A Short Note on God’s First Greek Puns: Earth, Birth-Word, Woman, Know
March 28, 2014
And so here are a few short notes on God’s first Greek puns:
- Γενηθήτω or GenēTHḗtō and Γενηθήτωσαν or GenēTHḗtōsan are not only “the first words attributed to God, [such that the] LXX-G establishes a formulaic speech pattern that continues throughout the chapter” that begins the Bible (as per Susan Brayford’s commentary in Abram’s post). But these Greek words also are neologisms. That is, before the Septuagint, to the extent our extant Greek literature shows us, these words did not exist. So the LXX translator is already beginning to be rather creative from the get go. These verbs mean, “Let there be…” Or “Let there by this word be birthed. . . .”
- The noun τὴν γῆν or tḕn gẽn in Genesis 1:1 (the Greek version), comes before the verb already discussed. It means the Earth that God so poetically and creatively made. (At least in Greek it’s poetry; here’s the first verb of the Greek translation of the Bible: ἐποίησεν or époíēsen.)
- Not long after, God fashions a γυναῖκα or gynaίka, a wife or woman (or perhaps in English we could pun a wombman).
- Not long after, she “knows,” which in Greek can be tricky. (It’s a double pun when translating Hebrew into neologistic Hebraic Hellene.) She comes to know good and evil. She comes to know the man, her husband. To know or ἔγνω or égnō leads to a new birth, the first-born human. This is all very God-like in Greek: the earth creativity, the birth creativity, the birthing-woman creativity, the knowing creativity.
- Plato had played with this sort of thing. Or perhaps the γυναῖκα named Aspasia did, since she was a teacher of rhetoric for Socrates.
- Euripides with Electra does some similar wordplay, but this stuff is rare (outside of this playwright’s play and outside of Plato’s one dialogue mentioned above).
- In Hebraic Hellene this all sounds so much better. The translating adds and finds (rather than subtracts and loses).