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Ish and zokar

April 23, 2014

What does it really mean when Eve said, ‘I have gotten a man with the help of the LORD.’

Of course, what she really said was,

 קָנִיתִי אִישׁ אֶת-יְהוָה

I have gotten an ish from God.

Did she mean that she had born a male child? But an ish is usually an adult. Did she mean that although God had drawn her out of ish, now God has drawn an ish out of her? But what is an ish? A male, a human being, or a member of community?

I always assumed it meant that Eve had born a male child. But I don’t think so now. I think she meant that she had born a new member of the human family. Here is why. In Leviticus 18:22, the Hebrew reads

וְאֶת-זָכָר–לֹא תִשְׁכַּב, מִשְׁכְּבֵי אִשָּׁה

With a male you must not lie, as you would with a woman.

But every English translation produces parallel constructions, like this,

Thou shalt not lie with mankind, as with womankind:  KJV 

or this,

You must not have sexual intercourse with a man as you would with a woman;  CEB 

Why does English produce parallel phrasing when the Hebrew distinctly says male/woman, and not man/woman?

Because, in my view, ish does not mean “man.” We know this already from here, Abraham circumcised,

כָּל-זָכָר, בְּאַנְשֵׁי בֵּית אַבְרָהָם

every male among the ish (plural) of the house of Abraham.

But English translations usually have,

every male among the men of Abraham’s house

Just in case some of the men weren’t actually male? No, because ish are not unambiguously men. Ish are members of the house of Abraham, male and female. Even the male slaves were circumcised, so ish does not refer to the status of the men, it doesn’t refer to “men” as in “males” at all. Sometimes it does, but maleness is not an essential core meaning of the word ish.

This confusion is perpetuated by the Colorado Gender Guidelines, which claim that ish should ordinarily be translated as “man/men.” Well, if some people don’t want to know what is in the Bible, so be it.

Here is the LXX,

Ἐκτησάμην ἄνθρωπον διὰ τοῦ θεοῦ

I have acquired a human being through God.

Surprise, surprise, the Greek translators did not think that ish meant “man” a male, but rather a “human being.” But the NETS mistranslates it,

“I have acquired a man through God.”

Most English translations say “man” but the Latin Vulgate got it right, with “homo” and not “vir.”

 possedi hominem per Dominum

Another thing you see in Greek, and I think in Hebrew too, is the connection between the word “acquire” and the word “create.” It sounds as if Eve has said,

“I have created a human being through God.”

In Greek ktaomai, acquire and ktizw create, sound similar in this tense, and could be related. In Hebrew too, קָנָה sounds like Cain’s name and means “to get, acquire, create, buy, possess.” In fact, Strong’s concordance says clearly that with reference to God, the word means “create” but with reference to Eve, the word means “acquire.” Too funny! Let us just write into the Bible, that women will not ever be treated fairly in translation. Sometimes you just have to laugh at this.

But going back to the Hebrew, Eve may be saying,

I have created the next member of the human family through God.

After all, when she was drawn from the human,and an ishah, a female member of community was created, adam, a human being, became a member of community too, an ish. This was done by God. But the next ish, the next member of community, was drawn by God out of ishah. The circle is closed.

There is an expression that reading the Bible in translation is like kissing your bride through a veil. But some days it feels more like kissing someone through a brick wall that has to be torn down, brick by brick.

 

Now, on a different topic, does this verse I used in opening,

With a male you must not lie, as you would with a woman.

have something relevant to say about homosexuality today? This is listed with incest, infanticide, adultery and having sex with your wife when she is having her period. Incest and infanticide are crimes, adultery and having sex during one’s period are topics I never discuss in public, and are nobody’s business, and that is how I treat homosexuality. It is a private function, and in the Hebrew Bible, to me it rates with some prohibitions, which, like having sex during menses, had some primitive mysterious meaning we don’t acknowledge today. It is something like mixing linen and wool. I go a long way now to shop at stores that mix cashmere and linen blends, thank you very much. Yarn blends, I talk about, sexual activities, I don’t.

 

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15 Comments leave one →
  1. April 23, 2014 6:12 pm

    But the NETS mistranslates it

    Robert J. V. Hiebert for his NETS version does get it right in 1:26-27 and in 2:5 and then again in 5:1.

    Another thing you see in Greek, and I think in Hebrew too, is the connection between the word “acquire” and the word “create.”

    The Hebraic Greek translators of the Septuagint kept the parallelism between the verbs of Deuteronomy 32:6 –

    οὐκ αὐτὸς οὗτός σου πατὴρ ἐκτήσατό σε καὶ ἐποίησέν σε καὶ ἔκτισέν σε – LXX

    Is not he your father, who created you, who made you and established you? – ESV

    Is He not your father, your shaper,
    He made you and set you unshaken? – Robert Alter

    Is he not your father, your creator,
    he (who) made you and established you? – Everett Fox

    The whole passage in the Torah here continues the parent / birther / nester / creator theme (especially Deut 32:18):

    θεὸν τὸν γεννήσαντά σε ἐγκατέλιπες καὶ ἐπελάθου θεοῦ τοῦ τρέφοντός σε – LXX

    Of the Rock that begat thee thou art unmindful, and hast forgotten God that formed thee. – KJV

    The Rock that birthed you, you neglected,
    you forgot the God that produced-you-in-labor. – Fox

    The contexts of birthing and of creating and acquiring and establishing and so forth and so on, both in Genesis and in Deuteronomy, strongly suggest Eve is taking on a creative / co-creator / co-parenting – divine role.

  2. April 23, 2014 6:58 pm

    So,πατὴρ ἐκτήσατό that is create, but for Eve – Ἐκτησάμην, that is acquired? Gheesh!!! But Alter still translates, “i have got me a man with the Lord.” At home I have a Contemporary Torah, but I won’t be able to get to it for a couple of weeks.

  3. April 23, 2014 10:03 pm

    Well, the Greek phrase in question in the parallel set of Dt. 32:6 is not πατὴρ ἐκτήσατό but πατὴρ … ἔκτισέν. For ἐκτήσατό, both Charles Thompson and Lancelot Brenton have “purchase”; and Peters for NETS has “acquire.” Eve in LXX Genesis 4:1 gets no unusual treatment.

    My point is that the contexts of Gn 4 and of Dt 32 draw the semantic range of the Hellene toward Hebraic notions of birth and creation.

  4. April 24, 2014 1:38 am

    Okay, I was confused by seeing the English translation of the Hebrew under the LXX. Here is the Hebrew and the JPS translation,

    הֲלוֹא-הוּא אָבִיךָ קָּנֶךָ, {ס} הוּא עָשְׂךָ וַיְכֹנְנֶךָ.
    is not He thy father that hath gotten thee? hath He not made thee, and established thee?

    This matches Gen. 4:1.

    And here is another version of Deut. 32:6

    οὐκ αὐτὸς οὗτός σου πατὴρ ἐκτήσατό σε καὶ ἐποίησέ σε καὶ ἔπλασέ σε;
    did not he himself thy father purchase thee, and make thee, and form thee?

    from here http://www.ellopos.net/elpenor/greek-texts/septuagint/chapter.asp?book=5&page=32

  5. April 24, 2014 8:35 am

    Having the Hebrew with our Englishes really does help. Thanks!

    Interesting the variant matches in the Greek for the third verb in the set: ἔκτισέν and ἔπλασέ,

    Was a later editor of the Hellene trying better to match the Hebrew? And which is earlier and which later. How synonymous are the Greek verbs? Don’t both allow for the deep structural, semantical notion of “create”?

    The first verb of Deut. 32:6 is the one in Gen 4:1 (קָנָה), and the LXX is consistent there both passages with ἐκτή***

    So compare an earlier use of ἔπλασέ and an earlier use of ἐκτήσατό (if readers are reading the Hebrew through the Greek for Genesis 2:7 and Genesis 4:1) –

    καὶ ἔπλασεν ὁ θεὸς τὸν ἄνθρωπον /
    and the God formed the human being

    Ἐκτησάμην ἄνθρωπον διὰ τοῦ θεοῦ /
    I’ve be-gotten a human through the God

  6. April 24, 2014 5:32 pm

    Here’s another Hebrew and Hellene example from the Bible:

    כִּֽי־אַתָּה קָנִיתָ
    [qanah]
    כִלְיֹתָי תְּסֻכֵּנִי בְּבֶטֶן אִמִּֽי׃

    ὅτι σὺ ἐκτήσω [ekteso]
    τοὺς νεφρούς μου κύριε ἀντελάβου μου ἐκ γαστρὸς μητρός μου

    The first verb, in Hebrew and also in its Hellene translation, are the verbs used by Eve in Hebrew Bereishit 4:1 and in Greek Genesis 4:1.

    And so, here in David’s Tehillim – Psalms – Chapter 139 Verse 13, there are two phrases, a creative parallel phrasing of two verbs, that in English we make as follows:

    Robert Alter (working with both the Hebrew and also the Greek)
    For You created my innermost parts,
    ………………wove me in my mother’s womb.

    Ann Nyland (working with both the Hebrew and also the Greek)
    For you made my heart and mind,
    you wove me together in my mother’s womb.

    Jewish Publication Society
    For Thou hast made my reins; Thou hast knit me together in my mother’s womb.

    New International Version
    For you created my inmost being; you knit me together in my mother’s womb.

    New Living Translation
    You made all the delicate, inner parts of my body and knit me together in my mother’s womb.

    English Standard Version
    For you formed my inward parts; you knitted me together in my mother’s womb.

    New American Standard Bible
    For You formed my inward parts; You wove me in my mother’s womb.

    King James Bible
    For thou hast possessed my reins: thou hast covered me in my mother’s womb.

    Holman Christian Standard Bible
    For it was You who created my inward parts; You knit me together in my mother’s womb.

    International Standard Version
    It was you who formed my internal organs, fashioning me within my mother’s womb.

    NET Bible
    Certainly you made my mind and heart; you wove me together in my mother’s womb.

    GOD’S WORD® Translation
    You alone created my inner being. You knitted me together inside my mother.

    So why not let Eve say, “I’ve created a human through God”?

  7. April 24, 2014 5:43 pm

    “So why not let Eve say, “I’ve created a human through God”?”

    Yes, that’s what I think, but which translations do this?

  8. April 24, 2014 7:00 pm

    One of the oddest translations of what Eve says in Genesis 4:1 is in the so called Chicago Bible –

    “I have won back my husband; the LORD is with me!”

  9. April 24, 2014 7:34 pm

    Funny. Someone insisted to themselves that ish must mean husband.

  10. April 24, 2014 8:02 pm

    Suzanne, you said: “After all, when she was drawn from the human,and an ishah, a female member of community was created, adam, a human being, became a member of community too, an ish. This was done by God. But the next ish, the next member of community, was drawn by God out of ishah. The circle is closed.”

    This is beautiful, but I couldn’t help noticing the difference. Adam was in a deep sleep when God drew the woman from him. Eve, however, as Gen. 3:16 states, was in a condition of sorrow and labor. She, then, really can say she participated in the creation of this new human in a way Adam cannot.

  11. April 25, 2014 7:05 am

    Adam was in a deep sleep when God drew the woman from him. Eve, however, as Gen. 3:16 states, was in a condition of sorrow and labor.

    Makes me think, Kristen, that the second Adam is so much more like the first Eve.

  12. April 25, 2014 7:24 am

    What do you all think about the New English Bible translator decisions? Notice how the choice of the generic “man” for Adam and also for Eve’s offspring make for some strange senses. Eve “brings into being” an additional “man,” as if he’s an adult? And we get that strangeness from the added English “another child,” child,of course not specifying femaleness or maleness, except for the additional context.

    The man lay with his wife Eve, and she conceived and gave birth to Cain. She said, ‘With the help of the LORD I have brought a man into being.” Afterwards she had another child, his brother Abel. Abel was a shepherd

Trackbacks

  1. Hebraic Hellenisms and Human Epistemological Places | BLT
  2. When Eve and Jesus speak by the English Standard Version | BLT

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