Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Alex Luc and Gen. 3:22

Dr. Alex Luc in my Hebrew class this evening brought up an interesting point about the Hebrew text of Gen. 3:22 that I had never heard before.  

Our English Bible's generally translate that text, "Then the Lord God said, 'Behold the man has become like one of us in knowing good and evil..'"  This, according to Luc is a dubious translation.  There is another, and possibly more appropriate way this text could be read.  The Rabbis in some of the Targums translated it, "Then the Lord God said, 'Behold the man has become as a loner [or has become alienated], from it (the tree) knowing good and evil...'"  This is not to say that Adam has been alienated from the tree, but has made himself alone, alienated from God on account of him gaining the knowledge of good and evil from the tree.  Dr. Luc puts a break between two of the words in the Hebrew that are joined in our Bibles.  The two Hebrew words generally translated "like one of us" are k'hd, this word translates, "as/like one", and mmnu, which can be translated as "from" and then the first person plural ("from us"), or "from" and then the third person singular("from it/him").  Our English Bible's, and the LXX opt for the former, "from us", while Dr. Luc goes with the latter "from it".  The main syntactical reason to take this word as "from it", is that the other six times this construction is used in the early chapters of Genesis it is used to refer to the tree that was in the midst of the garden, not used to denote the first person plural.

This has an interesting theological application.  If Dr. Luc's reading is correct, it removes any idea from this text that Adam and Eve's sin elevated them to some higher god-like status.  God created man in his own image, and it is confusing to say that the fall perfects, or expands that in any way.  It seems more sensible that Adam's sin alienated him from God, on account of his innocence being lost in knowing the difference between good and evil.               


Paul-David Young said...

I'd say that's some evidence that demands a verdict. Sure does kick the scheisse out of Rob Bell. Are there any other passages that use this construct might need to be reworked like this one?

John Paulling said...

Maybe, its one of those ambiguous constructions that the context has to determine. My Hebrew is still quite shoddy, so I'm going off what other people tell me. I know Dr. Luc wrote an article in a journal about it. I'm having trouble locating it though. I think its in the Journal for Aramaic Studies, but I'm not sure which issue.

jim thompson said...

i love some Luc