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Wednesday, January 18, 2006

Suzanne's Bookshelf: Generic Pronoun 'he' II

Suzanne's Bookshelf: Generic Pronoun 'he' II

Suzanne makes an excellent point in the latest post on her blog: there is no generic "he" in Greek. Generic "he" is a matter of English syntax, not Greek. Greek doesn't even have a pronoun "he" as English does. Greek uses pronominal affixes on verbs that function as "he" and "she" in English. Greek verbs do not differentiate grammatical gender on their pronominal affixes, nor does Cheyenne, the language I have spent so much time studying. Both Greek (grammatically differentiated) and Cheyenne (no gender distinctions) can use demonstrative pronouns, equivalent to English "this," "that," "those", etc., to indicate some kind of pronominal emphasis. But this is not the same syntactic person referencing as is done with Greek and Cheyenne pronominal affixes or unstressed English pronouns "he," "she," and "it." Demonstrative pronouns have a pragmatic function that is more emphatic in discourse than that of normal pronouns or pronominal affixes.

These are important facts to consider in the current battles over gender-inclusive language in English Bible translation.

8 Comments:

At Thu Jan 19, 05:41:00 PM, Blogger Suzanne McCarthy said...

Hi Wayne,

I am a little puzzled. Since when does Greek have pronominal affixes on the verb which have grammatical gender. The only gender is on the demonstrative αυτος which is the word we translate as him, her etc.

The problem we were having with ευρεθη in the last post is that it can be either 'she was found to be' or 'it was found to be' The Greek doesn't say which, there is no gender.

There are no feminine or masculine affixes on finite verbs in Greek. Maybe you mean the particples, which have adjectival endings.

 
At Thu Jan 19, 09:39:00 PM, Blogger Wayne Leman said...

You are so right, Suzanne, and that is what I had at first in my post. Then I had my doubts and changed it. I should have left it alone. The way Greek actually is makes your point even stronger. Cheyenne and Greek, then, are alike for pronominal affixes on finite verbs.

I'm going to correct the post, but leave these two exchanges here.

 
At Thu Jan 19, 09:53:00 PM, Blogger Suzanne McCarthy said...

It's understandable Wayne. I have been reading The TNIV and the GNB Controversy and all along I have been chiding myself for not being able to think of the pronoun 'he' in Greek. I kept thinking, how could I not know this. And finally I looked up one of the verses quoted in this book in Greek and then went - oh, that is what they're talking about.

Actually Bible verses are never quoted in Greek and αυτος is never mentioned by Grudem and Poythress, not even once. So the book is entirely about English usage in the Bible not Greek.

Now I understand why the 'male representative' theory is so mortifying to complementarians like Carson and Strauss who know biblical languages. They know this book of P & G does more for egalitarians if people were to actually read it.

 
At Fri Jan 20, 02:56:00 AM, Blogger Peter Kirk said...

I'm sure Grudem and Poythress do actually know Greek. I don't see how they can have got their PhD (Cambridge) and DTh (Stellenbosch) respectively without doing so. According to a biography, Poythress has written for example "The Use of the Intersentence Conjunctions De, Oun, Kai, and Asyndeton in the Gospel of John," Novum Testamentum 1984, so he must know Greek. Grudem has written a commentary on 1 Peter (TNTC) which surely also requires a knowledge of Greek. So they can't claim to be blind to the Greek. John 9:41.

As for Matthew 1:18, there is no doubt about the gender or identity of the subject of εὑρέθη heurethē "was found", for it must be in agreement with the feminine participle ἔχουσα ekhousa "having", which must refer to Mary. Thus a literal translation must be "She was found having in stomach", i.e. "She was found to be pregnant". It may be better English to turn this round to "It was found that she was pregnant", but that is a translation decision, not an exegetical one.

 
At Fri Jan 20, 06:00:00 AM, Blogger Mike Sangrey said...

I came to the conclusion a while ago that the whole controversy is ideologically driven and ideologically based. It is not exegetically driven nor based. That is why Grudem and Poythress (G&P) make such fundamental oversights as what Suzanne has pointed out. And that is why Peter can make the observations regarding G&P's credentials which on the face of things appear to contradict the other data. The only way I've been able to reconcile these two highly conflicting bits of data (and these data are not alone in the contradiction) is to believe that G&P are very highly ideologically driven.

And that's OK. We must not be apathetic about theology. We need people who will stand firm at the ideological level.

However, one can't argue large theological and ideological truths based on a grammatical gender affix. It's a profound category mistake. Personally, I think that is the fundamental problem with their argument.

 
At Fri Jan 20, 05:31:00 PM, Blogger Suzanne McCarthy said...

This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

 
At Fri Jan 20, 06:21:00 PM, Blogger Suzanne McCarthy said...

As for Matthew 1:18, there is no doubt about the gender or identity of the subject of εὑρέθη heurethē "was found", for it must be in agreement with the feminine participle ἔχουσα ekhousa "having", which must refer to Mary. Thus a literal translation must be "She was found having in stomach", i.e. "She was found to be pregnant". It may be better English to turn this round to "It was found that she was pregnant", but that is a translation decision, not an exegetical one.

Peter,

Since BAG says for Matt. 1:18 'it was found that', and LSJ records a similar expression ευρεθη οτι 'it was found that', I would guess that 'it was found that' is one possible literal translation of this phrase. However, this explains why I am a little shy of grammar-based theology.

On P & G, they do mention the Greek gender system in appendix #3. Here is the best rationale from their book.

On the one hand, in the original, the net effect of the masculine marking may be subtly weaker than in English, because grammatical gender occurs in other uses besides the cases that identify the sex of the referent.

On the other hand, in generic statements, masculine forms tend to occur more frequently in Hebrew and Greek than in English (because most nouns, adjectives, and participles are gender-marked in Greek or Hebrew, and verbs are also gender-marked in Hebrew). This greater frequency of gender-marked words referring to persons may push listeners in the opposite direction, toward reinforcing the impression of a predominance of male orientation in generic statements. These two effects are subtle. Because the work in opposite directions, the net effect is probably still similar to the use of generic "he" in English.
p. 451

It is important to realize that P & G want 'he' in the Bible in order to "suggest the picture of the male as an example" This does not refer to Christ but to the Christian, that is, the one who receives Christ should be represented as a male.

the point is that the use of the generic third-person masculine singular in Greek and Hebrew evokes the picture of a male 'out there' as the starting point for a general statement. So does generic "he" in English. Generic he" is then the appropriate meaning equivalent. p.315

They argue that there is a predominance of male orientation in Greek, ie. the markings, and therefore, there should be predominance of male orientation in English.

There are 120 pages on the English generic pronoun 'he' and a few paragraphs on the Greek in the appendix, to prove the overall predominance of male orientation in the Bible.

 
At Sat Jan 21, 10:36:00 AM, Blogger Suzanne McCarthy said...

Thanks Mike,

I wouldn't be spending so much time on P & G, if it weren't that our church has to buy new bibles sometime soon.

 

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