Page 1 of 2

Can ἄνθρωπος in the singular refer to people in general?

Posted: December 11th, 2017, 6:30 pm
by daveburt
Bill Mounce's current gloss for ἄνθρωπος includes 'humankind, people' as one of the options, but he is reconsidering it.

Can ἄνθρωπος in the singular refer to people in general? (Dr. Mounce's blog post asking the question is here.)

Re: Can ἄνθρωπος in the singular refer to people in general?

Posted: December 11th, 2017, 7:42 pm
by MAubrey
How about Epictetus, Disc. 2.9?

τί γάρ ἐστιν ἄνθρωπος; — Ζῷον, φησί, λογικὸν θνητόν. — Εὐθὺς ἐν τῷ λογικῷ τίνων χωριζόμεθα; — Τῶν θηρίων. — Καὶ τίνων ἄλλων;

Note that after each singular reference, everything else is plural: χωριζόμεθα implies that 'we' are 'ἄνθρωπος' and likewise, ἄνθρωπος is in contrast with Τῶν θηρίων and τίνων ἄλλων.

Re: Can ἄνθρωπος in the singular refer to people in general?

Posted: December 12th, 2017, 5:37 am
by Tony Pope
Curious that BDAG doesn't provide what Dr Mounce requires.

In addition to Mike's quote from Epictetus, would Luke 18.2, where the judge neither fears God nor cares about human beings, fill the bill?
τὸν θεὸν μὴ φοβούμενος καὶ ἄνθρωπον μὴ ἐντρεπόμενος

Re: Can ἄνθρωπος in the singular refer to people in general?

Posted: December 12th, 2017, 8:54 am
by Eeli Kaikkonen
MAubrey wrote:
December 11th, 2017, 7:42 pm
Note that after each singular reference, everything else is plural: χωριζόμεθα implies that 'we' are 'ἄνθρωπος' and likewise, ἄνθρωπος is in contrast with Τῶν θηρίων and τίνων ἄλλων.
But I don't think that's relevant. I think we could translate a similar passage to any language:
"What is a man?... We are..." And that wouldn't make the corresponding singular word, "man", mean "humankind" or "people". Rather it's a rhetorical device or a figure of speech so general it works in any language.

But it may be confusing that the subject (also the original by Mounce) uses the word "refer". It can refer to humankind, using one unspecified man/woman as an example. But actually Mounce wants to know about meaning, not referent.

Re: Can ἄνθρωπος in the singular refer to people in general?

Posted: December 12th, 2017, 5:45 pm
by MAubrey
Eeli Kaikkonen wrote:
December 12th, 2017, 8:54 am
MAubrey wrote:
December 11th, 2017, 7:42 pm
Note that after each singular reference, everything else is plural: χωριζόμεθα implies that 'we' are 'ἄνθρωπος' and likewise, ἄνθρωπος is in contrast with Τῶν θηρίων and τίνων ἄλλων.
But I don't think that's relevant. I think we could translate a similar passage to any language:
"What is a man?... We are..." And that wouldn't make the corresponding singular word, "man", mean "humankind" or "people".
This smells of question begging. I mean, you're certainly right about the translation options here, but how we can translate isn't the standard for determining meaning.
Eeli Kaikkonen wrote:
December 12th, 2017, 8:54 am
Rather it's a rhetorical device or a figure of speech so general it works in any language.
And thus *easily* lexicalized.

Re: Can ἄνθρωπος in the singular refer to people in general?

Posted: December 13th, 2017, 5:25 am
by daveburt
Mike, from the same Epictetus example, wouldn't you also have to say the same about ζῷον? 'A man is an animal' or 'humanity are animals'; so 'ζῷον: animal, animals'; then do we need to add the collective/abstract to every word? 'καθέδρα: chair; chairkind', etc?

It seems to me the word just means 'person' and the kind of abstraction/generalisation we see in these passages is something we can do to any noun using grammar.

Re: Can ἄνθρωπος in the singular refer to people in general?

Posted: December 13th, 2017, 7:12 am
by Eeli Kaikkonen
daveburt wrote:
December 13th, 2017, 5:25 am
Mike, from the same Epictetus example, wouldn't you also have to say the same about ζῷον? 'A man is an animal' or 'humanity are animals'; so 'ζῷον: animal, animals'; then do we need to add the collective/abstract to every word? 'καθέδρα: chair; chairkind', etc?

It seems to me the word just means 'person' and the kind of abstraction/generalisation we see in these passages is something we can do to any noun using grammar.
Thanks for explaining some of my thoughts. The fact that this works not only for Koine but also across languages tells IMO that it doesn't deserve a meaning in a lexicon. That's why I talked about translation.

Basically, what Mounce wanted to know is whether it's justified to have a meaning for it in a lexicon (or in this case in a glossary). So, is it lexicalized for the word ανθρωπος (and not other words) or not? So far the evidence isn't persuasive for lexicalized meaning ανθρωπος(sg.)/humanity,mankind. That's what Mounce also noted and wanted to know if there is better evidence.

Re: Can ἄνθρωπος in the singular refer to people in general?

Posted: December 13th, 2017, 1:23 pm
by Jonathan Robie
Does Mounce state the principles he uses to determine which glosses to include? Without that, it's hard to answer his underlying question.

If I were doing this, I might take a look at prototype theory. I'm no expert on prototype theory or lexicography, so here's a guess: A gloss should capture the prototype and typical usage, not all possible meanings that a word might have in all contexts.

Consider English. Can 'bird' refer to 'penguin' or 'ostrich'? Certainly. Should every definition of 'bird' discuss all the edge cases? I don't think that's helpful.

Which definition do you prefer:

(1) A warm-blooded egg-laying vertebrate animal distinguished by the possession of feathers, wings, a beak, and typically by being able to fly.

(2) : any of a class (Aves) of warm-blooded vertebrates distinguished by having the body more or less completely covered with feathers and the forelimbs modified as wings.

I prefer (1). The glosses for 'bird' do not need to cover all the edge cases.

"People in general" is neither the prototype nor a typical usage of ἄνθρωπος. If you make people memorize that gloss, it doesn't really help them. When it does have that meaning, the context makes that clear if they understand the prototype and typical examples.

Re: Can ἄνθρωπος in the singular refer to people in general?

Posted: December 13th, 2017, 7:24 pm
by Stephen Carlson
Mounce is first and foremost a pedagogue, not a linguist, not a grammarian, not a lexicographer. The main thing he's interested in is not confusing his students. His problem here is a mismatch between his glossary and BDAG, a mismatch that could confuse students.

Re: Can ἄνθρωπος in the singular refer to people in general?

Posted: December 13th, 2017, 8:20 pm
by Jonathan Robie
The least confusing thing might be to follow BDAG here. I think ἄνθρωπος, in the singular, refers to people in general in some places in the Septuagint. A few examples:

Gen 1:26 καὶ εἶπεν ὁ θεός ποιήσωμεν ἄνθρωπον κατ’ εἰκόνα ἡμετέραν καὶ καθ’ ὁμοίωσιν
And God said, Let us make man according to our image and likeness

Gen 6:6 καὶ ἐνεθυμήθη ὁ θεὸς ὅτι ἐποίησεν τὸν ἄνθρωπον ἐπὶ τῆς γῆς καὶ διενοήθη
then God considered that he had made mankind on the earth, and he considered it

Gen 6:7 καὶ εἶπεν ὁ θεός ἀπαλείψω τὸν ἄνθρωπον ὃν ἐποίησα ἀπὸ προσώπου τῆς γῆς ἀπὸ ἀνθρώπου ἕως κτήνους καὶ ἀπὸ ἑρπετῶν ἕως τῶν πετεινῶν τοῦ οὐρανοῦ ὅτι ἐθυμώθην ὅτι ἐποίησα αὐτούς
And God said, “I will wipe out from off the earth mankind which I have made, from human to domestic animal and from creeping things to birds of the sky, for I have become angry that I have made them.”

Gen 7:23 καὶ ἐξήλειψεν πᾶν τὸ ἀνάστημα ὃ ἦν ἐπὶ προσώπου πάσης τῆς γῆς ἀπὸ ἀνθρώπου ἕως κτήνους καὶ ἑρπετῶν καὶ τῶν πετεινῶν τοῦ οὐρανοῦ καὶ ἐξηλείφθησαν ἀπὸ τῆς γῆς
And he wiped out every thing that rises, which was on the face of the whole earth, from human being to domestic animal and creeping things and the birds of the sky, and they were wiped out from the earth.

Gen 9:6 ὅτι ἐν εἰκόνι θεοῦ ἐποίησα τὸν ἄνθρωπον
For in the image of God I made mankind.

This is also found in the wisdom literature, e.g.

Eccl 1:3 τίς περισσεία τῷ ἀνθρώπῳ ἐν παντὶ μόχθῳ αὐτοῦ ᾧ μοχθεῖ ὑπὸ τὸν ἥλιον
What does man gain from all his labor in which he labors under the sun?