Adam and Eve - Textual Notes

Textual Notes

  • "...a living being" (Genesis 2:7) - God breathes into the man's nostrils and he becomes nefesh hayya. The earlier translation of this phrase as "living soul" is now recognised as incorrect: "nefesh" signifies something like the English word "being", in the sense of a corporeal body capable of life; the concept of a "soul" in our sense did not exist in Hebrew thought until around the 2nd century BC, when the idea of a bodily resurrection gained popularity.
  • "...tree of knowledge of good and evil..." (Genesis 2:9) - The tree imparts knowledge of tov wa-ra, "good and bad". The traditional translation is "good and evil", but tov wa-ra is a fixed expression denoting "everything," rather than a moral concept.
  • " shall surely die" (Genesis 2:16-17) - Adam is told that if he eats of the forbidden tree the consequence will be moth tamuth, "die a death", indicating not merely death but emphatically so. As Adam does not in fact die immediately on eating the fruit, some exegetes have argued that it means "you shall die eventually," so that Adam and Eve would have had immortality in the Garden, but lost it by eating the forbidden fruit. However, the grammar does not support this reading, nor does the narrative: Adam and Eve are expelled from the Garden lest they eat of the second tree, the tree of life, and gain immortality. (Genesis 3:22) Another explanation is that Adam will undergo "a spiritual death". The 2nd century Book of Jubilees (4:29–31) explained that "one day" is equivalent to a thousand years and thus Adam died within that same "day" the Greek Septuagint, on the other hand, has "day" translated into the Greek word for a twenty-four hour period.
  • "...a rib..." (Genesis 2:21–24) - Hebrew tsala` or tsela (from strongs concordance #6760 Prime Root) can mean curve, limp, adversity and side. "tsal'ah" (fem of #6760) being side, chamber, rib, or beam. The traditional reading of "rib" has been questioned recently by feminist theologians who suggest it should instead be rendered as "side", supporting the idea that woman is man's equal and not his subordinate. Such a reading shares elements in common with Aristophanes' story of the origin of love and the separation of the sexes in Plato's Symposium. Exegesis focused on literal biological interpretation has suggested that the "rib" was in fact the baculum, a bone present in several orders of mammals. This suggestion is based upon observations that men and women have the same number of ribs, and that the human body does not contain a baculum, although some primates have very small or vestigial baculi, and other orders of mammals also lack the bone entirely.

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