Monday, September 28, 2009

"Do You Take This Woman . . . ?"

Genesis 2:23 contains the first known song in history—a love song celebrating the union between Adam and Eve. This wonderful example of Hebrew poetry is next to impossible for any English Bible version to fully duplicate in translation because the poem revolves around the Hebrew sounds and word order, the latter which is lost in English translation.

The dictionary defines anemic as a lack of vitality and vitality as lively and animated in character. The key to the vitality in Genesis 2:23 is discovered in the sound repetition of the root words for bone (עֶצֶם מֵעֲצָמַי), flesh (בָשָׂר מִבְּשָׂרִי), and woman and man (אִיש/אִשָּׁה). Here English accommodates the Hebrew idiom well but with a weakened sound parallel between woman and man. But the most visible indicator of vitality is found in the three-fold repetition of the demonstrative pronoun typically translated “this” (זאת) which begins the song and begins and ends the second line of the song and seen in the bold Hebrew font.

זאת הַפַּעַם עֶצֶם מֵעֲצָמַי וּבָשָׂר מִבְּשָׂרִי
לְזאת יִקָּרֵא אִשָּׁה כִּי מֵאִישׁ לֻקֳחָה־זאת

Note the bold words in the New American Standard Bible that reflect the Hebrew original:

This is now bone of my bones, And flesh of my flesh;
She shall be called Woman, Because she was taken out of Man.”

As a demonstrative pronoun, Adam points to and enthusiastically celebrates his newly discovered companion. In rather stiff English consider this attempt to translate the Hebrew original with a focus on emotions:

This one, this time is bone from my bones and flesh from my flesh;
Regarding this one she shall be called woman because from man she was taken, this one.

It is easy to envision Adam’s ecstatic response upon discovering Eve when he awoke. It is unfortunate that the English versions temper this enthusiasm by their understandably anemic renderings of a primary indicator of Adam’s emotions, the three-fold presence and positions of the demonstrative pronoun.

All may not lost, however, for the preacher or teacher who can and determines to investigate the text in the Hebrew original prior to preaching or teaching can bring out these emphases for the appreciation and delight of the hearers. For those who cannot or will not utilize the original text, keep reading these blog postings and commentaries that work with the original texts and feel free to share the nearly indescribable beauty of the Hebrew and Greek Bible with others.