Re: John 2.4

Date: Tue Mar 12 1996 - 17:28:05 EST

In a message dated 96-03-12 02:45:44 EST, Richard Arthur writes:

> In John 2.4, Jesus has some querulous remarks to make to his mother: TI
>EMOI KAI COI, GYNAI . . . . Although Walter Bauer says that the vocative
>GYNAI "is by no means a disrespectful form of address, my students tend to
>interpret Jesus' remarks in accord with various translations in English. In
>vain do I remind them that an English translation cannot determine the
>meaning of a Greek text, and in vain I seek for a courteous-sounding
>translation. Is Bauer right? Of course he is, as evidenced by John 19.26,
>where Jesus (respectfully) addresses Mother: GYNAI IDE hO YIOC COY.
> But could someone provide me with a decent (non-confrontational)
>translation of John 2.4?
> Richard Arthur Merrimack NH
The NIV attempts to keep Jesus' tone polite by translating in both the
passages you mention, "Dear woman." But when we are told that GYNAI is not
disrespectful, we are not told that it is an expression of endearment; it is
neither particularly respectful nor disrespectful. The NIV translation,
then, falls flat by making GYNAI into an expression of warmth.

"Woman" by itself is not necessarily disrespectful. One thing the term does
do, however: it avoids giving Mary any special place. She is not even called
"Mother." Just GYNAI. That is to say, her biological relationship to Jesus
is subordinated to Jesus' own mission: she must take her place beneath His

John Barach

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