On איש ’ish as denoting a “householder” (paterfamilias)
Certain semantic fields will evoke our noun’s contextual semantic domain of representation: “one who acts on behalf of others.” When the group in question is a corporate household (Israelite society’s basic unit of organization), its ’ish is its authoritative representative: the “householder” or paterfamilias.
Our word occurs conspicuously in this sense in dozens of instances distributed widely across the Hebrew Bible. Thus it seems safe to assume that when the Bible was being composed, this meaning was already recognized as a distinct denotation.
What Does It Mean to Be a “Man”?
The Noun ’ish in Biblical Hebrew: A Reconsideration
My 44,800-word memorandum for Bible scholars on how and why ’ish (איש) was handled in the CJPS translation, going beyond the book’s basic discussion.
THESIS: The Bible treats ’ish primarily as a term of affiliation, conveying social gender only in certain constructions; this understanding is superior to the conventional view that its primary sense is “adult male.” Hence rendering ’ish in English as “man” distorts the biblical text more than is usually recognized. (8.5" x 11" PDFs)
Part I: The Initial Case for Reconsideration [7 pp.; rev. 9 Aug ’06]
Part II: Evidence for Selected Senses [12 pp.; rev. 10 Sep ’06]
Part III: Cultural and Semantic Logic [7 pp.; rev. 15 Oct ’06]
Part IV: Disambiguation in Context [2 pp; 15 Oct. ’06]
Part V: Social Gender [10 pp.; rev. 6 Jan. ’07]
Part VI: Contrasts in Noun Usage [11 pp.; 19 Jan. ’07]
Part VII: Rendering as “Man” [16 pp.; rev. 6 Jan. ’07]
Part VIII: Exegetical Implications [17 pp.; 10 Apr. ’07]
Updated 11 November 2009 • Culver City, California, USA