[b-greek] Re: Pronoun gender agreement

From: B. Ward Powers (bwpowers@eagles.com.au)
Date: Sat Jul 15 2000 - 00:09:57 EDT

<x-flowed>To add a further comment to Carl's reply to John Barach:

>John Barach wrote:
> >But is it the case that there is a feminine word for everything which is
> >female? Take the word DIAKONOS, for instance. Phoebe (a female) is
> >called a DIAKONOS (Rom. 16:1).
> >
> >Suppose you wanted to say "I see the servant/deacon and send her" (one
> >of those typical Machenesque sentences). Wouldn't you have to write:
> >BLEPW TON DIAKONON KAI PEMPW *AUTHN*? And in that case, wouldn't
> >Machen's rule stated above break down, because the pronoun wouldn't
> >agree in gender with the antecedent? Does anything like that ever
> >happen in NT Greek?

Carl responded:

>There are lots of nouns that are of common gender, and it should be
>understood that the second declension -OS paradigm for nouns has no
>obligatory relationship to masculine nouns (consider, for instance, hH
>numerous names of trees and shrubs which are regularly feminine.

I have examined these issues in my Grammar textbook "Learn To Read the
Greek NT" (SPCK Australia, fifth edition 1995) and in my comments here I
cross-reference to this for those who wish to further check out any
particular point. My comments:

1. Words which are both masculine and feminine, i.e. do not have separate
gender forms for masculine and feminine, are better called "personal
gender" rather than "common gender". "Personal gender" distinguishes words
that are masculine+feminine (i.e., personal) from those that are neuter
gender. "Common gender", on the other hand, could refer to any combination
of two genders, or all three, if such existed. Words which are personal
gender are: two-termination adjectives of the second declension (ADIKOS,
ADUNATOS; page 70); two-termination adjectives of the third declension
(ALHQHS, AFRWN; pages 71, 265, 274-5); and TIS (pages 71, 282).

2. "Personal gender" words are to be distinguished from another group,
which can be EITHER masculine or feminine gender. There are twenty-two such
words in the GNT, eleven of which can occur either as masculine or feminine
without any difference in meaning (such as ALABASTROS, alabaster flask;
BATOS, thornbush; LHNOS, winepress; LIMOS, hunger) and eleven of which
refer to living things and indicate male or female according to whether
they are masculine or feminine gender (such as DIAKONOS, servant, deacon;
QEOS, God, god, goddess; QURWROS, doorkeeper; ONOS, donkey; PARQENOS,
virgin). These words are all second declension (listed, page 265).

3. There are also twenty-eight words of the second declension which are
always feminine, including BIBLOS, book; ERHMOS, desert; NHSOS, island;
NOSOS, illness, disease; hODOS, way, road (these 28 are listed, page 264).
There is no significance in the fact that they are feminine. As such, they
always take the feminine article, and any words which refer to them
(adjectives, participles, pronouns) would be feminine by the agreement rule.

Carl continues,

>So in the above instance If we really had such a sentence as "I see the
>servant/deacon and send her," I think we should have no compunctions about
>understanding DIAKONOS as a noun of common gender and writing BLEPW THN

I concur completely with Carl's conclusion, but not the use here of
"common" (or even "personal") gender. Rather, I would say that DIAKONOS is
one of the class of words which can be EITHER masculine or feminine gender,
and which indicates accordingly whether the person/animal referred to is
male or female. In the instance given, the word is feminine gender,
referring to a female deacon, and therefore both the article (THN) and the
pronoun (AUTHN) are also feminine in agreement. The rule of agreement is
not being broken.



Rev Dr B. Ward Powers Phone (International): 61-2-9799-7501
10 Grosvenor Crescent Phone (Australia): (02) 9799-7501
SUMMER HILL NSW 2130 email: bwpowers@eagles.bbs.net.au
AUSTRALIA. Director, Tyndale College

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