It is reasonably clear that the story of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob found in Genesis 12–50 is presented as a historical narrative (regardless of what one thinks about the actual historicity of the story). But what are we to make of Genesis 1–11? Would the original audience have understood these chapters in the same manner as the later chapters, or would they have differentiated them?
The question is relevant because if it is read as the same type of literature, then the events of the creation, fall, flood, and tower of Babel would have been understood as historical narrative in the same way as the remainder of the book of Genesis. However, if the original audience recognised that Genesis 1–11 represented a different literary genre from the following chapters, then there are grounds for reading these earlier chapters in another way. They may, for example, function as some sort of pre-history which should not be treated as precisely historical as the latter accounts.
JESOT 3.2 is now live and includes my article entitled “Was Elihu Right?” In it I discuss the contribution of Elihu in the Book of Job, so check it out:
The “prequel” to this article (entitled “Malevolent of Mysterious”) is also available for download from Tyndale Bulletin:
What can I say? Genesis 1 is not poetry, nor is it some weird hybrid of poetry and prose. Genesis 1:27 alone is poetry, but the rest of the chapter is pretty much stock-standard biblical Hebrew narrative in regards to its syntax. It is not poetry!
Why is this an issue? It’s an issue because debates about Genesis 1 seem to align figurative reading (of some sort) with poetry and literal reading with prose. This is a manifestly false disjunction. It is perfectly possible to have “literal” poetry, and it is quite common to have figurative prose. In other words, the whole argument is daft!
I was simply going to title this “Common Misunderstandings of Genesis 2,” but then I thought the title could be spiced up a little bit, particularly because there’s a tendency to see sexual activity lying behind so much of what happens, particularly in the latter part of the chapter. Anyway, here are some of the common misunderstandings of Genesis 2:
All extant manuscripts of the NT consistently use the Greek word κυριος (kyrios, ‘lord’) when translating the name of God in the OT, יהוה (Yhwh). The background to this is not entirely clear nor uncontested, but it is worth noting a few points about what is and isn’t known, and what is and isn’t likely.
Yes, in the tradition of tabloid journalism my heading for this post sounds controversial, but hear me out. We’re all used to seeing the word ‘Christ’ in English Bible translations. The only exceptions are the few which use the term ‘Messiah’ in its place (such as the HCSB).
‘Christ’ is, of course, a transliteration of the Greek work Χριστός while ‘Messiah’ transliterates the Hebrew משיח (māšîaḥ). The question is, however, why are these transliterated and not translated in English versions of the Bible?
The failure to translate these terms is odd for a number of reasons:
- The NT translates the Hebrew with the Greek term and doesn’t attempt to transliterate it (e.g. Acts 4:26 quoting Ps 2:1–2).
- The LXX also translates the Hebrew with the Greek equivalent.
- English translations do translate these terms when they’re not used of Jesus (e.g. Ps 2:2).
The practice appears to begin in the Vulgate which uses Christus to transliterate Χριστός. Nonetheless, the term is not a name and it is used in the NT because of the word’s meaning. The way in which modern translations choose to transliterate this gives readers the impression the ‘Christ’ is Jesus’ last name. Even aside from this, there’s a lot of baggage associated with readers’ understanding of the terms ‘Christ’ and ‘Messiah’ that could do with revision (to be sure, there was a lot of baggage associated with these terms in the first century as well, but the baggage probably differs and could do with some revision).
Translating these terms rather than transliterating them means readers would be forced to come to grips with the actual significance of the title, and that could well be a good thing!
Thus we would translate Mark 1:1:
Ἀρχὴ τοῦ εὐαγγελίου Ἰησοῦ Χριστοῦ υἱοῦ θεοῦ
as something like:
The beginning of the good news of Anointed Jesus, son of God…
Of course this would raise the question of precisely how to best translate the term Χριστός. Yet it would provide a refreshing translation that makes the reader think again about the words they’re reading, and that can only be a good thing!
There’s been quite a stir in Sydney Anglican circles following the publication of a small e-book by John Dickson which argues that 1Tim 2:12 should not be understood to prevent women from giving sermons. I’ve finally gotten around to reading it for myself and thought I’d post my review.
Read this document on Scribd
Eerdmans have recently published a new volume by David Penchansky entitled Understanding Wisdom Literature. This is a book which examines the biblical and post-biblical wisdom literature and raises questions and issues which are sometimes uncomfortable but are nonetheless (or perhaps I should say “are thus”) important. Below is my review of Penchansky’s book.
Otto Procksch described Genesis 4:7 as the most obscure verse in Genesis, and he may well be right. One of the more curious things to note about this verse is that it is clearly intended to remind the reader of Genesis 3:16, the punishment of the woman. This is clear because the syntax and terminology in the two verses is virtually identical, and yet in both instances rather unusual.
Compare the verses, first Gen 3:16b:
ואל אישך תשוקתך והוא ימשל בך
then Gen 4:7b:
ואליך תשוקתו ואתה תמשל בו
The existence of the parallel is indisputable, but what is the significance? Read on for my thoughts…
Translators and scholars have long debated the best translation for the term הבל (hebel, traditionally “vanity”) in Qohelet (Ecclesiastes). The term refers to vapour, something intangible, but is almost always used metaphorically in the Hebrew Bible.
Now rather than discuss all possible meanings, in this post I’d like to examine one particular proposal: that הבל means ‘fleeting’.1 I’ve come across this a couple of times recently, first at The Briefing, and second from Gary Millar who’s recently taken up the post of Principal at Queensland Theological College and who spoke at Katoomba Men’s Convention.
For why “fleeting” isn’t an adequate translation of הבל, read on…