If you don’t want a grammar lesson just skip all this blue stocking stuff and go below.
I have been asked to post on further issues regarding gender language in the Bible. One of my goals has always been to be able to establish a version of the Bible which would be acceptable to everyone. This is not about persuading others to share one’s own gender ideology. This is not about having a common hermeneutic. There must be as many interpretations as there are people.
This is nostalgia for the LXX, the Vuglate, the Masoretic text and the King James Version. I feel that Christendom has experienced an enormous loss, having moved into an era where there is no longer one version of the Bible that is acceptable to all major denominations.
In my view this problem reached its extreme point with the statement against the TNIV. However, I am very encouraged that there are both complementarians and egalitarians who can work together on reaching a better understanding of how this breach in sharing a common text came about and perhaps work towards something better.
In my post on Rahab, I argued that the literal meaning of αδελφοι is “siblings,” or “brothers and sisters.” Αδελφοι is the plural of αδελφος, a word meaning “of the same womb” and has a masculine grammatical ending. Αδελφη is the same word with a feminine grammatical ending and has the plural form of αδελφαι.
Many languages do not have gender as a distinguishing feature. English does not. However, English has two separate words, “brother” and “sister.” Many languages have words for younger sibling and older sibling without designating gender. There simply are not two separate words for male and female of siblings.
Some languages have neither separate words for male and female people in certain categories, nor do they have sex as a determiner of gender. Gender, which simply means “type” or “class” may be divided into animate and inanimate. This is also considered grammatical “gender” but has no relation to biological or any other kind of sex.
Bantu languages do not use sex as a way to mark words and the Algonquian languages of North America have animate and inanimate as I have indicated. Marking words for sex is in no way universal, or even predominant. It does happen to be a characteristic of Greek and Hebrew, although in different ways.
Here are a few basic ways to talk about siblings,
1. as English does – brother and sister
2. as Cree does – as older and younger siblings
3. as Greek does – as “sibling” marked male or female by the grammatical ending
4. French and German both have different words for brother and sister and mark words for gender.
Since all words in Hebrew, Greek, French and German have gender, and tables, chairs and everything else, do not have sex, it is usually considered that there is no reason to translate grammatical gender.
Many languages consider that the basic way to talk about a person is by emphasizing that they are not beast or god, they are human. So in these languages a person is called by a sex neutral word, such as human being.
By default this word most likely, but not always, has a masculine grammatical ending. For example, in French the word for person, la personne, is grammatically feminine, although it is used equally for a man or woman. In Greek the word for person, ο ανθρωπος, is masculine. Typically grammatical gender is never translated.
Here is a pretty fun example of how both ανθρωπος and ανηρ are sometimes used in Greek. I hope it will also elucidate the discussion on this post. This is from Numbers 31:25-26 and 32-34.
- 25The LORD said to Moses, 26″Take the count of the plunder that was taken, both of man and of beast, you and Eleazar the priest and the heads of the fathers’ houses of the congregation,
καὶ ἐλάλησεν κύριος πρὸς Μωυσῆν λέγων 26 λαβὲ τὸ κεφάλαιον τῶν σκύλων τῆς αἰχμαλωσίας ἀπὸ ἀνθρώπου ἕως κτήνους σὺ καὶ Ελεαζαρ ὁ ἱερεὺς καὶ οἱ ἄρχοντες τῶν πατριῶν τῆς συναγωγῆς
vaiyomer hashem, el-mosheh lemor sa, et rosh malkoach hashevi, ba’adam, uvabbehemah–attah ve’el’azar hakkohen, verashei avot ha’edah.
From this passage we can make a few tentative conclusions about language and gender.
1. First ἀνθρώπου, the translation of the Hebrew adam, is used to designate the human spoil in contrast to the animals that were spoil. Looking at the passage below, one can see that these adam are, every one of them, young girls who have never lain with a man. There is no nuance of maleness to these girls although the word adam and anthropos have masculine grammatical gender.
2. Next, the Hebrew word rosh appears twice in this passage. Once it applies to the count of the plunder. The next time it refers to the “head” of the tribe. In the first place, it is translated into Greek as κεφάλαιον, and in the second, where it refers to the leader of the fathers’ houses, it is translated as ἄρχοντες – leader.
I am not aware of even one place where the rosh, the leader, of a family or tribe is translated into Greek as κεφαλη. Whatever κεφαλη means, it is never used to translate the rosh of a tribe or family. There is poor evidence for believing that the word κεφαλη should be understood as leader.
Here is a little more from the same chapter.
- 32Now the plunder remaining of the spoil that the army took was 675,000 sheep, 3372,000 cattle, 3461,000 donkeys, 35 and 32,000 persons in all, women who had not known man by lying with him.
καὶ ἐγενήθη τὸ πλεόνασμα τῆς προνομῆς ὃ ἐπρονόμευσαν οἱ ἄνδρες οἱ πολεμισταί ἀπὸ τῶν προβάτων ἑξακόσιαι χιλιάδες καὶ ἑβδομήκοντα καὶ πέντε χιλιάδες καὶ βόες δύο καὶ ἑβδομήκοντα χιλιάδες 34 καὶ ὄνοι μία καὶ ἑξήκοντα χιλιάδες 35 καὶ ψυχαὶ ἀνθρώπων ἀπὸ τῶν γυναικῶν αἳ οὐκ ἔγνωσαν κοίτην ἀνδρός πᾶσαι ψυχαὶ δύο καὶ τριάκοντα χιλιάδες
vayhi, hammalkoach–yeter habbaz, asher bazezu am hatzava: tzon, shesh-me’ot elef veshiv’im elef–vachameshet alafim. uvakar, shenayim veshiv’im alef vachamorim, echad veshishim alef. venefesh adam–min-hannashim, asher lo-yade’u mishkav zachar: kol-nefesh, shenayim usheloshim alef.
From this we can see that,
3. οἱ ἄνδρες, from ανηρ, was added in the Greek and does not exist in the Hebrew. It is a redundant word in some ways and when found in this kind of construction elsewhere, ie the New Testament, it is not always translated into English, but is simply dropped out, as TC has noted. However, the second time ανηρ appears in this passage it is translated.
4. Once again the phrase ψυχαὶ ἀνθρώπων means “human persons.” The word ψυχαὶ is feminine and the word ἀνθρώπων is masculine. This is irrelevant to the meaning. Men also are ψυχαὶ ἀνθρώπων.
TC. I hope this helps explain why ανηρ goes untranslated in Luke 24:19. I hope it also explains why ανθρωπος should be translated as “human” or “person” most of the time. And I hope one can also see why it is extremely difficult to establish the exact metaphorical meaning of κεφαλη in the New Testament. The Septuagint certainly suggests that when leadership is in view, the word ἄρχοντες would most likely be used. The Hebrew and the English both have the word “head” for leader, the Greek does not. κεφαλη and the English word ‘head’ are not metaphorically equivalent.
One of my hopes is that people will be able to see that as an egalitarian, I read the Bible carefully and do not twist the scriptures to fit my supposed presuppositions. I feel that complementarians also understand that gender accurate language is an improvement in accuracy, and not a concession to anything but the truth.