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Sunday, May 25, 2008

Aner as person

One of the major complaints that the CBMW has against the TNIV is that it sometimes translates aner as "person." Grudem writes the most delicious comments sometimes. I just have to share this,
    I could add a note here on the Greek word aner: Greek scholars for hundreds of years have known that aner means "man" not "person." Recently, with no new evidence, but under cultural pressure, some have discovered a new meaning, "person."
There has been no cultural pressure to establish that aner means person. That is utterly ridiculous! Aner always did mean person. Let's look back at some Loeb classics and other good stuff. I don't have these books on hand but they are available, I understand. This is not some secret cache of books on the index and unavailable to CBMW. This is Plato and this is the way he has been translated from beginning to end of the last century. What cultural pressure?

a) ἀνήρ(singular) as ‘person’

i) εὐφήμει: οὐ μεντἂν καλῶς ποιοίην
οὐ πειθόμενος ἀνδρὶ ἀγαθῷ καὶ σοφῷ.

Hush, hush! Why, surely it would be wrong of me
not to obey a good and wise person. Plato. Hipparchus. 228b

ii) ἀλλ' ἴσως, ὦ βέλτιστε, φαίη ἄν τις ἀνήρ,
ὃς ἐμοῦ τε καὶ σοῦ σοφώτερος ὢν τυγχάνοι,
οὐκ ὀρθῶς ἡμᾶς, λέγειν, οὕτως εἰκῇ ψέγοντας ἄγνοιαν,

But perhaps, my excellent friend, some person who is wiser
than either you or I may say we are wrong to be so free
with our abuse of ignorance. Plato. Alcibiades 2. 143b

b)ἀνήρ (singular) as ‘everyone’

πᾶς ἀνήρ, κἂν δοῦλος ᾖ τις, ἥδεται τὸ φῶς ὁρῶν

Slave or free, every one is glad to gaze upon the light. Euripides. Orestes. 1523.

c) ἀνήρ (singular) as ‘they’

ὅταν ἀγασθῶσι σφόδρα του, σεῖος ἀνήρ φασιν,
οὕτω καὶ ὁ θηριώδης ἐν τοῖς ἀνθρώποις σπάνιος:

‘Yon mon's divine, ’they say--, so a bestial character
is rare among human beings; Aristotle. Nic. Ethics. 1145a 25.

d) ἀνήρ (singular) as ‘citizen’, either male or female

ποτὲ ἀνὴρ ἀγαθὸς γίγνοιτ' ἄν,
τὴν ἀνθρώπῳ προσήκουσαν ἀρετὴν τῆς ψυχῆς ἔχων .... ,
εἴτε ἄρρην τις των συνοικούντων
οὖσα ἡ φύσις εἴτε θήλεια, νέων ἢ γερόντων

… in which a member of our community--
be he of the male or female sex, young or old,--
may become a good citizen, possessed of the excellence of soul
which belongs to man. Plato's Laws 6. 770d.

(In this sentence, the Greek word ανθρωπος is translated as "man" generic, "the excellence of soul which belongs to man", that is, the human, either male or female; and the word ανηρ is translated as citizen, either male or female.)

e) ἀνήρ as ‘individual’

ἀλλὰ διὰ τὴν τοῦ χρυσοῦ τε καὶ ἀργύρου
ἀπληστίαν πᾶσαν μὲν τέχνην καὶ μηχανήν ...
ἐθέλειν ὑπομένειν πάντα ἄνδρα, εἰ μέλλει πλούσιος ἔσεσθαι

every individual, because of his greed for silver and gold,
is willing to toil at every art and device, noble or ignoble,
if he is likely to get rich by it, Plato's Laws. 8.831d.

f) ανδρες as ‘friends’

ὦ πάντων ἀνδρῶν ἄριστοι

Most excellent friends, … Plato's Laws. 5.741a.

g) ανδρες as ‘citizens’

νείμασθαι δὲ δὴ καὶ τοὺς ἄνδρας δώδεκα μέρη

And he must divide the citizens also into twelve parts, … Plato's Laws. 5.745d.

I hope this gives readers some idea of why aner can sometimes be translated into English as "person." This move is motivated by scholarship and not feminist presuppositions. I have lots of those, but the notions about language that I share with some of the complementarian translators of the TNIV are not due to my "feminist presuppositions." No, they are due to my advanced age, as a matter of fact! ;-)

PS This is only the evidence from Plato. It was a good day for reading Plato when I did this study. There are lots more examples elsewhere.

I pray that one day CBMW will take down the signatures against the TNIV and write a letter of apology to the translators of the TNIV.


Plato. Plato in Twelve Volumes, Vol. 8 translated by W.R.M. Lamb. Cambridge, MA, Harvard University Press; London, William Heinemann Ltd. 1955. (1914) Alcibiades 2. line 143b

Plato. Plato in Twelve Volumes, Vol. 8 translated by W.R.M. Lamb. Cambridge, MA, Harvard University Press; London, William Heinemann Ltd. 1955. (1914) Hipparchus. 228b

Plato. Laws. In Two volumes, tr. By R. G. Bury. Loeb Classical Library. 1926.

Plato. Plato in Twelve Volumes, Vols. 10 & 11 translated by R.G. Bury. Cambridge, MA, Harvard University Press; London, William Heinemann Ltd. 1967 & 1968.



At Sun May 25, 10:50:00 PM, Blogger TCR said...

Sue, thanks for the classical background to aner. Grudem and others are wrong to deny this background. It's well attested that aner means "person," whether male or female, at times.

At Mon May 26, 05:37:00 AM, Blogger J. K. Gayle said...

Excellent move, Suzanne, as usual.

But just a few questions for now:

1. Why don't more Bible scholars do what you've done? Look to the extra Biblical texts of history (esp. in Greek and Hebrew and Latin and Aramaic and Coptic and Arabic)?

2. Can we be clearer than Grudem about motivations? What is his move motivated by, scholarship or sexism or something else?

Suzanne, You say "my 'feminist presuppositions'" but somehow seem to minimize these when you've said "This move is motivated by scholarship and not feminist presuppositions." Just to be clear, is scholarship not scholarship when so motivated?

3. Haven't you also turned to Aristotle and Euripides (when focusing here mainly on Plato)? Did you know that F. A. Wright in his Feminism in Greek Literature from Homer to Aristotle says that "Euripides and Plato are almost the only [male] authors who show any true appreciation of a woman's real qualities, and to Euripides and Plato, Aristotle, by the whole trend of his prejudices, was opposed"?

4. How about we also move (whether by feminist scholarship or sexist scholarship) to a woman writer? You've once again inspired a post, and this time it's on how men and women (feminist) scholars have translated aner written by Sappho. I'm open to discussion over there at my blog with you and anyone else so as not to derail any intended conversations here.

At Mon May 26, 06:25:00 PM, Blogger Kevin Sam said...

An excellent post Suzanne. I don't read Greek classics and I'm not a fan of Plato but I’m glad you posted this. It makes it pretty clear that aner can mean person. I hope one day CBMW will retract and apologize.

JK, I feel it’s unlikely Grudem is motivated by sexism--very few people would be. I feel it's just driven by motivation of scholarship.

At Mon May 26, 08:06:00 PM, Blogger Suzanne McCarthy said...


Iyov has commented recently on the lack of classical scholarship here.

On Grudem, I am not supposed to comment on his motives on this blog.

On my own feminists presuppositions. First, I do think that it is entirely appropriate for feminism to drive scholarship. We know that the very earliest manuscripts we have were altered to change the gender of some names in the NT. And we know that recent Bible do the same thing.

I am not aware of any male names that have become feminine over this time. So, the status of women has been continuously downgraded by scribes and translators. Therefore, there must be those who seek to recover what has been lost, whatever that is.

Some of my unhappiness over having feminist presuppositions attributed to me, is that until recently I had been fairly unfamiliar with feminist literature, and felt it was foreign to me. Yet, I knew what I knew about classical Greek from my childhood.

You are right about Euripides, I am not so sure about Plato. But I prefer Euripides to even Shakespeare, (may Iyov forgive me) and am very lucky to have read so many of his plays and absorbed the wonderful female characters he created.


This statement by Grudem may give some insight into his views,

Yes, the Bible gives honor to all members of the body of Christ (note the importance given to all members of the body in 1 Cor. 12), but it also refutes the erroneous aspects of feminism. Feminism replaces biblical honor with a misguided attempt to wipe out the differences in people with respect to prominence, order, leadership, and representation.

Gender Neutral Bible Controversy page 148

At Tue May 27, 10:40:00 PM, Blogger Kevin Sam said...

I am a little naive about Grudem’s motivations. I really haven’t read much from CBMW and don’t feel a need to either. And I should apologize for making an opinion about what I think his motivations are. You may have just proved me wrong.


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