" and meaning "each other". It is at least possible that in Psalm 1:1 'ish is being used in something like this sense, and so gender generically.


At Fri Dec 09, 10:43:00 PM, Blogger Ted Gossard said...

Peter, Those on the side of the more "formal", "essentially literal" seem to insist on reverting to words that are no longer common in our vocabulary today. The ESV does this (and expressions too, like "I cannot tell" meaning something like- I don't know).

Granting Gerald his theological point (which I'm still not sure about with reference to gender and the Trinity) I would think more would be lost by miscommunication- in insisting certain terms that are more or less generic must be translated "man", than by simply translating them as we speak today-like "human" or "person" etc.

At Sat Dec 10, 07:01:00 AM, Blogger Ted Gossard said...

I guess our goal is to translate the meaning of the Scriptural text faithfully, yet in a way that corresponds to our own vernacular- or the receptor's vernacular. And the insistence of translating terms with some theological agenda in mind (my interpretation of what's going on) in the ESV seems to violate this kind of faithful translating, I think.

What they want to accomplish would be better taught than put in translation. Of course they'd say, whatever misunderstanding there may be in a receptor's text could be footnoted and taught so as to avoid misunderstanding.

Oh well, enough of my ramblings.

At Sat Dec 10, 07:04:00 AM, Blogger Ted Gossard said...

An example with my ref to ESV is where they translate anthropos as "man".

Thanks for all the interesting discussions going on here and over at iustificare.

At Mon Dec 12, 06:25:00 PM, Blogger Ted Gossard said...

Peter, sorry for all my above ramblings which really added nothing to your posting.

Thanks for the good interaction on anthropos, as well as on ish, etc.

It is a blessing to overhear you folks interacting on matters like this.



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