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1 Corinthians 16:3 ESV,

13 Be watchful, stand firm in the faith, act like men, be strong.

The Greek text for the emboldened phrase above is:

ἀνδρίζεσθε - (andrizesthe)

The ESV appears to translate it properly as "act like men".

See here: https://biblehub.com/greek/407.htm

Many other English translations read either identically or similarly, but not all (e.g. KJV, NASB, HCSB, and etc.).

If "act like men" is the true and correct understanding and translation, as opposed to merely the idea of being "brave" or "courageous" (See, e.g. NIV, NLT, NET, and etc.), does this mean Paul's main audience, perhaps even his only audience, at least when it comes to 2 Corinthians, is men, and not women?

After all, if a mixed gender audience was intended, and "act like men" is the correct understanding and translation, it would seem a strange injunction for Paul to place upon the women of the church in Corinth.

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  • It is clear from the context (vs14,15) that Paul is talking to brethren - Watch ye, stand fast in the faith, quit you like men, be strong. Let all your things be done with charity. I beseech you, brethren . . . . . . .
    – Nigel J
    Commented Apr 7, 2023 at 4:49
  • In fact there is no reason in the context for the word to mean anything else but "bold, courageous", matching the other three injunctions in that sentence. They add up to a military metaphor, immediately balanced by the qualification "love". Commented Apr 7, 2023 at 6:07
  • @Nigel J. Some see the use of "brethren" as a unisex term designating males and females. The ESV, for example, has several footnotes* for adelphoi showing that view espoused by the translating committee. So, some might not see "brethren" as helping to distinguish the context sufficiently. *The typical footnote text reads "Or brothers and sisters. In New Testament usage, depending on the context, the plural Greek word adelphoi (translated “brothers”) may refer either to brothers or to brothers and sisters" Commented Apr 7, 2023 at 6:31
  • @ Stephen Disraeli. Who would, in the 1st century context of Paul's day, serve in the military, that is, the armies of the Roman empire, but men alone? I would like to see more than mere assertion that "In fact there is no reason in the context for the word to mean anything else but "bold, courageous"". Commented Apr 7, 2023 at 6:33

2 Answers 2

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'Be on your guard; stand firm in the faith; be courageous; be strong.' (1 Corinthians 16:13 NIV)

'Be strong, Philistines! Be men, or you will be subject to the Hebrews, as they have been to you. Be men, and fight!' (1 Samuel 4:9 NIV)

Γρηγορεῖτε στήκετε ἐν τῇ πίστει ἀνδρίζεσθε κραταιοῦσθε

κραταιοῦσθε καὶ γίνεσθε εἰς ἄνδρας ἀλλόφυλοι μήποτε δουλεύσητε τοῖς Εβραίοις καθὼς ἐδούλευσαν ἡμῖν καὶ ἔσεσθε εἰς ἄνδρας καὶ πολεμήσατε αὐτούς (LXX)

The circumstance of this Philistine war cry being :

'When the soldiers returned to camp, the elders of Israel asked, “Why did the Lord bring defeat on us today before the Philistines? Let us bring the ark of the Lord’s covenant from Shiloh, so that he may go with us and save us from the hand of our enemies.”' (1 Samuel 4:3 NIV)

'When the ark of the Lord’s covenant came into the camp, all Israel raised such a great shout that the ground shook. Hearing the uproar, the Philistines asked, “What’s all this shouting in the Hebrew camp?”

When they learned that the ark of the Lord had come into the camp, the Philistines were afraid. “A god has come into the camp,” they said. “Oh no! Nothing like this has happened before."' (1 Samuel 4:5-7 NIV)

Then we have the war cry and ultimately Israel are routed :

'So the Philistines fought, and the Israelites were defeated and every man fled to his tent. The slaughter was very great ... The ark of God was captured ...' (1 Samuel 4:10-11 NIV)

The Philistines in this account exhibiting a far greater understanding of the Ark than Israel, a national disgrace.

Paul is drawing on this "respect" and victory against what seemed to be overwhelming opposition to encourage the Corinthians generally. In this instance the Philistines were the sword of truth sent to eliminate the house of Eli and bring Samuel to the fore.

'The ark of God was captured, and Eli’s two sons, Hophni and Phinehas, died.' (1 Samuel 4:11 NIV)

'When he mentioned the ark of God, Eli fell backward off his chair by the side of the gate. His neck was broken and he died ...' (1 Samuel 4:18 NIV)

While that word ἀνδρίζεσθε or "act like men" or "be men" - here in the NIV "be courageous" - is gender specific, as is the phrase in Samuel, the context indicates the intent. Not an instruction to the men specifically but an exhortation to all to stand fast in the faith.

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The operative verb in 1 Cor 16:13 is ἀνδρίζομαι (andrizó), which occurs only here in the NT, and means (BDAG):

conduct oneself in a courageous way

Thayer gives a similar result. The word is literally "act manfully" but its idiomatic meaning is to "be courageous". Thus, it is translated by the NIV, NLT, BSB, NKJV, Amplified Bible, CSB, Aramaic BPE, GNT, ISV, MSB, NAB, NETB, NRSV, NHEB, WEB, etc.

There is a similar idea in modern English idiom with our word "virtue" which come from the Latin "virtus" = "manliness". That is, to describe someone as "virtuous" is not sexist even for a woman because the idiomatic meaning is "morally excellent or good" and no longer has any "manliness" left in its meaning in English.

The same is true of ἀνδρίζομαι (andrizó) - it simply means to be brave and courageous, regardless of gender.

There is a similar situation with the vocative plural ἀδελφοί (adelphoi) which is "brothers/brethren", literally, but in almost all cases means "brothers and sisters"; ie, "brethren was a collective noun for all Christians in the NT. Just as ἄνθρωπος means a person of both genders in almost all cases, ie, "person", "mankind", or (in the plural) "people".

Indeed, Paul in Rom 1:24-27 makes it very plain that if women "act like men" it is sinful.

@PerryWebb has usefully and helpfully reminded us, in his comment below that:

"Root Fallacy As lexicographers have long noted, the root meaning of a word is not necessarily an accurate guide to the meaning of the word in later literature." -- Wallace, D. B. (1996). Greek Grammar beyond the Basics: An Exegetical Syntax of the New Testament (p. 363). Zondervan.

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  • You may want to note this: "Root Fallacy As lexicographers have long noted, the root meaning of a word is not necessarily an accurate guide to the meaning of the word in later literature." -- Wallace, D. B. (1996). Greek Grammar beyond the Basics: An Exegetical Syntax of the New Testament (p. 363). Zondervan.
    – Perry Webb
    Commented Apr 7, 2023 at 10:19
  • @PerryWebb - that is clearly true, good point, and quite true for this word ἀνδρίζομαι (andrizó) as well as "virtue". I resisted the temptation to use more modern vernacular (often crude) examples of the same thing where obvioulsy male characteristics are used for both genders.
    – Dottard
    Commented Apr 7, 2023 at 10:56

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