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κοινωνία a feminine noun is from κοινωνός a masculine noun. In the first letter to the Corinthians, Paul uses both words twice:

κοινωνία
God is faithful, by whom you were called into the fellowship of His Son, Jesus Christ our Lord. (1:9) [ESV]

The cup of blessing that we bless, is it not a participation in the blood of Christ? The bread that we break, is it not a participation in the body of Christ? (10:16)

κοινωνός
Consider the people of Israel: are not those who eat the sacrifices participants in the altar? (10:18)

No, I imply that what pagans sacrifice they offer to demons and not to God. I do not want you to be participants with demons. (10:20)

Is there a grammatical necessity for the varied use of the feminine and masculine forms? If not, what is the significance of varying the gender?

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To answer your question, it seems that there is a grammatical necessity for Paul using κοινωνος in some verses and κοινωνια in others.

First of all, note that the masculine form is used when actual participants/partakers are being mentioned. As you are probably already aware, many languages (including Greek) use something called the "masculine universal." This means, to put it simply, that αγιοι (masc.) can be used to refer to holy ones, even if some of them are female. Alternatively, one could use αγιοι και αγιαι (meaning "holy men and holy women"). But it would be grammatically inaccurate to use αγιαι to refer to a group of holy ones if the group includes men.

Secondly, κοινωνος refers to actual participants whereas κοινωνια refers more to the participation/group itself. This was my conclusion after examining all the NT uses of each noun and from what HELPS Word-studies says on the matter.

[2842 /koinōnía (a feminine noun) stresses the relational aspect of the fellowship. 2844 /koinōnós (a masculine noun) more directly focuses on the participant himself (herself).

https://biblehub.com/greek/2844.htm


Significance (of course, speculative!)

Nevertheless, we must keep in mind that Paul could have written his sentences with a different structure. If he wanted to use κοινωνος in 1 Corinthians 10:16, he could have written, "By blessing the cup of blessings, are we not participants (κοινωνος) in the blood of Christ?" But Paul didn't do this!

Notice that in 1 Corinthians, each use of κοινωνια refers to the Christian community. (In fact, all uses of the feminine form in the NT have positive connotations.) Contrast this to both uses of κοινωνος. κοινωνος is used only two verses later in 10:18 to refer to those who still follow the Mosaic Law with its animal sacrifices, and is used again in 10:20 to refer to pagans who sacrifice to demons.

Could it be that Paul (or perhaps the Holy Ghost writing through him) deliberately structured his sentences to parallel following-the-Mosaic-Law-after-the-veil-was-torn with pagan devil worship, setting both aside as evil and opposed to Christianity? Or was this just a coincidence? If the Book is divinely inspired by a God of infinite intelligence, can there be any coincidences? I'm still "on the fence" whether or not it is a coincidence.

  • Interesting that the universal masculine would not be used where it is describing the group which must have included both men and women. – Revelation Lad Aug 6 '18 at 20:51
  • @RevelationLad According to my knowledge, the masculine universal has to do with a noun being used in the plural (i.e. participants). It doesn't apply to a group itself (which is a singular noun) even if there are both men and women in the group. For instance, the word φυλή (feminine) means tribe/family, even if there are men in the tribe/family. – Pascal's Wager Aug 6 '18 at 20:56
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1:9 and 10:16 describes a relationship:

κοινωνία, ας, ἡ (1) as a relationship characterized by sharing in common fellowship, participation (1J 1.3), opposite κακία (dislike, hatefulness); (2) as giving so that others can share generosity, fellow feeling (2C 9.13; PH 2.1); more concretely willing contribution, gift (RO 15.26)

Friberg, T., Friberg, B., & Miller, N. F. (2000). Analytical lexicon of the Greek New Testament (Vol. 4, p. 233). Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Books.

While 10:18 and 10:20 describes people:

κοινωνός, οῦ, ὁ as one who fellowships and shares something in common with another partner (LU 5.10); partaker (1C 10.18); fellow participant, companion (HE 10.33)

Ibid.

Note the iota in κοινωνία that differentiates it from the feminine of κοινωνός if it existed.

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