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Thursday, August 09, 2007

"All Bibles known to us"

I was reading this article on the ESV website lately and had planned to let it go without comment. However, it is also front page news in a freely and widely disseminated local newspaper so today in the doctor's office I gave in to the temptation to read the article in full. Blame this post on the long wait I had at the doctor's office this afternoon.

Naturally, there are many statements in this article which I am concerned about. Here are some which I offer without comment. I don't want to comment. Duct tape, please!
    James I. Packer of Regent College in Vancouver ... recently told the translation grew out of discontent with other modern translations—which, he asserted, tend to “deviate from what was said in several thousand places,” in the interests of lucidity or easy readability.

    In particular, he said, there was discontent with translations such as the New Revised Standard Version (NRSV) and Today’s New International Version (TNIV) which make such deviations to achieve gender-neutral renderings.

    In contrast, said Packer, the ESV tries to be a “transparent” translation—in that the reader can see through it to what was originally written.

    He said: “We think we have produced a version more precise than any of the alternatives.”

    A deliberate attempt was made to use simple words when possible, and to make the text “dance along,” or read easily.

    Packer said the producers were very careful to not make extravagant claims or get into a competition with other translations.
This articles then closes with a few citations comparing translations. Here is the first. Gen. 5:2,
  • ESV: Male and female he created them, and he blessed them and named them Man when they were created.
  • KJV: Male and female created he them; and blessed them, and called their name Adam, in the day when they were created.
  • NIV: He created them male and female and blessed them. And when they were created, he called them “man.”
  • NLT: He created them male and female, and he blessed them and called them “human.”
  • NASB: He created them male and female, and He blessed them and named them Man in the day when they were created.
  • Message: He created both male and female and blessed them, the whole human race.
  • TNIV: He created them male and female and blessed them. And when they were created, he called them “human beings.”
The Hebrew was not posted along with this set of citations. It reads
    זָכָר וּנְקֵבָה, בְּרָאָם; וַיְבָרֶךְ אֹתָם,
    וַיִּקְרָא אֶת-שְׁמָם אָדָם
The last word in the second line, on the far left, says adam - the KJV is transparent and the others tell us what adam means. אָדָם is the word which tells us that Adam was not a fish or fowl, nor was he a beast, or a creeping thing. It is the word which tells us that he was Adam, a human being.

Now this would not be such a problem if it were not that Gen. 5:2 has become one of the central verses in the "male representative" theology. Poythress and Grudem write,
    In any case, in Genesis 1:26-27 and 5:2 the word “man” occurred in all previous English Bibles (that is, all Bibles known to us prior to the inclusive language Bibles in the 1980's). Translators apparently thought that, in translating ’adam in Genesis 1:26-27 and 5:2, one might best use an English word “man” that is both a name for the human race and that carries male overtones.

    Moreover, these Genesis passages in their foundational character create the potential for subtle connotative resonances with the total thinking of Hebrew speakers about sexuality. For example, the fact that Adam has a name that is also the name for the whole race suggests that he is a representative for the race. And of course, later passages, Romans 5:12-21 and 1 Corinthians 15:21-23, directly assert that he is a representative, whose pattern passes to all his descendants.

    Gender-neutral translations, while preserving the main point of God’s creation of the human race, nevertheless leave out the connotation of a male representative by translating Genesis 1:26-27 and 5:1-2 with “humankind,” “human beings,” or “people” instead of “man.”
Let me quietly point out first that there are very few Bible translations predating the RSV, 1952, which translated אָדָם adam as "man" in Gen. 5:2. Most of them transliterated it as Adam, which we see in the KJV above. That, at least, has a certain transparency to it. I would hazard a guess that the RSV translators used "man" with the intention that it should mean "human".

In translating Gen. 1:27, Jerome, writing in Latin, translates אָדָם as homo - "human" and not vir - "man"; and Luther translated it as Mensch - human and not Mann - "man". The LXX has anthropos - human, and not aner - man.

I wonder what the expression "all Bibles known to us" is supposed to mean.

Post edited to remove final sentence. I had a relapse.


At Thu Aug 09, 10:08:00 PM, Blogger Wayne Leman said...

P&G stated, as you quoted them:

In any case, in Genesis 1:26-27 and 5:2 the word “man” occurred in all previous English Bibles (that is, all Bibles known to us prior to the inclusive language Bibles in the 1980's).

This is quite inaccurate as you pointed out. P&G should have been aware of the KJV and ASV, at a minimum, and hopefully a number of other English versions prior to the RSV. We used the ASV in some classes at Moody Bible Institute when I was a student there in the 1960s. It was a favorite version of conservatives. It was called "the Rock of Biblical Integrity". The RSV is a revision of the ASV, as is the NASB and WEB Bible. And the Living Bible was paraphrased from it.

Here is Gen. 5:2 in some versions which do not have that God called them "man". Their wording is identical, with "and called their name Adam"

Bishop's Bible (1568): "and called their name Adam"

Geneva Bible (1587): "and called their name Adam"

Geneva Bible (1599): "and called their name Adam"

Douay-Rheims: "called their name Adam"

Webster's: "and called their name Adam"

RV (1881): "and called their name Adam"

ASV (1901): "and called their name Adam"

Darby: "and called their name Adam"

21st Century KJV: "and called their name Adam"

At Thu Aug 09, 10:31:00 PM, Blogger John said...

I admire J. I. Packer very much, but he blows it big time here.

Here is a translation of Genesis 1:26-28 that may interest readers of this blog:

And God said, “Let us make humankind in our image, after our likeness, to hold sway over the fish of the sea and the fowl of heaven and the cattle and all the crawling things that crawl upon the earth.”

And God formed the human in his image;

in the image of God he formed him;

male and female he formed them.

And God blessed them and God said to them, “Be fruitful and multiply; fill the earth and subdue it; hold sway over the fish of the sea and the fowl of heaven and every creature that crawls upon the earth.”

I present and discuss this translation on my blog (click on Genesis 1:27 in the Text Index).

Genesis 5:1b-2 may be translated:

When God formed humankind, in God's likeness he made him; male and female he formed them. And he blessed them and called them Humanity, on the day in which they were formed.

John Hobbins

At Fri Aug 10, 06:10:00 AM, Blogger Bob MacDonald said...

This comment has been removed by the author.

At Fri Aug 10, 06:13:00 AM, Blogger Bob MacDonald said...

I would be interested in knowing more about the idiom zkr & nkbh as depicting male and female. In what I see from the lexicon zkr comes from remember - bringing past to the present - is this an indication of a primitive apprehension of 'chip off the old block'? - why male? showing a common bias in culture? nkbh derives from pierce - perhaps the phrase should never be separated. So also is the image of God in 1:27 - is this structurally significant? It might even be interesting to look at the derivations of male and female in many other languages from their respective primitive roots. Are they all 'a genitalium figura dicta' as BLB so helpfully glosses?

In translation I would like to see the name in English as referring to the dust or humus or ground - children of earth - Adam is too much a personal name. So in the psalms, I have used children of dust or some equivalent to shake us out of either male dominance or proleptic messianic zeal.

At Fri Aug 10, 09:53:00 AM, Blogger John said...


the question is whether a semantic connection between zakar 'male' and zakar 'to remember' is "in play" in a specific passage. This cannot be assumed; it must be demonstrated. Put another way, the metaphorical potential of a given word usually is latent only, not actual.

If I say, "I beat him" in English, in many but not all contexts, chances are, the literal sense of 'beat' is dead, not live. It is of course very interesting when it is made live again, something that a poet might do.

Whether the semantic connection is etymological or a pun of sorts is somewhat beside the point.

I don't know of any cases in the Hebrew Bible in which zakar 'male' and zakar 'remember' are connected. Of course, I'd love to find an example of just that.

At Fri Aug 10, 10:33:00 AM, Blogger Peter Kirk said...

[ESV] grew out of discontent with other modern translations ... In particular, he said, there was discontent with translations such as the New Revised Standard Version (NRSV) and Today’s New International Version (TNIV) ..."

These words of Packer are also nonsense. How can ESV have grown out of discontent with TNIV, when ESV was not only translated but published before TNIV appeared?

Perhaps Packer is in fact referring to the inclusive edition of NIV, discontent with which was indeed part of the motivation for the ESV project. (Well, others have suggested in the past that this is only surmise, but Packer's words here seem to confirm this despite the confusion of names.) But if so Packer is deliberately confusing two significantly different versions, and ignoring the real efforts which the CBT took to meet many of the objections which had been made to the inclusive edition. TNIV is by no means the same as the inclusive edition of NIV, both because of general improvements and because some of the more controversial gender related changes were rolled back, but it seems that some people who should know better refuse to acknowledge this. What is the point of acting on objections if the objectors will not even acknowledge that action?

At Fri Aug 10, 01:53:00 PM, Blogger J. K. Gayle said...

Another fascinating post! You write: "In translating Gen. 1:27, . . . [t]he LXX has anthropos - human, and not aner - man." Indeed.

Very interestingly, the NT writers follow the LXX. And some have Jesus following the LXX. Then, once, Paul goes beyond the LXX.

For instance, Matthew (in 19:4-6) and Mark (in 10:5-9) put Greek words in the mouth of Jesus (or "Joshua"): they have him quoting Genesis but translate the words or copy them from the LXX, using the word, ἄνθρωπος, anthropos.

And Luke, Paul, and Jude all recall the transliterated Hebrew name, Ἀδὰμ (which we transliterate further into English, Adam.

But the most fascinating contrast of ἄνθρωπος and Ἀδὰμ in the NT is Paul's in I Cor 15:45. To the Corinthians, Paul directly quotes the following phrase of Gen 2:7 of the LXX:

ἐγένετο ὁ ἄνθρωπος εἰς ψυχὴν ζῶσαν

(egeneto ho anthropos eis psuchen zosan or "The man became a living creature.")

And then Paul interpolates several words (my bracketed ones) in the LXX phrase in order to write this:

ἐγένετο ὁ [πρῶτος] ἄνθρωπος [Ἀδὰμ] εἰς ψυχὴν ζῶσαν

(egeneto ho [protos] anthropos [Adam] eis psuchen zosan. or "The [first] man [Adam] became a living creature.")

Hence, Paul's interpolations are his own use of Greek, beyond the LXX, to reinterpret or to restore the word play of אָדָם in the Hebrew Gen 2:7.

Why not try that in English with "man Adam" or something like that?

At Fri Aug 10, 04:04:00 PM, Blogger Ted M. Gossard said...

Strange stuff I'm sorry to say, from people who mean well. And sadly this affects a public who often have no access, or known access to sources.

At Fri Aug 10, 05:33:00 PM, Blogger Suzanne McCarthy said...


Interesting, K.D. Sorry I haven't responded to your previous comment yet, I have been quite busy.

The real wordplay here is that Adam is "of the earth", an earthling.

ὁ πρῶτος ἄνθρωπος ἐκ γῆς χοϊκός ὁ δεύτερος ἄνθρωπος ἐξ οὐρανοῦ

1 Cor. 15:47

That is the entire point - not that he is male, a "man" but that he is "earthy". Really, any teaching that this is about being male and not female is so off base and so obscures all scriptural teaching on who Adam is that I hesitate to call any of it biblical.

Paul's teaching is that Adam was mortal, of the dust of the earth, as are women, physical and mortal beings.

We, men and women, bear the image of the man "of earth" - that is Adam.

The other way that this word is in play is in contrast to beasts and birds and fish.

So, somehow, in English, we want to communicate that Adam was of the human species, and that he was of the earth. That is what his name meant in Hebrew. That is what his name meant in Gen. 5:2.

The real problem is that Poythress and Grudem examine the use of "human" instead of "man" and conclude,

Feminism replaces biblical honor with a misguided attempt to wipe out the differences in people with respect to prominence, order, leadership, and representation.

That is, this book I am quoting accords greater prominence, order, leadership and representation to men on the basis of the fact that the human race is called "Man". Men are simply entitled to more prominence because they are male.

Since Poythress and Grudem are the two translators who originally came to Dr. Packer to ask him to be general editor of their Bible, which would retain the use of Man in Gen. 5:2, it is hard not to read into the translation a deliberate attempt to translate the name Adam in a way that would accord more prominence to males, and then use this scripture to prove that men have the right to more prominence.

Just to round out the story, these same people - Poythress, Grudem and Packer drafted and signed a statement to the effect that Bibles which use "human" instead of "man" are untrustworthy and should be boycotted by the church. This is still an active movement today, to boycott Bibles which call Adam a "human".

The answer is call Adam "Earthy" that is what Paul understood that the Hebrew meant.

At Sat Aug 11, 04:31:00 AM, Blogger Peter Kirk said...

JK, in Matthew 19:4-6 and Mark 10:5-9 Jesus does not quote the relevant "God created human beings" part of Genesis 1:27, but only the later part of the verse. The word anthropos is found only in the following quote from Genesis 2:24, which is clearly not about the individual Adam and is also clearly about males and not females. But note that the Hebrew here is not 'adam but 'ish. It is odd that anthropos rather than aner is used in the LXX translation of this, as quoted several times in the New Testament, but the meaning is clear.

At Sat Aug 11, 08:58:00 AM, Blogger Suzanne McCarthy said...

The Septuagint is not particularly concordant.

At Sat Aug 11, 03:21:00 PM, Blogger J. K. Gayle said...

Thanks for the thoughtful responses!

Suzanne your clarification is helpful:

That is the entire point - not that he is male, a "man" but that he is "earthy". Really, any teaching that this is about being male and not female is so off base and so obscures all scriptural teaching on who Adam is that I hesitate to call any of it biblical.

And Peter you seem to nuance what Suzanne says:

The word anthropos . . . is clearly not about the individual Adam and is also clearly about males and not females. But note that the Hebrew here is not 'adam but 'ish.

Both of your points are made by Gen 1:27, of course, even in the LXX and in most English versions, where “God” makes “man(kind)” in “his” “image” both “male and female.” (Whether this verse makes God plurally gendered is a matter of debate; Jesus Christ is clearly male.)

Further support to your point, Suzanne, is this: that ancient Hellenists (i.e., Homer, Hesiod, and Sappho) would use ἀνθρωπος in contrast to θεος to discuss personalities of different locations, namely and respectively, (1) those of the ground / earth (i.e., ἐκ γῆς) and (2) those of the heaven / sky (i.e., οὐρανοῦ). Paul's unusual point -- in 1 Cor. 15:47 -- to the Corinthians (i.e. Hellenist Jews as new Christ-ians) is that this second human (i.e., Jesus Christ, the second human / second Adam) is uncharacteristically (out) of the sky / heaven. (His male-ness is beside the point).

Didn't the ancient Hellenists also distinguish ἀνθρωπος from γυνη? Peter, the Greek translators of the LXX in the verses you point us back to -- Gen 2:23 and 24 –make the distinction too. Of course, the ancient Hellenists (and the Gen 2:23 LXX translators) also contrasted ἀνηρ (or its genitive ἀνδρὸς) with γυνη.

So, besides with θεος, we have these in contrast, and in play, with one another: ἀνθρωπος and γη; ἀνθρωπος and γυνη; and ἀνηρ and γυνη. This seems to parallel the Hebrew pun between 'adam and 'adamah (in Gen 2:23); the contrasts between 'adam and 'ish (in the same verse); and the pun 'ish and 'ishah (in Gen 2:24).

I appreciate Suzanne’s point in an earlier post about ambiguity in the original. Ambiguity makes for plays on words. The most obvious word plays in Hebrew are the mentioned puns. We don’t get the aliterations or rhymes or semantic-fun in English or in Greek translations.

But in Greek, aren’t there plays on words here? For the Hellenists, ἀνθρωπος puns with ἀνηρ (and even ἀνδρὸς). And, look, γυνη sounds (maybe “seems” to some) like γη. Paul, to the Corinthians, has to go out of his way to say the second ἀνθρωπος is of γῆς (which has nothing, especially in English or Hebrew, to do with a woman or 'ish).

Question: What if instead of transliterating “Adam,” we translated his name “Dusty” or “Dirt-man” or “Ground-guy”?

At Sat Aug 11, 04:36:00 PM, Blogger Suzanne McCarthy said...

Typically Adam is translated as Earthling by many who wish to make it fully clear in English what this word means in Hebrew.

I don't know the origins of Earthling but it is widely used by both Jewish and Catholic theologians. An example would be this letter from Leonard Swidler to Joseph Ratsinger.

But Joseph, in your section six you really shock me with your misreading of the second chapter of Genesis. It is almost as if you didn’t read Hebrew! You write, “God placed in the garden which he was to cultivate, the man, who is still referred to with the generic expression Adam.” You know perfectly well that in chapter one the text states that God “took some earth” (Hebrew: adamah), “breathed his spirit into the earth” (adamah) “and created ha adam” (“The Earthling”). In chapter two of Genesis it is not “the man” (I wonder, did you in German write der Mann [the male] or der Mensch [the human being]?), and surely it is not that guy Adam who is spoken of. It is ha adam, The Earthling (ungendered, as the rabbis recognized and discussed at length later) who is lonely, and hence Yahweh created all the animals and brought them to The Earthling. The Earthling (neither a she nor a he) names them one by one, but in the end finds them all a bit of a bore; ha adam is still lonely. Then comes the story, which you know almost all the scholars point out is one of many etiological stories (a story that explains the “origin,” “etios” of something) in the Bible - in this case, the origin of male and female. Thereafter it is correct to speak of Adam and of Eve, but not before.

So Swidler has the same problem I have. If you write Der Mensch in German then you are obliged to write "the human" in English. Why is this so difficult?

But literally, the Earthling.

If anyone knows the origin of Earthling in English, if it is used in any translation I would love to hear more.

Regarding the actual idea that there was an ungendered human first , I would have to beg off on saying whether I could imagine that. However, I think that God intends men and women to have equal status as humans.

At Sat Aug 11, 04:39:00 PM, Blogger Suzanne McCarthy said...

On anthropos/adam, and aner/ish, I have found that there is no consistent concordance in the LXX. Although anthropos is often used for men (male), it should be understood as a word for humans, with the default reference for men, just as "an American and his wife" would certainly mean the American was male, but the word American does not mean "male" or even "male Americans".

At Sun Aug 12, 05:44:00 AM, Blogger J. K. Gayle said...

Thanks, Suzanne, for the letter from Leonard Swidler to Joseph Ratsinger. Have you seen Jenny Kirsch's web article on "Parashat Beresheit"? She points to things in the Hebrew scriptures to show what you emphasize: "that God intends men and women to have equal status as humans."

On LXX not being concordant here, I think you're right. But what of all our English translations of "Adam"? (And, yes, please someone let us know of a version with Adam as "Earthling").

Here's what the NET Bible comment on Gen 2:20 says:

Here for the first time the Hebrew word אָדָם (’adam) appears without the article, suggesting that it might now be the name “Adam” rather than “[the] man.” Translations of the Bible differ as to where they make the change from “man” to “Adam” (e.g., NASB and NIV translate “Adam” here, while NEB and NRSV continue to use “the man”; the KJV uses “Adam” twice in v. 19).

Where, then, do the various translations introduce the transliteration "Adam"?

Gen 2:20 -
ESV, NASB, NET, NIV, Darby, New Life Version, NIrV, TNIV (which footnotes "man")

2:16 -

2:17 -

2:19 -
KJV, NKJV, Amplified, and the Vulgate (where Jerome uses Adam twice in v 19)

3:17 -
RSV, WEB, and HCSB (which does have an "Adam" footnote earlier in 2:20)

3:20 -
CEV, GW, NLT, and TM

4:25 -
Young's Literal and NJB

Doesn't this lack of concordance, and the decision where to introduce the transliteration "Adam," influence the reader's interpretation in translation? Aren't the points that you, Swidler, and Kirsch make (i.e., about seeing man-woman equality in Genesis) huge and affected by the transliteration/interpretation?

At Sun Aug 12, 11:39:00 AM, Blogger Suzanne McCarthy said...


I am glad that you see this as huge. I'll try to look at your points in more detail later today.I haven't spent that much time on the Hebrew Bible.

At Sun Aug 12, 12:47:00 PM, Blogger Suzanne McCarthy said...

I saw Kirsch's article too but settled on Swidler's. Kirsch's article does outline a very important journey of women in Judaism and how Midrash works.

I don't see how any Christian can support anything but egalitarian values. I spend a lot of time being puzzled at those who think God had given men some kind of priority.

This isn't anti-male. I mean, how can men and women be friends if they aren't on an equal footing. This was Aristotle's teaching wasn't it, that friends had to be equal. So don't people want to have friendship as part of marriage. This all seems self-evident to me.

Of course, equality isn't going to guarantee either a good friendship or marriage, it is necessary but not sufficient.

And lots of people are in theory complementarian but in practice very egalitarian so I don't want to pigeon-hole people unfairly.


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