But the second thing I learned is that though anthropos is primarily gender-neutral, it does have a unique masculine/male orientation that gives it a slightly different flavor than our English terms “person” or “human being.” It is this masculine bent (as I will argue for below), coupled with my previous post on the typological relationship between gender and the image of God, that compels me to believe that it is best to retain (in most instances) the traditional translations of anthropos and adam as “man.”
Now to begin my argument. Suzanne has appealed to the lexicons—to the lexicons we will go!
[UBS Greek Dictionary] anthropos, man, human being, person, one (friend, sir, man in address); pl. people; mankind, humanity (according to human standards); husband (Mt 19.10); son (Mt 10.35); servant (Lk 12.36)As both Suzanne and Peter pointed out—and as the lexicons note—anthropos can be used to refer to both genders and carries the primary meaning of “human being,” or “person.” This is pretty much what one finds (though not as abbreviated) in the standard lexicons. At a quick glance, these lexical definitions seemingly make the word most similar to the English word “person” (or pl. “people”). Further, Suzanne helpfully pointed out a Liddell-Scott reference in which anthropos is used in secular ancient Greek to refer to a single woman (as opposed to a group of women). So far so good for the idea that anthropos is most closely related to the English term “person.”
[BDAG (abbreviated)] anthropos 1. a person of either sex, w. focus on participation in the human race, a human being, 2. a member of the human race, w. focus on limitations and weaknesses, a human being, 3. a male person, man.
But at this point we need to ask an important question. Is the term anthropos, like the word “people,” used to signify, in equal proportion, masculine and feminine subjects when the sex of the subject is clear from the context of a passage? Or in other words, is anthropos used to refer to male subjects (e.g., “a man and his wife”) in the same manner and the same proportion with which it is used to refer to female subjects (e.g., “a woman and her husband”). The answer is no, and I think that there is significance to this.
Observe: anthropos is used 1977 times (in 10 forms) in the LXX (Greek translation of the OT), Apocrypha and New Testament. It is regularly used to denote people in general, a group of males, a mixed-gendered group, and individual males. It is never used to denote a woman or an exclusively female group of people. For example, we might often read something like Jeremiah 44:7 (below), where anthropos is contrasted with gunai (wife/woman).
Jeremiah 44:7b . . .Why do you commit this great evil against yourselves, to cut off from you man (anthropos) and woman (gunai), infant and child, from the midst of Judah, leaving you no remnant?However, we never find the reverse, where the male is referred to as aner and the woman referred to as anthropos. Again, at no point in the canonical or extra-canonical texts is a woman or a group of women ever referred to with the term anthropos, yet males (either in groups or as individuals) are often referred to with this term.
In as much as biblical Greek is consistent with the wider secular Geek of the day, we are forced—in my mind—to only one conclusion: The use of anthropos as a strictly feminine designator (as referenced in Liddell-Scott) is highly unusual in both secular and sacred Greek. (The only other option would be that Biblical Greek does not follow its secular counterpart in the normal usage of anthropos--which would beg a whole new set of questions). It is true (as Suzanne pointed out previously) that the meaning of a Greek or Hebrew word is not always ascertained by simply doing a study of its use in Scripture, since much ancient Greek exists outside of canonical literature. Yet with almost 2000 occurrences of anthropos in the canonical and extra-canonical writings, this caution is not nearly as acutely felt. 2000 samples of a given term provides an adequate cross-section for ascertaining meaning. If my observation here has merit, it seems very difficult to maintain that anthropos does not have at least some masculine bent.
It light of the above observation, Suzanne suggested in the previous thread that the lack of correspondence between anthropos and the feminine gender can be defended against the concept of masculine-representative language in the following way. She wrote,
The frequency of the use of a term to refer to a specific referent depends on the frequency of the occurrence of that referent. For example, 'tree' in the Bible may most frequently refer to a fig tree, and not a maple tree. However, one cannot argue that the word 'tree' is not equally appropriate for a group of maple trees, unless you know that maple trees were equally present and equally relevant to the conversation.Good point. I will grant her primary contention that men were not frequently present at exclusively female gatherings. Further, it does not seem that there were large numbers of exclusively female gatherings to begin with (no “Women of Faith” conferences back in those days). Thus even if anthropos could be legitimately used to designate a large, strictly female group, we should not be surprised find it used little in this manner. In this I substantiate Suzanne’s main point.
I do suspect that [your] reference to the [lack of association between anthropos and strictly] female gatherings cannot be substantiated simply because the Biblical authors were themselves male and could not be present to write about these female events, if and when they happened. Absence of occurrence is not proof of anything.
Here is where I think such logic falls short, however. Though there is little occurrence of large, all-female gatherings in the biblical writings, there is frequent occurrence of small all-female gatherings, as well as frequent occurrences of individual women. A quick search of the NIV reveals almost 700 passages in which individual women are mentioned, as well as 228 passages in which multiple women are mentioned. The point in showing the frequency of the occurrence of women in the NIV is to demonstrate that women are indeed present in substantial numbers in the canonical writings—a little more than half of all male references in fact. (And these numbers would undoubtedly have been higher if I had searched an English version that included the Apocryphal writings). Yet none of these references to woman are ever—not once—associated with the term anthropos. So though there were plenty of opportunities for the biblical authors to link together an all-female audiences (whether in small groups or as individuals) with the term anthropos, they never did so. anthropos is never used to signify an individual woman, a group of women, or a wife. If it really were a totally gender-neutral word, equivalent say, to the word “people” or “persons” (or even a quasi gender-neutral word such as “guy”) one would expect to find at least some occurrence of it used in this way throughout the canonical and extra-canonical writings, particularly when there was ample opportunity to do so.
Because of this, I am inclined to conclude that on the “masculinity scale” anthropos falls somewhere between the English word people and the “male-representative” use of the term man. (c.f., Psalm 1:1) In other words, it is more male-oriented in nature than the former and less than the latter. Peter seems to tentatively affirm the basic gist of this conclusion when he writes,
I can agree that anthropos and adam are not entirely gender neutral in that they are not used of individual women or groups of women only, but are used of individual men and groups of men only - although in reference to them rather than to specify their maleness.If such is indeed the case, we are left with a bit of a decision as how best to translate this term. How do we best reflect the slightly male-oriented bent of anthropos? In my next post I will argue that the typological relationship between gender and the image of God provides a theological reason for translating this masculine-leaning, gender inclusive term as “man.”