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Wednesday, August 09, 2006

Cows, Dogs and Men

Adrian Warnock, in a comment on Calling all humans!, wrote:
When we say Cow, we think of the female cow mor than we do of cows and bulls but it can certainly mean both cows and bulls in some context.
A similar example would be the word "Dog" which can and often does mean "Dogs and Bitches" but in certain context means male dogs only.
Adrian, these are excellent instructive examples to show how the Greek words for "man" or "person", anthrōpos and anēr, work.

As I was brought up in an agricultural community, I would never dream of calling a male bovine a cow. For me this is a strongly gender marker word. But I know that others, city dwellers as well as people like Wayne, use the word "cow" in a different way. Yet we communicate clearly together, and only notice this dialect difference when we hear something that grates, e.g. when I hear someone calling a bull a cow.

This is an indication to us of how the English language is not uniform, in gender related language as just one example. English speakers also differ in exactly how they use words like "man" and "brother" with possible reference to mixed gender groups, and how they use generic "he". This is a fact of life, and we should not seek to impose uniformity or judge those whose usage is different from ours.

This is also an indication of how Koine Greek is also not likely to be uniform. Elementary grammars may tell us that anthrōpos is gender generic and anēr is male specific. An examination of actual usage, in the New Testament and elsewhere, shows a more complex picture, in which anthrōpos is sometimes used with some kind of male meaning component, and anēr is sometimes used generically. This is also a fact of life. But it would be quite wrong to conclude from occasional unusual usage that anthrōpos always has a male meaning component, or of course that anēr is always gender generic. Each case has to be judged, and translated, on its merits. This is the danger of "guidelines" such as those drawn up at Colorado Springs, especially when they are treated not just as guidelines but as strict rules to be adhered to.

To move on to "dog", it seems to me that this word works for canines in English in much the same way as anthrōpos works for humans in Greek. The commonest use of the word is gender generic. But when contrasted or collocated with a specifically female word, or in other contexts where gender is in focus, it can have a male meaning component.

This does not imply that the word always has some kind of male connotation or nuance. No one who reads a sign "Dogs must be kept on a lead/leash" would dream of claiming that this sign is gender specific and therefore it is OK to let a female animal roam freely. No one would even dream of suggesting that this sign applies directly only to male canines, and to female ones only by some kind of "male representation". No, they would recognise that in this context the word "dog" is being used in a completely gender generic sense.

Similarly, surely, with anthrōpos: this word must be understood as completely gender generic except in those rather rare cases where it is specifically signalled as gender specific.

Anēr, on the other hand, works more like "cow", at least for those like me from a rural background: its proper use is gender specific, but it is sometimes used (some might say misused) in a gender generic sense. Perhaps James the brother of Jesus was the equivalent of a city dweller: he seems to have used anēr quite a lot in an apparently generic sense, in 1:8,12,20, 3:2.


At Wed Aug 09, 08:43:00 PM, Blogger Suzanne McCarthy said...

Similarly, surely, with anthrōpos: this word must be understood as completely gender generic except in those rather rare cases where it is specifically signalled as gender specific.

I don't think the word itself is ever signalled as gender specific. The referent is gender specific because of context, but the word anthropos, like dog, really means the species under discussion. That is how I think of it.

I think you are right to point out how James uses aner. It is puzzling. My conclusion is that most of the time, the great majority of the time, the scripture authors did not think of gender when they wrote, except for in a few passages. They really just thought about Christians, people in general.

At Thu Aug 10, 01:49:00 AM, Blogger Peter Kirk said...

Suzanne, I was thinking of contexts of the following type, from a random page found by Google:

There is absolutely NO medical, physical or emotional reason that a dog or bitch needs to reproduce itself except to continue the species. In the case of a pet quality dog (or even some show dogs) this does not apply. ...

Many men have this thing which causes them to think that their dog will be somehow less macho if he's been neutered.

It is clear here that "dog" in the first sentence is not gender generic but has a male specific meaning. But in the second sentence "dog" has already become gender generic again. And then again in the third sentence, taken from a section "BREEDING A MALE", male dogs are again meant. But this is of course a minority usage.

And then of course there are contexts like the following from the BBC:

As the dominant vixen approaches her oestrus (fertile period), between early and late January, the dominant dog fox shadows her every move, often travelling only a couple of metres behind her.

Here "dog" is used with the meaning quite simply "male". Of course this is an even more specialised usage, and not paralleled by Greek anthrōpos.

At Thu Aug 10, 04:21:00 AM, Blogger Suzanne McCarthy said...

You are right - dog means male of the species. I didn't know that. I would like to say in my favour that I can tell the difference between a bull and cow! And a steer, even. I used to work near a ranch. You would always want to know about that creature that wandered onto the road in front of you, which of those it was, before honking or whatever.

About dogs, a dog ape is a male ape. I get that. A dog otter is a male otter. So, yes, a dog can be neutered. In my vocabulary they can also be spayed, but evidently by the dictionary that would not be accurate.

However, anthropos, I cannot remember ever seeing that it denotes male. Is there an example for this? If anthropos means homo, as in homo sapiens, then isn't that the species?

Anthropos cannot be combined with any other noun to mean male, that I have ever seen. I know it is used to contrast with woman, but so are many words in English, a Canadian and his wife, would be quite acceptable English.

At Thu Aug 10, 04:44:00 AM, Blogger G. D. Grubbs said...

Doesn't it depend on context? I thought someone gave examples the other day of where anthropos obviously meant man in several places when it was in the Septuagint.

At Thu Aug 10, 05:20:00 AM, Blogger Peter Kirk said...

I think we need to distinguish clearly between meaning and reference. Yes, there are clearly places where anthrōpos refers to specific males. That does not imply that the word has a male meaning component. In that sense it is just like "Canadian", which Suzanne mentioned. Yes, you can say "a Canadian and his wife", and here "Canadian" clearly refers to a male. I might also refer to "a Canadian and her husband", but that might sound a bit strange, and I don't think you get this with anthrōpos, at least in the New Testament. But even those who object to "a Canadian and her husband" would probably not claim that in "a Canadian and his wife" "Canadian" has a male meaning component, at least if they properly understood semantics. And I don't they would argue on the basis of this that only males can be Canadians, or that women can be so only by "male representation". (In fact, if I remember correctly, that idea was eventually thrown out in an infamous law case.)

Suzanne, I mentioned in my first comment that anthrōpos is not used for "male of the species" in the way that "dog" can be. So I suppose the question is, can it be used like "dog" in "There is absolutely NO medical, physical or emotional reason that a dog or bitch needs to reproduce itself except to continue the species." The examples given a few days ago, from Matthew 19:5,10 but quoting and alluding to Genesis 2:24 LXX, referring to an anthrōpos and his wife, are more like "a Canadian and his wife" than "a dog or a bitch".

According to the listing in my "Modern Concordance to the New Testament" (Darton, Longman and Todd, 1976), anthrōpos is used in the New Testament only five times in the sense "Man, in relation to woman". Three of these are quotations from Genesis 2:24: Matthew 19:5, Mark 10:7, and Ephesians 5:31. There is also Matthew 19:10 which I have just mentioned, and 1 Corinthians 7:1. They could well have mentioned 1 Corinthians 7:26, which is identical to 7:1 in its wording kalon anthrōpō(i) (found nowhere else in the Greek Bible). These last two are probably closest to "a dog or a bitch", but is still somewhere between that and "a Canadian and his wife". In an essay I wrote in 1988 (I really must get this on the Internet!) I identified this gender specific use of anthrōpos, found nowhere else in Paul's writing (except for the quotation in Ephesians 5:31) as characteristic of the Corinthians' letter which Paul is probably quoting in these verses. It would be interesting to study whether this usage was a more general oddity of the variety of Greek written at Corinth.

At Thu Aug 10, 06:29:00 AM, Blogger Peter M. Head said...


thanks for that. So where are we on this?
a) The NT frequently used ANTHRWOPOS to REFER to a male human being (e.g. Matt 8.9; 26.24; John 3.1; 18.17; 19.5 etc.).
b) It doesn't ever use ANTHRWPOS to REFER to a female human being.
c) The NT (following LXX Gen 2 btu going further) uses ANTHRWPOS to MEAN a male human being (not a woman); as in Matt 19.5, 10; Mark 10.7; Eph 5.31; Cor 7.1, 26.

Are we any closer to answering the question as to why ESV translators may have felt that they wanted to preserve rather than obscure 'maleness' in relation to the use of this word in the NT?

At Thu Aug 10, 07:30:00 AM, Blogger Wayne Leman said...

You are right - dog means male of the species.

Well, "dog" may have that meaning for a few speakers of English who know a technical usage of the word, but for most English speakers (including myself) "dog" is only a gender-inclusive word. Until the comments from Adrian I was totally unaware that "dog" ever had a meaning sense that included male. That specialized meaning would need to be included in a thorough dictionary of English, but it would also need to be noted that it is a special usage known only by a small minority of English speakers.

Here is meaning sense #3 from my computer dictionary:

"3. A male animal of the family Canidae, especially of the fox or a domesticated breed."

A more thorough English dictionary should also note how widespread this meaning sense is.

Clearly, the same lexicographical principles apply to definitions for the English word "man" for which a thorough dictionary would need to note the most common meaning senses among current speakers of English.

At Thu Aug 10, 08:18:00 AM, Blogger Suzanne McCarthy said...


Thanks for all the detail. My sense is that a dog can be neutered bcause it is supposed to be male, technically speaking, but an anthropos, is supposed to be basically a human, and translating it as human doesn't neuter it, because that is its basic senes. I just can't agree with Dr. Köstenberger on this.

At Thu Aug 10, 09:39:00 AM, Blogger Peter Kirk said...

Well, Suzanne, in one sense a dog can be neutered, by a small operation, because it is either male or female, and so can an individual anthrōpos. But suppose I was translating an English text about dogs into a language in which the only word for a canine was entirely gender generic. Would I have to translate "Dogs must be kept on a lead/leash" as "Male canines must be..."? Would I be accused of neutering the text if I simply translated "Canines must be..."? The idea is plainly ridiculous.

Peter H, the New Testament arguably uses anthrōpos in a male sense in just six places, where this sense is demanded by the context. What does that say about the other 547 places? In many of them, probably hundreds, the meaning is plainly and provably gender generic; or at least if it were not we would have to adjust our theology to say that for example women should not be evangelised, forgiven, taught etc - and that's just from the Sermon on the Mount. The plain fact is that this word is not used 100% consistently. It is ridiculous to suggest that because of a few cases where the sense might be gender specific it must be gender specific everywhere.

As for "why ESV translators may have felt that they wanted to preserve rather than obscure 'maleness' in relation to the use of this word in the NT" (a loaded question, surely?), the answer to this is clear when you dig into the history of ESV: many of the translators are ideologically committed propagandists for a complementarian position, and in order to boost this position they invented "'maleness' in relation to the use of this word in the NT" in many places where in fact it does not exist, where in fact no serious commentators have ever claimed that it exists. See for example the verses which Suzanne has quoted in her discussion of References to Christ as human. Can you point us to anyone who claims that according to 1 Timothy 2:5 Christ is the mediator between God and only male human beings? But that is the serious heresy apparently being taught in ESV.

At Thu Aug 10, 09:49:00 AM, Blogger Suzanne McCarthy said...

PEter H.,

Are we any closer to answering the question as to why ESV translators may have felt that they wanted to preserve rather than obscure 'maleness' in relation to the use of this word in the NT

My sense is that in the KJV 'man' was used generically and this was understood. So when I heard sermons as a child in an ultraconservative demomination, Christ was preached as human, and he was tempted as a human. When people discussed how to be imitators of Christ, there were not two different routes for this, one for men and another for women. This was just not mentioned.

If, now, we assume that there was maleness/masculinity that can be obscured, as per Grudem and Köstenberger, and I dispute this, then we end up with a pagan ethic, in which Christ is the 'suffering male hero', like Prometheus, and woman is the 'suffering female victim' like Io, or, woman is the mother of the 'suffering male hero'. Of course, women in the Bible were not so stereotyped, they were individuals in all different circumstances, as were the men.

In any case, a better understanding of Imago Dei seems to be needed. But my assumption is that in the past there were not two different routes to the imitation of Christ. It was ideally the same for all races, classes and sexes.

At Thu Aug 10, 01:09:00 PM, Blogger Peter M. Head said...

Somehow I think you are in danger of going over the top with this anti-ESV, anti-conservative perspective. I agree that some of the ESV propagandists claims are somewhat ridiculous, but it is equally ridiculous to accuse them of these various heresies (i.e. that Christ mediates only for males; or that it represents a pagan ethic, in which Christ is the 'suffering male hero').

Surely the point is that in using ANTHRWPOS in certain key texts Paul does not have to choose between the two ideas of Christ's humanness and the particular male expression of that humanness (since humanness can't be expressed in a non-gendered way).

Christ as second Adam is the true human being, but he is also the true human man standing over against the first human being/man, Adam (whose humanity and maleness Paul affirms).

It might be felt that in today's English 'man' can no longer function as a word that does both these things. That is, that the maleness component of 'man' in modern colloquial idiom prevents and obscures the possibility that it can also function as an inclusive term. That is a judgement call about contemporary idiom.

At Thu Aug 10, 02:19:00 PM, Blogger Peter Kirk said...

Peter, I wish I was going over the top about heresy. I would long to be shown that 1 Timothy 2:5 ESV is not heretical. But the translators have made it clear that when they use "men" for anthrōpoi in 2 Timothy 2:2 they intend it in the male only sense. And when e.g. in 1 Timothy 2:1,4, 4:10, 6:5,9, 2 Timothy 3:2,13, Titus 1:14, 2:11, 3:2,8 they understand anthrōpoi in a gender generic sense, they render it "people", or they omit as in 1 Timothy 6:16. I'm not sure what they make of 1 Timothy 5:24 and 2 Timothy 3:8, rendered "men" but not clearly about males only. These are I think all the occurrences of anthrōpoi in the Pastoral Epistles. Perhaps the translators are just inconsistent, but you can surely see why they might be understood as heretical. On such issues a translation team ought to be much more careful. People have been burned at the stake for smaller errors.

I don't know where you get "since humanness can't be expressed in a non-gendered way". You seem to have presupposed that anthrōpos is always gendered. But that is simply untrue, it has no gender-related component at all when used in contexts of contrast with God, animals etc.

I suppose Paul affirms Adam's maleness in 1 Timothy 2:13-14, although it might be better to say that he presupposes it. He also presupposes Jesus' maleness. But I fail to see where he uses this as a significant part of any argument of his.

At Thu Aug 10, 02:44:00 PM, Blogger Peter Kirk said...

Perhaps the issue about 1 Timothy 2:5 can be clarified from the following written by Andreas Köstenberger (reference given by Suzanne, page 10):

1 Tim 2:5 (NIVI): “For there is one God and one mediator between God and human beings, Christ Jesus, himself human.”

Apart from the awkwardness of the phrase “Christ Jesus, himself human,” in English, this rendering dilutes the maleness of Jesus during his incarnate state similar to the previous reference. The translators are correct in observing that part of Paul’s point here is the
humanness of Jesus: he was able to mediate between God and man because he himself was a man, that is, a human being. But Paul is also clearly thinking of Jesus’ earthly life and sacrifice on the cross which he made as a man, a male. Thus both truths are emphasized here by Paul, that Jesus was a human being and that Jesus, in his incarnate state, was a man. However, by changing “man” (which, it is important to be reminded, is not necessarily a gender-exclusive term in English) to “human being,” the NIVI unduly focuses merely on one aspect of Paul’s statement, Jesus’ humanity, while deleting any reference to his earthly identity as a man. This is therefore another instance where the NIVI blunts or blurs gender distinctions in Scripture.

This tells us at least that for Köstenberger the "men" between God and whom Christ is the mediator are all humans, not just males. So at this point we seem to have a translation error rather than a deliberate heresy.

But surely not part but all of Paul's point here is the humanness of Jesus. It is a novel doctrine that there is any theological significance to Jesus' maleness. This doctrine is not at all taught in this verse, in the Greek. I suspect that this heresy has arisen now because in the 1960's and 1970's people like Grudem and Köstenberger read "man" in English Bible translations (e.g. RSV, known to have been Grudem's favourite at the time) and misunderstood it as gender specific, when in fact it was intended by the translators as gender generic, just as is anthrōpos. So, if NIVI, and TNIV which is identical here, blunt any gender distinctions, they are distinctions which are not in the Greek but are artefacts of using older English translations at a time when the English language is changing rapidly. And of course such false distinctions need to be blunted as quickly as possible, before they become the pretext for destructive heresies.

At Thu Aug 10, 05:15:00 PM, Blogger Suzanne McCarthy said...

Peter H.

My sense is that Köstenberger and Grudem were accusing the NIVI translators of 'neutering' the male in the Bible. I am saying no -it is time for them to back off. So I am reacting to their extensive publications on this matter.

Second, I wrote,

then we end up with a pagan ethic

meaning there is a trajectory, which if completed leads to one set of truth for men and another for women. But already, this is evident in the writing of the CBMW, that women should have a separate set of skills and knowledge. In studying evangelical mission history from the late 1800's it was amazing to me that those conservative women went for exactly the same training as the men. They believed that they should take the same set of skills and character traits, strength, courage, education, etc, to the mission field, as the men.

Now, some of these CBMW authors write that men have the 'courage of command/leadership and women of subordination/following' - but Aristotle wrote that, not Paul.

But, no, I would not accuse the ESV of heresy, I only mean that the TNIV is better in expressing the Greek, and if people criticize the TNIV, then it indicates a weakness in language skill.

There is no heresy in calling Christ a man, as the ESV does, - the heresy is in saying that those who call a man a human 'neuter' the man. Unless of course, we understand 'being human' as neutering. I suppose it could be undertood this way, as a good thing. I would not have thought of it that way. (I am not the kind of feminist that thinks men should be new age, effeminate or whatever. I have lived in and appreciated the oil fields and logger culture. No, woman do not handle chain saws or oil rigs. Yes, women may run companies.) But the connotation of 'neutering' is surely intended to be negative when used by these authors.

And there is a basic misundersatnding of works like the Imitation of Christ by A Kempis.

Grudem writes that

Husbands are imitators of Christ and wives of the church which is subject to Christ. page 148 here

But when Grudem writes this he isn't really talking just about marriage, he is talking about the role of women in general. He goes on,

yes the Bible gives honour to all members of the body of Christ, but it refutes the erroneous aspects of feminism. Feminísm replaces biblical honour with a misguided attempt to wipe out all diffrences in people with respect to prominence, order, leadership, and representation.

So women have honour but as imitators of the Church. But now 50% of people my age are single, and for the women where I work more than that. So women need to develop independence, leadership, strength, courage, care for others in an equal way to men. They have to care about others without running around looking for a man to be subordinate/subject to, or be represented by.

Anyway, thanks for reading all this and critiquing it.

At Thu Aug 10, 05:44:00 PM, Blogger Suzanne McCarthy said...

Let me qualify that. Women do not handle gas-powered chain saws, the kind you use on a logging operation. There is a big difference between those and the electric ones, which anyone can handle.

At Thu Aug 10, 07:04:00 PM, Blogger Suzanne McCarthy said...

Peter H.

I am not sure how it appeared that I was accusing anyone of heresy. Maybe my mention of a 'pagan ethic' inspired you. But for me, soaked in the classics, 'pagan' is far from heresy. Many Christians quote Aristotle, with impunity. and I, in mentioning Prometheus, would not intend anything so negative as heresy. Prometheus is often compared positively to Christ, that is not such a negative at all. Not Biblical exactly, but not heresy either.

Viewing the Bible through the classics is no worse than viewing the Bible through any other cultural lense.

At Fri Aug 11, 02:21:00 AM, Blogger Peter M. Head said...

Thanks for this:
a) when I said "humanness can't be expressed in a non-gendered way", I didn't mean linguistic expression, but an incarnational expression. You can't be human without being gendered (Gen 1.26f etc.), basically you are either male or female (a tiny percentage may experience some gender confusion, but this doesn't invalidate the point).
That is why I said, that "in using ANTHRWPOS in certain key texts Paul does not have to choose between the two ideas of Christ's humanness and the particular male expression of that humanness".
b) Although I'm not particularly interested in defending the ESV in general or in particular (which seems to me to have significant weakness), or Grudem, Koestenberger and others (who can surely defend themselves); the general point raised by Koestenberger does certainly interest me (whether it be novel or heretical doesn't bother me so much, only whether it is biblical).
c) If Paul assumes/affirms Christ's male humanness (and/or by using ANTHRWPOS doesn't have to choose between the two); then we are faced with English translations which are choosing one or the other, not it seems contextually and individually in passage by passage, but generally and systematically. Such an approach may well lead to some people saying that the ESV underplays Christ's common humanity by emphasising his maleness. On the other hand TNIV may be accused of underplaying Christ's maleness by emphasising his common humanity.
So neither translations are good translations because they are both the products of the sub-cultural polarisations within American evangelicalism.

At Fri Aug 11, 03:27:00 AM, Blogger Peter Kirk said...

Suzanne, it was me not you who accused the ESV translators of heresy. I have now modified that to say that this is not deliberate false teaching, but an unfortunate translation decision which is likely to be misunderstood in a heretical sense. That is, while "there is one mediator between God and men" (1 Timothy 2:5 ESV) is not intended to exclude women, in fact if read according to normal 21st century English usage, at least here in the UK, it is understood to exclude women. Of course RSV has the same problem, but that is now a historic text. But there is no excuse except for carelessness for keeping such a misleading reading in a 21st century revision.

Peter H, you wrote: "neither translations are good translations because they are both the products of the sub-cultural polarisations within American evangelicalism." Possibly, although you should remember that many of the TNIV translation team, the CBT, are complementarians and so can hardly be accused of being at the opposite pole. TNIV in fact tries to take a middle ground on many such points - this is perhaps the real lesson behind my posting A Complementarian Agenda in TNIV? But, if you think that neither translation of 1 Timothy 2:5 is good, can you suggest an alternative which avoids polarisation and so is good?

At Fri Aug 11, 04:03:00 AM, Blogger Suzanne McCarthy said...

Peter H,

This whóle thing has gone right over my head althogether. As a classicist, to me, anthropos means human, it is that simple. I still haven't understood where or how it means male at all. Think about philanthropy - has it ever even 1% meant love of a male? It just isn't there at all. That anthropos is used to refer to males doesn't make it mean male at all. An American is assumed to be male, that does not mean that it has a male meaning.

Think of my quote of the Greek theologian, did he understand anthropos to mean male at all, even a tiny bit? No.

There is no choice, either 'human' or 'man' in the completely generic sense, All else is an oddity, a misunderstanding of Greek, which I see is shared by many.

Somehow I really think that Fee and Waltke et al. knew what they were doing.


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