Monday, June 08, 2009

The Intrusive Pronoun: An Index

When I first wrote about the intrusive "his" and "him" in the prologue to John's gospel, I had intended this passage to be one of three places where we see the masculine singular pronoun intrude into the English text with little or no justification. Since this first case still warrants some discussion, I will index these posts with a view to adding the other two passages later.

To clear up any misconception, let me explain that the underlying Greek for "him" in John 1:3 - πάντα δι' αὐτοῦ ἐγένετο - does, in fact, have a masculine grammatical gender. There is no evidence whatsoever for either the feminine or neuter in the Greek linguistic structure.

However, the German, English and French Bibles of the Reformation translated John 1:3 so that the pronoun would agree grammatically with the antecedent, λόγος, the word. In German it is neuter to agree with das Wort, in French it is feminine to agree with la parole, and in English it used to be translated as "it," an inanimate pronoun, as best fits the inanimate noun "word."

However, from the time of the KJV on, in Christian translations, this phrase has been translated with "him" instead.

I am not writing about theology here. You may choose your theology. But you cannot choose the history of interpretation, you can only study it. For some reason, a chasm has opened up between the Greek, as well as other European languages, and modern English translations, with respect to this passage, and we would do well to reconsider it.

If, as some have suggested, the logos can be equated to sophia or hokmah (wisdom), then we also need to compare the representation of gender in passages dealing with sophia. Enough of that for now. Here is a tentative index of posts.

Posts here.

John 1:3
Posts Elsewhere

Aristotle's Feminist Subject

Gentle Wisdom
The Church of Jesus Christ
Ecce Homo
Castle of Nutshells


David Reimer said...

Hi Suzanne: I've been reading Carter Lindberg's The European Reformations recently. I just ran across a bit that intersected with the interest in shifting pronominal referrents in translation. It's the paragraph that goes from the bottom of p. 205 onto 206, and if this link works, it should take you to the Google Books preview of the passage. Not much there, but interesting to see the phenomenon again.

J. L. Watts said...

Good morning, Suzanne. Thanks for the links, and more importantly, for the discussion. I look forward to a few more comparisons between the Sophia Tradition (LXX) and the Logos of John.

Thanks, again.

Bob MacDonald said...

Job 28 provides a bit of Wisdom that I worked on recently. Edwin Good uses the female pronoun in his translation.

believer333 said...

In the Greek interlinear for John 1 it says autos is masculine?

I would like to understand this. Can you please point out to me exactly which words are neuter or fem. in the original in John 1 which are relevant to what you are saying? And if are not showing this correctly, I would like to know why and where I can see it done correctly. Thanks.

J. L. Watts said...

Believer333, may I refer you to this post, which may help:

Suzanne McCarthy said...

David, The link didn't work but I found it anyway, and yes, this does fit in in another way. It shows the importance of linking a pronoun properly to its referent. Thanks for pointing that out.

I am following and will soon link to Michael's post.

J. L. Watts said...

Suzanne, may I submit this for the index as well? Here

J. L. Watts said...

Suzanne, this has been a real personal conversation for me - on different levels, forcing me to think about something that I have only flirted with in my mind. I might loose readers, and 'brothers', but I think in the end, it has been a good conversation. May I submit this post as well?