Actually they aren’t even talking about women. They’re talking about Greek. The GOA (Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America) made it about women when they opted to approve a revision of the creed from “for us and for our salvation” to “for us men and for our salvation.” The problem with this revision, the authors (Aristotle Papanikolaou and John Fotopoulos) is that it makes gender exclusive language that was originally gender inclusive. Greek, like many other languages, has gendered nouns. Anthropos is a masculine noun. But that does not mean that anthropos is male anymore than German a German girl is an “it” (das Mädchen is a neuter noun). Anthropos refers to humanity in general. Anér means “man.”
This all reminds me of something Fr. John McGuckin said at the inaugural conference of the now “retired” Sophia Institute. The topic was “women in Orthodoxy.” Noting that a number of individuals had expressed interest in the organization as a whole, but were avoiding this year’s conference because the topic was so controversial. To this, McGuckin quipped, “I did not know that women were so controversial.”
Apparently the Facebook page of Public Orthodoxy was trolled into low ratings after two authors dared to suggest that “humans” is a better way of translating anthropos than “men.” Anthropos is inclusive. Men is not, particularly when the decision was made to add a word that need not have been there in the first place. “For us and for our salvation” works just fine. “For us men…” is clearly a jab at…(wait for it)…feminism. (Gasp!)
Papanikolaou and Fotopoulos suggest that the translation decision was a reactionary move, and it is hard not to conclude that they were right. The GOA took the most significant statement of Christian faith and turned it into a foot soldier in the culture wars.
(Because it will matter to some people, I am not a member of the GOA. My archdiocese has always used “men” in the Creed, but revising an original weak translation is a different matter than wondering why someone took a good translation and made it worse.)
In a way, the GOA translators were right though. The gospel of Jesus Christ is political. It is just not culture wars political. The Incarnation of the Son of God is the beginning of the kingdom of God on earth; a kingdom in which there is neither Jew nor Greek, male nor female; a kingdom that is for us and for our salvation; a kingdom that is for us all.