Sunday, July 12, 2009

Software and the intrusive pronoun

I have had this happen a few times. When discussing a passage like 1 Tim. 3 :1, (also 1 Tim. 5:8)
    Here is a trustworthy saying: If anyone sets his heart on being an overseer, he desires a noble task.

    Πιστὸς ὁ λόγος: εἴ τις ἐπισκοπῆς ὀρέγεται, καλοῦ ἔργου ἐπιθυμεῖ.
someone will say that it is clearly referring to a man because it says "he." I have asked if they think "anyone" is masculine only, and immediately they assure me that they have, in fact, checked the Greek and yes τις is masculine.

Try it - go to and choose 1 Tim. 3:1 and click on τις - there it is, masculine. However, in the lexicons, τις is masculine and feminine, it is of common gender.

I daresay that a lot more men refer to software than to lexicons. I wonder what the leading retail software says about τις. I can just see a bunch of guys sitting there saying that since they designed the software, they could chose to make τις mean whatever they wanted it to mean. I think this is pretty shabby.


J. K. Gayle said...

Thanks for this post. It's not just an issue in Bible software & translation. Here's from "Misandry: From the Dictionary of Fools" by Richard Leader. Leader is discussing Greek language gendered terms and how translators render them particularly in "Sappho and her poem now known as Fragment 147, a verse popular for its ability to connect to modern readers." The fragment is:

Μνάσεσθαί τινά φαμι καὶ ὔστερον ἀμμέων.

And τινά, of course, is a variant of τις (ambiguously masc, fem, or neut acc or neut voc).

Here's what Leader notes:

Anne Carson translates it as “someone will remember us / I say / even in another time” (2003). She is both accurate to the original Greek that rendered “someone” as “someone,” while appreciating the success of Sappho and her bridge across time: as the first female poet, the “I say” becomes a pivotal expression. Carson sets up the space for it to stand alone and triumphant. Yet men have always had cause to impose their own image in the voice of Sappho: H. T. Wharton (1895) translates the same fragment as “Men I think will remember us even hereafter.” Edwin Marion Cox (1925), similarly, gives “I think men will remember us even hereafter.”

(Here's Leader's essay.)

CD-Host said...

I agree this is awful. Layer upon layer upon layer of disinformation. There is a political proposal the bibles don't support. So the bibles get changed to support this new theology. But then the lexicons grammers don't support the bible so they get changed. Then the source documents don't match the lexicons so they get changed...

That's what nice about the cranks. At least they have entirely different axes to grind so if you use a range of cranks you can get to the truth.

CD-Host said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Jay Seidler said...

Your diligence in this blog is wonderful. Thanks again and again for all your work. In reference to pronouns, I can't resist copying the following silly joke.

A man and his wife were having an argument about who should brew the coffee each morning.
The wife said, "You should do it, because you get up first, and then we don't have to wait as long to get our coffee."

The husband said, "You are in charge of cooking around here and you should do it, because that is your job, and I can just wait for my coffee."

Wife replies, "No, you should do it, and besides, it is in the Bible that the man should do the coffee."

Husband replies, "I can't believe that, show me."
So she fetched the Bible, and opened the New Testament and showed him at the top of several pages, that it indeed says..........





gengwall said...

the Greek anthropos is gramatically masculine but means "human". The problem is two fold - first, Greek is a gender based language, second, "neuter" is not a valid gender for human beings (or animals, I believe). Therefore, the "default" gender when using genderless (i.e. group based) pronouns is male. That doesn't have any relation to the gender of the members of the group. tic is always male gramatically, but gender neutral (which is not the same as "neuter") in application, just like anthropos. The only time that gender comes into play in application of the pronoun is when other words in the text narrow the group being spoken of to a certain gender.

A perfect example of tic referring to a female group is in 1 Timothy 5:4, just before the troublesome verse mentioned by Suzanne above. vs. 4 reads:

"but if any [tic] widow has children or grandchildren, they must first learn to practice piety in regard to their own family and to make some return to their parents;"

tic in the above verse is still masculine - it can't be anything else - even though the group being spoken of is exclusively female.

So, tic is never gender specific unless there are qualifying nouns which make it so. Although some would want to argue that "husband of one wife" in 1 Timothy 3:2 fulfills the requirement to make it gender specific, a close examination reveals that that clause does not fit the pattern. For 1 Timothy 3:1-7 to be only about men, it would have to begin with "ei tic [if any] aner [male]". But there is no masculine qualifier in the entire passage, just one reference to a circumstance which only applies to men (all other circumstances listed can apply to either gender).

If we were to follow the logic that "husband of one wife" makes all of 1 Timothy 3:1-7 only about men, then it logically must also be only about husbands. Therefore, anyone who subscribes to universal male leadership based on 1 Timothy must also (if they are intellectually honest) reject any single males from consideration.