Quote of the Day (Matthew R. Schlimm)

Quote of the Day (Matthew R. Schlimm) January 6, 2012

“No reader of Genesis has literally been expelled from the Garden of Eden. No reader has seen firsthand the cherubim and whirling, flaming sword east of the tree of life. And yet, Genesis clearly invites its readers to adopt Adam and Eve as metaphorical representations of themselves. In fact, it is a casualty of translation that the Hebrew אדם [‘adam] and חוה [ḥavah] are typically rendered ‘Adam’ and ‘Eve’, when in fact their names literally are ‘Humanity’ and ‘Life’. Few readers of the English Bible are aware of this connection, and thus they fail to realize how the text itself invites them to see these characters less as historical figures and more as metaphorical representations of the human race. Once one understands the driving metaphor we are expelled from paradise, however, suddenly the remainder of Genesis and even our own lives make much more sense.”

Matthew R. Schlimm, From Fratricide to Forgiveness: The Language and Ethics of Anger in Genesis (Eisenbrauns, 2011) p.125.  HT James Spinti

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  • brianleport

    I wonder how English readers would react if a Bible translation replaced Adam and Eve with Human and Life! 

  • Brian LePort2

    All names have meaning, just like Aaron means Mountain and Hannah means Grace.

  • JoeBoyd77

    Love it. How interesting would a translation be of Genesis be with all literal name translations?

    The God of Father, Laughter and Deceiver? (Abe, Isaac, Jacob)
    The birth of the nation of Struggles. (Israel)

    Even going forward into Exodus as the nation of Struggles is delivered by Draws Them Out (and later) God Saves Us. (Moses and Josh)

  • I think that Adam is something of a unique case, since it is a word used as a name in the story, which has at least a slightly different effect than is the case with a name that also has a meaning.

    • JoeBoyd77

      You’d probably know better 🙂 But it is kinda rare that a name meaning doesn’t line up with the theme of the story in the Torah, right? What is your take on how that came to be true? I guess a pastor I sometimes feel like something is missing when I teach/tell the stories and don’t take the time to explain, for instance, Joseph meaning “God adds” and seeing that throughout his story. Or Moses drawing the people out, etc. 

      • Hi Joe. In at least some instances, the meaning that is given to the name may be based on similarity to other expressions or words and based on hindsight. For instance, in the case of Moses, this seems to be a truncated Egyptian name, presumably with a theophoric element mentioning an Egyptian god having been removed. The author of Genesis seeks to give the name a Hebrew origin, and so connects it with “drawing out” – which as you rightly note, can also allude to the “drawing out” of the people from Egypt.

  • Just Sayin’

    The Common English Bible translates Adam as “the human.”

  • Robert

    I wonder if you’d see it that way without St Paul?