ESV #8, by Mark Strauss

Inconsistent Gender-Language in the ESV

The ESV arose in part as a response against the gender-inclusive language of other versions like the TNIV and the NLT. At the same time, the ESV revisers obviously recognized the major changes in gender-language taking place in English, since they removed the words “man” or “men” 671 times from the RSV![1]

While removing these masculine words in many cases, in many others where the context was equally inclusive, the terms were retained. Such inconsistency can create confusion for the reader, who cannot tell when the Hebrew or Greek behind the ESV is an inclusive term and when it is not. Consider the following examples.

Men or People?

All scholars agree that the primary sense of the Greek anthrōpos is “person” or “human” being,” not “man” (= male). The ESV recognizes this and often translates the term as “one” instead of “man.” Rom. 3:28 ESV reads, “For we hold that one (anthrōpos) is justified by faith apart from works of the law.” While someone might wonder how an “essentially literal” translation could justify translating a Greek word meaning “person” as “one,” at least the ESV has recognized that the Greek term is inclusive.

In many cases, the ESV uses inclusive language for anthrōpos. Rom. 10:5 ESV reads, “For Moses writes about the righteousness that is based on the law, that the person (anthrōpos) who does the commandments shall live by them.” Similarly, Acts 10:28 ESV reads “…God has shown me that I should not call any person (anthrōpos) common or unclean.[2]

The ESV is not always consistent, however, and in many generic contexts the noun is translated “man” or “men.” 1 Thess. 2:4 reads, “we speak, not to please man (anthrōpoi), but to please God who tests our hearts.” “Man” here is the plural anthrōpoi, which clearly means “people.” Curiously, the ESV has changed a Greek plural into an English singular—exactly the kind of number change that some members of the ESV committee have condemned other versions for doing!

The same thing happens in Matt. 19:26: “But Jesus looked at them and said, “With man (anthrōpoi—plural) this is impossible, but with God all things are possible.” Again, the ESV has changed a plural meaning “people” into a singular, and translated it “man.” Again in John 12:43 ESV: “for they loved the glory that comes from man (anthrōpoi—plural, meaning “people”) more than the glory that comes from God.”

While in some cases the plural anthrōpoi is translated “people,” in other cases it is translated “man” or “men” with apparently no difference in meaning. Consider these examples:

Rom. 5:18 ESV: “Therefore, as one trespass led to condemnation for all men (anthrōpoi), so one act of righteousness leads to justification and life for all men (anthrōpoi).”

Comment: Anthrōpoi clearly means “people”. We might expect that in a context about salvation, the translators would consider an inclusive term.

Matt. 4:19 ESV: “And he said to them, ‘Follow me, and I will make you fishers of men (anthrōpoi).’”

Comment: The disciples were, of course, called to fish for people, not just men.

1 Cor. 2:5 ESV: “that your faith might not rest in the wisdom of men (anthrōpoi) but in the power of God.”

Comment: This is surely human wisdom, not the wisdom of males.

There are many similar examples:

Eph. 4:8 ESV: “Therefore it says, ‘When he ascended on high he led a host of captives, and he gave gifts to men (anthrōpoi).’”

Matt. 10:32-33 ESV: “So every one who acknowledges me before men (anthrōpoi), I also will acknowledge before my Father who is in heaven; but whoever denies me before men (anthrōpoi), I also will deny before my Father who is in heaven.”

Matt. 19:26 ESV: “But Jesus looked at them and said to them, “With men (anthrōpoi) this is impossible, but with God all things are possible.”

Rom. 1:18 ESV: “For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and wickedness of men (anthrōpoi) who by their wickedness suppress the truth.”

Sometimes the ESV is inconsistent in a single context. Matthew 12:11-12 reads “Which one (anthrōpos) of you who has a sheep, if it falls into a pit on the Sabbath, will not take hold of it and lift it out? Of how much more value is a man (anthrōpos) than a sheep!” The same Greek word is translated inclusively (“one”) in the first instance and as “man” in the second. In both, anthrōpos clearly refers to a human being.

Similar inconsistency appears in John 1:4 ESV: “In him was life, and the life was the light of men (anthrōpoi).” A few sentences later we read “The true light, which enlightens everyone (pas anthrōpos), was coming into the world” (John 1:9 ESV) Again, the same term is translated as “men” in one instance and “everyone” in the next.

Consider also 2Tim. 2:2: “and what you have heard from me in the presence of many witnesses entrust to faithful men (anthrōpoi) who will be able to teach others also.” Although anthrōpoi normally means “people,” it is here translated “men,” presumabley because of the reference to teaching. Yet just a chapter later the same term is translated “people,” here in a context of sinful behavior: “For people (anthrōpoi) will be lovers of self, lovers of money, proud, arrogant, abusive, disobedient to their parents, ungrateful, unholy…” (2Tim. 3:2).

Sons or Children?

Gender inconsistency also appears with reference to generational terms. The same Greek phrase, huioi tou Israēl is sometimes translated “sons of Israel” (Matt. 27:9; Rom. 9:27; Rev. 2:14; 7:4; 21:12) and other times “children of Israel” (Luke 1:16; Acts 7:23; 9:15), without any clear difference in meaning. Romans 9:27 reads, “And Isaiah cries out concerning Israel: ‘Though the number of the sons of Israel be as the sand of the sea, only a remnant of them will be saved,” while Luke 1:16 reads, “And he will turn many of the children of Israel to the Lord their God.”

Particularly striking is Acts 7:23, where the masculine term “brothers” is placed beside the inclusive term children: “When he was forty years old, it came into his heart to visit his brothers, the children of Israel.” Shouldn’t this be “brothers and sisters”?

Matt. 23:15 ESV: “Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you travel across sea and land to make a single proselyte, and when he becomes a proselyte, you make him twice as much a child of hell as yourselves.” The Colorado Springs Guidelines (produced in 1997 in reaction against gender-inclusive Bible translation[3]) insist that huios must be translated as “son” rather than “child.” Strikingly, the only time the ESV translates the singular hiuos as “child” is in the phrase “child of hell.” Hell is gender-inclusive but heaven is not?

“Brothers” or “Brothers and Sisters”?

One of the most interesting gender issues related to the ESV concerns its translation of the Greek plural adelphoi, a term which can mean “siblings,” “brothers and sisters,” “brothers,” or “fellow believers” (BDAG). While the original draft of the Colorado Springs Guidelines asserted that adelphoi should always be translated “brothers,” this was quickly revised when the authors of the Guidelines were informed by Greek scholars that adelphoi was often used inclusively to refer to both men and women, i.e., siblings, or “brothers and sisters.”

This admission did not make it into the text of the ESV, but it did make it into the footnotes. While consistently translating adelphoi as “brothers” in the text, the ESV includes a footnote at its first occurrence in each NT book acknowledging that it actually means “brothers and sisters”:

*Or brothers and sisters. The plural Greek word adelphoi (translated “brothers”) refers to siblings in a family. In New Testament usage, depending on the context, adelphoi may refer either to men or to both men and women who are siblings (brothers and sisters) in God’s family, the church.

Consider, for example, Rom. 12:1 ESV, where Paul is certainly referring to all the members of the church: “I appeal to you therefore, brothers,* by the mercies of God, at present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship.” One wonders why, if the ESV footnote acknowledges that adelphoi here means “brothers and sisters,” it was not translated as such. The most likely answer is that the translators were concerned about their constituents, who would have objected to this perceived condescension to a feminist agenda. All translation is to some extent political, and in this case perhaps it was deemed necessary to sacrifice accuracy for expediency.


[1] Confirmed by a comparative search on Accordance Bible software.

[2] Consider this surprising example, where the ESV uses “person” and the TNIV “man.” 1 Cor. 7:26 TNIV: “Because of the present crisis, I think that it is good for a man (anthrōpos) to remain as he is.” 1 Cor. 7:26 ESV “I think that in view of the present distress it is good for a person (anthrōpos) to remain as he is.

[3]See Mark L. Strauss, “Linguistic and Hermeneutical Fallacies in the Guidelines Established at the ‘Conference on Gender-Related Language in Scripture’,” JETS 41/2 (June 1998) 239-262.

(cont’d)

52 thoughts on “ESV #8, by Mark Strauss

  1. Richie says:

    Almost everyone of Strauss’s criticisms above in regard to so-called “gender inclusive” is clearly explained in the Preface to every single ESV Bible. In almost every case the points that Strauss makes have to do with differences in translation philosophies – not translation inconsistencies or errors. If he disagrees with the translation philosophy then he should simply say so openly. However, honest, professional and caring scholarship demands that he first take into account the clear explanations that the ESV has made publicly available in every single Bible that they publish. It is clear that Strauss either does not know, or else, has forgotten the details of ESV stated philosophy. Otherwise, I don’t see how he could possibly make the statements he has made.

    In addition, Strauss needs to review his own misunderstandings of the English language. For example, he states “All scholars agree that the primary sense of the Greek anthrōpos is ‘person’ or ‘human being,’ not ‘man’ (= male).” This is incorrectly stated and he proceeds from that point on to fault the ESV for errors which are actually errors of his own making. To say that “anthropos is ‘person’ or ‘human being,’ not ‘man”‘ (=male)” is incorrect and misleading because “man” in English does not by any means always = “male”. Hundreds of years of the English language witness to that fact and “man” as “human being” – either individually or collectively – is still understood by English speakers all over the world. Just as anthropos must be understood contextually in Greek, so “man” must be understood contextually in English. The ESV in every usage of anthropos decides how to best translate it and that is more consistent with how most of us speak and write English than always translating it “consistently”, i.e., in the same way. One may certainly disagree with the ESV decisions in any particular case but there is no reason to think that they are being inconsistent in their choices. They are simply following their translation philosophy as stated in the Preface of every ESV Bible. I suggest readers take a look at this explanation in the Preface and then look again at Strauss’s criticisms in the light of the clearly stated ESV translation philosophy.

  2. Wayne Leman says:

    Richie wrote:

    For example, he states “All scholars agree that the primary sense of the Greek anthrōpos is ‘person’ or ‘human being,’ not ‘man’ (= male).” This is incorrectly stated and he proceeds from that point on to fault the ESV for errors which are actually errors of his own making.

    Richie, in your opinion, what did Dr. Strauss incorrectly state about the meaning of Greek anthrōpos?

    As far as I can tell, he stated the meaning of the Greek word exactly correctly. Notice that Dr. Strauss was stating the meaning of the Greek word, not the English word “man,” which, as you correctly state, has been and is still sometimes, used in a collective sense.

    As far as I know, Greek anthrōpos is never used collectively as the English word “man” can be.

  3. CharlesPDog says:

    He states “All scholars agree that the primary sense of the Greek anthrōpos is ‘person’ or ‘human being,’ not ‘man’ (= male).”

    String
    From G435 and ὤψ ōps (the countenance; from G3700); manfaced, that is, a human being: – certain, man.

    Like Mathew 19:5

  4. Mike Sangrey says:

    Here, I’m going to have to somewhat disagree with Mark, although only in a few specific instances. With this topic, I think more than many others, his and my thinking need to be field tested.

    He wrote, “1 Thess. 2:4 reads, “we speak, not to please man (anthrōpoi), but to please God who tests our hearts.” “Man” here is the plural anthrōpoi, which clearly means “people.” Curiously, the ESV has changed a Greek plural into an English singular—exactly the kind of number change that some members of the ESV committee have condemned other versions for doing!”

    If one accepts that ‘man’ can stand in for ‘people’ in this context, then ‘man’ is here functioning as a collective noun. So, in that case, his comment about plural versus singular is unfounded. This really should be handled as a field testing question as to how men understand this (the reader is asked by this commenter how they understood ‘men’ in this sentence.) 🙂

    I think Mark’s comments about translations like Rom. 1:18 are spot on (“For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and wickedness of men (anthrōpoi) who by their wickedness suppress the truth”). To my ear, that really does sound like males are being referred to. So, it ends up sounding quirky to me. That is, I have to re-translate it to clearly understand it. If the ESV had used ‘man’, my ear would understand it to refer to people. I also believe that the variety of such contexts are currently diminishing. In this case, and other contexts like it, ‘people’ works well and solves the potential miscommunication problem.

  5. Wayne Leman says:

    Charles wrote:

    String
    From G435 and ὤψ ōps (the countenance; from G3700); manfaced, that is, a human being: – certain, man.

    Like Mathew 19:5

    Thank you for that lexicon entry and good verse example.

    Greek anthrōpos *means* ‘person.’ In a particular context, such as Matt. 19:5, it can *refer* to a male adult. But anthrōpos does not mean ‘male adult.’ If Greek speakers wanted to use a word that meant ‘male adult’, they would typically use the word anēr, not anthrōpos.

    There is widespread confusion, including among some Bible scholars, about the difference between the dictionary (lexical) meaning of a word and what a word refers to in a particular context.

    We have had posts about the difference between lexical and referential meaning on this blog in the past. Perhaps we can find some of them and point them out, or re-post them.

    For now, let me illustrate with this example:

    Greek anēr means, that is, has the lexical meaning (definition) of, ‘adult male’ or sometimes simply ‘male.’ But in the appropriate contexts (including several in the Bible, such as Eph. 5:25) anēr *refers* to husbands. This context doesn’t change the definition of the word. But this context lets us know that the word is referring to married men.

  6. Mike Sangrey says:

    Lexicon entries might also use language that needs to be re-interpreted in order to be understood as originally intended. For example, did ‘man’ in the posted lexical entry refer to ‘people’ or did it refer to ‘male’?

  7. Richie says:

    Wayne, when Mark says that “the primary sense of the Greek anthrōpos is “person” or “human” being,” not “man” (= male)” he forgets that it does, however, mean “man” = “human being”. He then goes on – in the examples he gives – to forget that the English word “man” can, and is, used both in a singular sense corresponding to the Greek anthropos = man = human being and also in a collective sense of the Greek plural anthropoi = man = mankind = human beings. In example after example he either states or implies that “man” or “men” in the ESV in an incorrect translation of anthropos/anthropoi because those terms mean “male person/persons”. But this is clearly not the case. In addition, “man” is indeed a collective noun as well as a singular noun and thus can be a proper translation of anthropoi just as Mike states above. Again, the ESV is entirely consistent with their stated translation principles as stated in the ESV Preface.

  8. Richie says:

    Mike, in your comment “men” = “people” = “human beings” = “man” = “mankind” depending on your background and where you may live in the English speaking world and/or English as a second language world.

  9. Wayne Leman says:

    Wayne, when Mark says that “the primary sense of the Greek anthrōpos is “person” or “human” being,” not “man” (= male)” he forgets that it does, however, mean “man” = “human being”.

    No, Richie, you’ve gotten it confused. Mark fully understands what you’re saying about the English word. Mark is talking about the Greek word.

    The Greek word does not have a meaning of “man” = “human being.” You need to recheck the lexicons or talk to a Greek teacher.

  10. Richie says:

    Wayne, my BAG (1979) – sorry, I don’t have BAGD – defines anthropos as: “human being, man”. I think my points above are clear and I think that they are also correct. If they are not, please explain why they are not. I completely understand all of your above points about the Greek lexical definition, referential meaning, and English meaning. What am I missing here?

  11. Suzanne McCarthy says:

    Below are statements from the ESV preface. So why does it translate anthropoi as “men” here and “people” there. Why the endless confusion? How do they manage to harmonize 4 and 5?

    It is crystal clear from the preface that the translators believe that 2 Tim. 2:2 means “men – male only” and I have confirmed this from Jim Packer. Frankly, it is a male only religion. Women are not invited to play. I left that church and my daughter remains but she is a conscientious objector to beliefs surrounding biblical genderhood.

    1) Therefore, to the extent that plain English permits and the meaning in each case allows, we have sought to use the same English word for important recurring words in the original

    2) the ESV seeks to carry over every possible nuance of meaning in the original words of Scripture into our own language.

    3) In the area of gender language, the goal of the ESV is to render literally what is in the original

    4) But the words “man” and “men” are retained where a male meaning component is part of the original Greek or Hebrew.

    5) 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

  12. Suzanne McCarthy says:

    I suppose we are going to have to discuss one more time the fact that thirty thousand anthropoi, who had never been touched by a male, were preserved alive after all the males were killed. Either anthropoi means “people” as in “human beings” or it does not. In Greek, it means human beings. But this is not the concern of the ESV translators.

    My sense is that the ESV mixes two classes “males” and “humans” because the overall philosophy is that men are in the image of God directly and women are only in the image of God in a derivative sense, and therefore women are represented by males. Women are not to be directly represented in the English text because women are not supposed to be.

    This would be perfectly consistent with the ESV teaching on gender, that man is in the image of God, and woman is in the image of man.

    This is the view now accepted at ETS and taught by the president, so I just wonder why bother arguing. It has already been decided. Women, as derivative creatures, are neither here nor there.

  13. Wayne Leman says:

    Richie asks:

    What am I missing here?

    Thanks for your gracious reply, Richie. I don’t know what you’re missing, since I’m not clear on what it is that you are claiming. I am only responding to what I *thought* you were claiming, namely, that the Greek word anthrōpos means the same as the English word “man” in the collective sense of ‘mankind.’ If that is what you are claiming, then I continue to say that the claim is not based on the facts of Greek. It is only the English word “man” that can have a collective meaning, not the Greek word. If I have misunderstood your claim, I apologize, and would invite you to clarify what you are claiming. We may actually understand the English and Greek words the same, but may be missing each other in the communication process. That often happens; it’s part of being human.

  14. Suzanne McCarthy says:

    Richie,

    I have the BAGD 1979 and the BDAG 2000.

    In the BAGD 1979 it says human being, man “in contrast to plants and animals.” If women are not considered anthropos, then they are classified as plants and animals. As long as I get to pick what kind of plant or animal I get to be, I won’t complain.

    It is not until section 2 that you read “in special combinations and meanings” that you find “adult male.” Yes, in an especial case you may find a male being called a “human being.” That has been known to be done. 🙂 But, generallly speaking, anthropoi refers to people.

  15. J. K. Gayle says:

    Mark: All scholars agree that the primary sense of the Greek anthrōpos is “person” or “human” being,” not “man” (= male).

    Suzanne: It is crystal clear from the preface that the translators believe that 2 Tim. 2:2 means “men – male only” and I have confirmed this from Jim Packer. Frankly, it is a male only religion. Women are not invited to play.

    It is certainly a departure from what Greek allows, from what Greek readers and writers seem to understand, to restrict so narrowly in English the meaning of the word anthrōpos, which most often seems understood in contrast to theos. Every so often, there IS the contrast to aner and andros too (i.e., “man” or “man-husband”), which may be helpful in this discussion. For example, there is our extant fragment from Sappho, the woman poet: ἀ γὰρ πόλυ περσκόπεισα κά]λλος ἀνθρώπων Ἐλένα [τὸ]ν ἄνδρα [κρίννεν ἄρ]ιστον. She is comparing Helen’s beauty to that of all non-gods or humans, and Sappho continues by offering that Helen this non-man leaves her man-husband in the dust. Of course, a whole host of translators have seen the open meaning of the beautiful non-gods (i.e., κά]λλος ἀνθρώπων, as shown here and here.

  16. Peter Kirk says:

    This really should be handled as a field testing question as to how men understand this (the reader is asked by this commenter how they understood ‘men’ in this sentence.) 🙂

    Mike S, I understood you as being grossly sexist by suggesting that women’s understandings and opinions of Bible translations don’t count. Seriously! Until I saw the smiley.

    Charles, if by quoting “String”, I suppose you mean “Strong”, you are claiming to have found a scholar who defines anthrōpos as “man”, you need to look again. Strong’s words “certain, man” are not at all intended as definitions (Mike, you also need to understand this), but only as the ways in which the KJV translators rendered the word. And of course for the KJV translators (and perhaps for Strong) “man” had a very different meaning from what it has today.

    Richie, it seems to me that you are insisting that the English word “men”, the plural, can refer to human beings without specifying gender. Perhaps it can in some varieties of the English language. But in the variety I speak here in England it cannot, it refers strictly to males only. The collective singular “man” is still just about understood as referring to the whole species male and female, but this usage is now obsolescent. But the real issue here is not different varieties of English, for as Suzanne reports J.I. Packer has clarified that “men” in 2 Timothy 2:2 ESV was consciously intended to refer to males only according to the theology of the translation team, or at least some of it – and that despite the complete absence of exegetical justification for a gender specific term here.

    Suzanne, yes, some of us men are human beings too! 😉

  17. CharlesPDog says:

    I sincerely don’t understand. Anthropos is translated as man in the verse I quoted (and some others), it would make no other sense in the context.

    If it does to the gender neutral people please re translate this so it makes sense.

    ‘For this reason a man (anthropos is the word used here) will leave his father and mother and will be united with his wife, and the two will become one flesh’?

    Again, I am trying to learn. So you are saying that Strong is not normally considered correct. I don’t know Greek, or Hebrew, and I have been using the E-Sword software combined with the downloadable Net Bible and the included Strongs thinking that between 8 different Bible versions and a Dictionary that I thought was accepted I would get a pretty good idea of what the Bible actually said. It seems as if many are saying that this is not a reasonable approach. So how is a layman supposed to study the Bible?

  18. Richie says:

    Wayne, thank you for your very gracious reply. So far as I can see we understand the Greek and English words the same. I don’t, however, know how to be clearer than what I’ve already written above so I will simply let the matter rest.

    Finally, I also thank you Wayne for making Mark’s paper so readily available for all of us to read, study and discuss. Mark Strauss is one of the leading NT scholars, translators, etc. in the world today and I have personally greatly benefited from his writings over the years. In addition, he has always presented his scholarship in a non-partisan, above the fray, manner – that is, as a Christian gentleman in the best sense of those words. Indeed, he has always been a model that I’ve held up for others as to how this can be done.

    In general, I personally agree with quite a few of Mark’s suggestions throughout this paper. First, in my view, a good number of his suggestions would help the ESV itself to improve even within its formal equivalency translation philosophy. Second, many of his suggestions are helpful in general, though they are more applicable for other translations which are not seeking formal equivalency.

    For all of these reasons it is a great shame that Mark chose to present this paper in what can only be considered an imflammatory manner. It will greatly diminish the good that it could do and the hurt that it has caused – especially to someone like Bill Mounce who has himself always been gracious and stayed above the fray – will probably not heal quickly. Though, perhaps, these two men who have been such outstanding examples to us all can, together, go a long way in healing that breach for the benefit of all. I hope so.

  19. J. K. Gayle says:

    Wayne writes,
    As far as I know, Greek anthrōpos is never used collectively as the English word “man” can be.

    (first–it seems somehow I doubleposted my earlier comment. Would you please delete one of the postings and leave just one?)

    Wayne: How about when the singular Greek anthrōpos is used generically as an adjective? Here’s a bit from Euripides’s Hippolytus:

    ἄνθρωπος οὖσα κάρτα γ’ εὖ πράξειας ἄν?

    “At least a human blessing should surely be bestowed [on you].” (as one way to translate this.)

    The context of Euripides’s play is relevant to this NT Greek gendered-language discussion.

    The context is quite interesting: Phaedra’s Nurse is advising her (469-80). There are plenty of contrastive-gender words and constrastive-god/mortal words in these few lines. I’ve bolded the text and translation below to try to bring out the concordance:

    σὺ δ’ οὐκ ἀνέξῃ; χρῆν σ’ ἐπὶ ῥητοῖς ἄρα πατέρα φυτεύειν, ἢ ’πὶ δεσπόταις θεοῖς
 ἄλλοισιν, εἰ μὴ τούσδε γε στέρξεις νόμους.
 πόσους δοκεῖς δὴ κάρτ’ ἔχοντας εὖ φρενῶν
νοσοῦνθ’ ὁρῶντας λέκτρα [i.e., “a roosteress” adulteress?] μὴ δοκεῖν ὁρᾶν;
 πόσους δὲ παισὶ πατέρας ἡμαρτηκόσι [i.e. NT word for “sinners” used here for “wayward sons”] συνεκκομίζειν Κύπριν [i.e., Aphrodite, who “conceives,” so nick-named from the verb “κύω”]; ἐν σοφοῖσι γὰρ
τάδ’ ἐστὶ θνητῶν, λανθάνειν τὰ μὴ καλά.
 οὐδ’ ἐκπονεῖν τοι χρὴ βίον λίαν βροτούς·
 οὐδὲ στέγην γὰρ ᾗ κατηρεφεῖς δόμοι
καλῶς ἀκριβώσαις ἄν· ἐς δὲ τὴν τύχην πεσοῦσ’ ὅσην σύ, πῶς ἂν ἐκνεῦσαι δοκεῖς;
ἀλλ’ εἰ τὰ πλείω χρηστὰ τῶν κακῶν ἔχεις,
 ἄνθρωπος οὖσα κάρτα γ’ εὖ πράξειας ἄν.

    ἀλλ’, ὦ φίλη παῖ, λῆγε μὲν κακῶν φρενῶν, λῆξον δ’ ὑβρίζουσ’· οὐ γὰρ ἄλλο πλὴν ὕβρις τάδ’ ἐστί, κρείσσω δαιμόνων εἶναι θέλειν, 
τόλμα δ’ ἐρῶσα· θεὸς ἐβουλήθη τάδε.
 νοσοῦσα δ’ εὖ πως τὴν νόσον καταστρέφου.
εἰσὶν δ’ ἐπῳδαὶ καὶ λόγοι θελκτήριοι·
 φανήσεταί τι τῆσδε φάρμακον νόσου. ἦ τἄρ’ ἂν ὀψέ γ’ ἄνδρες ἐξεύροιεν ἄν,
εἰ μὴ γυναῖκες μηχανὰς εὑρήσομεν.

    But you, will you not resign yourself to this? Your father, then, should have begotten you on fixed terms or with a different set of gods in heaven if you are going to refuse acquiescence in these rules. How many men do you think, men well endowed with sense, see their wives unfaithful and pretend to see nothing? How many fathers do you think help to supply their wayward sons with the pleasures of Aphrodite? This is one of the wise principles mortals follow—dishonorable deeds should keep to the dark. Mortals should not, you know, try to bring to their lives too high a perfection: no more would you make fine and exact the roof over a house. But when you have tumbled into misfortunes as great as yours, how can you think you might swim out of them? No, if the good you have done outweighs the bad, then by mortal reckoning you will be fortunate indeed.

    So, my daughter, leave off these wicked thoughts, leave off this pride. It is pride, nothing else, to try to best the gods. Bear up under your love: it was a god that willed it. And if you are ill with it, use some good measures to subdue it. There are incantations, and words that charm: something will turn up to cure this love. Men will be slow to invent such contrivances if we women do not find them.

    (The English translator is David Kovacs.)

  20. Wayne Leman says:

    Kurk asked:

    Wayne: How about when the singular Greek anthrōpos is used generically as an adjective?

    Good question, Kurk. You are correct that anthrōpos is being used generically by Euripides. But I thought that Richie was referring to a *collective* usage of anthrōpos. Generic and collective are different semantic categories and a word may be a member of both of these semantic sets, or of one of them but not the other.

    The English word “man” functions as a collective noun (also a generic noun) in this sentence:

    “Man has made great progress scientifically, but little, if any progress, ethically.”

    In this sentence the English word “man” is essentially a synonym for the word “mankind”.

    I repeat what I wrote to Richie, and which you copied to the beginning of your comment:

    As far as I know, Greek anthrōpos is never used collectively as the English word “man” can be.

    The Greek word, as you have shown, can function generically. But I have not seen any exx. where the Greek grammtical singular word can function collectively. But you know the Greek corpus like I never will so you might be able to think of an example where the grammatically singular Greek word anthrōpos is used as a collective noun, meaning “mankind” or “humanity”.

    I am aware that the Greek plural anthrōpoi can have the same meaning as the English word “man”, when it is used collectively.

  21. Peter Kirk says:

    Charles, what you find at the back of Strongs Concordance is not a dictionary, but a list of how the KJV has rendered the word in question, a kind of reverse concordance without the references. If you want to understand the meanings of Greek words, get a Greek dictionary, or some other book designed for that purpose. But unfortunately it is not possible to study Greek without learning Greek.

  22. J. K. Gayle says:

    Thanks Wayne. This helps me to see your main point emphasized: “I am aware that the Greek plural anthrōpoi can have the same meaning as the English word “man”, when it is used collectively.” And I see that you’ve left open (i.e., “As far as I know”) the question of what the Greek singular might mean. Any of us finding even one example from extant Greek writings does not contradict your main point.

    Don’t you think it is interesting that NT translators are not the only ones struggling with this?

    My example above is Kovacs’ fine translation from the perspective of a classics scholar. The narrative of a Greek play, as do the narratives of the NT, use various gendered words to distinguish men, women, gods, and goddesses.

    But less nuanced texts, such as Aristotle’s treatises, use some of the same words as the less-narrative NT epistles. And Aristotle’s translators also struggle with the very same issues as NT translators. What makes this all so very difficult are the gender politics that Mark is getting at (and Suzanne too) in the ESV. In rhetoric studies, there are similar politics without as many implications of the direct silencing of contemporary women. (There are no male rhetoricians explicitly calling for female scholars or students to be silent, for example).

    George A. Kennedy, in his translation of the Rhetoric, implies that he is sensitive to gender in English translation, but Kennedy in practice is as “inconsistent” as Marks says the ESV translators are. And Kennedy seems to rationalize from the original text and its culture as much as he can (as do the ESV translators also). Kennedy writes:

    “A second feature [intended in my English translation] is the avoidance of some of the sexist language seen in older translations, which often speak of ‘men’ when Aristotle uses a more general plural. I have used man or men only in those few instances in which the word anthrōpos or anēr appears in the Greek; otherwise I use someone, people, or they. On the other hand, to alter Aristotle’s many uses of he, his, or him in reference to speakers or members of a Greek assembly or jury would be unhistorical and would involve an actual change to the text. Aristotle usually envisions only males as speaking in public, but he clearly did not think that rhetoric was a phenomenon limited to males, for he draws examples of rhetoric from Sappho (a woman poet of the early sixth century B.C.E.) and from female characters in epic and drama. In 1.5.6 he remarks that “happiness” is only half present in states where the condition of woman is poor. (Greek nouns have grammatical gender, and as a result of the conventions of Greek word formation most rhetorical terms in Greek are feminine, as the glossary at the end of this volume reveals. The Greek words for city, political assembly, and law court are also feminine. It is not clear, however, whether the ancient Greeks were conscious of rhetoric as operating in feminine space.)”

  23. CharlesPDog says:

    Peter………yes, I understand it is not possible to study Greek without learning Greek, but oh so clever nevertheless, so yes I am at a disadvantage to all you true Biblical scholars, one can, however, take the Greek word anthropos and see how it was used in other books and get an idea of how the word was used, like say for example quoting Sappho,…………but it WAS IN FACT SAID

    All scholars agree that the primary sense of the Greek anthrōpos is “person” or “human” being,” not “man” (= male).

    BTW, all is usually a generalization not easily proven.

    Matthew 19:5 “Therefore shall an man leave his father and mother, and hold fast to his wife.”

    Now, since you think it apparently a waste of time to use Strong’ s, (so are you saying that the Greek antropos is not the word used here) that even a layman such as myself can see that in most/all????????? translations of the Bible, lets throw out the KJV, then and books that flow from it, the ESV and the RSV and the NSRV then, you pick what you like, I would guess TNIV or NLT, the verse I quoted uses antropos as man, singular, in a verse very well known to most people. There is no PC way to translate this verse any other way, without significantly distorting the source.

    Right?

    Strong’s does allow a layman to come up with

    Ephesians 5:31)” For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and will be joined to his wife, and the two will become 40 one flesh. 41

    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.”

  24. Suzanne McCarthy says:

    Matthew 19:5 “Therefore shall an man leave his father and mother, and hold fast to his wife.”

    It happens that it sounds grammatical in Greek to day, “Therefore shall a person leave his father and mother, and hold fast to his wife.”

    That is just the way it is. It won’t line up with English. As there are 30,000 young women who are also called anthropoi in Numbers, we have to say that anthropos also means young women, no men included.

    These are facts.

    And, yes, I do count men as human beings. 🙂 I wonder why some men resist this.

  25. John says:

    Wayne L, anthropoi=men/man(kind)=human being(s); both anthropoi and “men/mankind” are generic masculines; furthermore it is even more this case when we consider the NT is mostly an anthology of semitic documents, and they unapologetically, in so many cases, spoke directly to men, allowing women to listen, but as unaddressed. Neither in Jewish, nor in general in the semitic NT did this mean that what was said wasn’t applicable to women or that they weren’t intended to learn, but they didn’t have the same progressive ideas as we do today, and which people try to anachronistically read back into these texts.

    —-

    As far as gender stuff, the TNIV is clearly transgressing the distinction between changing sexes in cases where making them generics would be arguably acceptable, and actually warping the meaning.

    —-

    As far as using “one” for the neuter, which Strauss complains about, that is, in fact, proper English: as any professor of English could tell you. I haven’t been able to speak or write properly without it because of the influence of a professor (of English) in my family (and their reading lists). That complaint was just childish and uniformed. That Strauss appears unaware of this (and much more regarding English) makes me highly question his suitability to be translating the Bible into English, or even advising for it.

  26. Mike says:

    both anthropoi and “men/mankind” are generic masculines

    That’s a confusion of natural gender and grammatical gender. teknon is neuter, but generally children aren’t neuter naturally.

    furthermore it is even more this case when we consider the NT is mostly an anthology of semitic documents

    The question of semitic Greek and the New Testament is one of the hottest debated topics in NT language studies and it has been for two hundred years. I don’t think I’d be willing to put as much weight as you are here on this kind of statement in either direction.

  27. John says:

    No, it’s not a confusion of grammatical and natural gender; both anthropoi and “men” are “generic masculines”, “generic masculine” is the grammatical term for a “masculine” word in gender, but which doesn’t demand a natural meaning that’s masculine. (In the NT it’s very arguable that it does, however, have a masculine “flavor” in many cases, so to speak, in which case it would be both generically masculine, and oftentimes very slightly naturally masculine when in other greek texts it wouldn’t necessarily demand that “flavor”.) If there were such a thing as a “generic feminine” it wouldn’t implicate a natural gender of female, but could refer to either sex, just as a generic masculine does.

  28. CharlesPDog says:

    Well, I certainly believe that women in all aspects are equal to me on both the spiritual and temporal planes. It’s just plain stupid to believe that God values men over women.

    I honestly don’t get why people have such a hard time with this; and they contribute so often to their own pain.

    I have said this many times and no one ever seems to respond to it………….

    The Bible was written 2000 + years ago by middle eastern men. It is therefore going to be male biased, this is the truth.

    I’ll bet those writers wouldn’t even understand what the big deal about gender neutral was let alone agree with it. They thought then knew it all. That being said, even though it was written by biased humans some/much of it contains great spiritual knowledge. Greater than those guys would have come up with on there own.

    A true Christian in my mind needs to filter ALL parts of the Bible through the commandment: Love one another as I have loved you.

    If it doesn’t fit with that then it isn’t Christianity. How could it be?

    There are, therefore, definitely parts of the Bible that speak of women in a manner that is not what God/Jesus intend for us to be……..then those parts are an example of human bias based on self centered fear and NOT God’s will, or word.
    That is what we should be teaching, what was actually written. Putting a pretty face on it through gender neutral words covers up that point.
    Its fine to analyze the Greek and debate this and that, but the whole idea of inerrant and infallible word of God is what needs discussing. Some moderator of this very board started a thread about a year ago on inerrancy and never followed up. All this gender neutral, gender biased man against women stuff breeds resentment and suspicion of the motives of the “Other”.
    It is love of the other that was the main message of Jesus, and by this forgetting of “Self” salvation comes, yet we and, I include myself, go on and on with this tripe separating ourselves from each other’ this is the true sin since it also separates us from God. You know it and I know it.
    If it separates us from God it is the work of the demonic by definition.

    WE have spent some tremendous amount of time and energy discussing the ESV, (let alone how much time the guy that picked out all these verses did) and not one iota working towards thinking less of ourselves and more about the other. The ESV is not going to lead us down the wrong path. The words of Jesus are pretty clear in that version too. Remember, one of the main problems Jesus had was with the temple system, i.e., the “organized” religion of the day, not the Romans. What are we doing………….picking out out all these verses……….scholarship, Better Bibles? fear and not so hidden agendas………….what a rant!

  29. Peter Kirk says:

    Charles, let’s rephrase what was written to express its intended meaning while avoiding the controversial word “man”:

    All scholars agree that the primary sense of the Greek anthrōpos is “person” or “human” being,” not “male human being”.

    Do you wish to dispute this version of the statement? I accept that claims about “All” are dangerous, but you can’t really call this statement into question unless you can find some sort of evidence that someone who might be described as a scholar at least suggests in some way that anthrōpos might mean “male human being”.

    Of course KJV and RSV often translate anthrōpos as “man”, but these were translated in eras when the English word “man” could still be used in a gender generic sense, and so the translators probably did not intend to specify gender.

    A fork is a very useful tool for the right purpose, but not for drinking soup. Strong’s is a very useful tool for the right purpose, but not for finding definitions of Greek words.

    John, you wrote:

    the NT is mostly an anthology of semitic documents, and they unapologetically, in so many cases, spoke directly to men, allowing women to listen, but as unaddressed

    Where did you get this strange idea from? Do you have any evidence that it is true?

  30. Richie says:

    John, thank you for your clarification of this issue which I seemed incapable of supplying. On this basis I’d like to repeat what I’ve insisted from the beginning,

    “…when Mark says that “the primary sense of the Greek anthrōpos is “person” or “human” being,” not “man” (= male)” he forgets that it does, however, mean “man” = “human being”. He then goes on – in the examples he gives – to forget that the English word “man” can, and is, used both in a singular sense corresponding to the Greek anthropos = man = human being and also in a collective sense of the Greek plural anthropoi = man = mankind = human beings. In example after example he either states or implies that “man” or “men” in the ESV is an incorrect translation of anthropos/anthropoi because those terms mean “male person/persons”. But this is clearly not the case. In addition, “man” is indeed a collective noun as well as a singular noun and thus can be a proper translation of anthropoi just as Mike [and now John] states above. Again, the ESV is entirely consistent with their stated translation principles as stated in the ESV Preface.”

    It follows, therefore, that Mark’s entire sub-section “Men or People?” is incorrect.

  31. Richie says:

    Peter, “man” and “men” are still used in the English language generically to mean “human being” or “person” in the singular or, in the plural, to mean “human beings”, or “people”. I accept what you said earlier about its usage in England; however, where I live in the American South it is still common usage in both speaking and in writing. That people readily understand this usage in the Bible itself is also proven by the fact that four of the top five best-selling Bibles in the US are the NIV, KJV, NKJV, and ESV – all of which use “man” and “men” in this way to a greater or lesser extent. I would also point out that to speak of “gender inclusive” language in opposition to the words “man” or “men” is a misnomer. “Man” or “men” can properly function as “gender-inclusive” terms just as certain other terms can and have done so for hundreds of years. Such language is also not “sexist”. In fact, I probably know more women who are extremely strong advocates for promoting and retaining this traditional usage than men. This traditional usage also continues to be taught in schools and supported in society in general where I live. Personally, I deal with this issue every day both in the high school I teach in, in the adult Bible study fellowships that I help lead, and in society in general. In terms of the Bible, the majority of people use one of the versions mentioned above and most people – men and women – that I know simply consider the gender-inclusive language of the TNIV to be strange and language that would not be acceptable in formal writing either in schools or in society at large. In short, the English language is used in a wide variety of ways throughout the world and Bible translators need to recognize that fact.

  32. Mike says:

    Richie, I think you’ve hit on a significant dialectal difference here. Language change in terms of gender reference has been significantly slower in certain parts of the US, particularly the South and rural areas.

    In more urban areas, such as Chicago, where I’m from (or was from), there is a major difference.

    If I remember correctly the TNIV was (is?) specifically marketed to a younger age group where language change is likely more advanced.

  33. Suzanne McCarthy says:

    “Man” or “men” can properly function as “gender-inclusive” terms just as certain other terms can and have done so for hundreds of years. Such language is also not “sexist”. In fact, I probably know more women who are extremely strong advocates for promoting and retaining this traditional usage than men.

    What is strange is that the ESV is diametrically opposed to this. In the preface we can read,

    But the words “man” and “men” are retained where a male meaning component is part of the original Greek or Hebrew.

    The fact is that the translators do mean man the male when they use men. They then want women to understand that they are represented by men. Men represent women to God, and God to men. That is the underlying belief system.

  34. J. K. Gayle says:

    That is just the way it is. It won’t line up with English. As there are 30,000 young women who are also called anthropoi in Numbers, we have to say that anthropos also means young women, no men included.

    examples from Numbers 31:
    verse 35

    וְנֶפֶשׁ אָדָם מִן־הַנָּשִׁים אֲשֶׁר לֹא־יָדְעוּ מִשְׁכַּב זָכָר כָּל־נֶפֶשׁ שְׁנַיִם וּשְׁלֹשִׁים אָלֶף׃

    καὶ ψυχαὶ ἀνθρώπων ἀπὸ τῶν γυναικῶν, αἳ οὐκ ἔγνωσαν κοίτην ἀνδρός, πᾶσαι ψυχαὶ δύο καὶ τριάκοντα χιλιάδες.
    (Greek Septuagint translators on their own Hebrew)

    And persons of women who had not known lying with man, all the souls, thirty-two thousand.
    (Lancelot C. L. Brenton’s English translation of the Greek)

    and human souls of the women who did not know a man’s bed, all souls thirty-two thousand.
    (Peter W. Flint’s English translation of the Greek)

    and 32,000 women who had never slept with a man.
    (TNIV translators’ English of the Hebrew)

    and 32,000 virgin girls.
    (NLV translators’ English of the Hebrew)

    and 32,000 persons in all, women who had not known man by lying with him.
    (ESV translators’ English of the Hebrew)

    Note the stark difference between
    Flint’s and the TNIV’s specific-singular “a man” and
    Brenton’s and the ESV’s generic-noncount-noun “man.”

    Flint and Brenton are translating andros and the TNIV and ESV zakar.

    Note the differences in the translation of ‘adam:
    anthropon (Greek),
    persons (for the Greek, Brenton),
    human (for the Greek, Flint),
    women (TNIV)
    virgin girls (NLV)
    persons (ESV)

    Here’s Suzanne’s post “adam, all women” at the old BBB.

  35. Peter Kirk says:

    Richie, if what you say is true about your particular local dialect of English, let’s rename ESV “Southern American English Standard Version” and use and sell it only there. After all it just might be accurate there. But for the rest of us it is inaccurate, in its use of the word “man”, so please accept that and stop trying to persuade the rest of us to use a Bible which will mislead us.

    But of course Suzanne is correct, that the translators of ESV, or at least many of them, were consciously intending to use “man” in a male only sense. To put it another way, they were consciously putting their own theological slant on the message of Scripture, in passages like 2 Timothy 2:2 where there is no possible exegetical defence for a gender specific translation.

  36. Suzanne says:

    My point is that I don’t mind at all if people want to use “men” in a gender neutral way. I am surprised that the ESV is against this. Their philosophy is that “men” means males, and women are represented by males, because women are derivative.

  37. Wayne Leman says:

    Suzanne wrote:

    Their philosophy is that “men” means males, and women are represented by males, because women are derivative.

    For those who might be unaware of what Suzanne is referring to, it is the Federal Theology (Federalism) of Dr. Grudem and Dr. Poythress who wrote the book against the TNIV and gender-inclusive language. They were also two of the most vocal members of the ESV translation team. Federal Theology believes that there are spiritual representatives that help mediate between God and people: Christ died for people; males represent females, their families, their churches, before God, etc. Dr. Wayne Grudem and Dr. Vern Poythress believe that their theology of male representation should be applied to Bible translation, specifically, that masculine terms such as “man”, “men”, “brothers,” “fathers,” etc. should be retained even when the original biblical text meaning is inclusive, that is, referring to both males and females. Of course, English word usage has allowed for the use of some masculine terms to be used for inclusive reference. There have been other English inclusive forms, such as the so-called singular (it’s actually indefinite) “they,” which have competed for hundreds of years with the masculine generics in actual spoken and written English. Authors such as Shakespeare, C.S. Lewis, and even Dr. James Dobson who has supported the efforts of Dr. Grudem and Dr. Poythress have used the singular “they” in their writings.

    Of course, millions of English speakers today do not get inclusive meanings from words such as “men”, “brothers,” “fathers,” etc. They would never enter a room where their brothers and sisters are and greet them by saying, “Hello, brothers!”

    So, we have a conflict today between actual English language usage, some previous language usage (at least in certain contexts for some words), and the desire on the part of some members of the ESV translation team to promote male representation and Federal theology through the ESV. Some English speakers do still have generic/inclusive meanings for some masculine words. The ESV has, as its Preface clearly states, used some grammatically masculine words to act as “male representatives” for generic meanings. And that is a decision which the ESV team and its advocates have every right to make. One of the problems, then, which Dr. Strauss pointed out, is that one is sometimes unsure whether the ESV text intends a masculine or generic meaning with a masculine word. This can be confusing for readers. For instance, is Rom. 12:1 in the ESV addressed to women as well as men, or only to men? It is not clear, even with the ESV footnote.

    These are some of the theological and ideological issues underlying the Bible version debates of the last decade or so.

    This is not a blog for arguing the validity of any theological or ideological position. But it is appropriate to note what a theological or ideological background of a translation and translation debate is.

  38. Richie says:

    Peter, I’m not “trying to convince anyone to use a version that will mislead them.” In fact, I’m not even trying to convince anyone to use the ESV. Instead, I’m trying to deal with the issues at hand in this blog – and the issue at hand is, the ESV. It like, all versions, deserves careful, honest, and straightforward consideration – especially, in line with its own stated translation philosophy and goals. For the record, my favorite translations are:

    1. Formally Equivalent – ESV = Needs to be updated, but in my view it is the best representative of the Tyndale/KJV tradition today. I grew up in this tradition and I love reading the ESV. In addition, this tradition helps maintain continuity with the past. As a history teacher I don’t believe anyone can really have a true “feel” for U.S. or British histories without having a “feel” for this tradition. The Bible was THE book and all of life revolved around it. I also think the ESV’s gender language is almost just the right balance but still needs to go just a little bit farther in consistency.

    2. Balanced – NIV = It’s not #1 for nothing! It is accurate, readable, retains literary beauty and it communicates! It was also intended to maintain a measure of continuity with the Tyndale tradition and it certainly achieved it. Unfortunately, it’s also somewhat dated in regard to gender language and otherwise.

    3. Balanced – TNIV = The most unambiguously accurate English Bible in the world today. My only complaints are the regularized use of the “singular they”, too much “pluralizing” and their inconsistencies in translating “hagios”. But I think everybody would greatly, greatly benefit from using it at least as second, etc. version for comparison sake.

    4. Functionally Equivalent – NLT = The 2007 update of this was done incredibly well and makes it a fantastic translation for reading the Bible both for meaning and for pleasure. A great Bible for new Christians whether young or old. And, I can’t believe it would enlighten anyone’s understanding of the Bible’s message.

    I use these all pretty much equally depending on the occasion.

    By the way Peter, I think you and I have a good deal in common. I lived in Krakow, Poland from 1982-87 studying Polish, etc. in one university and teaching English in another. While there I helped start a non-denominational house-church and also helped translate biblical materials into Polish. I think you also did something similar in the Caucasus region in the 90’s if I remember correctly. Anyway, though I’ve traveled a lot and have a lot of friends throughout Eastern Europe I’ve never made it to the Caucasus.

  39. Richie says:

    Suzanne and Wayne,

    Thanks for your very well-written explanations. Yes, that does make for some confusion. It would certainly be interesting to know just how much, and in which specific cases, theological views were, in fact, instrumental in the translational choices you speak of. Perhaps we’ll find-out next year when Bill Mounce responds to Mark Strauss’ paper.

    Also, Wayne, though it is true that the singular (indefinite) “they” has “competed for hundreds of years with the masculine generics in actual spoken and written English” all the way back to Shakespeare, the CBT chose to “regularize” it in the TNIV and to eliminate other forms. I understand their reasoning; however, I don’t think it was necessary to adopt this position. I also think it has greatly hurt the TNIV’s reception, irrespective of propaganda against it. Of course, there’s no perfect solution to this dilemma, but I do think that using “he” would have been a better choice and would also have been better accepted, especially by NIV users.

    Having just finished re-reading all of Mark Strauss’ papers on the TNIV web-site it seems obvious to me that he, and probably others, on the CBT are also not totally, at least, happy with it.

  40. Wayne Leman says:

    Richie wrote:

    Of course, there’s no perfect solution to this dilemma, but I do think that using “he” would have been a better choice and would also have been better accepted, especially by NIV users.

    You’re right, Richie: There is no easy solution in English to the dilemma of how to express gender-inclusive meanings. Some languages, like French, have perfect solutions with a grammatically gender neutral pronoun. English has several grammatically gender neutral generic pronouns, but each of them has issues and there is no agreement by all English speakers about what form should be used.

    “He” is a problem for many English speakers today because it sounds like it excludes females. Of course, we can take the approach that Drs. Grudem and Poythress suggest in their book and teach such people that “he” is a generic and includes females when it is used generically. But this kind of language engineering, whether promoted by secular feminists or Christian conservatives, seldom, if ever, works. None of the proposals made by secular feminists for new gender-neutral English pronouns has been adopted by the English-speaking public. And an increasing number of English speakers are continuing to use the old singular “they” which has never gone out of usage, in spite of efforts of English teachers to ban it. I observe English language carefully and I think that singular “they” is probably bypassing generic “he” among most English speakers today. Generic “he” is still used by some, especially in more formal writing, but even many scholars today are using singular “they”. When you think about it, it’s actually a pretty good solution, or at least it makes sense that it has been in use by English speakers for so long, quite a few hundred years of usage.

    It’s no wonder that there are debates over English Bible versions with regard to gender language, when the English public is divided over it.

    Thanks for your comments. I appreciate your interaction on the blog.

  41. Peter Kirk says:

    And that is a decision which the ESV team and its advocates have every right to make.

    Wayne, I agree if ESV is intended for a particular niche market. But if (as its name suggests) it is intended as some kind of standard, its translation team needs to follow the kinds of procedures used by translators in your organisation, who are expected to avoid controversial readings and renderings, and seek ones which are acceptable to the widest possible range of Christians. The ESV team has failed to do this; rather, at least according to some ESV advocates, it has deliberately chosen to be sectarian in reflecting a particular theological slant. A translation like that can never be an acceptable standard.

    Richie, thanks for clarifying your position, which may not be as far from mine as I thought at first. But I must insist that generic “he”, like generic “men”, is totally unacceptable among many readers here in England, as well as in Australia, Canada and many parts of the USA from what I have heard; it is considered normal only in a part of just one English speaking country. I was never in Poland, but did indeed work as a Bible translator (not as a church planter) in the Caucasus region.

  42. Wayne Leman says:

    Peter wrote:

    Wayne, I agree if ESV is intended for a particular niche market.

    Good point, Peter. I agree. The theological and translational choices made by the ESV team do make it appropriate for a niche market. And I think if we surveyed the theological and ideological makeup of ESV proponents we would find that they largely are part of that niche market. And those of us who argue for broader audiences for a translation will often be found to not be talking on the same wavelength as those who argue that the ESV is the best version for today. We talk past each other, which leads to miscommunication.

  43. Rich Rhodes says:

    I don’t know if anyone is still listening, but there is an important point about the way language works that is being confused here.

    Words do not refer directly, rather they label categories.

    Categories, in turn, are structured cognitively in terms of “best examples” [in technical language: prototypes]. For example, if I say bird, chances are you’ll think of something more like a robin or hawk than like a duck or a chicken.

    In the Greco-Roman world, the best example of a human being was an adult male. As a result ἄνθρωπος properly ‘adult human’ can be used to refer either to a human being as opposed to an animal or a god (as Kurk Gayle likes to point out), or to a specific subtype of adult human, usually an adult male.

    The equation that ‘adult male’ is the best example of ;adult human’ also works backwards. So ἄνηρ properly ‘adult male’, can be used to refer generally to ‘adult human’.

    This kind of shifting to or from best examples happens constantly. Ultimately, that’s where English got the word man. Early Germanic had man only in the meaning ‘someone’. (German still has this meaning.) This meaning remains in English only in the suffix -man, which gender-correctness has almost driven totally out of PC speech.

    Other examples of semantic change which involve best example equations include:

    Ger. Tier ‘animal’, Eng. deer.
    Eng. bone, Ger. Bein ‘leg’.
    Ger. sparen ‘save (e.g., money)’, Eng. spare

  44. J. K. Gayle says:

    Rich,
    With Richie, I’m still listening. You’ve gotten me thinking all over again about prototypes and the theory of them. Is this as old as Plato or did Eleanor Rosch and then George Lakoff (with Mark Johnson perhaps) renew the theory? Pardon us all for getting technical, but isn’t a more robust theory Ken Pike’s more personal tagmemics? Or would you conflate Pike’s theory with the idealists’? Can’t we revise, or clarify, what you said as “People MAY use Words . . . not [just to] refer directly, [but also] rather they [can use their words in order to] label categories.”? On a very simple level, I’m thinking of “allos” (plural) and an “eme.” And this applies directly, I insist, to the discussion of translators’ personally using Greek words for different “psychologically real” classes and particulars.

  45. John says:

    Commenting again here, I think it has been very noticed here in the U.S. that “gender neutral” has been mostly a push by femnazis than a legitimate, inartificed, change of language; it is a highly artificial distortion that here is used mostly in academia, but on the streets is less and less heard.

    More than men, I often hear women instead condemning it, joking about it, etc.. People still refer to others as “guys” when addressing crowds, and like statements: it’s naturally understood.

    It’s also not very inobvious as those pushing “gender neutral” demand such “solutions” as using “she” instead: I condemn chauvinism absolutely…and feminism just as much: too often Chauvinism is not the norm, straw men are created to be knocked-down as if it were while feminism is truly a rampant form of sexism beginning to saturate many things, whether outrageously, or with great subtlety.

    It seems like much of this started with the accusations that the use of “man”, “he”, “etc.”, were due to “male bias” etc., though I liked E.B. White on the Subject: “it’s rooted in the beginnings of the English language”; he dismissed such politicization of language unflinchingly: it is tragic his work has been mauled recently by additions that are to be PC.

    Anyway, I think censoring the Bible to accommodate modernism only hides, not helps; it is still eviscerating a feature of the language and thought in that time, not clarifying; when people argue “it’s just the stupid friggin’ males who were *@(#*$ chauvinists” it’s even denying the Spirit’s part in all this.

    Personally I like the honest feminists somewhat: I remember reading the words of one who actually spoke-out and condemned neutralizing the bible. It’s odd that the NRSV is so often touted as being an example of this practice that others should follow…its majority translators didn’t do this, and when they discovered the style [only] committee systematically altered their work, they expressed anger and betrayal, or at least some did. That’s a Bible that was actually, in its final form, published with a systematic bias and agenda, and against the majority workers at that.

    The bare truth is that the Biblical authors, and more importantly, their Inspirer, address men; without apology, without flinching that someone may be offended; throughout women are typically addressed indirectly; it is relevant, I think, to bring-in culture here in this point: it was probably considered a propriety, that is, to talk to the heads of households first and foremost: in a Biblical sense men are the heads of their households, in the sense of its representatives, etc.; this is not chauvinist, it need not include the exaltation import demeaning or disparaging of the value of one or the other sex; just as a man is to live considerately with his wife who is the weaker sex…but she’s his body and he’s to love her as Christ His Church; the Bible is not apologetic about [eternally, this isn’t just cultural] calling Christ the head of His Church, His body and bride, purely patriarchal, intimating authority, representation, the final word, etc., yet he loves His body, cares for her deeply, gently, perfectly.

    This is the language, imagery, and metaphor, that a man is compared to, the context of a man’s headship, and it is in utter opposition to feminism, as well as Chauvinism (though not the vague and all-we-don’t like “Chauvinism” as feminists often like to accuse all things that don’t assume women as utter equals to every task, role, etc.).

  46. Peter Kirk says:

    John, your reference to “femnazis” and words “feminism is truly a rampant form of sexism” are offensive and break the comment guidelines:

    Do not question the intelligence, spirituality, beliefs, or motives of anyone

  47. Mike Sangrey says:

    John,

    There are so many non sequitors and red herrings in your comment, I don’t know where to begin or whether to even begin.

    Comments such as your really aren’t allowed on this blog. Please don’t make such comments in the future.

    The contributers and readers of this blog appreciate supported, substantive content. That’s our standard. Please follow suit.

    Also, we would appreciate your using your real email address when commenting.

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