Heb 2:5-9 in NIV - αὐτόν as "them"

Jason Hare
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Heb 2:5-9 in NIV - αὐτόν as "them"

Post by Jason Hare » June 25th, 2013, 8:42 am

Χαίρετε, ὦ φίλοι.
Heb 2:5-9 (SBLGNT)
Οὐ γὰρ ἀγγέλοις ὑπέταξεν τὴν οἰκουμένην τὴν μέλλουσαν, περὶ ἧς λαλοῦμεν· διεμαρτύρατο δέ πού τις λέγων· Τί ἐστιν ἄνθρωπος ὅτι μιμνῄσκῃ αὐτοῦ, ἢ υἱὸς ἀνθρώπου ὅτι ἐπισκέπτῃ αὐτόν; ἠλάττωσας αὐτὸν βραχύ τι παρ’ ἀγγέλους, δόξῃ καὶ τιμῇ ἐστεφάνωσας αὐτόν, πάντα ὑπέταξας ὑποκάτω τῶν ποδῶν αὐτοῦ· ἐν τῷ γὰρ ὑποτάξαι τὰ πάντα οὐδὲν ἀφῆκεν αὐτῷ ἀνυπότακτον. νῦν δὲ οὔπω ὁρῶμεν αὐτῷ τὰ πάντα ὑποτεταγμένα· τὸν δὲ βραχύ τι παρ’ ἀγγέλους ἠλαττωμένον βλέπομεν Ἰησοῦν διὰ τὸ πάθημα τοῦ θανάτου δόξῃ καὶ τιμῇ ἐστεφανωμένον, ὅπως χωρὶς θεοῦ ὑπὲρ παντὸς γεύσηται θανάτου.
The new 2011 edition of the New International Version reflects an interesting change here, since they understand (and rightly so, I think) ἄνθρωπος as a term that refers to the whole of humanity, and thus they translated αὐτόν and αὐτοῦ as "they" and "their" (except when υἱὸς ἀνθρώπου appears, referring to a single generic person). This is how they have this section:
Heb 2:5-9 (NIV 2011)
It is not to angels that he has subjected the world to come, about which we are speaking. But there is a place where someone has testified:

“What is mankind that you are mindful of them,
a son of man that you care for him?
You made them a little lower than the angels;
you crowned them with glory and honor
and put everything under their feet.”

In putting everything under them, God left nothing that is not subject to them. Yet at present we do not see everything subject to them. But we do see Jesus, who was made lower than the angels for a little while, now crowned with glory and honor because he suffered death, so that by the grace of God he might taste death for everyone.
What I'm looking for is information about other instances where singular pronouns have been translated as "they" in such situations. Is there any information online that discusses the situations in which it is acceptable (not necessarily required) to render it this way?

Thanks so much!

Jason Hare
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David Lim
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Re: Heb 2:5-9 in NIV - αὐτόν as "them"

Post by David Lim » June 25th, 2013, 9:23 am

Jason Hare wrote:What I'm looking for is information about other instances where singular pronouns have been translated as "they" in such situations. Is there any information online that discusses the situations in which it is acceptable (not necessarily required) to render it this way?
Jason, are you aware that this is simply the issue of gender neutrality in translation? How can we possibly discuss this issue on B-Greek without diving into the deep of interpretation? ;) There is plenty of "information" that you can find by searching Google on gender neutral translation, but "acceptability" is intrinsically an issue of opinion. :)
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Jason Hare
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Re: Heb 2:5-9 in NIV - αὐτόν as "them"

Post by Jason Hare » June 25th, 2013, 9:42 am

David Lim wrote:Jason, are you aware that this is simply the issue of gender neutrality in translation? How can we possibly discuss this issue on B-Greek without diving into the deep of interpretation? ;) There is plenty of "information" that you can find by searching Google on gender neutral translation, but "acceptability" is intrinsically an issue of opinion. :)
No, I think this is more than gender neutrality. It is probably fueled by the desire to be neutral when possible, but the idea of translating αὐτόν with "them" has to do with the collective nature of the original term (say, λαός or ἄνθρωπος). I'm looking for more instances where it is acceptable to render αὐτόν as "them" in English. I would, personally, go with Hosea 11:1-2, where we see a shift between "him" and "them," but I'm thinking less in terms of the Greek itself having the shift and the plural appearing only in translation.
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Re: Heb 2:5-9 in NIV - αὐτόν as "them"

Post by David Lim » June 26th, 2013, 6:39 am

Jason Hare wrote:No, I think this is more than gender neutrality. It is probably fueled by the desire to be neutral when possible, but the idea of translating αὐτόν with "them" has to do with the collective nature of the original term (say, λαός or ἄνθρωπος). I'm looking for more instances where it is acceptable to render αὐτόν as "them" in English. I would, personally, go with Hosea 11:1-2, where we see a shift between "him" and "them," but I'm thinking less in terms of the Greek itself having the shift and the plural appearing only in translation.
I think that, in general, if the referent is really to a generic person according to the context, it is alright (though not necessary) to use a corresponding generic term in the target language, and in English plural personal pronoun does seem to be an acceptable generic term in many such cases. However, many cases are not so clear in my opinion, and that's where assumptions, objectives and principles of translation come in. Also, we also have to think about how to handle cases like the use of "him" to refer to Israel/Jacob, which can refer to the whole people while simultaneously recalling the single masculine person called by the same name. I personally prefer what Carl calls a woodenly literal translation (with footnotes), in my belief that it would most accurately preserve the feel of the original text, so I wouldn't even have to consider this issue. :)
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Re: Heb 2:5-9 in NIV - αὐτόν as "them"

Post by Jason Hare » June 26th, 2013, 10:14 am

David Lim wrote:I think that, in general, if the referent is really to a generic person according to the context, it is alright (though not necessary) to use a corresponding generic term in the target language, and in English plural personal pronoun does seem to be an acceptable generic term in many such cases. However, many cases are not so clear in my opinion, and that's where assumptions, objectives and principles of translation come in. Also, we also have to think about how to handle cases like the use of "him" to refer to Israel/Jacob, which can refer to the whole people while simultaneously recalling the single masculine person called by the same name. I personally prefer what Carl calls a woodenly literal translation (with footnotes), in my belief that it would most accurately preserve the feel of the original text, so I wouldn't even have to consider this issue. :)
So, you wouldn't do it.

I'm actually just looking for instances where others have done it or have discussed the appropriateness of translating singular pronouns with plurals in English. I understand the desire to maintain proximity to the original form, but for English-only readers, that might not be the best idea in some instances - and I'm looking for some of those instances.

Thanks.

Jason Hare
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David Lim
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Re: Heb 2:5-9 in NIV - αὐτόν as "them"

Post by David Lim » June 27th, 2013, 12:23 am

Jason Hare wrote:I'm actually just looking for instances where others have done it or have discussed the appropriateness of translating singular pronouns with plurals in English. I understand the desire to maintain proximity to the original form, but for English-only readers, that might not be the best idea in some instances - and I'm looking for some of those instances.
Oh I didn't know you were just looking for instances. I don't know if there is such a list around, but you can find many of such instances through http://unbound.biola.edu/index.cfm?meth ... ncedSearch by selecting WEB as version 1 and NRSV as version 2 and setting the query to be "him AND (2: them)" and then "he AND (2: they)". You will get a lot of false positives of course, but that's the easiest method I can give you. Both searches should catch the majority of instances of gender neutral translation of masculine pronouns in the NRSV.
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Bryant J. Williams III
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Re: Heb 2:5-9 in NIV - αὐτόν as "them"

Post by Bryant J. Williams III » June 27th, 2013, 12:49 pm

Dear Jason,

It appears that David Lim's recommendation is your best option. Yet...

This is an example of what happens when one deliberately ignores the immediate context, the use of the LXX quote and the underlying Hebrew of that LXX quote. NIV1984 consistently used the 3rd person singular throughout the passage. Thus, there is a change in translating philosophy and PC is introduced into the text.

The LXX translator is exactly translating the Hebrew text. All the verbs have 3rd person singular endings corresponding to the singular nouns.
Ps. 8:5-7:
5 τί ἐστιν ἄνθρωπος, ὅτι μιμνῄσκῃ αὐτοῦ,
υἱὸς ἀνθρώπου, ὅτι ἐπισκέπτῃ αὐτόν;
6 ἠλάττωσας αὐτὸν βραχύ τι παῤ ἀγγέλους,
δόξῃ καὶ τιμῇ ἐστεφάνωσας αὐτόν,
7 καὶ κατέστησας αὐτὸν ἐπὶ τὰ ἔργα τῶν χειρῶν σου,
πάντα ὑπέταξας ὑποκάτω τῶν ποδῶν αὐτοῦ,
.
Heb. 2:6-8:
6 τί ἐστιν ἄνθρωπος ὅτι μιμνῄσκῃ αὐτοῦ,
υἱὸς ἀνθρώπου ὅτι ἐπισκέπτῃ αὐτόν;
7 ἠλάττωσας αὐτὸν βραχύ τι παρʼ ἀγγέλους,
δόξῃ καὶ τιμῇ ἐστεφάνωσας αὐτόν,
8 πάντα ὑπέταξας ὑποκάτω τῶν ποδῶν αὐτοῦ.

The LXX and Greek NT texts are identical.

The NIV2011 translator appears to not have taken into account the context of the Psalm in which YHWH ADONAI is praised for Creation. Man, although created last, is lower in power and the angels, but crowned with glory and honor above all creation; is made, is set up to rule over all of God's Creation on earth. It is this context that the author of Hebrews uses as a to show that the Son, Christ, is therefore exalted above the angels and is above all creation. The Hebrew parallelism is ignored. It also shows that ἄνθρωπος is used in a specific sense instead of a generic sense. The NIV2011 completely ignores the context both in the Tanakh, LXX and in Hebrews.

Adam was created last, lower in power and the angels; is made, is set up to rule over all of God's creation. Christ, who in His humanity is also set up to rule over all of God's creation. Romans 5:12ff also uses the analogy of Adam and Christ; cf. also Phil. 2:6-11. This is not the "collective singular" being used here.
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Re: Heb 2:5-9 in NIV - αὐτόν as "them"

Post by MAubrey » June 27th, 2013, 1:33 pm

BryantIII wrote:This is an example of what happens when one deliberately ignores the immediate context, the use of the LXX quote and the underlying Hebrew of that LXX quote. NIV1984 consistently used the 3rd person singular throughout the passage. Thus, there is a change in translating philosophy and PC is introduced into the text.
That's an incredibly arrogant claim, coupled with an amazingly unfounded accusation.
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Jason Hare
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Re: Heb 2:5-9 in NIV - αὐτόν as "them"

Post by Jason Hare » June 27th, 2013, 8:25 pm

BryantIII wrote:The NIV2011 translator appears to not have taken into account the context of the Psalm in which YHWH ADONAI is praised for Creation. Man, although created last, is lower in power and the angels, but crowned with glory and honor above all creation; is made, is set up to rule over all of God's Creation on earth.
I agree completely - that the verse in Psalms is harking back to the creation of man in Genesis. Yet, was it talking about one human being or mankind as a species? I would take it as the latter, which would make "they" completely appropriate, even if it (αὐτός) is masculine singular to match only the antecedent (ἄνθρωπος).
BryantIII wrote:It is this context that the author of Hebrews uses as a to show that the Son, Christ, is therefore exalted above the angels and is above all creation. The Hebrew parallelism is ignored. It also shows that ἄνθρωπος is used in a specific sense instead of a generic sense. The NIV2011 completely ignores the context both in the Tanakh, LXX and in Hebrews.
Could it not be the very context of mankind in general being created a little lower than angels that sets the background for which "the Son" also became lower than angels? That's the connection that I see in the Hebrews passage. It then goes on to say that we do not see the creation subjected to mankind (as a general statement), because of famines, devastation, war, pestilence, etc. Set against this, he states that we do see Jesus made low and then crowned with glory (as the fulfillment of the role that mankind generally was supposed to play).

How about we ignore the comments in Hebrews, though? What about just the quote from the Psalm? Is it not acceptable in its own context to render the pronoun in the English plural?

Regards,
Jason Hare

P.S. As a matter of housekeeping, is there a reason why your full name is not posted in your signature? I don't think that "BryantIII" is your full name. Thanks!
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Shirley Rollinson
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Re: Heb 2:5-9 in NIV - αὐτόν as "them"

Post by Shirley Rollinson » June 29th, 2013, 8:55 pm

How about we ignore the comments in Hebrews, though? What about just the quote from the Psalm? Is it not acceptable in its own context to render the pronoun in the English plural?

Regards,
Jason Hare
What we need is either 1) to be less hung-up about gender roles 2) if someone is so touchy about inclusiveness, don't mess with the grammar, just use the inclusive singular pronoun "she-he-it" (said rapidly).
To quote the British dog-show rules "the word dog to include both sexes unless otherwise specified."
I'm a "dearly-beloved-brethren" same as the rest of the guys :-)
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