Skip to content

The Evolution (of the Translation) of “Adam”

April 28, 2012

UPDATE:

Courtney Druz and Rich, in comments below, give additional translations and where “Adam” is first explicitly named in them.  Thanks!  Thus, the post is now updated below as well.

—-

Peter Enns’s The Evolution of Adam: What the Bible Does and Doesn’t Say about Human Origins has prompted a good bit of discussion.  In the blogosphere earlier in the year, for example, the conversation has led to what Rachel Held Evans called the

Best Debate:
Kevin DeYoung with “10 Reasons to Believe in a Historical Adam
James McGrath with “Ten Really Bad Reasons to Believe in a Historical Adam
Pete Enns with “Thoughts on Kevin DeYoung’s Restless Comments on the Historical Adam

With this post, I’d like to look at how our human, our man Adam, evolves out of the Hebrew bible and into its translation.  As we all know, the Hebrew אָדָם (‘adam) is a phrase used more than 500 times in the Bible.  And it first appears in what we call Genesis 1:26-27.

And God said, Let us make man [אָדָם ('adam)] in our image, after our likeness: and let them have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the fowl of the air, and over the cattle, and over all the earth, and over every creeping thing that creepeth upon the earth.  So God created man [אָדָם ('adam)] in his own image, in the image of God created he him; male and female created he them.

There it is in relation to the Creator’s image.  Next it appears in a negative fashion, in 2:5:

And every plant of the field before it was in the earth, and every herb of the field before it grew: for the LORD God had not caused it to rain upon the earth, and there was not a man [אָדָם ('adam)] to till the ground [אֲדָמָה ('adamah)].

The creator of the book of Genesis has there fashioned some wordplay, as we know. And from this negative context of “not a man” is formed a more positive wordplay, in 2:7:

And the LORD God formed man [אָדָם ('adam)] of the dust of the ground [אֲדָמָה ('adamah)], and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and man became a living soul.

But when does “Adam” appear? The reader of the Hebrew Bible in translation finds him evolving depending on the desires of the human translator.  Here’s a list of translations and where the human, our man named Adam, appears singularly and first:

GENESIS 2:15

Tyndale – And the LORde God toke Adam and put him in the garden of Eden to dresse it and to kepe it:

GENESIS 2:16

Septuagint translators – καὶ ἐνετείλατο κύριος ὁ θεὸς τῷ Αδαμ λέγων Ἀπὸ παντὸς ξύλου τοῦ ἐν τῷ παραδείσῳ βρώσει φάγῃ,

Brenton’s translation of the Greek Septuagint – And the Lord God gave a charge to Adam, saying,
Of every tree which is in the garden thou mayest freely eat,

*Artscroll – “To Adam He said…” (but “switches to lower-case ‘the man’ when the definite article is added in Hebrew”) — and see 3:17, 3:21, and 5:….

GENESIS 2:19

Vulgate – formatis igitur Dominus Deus de humo cunctis animantibus terrae et universis volatilibus caeli adduxit ea ad Adam ut videret quid vocaret ea omne enim quod vocavit Adam animae viventis ipsum est nomen eius

Douay-Rheims translation of the Latin Vulgate – And the Lord God having formed out of the ground all the beasts of the earth, and all the fowls of the air, brought them to Adam to see what he would call them: for whatsoever Adam called any living creature the same is its name.

Wycliffe – Therfor whanne alle lyuynge beestis of erthe, and alle the volatils of heuene weren formed of erthe, the Lord God brouyte tho to Adam, that he schulde se what he schulde clepe tho; for al thing that Adam clepide of lyuynge soule, thilke is the name therof.

King James Version translators – And out of the ground the LORD God formed every beast of the field, and every fowl of the air; and brought them unto Adam to see what he would call them: and whatsoever Adam called every living creature, that was the name thereof.

NKJV – Out of the ground the LORD God formed every beast of the field and every bird of the air, and brought them to Adam to see what he would call them. And whatever Adam called each living creature, that was its name.

Amplified Bible – And out of the ground the Lord God formed every [wild] beast and living creature of the field and every bird of the air and brought them to Adam to see what he would call them; and whatever Adam called every living creature, that was its name.

GENESIS 2:20

Geneva – The man therefore gaue names vnto all cattell, and to the foule of the heauen, and to euery beast of the fielde: but for Adam founde he not an helpe meete for him.

Jewish Publication Society – And the man gave names to all cattle, and to the fowl of the air, and to every beast of the field; but for Adam there was not found a help meet for him.

New American Standard Bible – The man gave names to all the cattle, and to the birds of the sky, and to every beast of the field, but for Adam there was not found a helper suitable for him.

New Century Bible – The man gave names to all the tame animals, to the birds in the sky, and to all the wild animals. But Adam did not find a helper that was right for him.

New International Version – So the man gave names to all the livestock, the birds in the sky and all the wild animals. But for Adam no suitable helper was found.

Darby – And Man gave names to all cattle, and to the fowl of the heavens, and to every beast of the field; but as for Adam, he found no helpmate, his like.

English Standard Version – The man gave names to all livestock and to the birds of the heavens and to every beast of the field. But for Adam there was not found a helper fit for him.

“The Voice” - “Adam

GENESIS 2:21

Joseph Gaer (“The Jewish Bible for Family Reading”) – So God caused a deep sleep to fall upon the man, whom he called Adam.

GENESIS 3:8B

Coverdale – … Adam hyd him self with his wyfe, from the presence of ye LORDE God amonge the trees of the garden.

Julia E. Smith – … and Adam and his wife will hide from the face of Jehovah God in the midst of the wood of the garden.

GENESIS 3:17

American Standard Version – And unto Adam he said, Because thou hast hearkened unto the voice of thy wife, and hast eaten of the tree, of which I commanded thee, saying, Thou shalt not eat of it: cursed is the ground for thy sake; in toil shalt thou eat of it all the days of thy life;

Everett Fox -
To Adam he said:
Because you have hearkened to the voice of your wife
and have eaten from the tree about which I commanded you,
… saying:
You are not to eat from it!
Damned by the soil on your account,
With painstaking-labor shall you eat from it, all the days of your
… life.

Holman Christian Standard Bible – And He said to Adam, “Because you listened to your wife’s voice and ate from the tree about which I commanded you, ‘Do not eat from it’: The ground is cursed because of you. You will eat from it by means of painful labor all the days of your life.

New Revised Standard -
And to Adam he said, “Because you have listened to the voice of your wife,
and have eaten of the tree
of which I commanded you,
`You shall not eat of it,’
cursed is the ground because of you;
in toil you shall eat of it all the days of your life;

Aryeh Kaplan (“The Living Torah”) – “Adam

NET Bible – “Adam” (but the footnote: “Since there is no article on the word, the personal name is used, rather than the generic ‘the man’ (cf. NRSV)”)

*Artscroll – “To Adam He said…” (“but in 3:20 are back to “The man called his wife’s name Eve…””)– and see 1:26, 3:21, and 5:….

Keter Crown Bible ChorevAdam

GENESIS 3:20

Good News Bible -Adam named his wife Eve, because she was the mother of all human beings.

New Living Translation – Then the man—Adam—named his wife Eve, because she would be the mother of all who live.

Contemporary English Bible – The man Adam named his wife Eve because she would become the mother of all who live.

God’s WordAdam named his wife Eve [Life] because she became the mother of every living person.

The Message – The Man, known as Adam, named his wife Eve because she was the mother of all the living.

The Inclusive BibleAdam, or “Humanity,” named the woman Eve, or “Life-giver,” because she became the mother of all the living.

GENESIS 3:21

New English Bible – The Lord God made tunics of skins for Adam and his wife and clothed them.

*Artscroll – “And HASHEM God made for Adam and his wife…” (“and in 3:22 “Behold Man has become like the Unique One among us” and back to “the man” thereafter “) — and see 1:26, 3:17, and 5:….

GENESIS 4:1

New American Bible (Revised Edition) -
Adam again had intercourse with his wife, and she gave birth to a son whom she called Seth. “God has granted me another offspring in place of Abel,” she said, “because Cain killed him.”

New Jerusalem Bible -
Adam had intercourse with his wife, and she gave birth to a son whom she named Seth, ‘because God has granted me other offspring’, she said, ‘in place of Abel, since Cain has killed him.’

Common English Bible – The man Adam knew his wife Eve intimately. She became pregnant and gave birth to Cain, and said, “I have given life to a man with the LORD’s help.”

GENESIS 4:25

Robert Young (“Literal”) -
And Adam again knoweth his wife, and she beareth a son, and calleth his name Seth, `for God hath appointed for me another seed instead of Abel:’ for Cain had slain him.

Robert Alter – And Adam again knew his wife and she bore a son and called his name Seth, as to say, “God has granted me other seed in place of Abel, for Cain has killed him.”

David Rosenberg (The Book of J) – “Now Adam

*Margolin Edition – Then Adam again had intimate relations with his wife…

GENESIS 5:…

*Artscroll – “This is the account of the descendants of Adam—on the day that God created Man, He made him in the likeness of God. He created them male and female. He blessed them and called their name Man on the day they were created—when Adam had lived one hundred and thirty years…” — and see 1:26, 3:17, and 3:21.

Koren – This is the account of the descendants of Adam—on the day that God created Man, He made him in the likeness of God. He created them male and female. He blessed them and called their name Man on the day they were created—when Adam had lived one hundred and thirty years…

*Margolin Edition – THIS IS THE ENUMERATION of the descendants of Man; on the day GOD created Man, He made him with a resemblance to GOD.  He created them male and female, and He blessed them and named them man (Adam), on the day they were created.  Adam lived one hundred and thirty years, and he then fathered [a son] resembling him [and] with his form, and name him Shes.  Adam‘s days, after he had fathered Shes, were eight hundred years, and he fathered sons and daughters.  All the days that Adam lived were nine hundred and thirty years, and he died.

About these ads
11 Comments leave one →
  1. April 29, 2012 12:29 pm

    Interesting.
    Koren also holds out till 4:25, but still hesitantly, as “Adam (Man)”. The translation begins with “Mankind” until 2:7, when it switches to “man” or “the man”. (Note the use of capitalization also.)

    Though other Jewish translations make the switch earlier, my sense is that they all do so with that same essential hesitation, in keeping with the traditional Jewish interpretations of אָדָם as primarily humanity rather than a male proper name. (Similarly, I don’t think “Adam”—which in retains the meaning “humanity” in Modern Hebrew—has ever been a common personal name in Hebrew, though “Chava” (Eve) is common.)

    Of course translation often requires the definitive pinning down of meaning where the original is intentionally ambiguous or multivalent. But something special is happening here, as you suggest in your title—it’s like the translation is a kind extra-spectral light revealing a hidden process of growth or specialization, an evolution of אָדָם from generic humanity to a named and gendered individual.

  2. April 30, 2012 11:29 am

    Courtney,
    Thank you for sharing what Koren does. Yes, there is some hesitation, isn’t there? David Rosenberg (in The Book of J) also holds out till 4:25 before saying, “Now Adam,” and Rosenberg plays much more on the senses of “Chava” (Eve) up to that point. Your note on the contrast in Modern Hebrew between the two common/proper nouns makes me want to post now on the latter, on Eve in translation.

    Aryeh Kaplan (in “The Living Torah”) holds out until 3:17 before “Adam” appears. Joseph Gaer (in “The Jewish Bible for Family Reading”) gives in a little earlier, in 2:21, but does so this way: “So God caused a deep sleep to fall upon the man, whom he called Adam.” Any idea about what the “ArtScroll Tanach” does? Or how has Avraham Ahuvyah, with his controversial “Tankh RAM” (in “Israeli”) done?

    The Christian NET Bible puts “Adam” first in 3:17, but offers this rationale in a footnote: “Since there is no article on the word, the personal name is used, rather than the generic ‘the man’ (cf. NRSV).” The Christian translation called “The Voice,” (reviewed here by Theophrastus) has “Adam” enter in 2:20, presumably because the translator needs soon to interpolate “Adam” before the beginning of 2:23 to identify the speaker by this name.

    I really like what you point out about the hesitation of translators who really know how the original Hebrew must be “intentionally ambiguous or multivalent.” In all cases, translators eventually decide that they must render the phrase in question as the named, singular, and male-gendered individual. In my view, the choice about where in the text to show “Adam” really does seem fairly arbitrary.

  3. April 30, 2012 12:51 pm

    Luckily I do have an Artscroll here for you also! It actually goes back and forth—It starts with “Man” (like the Koren’s “Mankind”) in 1:26, and switches to lower-case “the man” when the definite article is added in Hebrew. But then, in 3:17 we have “To Adam He said…” but in 3:20 are back to “The man called his wife’s name Eve…” followed by 3:21 “And HASHEM God made for Adam and his wife…” and in 3:22 “Behold Man has become like the Unique One among us” and back to “the man” thereafter until 5:1-5 “This is the account of the descendants of Adam—on the day that God created Man, He made him in the likeness of God. He created them male and female. He blessed them and called their name Man on the day they were created—when Adam had lived one hundred and thirty years…” continuing as Adam. By the way I neglected before to give you Koren in 5, but it’s almost the same as Artscroll, using the whole range of translations.

  4. April 30, 2012 2:24 pm

    Courtney,
    Thank you very much! Wow, that’s quite a development in Artscroll, from 1:26 through 5:1-5 and following. How you share it gives a sense not only of how the translator(s) must be struggling to render the senses (progressively) into English but also how the Hebrew itself unfolds. Thanks for giving Koren in 5 too. What does Koren do in 3:20? (You’ve inspired a post here!)

  5. May 1, 2012 2:30 am

    Since you asked, Koren 3:20 —
    “And the man called his wife’s name Havva; because she was the mother of all living (Hay).”
    (The capital H’s have an underscore indicating pronunciation.)

  6. Rich permalink
    September 16, 2012 9:54 pm

    The Keter Crown Bible Chorev uses the phrase, “the man” up until 3:17. The Margolin Edition doesn’t use the term Adam until 5:3. However, it says that “the man” was banished from the garden in Eden. Are we to assume that “the woman” was banished as well, or did she leave on her own free will to be with her husband?

  7. September 17, 2012 7:04 am

    Thanks, Rich! Doesn’t Margolin first use the term Adam in 4:25? And so still relatively late in the Hebrew uses to that point. I’ve updated the post a bit with your information.

  8. Rich permalink
    June 12, 2013 10:51 pm

    J,K. Gayle, yes. Please pardon my error. The Margolin does use “Adam” in 4:25. Thank you for drawing my attention to that. I do have a question to add if I may. The Stone Chumash as well Margolin say, “Man has now become like the Unique One among us, by knowing good and evil.” Who is the “Unique One”? Are there any opinions that differ with Rashi on this? If so, I would love to hear them. Thanks in advance!

  9. June 13, 2013 7:06 am

    Not a problem, Rich. The Margolin edition is dazzling and not always easy for the eyes to follow. And so for example the transliteration, “Adam,” is actually explicitly used already even earlier in its textual apparatus, in that footnote on Bereshis 1:12-13, if not yet as part of the translation proper, actually in 4:25 initially and then in 5:3.

    This week I found something similar in another English translation. I found it in, of all places, the Harvard University Semitic Museum student/staff/faculty reading room: “The Bible: An American Translation” (nicknamed “The Chicago Bible”). One Theophile J. Meek, for a group of University of Chicago classicists and semiticists in the late 1920s and finally in 1931, has produced an English version that puts “Adam” as late as 5:1 — “The following is the list of Adam’s descendants.” Up to that point, prior to this transliteration, Meek has tended simply to use the translation “the man.” And yet, before 4:1 (“The man had intercourse with his wife Eve…”), Meek and his fellows put in a CAPITAL LETTER section header that uses the transliteration: “THE EARLY DESCENDANTS OF ADAM, 4:1 – 5:32″. Thus, both in the case of the Margolin and in the case of the Chicago, we the reader actually can read “Adam” in English text before the transliteration actually appears in the text of the translated Hebrew scripture.

    As for your good question, I do not know of opinions that differ from Rashi’s work to disambiguate LIKE THE UNIQUE ONE AMONG US: “He is unique among earthly beings, as I am unique among heavenly beings. And what is his uniqueness? Knowing [to distinguish between] good and evil, which animals and beasts do not have.” But would we be surprised to find someone positing that this other “ONE” is even “more UNIQUE” than that?

    I’ll just end with a quick story, again from Harvard this week:

    While in the Museum of Natural History on a Saturday, just a few paces of walking distance from the Semitic Museum which was closed that day of course, I saw much of Nature in its History and a couple of human signs as well. Among the meteors preserved for our viewing from the heavens and the fossils from the depths of the earth, were two signs. Two sentences, each on a respective sign, jumped out at me among all of this Nature. They read, rhetorically:

    “Evolution, like the theory of gravitation, is an essential truth supported by overwhelming scientific evidence.”

    and

    “Evolution is a fact; evidence for it is overwhelming.”

    Needless to say, I had to return to the Semitic Museum another day, since the evolution of the natural history of “the man” including the stories of BERESHIS and of Adam was respectfully closed for the Sabbath. The juxtaposition of these facts, for me, on that particular day, on this particular planet, had a peculiar and very definite gravity.

Trackbacks

  1. The Creation (of the Translation) of “Eve” « BLT
  2. how are some more certain of everything than i am of anything?…. » Blog Archive » to confuse the dead & irritate the living

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 390 other followers

%d bloggers like this: