Romans 16.7 - "Natural Gender" and "Arbitrary Gender"?

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R. Perkins
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Romans 16.7 - "Natural Gender" and "Arbitrary Gender"?

Post by R. Perkins » September 14th, 2015, 10:35 pm

Well, I finally passed Greek I with an overall grade of 95%. And, it's been several weeks since I've looked at the text books so I'm finding out really fast that "if you don't use it, you lose it :oops: ."

Question (I hope this is the place to ask this?): While discussing "aner" and "gune" my proff. mentioned something about "natural gender" & "arbitrary gender." Is anyone familiar with this? He said that there are nouns that are "naturally" gender specific (e.g., John or Mary), then there are nouns that seem to have no rhyme or reason as to why they are gender specific (e.g., "Ekklesia" is feminine).

I've been looking closely at ἀποστόλοις in Rom. 16.7. My query is that while looking at the nouns used for the entire 5-fold ministry, I noted that they are all in the masculine. Would this be simply due to "people group" nouns (i.e., arbitrary gender) or is this a "natural gender"?

I am not asking a theological question (hope this question is not out of order :oops: ), just wondering about the gender issue & if there's any meaning to this?

Thank you much in advance.
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Stephen Hughes
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Re: Romans 16.7 - "Natural Gender" and "Arbitrary Gender"?

Post by Stephen Hughes » September 15th, 2015, 1:49 pm

I think that within the logic of the grammar, your question ultimately rests on the interpretation of the word ἐπίσημος and understanding its idiomatic usages.

They are either (A) two of the apostles who in the view of others stand out among the apostles for being Paul's relatives and his fellow prisoners, OR they are are (B) Paul's relatives and fellow prisoners who have somehow (perhaps thereby) distinguished themselves to the apostles (come to even the apostles attention).

In the case of (A) being the case, then "among the apostles" means being two of them, and in the case of (B) "among the apostles" means that the apostles themselves talked of them - or something along those lines.

To explore further we need to go looking outside the New Testament for the idiomatic usages, perhaps that way, we can find some way forward with you line of inquiry, without relying on theology (in this case Ecclesiology) to make up for our deficiencies in our knowledge of Greek. Let's just take two, one with a similar to Romans 16:7, and one used in a different syntactic structure (possibly with a different meaning).

One of those is
Euripides Hippolytus, line 103 wrote:σεμνή γε μέντοι κἀπίσημος ἐν βροτοῖς.
They are talking about Aphrodite, and that she is "famous" ἐπίσημος "among mortals" ἐν βροτοῖς, but she is not of course herself a mortal, but that the mortals hold her to be famous.

On the other hand where the person is part of a specific group - someone from among them who was notable, it could be expressed like this:
Gregory the Theologian (Γρηγόριος ὁ Ναζιανζηνός), Life of Gregory the wonder-worker Volume 46 page 897 line 51 wrote:βασιλεύς τις ἐπίσημος τῶν τὴν ἀρχὴν τοῖς Ῥωμαίοις κρατυνομένων
Because he was notable as a Caesar, the city was named after him.

Of course, two examples, neither of which are in the same syntactic style or structure as the text in question are not a proof, or a valid basis for preferring one interpretation over another, but they may be a start to understanding the usages of the word ἐπίσημος.
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(Menander, Γνῶμαι μονόστιχοι 108)

Shirley Rollinson
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Re: Romans 16.7 - "Natural Gender" and "Arbitrary Gender"?

Post by Shirley Rollinson » September 15th, 2015, 4:28 pm

R. Perkins wrote:Well, I finally passed Greek I with an overall grade of 95%. And, it's been several weeks since I've looked at the text books so I'm finding out really fast that "if you don't use it, you lose it :oops: ."

Question (I hope this is the place to ask this?): While discussing "aner" and "gune" my proff. mentioned something about "natural gender" & "arbitrary gender." Is anyone familiar with this? He said that there are nouns that are "naturally" gender specific (e.g., John or Mary), then there are nouns that seem to have no rhyme or reason as to why they are gender specific (e.g., "Ekklesia" is feminine).

I've been looking closely at ἀποστόλοις in Rom. 16.7. My query is that while looking at the nouns used for the entire 5-fold ministry, I noted that they are all in the masculine. Would this be simply due to "people group" nouns (i.e., arbitrary gender) or is this a "natural gender"?

I am not asking a theological question (hope this question is not out of order :oops: ), just wondering about the gender issue & if there's any meaning to this?

Thank you much in advance.
I would express it as "natural gender" and "grammatical gender" - the natural gender of a noun is the gender of the thing to which it applies
ἀνηρ, πατηρ, Πετρος, Παυλος, ἀδελφος all refer to masculine entities, and have a natural and a grammatical masculine gender.
γυνη, μητηρ, θυγατηρ, Mαρια, Mαρθα, ἀδελφη all refer to feminine entities, and have a natural and a grammatical feminine gender.
However, some entities are naturally neuter, but have endings and decline like the words ending in -ος
So λογος, οἰνος, θρονος, κοσμος are said to be grammatically masculine - because they behave like the main bunch of masculine nouns.
and ἀγαπη, εἰρηνη, ἐπιστολη, καρδια, ἡμερα are said to be grammatically feminine - because they behave like the main bunch of feminine nouns.

When one comes to the plural, there is an added complication, in that one may be dealing with a group of entities, some of whom are naturally masculine, and some of whom are naturally feminine. For this it seems that the masculine forms are used as a common catch-all, and are probably best translated by an English common noun (if available).
So οἱ ἁγιοι are "the saints" and οἱ Ῥωμαιοι are the Romans (or the people of Rome, etc). Similarly τοις οὐσιν ἐν . . . may be translated as "to those in . . . ".
So it might be taken that in Romans 16:7 the ἀποστολοι to whom Paul refers may include some women - particularly when one sees (16:6, 12, 13, 15) references to Mαρια, Tρυφαιναν και Tρυφωσαν τας κοπιωσας ἐν κυριῳ, Ῥουφον και την μητερα αὐτου, Nηρεα και την ἀδελφην αὐτου

The relationships between -o or -u endings and grammatical masculine, and between -a or -ay endings and grammatical feminine are shown by many Indo-European languages.
Of course, there are always exceptions :-) and there are a few -os nouns which are treated as feminine, and a group of -ας and -ης nouns which are masculine (Ἀνδρεας, προφητης)
Somewhere at the bottom of it all there is (or was) a rhyme and reason for why things are the way they are - but it's all back a couple of thousand years in the start of the language and the various dialects that coalesced to form what we have now.

So keep on reading Greek, and keep on thinking about it and asking :-)
Best wishes with Greek II
Shirley Rollinson
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R. Perkins
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Joined: January 18th, 2013, 9:55 pm

Re: Romans 16.7 - "Natural Gender" and "Arbitrary Gender"?

Post by R. Perkins » September 15th, 2015, 5:36 pm

Stephen Hughes wrote:I think that within the logic of the grammar, your question ultimately rests on the interpretation of the word ἐπίσημος and understanding its idiomatic usages.

They are either (A) two of the apostles who in the view of others stand out among the apostles for being Paul's relatives and his fellow prisoners, OR they are are (B) Paul's relatives and fellow prisoners who have somehow (perhaps thereby) distinguished themselves to the apostles (come to even the apostles attention).

In the case of (A) being the case, then "among the apostles" means being two of them, and in the case of (B) "among the apostles" means that the apostles themselves talked of them - or something along those lines.

To explore further we need to go looking outside the New Testament for the idiomatic usages, perhaps that way, we can find some way forward with you line of inquiry, without relying on theology (in this case Ecclesiology) to make up for our deficiencies in our knowledge of Greek. Let's just take two, one with a similar to Romans 16:7, and one used in a different syntactic structure (possibly with a different meaning).

One of those is
Euripides Hippolytus, line 103 wrote:σεμνή γε μέντοι κἀπίσημος ἐν βροτοῖς.
They are talking about Aphrodite, and that she is "famous" ἐπίσημος "among mortals" ἐν βροτοῖς, but she is not of course herself a mortal, but that the mortals hold her to be famous.

On the other hand where the person is part of a specific group - someone from among them who was notable, it could be expressed like this:
Gregory the Theologian (Γρηγόριος ὁ Ναζιανζηνός), Life of Gregory the wonder-worker Volume 46 page 897 line 51 wrote:βασιλεύς τις ἐπίσημος τῶν τὴν ἀρχὴν τοῖς Ῥωμαίοις κρατυνομένων
Because he was notable as a Caesar, the city was named after him.

Of course, two examples, neither of which are in the same syntactic style or structure as the text in question are not a proof, or a valid basis for preferring one interpretation over another, but they may be a start to understanding the usages of the word ἐπίσημος.
Thank you much for the quotes. Interestingly, the adjective ἐπίσημος in Rom. 16.7 is nominative-masculine-plural (which, of course, is apparent).

After contacting Dr. Mike Burer, I think this would be classified as "arbitrary gender" with no bearing on the meaning (though I'm still not completely sold on this).

The quotes you provide above are interesting & for me, only solidifies the idea that we cannot be 100% certain of Paul's intended meaning in Rom. 16.7 (standing alone).
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R. Perkins
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Re: Romans 16.7 - "Natural Gender" and "Arbitrary Gender"?

Post by R. Perkins » September 15th, 2015, 5:54 pm

Shirley Rollinson wrote:
R. Perkins wrote:Well, I finally passed Greek I with an overall grade of 95%. And, it's been several weeks since I've looked at the text books so I'm finding out really fast that "if you don't use it, you lose it :oops: ."

Question (I hope this is the place to ask this?): While discussing "aner" and "gune" my proff. mentioned something about "natural gender" & "arbitrary gender." Is anyone familiar with this? He said that there are nouns that are "naturally" gender specific (e.g., John or Mary), then there are nouns that seem to have no rhyme or reason as to why they are gender specific (e.g., "Ekklesia" is feminine).

I've been looking closely at ἀποστόλοις in Rom. 16.7. My query is that while looking at the nouns used for the entire 5-fold ministry, I noted that they are all in the masculine. Would this be simply due to "people group" nouns (i.e., arbitrary gender) or is this a "natural gender"?

I am not asking a theological question (hope this question is not out of order :oops: ), just wondering about the gender issue & if there's any meaning to this?

Thank you much in advance.

I would express it as "natural gender" and "grammatical gender" - the natural gender of a noun is the gender of the thing to which it applies

ἀνηρ, πατηρ, Πετρος, Παυλος, ἀδελφος all refer to masculine entities, and have a natural and a grammatical masculine gender.

γυνη, μητηρ, θυγατηρ, Mαρια, Mαρθα, ἀδελφη all refer to feminine entities, and have a natural and a grammatical feminine gender.

However, some entities are naturally neuter, but have endings and decline like the words ending in -ος
So λογος, οἰνος, θρονος, κοσμος are said to be grammatically masculine - because they behave like the main bunch of masculine nouns.

and ἀγαπη, εἰρηνη, ἐπιστολη, καρδια, ἡμερα are said to be grammatically feminine - because they behave like the main bunch of feminine nouns.

When one comes to the plural, there is an added complication, in that one may be dealing with a group of entities, some of whom are naturally masculine, and some of whom are naturally feminine. For this it seems that the masculine forms are used as a common catch-all, and are probably best translated by an English common noun (if available).
So οἱ ἁγιοι are "the saints" and οἱ Ῥωμαιοι are the Romans (or the people of Rome, etc). Similarly τοις οὐσιν ἐν . . . may be translated as "to those in . . . ".

So it might be taken that in Romans 16:7 the ἀποστολοι to whom Paul refers may include some women - particularly when one sees (16:6, 12, 13, 15) references to Mαρια, Tρυφαιναν και Tρυφωσαν τας κοπιωσας ἐν κυριῳ, Ῥουφον και την μητερα αὐτου, Nηρεα και την ἀδελφην αὐτου

The relationships between -o or -u endings and grammatical masculine, and between -a or -ay endings and grammatical feminine are shown by many Indo-European languages.

Of course, there are always exceptions :-) and there are a few -os nouns which are treated as feminine, and a group of -ας and -ης nouns which are masculine (Ἀνδρεας, προφητης)

Somewhere at the bottom of it all there is (or was) a rhyme and reason for why things are the way they are - but it's all back a couple of thousand years in the start of the language and the various dialects that coalesced to form what we have now.

So keep on reading Greek, and keep on thinking about it and asking :-)
Best wishes with Greek II
Shirley Rollinson
Thank you - very good points. I am aware of the various papers, rejoinders, surrejoinders regarding these exegetical issues - and both sides make very compelling points. In fact, another paper is coming out soon in a journal by respected grammarian Dr. Mike Burer.

In sum, it seems that the evidence leans toward the gender of these nouns being arbitrary or "grammatical' as you aptly point out (I like that term better actually).

Although, to be honest, I do wonder why so much ado is made over the gender of Ἰουνίαν and then not much is said regarding the gender of either ἐπίσημοι nor ἀποστόλοις....though I suppose this is due to these substantives being "class" nouns (i.e., referring to a "class" of people - although ἀδελφος and ἀνθρώπων equally refer to a "class" of people?).

Thoroughly confusing :oops: .

Thank you for your excellent points.
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Stephen Hughes
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Re: Romans 16.7 - "Natural Gender" and "Arbitrary Gender"?

Post by Stephen Hughes » September 15th, 2015, 11:37 pm

R. Perkins wrote:Interestingly, the adjective ἐπίσημος in Rom. 16.7 is nominative-masculine-plural (which, of course, is apparent).
Slow down for a moment. To make sense of things, some conclusions do need to drawn from the evidence at hand, but it is better to shuffle to them, rather than jump. Appearances are not always what they seem to be.

With due respect to what you've been taught, ἐπίσημος is neither masculine nor feminine, it is common. It is a two-termination adjective - ἐπίσημος -ον "note-worthy". There are only two forms, common and neuter. I.e. we could say that ὁ Ἀνδρόνικος μὲν ἐπίσημος ἦν ἐν τοῖς ἀποστόλοις, ἡ Ἰουνία δὲ ἐπίσημος ἦν. The form is common and theoretically (a conclusion based on context) it becomes (or is used as) masculine with Ἀνδρόνικος and becomes (or is used as) feminine with Ἰουνία. In other words, when dealing with a with a two-termination adjective the assignment to either masculine or feminine is a natural rather than a choice based on form. In the plural, as in the verse you are looking at, the form ἐπίσημοι is grammatically (arbitrarily) common. In some specific contexts it is naturally masculine (only when all members of the group are male), or naturally feminine (only when all members of the group are female), at other times it is natural gender unspecified and grammatical (arbitrary) gender common.

Later in the language's history, as the underlying working of the gender assignment system underwent a change, two-termination adjectives became three-termination ones. In our period however, there are still some of them, and we need to learn their way of thinking as well.
R. Perkins wrote:After contacting Dr. Mike Burer, I think this would be classified as "arbitrary gender" with no bearing on the meaning (though I'm still not completely sold on this).
Gender is not an issue here. It is a two-termination adjective.
R. Perkins wrote:The quotes you provide above are interesting & for me, only solidifies the idea that we cannot be 100% certain of Paul's intended meaning in Rom. 16.7 (standing alone).
If you want to search further, go to the TLG site. Click on the "Abridged TLG" tab. You will be asked to log in. At that point you can either register or make enough log in mistakes till the system let's you in as "guest" anyway. Click on Text Search. Then, do a Proximity search looking for whatever two words you want to see whether they occur together. If that type of reading slabs of Greek on sight is daunting, either use a dictionary, or come back to it after a few years, after you have mastered the grammar and have at least read through the New Testament.
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Γελᾷ δ' ὁ μωρός, κἄν τι μὴ γέλοιον ᾖ
(Menander, Γνῶμαι μονόστιχοι 108)

Danny King
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Re: Romans 16.7 - "Natural Gender" and "Arbitrary Gender"?

Post by Danny King » September 16th, 2015, 12:03 pm

Shirley, I like very much the division you made between "natural gender" and "grammatical gender". It would have helped me a lot when I was studying basic Greek. I was troubled by gender then.

And I still am. :lol: Here are two words that puzzle me (all quotations are from Trenchard):

"φυλακή, ῆς, ἡ - watch, guard, prison, haunt, watch (period of the night)" - page 134
I think we can safely assume that during those times, all guards were men. So why the feminine word? I wonder if the guards, who were probably the burly, macho type felt their manhood threatened? ;)

"δεσμός, οῦ, ὁ - bond, fetter; bonds, imprisonment, prison (plural)" - page 141
"The plural is the neuter τὰ δέσμα" - page 127
Now this is really weird. The gender changes from masculine to neuter!

Somehow prison does strange things to gender!
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Shirley Rollinson
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Re: Romans 16.7 - "Natural Gender" and "Arbitrary Gender"?

Post by Shirley Rollinson » September 16th, 2015, 5:35 pm

Danny King wrote:Shirley, I like very much the division you made between "natural gender" and "grammatical gender". It would have helped me a lot when I was studying basic Greek. I was troubled by gender then.

And I still am. :lol: Here are two words that puzzle me (all quotations are from Trenchard):

"φυλακή, ῆς, ἡ - watch, guard, prison, haunt, watch (period of the night)" - page 134
I think we can safely assume that during those times, all guards were men. So why the feminine word? I wonder if the guards, who were probably the burly, macho type felt their manhood threatened? ;)

"δεσμός, οῦ, ὁ - bond, fetter; bonds, imprisonment, prison (plural)" - page 141
"The plural is the neuter τὰ δέσμα" - page 127
Now this is really weird. The gender changes from masculine to neuter!

Somehow prison does strange things to gender!
τὰ δέσμα is probably from the neuter word το δεσμόν (bond, chain, fetter)
the more usual word for guard (guy doing the guarding) is ὁ φύλαξ, φύλακoς

I don't have a Greek concordance to the GNT with me at the moment, and LaParola is acting up and won't pull up reference verses - but it may be that if we run a concordance for φυλακή we'll find that it is used for a "guard" in the sense of a guard squad or group of guards, rather than an individual guard guy.
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R. Perkins
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Re: Romans 16.7 - "Natural Gender" and "Arbitrary Gender"?

Post by R. Perkins » September 17th, 2015, 4:15 am

Stephen Hughes wrote:
R. Perkins wrote:Interestingly, the adjective ἐπίσημος in Rom. 16.7 is nominative-masculine-plural (which, of course, is apparent).
Slow down for a moment. To make sense of things, some conclusions do need to drawn from the evidence at hand, but it is better to shuffle to them, rather than jump. Appearances are not always what they seem to be.

With due respect to what you've been taught, ἐπίσημος is neither masculine nor feminine, it is common. It is a two-termination adjective - ἐπίσημος -ον "note-worthy". There are only two forms, common and neuter. I.e. we could say that ὁ Ἀνδρόνικος μὲν ἐπίσημος ἦν ἐν τοῖς ἀποστόλοις, ἡ Ἰουνία δὲ ἐπίσημος ἦν. The form is common and theoretically (a conclusion based on context) it becomes (or is used as) masculine with Ἀνδρόνικος and becomes (or is used as) feminine with Ἰουνία. In other words, when dealing with a with a two-termination adjective the assignment to either masculine or feminine is a natural rather than a choice based on form. In the plural, as in the verse you are looking at, the form ἐπίσημοι is grammatically (arbitrarily) common. In some specific contexts it is naturally masculine (only when all members of the group are male), or naturally feminine (only when all members of the group are female), at other times it is natural gender unspecified and grammatical (arbitrary) gender common.

Later in the language's history, as the underlying working of the gender assignment system underwent a change, two-termination adjectives became three-termination ones. In our period however, there are still some of them, and we need to learn their way of thinking as well.
R. Perkins wrote:After contacting Dr. Mike Burer, I think this would be classified as "arbitrary gender" with no bearing on the meaning (though I'm still not completely sold on this).
Gender is not an issue here. It is a two-termination adjective.
R. Perkins wrote:The quotes you provide above are interesting & for me, only solidifies the idea that we cannot be 100% certain of Paul's intended meaning in Rom. 16.7 (standing alone).
If you want to search further, go to the TLG site. Click on the "Abridged TLG" tab. You will be asked to log in. At that point you can either register or make enough log in mistakes till the system let's you in as "guest" anyway. Click on Text Search. Then, do a Proximity search looking for whatever two words you want to see whether they occur together. If that type of reading slabs of Greek on sight is daunting, either use a dictionary, or come back to it after a few years, after you have mastered the grammar and have at least read through the New Testament.
Okay - Gotcha' on the common adjective ἐπίσημος. This is precisely why I come here...to learn.

I have never seen the TLG website that I can remember, but I'm sure I'll be spending some time on it. I assume I can search for word-forms (e.g., aorist imperatives, etc.) & how they were used by Koine' writers?

Regarding mastering the language: My intent is to take about 6 weeks & review Greek I to ensure that I have a firm grasp on it before moving into Greek II (i.e., re-read the grammar book, brush up on vocab., revisit the paradigm charts, etc.). Some major things that throw me off is the contract verbs, square of stops, how verb forms can just go off completely on their own devoid of any paradigms (e.g., 1st person sing. active participles)...with absolutely no rhyme or reason.

Hence, I am learning to look for "basic patterns" contra insisting upon exact forms (e.g., aorists, futures, etc.). Do I have doubts that I can proceed beyond Greek I? Absolutely! But, I am going to hit it again before I do anything else....I'm in this for the long haul.

I am wondering about tools though. I have heard it said that "If you have to use tools, then you're not reading Greek!" (e.g., Dr. James White). But, as Dr. Mounce points out, we all have to use tools at some time or another (including Mounce!). Some more or less than others, but, regardless, this is still "using tools." So, Mounce said that it's really not fair to make such discouraging remarks. This smacks with a ring of truth to me, but I can equally see how tools can become a crutch for not learning the language.

Personally, I use NA28, UBS-4, Friberg, BDAG, NIDNTTE, GGBB, BBG, etc. (I actually have built up quite the library via Olive Tree). Anyone's thoughts on the tools - do you agree with Dr. White's seeming condemnation of those using tools at all (yet, ironically, he uses GGBB :roll:)?

Thank you all for the invaluable in-put.
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Shirley Rollinson
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Re: Romans 16.7 - "Natural Gender" and "Arbitrary Gender"?

Post by Shirley Rollinson » September 17th, 2015, 3:33 pm

R. Perkins wrote: ( - - - snip snip - - - )

I am wondering about tools though. I have heard it said that "If you have to use tools, then you're not reading Greek!" (e.g., Dr. James White). But, as Dr. Mounce points out, we all have to use tools at some time or another (including Mounce!). Some more or less than others, but, regardless, this is still "using tools." So, Mounce said that it's really not fair to make such discouraging remarks. This smacks with a ring of truth to me, but I can equally see how tools can become a crutch for not learning the language.

Personally, I use NA28, UBS-4, Friberg, BDAG, NIDNTTE, GGBB, BBG, etc. (I actually have built up quite the library via Olive Tree). Anyone's thoughts on the tools - do you agree with Dr. White's seeming condemnation of those using tools at all (yet, ironically, he uses GGBB :roll:)?

Thank you all for the invaluable in-put.
We all learn differently - so whatever works for you - use it. However, do not become dependent on it or addicted to it :-)
The aim is to be able to read the GNT without any outside help such as tools - but how we reach that stage may vary.
Keep on reading, asking, and learning
Shirley Rollinson
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