Adventist Media Response and Conversation

Sunday, July 01, 2007

Rewriting Genesis 3:6

There are many people in the Adventist church who no longer trust the information that is supplied in the Sabbath School Lesson Study Guide. For quite a while it has tried to exhort Traditional Adventist views even when they have to stretch the truth. As the new Quarter begins with the topic of marriage, the authors naturally begin with the story of Adam and Eve, even though there is precious little about their relationship, speculation has always been the main way people deal with the first chapters of Genesis and the Lesson Study Guide continues the tradition. The Lesson Study Guide for July 4 writes:

Read Genesis 3:1-6. Several elements in the narrative suggest that Eve was alone when she succumbed to the temptation. (1) The serpent addresses only the woman. (2) Adam seems absent and is not mentioned till Eve gives him the fruit. (3) Adam is cursed only for listening to his wife and not for listening to the serpent.

Several versions of the Bible and certain commentaries suggest that Adam was with Eve at the time she was tempted (Gen. 3:6). The Hebrew has several words that may be translated "with." Two important ones are etzel and im. The latter is used in this passage.

Etzel is the preposition that is used to denote location beside or next to something. (See Gen. 39:15, 18.) By contrast, im denotes relationship. "Immanuel" in Isaiah 7:14 and 8:8, 10 begins with the preposition im and means "God with us." It is a relational position and not geographical. Genesis 3:6 therefore does not strictly demand that we see Adam positioned beside Eve when she is tempted. Adam used the same preposition in Genesis 3:12 to remind God about the woman He had put with him. It is a relational "with." Had he been with her, she might not have succumbed. "The angels had cautioned Eve to beware of separating herself from her husband while occupied in their daily labor in the garden; with him she would be in less danger from temptation than if she were alone."—Ellen G. White, Patriarchs and Prophets, p. 53.

The most obvious problem is that the vast majority of English language Bibles include “with her” the few that don’t have “with” still imply the idea. For example the (TEV) “So she took some of the fruit and ate it. Then she gave some to her husband, and he also ate it.“ The second problem is that in the Hebrew the word for “with” is not used. The Lesson Study Guide falsely claims that the Hebrew “im” (Strong’s # 5973) is used in the passage in Gen 3:6. The word “with” is used in English to translate the thought from the Hebrew into our language, it is not a Hebrew word used in the original text. Even the use of “im” given by the Lesson Study Guide is inaccurate as the “im” they address is a root used in the Hebrew word for Immanuel but just like our English words, the root for Butterfly is butter but the connection to butter and butterfly is not substantially the same, it is merely some aspect of butter, namely a color which in many butterflies would not even be similar to the type of butterfly one may encounter. The Lesson Study Guide asserts that the use of “im” is relationship oriented rather then location oriented because they are using the root word used in Immanuel rather the way “im” is used by itself in a Hebrew text. When used as the Lesson indicates it would appear the way it does in the actual first use of “im(Update According to the Englishman's Concordance, according to this lexicon the first use is in Gen 18:23 " destroy the righteous with the wicked?") in the Old Testament used in Gen 48:12 “And Joseph brought them out from between his knees, and he bowed himself with his face to the earth.” (KJV) (Where Joseph introduces his little children to Jacob.) The following is how Strong’s Lexicon defines the word:

5973 `im (eem); from 6004; adverb or preposition, with (i.e. in conjunction with), in varied applications; specifically, equally with; often with prepositional prefix (and then usually unrepresented in English): KJV-- accompanying, against, and, as (X long as), before, beside, by (reason of), for all, from (among, between), in, like, more than, of, (un-) to, with (-al).

The Septuagint, the Greek translation of the Old Testament, popularly used in the first century includes the word for “with” in the text. The Greek is meta From The LXX: meta; a primary preposition (often used adverbially) transliterated spelling Meta (met-ah') meaning; with, after, behind. As with the Hebrew it is not restricted to relationship usage.

What about the Lesson Study Guide’s “elements” that suggest that Eve was alone, despite the overwhelming scholarship of Bible translators? The elements, as are so much of the Genesis account, subjects of speculation. The story is very brief and details are very few. Rather than assuming that the intent of the story is to tell us that Eve was alone because the serpent only talks with Eve, we could also speculate the authors intent was to show the weak nature of a woman, (see 1 Timothy 2:14) this is what happens when man is silent and lets the woman direct conversation. While these are both speculative the idea that makes women appear weak is most contextually consistent with the curses subsequently given, (Genesis 3:16 “he will rule over you.") as well as the historical evidence of the Patriarchal system which is found throughout Genesis and the Old Testament.

One could also speculate that the reason for Eve being the only one to talk to the serpent was because in a perfect world there was no need for one to look after the other. No patriarchal worldview, a woman could actually speak for herself and think for herself. A woman did not need to have man’s permission to talk. This is a very empowering feminist ideal but contextually and culturally not likely the reason. Maybe the reason for the conversation between Eve and the serpent is because it would be a more direct literary device to write the account that way. The reason why the Lesson Study Guide needs to stretch the truth so far is very likely that they are attempting to make the actual Biblical account correlate with the account that Ellen White wrote. Even though there is nothing in the Creation account about Adam and Eve having conversations with angels or having any knowledge of Satan or offering sacrifices, those areas of omission are not as troublesome as having the Biblical account specifically go against the account written by Ellen White.

It would seem that even though the Lesson Study Guide tried to create a fictional word usage to reconcile Ellen White’s version with the Bible they have still left themselves in an untenable position. Now the first sin was not eating the fruit but Eve’s disobedience in not following the instructions of God delivered to her by the angels to remain by Adam’s side. Even worse, God would then be punishing Adam for ignorance because if he was not with Eve he would have no way of knowing about the source of the fruit Eve gave him. I applaud the Lesson Study Guide for being willing to deal with this discrepancy rather then ignoring it as has been done for many years. But very clearly they have overstepped logic and common sense.


Inga said...

Ron Corson wrote: "Now the first sin was not eating the fruit but Eve’s disobedience in not following the instructions of God delivered to her by the angels to remain by Adam’s side."

It seems to me that either view is more of a caricature of Christian belief than a serious option.

Thinking Adventists have generally believed that Eve's sin was her lack of faith in God's word to her. She chose to listen to Satan, rather than God. Eating the proffered fruit was merely the outward sign of an inward disposition. (This has been repeatedly taught in Sabbath School lessons, by the way.) This is consistent with Paul's teachign that 'whatever is not of faith is sin.'

Ron's approach to Scripture seems to imply that the biblical record is similar to a blog in its detail, whereas it is more reasonable to see it as the barest of outlines of the history of God's dealings with the beings He created in His image.

If we accept that Adam and Eve were not at the tree together (That the serpent spoke only to Eve seems evidence enough to suggest that they were not together), Adam's sin was similar to Eve's, except that he was not deceived but consciously chose to disobey his Creator's instructions. Adam lacked the faith to trust his Creator with his happiness.

It seems he failed to learn the lesson he could have learned from the way God chose to create Eve. Adam realized that he was alone, and he lacked a companion. He desired a companion and probably felt an intense lack. God responded to this desire/need by putting him to sleep and fashioning Eve from his own body. When Adam awoke to be presented with Eve, he had had nothing to do with meeting his own need. The Creator had done it all. Although the words of Scripture are succinct, it is not hard to imagine the delight Adam must have felt. Unfortunately he allowed his love of the gift to overrule his love for and faith in the Giver.

These are sins to which we are still as prone as ever.

When Adam and Eve were counseled to stay together, according to Ellen White, it need not be interpreted as Eve being represented as weaker, etc. Ellen gives no support for such a view, because she clearly indicated that Eve was created to stand by Adam's side as his equal.

Instead,it is an example of the same principle Christ followed when He sent out His disciples two by two. If we remembered the principle in Christ's example today, we would have fewer "moral falls" among our pastors and more success in our outreach endeavors.

Jean Jeanniton said...
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Jean Jeanniton said...

Here is the criminological significance of Eve’s transgression and deception for the role of women in the church:

Adam was made first - he had more experience with the Garden of Eden than did Eve. As Eve was walking she happened to arrive at the tree of knowledge of good and evil - then the serpent directed his temptations towards Eve, taking advantage of the fact that she was less experienced at that time. I have also noticed that complementarians routinely insist that Adam was with Eve the WHOLE time from since Eve arrived at the tree of knowledge of Good and Evil.

Well then, either Adam was with Eve the whole time (Case I) or he was not (Case II).

In Case I, whatever her motive, Adam would have done NOTHING to prevent it, because he was not deceived. He was not persuaded by the Devil that whoever eats of this tree shall not die, but on the contrary become wise like gods, having a more perfect knowledge of good and evil! But the mere idea of Adam doing NOTHING to prevent it is contrary to the fundamental principles of “headship”. And we see that Eve took the initiative when she encountered this tree of knowledge of Good and Evil, at first REFUSING to accept the Devil’s accusation that God said Ye shall not eat of any tree of the Garden whatsoever. On the contrary, Eve said: Well of course we may eat of the trees of the garden: except for this one particular precise distinct and conspicuous tree in the middle of the garden. Of that tree none may eat or touch it on penalty of death. But when the Devil said whoever eats of that particular tree shall NOT die, but on the contrary become wise like gods, having a more perfect knowledge of good and evil, that is when the mere curiosity of the affair and the plausibility of this statement began to override all other considerations, that she took the initiative as if all by herself without even consulting her husband first – which is contrary to every principle of “male headship”!

But here is the problem with Case I: Jesus said in Matthew 12:29 KJV, Mark 3:27 KJV, that ‘No man can enter into a strong man's house, and spoil his goods, except he will first bind the strong man; and then he will spoil his house.’ If Eve indeed was the weaker of the two, then it was strategically inefficient for the Devil to attack Eve. The Devil would have to attack Adam first in order to make mankind a transgressor. And the rest I will post later.

Jean Jeanniton said...

Happily, there is Case II, which indeed is the true interpretation of the text in Genesis 3: 1 – 7. And in Hebrew, I parse the text which describes the scene of the crime thusly:

Genesis 3 verse 5: [***if Eve was ACTUALLY motivated by a CONSCIOUS desire to gain dominion over her husband, the verse might be read: and the desire of thy husband shall be unto thee, and thou shalt rule over him. But this does NOT EXIST IN THE TEXT OF GENESIS 3. Here is the REAL MOTIVE of EVE’s transgression:***] 6 And when the woman saw that the tree [was] good for food, and that it [was] pleasant to the eyes, and a tree to be desired to make [one] wise, she took of the fruit thereof, and did eat, and gave also unto her husband [***The verb TO BE (HAYAH) is not in the original texts! The sense of ‘to be’ should either be progressive or instantaneous***] with her [***Until now I had no way of knowing whether this implies He was with her the whole time or at the precise moment her husband came after she had eaten of the forbidden Fruit, and we do not know WHEN her husband came: but now I have easily solved this problem***]; and he did eat. The Text in Hebrew is: Vattitteyn (05414 (8799: Qal Imperfect)) Gam (also, likewise)- Le'Iyshah (to her husband) `Immah (with her), Vayyochal (0398 (8799:Qal Imperfect)).

Now there is a reason why the Imperfect is being used: In ancient Hebrew, the proper default tense for narration is the IMPERFECT - describing the occurrence of actions as part of the sequence of the story and the unfolding of the plot (now at every stage of progress of the chain of events being narrated, the imperfect is the default tense describes what happens at that state: the perfect refers to actions completed already before that stage, and the participle refers to other actions done by others accompanying the main events in the story). It turns out that there are actually TWO prepositions in the ancient Hebrew for "with": the first one is `IM, the second one is ETZEL (which is Hebrew Strong's H0681, which means "in the vicinity of, nearby" in locality: whereby `IM is Hebrew Strong's H1571, meaning ‘with’ in a relational sense, or more often than not, in a locational sense). And later I will continue with a comment made by a fundamentalist Lutheran commentator by the name of C. H. Leupold.

Jean Jeanniton said...

Incidentally, a certain Lutheran commentator by the name of C. L. Leupold states in his Commentary on Genesis that:

"The man’s consent to the same sin is reported with such brevity as to amaze us: 'she gave to her husband who was with her and he ate.' There must be a reason for this. This reason is primarily that through the woman, now already fallen, the same temptation was presented to Adam as had previously been presented through the serpent to Eve, and with the same result. Adam, then, must have fallen exactly as Eve had, with as little excuse, with as great a guilt. The only difference appears to be that, as Eve had eaten and apparently had suffered no ill effect, this constituted an additional argument why Adam need not hesitate to adopt the same course. Whatever stouter resistance Adam might have offered was completely overcome by this argument. The fact, however, that the prepositional phrase "with her" (`IMMAH), which we rendered as a clause, is first found at this point, strongly suggests that at the outset, when the temptation began, Adam was not with Eve but had only joined her at this time. Here, too, Satanic ingenuity displays itself: to approach both while they were together would have found them in a position where they would mutually have supported one another." And perhaps Eve happened to be the one wandering about the Garden of Eden while Adam was busy with other things. The Devil used whatever opportunity "happened" to present itself. The opportunity that did manage to present itself was Eve, so the Devil used Eve because she happened to arrive at the scene first.

Never mind what the Sabbath School Lesson said! The Lutheran commentator just proved to us that "The fact, however, that the prepositional phrase "with her" (`IMMAH), which we rendered as a clause, is first found at this point, strongly suggests that at the outset, when the temptation began, Adam was not with Eve but had only joined her at this time" without committing the same error that the Sabbath School Quarterly just made! Adam was in the IMMEDIATE vicinity of Eve after she decided to take of the tree of knowledge of good and evil and eat that! There was no necessity to use any argument suggesting that women are inferior in body and mind to man! Therefore my work regarding Genesis 3:1 - 6 is complete!

Ron Corson said...

That is good, but you and the commentator simply redefine the words of the Bible to fit what they want to believe.

I do believe there is a reason for the story but I don't think it was ever literal. So yes the point of the story was to blame the woman and support the patriarchy of the times.