Saturday, June 15, 2013

Grammatical Gender, Christ and 1 Corinthians 1:24

αὐτοῖς δὲ τοῖς κλητοῖς, Ἰουδαίοις τε καὶ Ἕλλησιν, Χριστὸν θεοῦ δύναμιν καὶ θεοῦ σοφίαν (1 Corinthians 1:24 WH Greek Text)

I've been trying to make the point that there's a difference between ontological/sociological gender and grammatical gender. The verse above is a good example of how grammatical gender works. Notice that δύναμιν and σοφίαν are both accusative feminine although they refer to Χριστὸν which is accusative masculine: he is the power and wisdom of God. So I again emphasize that we cannot read ontological inferences into accidents that belong to human language. By "accidents" I mean the contingent features of our abstract sign systems (i.e. languages).


Barry Hofstetter said...

Greetings, Edgar, it's been a while. Your comments about gender are spot on, and why the arguments against the Holy Spirit being impersonal because the word "spirit" is neuter in Greek are simply wrong.

aservantofJehovah said...

I sincerely hope you are not attempting to suggest that this in any way parallels my argument respecting Jehovah God and his self-designated Gender.To do that you would need to locate an example of a proper name with grammatically gendered pronouns ascribed to it.And of course I need not(at least I hope not) make the point that I am not referring to personifications.

Edgar Foster said...

Greetings, Barry. It has been a long time since we last spoke. It might surprise you to hear that I largely agree with your observation about the Holy Spirit. While I'm a nontrinitarian, as you know, I'm also not crazy about arguing that the Holy Spirit is not a person based on the word "spirit" alone.

Hi aservantofJehovah: I posted the information based on discussions I've had with you and others. Now you insist that Jehovah has a "self-designated Gender." Whhile I don't want to sound like a broken record or go down the path we've already traveled, I must say that we have differing perspectives on this issue of God's self-designated Gender.

By "gender" I mean "masculinity and/or femininity" in contrast to maleness/femaleness. You seem to use the word gender to denote male/female or maleness/femaleness. Either way, I don't believe that Jehovah has revealed that "he" is masculine/feminine or a male/female. The use of Father does not necessarily entail that God is masculine. Nor does the employment of personal pronouns that are gendered. Are we to expect that God would identify "himself" as an it? I don't think so. Therefore, God (in my humble estimation) uses language we can comprehend, in order that God will not be incomprehensible to us.

I think you know it's not likely that we're going to find a proper name of someone who appears to be one gender, but has different kinds of pronouns applied to him/her. Maybe you would accept the example of the child Jesus who is described by a neuter pronoun in Lk 2:40 because of the Greek παιδίον. Or what about when the Holy Spirit has masculine pronouns applied to it?

Edgar Foster said...

Commenting on Lk 2:43, Robertson informs us:

More exactly, "Jesus the boy." In Luke 2:40 it was "the child" (το παιδιον — to paidion), here it is "the boy" (ο παις — ho pais no longer the diminutive form). It was not disobedience on the part of "the boy" that made him remain behind, but intense interest in the services of the temple; "involuntary preoccupation" (Bruce) held him fast.

aservantofJehovah said...

thank you for making my point.None of your examples parallel my arguments.As soon as get a parallel we'll talk.Good luck with that.

Anonymous said...

I agree you Edgar on the term spirit alone, there are a lot of misconception on that term, we know that at John 20:22 Jesus blew upon his disciples and said receive holy spirit. So it goes in the other direction as to being breath here not a person. It seems rather neuter here. Your example on gender merit serious consideration as correct. Thanks. Philip

Edgar Foster said...

I don't think I'm making your point. My one question is, what would count as a good parallel? I love and respect you, my friend, although we disagree on the gender issue. But I'm just wondering what justifies the requirements you're making and can your idea be falsified? If an argument/idea is not falsifiable (which is different from something actually being false), then it's hard to take the argument/idea seriously.

Edgar Foster said...

Thanks for your input, Philip. The point you mention from John 20:22 illustrates that we don't have to depend on grammatical gender arguments to reason with people about the Holy Spirit (holy spirit).

Read John 14:15-17 (NWT):

If ​YOU​ love me, ​YOU​ will observe my commandments; and I will request the Father and he will give ​YOU​ another helper to be with ​YOU​ forever, the spirit of the truth, which the world cannot receive, because it neither beholds it nor knows it. YOU​ know it, because it remains with ​YOU​ and is in ​YOU.

Then compare John 16:7-8 (NWT):

Nevertheless, I am telling ​YOU​ the truth, It is for ​YOUR​ benefit I am going away. For if I do not go away, the helper will by no means come to ​YOU; but if I do go my way, I will send him to ​YOU. And when that one arrives he will give the world convincing evidence concerning sin and concerning righteousness and concerning judgment:

Notice that different pronouns are used in these Johannine accounts? Why is that the case? One is translated as a neuter, the other masculine, although both accounts refer to the Spirit. And isn't the Hebrew RUAH feminine?



Matt13weedhacker said...

I was thinking about grammatical gender today Edgar, before even reading your blog post.

I was trying to think how I could explain it to an average Tri{3}nitarian, in a simple and easy to understand way.

How grammatical, contra, nautral gender ( forces ) a noun to agree with it strictly for grammatical reasons.

There was a really good explanation of it in a Classical Gk. grammar I had, which is buried in storage. Must dig it out.

Please post more on this subject, because it is very intersting and useful.

Best wishes.


aservantofJehovah said...

Well edgar My brother now you have me wondering.Do you know the difference between a common noun and a proper noun?

Edgar Foster said...

Brother Matt: I'll try to post more on gender before Friday of this common week.

Brother aservant: I believe that I know the difference between a common nnoun and a proper noun. Jehovah is a proper noun/proper name and Elohim/god is a common noun/name.

Isn't Jesus also a proper name? As a baby, Jesus was a he (being a boy). Yet the young Messiah (masculine) is called "it" by Luke.

Edgar Foster said...

When I made the remarks about the Holy Spirit, I was addressing Philoips comments.

Barry Hofstetter said...

Yes, Edgar -- I don't know if I have your email anymore, and I'd like to catch you up on what's been happening with me, so if you could send a private email that would be great.

On topic, it's really quite simple, and that is grammatical gender does not equate to semantic content in IE or Semitic languages. In Hebrew RUaCH is feminine, in Greek PNEUMA is neuter, and in Latin Spiritus/Animus are masculine. We don't look at the grammatical gender to determine the personal nature of the noun in question -- we look at how the noun is used in context. I must admit, I really don't understand the gentleman's argument concerning proper vs. common nouns -- to me that is a complete non sequitur, and he could perhaps clarify further?

Edgar Foster said...

Barry, I'll send you a private message. Thanks for confirming the point about grammatical gender too.