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The masculine feel, and the Greek

February 8, 2012

Regarding the “masculine feel” kerfuffle, Scot McKnight recently wrote,

There is a Greek word for ‘masculine’ (andreia), it never occurs in the New Testament (a word close to it occurs in 1 Cor 16:13, but seems to be addressing the whole church — and means courage). Nor does it appear once in any words quoted here of J.C. Ryle.  This is a colossal example of driving the whole through a word (‘masculine’) that is not a term used in the New Testament, which Testament never says ‘For Men Only.’ Pastors are addressed in a number of passages in the NT, and not once are they told to be masculine.

I hesitate to accept andreia as a simple equivalent for “masculine” because of the way it is used in the ancient literature. Andreia is rather a necessary quality for all men and women. It typically means “brave” or “courageous” or perhaps “valiant”  or “heroic.” Here are examples of how the word was used.

Γυναῖκα ἀνδρείαν τίς εὑρήσει; τιμιωτέρα δέ ἐστι λίθων πολυτελῶν ἡ τοιαύτη. Proverbs 31:10
Who can find a virtuous woman? for her price is far above rubies.

Γρηγορεῖτε, στήκετε ἐν τῇ πίστει, ἀνδρίζεσθε, κραταιοῦσθε 1 Cor. 16:13
Take heed, stand fast in faith, be brave like men, and make yourselves strong.

πολλαι γυναικες εδυναμωθεισαι δια της χαριτος του θεου επετελεσαντο πολλα ανδρεια. 1 Clement 55:3
Many women, waxing strong through the grace of God, have performed many manly(heroic) deeds

καὶ πάλιν διηπόρουν ἐπὶ ταῖς παρθένοις, ὅτι τρυφεραὶ οὕτως οὖσαι ἀνδρείως εἱστήκεισαν ὡς μέλλουσαι ὅλον τὸν οὐρανὸν βαστάζειν.
And again I was perplexed concerning the virgins, that delicate as they were they stood up like men, as if they intended to carry the whole heaven. Shepherd of Hermas, Parable 9.2.

Here are some of the relevant entries from the Liddell, Scott Lexicon. Andreia has some gender neutral meaning range, used for both men and women, and some male specific meaning,

ἀνδρεία , ἡ, – manliness, manly spirit, opp. δειλία, Il.cc., cf. Arist.Rh.1366b11, EN1115a6; also of women, S.El.983, Arist.Pol.1260a22; “ἀνδρεία ἡ περὶ τὰς ναυτιλίας” Str.3.1.8:—in pl., brave deeds, Pl.Lg.922a; ironically, “αἱ διὰ τῶν λόγων ἀνδρεῖαι” D.Prooem.45.
II. in bad sense, hardihood, insolence, D. Chr.12.13.
III. = ἡ τῶν ἀνδρῶν ἡλικία, Antipho.Soph.67a.
IV. membrum virile, Artem.1.45.
V. skill, LXX Ec.4.4.

In this entry, we can see that andreia is not the opposite of some Greek word for femininity, but rather it is the opposite of deilia, “cowardice.” This is in no way related to any word for female. So, andreia is in a close semantic relation with cowardice, rather than with femininity. Women clearly could also be brave without betraying a trait of the opposite sex. Part of the problem is that the original word aner, from which andreia is derived, has several meanings – male, adult, citizen, human, warrior, and so on. Some of these meanings are gender neutral.

Here are two other words derived from aner that have both male specific meanings, and gender neutral meanings,

ἀνδροφόνος – A. man-slaying, Homeric epith. of Hector, Il.24.724, etc.; of Achilles, “χεῖρες ἀ.” 18.317; homicide, Pl.Phd.114a; generally, murderous, “ἀ. τὴν φύσιν” Theopomp.Hist.217:—rarely exc. of slaughter in battle, but in Od.1.261 φάρμακον ἀ. a murderous drug:—epith. of αῖμα, Orph.H.65.4.
2. of women, murdering their husbands, Pi.P.4.252.
II. as law-term, one convicted of manslaughter, homicide, Lys.10.7, D.23.29, cf. ib.216:—hence as a term of abuse, “τοὺς ἀ. ἰχθυοπώλας” Ath.6.228c, cf. Amphis 30.
III. ἀ. Κῶνος, a landmark at Athens, IG3.61 Aii 15.

ἀνδριάς , ὁ, gen. άντος (Att. ᾶντος, acc. to Hdn.Gr.1.51): (ἀνήρ):—
A. image of a man, statue, Pi.P.5.40, Hdt.1.183, 2.91, Ar.Pax1183, Th. 1.134, etc.; “ἀνδριάντας καὶ ἄλλα ζῷα λίθινά τε καὶ ξύλινα” Pl.R.515a; ἀνδριάντ ας γράφειν paint statues, ib.420c; esp. of portrait-statues, “ἀ. εἰκονικός” Plu.Lys.1; “ἀ. ὁλοσώματος” IG12(7).240 (Amorgos); “ἀ. ἔφιππος” SIG730.26 (Olbia); of female figures, Ath.10.425f, etc.; of men, opp. ἀγάλματα of the gods, Gorg.Hel.18, Plb.21.29.9; rarely of gods,

In these examples, there is clearly a use of andrias that refers to human beings. In spite of the harsh gender boundaries in ancient societies, there appears to have been an ideal of a woman of noble class, or of Christian character, who had the same qualities as noble or Christian men. Women are andreia without this contrasting with their femininity, but rather it enhances their femininity. Both men and women ought to display this characteristic, which perhaps should be translated as “valiant” as Al Wolters has done here.

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5 Comments leave one →
  1. February 8, 2012 9:26 am

    My former pastor once gave a long sermon linking either this word or a closely-related one to masculinity, talking all about how “manly” and “courage” are nearly the same thing in the Bible so courage is a masculine virtue. A friend of mine and I found a usage of the same word in the LXX where a women (actually, I think a city personified as a woman) is enjoined to give birth with courage. So we asked our pastor how one gives birth like a man.

  2. Suzanne McCarthy permalink*
    February 8, 2012 9:30 am

    Thank you, Eric. Yes, andreia was used very simply for courage, for either men or women. Perhaps we can find that reference.

  3. BradK permalink
    February 13, 2012 11:18 am

    Thanks for this, Suzanne. This is very helpful.

  4. February 15, 2012 9:07 am

    I haven’t been able to re-locate the usage. (Of course, I also haven’t had time to work on it much.) I feel like it might have been a variant, although I can’t remember if it’s simply a variation between the LXX and the Hebrew or a variant between Greek texts.

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