In the comments section of the previous blog (“Godly Men and the Manly God”) Sue challenges the idea that manliness is something women lack. I thought her observations were worth highlighting, so I’ve promoted them to a separate blog. Here’s how Sue put things:
Curiously, for over 2000 years the Bible said that woman was manly. In Latin, in Gen 2:23 woman was called “virago”, for she was taken out of “vir.” At that time this word meant a woman who was manly, courageous and heroic. Only later men thought that a manly woman was domineering. But the Bible says that woman was created courageous and strong.
This, of course, is the meaning of the woman of Proverbs 31, that she too was manly, courageous and heroic. She was the “eshet hayil” in Hebrew, the mighty woman, and in Greek it was translated as “andrea,” courageous and manly.
The woman of the Hebrew scriptures is named by God as manly, a fit companion for man, one who resembles him because she is of the same species.
It is time to read the Bible in its original language and understand once again what God says in the Hebrew language. How much has been lost by those who do not read the scriptures in the light of 2000 years of interpretation.
First, let’s explode a bit of lexical legerdemain. Sue wrote these words about Eve: “The woman of the Hebrew scriptures is named by God as manly, a fit companion for man, one who resembles him because she is of the same species.”
A couple of corrections here:
(1) God did not name the woman. Adam did, and he did so because God told him to name things, including the woman.
(2) While Adam does indeed recognize the woman as “a fit companion for man, one who resembles him because she is of the same species,” this does not make her manly. Sue’s application of the word “manly” is the sort of lexical slight of hand that egalitarians use to hoodwink the unwary. “Manly” means “to have qualities traditionally or customarily ascribed to males, pertaining to or suitable for males.”
Hairy chests and thick beards are manly. Having two feet is irrelevant to manliness. So, when women have two feet, they are not for that reason manly.
Otherwise, Sue’s fantasies of interpretation arise out of the “etymological root fallacy,” an interpretive error common among the amateurs and those with special agendas. Sue’s musings on manly women – as this notion is supposedly conveyed in the passages she cites – are a good example of this.
For an explanation of the root fallacy, click here . Also on this page is an explanation of an error dubbed “the overload fallacy.” It looks very much like what D. A. Caron has styled “the illegitimate totality transfer fallacy,” and Sue’s comments might well be an example of this interpretive fallacy as well.
The vir/virago vocabulary of the Vulgate obviously seeks to reproduce the euphony of ish/isha vocabulary of Genesis 2.23, rather than to impute masculine qualities to a feminine person. And the sense of these pairings (vir/virago, ish/isha) is expressly explained in the Hebrew text. Unless Sue wishes to assert that the Vulgate has the same theological authority as the Masoretic text, the vocabulary pairs express the woman’s raison d’être. As Paul would deduce from this passage centuries later, “Woman was made for the man’s sake, not man for the woman’s sake.”
But, as Sue must know – since she reads the Scripture in the original languages – the Hebrew ish and isha are from different Hebrew roots, not the same root. The word ish originates in the root ‘i š, while issha derives from the root ‘n š. Their similarity in sound does not derive from their sharing the same root. It is a phonetic feature of Hebrew, suited to express euphonically what is explained by the subsequent words of the Hebrew text.
So also with the fantasies Sue infers from andreas in the Septuagint text of Proverbs 31:10. Whatever notions of “strength” or “wealth” or “virtue” may reside in this Greek term, it does not carry the sense of “manly,” viz. “masculine.” And, once more, the import of the Hebrew term “chayil” is explicated at length in the subsequent verses.
Sue, do you wish to assert that the Proverbs 31 Wife is “strong?” I’ll agree with you! It so happens that my own mother was one like this. I married someone like this. I know her kind well, and I am blessed by them. And, there isn’t a manly bone in any of them.
Do you wish to assert that the Proverbs 31 Wife is masculine? Flummery.