John's Use of Feminine Nouns

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John's Use of Feminine Nouns

Post by PhillipLebsack » January 23rd, 2018, 5:26 am

John 1:14 "Καὶ ὁ λόγος σὰρξ ἐγένετο καὶ ἐσκήνωσεν ἐν ἡμῖν, καὶ ἐθεασάμεθα τὴν δόξαν αὐτοῦ, δόξαν ὡς μονογενοῦς παρὰ πατρός, πλήρης χάριτος καὶ ἀληθείας·"

I've noticed that John here is using the feminine form of "flesh" to equate with "The Word". This isn't the only instance of this happening.

Any idea why this is? I thought that it was to emphasize not gender, but the beauty of what he was describing?
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Barry Hofstetter
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Re: John's Use of Feminine Nouns

Post by Barry Hofstetter » January 23rd, 2018, 7:36 am

Grammatical gender has nothing to do with this. There is no masculine or neuter form for the word. He simply uses the word to express the concept, that the word became flesh.
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N.E. Barry Hofstetter
Instructor of Latin
Jack M. Barrack Hebrew Academy
καὶ σὺ τὸ σὸν ποιήσεις κἀγὼ τὸ ἐμόν. ἆρον τὸ σὸν καὶ ὕπαγε.

Jonathan Robie
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Re: John's Use of Feminine Nouns

Post by Jonathan Robie » January 23rd, 2018, 7:24 pm

If you do not know a language like German or Greek, what Barry said may not be clear.

Every noun has a grammatical gender, and the article for the noun reflects the gender. And σάρξ is always feminine - ἡ σάρξ - whether the flesh in question belongs to a man or a woman or an animal of either gender. Another example: κοράσιον is neuter no matter how pretty and feminine the little girl is, no matter how nicely you dress her.

Grammatical gender correlates with our notion of gender more often than not, which can lull you into complacency, but don't forget that grammatical gender doesn't "mean" male, female, and neutral.

Mark Twain's famous essay, "That Awful German Language", explains this clearly for German. I'll attach it.
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ἐξίσταντο δὲ πάντες καὶ διηποροῦντο, ἄλλος πρὸς ἄλλον λέγοντες, τί θέλει τοῦτο εἶναι;

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Re: John's Use of Feminine Nouns

Post by daveburt » January 23rd, 2018, 8:21 pm

Grammatical gender is different from regular gender.

May I suggest some short reads that shed light on this issue in a couple of ways? Firstly there's Don Carson's chapter on gender in his book The Inclusive-Language Debate: A Plea for Realism (PDF) -- chapter 4. "Gender and Sex around the World: A Translator's Nightmare" which catalogues a great variety of ways grammatical gender operates in different languages.
In the literature of sociologists and of feminists and their opponents, sex is a matter of biology while gender is a matter of social construction. Almost without exception, linguists look at the matter differently. For them, gender is a grammatical category, while sex is a semantic category (a category of meaning). (Carson, 78)
They interact, but very differently in different languages.

Interestingly, though, grammatical gender does carry with it to language-users associations from regular gender.
The word “bridge” is feminine in German and masculine in Spanish. Sure enough, German speakers described bridges as beautiful, elegant, fragile, pretty, and slender, while Spanish speakers said they were big, dangerous, strong, sturdy, and towering. (Jackson)
Stephen Jackson, 'Masculine or Feminine? (And Why It Matters): Gender in language affects cognitive processing', Psychology Today, 2012
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