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Monday, February 20, 2006

Feminine anthrōpos

I was surprised to discover that it is not well known that the Greek word ἄνθρωπος anthrōpos can be feminine as well as masculine. For example, in a recent comment on this blog Michael Marlowe, who has written an article about this word and others e.g. this one on related subjects, claimed to be unaware of this fact of Greek usage. But this usage is clearly listed in the entry for this word in the authoritative Liddell and Scott dictionary of classical Greek, i.e. in the online edition at Perseus which is in fact the 1940 revision by Jones, known as LSJ, but not the latest edition of LSJ.

Here is the relevant part of the entry, complete with links to the texts at Perseus:
II. as fem., woman,Pi.P.4.98, Hdt.1.60, Isoc.18.52, Arist.EN1148b20; contemptuously, of female slaves, Antipho1.17, Is.6.20, etc.; with a [p. 142] sense of pity, D.19.197.
In the text from Isocrates for example, the words τὴν ἄνθρωπον show unambiguously that ἄνθρωπος anthrōpos is grammatically feminine. But, although Marlowe refers to the "Liddell & Scott Lexicon" entry for this word, he does not seem to be aware of this usage of the word as grammatically feminine.

Now I accept that these feminine occurrences are not in biblical texts, and at least many of them are from long before the New Testament period. But that does not make them entirely irrelevant, and certainly does not justify a writer on this subject denying their existence. But there is at least one case in biblical Greek of ἄνθρωπος anthrōpos in the plural, and without specified grammatical gender, referring to a group which is explicitly of women only: καὶ ψυχαὶ ἀνθρώπων ἀπὸ τῶν γυναικῶν..., Numbers 31:35 LXX.

I found this reference from a paper by David Clines, the well-respected editor of the authoritative work The Dictionary of Classical Hebrew, concerning the Hebrew word אָדָם 'adam. (Thank you, David R, for drawing this paper to my attention.) This Hebrew word corresponds quite closely in meaning to Greek ἄνθρωπος anthrōpos, and they are often translational equivalents. I would recommend anyone interested in the meaning of ἄνθρωπος anthrōpos to read Clines' paper.

19 Comments:

At Mon Feb 20, 07:45:00 AM, Blogger Wayne Leman said...

Peter, aren't nouns like this said to be in the common gender in Greek?

 
At Mon Feb 20, 08:22:00 AM, Blogger son of abraham said...

Peter wrote: Michael Marlowe ... claimed to be unaware of this fact of Greek usage.

No, Peter, that's not what I claimed. I said that I had never seen a femine FORM of the word--I meant a form like the word adelphe, corresponding to adelphos, with a set of feminine case endings. You should have realized after reading my article that I was aware of the information presented in the Liddell and Scott lexicon, because I quote from it and interact with it in my footnote.

You said in your comment: It is not in fact even grammatically masculine, for there is also a feminine form ...

And I do think you must be confused. Because Lidell-Scott does not indicate a "feminine form" of the word. It indicates a usage of the masculine noun in reference to women, in some peculiar contexts. In the one you point to, it is a slave-girl being referred to, and the lexicon states that this usage of anthropos in reference to a woman is "contemptuous." It certainly is not normal usage, and I don't have any reason to think that there is attestation for it in Koine Greek. I invite you to interact with the argument in my article. But please take the time to understand what I am saying.

 
At Mon Feb 20, 09:30:00 AM, Blogger Peter Kirk said...

Michael, I accept that my statement "there is also a feminine form" is technically not quite correct, because the "form" is identical, as I made clear in my original comment; it is only the grammatical gender agreement which is feminine. Thank you for this correction. But let me quote you again: "This looks like a pretty desperate move, if you are really denying that anthropos is a grammatically masculine noun. I haven't heard anyone say this before." And in the context you certainly seemed to be denying any knowledge of the usage ἡ ἄνθρωπος hē anthrōpos which I had mentioned in my comment. My point was that ἄνθρωπος anthrōpos is not always a grammatically masculine noun; rather, it is one which can be either masculine or feminine depending on the context or the referent. If Wayne is correct, this is what is known as common gender. And when you state that "I haven't heard anyone say this before" you seem to be stating that you have not read or not understood the LSJ entry, because this entry makes it very clear that ἄνθρωπος anthrōpos is sometimes grammatically feminine. Perhaps your knowledge of this entry is partial and selective.

And you continue: "Lidell-Scott... indicates a usage of the masculine noun in reference to women, in some peculiar contexts." No, it does not, at least not in sense II which I am referring to. For in this sense ἄνθρωπος anthrōpos is not a masculine noun, but a feminine one as indicated by the feminine gender agreement i.e. ἡ ἄνθρωπος hē anthrōpos. In this sense ἄνθρωπος anthrōpos works similarly to παρθένος parthenos which is both masculine (Revelation 14:4) and feminine in the New Testament. This is not the same as the use of a masculine noun in reference to females, which doesn't seem to be attested at least for this particular noun. I accept that this feminine use of ἄνθρωπος anthrōpos is not common usage, but it does exist, and "contemptuously, of female slaves" refers only to two of the seven listed occurrences.

 
At Mon Feb 20, 10:42:00 AM, Blogger Suzanne McCarthy said...

I haven't engaged in the discussion of anthropos much till now because I still find it incredible that this new masculine meaning has emerged.

As far as the juxtaposition of anthropos with gune it seems not unlike saying a Brit and his wife, (in the case of Dr. Packer), a Baptist and his wife, a Canadian and his wife, and so on. The referent every time for the first item is male, but the referent for the second item is generally of the same class of person as the referent in the first item. At least, the Brit may possibly be married to a Canadian, but in this case he is not, but can a Baptist be married to an Anglican?

I know for sure that a Brethren is always married to a Brethren, except when he isn't, in which case he is married to an atheist, poor man, there are no other categories. However, if his wife is not disobedient she is also a Brethren, very much so. I can't imagine the wife of a Brethren, being anything but Brethren. However, my husband is not Brethren, so I am off the hook here.

I hope this clarifes how one would think of anthropos in Greek.

 
At Mon Feb 20, 11:07:00 AM, Blogger son of abraham said...

Peter wrote: Michael, I accept that my statement "there is also a feminine form" is technically not quite correct ..

Well, now I understand what you were trying to say, at least, but I wish you would be more careful about understanding me before picking up something I said way down in a comments thread, which you misunderstood, and throwing your response in my face with a new blog post. Most people will read your post without seeing my original comments, and without opening the comments window here to see my response. I was really floored by it.

Regarding the LSJ entry, first of all I want to point out that you are in a weak position if you must turn to LSJ to make your case. There is a very large gap in time between these unusual occurrences you have pointed out and the time at which the New Testament was written. A 400-year gap is no small matter in philology. And furthermore, what we see at the bottom of the LSJ entry is a few occurrences which do not represent ordinary usage even in the Classical period. The editors even felt a need to explain them by saying that here anthropos is being used in reference to a slave-girl "contemptuously." Does this not tell you something? And several of the other occurrences listed are in contexts that are obviously exceptional, such as the case where a woman is disguised as a man. I looked up all these citations, I examined the contexts, and the impression I got from them was that they could not carry much weight in any discussion of the common usage of the word, even for the classical period. And when we add to that the consideration that these citations are not even Koine Greek, it seems to me that they cannot be used to reach any broad conclusions about the word as it is used in the New Testament. Of course you have fastened upon them because they are all you have to make your case, but I discount them, and I don't think your method here is sound. It is a cafeteria-style exegesis where uncommon usages picked out of a lexicon of Classical Greek are put forth as if they indicated the normal meaning and usage in Koine Greek, despite the fact that in the Koine corpus we see strong contraindications for the proposed meaning. I am thinking now of the places where anthropos is used opposite gune, where it clearly does not have a gender-inclusive sense, and I don't know how you can account for these if you refuse to acknowledge the masculine component of meaning in this word.

 
At Mon Feb 20, 12:03:00 PM, Blogger Suzanne McCarthy said...

I am thinking now of the places where anthropos is used opposite gune, where it clearly does not have a gender-inclusive sense, and I don't know how you can account for these if you refuse to acknowledge the masculine component of meaning in this word.

Michael, Are you really saying that a woman cannot be Brethren, or Baptist, of Anglican, just because one can use these terms opposite woman?

 
At Mon Feb 20, 12:19:00 PM, Blogger son of abraham said...

Suzanne wrote: As far as the juxtaposition of anthropos with gune it seems not unlike saying a Brit and his wife, (in the case of Dr. Packer), a Baptist and his wife, a Canadian and his wife, and so on.

This comparison ("Canadian and his wife") can seem to offer a plausible explanation only if the occurrences of anthropos that I quoted in my article are out of sight. They involve not only a "juxtaposition," but a clear semantic opposition. Some examples from the LXX are:

Deut 17:5. "Then you shall bring out that anthropos or that woman ...

Deut 22:24. "They shall be stoned with stones, and they shall die, the young woman, because she did not cry out in the city, and the anthropos, because he violated his neighbor's wife."

Esther 4:11. "whosoever, anthropos or woman, shall go in to the king ..."

Tobit 6:7. "... before the anthropos or woman...

I hope this clarifes how one would think of anthropos in Greek.

But clarity cannot be attained by vague and unsupported pronouncements. Clarity comes through looking at actual examples of usage.

 
At Mon Feb 20, 12:52:00 PM, Blogger son of abraham said...

Suzanne wrote: Michael, Are you really saying that a woman cannot be Brethren, or Baptist, of Anglican, just because one can use these terms opposite woman?

If I were to encounter such an expression as, "a Baptist or a woman," I would conclude that in the mind of the writer, the word "Baptist" is not quite gender-neutral. There must be a masculine component of meaning associated with the word "Baptist" in the writer's mind, or else he would not have used such an expression. This is the kind of thing we see in the examples I cited. And in other cases we see writers using the word anthropos as if they took it for granted that everyone understood that a male is being referenced. And we see no use of the word in the singular to refer to an individual woman, though it is very commonly used in reference to individual men. All of this points to one conclusion: the word has a masculine component of meaning.

I don't see how you can avoid this conclusion.

 
At Mon Feb 20, 02:53:00 PM, Blogger Peter Kirk said...

Michael, if you were to encounter the sentence "I thank you Lord that I was not born a Gentile or a woman.", as you (allegedly) would on the lips of many pious Jews, would you conclude that in the mind of the Jew the word "Gentile" is not quite gender neutral? Clearly not, for in this case the categories are in no way thought to be mutually exclusive.

And concerning feminine ἄνθρωπος anthrōpos you wrote "Of course you have fastened upon them because they are all you have to make your case". No, Michael, I have not. I repeat here some of what I wrote in a comment on the previous posting:

But even if we consider only the grammatically masculine form [I should have written "grammatically masculine usage"], grammatical gender is irrelevant to meaning. And, as I made clear in the rest of my sentence quoted here, I accepted that in certain contexts ἄνθρωπος anthrōpos acquires some kind of male meaning from its context e.g. in contrast to γυνή gunē... But my point was that except where this kind of contrast is signalled in the context the meaning of ἄνθρωπος anthrōpos is gender generic.

I mentioned feminine ἄνθρωπος anthrōpos only because I wanted to correct your false, or at least over-simplified, statement that ἄνθρωπος anthrōpos "is a masculine noun. It was never a major part of my argument.

You also wrote: "we see no use of the word in the singular to refer to an individual woman, though it is very commonly used in reference to individual men. All of this points to one conclusion: the word has a masculine component of meaning." No, Michael, it does not (even if it is true - it may be true of the Bible, but not of all Greek literature), if you avoid the linguistic error of confusing meaning with reference. You will find no examples of the English word "President" referring to an individual woman, at least in the USA. Does that imply that the word "President" has a masculine component of meaning? Clearly not, for the US constitution is clear, that the presidency is open equally to men and women. Or would you argue that the word "President" will suddenly change its meaning on the possible day when Hillary Clinton is inaugurated?

By the way, I started a new post simply because it was getting cumbersome to look through a set of 40 or so comments on a single post.

 
At Mon Feb 20, 06:05:00 PM, Blogger Suzanne McCarthy said...

I am sorry, Michael, not to be interacting more with this novel idea of the man being the human and therefore the woman not being human. One does not debate such things in a classical Greek class, or any other Greek class that I have ever attended.

This kind of referent/meaning confusion happens all the time among elementary teachers - we assume that the teacher is a woman, even though the word teacher does not have a female semantic component. Even worse for nurses. I remember going to a missions meeting in Switzerland and I was told to talk to the head of the Sudan mission who was a nurse. It turned out he was a hefty man, about 6'4" with a bushy black beard. But with my North American bias, I just couldn't locate the nurse.

Then there was the time my maiden aunt got booked into a double room with another librarian at a conference and it turned out he was a man.

People have this kind of confusion all the time. But usually they do realize that 'librarian' does not actually mean 'woman', and then they rectify the booking problem. It would be a little ridiculous, don't you think, to argue that the poor man must have been a woman because he was a librarian, even if he was the first male librarian to attend a school librarians conference.

 
At Mon Feb 20, 06:55:00 PM, Blogger son of abraham said...

Peter wrote: if you were to encounter the sentence "I thank you Lord that I was not born a Gentile or a woman.", as you (allegedly) would on the lips of many pious Jews, would you conclude that in the mind of the Jew the word "Gentile" is not quite gender neutral? Clearly not, for in this case the categories are in no way thought to be mutually exclusive.

That's clever. But the example doesn't affect my point, because the Jew is thinking of a Jewish woman in his statement, and the mental categories do not really overlap. He is thanking God that he is not only a Jew but a male Jew. But in any case, these examples that you and Suzanne are throwing at me don't make a difference to my argument. Look at my anthropos examples again. If you insist that there is no male semantic component in anthropos, we are bound to understand Esther 4:11 in the LXX as "whosoever, human being or woman, shall go in to the king..." which is impossible. And there is nothing in the context here that would prepare a reader to assign an unusual male meaning to the word anthropos if it did not ordinarily have the male meaning component. Look carefully at the other examples too, and I think you will see why I cannot accept your idea that anthropos is gender-neutral.

grammatical gender is irrelevant to meaning.

That's not true. Grammatical gender does carry a gendered meaning in nouns and pronouns for people. Masculine pronouns refer to men, feminine pronouns refer to women. Are you really going to maintain that there were no masculine or feminine meanings associated with these forms when used in reference to men and woman? That idea is inherently unlikely, and there can't be any presumption in favor of it.

I accepted that in certain contexts anthropos acquires some kind of male meaning from its context ...

Immediate contexts can't explain all the facts of usage that I have mentioned.

I mentioned feminine anthropos only because I wanted to correct your false, or at least over-simplified, statement ...

Let's just say my statement is true with regard to all the evidence we have for Hellenistic Greek. Including the Septuagint. Fair enough? You are trying to get far too much mileage out of the exceptional cases noted in the LSJ entry. I say it's a masculine noun, and that's true enough for all practical purposes. Certainly you must admit that when the word comes with masculine articles and pronouns there is no question that we are dealing with a grammatically masculine noun.

You will find no examples of the English word "President" referring to an individual woman, at least in the USA.

Actually, we have many presidents of different organizations here, and some of them are women.

Does that imply that the word "President" has a masculine component of meaning?

One of the problems with your example here that you have in mind "the President of the United States," in which "President" is really more like a proper noun than a common noun. It is a title that refers to one individual, like a name. But you want to put forth the idea that reference has nothing to do with sense in common nouns, which refer to whole classes of people. And it just isn't true that normal referential usage is unrelated to sense for common nouns. Words tend to aquire and maintain their meanings by referential usage. If a word is never, or hardly ever, used in reference to a woman, but frequently used in reference to men, it acquires a masculine sense. That is precisely what happened to the English word "man." Centuries ago this word was used to refer to an individual man or woman in the singular. It was '"gender-neutral." But now it is not gender-neutral. What happened? The gender-neutral sense died out because people always preferred to use the word "woman" in reference to a woman. Then the word "man" became an exclusively masculine word in the singular, when used in reference to individuals. This is how it goes--words change in meaning according to the changing frequecies of referential usage. That's what nouns are for, after all: they refer to people, places, and things. You can't really separate meaning from reference.

By the way, I started a new post simply because it was getting cumbersome to look through a set of 40 or so comments on a single post.

Well, thanks for that explanation. I feel better about it now.

 
At Mon Feb 20, 07:41:00 PM, Blogger Suzanne McCarthy said...

And you contend that anthropos (pl) is also 'men' and that God doesn't care whether women are saved? Or are women like the dog that eats the crumbs under the table? They can be saved once men have been offered salvation, fortunately God has a little love left over for the odd woman here and there.

 
At Mon Feb 20, 08:34:00 PM, Blogger son of abraham said...

Honestly, Suzanne. These are just rhetorical cheap shots you are throwing at me now.

 
At Mon Feb 20, 09:00:00 PM, Blogger Suzanne McCarthy said...

This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

 
At Mon Feb 20, 09:04:00 PM, Blogger Suzanne McCarthy said...

No, not at all. The first time I noticed that the ESV had differentially translated anthropos was in 1 Timothy 2:4 and 5. First it is 'people' and then it is 'men' but obviously there is the same referent. This was to maintain that Christ was a man, rather than a human, I assume. It is hard to fathom. In the hour that I had with Dr. Packer I could not cover all the ground I wanted.

But my point is that in 1 Tim. 2:4 God wants all anthropous to be saved, so I was quoting that. And then I was quoting the Canaanite woman in Matt. 15 who said, "yet the dogs eat of the crumbs which fall from their masters' table." It is a very legitimate comparison and I thought that you would recognize that.

I did not mean to be facetious.

Think of the men and women who threw away their time teaching me languages and the Bible, if 2 Timothy is written to men only.

Do you think that I was not taught to bake bread and make jam, to sew and knit, to stay at home with my babies. But they are grown now.

My mother was a godly woman who propped her book up on a metal stand and knit as she read so she could not be condemned, and she read to us children church history from King Alfred to Charles Wesley. It dishonours her if 2 Timothy was not written for women?

 
At Mon Feb 20, 09:14:00 PM, Blogger son of abraham said...

God bless you, Suzanne. And you too Peter. I have to tear myself away from this and get back to work.

 
At Mon Feb 20, 09:23:00 PM, Blogger Suzanne McCarthy said...

Great, same here. Good talking to you, Michael.

 
At Tue Feb 21, 02:22:00 AM, Blogger Peter Kirk said...

Suzanne wrote: "It dishonours her if 2 Timothy was not written for women?" Suzanne, I agree with and support almost all that you have written on this subject. But don't forget that 2 Timothy was in fact written to and "for" a man, a named individual. Now I believe that it is right that Christians today, men and women, apply the principles given here in their own lives - although not of course the personal details e.g. 4:13. So your mother is not dishonoured, any more than was Timothy's mother who is commended in this letter.

This is in fact the kind of principle which Grudem and Poythress claim as the basis of their "male representation" theological theory. They rightly make a distinction between the originally intended audience of a biblical passage and the wider secondary group of people to whom it applies today. And they rightly insist that the translation should correspond to what was written to the original audience and not to the secondary group. Thus it is correct and unobjectionable to use male-only pronouns in reference to Timothy himself, and it would be wrong to try to make him gender generic. Where this argument falls down is Grudem and Poythress' claim that the original audience for much of the Bible was a large group of men only, and that women are only in the secondary group. I see no evidence for that. There are a few Bible books written to named individual men, and parts of Proverbs seem to be addressed specifically to men but the great majority of the Bible is as far as we know written for a gender generic original audience.

The issue at 2 Timothy 2:2 is of course rather different, as the question is to whom should the teaching be entrusted, not who should do the entrusting.

 
At Tue Feb 21, 02:28:00 AM, Blogger Suzanne McCarthy said...

I am hardly arguing that it was not written to Timothy, a man, but rather that the occurences of anthropos (pl) were for men only.

 

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