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Sunday, April 01, 2007

Aner and Grudem

*Updated April 28, 2007. Please view my full article The CBMW, Grudem and the TNIV: the lexicography of Aner in which I plead for the CBMW to retract their inaccurate statements about the TNIV.


Original Post

In this post I wish to document what I can of the debate surrounding the meaning of ἀνήρ and explore why Dr. Grudem does not accept the notion that ἀνήρ does not always have a male specific meaning, and can, in fact, sometimes mean 'person'.

In the Colorado Springs Guidelines, drafted by Grudem, ἀνήρ is mentioned here.

    A 4. Hebrew 'ish should ordinarily be translated "man" and "men" and Greek aner should almost always be so translated.
In A Brief Summary of Concerns about the TNIV Grudem writes this about the TNIV,

    There are many other problems.... "Man" (when translating the male-specific term aner) is changed to things like "people" or friends" 26 times. In each case these changes remove details of meaning that are there in the Greek text.

In Can Greek aner ("man") sometimes mean "person"? No, says Dr. Wayne Grudem posted on the CBMW website, Grudem writes regarding ἀνήρ,

    2. No new data: It has been well-known by Greek scholars for centuries that the term anthropos can mean either “person” or “man,” depending on the context, and aner means “man” or “husband.” Nobody in the last several years of the gender-neutral Bible controversy has “discovered” any new examples that prove a new meaning for aner. But some people, even scholars, are now saying, “Maybe there is another meaning for aner, the meaning “person.” But they have no new data to work with, just a new meaning for the same old data that people have always had.

    3. Two words, anthropos and aner: Given the way language works, it is highly improbable linguistically that Greek would have two different words, anthropos and aner, and that both words would mean both “man” and “person.” That would leave Greek an amazing linguistic vacuum of having no common word that could be used to speak specifically of a male human being.

    4. Liddell-Scott: The standard reference work, the Liddell-Scott Lexicon (p. 138) for all of ancient Greek, gives no meaning “person,” but only “man, husband,” and some specific variations on those. This is very significant because aner is not a rare word: it is extremely common in Greek. Thousands upon thousands of examples of it are found in Greek from the 8th century BC (Homer) onward. If any meaning “person” existed, scholars would have found many clear examples centuries ago.

    8. But could new information change your mind about this?

    We do not wish to deny the possibility that the plural of aner could take on a wider sense such as “people” in the fixed idiomatic expression, andres + plural noun, such as “men of Athens,” “men of Israel,” etc. But where is the proof? If substantial evidence is forthcoming, we would be happy to change our understanding of plural andres, and we recognize that there may be such evidence that we have not yet seen, especially with regard to fixed idioms such as “men of Athens,” etc. But we have not yet seen clear evidence that this is the case. So we cannot at this point agree with the TNIV’s claim that aner “was occasionally used as a generic term for human beings.”
Here Dr. Grudem presents his arguments. He believes that ἀνήρ always meant only 'man' or 'husband'. He depends on an argument of 'probability' without presenting any related statistics. He misunderstands the Liddell-Scott entry for ἀνήρ. However, he states that he would be happy to change his understanding of the plural andres if clear evidence were presented.

One of the things that has puzzled me is trying to understand how Dr. Grudem came about his understanding of the LS entry for ἀνήρ.

In the Gender Neutral Bible Controversy: Muting the Masculinity of God's Word, 2000, page 309, Grudem abbreviates the LS entry for ἀνήρ in the following manner,

    I. man, opposed to woman (anthropoi being man as opposed to beast). II. man, opposed to god. III. man, opposed to youth, unless the context determines the meaning … but anēr alone always means a man in the prime of life, esp. warrior. IV. man emphatically, man indeed. V. husband. VI. Special usages [several idioms are given] (p. 138). [italics added by S.M.]
From an entry which is several hundred words long, Grudem has taken the line "but anēr alone always means a man in the prime of life, esp. warrior" without providing the context. I would like to provide this context given in the LS lexicon.

    τοῖς δὲ δολοφρονέων μετέφη πολύμητις Ὀδυσσεύς:
    “ὦ φίλοι, οὔ πως ἔστι νεωτέρῳ ἀνδρὶ μάχεσθαιἄνδρα γέροντα,

    Then with crafty mind Odysseus of many wiles spoke among them: “Friends, in no wise may an old man that is overcome with woe fight with a younger" Homer. Odyssey. 18.53-55
When the LS remarks that ἀνήρ alone always means a man in the prime of life, this statement stands as a clarification concerning whether ἀνήρ can normally mean both an 'older man', as well as a 'younger man', or whether it would, if standing by itself, *and* when refering to a warrior, have to mean a man in the prime of life, a man at his most physically vigorous. According to LS, it would mean a man/warrior in the prime of life, unless context dictates otherwise.

This is not a statement which in any way affects whether ἀνήρ can elsewhere be used for people generically. The LS had already categorically stated that ἀνήρ may refer to 'men as opposed to gods', and 'men as opposed to monsters.' This is the usual way to designate humanity as a race in the LS.

Here I am going to include more extensive material from the Liddell-Scott lexicon, 1940.

    I [introductory remarks omitted] -man, opp. woman (ἄνθρωπος being man as opp. to beast), Il.17.435, Od.21.323; τῶν ἀνδρῶν ἄπαις without male children, Pl.Lg.877e; in Hom. mostly of princes, leaders, etc., but also of free men; ἀ δήμου one of the people, Il.2.198, cf. Od.17.352; with a qualifying word to indicate rank, ἀ. βουληφόρος Il.2.61 ; ἀ. βασιλεύς Od.24.253 ; ἡγήτορες ἄ. Il.11.687

    II. man, opp. god, πατὴρ ἀνδρῶν τε θεῶν τε ib.1.544, al.; Διὸς ἄγγελοι ἠδὲ καὶ ἀνδρῶν ib.334, cf. 403, Hdt.5.63, etc.: most common in pl., yet sts. in sg., e.g. Il.18.432:--freq. with a Noun added, βροτοί, θνητοὶ ἄ., Od.5.197,10.306; ἄ. ἡμίθεοι Il.12.23 ; ἄ. ἥρωες ib.5.746:--also of men, opp. monsters, Od.21.303:--of men in societies and cities, οὔτε παρ' ἀνδράσιν οὔτ' ἐν ναυσὶ κοίλαις Pi.O. 6.10 ; and so prob., ἄλλοτε μέν τ' ἐπὶ Κύνθου ἐβήσαο . ., ἄλλοτε δ' ἂν νήσους τε καὶ ἀνέρας . . h.Ap.142 .

    [I include the following meanings from LS in an abbreviated form.]

    III. man, opp. youth

    IV. man emphatically, man indeed

    V. husband
Unfortunately this material is not easily accessible unless one also reads the quotations given as examples. I will provide these quotations here. The headings in bold are my own, but the examples are from the original Greek documents and the traditional translations are supplied by the Perseus Digital Library. These are some of the examples referenced above in the Liddell-Scott lexicon, 1940. This is not new data.

1. ανδρες as 'people'

    αὐτὸς δ', ἀργυρότοξε, ἄναξ ἑκατηβόλ' Ἄπολλον,
    ἄλλοτε μέν τ' ἐπὶ Κύνθου ἐβήσαο παιπαλόεντος,
    ἄλλοτε δ' ἂν νήσους τε καὶ ἀνέρας ἠλάσκαζες.

    And you, O lord Apollo, god of the silver bow,
    shooting afar, now walked on craggy Cynthus,
    and now kept wandering about the islands and the people in them. Homeric Hymns 3.142
2. ανδρες as 'race of men', which I note refers to human beings of both sex.

    καὶ ἡμιθέων* γένος ἀνδρῶν

    and the race of men half-divine Iliad 12:23
3. ανδρες as 'mankind'

    ἐξ οὗ Κενταύροισι καὶ ἀνδράσι νεῖκος ἐτύχθη

    From hence the feud arose between the centaurs and mankind; Odyssey 21:303
4. ανδρες as 'men' generic

    τὴν δ' ἠμείβετ' ἔπειτα πατὴρ ἀνδρῶν τε θεῶν τε:

    In answer to her spoke the father of men and gods: Iliad 1.544
5. ανδρες as 'men' with the same referent as 'people'

    ἀκίνδυνοι δ' ἀρεταὶ
    οὔτε παρ' ἀνδράσιν* οὔτ' ἐν ναυσὶ κοίλαιςτίμιαι:
    πολλοὶ δὲ μέμνανται, καλὸν εἴ τι ποναθῇ*.

    But excellence without danger is honored
    neither among men nor in hollow ships.
    But many people remember,
    if a fine thing is done with toil. Pindar Odes 6.9-12
In spite of this clear presentation by the Liddell-Scott lexicon, Grudem comments that "exhaustive computer searches through the body of Greek literature in the Thesaurus Linguae Graecae" might unearth new data regarding the meaning of ἀνήρ. However, the data has always been available. The TNIV translation committee is on solid ground when they choose to translate ἀνήρ as 'people' where context suggest a gender-neutral meaning.

It appears that Dr. Grudem has not checked the quotations and examples provided in the lexicon. Therefore, I believe that he is not aware that ἀνήρ has as its second meaning in the Liddell-Scott lexicon 'man' generic and that for over a century ἀνήρ in this use has been translated as 'people', 'mankind and 'race of men'.

I hope that this will stand as a dispassionate and articulate presentation of the gender-neutral meaning of ἀνήρ. On the basis of this research, I continue to seek the dismantling of the Statement of Concern against the TNIV. (Poythress & Grudem. 2000)

I have against this statement that it presents innaccurate material, it has caused considerable pain to the translators of the TNIV, and it diverts the energy of Christians from more profitable pursuits. I submit this paper in the interests of clearing up the meaning of ἀνήρ once and for all. This article does not represent any new material. However, I am not aware of whether anyone has yet presented this material in this form.


Homer. The Odyssey with an English Translation by A.T. Murray, PH.D. in two volumes. Cambridge, MA., Harvard University Press; London, William Heinemann, Ltd. 1919.

Homer. The Iliad with an English Translation by A.T. Murray, Ph.D. in two volumes. Cambridge, MA., Harvard University Press; London, William Heinemann, Ltd. 1924.

Homeric Hymns and Homerica with an English Translation by Hugh G. Evelyn-White. Homeric Hymns. Cambridge, MA.,Harvard University Press; London, William Heinemann Ltd. 1914.

Liddell, Henry George. Robert Scott. A Greek-English Lexicon. revised and augmented throughout by. Sir Henry Stuart Jones. with the assistance of. Roderick McKenzie. Oxford. Clarendon Press. 1940.

Pindar. Odes. 1990.

Poythress, Vern & Wayne Grudem. The Gender-Neutral Bible Controversy: Muting the Masculinity of God's Words. Broadman and Holman Publishers, Nashville, Tennessee. 2000.

Note: This post is an extensive rewrite of an earlier post yesterday and has been slightly edited.

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At Mon Apr 02, 03:26:00 AM, Blogger Peter Kirk said...

Thank you, Suzanne.

I wonder if one of the reasons why Grudem and others have misunderstood LS is that they, reading in the late 20th century, understood "man" and "men" in this lexicon to be gender specific words, whereas the 19th century lexicographers (including Henry Liddell, the alleged prototype of Lewis Carroll's Humpty Dumpty) often intended "man" in a gender generic sense, especially when writing things like "man, opp. god".

At Mon Apr 02, 06:06:00 PM, Blogger Suzanne McCarthy said...

Excuse me. I deleted my own comment. I didn't realize, Peter, that Henry Liddell was the same Henry Liddell - neat. No wonder I am so fond of Humpty Dumpty!

At Tue Apr 03, 01:59:00 AM, Blogger Peter Kirk said...

Indeed. Alice was Henry Liddell's daughter. Sentences like "When I use a word,... it means just what I choose it to mean - neither more nor less" no doubt allude to Liddell's prescriptive style of lexicography. See also this Wikipedia article; surely Grudem is something of a Humpty Dumptyist. See also this page which links Humpty Dumptyism with the tactics certain people.

At Wed May 09, 12:33:00 PM, Blogger Unknown said...

Thanks Suzanne, as opposd to Grudem's reading I think in most instances the gender specificity is something that we bring to the text. I agree with Nida and with you.

At Tue May 15, 07:49:00 PM, Blogger Kenneth E. Zitsch Jr. said...

I am not an experienced translator, but in examining your argument that "aner" means "people", based on the classical Greek "usages" you provided from Liddell-Scott, your sole basis for making the argument that you are, in using the quotations that you did, seems to be that since more than one person was being referred to (the plural form of the word), "woman" have to be included in the usage. You seemingly say, "There is no question that this has to be generic." This is a circular and flawed argument. As unconfortable as it may be for you to believe, there is no reason to think that females would have been in view in the quotations that you used. We need to let the ancient documents say what they "say", not how we want them to be understood. As a Pastor, I sympathize with the need to make sure women (guna) as well as men (andres) feel connected with the message every Sunday, and I do my best to see to it that happens. That is alright for myself as a Pastor. That is not alright for Bible translators. Christians need to accept and be comfortable with the roles that God has assigned men and women in the sacred Scriptures, and leave the ancient manuscripts speak without trying to help God be more clear. God is as clear as He needs to be. Professor Grudem has made a valid and substantial argument against how you would seek to "translate" (and perhaps) distort the Bible. You would do well to defer to his wisdom and expertice (sic??). I do not want to be disrespectful here, but this is the kind of argument that is made in the hope that uneducated people can be influenced toward an untenable position (this seems to be what it says, so it has to be what it is saying). This is the kind of logic that Brian Williams, Charles Gibson or Katie Couric utilize every night to motivate people toward the ungodly positions that they do. It is the sort of thing however that is inappropriate for a Christian. What you have made those quotations from the lexicon say, you have not proved, and with that as the case, it needs to be said that your argument has no basis in fact.

Ken Zitsch

At Mon Jun 18, 02:36:00 PM, Blogger Suzanne McCarthy said...

Thank you, Ken. I'm sorry I missed this earlier. I believe that the discussion regarding aner is of minimal doctrinal concern. It is simply one thing that Prof. Grudem has latched on to in order to bring disrepute on the TNIV. The translation of aner does not affect any teaching concering women - it is simply Dr. Grudem's wish to make this a cause of contention with the TNIV translators.

It is interesting to note that Dan Wallace does not have this difficulty with aner and in fact, Dr. Grudem commends the NET Bible notes. So I do have to wonder why Dr. Grudem makes this criticism of the TNIV at all.


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