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Friday, March 16, 2007

Women Leaders: Eph. 4

I had never before heard anyone suggest that this passage applied to men only. It was used in mixed groups when I was young as a means of exhortation. It says 'all', and in those days I thought 'all' meant men and women.

    Therefore it says,
    "When he ascended on high
    he led a host of captives,
    and he gave gifts to men."
    11And he gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the pastors and teachers, 12to equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ, 13until we all attain to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to mature manhood to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ, 14so that we may no longer be children, tossed to and fro by the waves and carried about by every wind of doctrine, by human cunning, by craftiness in deceitful schemes. Eph. 4:8, 11-14 ESV

    This is why it says:
    "When he ascended on high,
    he took many captives
    and gave gifts to his people."
    11 So Christ himself gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the pastors and teachers, 12 to equip his people for works of service, so that the body of Christ may be built up 13 until we all reach unity in the faith and in the knowledge of the Son of God and become mature, attaining to the whole measure of the fullness of Christ. 14 Then we will no longer be infants, tossed back and forth by the waves, and blown here and there by every wind of teaching and by the cunning and craftiness of people in their deceitful scheming. Eph. 4:8, 11-14 TNIV
In the ESV translation "he gave gifts to men" the word 'men' is the Greek word anthropos, a human being, or a person, a word which is used to form such terms as anthropology and philanthropy.

I admit that it sounds more poetic to say, "he gave gifts to men". There is a distinct advantage to a word of one syllable in writing poetry. If you want a poetic version then by all means read the KJV or the NKJV. This is extremely useful in developing an understanding of the role of the Bible in English literature.

However, the ESV team assures us that when it says 'men', they think it means 'men'. The ESV page says, "

    the words “man” and “men” are retained where a male meaning component is part of the original Greek or Hebrew
I am not aware of the male meaning component of anthropos. But we can check and see whether the ESV team really thinks that anthropos has a male meaning component in the rest of this chapter. In verse 14, the expression translated by 'human cunning' is the cunning of anthropos. Here the translators thought the word anthropos meant 'human', because, of course, it does mean 'human'.

In a translation like the KJV or the NIV, the word 'men' is used consistently for anthropos (pl). But in the ESV the word anthropos (pl) is often translated as people, or humans, and sometimes translated as 'men'. It is one of the most frustrating features of the ESV.

The ESV also translates 2 Tim. 2:2 with 'men', because the ESV translators think that it means men,

    and what you have heard from me in the presence of many witnesses entrust to faithful men who will be able to teach others also
Once again, the word is anthropos. I think that it was the discovery of this usage in the ESV that inspired me to join the BBB. I just could not believe my eyes. It was the first time that I realized that a group of men - who had at least some of them some knowledge of Greek - would deliberately use their own sense of how men and women should behave to infer into a biblical text a meaning that simply was not there. There is no male meaning component in this verse.

Here is the same passage in the TNIV.

    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
But Eph. 4:13 does say that the saints will grow into a mature manhood. That is what it sounds like in Greek - man full grown andra teleion. But, of course, it wouldn't sound very outrageous in Greek to use this word for man to describe a characteristic in a woman. Women were called, and are still called, Andrea. Women are called virtuous, from vir - 'man' in Latin.

This term 'manhood' is contrasted with nepios the 'infant'. So we want to be mature men, not infants. I don't think that there is a sudden exclusion of women here. But this was the usual way to say adult in Greek.

For some reason, the ESV has used 'children' here instead of 'infant'. Since this is a special word emphasizing immaturity, it is usually translated as 'infant'. There are other words in Greek which we usually translate into English with 'children.'

I can't say that the ESV gets too many marks for transparency to the Greek in this passage. It mixes up anthropos, but it does translate manhood more or less literally. No, that isn't right - it really should be the 'mature man' - let's leave this 'manhood' thing out. It really doesn't say that.
In Hebrews 5:13-14 the same expression occurs, this time without the 'man'.
    1for everyone who lives on milk is unskilled in the word of righteousness, since he is a child. But solid food is for the mature
I don't see any evidence from the Greek that Eph. 4 was talking exclusively to men. I am a little concerned to see that the ESV gives this impression. And it scores worse than the TNIV on my Greek transparency scale for this passage. The ESV gets one right, 'mature man', and two wrong, 'men' and 'children'. The TNIV, two right and one wrong. If you are counting that is.



At Sat Mar 17, 03:17:00 AM, Blogger Glennsp said...

Still trying to claim that there is no male component to Anthropos.
Still trying to mislead people with your inaccurate claims.
But then, how many people are going to bother to check whether you are telling the truth and of the few that will check how many of them are open to seeing that that there is indeed a male component to Anthropos.
So sad.

At Sat Mar 17, 04:20:00 AM, Blogger Peter Kirk said...

Glenn, what are your qualifications in Greek? Do you know it better than Suzanne, who has studied classical, LXX and Koine Greek to a high level?

We accept that when anthropos is used of an individual the default assumption is that the person is male. In fact we would think the same in English even of "someone", in for example "I saw someone in the street". That does not imply that either "someone" or anthropos has a male meaning component.

In fact the context of Ephesians 4:8 rules out a male only meaning, because as is well known there were female prophets in both the Old and the New Testament.

At Sat Mar 17, 05:06:00 AM, Blogger Apprentice2Jesus said...

I have been drawn to these blogs consistently because I am trying to decide as a pastor if I should shift to the ESV or the TNIV as a main text for our church. Before the TNIV, it would have been a no-brainer because I was not a fan of the NIV.

I had enough Biblical Greek in college to qualify for a minor, but I am not an expert in Greek. It was enough for me to love the NASB and really grit my teeth with the NIV.

Hearing Gordon Fee speak on translation drew me to examine the TNIV. He is a great Evangelical (and Pentecostal) biblical scholar and one of the finest text critics in North America. He also worked on the TNIV and spoke of the updates they made beyond the gender issue passages. Examining the TNIV after that, I found it was a bit more literal than before.

Listening to an old debate between Mark Strauss and Wayne Grudem has really swayed me to the TNIV. I realized the gender issue was important theologically. The ESV translators had the theological stance that women could not be in ministry. That became clear in the debate. I do not believe that from the biblical text. The other thing that became clear was the ESV was a committee of MALE translators. I know a few women who are amazing textual critics. Don't they?

Those things gave me a window into the theological bent of the ESV. Now, I LIKE the ESV because I like more formal translations. Yet, theologically, I am understanding more about the importance of the TNIV. I am committed to both translations for comparisons. But I am far more supportive of the TNIV than before, and will probably use it in my church.


At Sat Mar 17, 08:53:00 AM, Blogger Wayne Leman said...

Glenn stated:

Still trying to claim that there is no male component to Anthropos.
Still trying to mislead people with your inaccurate claims.

Glenn, I must respectfully request that you stop making statements like that on this blog. Please read our blog posting guidelines, specifically this sentence:

Support claims with evidence.

It is not evidence to simply state your opinion. You are welcome to state your opinion, but if you do so, we ask that you support it with evidence. I realize that you do not agree with Suzanne. But Suzanne posts evidence from the biblical languages and texts to support her claims. Fairminded people can then debate those claims by offering counter-evidence.

At Sat Mar 17, 10:23:00 AM, Blogger Kenny said...

Suzanne - I agree with you that there are a lot of problems with what the ESV has done here, but I think you should be a little more charitable to the translation comittee. You say you were astonished "that a group of men - who had at least some of them some knowledge of Greek - would deliberately use their own sense of how men and women should behave to infer into a biblical text a meaning that simply was not there." But this is not what the ESV translation comittee is doing. They are not simply inserting their own opinions and calling it Scripture. What they are trying to do is something that is a standard part of virtually all translation and interpretation work: they are interpreting Paul as being consistent with himself. That is, it seems most likely to me that they believe (and there is some very limited evidence for this - see LSJ's definition II, which cites Aeschines 3.137 and LXX 1 Esdras 9:40 as using anthropos in contrast to gune and gunaikos, respectively, though I can't see what they're talking about in the Aeschines passage) that in certain situations anthropos can carry a male connotation. They have concluded that this is one of those situations, presumably because they think it has to be in order to be consistent with the other things Paul says. I agree with you that they are wrong in this instance, but I just wanted to say let's be careful about accusing them of anything. The ESV comittee included a great many scholars who have spent a very long time studying the Scriptures, and most of them sincerely believe this is what the Scripture teaches. You might think that they only came to this conclusions because they assumed it from the outset, but it's no use arguing about that. Your time would be better spent refraining from making such accusations and showing us why you believe their conclusions to be wrong. Certainly you have given good reason in this post for us to suppose that their usage of man in Ephesians 4:8 is either inconsistent with their translation policy or just plain incorrect, and I look forward to reading what you have to say about the other passages you will examine in this series.

At Sat Mar 17, 11:40:00 AM, Blogger Suzanne McCarthy said...


I wish they had been more charitable to me, a woman. These men wrote the Danvers statement and the Colorado Springs guidelines and have attempted to roll back the stance of the churches on women for some time. Thay have sepnt 20 years actively attempting to restrict the activity of women and enforce boundaries for women's rights within marriage and in their careers.

It is real live people with real lives who have been adversely affected by the teaching of these men.

At Sat Mar 17, 12:01:00 PM, Blogger Suzanne McCarthy said...

They are not simply inserting their own opinions and calling it Scripture. What they are trying to do is something that is a standard part of virtually all translation and interpretation work: they are interpreting Paul as being consistent with himself.

Is this really what one should do? Decide that one verse is normative and line up everything else to agree with it.

How about the principle of transparency to the Greek? Aren't these two in direct conflict? Which claim does the ESV preface make? The second one, I believe.

The ESV comittee included a great many scholars who have spent a very long time studying the Scriptures, and most of them sincerely believe this is what the Scripture teaches.

We know what the Colorado Springs Guidelines are like.

What does one make of this?

The generic use of "he, him, his, himself" should be employed to translate generic 3rd person masculine singular pronouns in Hebrew, Aramaic and Greek. However, substantival participles such as ho pisteuon can often be rendered in inclusive ways, such as "the one who believes" rather than "he who believes."

Why is the masculine grammatical ending -ος on αυτος more important than the masculine grammatical ending -ων on πιστευων. What is the linguistic rational?

The only difference is in the ease with which one can avoid a problem in translating it into English. Surely there is no greater value, on the level of God's truth, between the masculine in one place and the masculine in the other place.

What do you think? I find your reactions useful. Thanks.

At Sat Mar 17, 01:13:00 PM, Blogger Kenny said...

(1) Anecdotal evidence about the influence, positive or negative, of a viewpoint or teaching on the lives of particular individuals may serve to illustrate how important it is to handle an issue sensitively, and to devote ourselves to discovering the truth about it, but is not ordinarily relevant to which side is actually correct. I see no reason to suppose that this is not one of the ordinary cases. I therefore recognize on the basis of your experience and the experience of the others you mention that this is an issue which calls for both sensitivity and seriousness of inquiry, but I do not think that your negative experiences, or those of anyone else, ought to prejudice our interpretations, any more than I think traditional societal views of gender roles ought to prejudice our interpretations. The text says what it says whether anybody likes it or not. When we engage in this kind of discussion, we're trying to figure out what it says, not what effect the teaching will have on people or whether it will make them happy. I hope this paragraph is sufficiently sensitive, while still getting the point across.

(2) By saying that we interpret an author to be internally consistent, I don't mean that we should pick one passage as normative and conform everything else to it, nor that we should ignore apparent conflicts. However, we do let clear passages interpret opaque ones, and we do look at the whole of an author's writing to try to figure out the author's overall position, and use that in interpreting individual passages. Now, this is all interpretation and there's an issue of how much interpretation the translator should do, versus how much should be left to the reader. I think this is roughly the same problem you are getting at when you talk about a conflict between this and transparency. The ESV claims to do relatively little interpretation, but in certain verses, particularly ones having to do with gender roles, it often does quite a bit of interpretation, and doesn't always footnote. Now that I agree is a problem, and is an inconsistency with the ESV's stated translation policy.

(3) As for the debate about generic 'he,' a few outliers like Grudem aside, this is generally a debate about English grammar, rather than about Biblical interpretation. Now, some time ago someone (I think it was you, but it may have been Peter) posted a dictionary entry on this blog describing the usage of generic singular pronouns in English in which it was said that English doesn't have the generic masculines of Greek or Latin and never has; rather, the pronoun in these cases refers to some individual of the group picked out as an example. I realized at that point that this really is how my vernacular speech works when I don't think about what I'm saying, even though I had been in the habit of using the generic masculine as in Greek or Latin most of the time. That realization, combined with stumbling across the American Philosophical Association's "Guidelines for Non-Sexist Use of Language," has convinced me personally to reverse my position and acknowledge that the use of generic masculines in English is undesirable (though I'm not sure what to replace them with, because I still don't like singular 'they').

At any rate, the CSG seem to be making the claim that English masculine singular pronouns are equivalent in semantic range to Hebrew, Aramaic, and Greek masculine singular pronouns. Now, this is a very suspect claim, because it's unlikely that Hebrew, Aramaic, and Greek are even all alike in this respect. However, it is true that in some prescriptive grammars of English (though not in any vernacular, as far as I can tell) this has been true at least between English and Greek (more or less). So it seems to me that the problem here is not so much sexism or distorting the text as translating into a language that isn't anybody's vernacular.

I'm not totally sure about the above, because the CSG really are about gender language, but if they are supposed to be saying something else, like that the grammatical gender of a generic pronoun has theological significance, that is just ridiculous.

At Sat Mar 17, 02:10:00 PM, Blogger Suzanne McCarthy said...

I'm not totally sure about the above, because the CSG really are about gender language, but if they are supposed to be saying something else, like that the grammatical gender of a generic pronoun has theological significance, that is just ridiculous.


Grudem and Poythress wrote a book on this topic, and I am not sure which is more ridiculous, that they wrote it or that I read it.

Um. How about this?

Generic “he” is thus seen to be simply one aspect of the larger spiritual conflict. Feminists want to abolish generic “he” partly because, by its lack of gender symmetry, it symbolizes a difference between men and women. But the Bible paints a different picture, a picture in which God has ordained men, not women, to serve in certain positions of leadership, first in Adam as representative of the human race, then in Christ, and now in the family and the church. It so happens that generic “he” in English subtly resonates with this truth by suggesting a male case as the starting illustration for a general truth

Poythress and Grudem page 148

You may call Grudem an outlier, but through the ESV and Focus on the Family, his views exert inappropriate influence.

For me, one of the central issues is whether a translation is consistent with its preface. Does it really tell people solid information about the premises of its methods.

At Sat Mar 17, 07:55:00 PM, Blogger reGeNeRaTe said...

Thanks for the insight. Although I like the ESV generally speaking, translation missteps like this make it all the more important for me to remember the value of studying the Word in various reliable translations in addition to the original biblical languages.

Anyone with a Strong's Concordance or e-Sword software could have picked up on this mistake so attacking this blog's contributors for pointing out a clear translation problem is unnecessary. Keep up the great work and may we all keep the Lord as our main focus. Peace.

At Sat Mar 17, 10:27:00 PM, Blogger Kenny said...

Suzanne, we are almost entirely in agreement on this. The claims of Grudem and Polythress are no doubt absurd. I also agree that the degree to which a translation follows its stated translation policy is one of its most important characteristics.

One thing that I want to make clear though is that I think that Grudem and Polythress are outliers not just among complimentarians generally, but among ESV/CSG translators and advocates. For instance, I attend evening service at Tenth Pres. here in Philadelphia pretty regularly (but it is not my home Church), where Phil Ryken is the senior pastor. He has been an outspoken advocate of the ESV, and his father was on the translation committee (as the English style consultant, apparently), but I would be positively shocked to hear Dr. Ryken make a claim like this. So, while it is certainly true that Grudem and Polythress were on the ESV comittee and at Colorado Springs, and wrote a ridiculous book full of absurd claims, it is not fair to attribute their absurd claims to all of the ESV translators and advocates.

As far as Focus on the Family, it lost its mind somewhere in the last 15 years or so. I started ignoring it as much as possible after James Dobson implied before the 2004 U.S. elections that anyone who didn't support a constitutional amendment banning gay marriage wasn't a real Christian. Saying that someone who thinks gay marriage is great isn't taking the teaching of Scripture seriously is one thing, and I would agree, but to say that supporting a particular political remedy is the only legitimate course of action for a real Christian is just inexcusable - all the more so when it's a bad political remedy! So I don't pay attention to Focus on the Family any more.

At Sat Mar 17, 10:42:00 PM, Blogger Suzanne McCarthy said...


Grudem was the initiator of the ESV. I don't attribute his views to others. But what I truly believe is that the a priori views about women held by the translators influenced them to produce a translation that is not transparent to the Greek in many places.

Of course, I am aware of Dr. Packer's views on women.

I will blog about authentein soon. I was interested to see what Grudem says about this word in Evangelical Feminism and BT. I will try to put in some of the original examples that he used. I think you will find it interesting too.

At Sun Mar 18, 04:06:00 AM, Blogger Apprentice2Jesus said...

Pardon my ignorance, but what's an "outlier"?

Also, I've seen "complimentarian"... and forget what that means. Sorry.


At Sun Mar 18, 06:08:00 AM, Blogger Kenny said...

Suzanne - I understand. It is my understanding that, historically, the ESV came about primarily due to people thinking the NRSV was "too liberal," and wanting to make a "more conservative" RSV revision. This ought to make us nervous to begin with, since "conservative" vs. "liberal" is not one of the dimensions along which we should be evaluating Bible translations.

Dan -
outlier = someone whose views are on one of the extreme edges of the group of which he is a member
complementarian = one who believes that, while men and women are equal in their position in Christ, at least some differences between men and women, including differences in which positions they ought to hold within the Church, are ordained by God as part of the order of creation, and not mere cultural contexts. This is to be distinguished from (a) egalitarianism, which says that all such differences are culturally constructed (and usually adds that they are undesirable), and (b) views that deny the spiritual equality of men and women. (Some people in camp (b) call themselves complementarians, but this is an abuse of the term.)

At Sun Mar 18, 10:24:00 AM, Blogger Glennsp said...

Wayne, with all due respect, Suzanne is presenting an opinion which does not have any backing from the original languages.

On many occasions Suzanne and Peter state personal opinions regarding peoples characters and motives, but that seems to be okay.

As regards Anthropos I refer you to the following article;
The Ambiguity of 'Anthropos'
by Michael D. Marlowe, 2003

What is man, that you are mindful of him?
Or the son of man, that you care for him?
Hebrews 2:6

In recent books and articles that have advocated "inclusive language" in Bible translations one often encounters the assertion that the Greek word anthropos [ανθρωπος] does not mean "man" in the limited sense of "male human being," but merely "human being," without any presumption that a person referred to by this word is a male. Usually this assertion is made in the context of an argument in which anthropos is contrasted with aner, a word which always does mean "male human being" (though even this is not admitted by some). It is argued that a Greek-speaking person of the first century would not perceive any male connotation in the word anthropos, because the only word which conveyed the sense "male human being" in Greek was aner. And therefore we ought to avoid the ambiguous word "man" when translating anthropos.

We note that D.A. Carson is among the writers who have defended gender-neutral translations along these lines, (1) and unfortunately his reputation for scholarship is such that many people have taken his pronouncements upon this point of Greek semantics as if they were authoritative. But it is a simple matter to show that they are wrong, and that is our purpose here.

Anthropos is a Greek word which is often used in a gender-inclusive sense, especially in its plural forms. The plural anthropoi should usually be understood in this inclusive sense if the context suggests it, (2) and the singular anthropos is often used as a collective term (like the English "mankind") which obviously is meant to include both males and females. This is the element of truth which lends plausibility to the assertions mentioned above. But it is a half-truth. The other half of the truth is that when anthropos is used in reference to a particular individual, that individual is always male. The word aner emphasizes the masculinity of the referent (often the best contextual translation for this word is "husband'), but anthropos is the word ordinarily used to refer to a male human being in Greek. The student may easily confirm this by consulting a concordance of the Greek New Testament, and this masculine sense is duly indicated in all the standard Greek lexicons. But anthropos is not used in reference to an individual female. (3) Whenever a particular person is introduced as an anthropos, that person is invariably male. If the person is female, the word gyne "woman" is used instead. In this respect then, the word anthropos has the same range of meaning as the English word "man," which can be used in a gender-neutral inclusive sense, or as the ordinary word for "male human being," and, like anthropos, it is never used in reference to an individual woman. The idea that "man" is somehow unsuitable as an equivalent for anthropos because it has this ambiguity is therefore completely wrong-headed, because anthropos has the very same kind of ambiguity in Greek as does the word "man" in English. Sometimes it includes both sexes, sometimes it refers specifically to males, as opposed to females. If there is any question about the sense in any given instance we must examine the context.

The usage of anthropos indicates that it has not only a specific masculine sense in certain contexts, but also that a Greek-speaking person of the apostolic era would presume that anyone who is called an anthropos is male. This may be seen in the following examples from the New Testament:

* Matthew 19:5 "Therefore shall an anthropos leave his father and mother, and hold fast to his wife." (also in Ephesians 5:31)
* Matthew 19:10 "If such is the case of an anthropos with his wife, it is better not to marry."
* I Corinthians 7:1 "It is good for an anthropos not to touch a woman."

Obviously in these places one cannot maintain that anthropos is a strictly gender-neutral word, such as the English word "person." Even if such a gender-neutral word existed in Greek, the authors would not have used it in these contexts, any more than we would say, "it is good for a human being not to touch a woman." This would imply that we did not consider a woman to be a human being. But we have no trouble understanding the usage of anthropos in these places if we recognize that the word (in the singular) had such a masculine connotation or valence that Greek-speaking people would expect the referent to be male.

In a recent article Andreas J. Köstenberger has made reference to many more examples of this kind in secular Greek literature and in the ancient Greek versions of the Old Testament. He writes:

Apart from the fact that most standard NT Greek dictionaries include "male human being" in the semantic range of anthropos, one may cite numerous passages in the LXX such as Gen 20:7; 26:11; Exod 2:21; Lev 20:10; Num 5:15; 25:8; Deut 17:5; 20:7; 21:15; 22:16, 22, 24; 23:1 [22:30]; 25:7; 1 Sam 25:3; Esth 4:11; Eccl 7:28; Isa 4:1; Jer 51:7 [44:7]; 1 Esdr 4:25; 9:40; Tob 6:7 (not to speak of extra-Biblical references such as Dionysius Halicarnassensis, De comp. verb. 18.201; Dio Chrysostom, Orat. 32.89.3; or Clement of Rome, Homil. 13.15.2) where anthropos quite demonstrably stands in semantic opposition to gyne, "woman," which suggests that "male human being" at least in these instances is a semantic component of anthropos rather than merely coming into play at the level of reference. (4)

From this list of references we may quote several clear examples which show that anthropos carried such a male connotation that it was felt that the word gyne "woman" might be added as a different category of people. We note especially from the Septuagint:

* Deuteronomy 17:5. "Then you shall bring out that anthropos or that woman, and you shall stone them with stones"
* Deuteronomy 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 in the inner court uncalled, there will not be deliverance from death for that one [ουκ εστιν αυτω σωτηρια]." In addition to the clear opposition of anthropos and gyne here, notice the expression which is used at the end of the sentence. When the author wants to use a gender-neutral expression he does not use anthropos, he uses the neuter personal pronoun αυτω, "that one."
* Ecclesiastes 7:28. "One anthropos among a thousand I have found, but a woman among all these I have not found."
* Isaiah 4:1. "Seven women shall take hold of one anthropos, saying, we will eat our own bread, and wear our own raiment; only let your name be called upon us, and take away our reproach."
* Jeremiah 51:7 [English 44:7]. "to cut off anthropos and woman of you, infant and suckling from the midst of Judah..."
* I Esdras 9:40. "So Ezra the chief priest brought the law for all the multitude, from anthropos to woman, and all the priests, to hear the law..."
* Tobit 6:7. "If a demon or evil spirit gives trouble to any one, you make a smoke from these before the anthropos or woman...

Here it is obvious that in Greek it was sometimes appropriate to use anthropos and gyne together in a compound expression if one wanted to be explicitly or unambiguously inclusive, just as we sometimes use the words "man" and "woman" in English, although both anthropos and "man" are often used alone in reference to humans generally. In short, the word anthropos is no more gender-neutral or "inclusive" than the English word "man."

Now, in consideration of these examples the question which remains is, how can a competent scholar such as D.A. Carson honestly maintain in a published work that the word anthropos has no masculine connotations? We fail to see how this opinion can be maintained. Yet he not only does this, but he also condescendingly alleges that those who would disagree with him are in a "confusion over the elementary linguistic distinction between meaning and referent." (5) ... But we will leave it to the reader now to discern which side of the gender-neutral Bible controversy is involved in error and confusion on this point.

The usage of words relating to gender and humanity in the Greek language are no less "sexist" than the ordinary English usages which feminists have been trying to abolish for 30 years now, and this may be seen clearly enough in the case of the word anthropos. It is also evident that Carson and others who have confused the issue with specious arguments about Greek words and linguistics are merely distracting us from the fact that the "inclusive language" debate has to do not with Greek but with our English words and their meaning, and the recent attempts to reform our English usage along politically correct lines. On this question of English usage the professors of Greek have no more authority than any layman who is acquainted with the English language.

1. Donald A. Carson, The Inclusive Language Debate: A Plea for Realism (Grand Rapids: Baker, 1998), pp. 126-127.

2. Yet in the absence of contextual indications to the contrary, the plural forms of anthropos have a masculine sense, by default. See, for example, in Plutarch's Lives the "The Life of Cato the Elder," in which it is said of Cato, Περι δε της γυναικοκρατιας διαλεγομενος παντες ειπεν ανθρωποι των γυναικων αρχουσιν, ημεις δε παντων ανθρωπων, ημων δ᾿ αι γυναικες "Discoursing on the power of women he said, All other men rule their wives; we rule all other men, and our wives rule us." (8.4.2.) The same wording occurs in the parallel in Plutarch's Moralia, "Sayings of Kings and Commanders." For a broader discussion of the persistence of the male component of meaning in masculine plural forms when used generically see Vern S. Poythress, "Male Meaning in Generic Masculines in Koine Greek," Westminster Theological Journal 66/2 (2004), pp. 325-36.

3. Although the Liddell & Scott Lexicon cites a few occurrences in classical authors under a proposed sense "woman," none of these represent normal usage. They include some occurrences of anthropos in obscure and possibly corrupt poetic lines which may be interpreted as references to women, one place where anthropos is used in reference to an imaginary bogeyman who appears in the form of a woman, one in reference to a woman who is disguised as a man, and some references to slave girls, for whom anthropos is used "contemptuously," as the entry puts it. None of the examples are from the Hellenistic era. These exceptional usages in classical Greek works do not establish a sense of "woman" for the word even in the era to which they belong, and they do not materially affect my point.

4. quoted from Köstenberger's review of The Inclusive Language Debate: A Plea for Realism, published in the Journal of the Evangelical Theological Society 42/4 (December 1999) pp. 689-693.

5. Inclusive Language Debate, p. 127.

At Sun Mar 18, 10:57:00 AM, Blogger Suzanne McCarthy said...


The Cato quote would work better translated this way.

All other races rule their wives, we rule other races, and our wives rule us.

They were very fond of comparing themselves to other races.

That is, it is a discussion about other peoples, other races or nationalities. Just look at who the 'we' are in this quote.

The first and basic meaning is always 'human'. The only sense in which anthropos becomes a modifier is where it means human. The quality of being an anthropos is being a human.

It is clearly possible to say that -

An American and his wife came to visit.

Americans are ruled by their wives.

The context then bestows on the gender neutral word an inference that it is male. The context is the presence of the contrasting word 'wife'. This contrasting word 'wife' or 'woman' does not occur in the passage under consideration.

I could quote the lexicons and maybe I will but anyone looking at how the ESV translates anthropos can clearly see that for the ESV translators, Christ came to save all anthropoi, so why does he not give gifts to those same anthropoi. There is no linguistic contextual basis for attributing a male inference on anthropos unless it is explicitly in the same passage contrasted with 'women'.

As here,

Some Americans would like to think that they rule their wives.

But it is within the ESV translation itself that we find the meaning of anthropos. Christ is the mediator between God and all humanity, he gives gifts to all humans.

Are you trying to say otherewise? That God does not give gifts to women?

Is this your theological position?

At Sun Mar 18, 01:54:00 PM, Blogger Suzanne McCarthy said...

When the author wants to use a gender-neutral expression he does not use anthropos, he uses the neuter personal pronoun αυτω, "that one."

I would like to ask Marlowe what this sentence is supposed to mean. I would appreciate any help from readers.

At Sun Mar 18, 02:17:00 PM, Blogger Dale said...

The latest preface to the ESV has included an additional statement in regards to the usage of the words "man" and "men". It goes as follows:

'Likewise, the word "man" has been retained where the original text intends to convey a clear contrast between "God" on the one hand and "man" on the other hand, with "man" being used in the collective sense of the whole human race (see Luke 2:52).'

Perhaps this was the reasoning behind the ESV translators usage of the word "men" in Eph 4:8.

At Sun Mar 18, 02:25:00 PM, Blogger Suzanne McCarthy said...


You must be right about that. It is very confusing sometimes to remember that women are 'people' most of the time, but when God enters into the sentence then women are 'men'. I forgot about that.

So, yes, this passage is intended for women, too, but here they are called 'men'. A very nice resolution to the problem.

I guess the only question is this. Do people find this transparent to the Greek and essentially literal?

At Sun Mar 18, 02:32:00 PM, Blogger Kenny said...

Suzanne - I wrote a long comment earlier which blogspot seems to have eaten (it never showed up) in which I discussed that sentence. As near as I can tell, he seems to be claiming that if the LXX translator of Esther had wanted to use a single word that included both men and women, he would have said something like, hoti pas autos, hos eiselusetai pros ton basileias ..., which actually doesn't work grammatically... Although Glen says the pronoun is neuter (and so he must imagine the phrasing hoti pas auton), when it actually has to be masculine. As you say, perhaps he will come explain to us what he is trying to say.

Dale - excellent. And so the ESV is saved :) Certainly that is the sort of case we are dealing with here. I would definitely read the line inclusively by default and assume it said anthropos, if not for confusing remarks in the preface.

At Sun Mar 18, 03:19:00 PM, Blogger Suzanne McCarthy said...

I confess here the ESV seems to be consistent with its confusing rendering of anthropos. But in 2 TIm. 2:2 there is no such justification.

In any case, the ESV cannot take others to task for not being essentially literal when they are not themselves. We must measure it by the standards that it sets for others.

You know, of course, that I have not given up hoping that they will take down the statement of concern against the TNIV.

At Mon Mar 19, 01:47:00 PM, Blogger Glennsp said...

I know you are beyond being convinced by hard evidence Suzanne, but I put these things in so that other people can have access to unabridged writings as opposed to the highly edited and deeply abridged renditions that seem to find root here. (at times)
A classic straw man argument that comes up time and time again here is the reference to everyone submitting to every one else, always presented as if that settles that; of course if/when people bother to investigate they will discover that the full context is very different indeed, in as much as that the bible then goes on to explain how that submission works itself out;

Eph 5:21 submitting to one another out of reverence for Christ.
Eph 5:22 Wives, submit to your own husbands, as to the Lord.
Eph 5:23 For the husband is the head of the wife even as Christ is the head of the church, his body, and is himself its Savior.
Eph 5:24 Now as the church submits to Christ, so also wives should submit in everything to their husbands.
Eph 5:25 Husbands, love your wives, as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her,
Eph 5:26 that he might sanctify her, having cleansed her by the washing of water with the word,
Eph 5:27 so that he might present the church to himself in splendor, without spot or wrinkle or any such thing, that she might be holy and without blemish.
Eph 5:28 In the same way husbands should love their wives as their own bodies. He who loves his wife loves himself.
Eph 5:29 For no one ever hated his own flesh, but nourishes and cherishes it, just as Christ does the church,
Eph 5:30 because we are members of his body.
Eph 5:31 "Therefore a man shall leave his father and mother and hold fast to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh."
Eph 5:32 This mystery is profound, and I am saying that it refers to Christ and the church.
Eph 5:33 However, let each one of you love his wife as himself, and let the wife see that she respects her husband.

It is telling that some people here fixate on the first verse and then quietly ignore all the rest which clearly shows how it is to play out.
Nowhere is there any support for the concept of undefined mutual submission. (except in the minds of those who are unwilling to submit themselves to the word of God)

At Mon Mar 19, 01:53:00 PM, Blogger Glennsp said...

Peter, I was commenting on and responding to the ongoing attempts to tell people that there is no male connotations to the word Anthropos, there clearly are as clearly demonstrated in the article I posted in a comment above on this same post.
Yet, as always, despite clear evidence to the contrary, here we go again with the same misleading claims and the same attempts to misinform.

You are stating personal preference and trying to cover it over with a claim that it is accurate.

At Mon Mar 19, 03:31:00 PM, Blogger Peter Kirk said...

Glenn, maybe it is my personal preference, but I prefer to accept the word of experts in Greek like Suzanne and world renowned scholars like Carson, rather than yourself who makes no claim to expertise in Greek and Marlowe who does know Greek but certainly cannot match Carson for acceptance in scholarly and church circles. Also they both have understanding of and expertise in languages and linguistics in a way which I have seen neither from you nor from Marlowe - and I have interacted with him on this blog in the past. Now I don't want to make this an appeal to authority. But Suzanne has already answered many of Marlowe's points, so I won't waste time refuting the rest of what he has to say.

At Mon Mar 19, 07:29:00 PM, Blogger Glennsp said...

I am sure that Suzanne has a reasonable grasp of Greek, but I would humbly submit that putting Suzanne in the league of expert is going too far.
Actually Suzanne has not answered 'many of Marlowes points', what she has done is state her belief that he is wrong, but that is a long way from actually answering him.
I would also just point out that Dr Grudem, Poythress and others have a high standing in "scholarly and church circles".

At Mon Mar 19, 09:54:00 PM, Blogger Suzanne McCarthy said...


There are several confusions.

Marlowe's article is primarily about the singular of anthropos. It probably refers to whether Christ should be called 'man' or 'human'. It is a little different topic.

However, Marlowe quotes from Köstenberger, so let's see what else K. wrote in the article quoted.

It may be concluded that Carson and Strauss have established — at least to my own satisfaction — that a gender-inclusive approach to Bible translation stands in no necessary conflict with the effort to preserve Biblical fidelity.

Furthermore, it is in general the preferable way of rendering gender-related expressions from one language into another, because it is the only truly adequate and linguistically responsible way.

Nevertheless, more work remains to be done on a proper lexical understanding of gender-related Scriptural terms such as anthropos or aner

Nobody disagrees that anthropos is contrasted with gune, woman. The problem is whether juxtaposing one word with another really does give it a certain semantic meaning.

Let's see, The Astronaut's Wife?

Hmm, does astronaut have a male meaning component?

The King's Mistress?

Okay, king does have a male semantic meaning but astronaut still does not. It is hard to base theology on something this vague.

As you know the lexicons mention this reference to the male human being as one of many contextual meanings. There is also the slave and the comtemptible human being and the heavenly being that looked like a man.

There are many secondary uses for the word anthropos. It makes for quite a list. But what is the primary sense?


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