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Earth-born and earth-bound

April 18, 2014

Having thought about the meaning of the Hebrew word adam for some time, I wanted to go back to a passage I had blogged about some time ago, not sure where. In these two passages, which I reproduce here, adam is both earth-born, and earth-bound; but also given charge of God’s creatures. This is what it means to be adam from adamah, the soil.

Here are the first few verses of the Wisdom of Solomon, chapter 7, written in the first century BCE,

ΕΙΜΙ μὲν κἀγὼ θνητὸς ἄνθρωπος ἴσος ἅπασι
I am, also, myself, a mortal human the same as everyone

καὶ γηγενοῦς ἀπόγονος πρωτοπλάστου·
and descendent of the first-formed earth-born

καὶ ἐν κοιλίᾳ μητρὸς ἐγλύφην σὰρξ
and in the belly of my mother flesh-formed

2 δεκαμηνιαίῳ χρόνῳ παγεὶς ἐν αἵματι ἐκ σπέρματος ἀνδρὸς
for ten months planted in blood from the seed of a man

καὶ ἡδονῆς ὕπνῳ συνελθούσης.
and from the pleasure of sleeping together

3 καὶ ἐγώ δὲ γενόμενος ἔσπασα τὸν κοινὸν ἀέρα
and when I was born I breathed common air

καὶ ἐπὶ τὴν ὁμοιοπαθῆ κατέπεσον γῆν,
and on the kindred earth I fell 

πρώτην φωνὴν τὴν ὁμοίαν πᾶσιν ἴσα κλαίων·
my first sound the same as everyone like crying 

4 ἐν σπαργάνοις ἀνετράφην καὶ ἐν φροντίσιν·
smothered in swaddling blankets and care 

5 οὐδεὶς γὰρ βασιλεὺς ἑτέραν ἔσχε γενέσεως ἀρχήν,
for no king has another beginning of birth

6 μία δὲ πάντων εἴσοδος εἰς τὸν βίον, ἔξοδός τε ἴση
for all one entrance to life – an equal exit 

Thanks to the NETS translation for some phrases. A quick note that women were not pregnant for a longer time, but the calendar had 13 months. Of course, I am hoping that my coblogger, Kurk, may be able to elucidate the word play better in English. The second passage is from chapter 9,

ΘΕΕ πατέρων καὶ Κύριε τοῦ ἐλέους
O God of my fathers and Lord of mercy

ὁ ποιήσας τὰ πάντα ἐν λόγῳ σου
Who made everything by your word

2 καὶ τῇ σοφίᾳ σου κατεσκεύσασας ἄνθρωπον,
and in your wisdom outfitted humankind

ἵνα δεσπόζῃ τῶν ὑπὸ σοῦ γενομένων κτισμάτων
to rule creatures who came into being by you

3 καὶ διέπῃ τὸν κόσμον ἐν ὁσιότητι καὶ δικαιοσύνῃ
and to manage the world in equity and justice 

καὶ ἐν εὐθύτητι ψυχῆς κρίσιν κρίνῃ,
and with an upright soul judge judgements,

4 δός μοι τὴν τῶν σῶν θρόνων πάρεδρον σοφίαν
give me wisdom that sits by your throne 

καὶ μή με ἀποδοκιμάσῃς ἐκ παίδων σου
and don’t reject me from among your children

Update: I have edited out some rough patches in the translation.

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2 Comments leave one →
  1. April 20, 2014 8:35 am

    Wonderful translating, Suzanne! I like how you tease out the contrasts between “a mortal human” (universal) and “a man” (particular).

    This is rich Greek! Fun to attempt to render into English! Yes, there are wordplays that sometime later when I have more time I’d love us to discuss here. You’re smart to show the two passages excerpted in closer proximity together. (I’m interested in the poetry, the sound play, πατέρων ,,, ὁ ποιήσας τὰ πάντα and ἅπασι … ἀπόγονος πρωτοπλάστου as these work in concert with and as a dissonance against some of the semantic elements. Yes, rich. Thanks for sharing.)

  2. April 20, 2014 12:15 pm

    Thanks, it was fun and I think it should be “flesh-fashioned.” I tried to make that change but but didn’t get saved.

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