Monday, September 14, 2009

Aner: either male or female

Alan Bandy has been blogging about gender language and the generic pronoun. Today he posted on the gender implications of aner. Alan writes,
    [Blomberg] posited that James 1:8 employs ανηρ as parallel to the generic “man” described as ανθρωπος in verse 7, and “a quick glance at all of the other uses of aner in this letter demonstrates that almost all clearly refer to men and women alike.”[3]

    In response, however, it is possible that James could be using ανθρωπος as a specific reference to a male rather than humanity in general.[4] More importantly, it remains that BDAG does not include the possibility for a generic use of ανηρ and it is difficult to prove the existence of clear examples.[5] All references in BDAG clearly mark ανηρ as a distinct word for male, except entry six which indicates it as equivalent to τις (someone) in certain contexts.[6] A look at those references cited reveals that every one of the uses of τις refers to a man or men.[7] To translate ανηρ inclusively requires a liberty in translation that semantic range does not clearly allow.

In response to Alan, I offer this list,

Examples of aner in the singular being translated in a gender neutral fashion

a) ἀνήρ (singular) as ‘person’

i) εὐφήμει: οὐ μεντἂν καλῶς ποιοίην οὐ πειθόμενος ἀνδρὶ ἀγαθῷ καὶ σοφῷ.

Hush, hush! Why, surely it would be wrong of me not to obey a good and wise person. Plato. Hipparchus. 228b

ἀλλ' ἴσως, ὦ βέλτιστε, φαίη ἄν τις ἀνήρ, ὃς ἐμοῦ τε καὶ σοῦ σοφώτερος ὢν τυγχάνοι, οὐκ ὀρθῶς ἡμᾶς, λέγειν, οὕτως εἰκῇ ψέγοντας ἄγνοιαν,

But perhaps, my excellent friend, some person who is wiser than either you or I may say we are wrong to be so free with our abuse of ignorance. Plato. Alcibiades 2. 143b

b) ἀνήρ (singular) as ‘everyone’

πᾶς ἀνήρ, κἂν δοῦλος ᾖ τις, ἥδεται τὸ φῶς ὁρῶν

    Slave or free, every one is glad to gaze upon the light. Euripides. Orestes. 1523.
c) ἀνήρ (singular) as ‘they’

ὅταν ἀγασθῶσι σφόδρα του, σεῖος ἀνήρ φασιν, οὕτω καὶ ὁ θηριώδης ἐν τοῖς ἀνθρώποις σπάνιος:

    ‘Yon mon's divine, ’they say--, so a bestial character is rare among human beings; Aristotle. Nic. Ethics. 1145a 25.

d) ἀνήρ (singular) ascitizen’, either male or female

ποτὲ ἀνὴρ ἀγαθὸς γίγνοιτ' ἄν, τὴν ἀνθρώπῳ προσήκουσαν ἀρετὴν τῆς ψυχῆς ἔχων .... , εἴτε ἄρρην τις των συνοικούντων οὖσα ἡ φύσις εἴτε θήλεια, νέων ἢ γερόντων

… in which a member of our community--be he of the male or female sex, young or old,--may become a good citizen, possessed of the excellence of soul which belongs to man. Plato's Laws 6. 770d.

(In this sentence, the Greek word ανθρωπος is translated as "man" generic, "the excellence of soul which belongs to man", that is, the human, either male or female; and the word ανηρ is translated as citizen, either male or female.)

e) ἀνήρ asindividual’

ἀλλὰ διὰ τὴν τοῦ χρυσοῦ τε καὶ ἀργύρου ἀπληστίαν πᾶσαν μὲν τέχνην καὶ μηχανήν ... ἐθέλειν ὑπομένειν πάντα ἄνδρα, εἰ μέλλει πλούσιος ἔσεσθαι

every individual, because of his greed for silver and gold, is willing to toil at every art and device, noble or ignoble, if he is likely to get rich by it, Plato's Laws. 8.831d.

Examples of aner in the plural being translated in a gender neutral fashion

a) 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

b) 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

c) ανδρες as 'mankind'

ἐξ οὗ Κενταύροισι καὶ ἀνδράσι νεῖκος ἐτύχθη

From hence the feud arose between the centaurs and mankind. Odyssey 21:303

d) 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

e) 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

    f) ανδρες as ‘friends’

      ὦ πάντων ἀνδρῶν ἄριστοι

      Most excellent friends, … Plato's Laws. 5.741a.
    g) ανδρες as ‘citizens’

      νείμασθαι δὲ δὴ καὶ τοὺς ἄνδρας δώδεκα μέρη

      And he must divide the citizens also into twelve parts, … Plato's Laws. 5.745d.

    This list is by no means exhaustive and was done without a sophisticated software search. It is just a smattering of examples of the gender inclusive use of aner.


    Aristotle in 23 Volumes, Vol. 19, translated by H. Rackham. Cambridge, MA, Harvard University Press; London, William Heinemann Ltd. 1934. Nichomachean Ethics. line 1145a 25

    Euripides. Orestes. 1523 tr. E.P. Coleridge. 1938. (translated in 1898)

    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.

    Pindar. Odes. 1990. (accessed in the Perseus Digital Library)

    Plato. Plato in Twelve Volumes, Vol. 8 translated by W.R.M. Lamb. Cambridge, MA, Harvard University Press; London, William Heinemann Ltd. 1955. (1914) Alcibiades 2. line 143b

    Plato. Plato in Twelve Volumes, Vol. 8 translated by W.R.M. Lamb. Cambridge, MA, Harvard University Press; London, William Heinemann Ltd. 1955. (1914) Hipparchus. 228b

    Plato. Laws. In Two volumes, tr. By R. G. Bury. Loeb Classical Library. 1926.

    Plato. Plato in Twelve Volumes, Vols. 10 & 11 translated by R.G. Bury. Cambridge, MA, Harvard University Press; London, William Heinemann Ltd. 1967 & 1968.


    Alan Bandy said...

    Thanks for this great list, Sue. I hope it is okay if I post it as an update on my entry.

    J. K. Gayle said...

    The list is impressive. Plato's Laws 6. 770d is a most excellent example!

    There's a similar discussion going on here, here, and here.

    Suzanne McCarthy said...


    Excellent posts. I hope readers will follow up on these links. I will write more tonight.

    Mike Aubrey said...

    Sue, if you want some more Hellenistic examples, read through 1 Sam 2 in the LXX.

    Anonymous said...

    I think a NT woman is called an aner, but I cannot recall who. I know the ESV translates away from the primary meaning to cloak this.


    J. K. Gayle said...


    Maybe there's another example you're remembering. But...

    Acts 17:34 reads:

    Τινὲς δὲ ἄνδρες κολληθέντες αὐτῷ, ἐπίστευσαν· ἐν οἷς καὶ Διονύσιος ὁ Ἀρεοπαγίτης καὶ γυνὴ ὀνόματι Δάμαρις καὶ ἕτεροι σὺν αὐτοῖς.

    ESV translates:

    But some men joined him and believed, among whom also were Dionysius the Areopagite and a woman named Damaris and others with them.

    Ann Nyland translates:

    Certain of the ladies and gentlemen to whom he was speaking believed, among whom especially were Dionysus a member of the Areopagos and the woman by the name of Damaris; and others, together with them.

    Nyland's footnotes on this v:

    τινὲς δὲ ἄνδρες, tines de andres. ἀνήρ, aner, was commonly a term of formal respect referring to both genders.

    It was not unusual for women to be present at philosophical discussions, and indeed, Hetairai are well known for their presence at symposiums.

    Lydia said...

    This one is a keeper! Thanks

    Anonymous said...

    Damaris, that is it.

    ISV Act 17:34 Some men (andres) joined him and became believers. With them were Dionysius, who was a member of the Areopagus, a woman named Damaris, and some others along with them.

    The point is the natural reading is that Damaris in an aner/man and therefore aner is sometimes inclusive but this can be cloaked in various ways if the translators do not believe this is even possible.


    The White Man said...

    This seems an obvious use for "citizen:"

    But some citizens joined him in believing, among them both Dionysius the Areopagite and a woman named Damaris--and others with them.

    The Ghost of Plato said...

    Indeed! How could one have a good philosophical discussion without a glass of wine and a female escort? It just isn't done!

    One must not forget why Zeus brought women upon us andres in the first place! Are they distinct from us? Yes... and no.

    ...what did I have in mind by aner when I wrote Laws? It's been centuries... I've forgotten. Did I have women in mind? Ah, yes. As a male, I always did. And lo! I can say little for my fellow Greeks. All too many were more interested in other men...