A Little Greek Doth Make Thee Mad!

By Wayne Price

A writer recently penned these words: “In 1 Timothy 5:9, we see the phrase ‘the wife of one man’ which comes from the Greek word ‘andros,’ which is a little more non-specific than ‘andra’…” In order to make a point, some folks who know a little Greek will appeal to the original language even if they don’t know what they are talking about! The fact is that the above two words from the original Greek language are both from the same word, and therefore one cannot be more “non-specific” than the other!

A very literal rendering of the Greek into English would be “a one-man woman” in 1 Tim. 5:9. A similar expression is found in 1 Tim. 3:2 and means “a one-woman man.” The emphasis in such a construction is faithfulness to one’s companion!

The statement that andros is more “non-specific” than andra is just plain wrong! The fact is that andros (genitive case) and andra (accusative case) both come from the same word aner (nominative case). Knowing this, shall we now assume that both andros and andra are more “non-specific” than aner? How foolish! One is no more “non-specific” than the other. The former is in the possessive case (genitive), while the latter is in the direct object case (accusative), but both come from the same Greek word aner.

To insinuate that one is more “non-specific” than the other is to fail to recognize the above facts. To not realize that Greek nouns are found in different case endings is tantamount to a person today saying that, in the case of verbs, “baptize” and “baptizes” have different endings, therefore one is more “non-specific” than the other.

Both aner (man, or male) and gune (woman) are translated as “husband” and “wife” respectively at times, but that is because of the contextual considerations, not because of literal translations.

Now, what is the meaning of “one-man woman” in 1 Timothy 5:9? It signifies that she must not have been a bigamist, nor an adulteress. This phrase is describing the CHARACTER of a married person . It is unfortunate that periodically it is translated as “married only once.” Such a rendering is interpretation, not translation! If Paul meant married only once, the question arises as to why would he be prohibiting widows to be enrolled who, though having met all other qualifications listed here, had outlived two husbands, yet was faithful to each companion when they were alive? Surely a second marriage did not mean that she ceased being a “one-man woman,” but rather informs us that she may have been widowed and remarried, or scripturally divorced and remarried.

If Paul’s intent were to say “married only once,” he could have done so by using the Greek word for “marry” (gameo), but he did not do so. In Paul’s phrase, “a one-man woman,” a second marriage is not contemplated, nor is it to be rejected; it is simply not a part of the discussion, as is also the case with a similar phrase “a one-woman man” in 1 Timothy 3:2, 12 and Titus 1:6. If this phrase meant a widow could not have been married more than once, then we must be willing to treat men equally, making the same rule for elders (1 Timothy 3:2) and for deacons (1 Timothy 3:12).


It is our studied conviction that the phrases “a one-man woman” as well as “a one-woman man,” are descriptive phrases which attest to one’s faithfulness to his/her marriage vows, and refer to character instead of marital status.