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oh, the humanity in the Hebraic Hellene to the Korinthians (I Cor. 15:20-22)

April 5, 2015

Anthropos definitely means “human” and not “divine.” The problem with the word “person” is that we can say God is a “person” but God is definitely not “anthropos,” that is “human.” The “man” thing is just a product of translation into English.
Suzanne McCarthy

The product of translation into English often misdirects us readers. And the best Greek readers miss critical emphases. For example, for what we’ve all come to know as I Corinithians 15, the claims that human beings die and then are resurrected because a certain particular mortal human being was resurrected after death get overlooked. The very common translations by most New Testament translation teams, nonetheless, have this:

For as by a man came death, by a man has come also the resurrection of the dead.

This is the “English Standard” Version (aka the ESV). Teams for other versions have, likewise, tended to view the Greek phrase ἄνθρωπος /anthropos/ as referring merely, only, simply unambiguously to the male persons named Adam and Jesus respectively:  Adam, “a man”; Jesus, “a man.” Both men, of course, are not women, not female persons. This “English Standard” tells us so. Amen and Amen.

Individual translators, especially those who look at the more ancient Greek and also at the Hebraic Hellene of the Septuagint, sometimes show us more. Here, for example, are three of my favorite translations by three of the best Greek readers I know. The first is Willis Barnstone, restoring the Hebraic nature of the New Testament. The second is Ann Nyland, looking at “source” and at how other translators tend to work against excluded human beings. The third is Richmond Lattimore, who first translated with acclaim many of the most ancient Greek texts before turning to the challenge of the Christian scriptures. Notice how the three differently emphasize various aspects of Saint Paul, the Jew, writing to Greek readers in Korinth:

Now, see how Craig R. Smith, showing the inclusive nature of the Bible, reads anthropos. It’s not “a man” as if the important thing were that Adam and Jesus were “not women.” It’s not “a person” as if Adam and Jesus were like any other being, mortal and immortal, of the human race and of the divinities. Rather, The Inclusive Bible: The First Egalitarian Translation correctly and accurately, like no other translation yet, has this:


The emphasis in the Greek and now in the English is on the non-gods, the humans, dying first and then all coming to life again. Adam is the first human, of course. Christ is the firstfruits of those humans in the resurrection of the dead.

(For more on how the Greek reads, please see the comments in conversation following this post. For how the Greek of the epistle to Korinthians really is Hebraic Hellene, just compare the first-century original language with some of the individual translations by Barnstone, Lattimore, Nyland, and Smith.)


Post Update: I just realized that N. T. Wright, like Craig R. Smith, uses “a human” (not the gender-limited “a man” or the overly-general gods-and-humans “a person”) for the Ancient Greek Ἄνθρωπος (Ánthrōpos). Here’s that in the bit of context:


2 Comments leave one →
  1. Rachel permalink
    April 9, 2015 6:46 pm

    Thanks for an interesting post, but I don’t see what’s so special about the Inclusive Bible in this instance, because the NRSV of 1989 did essentially the same thing (‘For since death came through a human being, the resurrection of the dead has also come through a human being’), as has also the CEB of 2011 (‘Since death came through a human being, the resurrection of the dead came through one too’). Further, verse 22 in the Inclusive Bible isn’t quite right, for the Greek has ‘For just as in Adam all die…”, whereas the Inclsuive Bible has paraphrased that as ‘Just as in the first human all die…’

  2. April 10, 2015 3:16 pm

    Thanks, Rachel, for your notes on the NRSV and the CEB translator teams’ decision, also, to render the original language into English accurately in this case.

    Do note that, like the Inclusive Bible, the CEB has for “Adam” what you might call a paraphrase (i.e. “the human”), in, for example, Genesis 2:16 (where the Hebrew has אָדָם and the Greek Αδαμ ) –

    The Lord God commanded the human, “Eat your fill from all of the garden’s trees

    And the NRSV, as you can see, isn’t quite as inclusive in its English “paraphrase” of the same:

    And the Lord God commanded the man, “You may freely eat of every tree of the garden

    There’s nothing special about Craig R. Smith’s translation decisions (for the Inclusive Bible) or about Willis Barnstone’s or Ann Nyland’s or Richmond Lattimore’s decisions (for their respective translations of the New Testament Greek). These four individual renderers, nonetheless, at various points in the text make some very good decisions in my humble opinion.

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