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3/13/2014 7:26:00 AM
Liturgy shouldn't be a battleground

Deacon Owen Cummings

Q — I don’t understand why the Nicene Creed contains the phrase “for us men” instead of a more appropriate “for us all.” Please explain.

A — This is a good and interesting question. It probably doesn’t need to be pointed out that the theological intention in this article of the Creed is “for us all” and not “for us men” understood in terms of gender.

Having said that, it is interesting to look at the Greek text of the Creed. Putting it in English letters the text reads di’ hemas tous anthropous. There are two related words in Greek: the word aner which means a “male human being,” and the more generic word anthropos which means “human being.”

If one consults the standard Greek dictionary of the New Testament and other early Christian literature by Bauer-Arndt-Gingrich-Danker, this is what one finds. For aner, “man, in contrast to woman.” For anthropos, “human being, man.”

So, the first term is gender-based, while the second term is generic. The Nicene Creed uses the plural of anthropos, the generic term. So a more literal reading but in contemporary English would be “far as humans” or “for us all.”

It is unclear to me why we do not use one of the generic forms of translation rather than “for us men.”

I know that in some communities when it comes to this creedal clause they substitute something like “for us all,” rather than “for us men.”

I understand that, but I believe that for the unity and catholicity of the church we should stay with the approved text, even as we argue for its being changed.

The liturgy should not be an ideological battleground.

Reader Comments

Posted: Thursday, February 26, 2015
Article comment by: Roy Friend

Dr. Peter Kreeft goes over the issue of using 'men' as a general and inclusive pronoun. I'll quote it below:

"The use of the traditional inclusive generic pronoun "he" is a decision of language, not of gender justice. Ther are only six alternatives. (1) We could use the grammatically misleading and numerically incorrect "they." But when we say "one baby was healthier than the others because they didn't drink that milk," we do not know whether the antecedent of "they" is "one" or "others," so we don't know whether to give or take away the milk. Such language codes could be dangerous to baby's health. (2) Another alternative is the politically intrusive "in-your-face" generic "she," which I would probably use if I were an angry, politically intrusive, in-your-face woman, but I am not any of those things. (3) Changing "he" to "he or she" refutes itself in such comically clumsy and ugly revisions as the following: "What does it profit a man or woman if he or she gains the whole world but loses his or her own soul? Or what shall a man or woman give in exchange for his or her soul?" The answer is: he or she will give up his or her linguistic sanity. (4) We could both be intrusive AND clumsy by saying "she or he." ( Or we could use the neuter "it," which is both dehumanizing and inaccurate. (6) Or we could combine all the linguistic garbage together and use "she or he or it," which, abbreviated, would sound like "sh...it."

I believe in the equal intelligence and value of women, but not in the intelligence or value of "political correctness," linguistic ugliness, grammatical inaccuracy, conceptual confusion, or dehumanizing pronouns." - Dr. Peter Kreeft, Socratic Logic Edition 3.1, page 36.

Posted: Thursday, March 6, 2014
Article comment by: Jim Shand

Before the modern gender wars got around to semanitcal quibblings, most users of the English language were quite aware that the noun "men" did in fact connote plural males and plural people. Think of Jefferson and Lincoln.

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