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Tuesday, January 31, 2006

Can women be entrusted with the gospel? - Part 2

The Greek word anthropos means 'person.' Its plural, anthropoi, means 'persons' or 'people.' The Greek word aner means 'man' and its plural, androi, means 'men.' Greek lexicons have stated these meanings for a long time. Greek anthropos can refer to a man, but from that we cannot conclude that the meaning of anthropos is 'man.' Similarly, the English word "person" can refer to a man or a woman, but when it does so that does not change the meaning of the word "person" to 'man' or 'woman.'

The Colorado Springs Guidelines (CSG) for translation of gender-related language recognize that anthropoi refers to people, not men, in gender-inclusive contexts in the New Testament:
5.In many cases, anthropoi refers to people in general, and can be translated "people" rather than "men." The singular anthropos should ordinarily be translated "man" when it refers to a male human being
The CSG were created by men opposed to the increasing use of gender-inclusive language in English Bible versions. Several of the authors of the CSG were on the ESV translation team. The CSG were followed by two English versions, the HCSB and ESV. Yet, as seen in our previous post, the ESV does not translate anthropoi as 'people' in 2 Tim. 2:2. Instead, anthropoi was translated as 'men.' We are left to assume, either that:
  1. The ESV translators simply copied the RSV translation, which they were revising, and overlooked revising RSV 'men' of 2 Tim. 2:2 to 'people,' or
  2. The ESV translators interpreted anthropois of 2 Tim. 2:2 to refer only to men, based on theological or exegetical considerations, or possibly (but I think less likely),
  3. The ESV translators used the word "men" in 2 Tim. 2:2 to refer to generic persons.
Had Paul wanted to state clearly in 2 Tim. 2:2 that the gospel was only to be entrusted to men, not women, he could have used the proper Greek dative for that, pistois andrasi 'faithful men.'

The HCSB also translates anthropoi of 2 Tim. 2:2 as "men":
And what you have heard from me in the presence of many witnesses, commit to faithful men who will be able to teach others also.
The NET Bible, also translated by complementarians who believe that women's roles should be different from men in ministry, however, correctly translates anthropoi as 'people' in this verse:
And entrust what you heard me say in the presence of many others as witnesses to faithful people who will be competent to teach others as well.
So does the ISV whose New Testament reflects the careful scholarship of Greek professor, David Alan Black, a conservative Southern Baptist who I would guess to be a complementarian:
What you have heard from me through many witnesses entrust to faithful people who will be able to teach others as well.
The HCSB, ESV, NET, and ISV are all recent translations. I assume that each was translated by men who are complementarians, believing that women should not be pastors. Yet the NET and ISV put Greek scholarship above their own ideology and translate anthropois correctly as 'people' in 2 Tim. 2:2.

Other recent versions do not follow the Colorado Springs Guidelines (all except the TNIV were published before the guidelines were formulated in 1997). These versions translate the generic meaning of anthropois in 2 Tim. 2:2:
Take the teachings that you heard me proclaim in the presence of many witnesses, and entrust them to reliable people, who will be able to teach others also. (TEV)

You have often heard me teach. Now I want you to tell these same things to followers who can be trusted to tell others. (CEV)

You've heard my message, and it's been confirmed by many witnesses. Entrust this message to faithful individuals who will be competent to teach others. (GW)

You should teach people whom you can trust the things you and many others have heard me say. Then they will be able to teach others. (NCV)

You have heard me teach many things that have been confirmed by many reliable witnesses. Teach these great truths to trustworthy people who are able to pass them on to others. (NLT)

And the things you have heard me say in the presence of many witnesses entrust to reliable people who will also be qualified to teach others. (TNIV; 'people' is a revision of NIV 'men')

and what you have heard from me through many witnesses entrust to faithful people who will be able to teach others as well. (NRSV)
I am thankful for Bible versions translated for people who speak current English which translate anthropoi as 'people' in 2 Tim. 2:2, a correct translation according to Greek lexical scholars. I am glad that both men and women can be entrusted to share the gospel with others.

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At Tue Jan 31, 11:43:00 AM, Blogger Suzanne McCarthy said...

Hi Wayne,

Before going any further it needs to be clearly stated that aner could also be used in the generic sense to refer to people as a mixed group. Aristotle quotes Homer saying that Zeus is the father of gods and men. It is clear from the context that aner meant people here, not males. This is acknowledged in the Liddell-Scott which says that aner also meant 'man' as opposed to gods.

There is other evidence that aner can be used as man is in English, generically. It can also imply status and citizenship; so anthropos, the ordinary man, slave, or peasant; and aner, the adult member of society.

Somehow the reference in Aristotle hasn't entered the Christian discourse, it is not discussed in P & G or other books that I know of. I would be very interested in hearing from others on this.

I would not say that this should affect how aner is translated, but one cannot say that any and all usage of aner excludes women.

At Tue Jan 31, 12:01:00 PM, Blogger KAT said...

Either way one interprets individual word renderings to be neutral, you can't escape the fact that the writer of the Pastorals isn't very gender inclusive.

1 Tim 2.11-15, for example, no matter how you render it, is unavoidable chauvinism. There's no exegetical or linguistic way around it.

The entire language of the Pastorals is an enigma as far as Christian ideals go, for that matter. Instead of the Roman/Galatian ideals of grace and faith, we instead get 3 letters with a strong emphasis on holiness, authority, and Greco/Roman propriety.

There's more to say on this, but I suppose you've all heard it before.

On a sidenote: I made a joke in part 1 of your series about me being a heretic, but that's all it was: A joke.

All I mean is that I'm questioning canonical authority -- I'm questioning Athanasian inerrancy, not Biblical inerrancy. I'm not too concerned about the exegetical or linguistic justifications for the letters of Timothy and Titus if I can't even be sure whether Paul wrote them not.

Then again, perhaps this is all irrelevant as far Bible translation goes. If so, my apologies..

At Tue Jan 31, 12:41:00 PM, Blogger Wayne Leman said...

Suzanne, yes, when I blogged this post I was aware that aner, or at least its plural, androi can have a generic meaning. My own sense is that the lexical meaning of anthropos is 'person' while the lexical meaning of aner is 'male adult.' But, either can have generic *reference*. So we get into the difference between lexical meaning and referential meaning.

I think that aner is much more masculine in meaning in Greek than is anthropos. aner often is in semantic opposition to gune 'woman.'

Do I have it basically right? Am I missing anything else?

At Tue Jan 31, 04:50:00 PM, Blogger Peter Kirk said...

Suzanne, are you aware of Ann Nyland's article Against Grudem: Aner and Masculinist Misprisions of New Testament Meaning? This supports your understanding of ἀνήρ anēr (plural ἀνδρές andres, by the way) and mentions Aristotle among many other authors. There are some other relevant links on Wayne's page on inclusive language. See especially the complementarian Daniel Wallace's article, which gives examples of gender generic ἀνήρ anēr much closer in time than Aristotle to the New Testament.

Straylight, I understand your point. It would make things a lot easier if we could just ignore certain letters or parts of letters as not authoritative parts of the Bible. But translators certainly cannot do this. And there are interpretations even of 1 Timothy 2:11-15 which do not involve "unavoidable chauvinism". Perhaps you should look more carefully at these.

At Tue Jan 31, 06:03:00 PM, Blogger KAT said...

Heh, believe me, I've tried to look into this carefully for over 10 years now...Since the day I've accepted Christ. Perhaps it'll take a lifetime to really figure it out though ;).

The point I'm at now in biblical interpretation is one with a healthy respect for historical-critical scholarship. All of the "supposed" pseudo-Pauline letters, while beautiful at times, raise significant issues -- and not just with household or patriarchal rules either (pseudo-Pauline being Ephesians, Colossians, 2 Thes, and the Pastorals).

That being said, all I know definitively, as far as guidelines for Christians go, is that I must treat others as I would like to be treated myself -- If I can manage that, God willing, then everything will be A-OK. The Golden Rule, and the compassion of Jesus, is the only reason why I question and examine certain things -- Even biblical interpretation and/or the canon itself.

I pray and hope none of this is offensive. It's just my two cents.

At Tue Jan 31, 08:42:00 PM, Blogger Suzanne McCarthy said...

Thanks for those articles, Peter, I had only noticed the one in Aristotle's Politics since I was reading it anyway. I didn't have time to go searching around for more. I thought to myself, if I find one example here in passing it must be relatively common. Nyland's article certainly gives plenty of examples. Now I will have to read Wallace's.

At Thu Jan 18, 01:32:00 PM, Blogger Martin Thompson said...

I realize this is an old post and may not be read much, but I beg to differ with Straylight's characterization of 1 Timothy 2:11-15 as "chauvanistic" and there's "no way around it."

Those who think this should check out

"I suffer not a woman" by the founder of CBE and her husband... a very good study on this text.


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