RE: [GTh] A New Tack on Translating RWME
- Roger says:
>It is not possible to build much of a case about what gender Greeks
> Hmmmm--- "the rejected masculine lithos" becomes the head of
> what was the feminine "gonia". #114 restated? Actually, I
> do not take much credence in Greek gender as Greek words were
> invented long before the NT authors used them and Jesus did
> say he made all things new. And as I understand, the Coptics
> borrowed from the Greek
considered something to be based on the gender of Greek words, unless they
are proper names. English is the only language with which I am familiar
that bases the gender of nouns on the gender of the objects they represent.
Greek nouns that name inaninmate objects can be masculine, feminine or
neuter - that doesn't mean that Greeks thought of tables, chairs, books etc
as being male, female or genderless.
Coptics borrowed many words from Greek, mainly to express concepts that
didn't exist in Egyptian thought, but not always. They didn't always carry
the gender of the word across from the Greek though.
"Politics is the work we do to keep the world safe for our spirituality" -
Judith Plaskow, Phoenix Rising, 2000
Rev Judy Redman
PhD candidate, Postgraduate member of Council & Uniting Church Chaplain
University of New England Armidale 2351
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fax: +61 2 6773 3749
web: http://www-personal.une.edu.au/~jredman2 and
- [Mike,] thank you for posting this! It's answered the questions I had about
Meyer's translation, although my personal jury is still out on his rationale.
I'm not an expert in Greek by any means, but have been looking into how to
translate 'anthropos' recently. 'Anthropos' when used of an individual
always refers to a male individual, alhough it is also used to refer to a group of individuals of either sex. It reminds me of the Old English use of the
word 'man, originally 'human', while wapman was a male human (weapons-man) and
wombman a female human. In the same way, 'man' referring to an individual is
used solely to apply to a male human.
I recall that Michael Marlowe discussed the translation of anthropos ... ah,
here it is!
> [Mike,] thank you for posting this! It's answered the questions I hadThanks for your note, J.S. (and please sign your notes - that's the
> Meyer's translation, although my personal jury is still out on his
protocol, and I don't know if the name I put on it agrees with you.)
The Marlowe piece is great. It covers the area I had intended to
cover in the second part of this note, when thinking about it last night,
and with much more expertise than I have at my disposal. Marlowe
answers the questions I would have posed, without knowing the answers.
This weekend, I came to realize that my analysis in this series of notes
was still incomplete. It occurred to me to ask two questions about
Meyer's Anthropos Principle (i.e., that RWME corresponds to, or is
synonymous with, ANTHROPOS). The first was, "Even if it's false, what's
the translational impact?" The second was, "Even if it were true, what
would the translational impact be?" Both of these questions need to
be answered in order to come to a proper judgement about Meyer's
translations (and others that appear to depend on the Anthropos Principle.)
I'll look at these two questions, and describe how I approached them.
"Even if the AP is false, what's the translational impact?" The reason
this question arises is that it's possible that a translation derived by
applying the AP might be _no different_ from a translation which was
derived from a case-by-case examination of the 35 occurrences of
RWME in Coptic Thomas. Even though the application of the AP
would certainly yield inaccurate results if used on a broad range of
Coptic writings, the particular usages of RWME in Thomas might be
such that the application of AP against _them_ might yield accurate
results accidentally. (This is an application of the "Blind Pig Principle",
namely that even a blind pig finds an acorn once in a while. Or is that
the Blind Squirrel Principle?)
While it's true that I _felt_ that certain RWME-contexts in Thomas
were male-gendered rather than gender-neutral, feelings aren't
tools of cognition, so the thing to do seemed to be to look at the
Greek NT parallels of Thomas' RWME-sayings. Frankly, I was
disappointed at the results; in every case in which there was a
word in the Greek that corresponded to RWME (other than cases
like 'someone' or 'no one'), it was ANTHROPOS, not ANHR.
Especially pertinent was L72 (the Divider saying) where Jesus
addresses someone in a salutation that even Meyer renders in
male terms as 'mister'. In the Greek, however (Lk 12:13), the
salutation employs ANTHROPOS, while the person addressed
is referred to only as 'someone in the crowd'. Could it be that
what such a salutation really meant (but contra Meyer's translation
of it) was 'Oh human!' rather than 'Oh man!'? If so, then it would
seem at least plausible that a case-by-case examination of
RWME-usages would yield the same results as applying AP,
unsound though AP is.
At this point, I thought to ask the second question, "Even if AP
were true, what would the translational results be?" In other words,
even if RWME corresponded to ANTHROPOS, was it true, as Meyer
implied, that ANTHROPOS should always be translated in a gender-
neutral way? Here, the Marlowe piece that J.S. Chandler provided a
link to gives a negative answer from a general viewpoint. Not having
that kind of expertise myself, the best way I could think of to answer
the question was to see whether the Greek translators on the Jesus
Seminar translation panel agreed with Meyer and Patterson in their
translational elimination of 'man'. I was pleased to find that they didn't.
Although there was an overall attempt by the Jesus Seminar to go
to what is called 'inclusive language', the translation of Thomas
sayings involving RWME differed in three cases from the translation
of parallel Greek passages involving ANTHROPOS. I previously
mentioned L78.2, where Meyer and Patterson have 'person'
dressed in fine clothes, but the JSem Greek translators have 'man
dressed in fine clothes. Add to that 86.2, where the Meyer-Patterson
translation changes singular to plural to yield 'human beings' [have no
place to lay their heads and rest'], but where the JSem Greek translators
have 'son of Adam'. And 63.1, where the JSem Greek translators have
'rich man', but Meyer-Patterson has 'rich person'. (At least, that's the way
it is in _The Five Gospels_. In _The Complete Gospels_, however,
which I thought was the same, 'rich person' has unaccountably been
changed to 'rich man' in the Thomas translation. Not the doing of
Meyer and Patterson, I assume.)
What this shows, I think, is that the Greek translators on the JSem
translational panel didn't agree with Meyer and Patterson on a
radical program of translating every occurrence of ANTHROPOS
in gender-neutral terms, _even though_ those other translators
were interested in eliminating gender-bias. This in turn agrees
with what Marlowe has to say, so I think it's fair to conclude that
what Meyer takes as an implication of the Anthropos Principle
is in fact - and independently of the Principle - unsound as well.
Mt. Clemens, MI
- I have an observation,
Could the lack of male dominance in the translation be a subtle or not
so subtle left over from assuming that Gospel of Thomas must be in
fact a gnostic text?
That is, because the gnostics might have used certain forms ( Later)
removing the male oriented original intent. (Due to their beliefs
The translators would be inclined to translate and remove the male
orientation, which likely was the case in the original Greek copy( Or
Either way I ask this?
How it is translated today( say by removing the male dominance Of
ANTHROPOS, and other words within the text).
WOuld that be how it was written or originally intended.
That is we may( and others may want to make it culturally acceptable,
and bring certain bias to the text which might never have occurred
when it was originally written.
I would say "How " it is translated should be focused in on the
If it would not have been said or written in that day and time? It
should not be translated in a way that differs from that text and
it's Sitz im leben.
Therefore, in the society and time in which it occurred. Which is the
most likely translation?
I would suggest that it would be male,but I ask openly.
On May 5, 2008, at 10:06 AM, Michael Grondin wrote:
> What this shows, I think, is that the Greek translators on the JSem
> translational panel didn't agree with Meyer and Patterson on a
> radical program of translating every occurrence of ANTHROPOS
> in gender-neutral terms, _even though_ those other translators
> were interested in eliminating gender-bias. This in turn agrees
> with what Marlowe has to say, so I think it's fair to conclude that
> what Meyer takes as an implication of the Anthropos Principle
> is in fact - and independently of the Principle - unsound as well.
[Non-text portions of this message have been removed]
- John Moon asks:
> Could the lack of male dominance in the translation be a subtle or notAbsolutely not. Neither Meyer nor Patterson think it's a gnostic text.
> so subtle left over from assuming that Gospel of Thomas must be in
> fact a gnostic text?
Their translation(s) derive from two (unsound) principles:
1. That RWME corresponds to ANTHRWPOS, and that
2. ANTHRWPOS should always be translated as gender-neutral.
On the other side of the issue, Doresse thought (late 50's) that Thomas
was gnostic, yet he retained 'man' in his translation (_The Secret Books
of the Egyptian Gnostics_). Grant and Freedman (_The Secret Sayings
of Jesus_, 1960) also took Thomas to be gnostic, yet they used the
Schoedel translation, which retains 'man'.
Though I'm not sure exactly what you're getting at with your other
questions, I think we can rule out that any version of Thomas ever had
a special vocabulary. Of course we can only speculate about an
Aramaic or Syrian version, but the Coptic RWME and the Greek
ANTHRWPOS have an ambiguity to them which is also present in
the English word 'man'. Sometimes it's a generic or species-related
meaning, as in 'Anthropology is the study of Man' or (from Thomas)
'Man is like a wise fisherman'. Sometimes it's used to refer to individuals
who happen to be male. As to how one _should_ translate Coptic Thomas,
that question would lead to an interminable debate which would, I think,
come down in the end to one's point of view.