Sunday, August 19, 2018

A Professor of Hebrew and I Dialog over Genesis 1:26-27

Genesis 1
26: Let us make man in our own Image, according to our own likeness...and let them have dominion 27 So God created THE Man in his own image- In the image of God created He him, male and female created He them.
- the Mark Moore translation.
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I have been a frequent visitor at the "Peaceful Science" forum. They are a highly educated group, and very opinionated. What a guy like me is doing there I have no idea. Anyway they have been telling me that my take on these verses must be wrong, and a real Hebrew scholar would easily refute my claims about the text. In particular the presence of the definite article before "man" in verse 27. For months I had been saying "Well, if there is one out there, come on and let's see." Finally, one kind soul stepped forward. I reproduce the relevant discussion below. Needless to say, I would not bother to put this up unless I thought it went very well. His turn is in green, mine in black. The shaded boxes are where one of us is quoting the other prior to commenting on it. The bold print is where I come back as an editor to try and keep straight for the reader who is talking and what is happening…. 
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I’m an OT/Hebrew Professor. You’re mistaken about the necessary reference of the singular pronoun in v. 27. As you note the antecedent (‘adam) is a collective noun (thus always grammaticlly singular, whether referring to an individual or group). If it’s is meant to be a group, then a subsequent pronoun could either be singular (to show grammatical congruity) or plural (to show conceptual congruity). Both are legit in Hebrew…only larger context can decide.
Also, be careful not to make too much of the article in v. 27. Though Hebrew is closer to Greek in the use of articulation, they are not identical. The article could simply be a reference back to the ‘adam in v. 26 (I.e., this ‘adam).
I reply citing him… 
You’re mistaken about the necessary reference of the singular pronoun in v. 27. As you note the antecedent (‘adam) is a collective noun (thus always grammaticlly singular, whether referring to an individual or group)
Well Professor I am glad to see you here. I do hope to pick your brain a bit about this and other passages. 
Now when I speak of a collective noun I am referring to verse 1:26*. That is a collective noun. I should think that the antecedent to the “o-tow” in the second segment of verse 27 is the ha-adam in the first segment of verse 27. After all the verb is different in verses 26 and 27. His intention is to make (asah) in verse 26. What He does to bring that intention to reality is create (bara) in verse 27. 
So is the antecedent to the “o-tow” in the second segment of verse 27 the “ha-adam” in the immediately preceding first segment of verse 27 or is it the “adam” back in verse 26?
*with the caveat that the Body of Christ is also collective and it too can be described with a singular pronoun. I do in fact think that’s what its saying here and in 1:27 but it is my guess that this is not what you meant when you were tying o-tow to a collective noun.
He answers…..
The pronoun goes back to 27a, but I’m suggesting that ha-adam in 27a need not be distinct from adam in 26. In fact I don’t see a good reason to separate them-neither by the change of verbs (the two do overlap semantically quite a bit) or the presence of the article in 27a. 
Btw I’ve enjoyed much of what you’ve written on this site (I’m one of those lurkers). Sorry for the first correspondence was on a point of disagreement. 
And I reply first citing him… 
You’re mistaken about the necessary reference of the singular pronoun in v. 27. As you note the antecedent (‘adam) is a collective noun (thus always grammaticlly singular, whether referring to an individual or group). 
Let me back up a bit and be more specific. We do speak loosely and say “this is a collective noun” but “Adam” is not a true collective noun. Examples of true collective nouns are things like “bunch”, “board”, “herd” etc. Collective nouns like that refer to a group of things and yet still have a plural form, while at the same time they always refer to a group of whatever is in the collective. 
This is not the case at all with a-dam. Rather this is just a noun which has the same form whether singular or plural. It is a case of an irregular noun where the single and plural forms are unchanging, like (the example I think I gave in the book) deer. 
So then I can say “In four days we can legally hunt deer” and this refers to the entire species. It is collective in that sense, just as 1:26 is referring to a collective. But should I say “Last year I got an award for the deer I shot” then the presence of the definite article “the” indicates that it is referring to a specific deer or (because singular and plural form is the same) a group of deer. The article clarifies that I was not claiming to have eradicated the entire species. Notice that my prior reference to the species deer (“we can legally hunt deer”) and my use of the definite article (“the deer I shot”) does in a sense refer back to deer as a concept or the whole group of them but it is wrong to say that this reference means the deer specified by the definite article is equal to the entire species of deer or even the concept of deer. 
Now it may still be unclear whether I have taken a single animal or a group of them, owning to the identical form of the noun in singular or plural. So if I follow on with this statement and say “He had the biggest antlers of any taken that year” then you know that I am referring to a single deer because I followed the reference to the deer I had taken with a singular pronoun. 
You are the expert in Hebrew, and therefore I accept that what you say is possible in Hebrew, but considering what I have written above, your point about what is possible in Hebrew sounds extremely awkward when you lay it all out in English. 
26: “Let us make Man in Our own image, and let them…” note a plural pronoun. Though I don’t think its in the Hebrew the context of the plural reference to God and 27c sort of demands it. That’s why the vast majority of translations give it a plural pronoun, though a few don’t use a pronoun here. The only one I can find that uses a singular pronoun is the Douay-Rheims Bible. Now you are aware that I don’t take translations as binding when they translate the Hebrew inconsistently, but here the use of the plural seems justified. 
I again cite him.. 
Also, be careful not to make too much of the article in v. 27. Though Hebrew is closer to Greek in the use of articulation, they are not identical. The article could simply be a reference back to the ‘adam in v. 26 (I.e., this ‘adam). 
And I reply, seizing on the fact that in asking me not to make "too much" of the article he is admitting that there is an article in the Hebrew text... 
27a. “So God created THE man in His Own image.” The article IS there. You are one of the few people on this board confident in your understanding enough to see what is there. Now you have suggested that the singular pronoun be “this” as in referring to the noun He spoke of creating in 26. That is, man as “mankind” or humanity. Consider how that reads. “So God created this mankind in his own image”. Is there another mankind out there that we might think He was referring to? Indeed, verse 26 is not even strictly the same object as that in 27a, even if it is a collective because 26 describes the idea of mankind. Until 27a there is no actual and extant mankind to refer back to. 
So while I understand that definite articles can be used to refer back to an already given example of something, this isn’t quite that. So one might say “King David went out to battle. THE king ordered his army to surround Moab.” Yes, in that case the definite article refers us back to David. But that’s because A) David was not the only king in creation so an article to make the ordering king more specific adds clarity to the text and B) There was already a David there to refer back to. He actually existed. Did Mankind already exist in 1:26? Does the article add any clarity to the text if it is only referring to humanity as a whole in this situation? 
The vast majority of translators (with good reason that’s the key) assign a plural pronoun to the adam in verse 26. The Hebrew explicitly pairs both a definite article and a singular pronoun with the adam in 27a-b. It is not until you get to 27c that the pronoun switches up to plural again, matching what is implied in 26. 
Look, you are the expert in Hebrew, and so if you say it’s possible, if one threads the needle just so, that I am mis-interpreting the passage then I accept that it is possible, if one threads the needle just so, that I am mis-interpreting the passage. But isn’t it also at least as likely that I am getting it right? That 27a and b refers to a single individual and 26 and 27c refer to multiple individuals? The grammar, as you are describing what it could be, sounds awkward and as forced as it can be in English. 
He replies… 
As you note, there are two types of collective nouns. I use the example “flock of sheep”–flock is the group collective; sheep is the other type (what you call irregular). Terminology isn’t the issue; it seems we basically see this the same way. 
He then cites me…. 
what is possible in Hebrew sounds extremely awkward when you lay it all out in English. 
And he replies…
Yes, that’s what happens in translation. As the old saying goes, “Translation is treason.” There is always a trade-off, a fudging that must take place from one the patient language to the target language. In this case, the use of the definite article is not exact between Hebrew and English (though it’s pretty close). The same goes for resumptive pronouns (i.e., a pronoun that refers back to an antecedent).
And he cites me again…. 
26: “Let us make Man in Our own image, and let them …” note a plural pronoun. Though I don’t think it’s in the Hebrew the context of the plural reference to God and 27c sort of demands it. 
But his answer actually gives support for what I am contending about the plurality of a’dam in verse 26…… 
Actually the verb “let them have have dominion” is plural in the Hebrew. 
He then cites me…. 
27a. “So God created THE man in His Own image.” The article IS there. You are one of the few people on this board confident in your understanding enough to see what is there. Now you have suggested that the singular pronoun be “this” as in referring to the noun He spoke of creating in 26. That is, man as “mankind” or humanity. Consider how that reads. “So God created this mankind in his own image”. 
And gives his contrary view…. 
I’m suggesting the article in 27a naturally refers back to the adam just mentioned in 26 (I used “this” as shorthand for “the one just mentioned”). There’s no need to force an awkward Engllsh translation. Assuming it is the same adam, the English translations are right to translate with “humanity/humankind” and not translate the definite article.
And cites me again…. Is there another mankind out there that we might think He was referring to? Indeed, verse 26 is not even strictly the same object as that in 27a, even if it is a collective because 26 describes the idea of mankind. Until 27a there is no actual and extant mankind to refer back to. 
And scores a point by saying…. 
This seems off base. A definite article doesn’t necessarily mean your choosing one of many. Even in English we can say “the universe,” “the earth,” “the sun,” “the messiah,” “the church,” etc. Still, a Hebrew definite article need not be translated with “the” or anything (see above). Besides, you have the something similar (concerning the article, not singular/plural) in Gen 2:5-7 – "there was no adam [no article; perhaps fits your “idea”?] to work the ground…“the LORD God formed the man [with article].” 
Your idea vs. object is too abstract for the Hebrew mindset (especially for it to show up in its grammar). It’s the general pattern in the creation days in Gen 1 for God to make a statement about intent to create (e.g., “let there be”), and then the description fulfilling that intent. Why break this consistency in the creation of adam? (I grant there are other discontinuities with adam in Day 6, but I don’t this as one of them.) 
He then cites me…. 
…isn’t it also at least as likely that I am getting it right? That 27a and b refers to a single individual and 26 and 27c refer to multiple individuals? 
Only to shoot the idea down as unlikely…. 
No, not likely. The grammar could be construed this way theoretically (or maybe I should say hypothetically, since we’re on a science blog), but its not the most natural reading to me. Thus, I would need strong warrant from other clues to consider it as a live option. But every angle I consider says otherwise–the general pattern in Gen 1; the poetic parallelism in v. 27; the later references to image in the Bible (against the ANE backdrop); the consistent translation and interpretation in the guild (and maybe church history, but I don’t know that); etc. 
I don’t know what the rabbis did with this, but it’s the kind of thing up their alley. You might find some support among them. 
He then cites me again… 
The grammar, as you are describing what it could be, sounds awkward and as forced as it can be in English. 
And replies... 
I hope I’ve cleared this up above. I was explaining the function of the article, not how the English should be translated. Our present translations are just fine. 
In my view this represents the high water mark of the case against my position. It is now my turn to respond. And I start by citing him, going back to something he mentioned but perhaps did not get the full significance of…. 
Actually the verb “let them have have dominion” is plural in the Hebrew. 
And of course this affects his arguments right down the line as I begin to point out… 
Thank you for pointing that out. This appears to strongly confirm the interpretation I am giving for these verses. You say it may be that ha-adam in 27a is only referring back to the adam in 26, but if so why is that adam is paired with a plural verb in 26 and the ha-adam in 27a is paired with a singular pronoun in 27b? 
Translation may be treason but that’s an awkward fit in any tongue. A much better fit is that 27 is a list of three things done to fulfill God’s intent in 26. 
I cite him again…. 
It’s the general pattern in the creation days in Gen 1 for God to make a statement about intent to create (e.g., “let there be”), and then the description fulfilling that intent. Why break this consistency in the creation of adam? 
Then reply that this is also amenable to my view… 
That is just what I am saying is happening too. As I see it you are going “He said He was going to do X and then it says He did X”. I am saying “He said He was going to do X and then it says the things He did in order to do X”. I see that as what the other days do as well. If there is any difference its that in the previous circumstances He ordered some part of creation to do something and then helped. With man, He did it Himself. 
I then cite him again…. 
I hope I’ve cleared this up above…Our present translations are just fine. …….. Thanks for the iron sharpening!
And reply…. 
As for our present translations- they are getting better. For example most of them shifted from the old translating ha-adam in chapter two as “Adam” to the more correct translation of “the man”. They just haven’t made that final step yet and moved to consistency by extending that to the ha-adam in chapter one. 
He then replies, and seems more conciliatory…..starting with him citing me…. 
why is that adam is paired with a plural verb in 26 and the ha-adam in 27a is paired with a singular pronoun in 27b? 
Good question. Assuming my position for now, one could argue that it’s simply stylistic (i.e., the narrator liked variety, and this would form a chiasm of plural [26], singular [27a], singular [27b], plural [27c]) (EDITORS NOTE: the chiastic structure fits beautifully with what the Revealed Cosmology says about this passage, but it was not discussed here) Or, one could add a theological nuance: Taking advantage of the collective noun, the narrator wants to emphasize that image of God applied individually and corporately (counter-intuitively, the plural focuses on individuals; the singular focuses on corporate). This is done elsewhere. One thinks of the “seed” (another collective noun) in Gen 3:15 and 22:17-18 (though this example may help your case), or in another vein the David’s “son” in the Davidic covenant (2 Sam 7), which refers both to a succession of sons (i.e., dynasty) and to the greater Son. My own work in Deuteronomy shows the tension in the alternation of the singular “you” vs. the plural “y’all” (perhaps the only time Southern English is helpful!). The point is there could be a good explanation for the phenomenon within the traditional reading. 
He then cites me again… 
If there is any difference it’s that in the previous circumstances He ordered some part of creation to do something and then helped. With man, He did it Himself. 
I’d have to think about this more on whether there’s a real distinction intended. It’s also possible different phrases are being used without too much distinction (though, I admit, it’s possible depending on authorial intent). The main differences with Day 6B (humans) that I see are: more time/text spent on it; divine deliberation (“Let us”); the lacking “according to their kinds”; the status as image of God; the added “very good” which is also delayed as a reflection on all 6 Days and not just Day Six (though “good” lacking in Day 2 since, as Waltke quips, God hates Mondays too!); and the use of the definite article “the sixth” (it also appears on “the seventh” in 2:3, but not Days 1-5; though I’m not quite sure the significance of it; I wonder what this does to our previous discussion of the article). 
And I reply, beginning with citing him on his admission that something in the text may help my case… 
This is done elsewhere. One thinks of the “seed” (another collective noun) in Gen 3:15 and 22:17-18 (though this example may help your case) 
And I am quick to agree….. 
I do think it helps my case. As I suppose you know, Galatians 3:16 throws that collective noun thing out the window and says that because it says “seed” instead of “seeds” in Genesis 22 that it is referring to Christ and not all the physical offspring of Abraham. And that’s fine too because we know that the true sons of Abraham are those who have the faith of Abraham- the body of Christ is a collective even if Christ is singular. The spiritual reality of what is happening goes to the edge of what human language is able to convey, and perhaps beyond it. 
Genesis 3:15 helps my case too, for the same reasons. And as a bonus, it negates the claim that 3:20 is evidence against an adamic race before the man Adam. “Mother of all the living” is a strange thing to say about someone who had just gotten them both killed. But it makes sense if Yahweh-Elohim told them that the 2nd Adam would come, God’s only begotten son, through the seed of a woman and redeem mankind. All “in Christ” are the living. The Christ-centered model makes sense of what otherwise does not, either in context of the passage or bounced against the evidence from the natural world that there were people before the time period Adam must have lived in if the text is accurate. 
So we do see a pattern here in Genesis where the ambiguity in nouns being collective or singular are later discovered to point to Christ and Christ is both singular as the man and collective as in the believers which comprise His body. This is of course like the idea of the person of a king standing in to represent his nation. So really 1:26-27 fits into the same pattern. 
And I cite him again… 
The point is there could be a good explanation for the phenomenon within the traditional reading. 
Here it seems he has moved from my reading being “unlikely” to there “could be” an explanation that fits with the traditional reading…language which completely reverses the earlier probabilities…but I even question the weight of validity that goes with the “traditional reading” label….. 
Isn’t the real traditional reading the way that the Jewish rabbis would see it over thousands of years? I should think they would not have a problem with what I am saying about “the man” and the verbs and pronouns. They would be fine with the idea that “man” in 26 is a plural thinking ahead to the race as a concept while 27a and 27b were singular (Adam). That’s what they believed anyway. Of course where I take it from there is not something they would approve of, but I just mean structurally and what the words are saying. The “traditional” reading from 1611 to today may be different but I suspect if one goes before that it would not be. You are in a much better position to say than I of course. 
I also pointed out that his questions regarding the lack of “good” in day two and the lack of definite articles on all but day six could be answered by my book… 
No need to get side-tracked by these jewels hidden in the word here and it takes a long time to build the case where it all fits beautifully together, but I do think I have been shown the significance of these things and write about it in the book. 
In his reply to me he cites me…. 
Isn’t the real traditional reading the way that the Jewish rabbis would see it over thousands of years? 
Reference? That’d be interesting to study. 
And cites me again… 
The “traditional” reading from 1611 to today may be different but I suspect if one goes before that it would not be. 
Then questions me… 
Are you suggesting the Christian reading of Gen 1:26-27 changed in 1611?
So it is now my turn to reply and I start by citing him… 
but I myself am a bit cautious to start finding things in a text without warrant, nor do I want a Christological reading to dismiss/discount earlier layers. Perhaps we have different hermeneutical grids at play here. I prefer Christotelic to Christological, though I’ve shifted in the past couple of years to think more Christologically 
The issue then I suppose is the metric one uses to decide how many dots have to line up before something is “warranted”. I don’t discount the earlier layers. I am one of those here that does NOT ascribe to a straight-up sequential reading of Genesis. I am thus keeping more of the original layer and view than most here. There was an historical Adam and Eve and that is a part of what this text is talking about here. But Christ is also there in the text, as are the adamites outside the garden which makes the parallels between Christ and Adam stronger than it would be were his role the father of humanity. 
As for the different grids, we are many members but one body. I think we can each emphasize the thing that we do while still seeing and proclaiming value in the part that the other emphasizes.. 
And I cite him again…he is not disputing me at this point but just commenting on the text….. 
That’s a cheeky thing Paul does there …His point about Christ as the ultimate seed is a good Christological reading (already nestled in the ambiguity of the Hebrew text). This does not discount the original meaning, which also includes a plural referent. 
So I replied…. 
Well it is an indication that he valued the Septuagint relative to what would be the Masoretic text more than we do today. It is useful to consider both. This is the kind of thing I think an apostle can do that I can’t! That and the Gal. 4 comparison of the two women as two covenants being “what the law really says.” Still, if those are authoritative examples of how far the text can be stretched to insert Christ (while not denying the reality of the underlying events) then what I am doing is well within the bounds of sound handling of the word. Indeed it explains things that even an expert like you have some difficulty coming up with a better explanation for. 
And I cite him….. 
Are you suggesting the Christian reading of Gen 1:26-27 changed in 1611?
And reply… 
I am suggesting that this period saw the word translated from Greek and Hebrew to the King’s English and other European languages around this time so that the translation of the text went through the hands of a very small number of people who had only a fraction of the knowledge and documents we have available today. And these people were connected to one another in thought and culture so that if they got something a little off then it would be copied and repeated until it gained momentum as “tradition”. This would be so even if the underlying case from the text was not so strong as the tradition which supported it. This is, in my view, exactly what happened with the tradition to translate “ha-adam” as “Adam” in chapter two, as the King James and other early versions have done. It stood that way for centuries even though those with the right training knew what it literally said was “the man”. Finally, in the last 70 years or so the reality of what was in the text of chapter two overcame the tradition about how it was supposed to be interpreted. Most of the most recent translations properly translate it “the man” now. This momentum has not extended to 1:27…yet. 
All that was left was for me to provide a reference that the “traditional” reading supported a translation of 1:27a as “the man” instead of “man”. Below is what I found… 
The best I can do with five minutes of internet research with cartoons blaring and three year-old whining, page 33 of the document on this link references an apparently large school of Jewish thought which translated 1:27 as “the man”. See last paragraph of page 33 
The paper is called A Study of the Development and Significance of the Idea of the ‘Image of God’... 
PS- as near as I could tell no side in the debate at the time (5th century), Christian or Jewish, took 1:27a to refer to more than a single man (or maybe a single couple).
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And that was it. Not that I sold him or anything, but not the thrashing I had been promised by any means. If anything, it seems he was more open to it at the end of the discussion that at the beginning. Get the book.

Science and Perceiving God

That "science" doesn't see God isn't an argument. It's a rhetorical trick. Under methodological naturalism science can't see God even if God were standing right in front of it. Science is a procedure which is conducted to detect for laws only. It is incapable of detecting any lawgiver.

An analogy would be lawyers trained to go about the legal libraries looking in various texts with a mission of determining what the laws were. If they were constrained to that process, then by that process they could never detect the human beings- the legislators - who drafted the bills which became those laws. Even if the legislators wandered the halls of the libraries crying out "it was me, I drafted such and such a law" the process of looking at the text for what is written there could not detect them. If the lawyers doing the searching desired to be obstinate and deny the existence of the legislators, they could semi-honestly report back that their search of the laws gave them no indication that any legislators existed.

To see the lawgiver one must take off the "hat" of methodological naturalism and look at things as a human, not very narrowly as a "scientist". If it weren't for sin in our hearts this would be easy to do. This is because the order, diversity, interconnectedness and beauty of nature cries out "there is a Creator God" as mentioned in Romans chapter one. But the respectability of science and what it has done for mankind has allowed some hearts to use this as a shield to prevent them from perceiving that which they ought to see, not as scientists but as men. They can deny the Lawgiver exists because they have found, in their search for the laws, only laws and no Lawgiver. That they could not expect to find a  Lawgiver in a search only for laws is conveniently set aside for the temporary comfort that escape from accountability brings. The pity is that lasting comfort for escape from accountability is only available through that same Lawgiver in the mercy and atonement accessed via faith in Christ.

My book on Early Genesis

Thursday, August 16, 2018

Early Manuscripts of Jude Support the Christ-centered Model on Theophanies.

Some of you may know that the Christ-Centered model has the Son taking the form of a Man in Heaven from the beginning, and that all of those anthropogenic appearances of Yahweh in the Old Testament were Him, not God hopping in and out of human form. The Two Powers theology of the ancient Hebrews supports this view. Now it turns out, there is support for it in Jude as well. Verse five reads...
5 Though you already know all this, I want to remind you that the Lord[c]at one time delivered his people out of Egypt, but later destroyed those who did not believe.
If you will click on that tiny "c" after the word "Lord" in the verse above it will take you to this footnote. It says that many early manuscripts say "Jesus" here. In other words, Jude identifies Yahweh who led Israel out of Egypt as our Lord Jesus Christ. This fits what is said in the book. When the people of Israel looked at God, the pre-incarnate form of Christ was who they were supposed to see.


For more details, please watch this video on theophanies below or get the book..




Tuesday, August 7, 2018

Two Powers Theology a Stunning Confirmation of the Christ-Centered Model

What is two powers theology? A professor of Hebrew described it for me this way: A significant minority Jewish position pre-70 AD saw two YHWHs in the Hebrew Bible (one visible, one invisible). The visible YHWH shows up in many ways, particularly as the Angel of YHWH (also, the Word, the Presence, and others). Simply put, this is Jewish binitarianism, providing the theological backdrop to Trinitarianism. This is why it was declared heresy by the Jews after the rise of Christianity. So it’s both grounded in the OT text (wthin human authorial intent) and receives progressive revelation in the NT.

Here is a link to a long Michael Heiser video on the Hebrew "Two Powers" theology. It gives the scriptural support for the position described above. He also gives a brief written introduction to the idea when writing about a book called "The Two Powers of Heaven". Part of what he says is this...
For the orthodox Israelite, Yahweh was both sovereign and vice regent—occupying both “slots” as it were at the head of the divine council. The binitarian portrayal of Yahweh in the Hebrew Bible was motivated by this belief. The ancient Israelite knew two Yahwehs—one invisible, a spirit, the other visible, often in human form. The two Yahwehs at times appear together in the text, at times being distinguished, at other times not.
 Early Judaism understood this portrayal and its rationale. There was no sense of a violation of monotheism since either figure was indeed Yahweh. There was no second distinct god running the affairs of the cosmos.
 Dr. Heiser and I don't see everything alike. He sees the "Divine Council" everywhere in the Old Testament scriptures, and I see Christ everywhere in the Old Testament scriptures. I do think there is such a council, but the text is really pointing to Christ. The incarnation is not God's back-up plan that He had to resort to once things failed to go as He anticipated. It was His plan. From the beginning. The human-like form of God in the Old Testament was the Son all along.

I did not know about Two Powers theology in history when I wrote Early Genesis, the Revealed Cosmology. But its a stunning confirmation of everything I wrote about the Theophanies, some of which is in this video....



Get the Book

A Dialog With Scott on the Clarity of God's Call to Repentence

it's a peculiar God who would expect any human being who wants to truly understand his divine word and instructions to become literate in ancient Hebrew in order to do so. If one thinks God was the ultimate author of this story that is.
It's perfectly consistent with a God who makes the plan of salvation both simple and centered on faith. That is, what you know about who He is gives you confidence that there is a solution for the things that are a mystery to you. And I don't see the God of scripture making His truths easy to understand because they are for those who love the truth enough to seek it out even when its hard. I think its a misconception to think He wants to make it so easy to find that some person who has little to no interest in it can't help but see it.
A "simple" plan of salvation? What's simple about this:- Have a plan of ultimate salvation that is of utmost importance to every human being who will ever live, whom you love and cherish more deeply than they can ever know.- Say nothing to humanity about it for the first two hundred thousand years humans walk the Earth, as they struggle in ignorance and misery.- Eventually reveal that plan in bits and pieces not to, say, the Chinese, who are the most populous and most literate at the time, but to an isolated desert tribe. Don't even consider revealing it to everyone at once.- Know that human beings speak many languages, but reveal the plan only in one or two of them, languages that you know will not be read or spoken by most of the human beings who will later be born.- Leave the plan not on indestructible material, but on fragile parchments destined to decay or be destroyed. In some cases, such as the vital life story of your own incarnation and ultimate act of redemption on Earth, don't bother writing it down. Let it be passed by word of mouth for several decades first.- Over the next several thousand years, watch as humans argue, fight, and slaughter each other over the details and meaning of the plan, as they distort, misinterpret, exploit, miscopy, and mistranslate it. Do nothing while this happens.- When someone from a rural village in Africa dies and stands before your throne in judgement, having spent much of their life simply walking for hours daily to get clean water, tell them that your desires were clear and perhaps they should have taken some time out to go learn to read ancient Hebrew so they would have known what you wanted of them. Deny them admittance into Heaven.
What utter nonsense. There are already plenty of ways in which faith in God is already said to be a challenge, like succumbing to temptation, dealing with adversity, or being distracted by wealth, and those at least have some halfway sensible arguments behind them (some, not all). But to say that God intentionally expects everyone to learn to read Hebrew just to understand what he has to say to us in the first place is the height of absurdity. No cosmic being of such bumbling incompetence and stupidity, or perverse maliciousness, exists. And on the slight chance that one does, it is by this utter failure of communication undeserving of worship.
 
What is simple about it is that God saves those who trust Him over their own righteousness regardless of whether they have access to any of that other information. Abraham didn't have most of that stuff on your list, yet he "believed God and it was counted to him as righteousness." Nothing has changed since the Garden of Eden. It has always been about whether we would trust God or decide for ourselves what is good and what is evil. That's the real message of the Book.
Putting aside for the moment your total inability to actually know any of that, let's work with that idea. So we don't actually need any of the Bible at all, since even people who have been unable to read it will still be judged fairly. That's good to know, but it raises some additional puzzles. Why would God bother with inspiring the writing (and assembly, and editing) of divine commands, plans, and other revelations that we now know are not only incompetently executed (for the purpose of clear communication to all of humanity) but also unnecessary? Whence comes "The Great Commission," the imperative in Acts and other New Testament books to go unto the world and proclaim the Gospel? It's obviously a pointless exercise as far as actual salvation goes, since you tell us that having understood the Bible correctly in its original languages isn't required. I guess it must just be a general information campaign then? But the issue of incompetent communication still sticks to that. Even if spreading the Word is just about giving people useful but optional background information, that information is STILL misunderstood, mistranslated, miscopied, exploited, fought over, and treated by many AS IF people really do need it for salvation. And God doesn't consider this a misunderstanding worth clearing up, it seems.
But as I mentioned at the start of this comment, you have no means of knowing such things about God anyhow. It's a fabricated backpedal in the face of obvious evidence against the God you believe in, to try and wave this evidence away and claim the point doesn't matter in the first place. Were there actually an omnipotent God with an intent to communicate anything at all to all of humanity, it would do so in ways that were unambiguous, universally received, and unaffected by the passage of time or the failings of its recipients. Having Jesus make himself literate and writing down a single unalterable, imperishable, and indisputable account of his own life as it happened would be the barest minimum we should expect from this effort. We have nothing close to this. Such a being doesn't exist.

Since God doesn't conduct His affairs the way to your approval He must not exist? That's your argument? It's awful. It would be one thing if God said in scripture "I am going to make all of this plain so that anyone can see it even without trying". But He says the exact opposite. He speaks in parables just so they wouldn't get it unless they really sought it out. The true measure is not to compare what happened in human history to the way YOU think God ought to behave, but rather if how He says in His word that He operates is consistent with what we see. But to do that you would have to consult scripture, not your own gut. For this one though, I'll do it for you.. Ephesians 3:4-9 and to bring to light what is the administration of the mystery which for ages has been hidden in God who created all things; By referring to this, when you read you can understand my insight into the mystery of Christ, to be specific, that the Gentiles are fellow heirs and fellow members of the body, and fellow partakers of the promise in Christ Jesus through the gospel, 1 Corinthians 2:7 Verse Concepts but we speak God’s wisdom in a mystery, the hidden wisdom which God predestined before the ages to our glory; Colossians 1:25-27 that is, the mystery which has been hidden from the past ages and generations, but has now been manifested to His saints, to whom God willed to make known what is the riches of the glory of this mystery among the Gentiles, which is Christ in you, the hope of glory. Ephesians 1:9-10 He made known to us the mystery of His will, according to His kind intention which He purposed in Him with a view to an administration suitable to the fullness of the times, that is, the summing up of all things in Christ, things in the heavens and things on the earth. In Him Colossians 2:2 Verse Concepts that their hearts may be encouraged, having been knit together in love, and attaining to all the wealth that comes from the full assurance of understanding, resulting in a true knowledge of God’s mystery, that is, Christ Himself, Revelation 10:7 Verse Concepts but in the days of the voice of the seventh angel, when he is about to sound, then the mystery of God is finished, as He preached to His servants the prophets. Mark 4:11 Verse Concepts And He was saying to them, "To you has been given the mystery of the kingdom of God, but those who are outside get everything in parables, Proverbs 25:2 It is the glory of God to conceal a matter; to search out a matter is the glory of kings.  The conclusion is that most truth is not easy to find. It is meant, not even for the wise, but for those who love it.

Since God doesn't conduct His affairs the way to your approval He must not exist?Where did I say anything about my approval? I'm talking about what's likely, given what you and other believers claim about God. I'm told:- God is omnipotent, which includes intelligence and competence in carrying out asserted goals or plans- God loves all human beings- God is eternal- God consciously desires to communicate certain plans, commands, choices, and other information to ALL human beings, not just for casual interest but because we need to know it From those claims we should expect that communication to be carried out in a way that is clear, unambiguous, universally received and understood by all human beings (past, present, and future), and unalterable or distortable by the passage of time, by human error, or by purposeful human effort. This is basic logic about clearly understandable claims and evidence, just like if someone claimed there was a shooting in a certain place then the police would expect to find bullets, empty shells, or similar evidence that is expected at such scenes. If they don't find it, the occurrence of a shooting becomes less likely. Likewise, the lack of unambiguous, clear, and universal communication from God makes one or more of those claimed traits far less likely, which is to say a being with all those traits likely doesn't exist.
Those claims I just listed are virtually universally held among Christians, so you can't just pretend nobody's ever made them while you're pasting your convenient list of verses which contradict them. If God is ENTIRELY mysterious, as you're trying to imply as a way of dodging what I've pointed out previously, then you'll have to square that somehow with the very non-mysterious claims about God I just cited. The fact of the matter here is that like many Christians before you, you're pulling the "God is mysterious" card only when you're backed into a corner and don't want to give up any of the core non-mysterious claims about God you want to hold on to. God is loving...except when he appears to do non-loving things, which is just a "mysterious" kind of love we don't understand. God wants to communicate to us and have a relationship with us...except when he has a mysterious reason for remaining silent. God is creative, inventive, and intelligent...except when he has mysterious reasons for appearing to be an incompetent, inattentive bumbler. God hates evil...except that he lets it slide all the time, for mysterious reasons. Sorry, it doesn't wash. How handy to have a reusable "get out of jail free" card for God labeled "mystery", except that you believers are the only ones who swallow such obvious "just because" reasoning. A being which has a whole set of very specific, understandable, predictable, and well-defined traits and yet also doesn't behave according to them, for reasons no one can enumerate or give evidence for, is a bizarre being indeed. That bizarreness, by definition, makes his existence even less likely. 

God consciously desires to communicate certain plans, commands, choices, and other information to ALL human beings, not just for casual interest but because we need to know it

Key word, certain plans. Salvation through faith has been around for a long time. Longer than the crucifixion, which was a clear and purposeful and universally understandable message that 1) our sins are serious, more serious than we can atone for in our own strength, and 2) He loves us enough that He will live the life of faith and obedience that we could not while taking in Himself the penalty due us. And only by this accounting can God be both infinitely just and infinitely merciful. So I don't say "God is entirely mysterious". You said I claimed that, but its not what I said. There are things we know about Him. But at the same time, His ways are beyond our ways. In particular those who don't want to know Him do not get shown what those who do want to know him get shown. If you gave your intimate life details to every girl who passed by what would your sweetheart think? What would the girls think? Some truths are reserved for those who treasure them. Salvation is simple. It's not easy because it forces us to be honest with ourselves that He is holy and we are not, but its simple. But we will never know Him fully this side of the vail. And that's OK. He's God after all, are we supposed to completely understand His ways without mystery before we trust Him? Surely nothing has changed since the garden. We are willing to trade paradise for the ability to judge for ourselves what is good and what is evil.
First, I accept your correction on saying God is entirely mysterious. I shouldn't have summarized your comments that way. What I probably should have said is that you're taking aspects of God's nature (as claimed by Christians) that are almost universally given very clear and non-mysterious descriptors, but then adding extra unspecified and unsupported mystery to them when our experience of the world contradicts them. "God has a message of redemption for all people." There's nothing mysterious about that, or about God's omnipotence, which should carry with it the capability to actually get that message out to ALL people in an effective way. Pausing there for a moment, if God also has truly mysterious plans that have nothing to do with that, like mysterious plans for black holes, or a different redemption plan for a species on another planet, I could make no logical objection to that other than to say you have no way of knowing even that fact. But those aren't the plans we're concerned with here.
When we face the fact that God is obviously not, and has not been, communicating that message of redemption effectively to all people (by what an omnipotent being should be able to do), the conclusion is not that God also has a mysterious reason for neglecting to communicate effectively, but that he either doesn't actually have that desire, or isn't capable of carrying it out, or both. The only way for us to hang on to those two non-mysterious claims about him is if you were to produce actual evidence or proof of whatever mysterious quirk prevents God from living up to those descriptions. 
All I'm doing here is what we all do with people around us all the time: watch their behavior and from that build up a sense of what they are really like, from repeated experience. If you have a co-worker who hardly ever talks to anyone and rebuffs attempts at friendship, you're not going to mentally label them as "really outgoing, but with a mysterious reason for not talking to anyone"; you're just going to label them as anti-social. Now if someone reveals to you that for the last three months that normally outgoing person has been going through a divorce and has been given a high-pressure project by the boss, well there's the reason and you might then accept the claim of them being really outgoing, under normal circumstances. But you have to prove that the mysterious reason is actually there. Until you do, you have to expect people to push back on you when you call something a duck that never looks like a duck, swims like a duck, or quacks like a duck.

Someone accepts correction on a You Tube discussion thread? I am glad I was sitting down when I read that! Thank you for the teachable attitude. It is the only way any of us can get better, but most won't accept the cost getting better if it involves admitting they were wrong in the first place. If they did, we'd have a lot more Christians, and the ones we had would be better Christians. Now you write God is obviously not, and has not been, communicating that message of redemption effectively to all people (by what an omnipotent being should be able to do), the conclusion is not that God also has a mysterious reason for neglecting to communicate effectively, but that he either doesn't actually have that desire, or isn't capable of carrying it out, or both. Well its been the largest religion in the world for the last 1,000 years so its not like He's Thor or whoever ran things in Zoroastrianism. But I think your complaint is that ALL people are not getting the message, but only a relative few compared to the total number of people, and that this indicates that God is either not that caring or not that powerful. I believe your conclusion leaves out possibilities, and not just possibilities but those which comport with just the scenario that the Holy Writ describes. One is your assumption that God wants to communicate effectively His message of salvation to every human being. The scripture only teaches that He "desires all men to be saved and to come to a knowledge of the truth." But there is a difference between being all powerful and using that power to over-ride the free will of all humans. IE- He gives up what He desires out of respect for the choices of the people who have no love for the truth and thus would not want to spend an eternity in His presence, for His Word is Truth. He desires them to be saved, and permits them to be saved, but that is not the same thing as compelling them to be saved. And the evidence from scripture is that He knows who many if not all of these people are. They are not interested in truth but if the evidence was too "in their face" maybe they would be compelled by the evidence to accept His goodness even if they hated to admit it. And so when speaking to such people He deliberately obscures the message lest people who hated truth had it shoved into their faces anyway. See Matthew 13:12-15 for a perfect example. Another good one is the parable of Lazarus and the Rich man near the end of Luke chapter 16. The rich man in hell is making the same argument you are. That his brothers would turn around and love the truth if only the message were presented clearer and more starkly. Father Abraham denies this, saying if they would not listen to the prophets they would not listen even if someone rose from the dead. This is a pretty consistent trait even back in the OT. In fact the Matthew passage is quoting from the OT. I think the classic example is Pharaoh. At the first miracles, he hardened his heart. But God kept the miracles coming to the point where he couldn't resist the truth of God anymore even if he tried with all his might. But he wasn't a man who loved the truth, he was just being forced to see it in a way that he lacked the will to resist in his own strength. So subsequently scripture records that God hardened Pharaoh's heart! God was like "I am going to show how powerful I am through your refusal to heed me, but that's going to give you something that you don't really want- seeing my greatness. So I am going to use my power to PREVENT you from seeing it even though in yourself you would have been compelled to." So though I think your reasoning would stand if your premises were correct, the premises you are reasoning from don't fit those that are laid out in scripture. Your conclusions are not invalid to some conceptions of God, but they don't apply to the God of the Bible. There are some people He knows are no good before they are even born, and whatever His desires for them, they are going to go a different way. So it is written "Jacob I loved but Esau I hated." So God is as effective as He wants to be in communicating His message. And billions of humans have gotten the message with far less opportunity to do so than you or I and its not over yet. Sometimes He sent His prophets to pester people with the truth about themselves that they hated to hear, and they mostly killed and persecuted them. So most of the time, His SOP, is that He does not do that. If we sincerely want to know Him He will move heaven and earth to introduce Himself, But that does not mean that He is in the habit of wasting energy proving Himself before a heart which has no real desire for Him to be real. He is not the beggar here, we are. Those who recognize that, He makes into kings.  Now I could say a lot, and do say a lot in my book, about what Yahweh went through in His dealings with man. He was hurt deeply by the attitude of people when He only meant to do them good. It's in the pages of the book for all who care to see it. So there is some of what you write about in there.

Sunday, August 5, 2018

A Hebrew Scholar and I Discuss the Translation of Genesis 1:26-27

Genesis 1

26: Let us make man in our own Image, according to our own likeness...and let them have dominion
27 So God created THE Man in his own image-
     In the image of God created He him, male and female created He them.

- the Mark Moore translation.

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I have been a frequent visitor at the "Peaceful Science" forum. They are a highly educated group, and very opinionated. What a guy like me is doing there I have no idea. Anyway they have been telling me that my take on these verses must be wrong, and a real Hebrew scholar would easily refute my claims about the text. In particular the presence of the definite article before "man" in verse 27. For months I have been saying "Well, if there is one out there, come on and let's see." Finally, one kind soul stepped forward. I reproduce the relevant discussion below. Needless to say, I would not bother to put this up unless I thought it went very well. The discussion follows, he is "deuteroKJ" and I am "Revealed Cosmology".

Don't let the brown breaks fool you, the breaks in the conversation are the asterisks "******". Also I am the blue dot , and he is the green .




I’m an OT/Hebrew Professor. You’re mistaken about the necessary reference of the singular pronoun in v. 27. As you note the antecedent (‘adam) is a collective noun (thus always grammaticlly singular, whether referring to an individual or group). If it’s is meant to be a group, then a subsequent pronoun could either be singular (to show grammatical congruity) or plural (to show conceptual congruity). Both are legit in Hebrew…only larger context can decide.

Also, be careful not to make too much of the article in v. 27. Though Hebrew is closer to Greek in the use of articulation, they are not identical. The article could simply be a reference back to the ‘adam in v. 26 (I.e., this ‘adam).

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Well Professor I am glad to see you here. I do hope to pick your brain a bit about this and other passages.

Now when I speak of a collective noun I am referring to verse 1:26*. That is a collective noun. I should think that the antecedent to the “o-tow” in the second segment of verse 27 is the ha-adam in the first segment of verse 27. After all the verb is different in verses 26 and 27. His intention is to make (asah) in verse 26. What He does to bring that intention to reality is create (bara) in verse 27.

So is the antecedent to the “o-tow” in the second segment of verse 27 the “ha-adam” in the immediately preceding first segment of verse 27 or is it the “adam” back in verse 26?

*with the caveat that the Body of Christ is also collective and it too can be described with a singular pronoun. I do in fact think that’s what its saying here and in 1:27 but it is my guess that this is not what you meant when you were tying o-tow to a collective noun.

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The pronoun goes back to 27a, but I’m suggesting that ha-adam in 27a need not be distinct from adam in 26. In fact I don’t see a good reason to separate them-neither by the change of verbs (the two do overlap semantically quite a bit) or the presence of the article in 27a.

Btw I’ve enjoyed much of what you’ve written on this site (I’m one of those lurkers). Sorry for the first correspondence was on a point of disagreement.

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 Let me back up a bit and be more specific. We do speak loosely and say “this is a collective noun” but “Adam” is not a true collective noun. Examples of true collective nouns are things like “bunch”, “board”, “herd” etc. Collective nouns like that refer to a group of things and yet still have a plural form, while at the same time they always refer to a group of whatever is in the collective.

This is not the case at all with a-dam. Rather this is just a noun which has the same form whether singular or plural. It is a case of an irregular noun where the single and plural forms are unchanging, like (the example I think I gave in the book) deer.

So then I can say “In four days we can legally hunt deer” and this refers to the entire species. It is collective in that sense, just as 1:26 is referring to a collective. But should I say “Last year I got an award for the deer I shot” then the presence of the definite article “the” indicates that it is referring to a specific deer or (because singular and plural form is the same) a group of deer. The article clarifies that I was not claiming to have eradicated the entire species. Notice that my prior reference to the species deer (“we can legally hunt deer”) and my use of the definite article (“the deer I shot”) does in a sense refer back to deer as a concept or the whole group of them but it is wrong to say that this reference means the deer specified by the definite article is equal to the entire species of deer or even the concept of deer.

Now it may still be unclear whether I have taken a single animal or a group of them, owning to the identical form of the noun in singular or plural. So if I follow on with this statement and say “He had the biggest antlers of any taken that year” then you know that I am referring to a single deer because I followed the reference to the deer I had taken with a singular pronoun.

Now you are the expert in Hebrew, and therefore I accept that what you say is possible in Hebrew, but considering what I have written above, your point about what is possible in Hebrew sounds extremely awkward when you lay it all out in English.

26: “Let us make Man in Our own image, and let them…” note a plural pronoun. Though I don’t think its in the Hebrew the context of the plural reference to God and 27c sort of demands it. That’s why the vast majority of translations give it a plural pronoun, though a few don’t use a pronoun here. The only one I can find that uses a singular pronoun is the Douay-Rheims Bible. Now you are aware that I don’t take translations as binding when they translate the Hebrew inconsistently, but here the use of the plural seems justified.





 27a. “So God created THE man in His Own image.” The article IS there. You are one of the few people on this board confident in your understanding enough to see what is there. Now you have suggested that the singular pronoun be “this” as in referring to the noun He spoke of creating in 26. That is, man as “mankind” or humanity. Consider how that reads. “So God created this mankind in his own image”.
Is there another mankind out there that we might think He was referring to? Indeed, verse 26 is not even strictly the same object as that in 27a, even if it is a collective because 26 describes the idea of mankind. Until 27a there is no actual and extant mankind to refer back to.

So while I understand that definite articles can be used to refer back to an already given example of something, this isn’t quite that. So one might say “King David went out to battle. THE king ordered his army to surround Moab.” Yes, in that case the definite article refers us back to David. But that’s because A) David was not the only king in creation so an article to make the ordering king more specific adds clarity to the text and B) There was already a David there to refer back to. He actually existed. Did Mankind already exist in 1:26? Does the article add any clarity to the text if it is only referring to humanity as a whole in this situation?

The vast majority of translators (with good reason that’s the key) assign a plural pronoun to the adam in verse 26. The Hebrew explicitly pairs both a definite article and a singular pronoun with the adam in 27a-b. It is not until you get to 27c that the pronoun switches up to plural again, matching what is implied in 26.

Look, you are the expert in Hebrew, and so if you say its possible, if one threads the needle just so, that I am mis-interpreting the passage then I accept that it is possible, if one threads the needle just so, that I am mis-interpreting the passage. But isn’t it also at least as likely that I am getting it right? That 27a and b refers to a single individual and 26 and 27c refer to multiple individuals? The grammar, as you are describing what it could be, sounds awkward and as forced as it can be in English.

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As you note, there are two types of collective nouns. I use the example “flock of sheep”–flock is the group collective; sheep is the other type (what you call irregular). Terrminology isn’t the issue; it seems we basically see this the same way.



Yes, that’s what happens in translation. As the old saying goes, “Translation is treason.” There is always a trade-off, a fudging that must take place from one the patient language to the target language. In this case, the use of the definite article is not exact between Hebrew and English (though it’s pretty close). The same goes for resumptive pronouns (i.e., a pronoun that refers back to an antecedent).




 Actually the verb “let them have have dominion” is plural in the Hebrew.




I’m suggesting the article in 27a naturally refers back to the adam just mentioned in 26 (I used “this” as shorthand for “the one just mentioned”). There’s no need to force an awkward Engllsh translation. Assuming it is the same adam, the English translations are right to translate with “humanity/humankind” and not translate the definite article.




 This seems off base. A definite article doesn’t necessarily mean your choosing one of many. Even in English we can say “the universe,” “the earth,” “the sun,” “the messiah,” “the church,” etc. Still, a Hebrew definite article need not be translated with “the” or anything (see above). Besides, you have the something similar (concerning the article, not singular/plural) in Gen 2:5-7 – "there was no adam [no article; perhaps fits your “idea”?] to work the ground…“the LORD God formed the man [with article].”
Your idea vs. object is too abstract for the Hebrew mindset (especially for it to show up in its grammar). It’s the general pattern in the creation days in Gen 1 for God to make a statement about intent to create (e.g., “let there be”), and then the description fulfilling that intent. Why break this consistency in the creation of adam? (I grant there are other discontinuities with adam in Day 6, but I don’t this as one of them.)




No, not likely. The grammar could be construed this way theoretically (or maybe I should say hypothetically, since we’re on a science blog), but its not the most natural reading to me. Thus, I would need strong warrant from other clues to consider it as a live option. But every angle I consider says otherwise–the general pattern in Gen 1; the poetic parallelism in v. 27; the later references to image in the Bible (against the ANE backdrop); the consistent translation and interpretation in the guild (and maybe church history, but I don’t know that); etc.

I don’t know what the rabbis did with this, but it’s the kind of thing up their alley. You might find some support among them.




I hope I’ve cleared this up above. I was explaining the function of the article, not how the English should be translated. Our present translations are just fine.

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Thank you for pointing that out. This appears to strongly confirm the interpretation I am giving for these verses. You say it may be that ha-adam in 27a is only referring back to the adam in 26, but if so why is that adam is paired with a plural verb in 26 and the ha-adam in 27a is paired with a singular pronoun in 27b?

Translation may be treason but that’s an awkward fit in any tongue. A much better fit is that 27 is a list of three things done to fulfill God’s intent in 26.




That is just what I am saying is happening too. As I see it you are going “He said He was going to do X and then it says He did X”. I am saying “He said He was going to do X and then it says the things He did in order to do X”. I see that as what the other days do as well. If there is any difference its that in the previous circumstances He ordered some part of creation to do something and then helped. With man, He did it Himself.



 As for our present translations- they are getting better. For example most of them shifted from the old translating ha-adam in chapter two as “Adam” to the more correct translation of “the man”. They just haven’t made that final step yet and moved to consistency by extending that to the ha-adam in chapter one.

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 Good question. Assuming my position for now, one could argue that it’s simply stylistic (i.e., the narrator liked variety, and this would form a chiasm of plural [26], singular [27a], singular [27b], plural [27c]) (EDITORS NOTE: the chiastic structure fits beautifully with what the Revealed Cosmology says about this passage, but it was not discussed here) Or, one could add a theological nuance: Taking advantage of the collective noun, the narrator wants to emphasize that image of God applied individually and corporately (counter-intuitively, the plural focuses on individuals; the singular focuses on corporate). This is done elsewhere. One thinks of the “seed” (another collective noun) in Gen 3:15 and 22:17-18 (though this example may help your case), or in another vein the David’s “son” in the Davidic covenant (2 Sam 7), which refers both to a succession of sons (i.e., dynasty) and to the greater Son. My own work in Deuteronomy shows the tension in the alternation of the singular “you” vs. the plural “y’all” (perhaps the only time Southern English is helpful!). The point is there could be a good explanation for the phenomenon within the traditional reading.





I’d have to think about this more on whether there’s a real distinction intended. It’s also possible different phrases are being used without too much distinction (though, I admit, it’s possible depending on authorial intent). The main differences with Day 6B (humans) that I see are: more time/text spent on it; divine deliberation (“Let us”); the lacking “according to their kinds”; the status as image of God; the added “very good” which is also delayed as a reflection on all 6 Days and not just Day Six (though “good” lacking in Day 2 since, as Waltke quips, God hates Mondays too!); and the use of the definite article “the sixth” (it also appears on “the seventh” in 2:3, but not Days 1-5; though I’m not quite sure the significance of it; I wonder what this does to our previous discussion of the article).

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I do think it helps my case. As I suppose you know, Galatians 3:16 throws that collective noun thing out the window and says that because it says “seed” instead of “seeds” in Genesis 22 that it is referring to Christ and not all the physical offspring of Abraham. And that’s fine too because we know that the true sons of Abraham are those who have the faith of Abraham- the body of Christ is a collective even if Christ is singular. The spiritual reality of what is happening goes to the edge of what human language is able to convey, and perhaps beyond it.

Genesis 3:15 helps my case too, for the same reasons. And as a bonus, it negates the claim that 3:20 is evidence against an adamic race before the man Adam. “Mother of all the living” is a strange thing to say about someone who had just gotten them both killed. But it makes sense if Yahweh-Elohim told them that the 2nd Adam would come, God’s only begotten son, through the seed of a woman and redeem mankind. All “in Christ” are the living. The Christ-centered model makes sense of what otherwise does not, either in context of the passage or bounced against the evidence from the natural world that there were people before the time period Adam must have lived in if the text is accurate.

So we do see a pattern here in Genesis where the ambiguity in nouns being collective or singular are later discovered to point to Christ and Christ is both singular as the man and collective as in the believers which comprise His body. This is of course like the idea of the person of a king standing in to represent his nation. So really 1:26-27 fits into the same pattern.



Have you a link? I’d like to read it, both for itself but especially to figure out if it says anything about the Christ-centered model.




Isn’t the real traditional reading the way that the Jewish rabbis would see it over thousands of years? I should think they would not have a problem with what I am saying about “the man” and the verbs and pronouns. They would be fine with the idea that “man” in 26 is a plural thinking ahead to the race as a concept while 27a and 27b were singular (Adam). That’s what they believed anyway. Of course where I take it from there is not something they would approve of, but I just mean structurally and what the words are saying. The “traditional” reading from 1611 to today may be different but I suspect if one goes before that it would not be. You are in a much better position to say than I of course.




No need to get side-tracked by these jewels hidden in the word here and it takes a long time to build the case where it all fits beautifully together, but I do think I have been shown the significance of these things and write about it in the book 1.

*******





That’s a cheeky thing Paul does there :slight_smile: He took advantage of the difference between Hebrew and Greek grammar to make his theological point (since Greek sperma can take a plural form). His point about Christ as the ultimate seed is a good Christological reading (already nestled in the ambiguity of the Hebrew text). This does not discount the original meaning, which also includes a plural referent.




This helps me see better how you’re arriving at your position on 1:26-27. I’m OK with a sound Christological reading (especially when a NT author employs it!), but I myself am a bit cautious to start finding things in a text without warrant, nor do I want a Christological reading to dismiss/discount earlier layers. Perhaps we have different hermeneutical grids at play here. I prefer Christotelic to Christological, though I’ve shifted in the past couple of years to think more Christologically.







Reference? That’d be interesting to study.




Are you suggesting the Christian reading of Gen 1:26-27 changed in 1611?

*******





The issue then I suppose is the metric one uses to decide how many dots have to line up before something is “warranted”. I don’t discount the earlier layers. I am one of those here that does NOT ascribe to a straight-up sequential reading of Genesis. I am thus keeping more of the original layer and view than most here. There was an historical Adam and Eve and that is a part of what this text is talking about here. But Christ is also there in the text, as are the adamites outside the garden which makes the parallels between Christ and Adam stronger than it would be were his role the father of humanity.
As for the different grids, we are many members but one body. I think we can each emphasize the thing that we do while still seeing and proclaiming value in the part that the other emphasizes.





Well it is an indication that he valued the Septuagint relative to what would be the Masoretic text more than we do today. It is useful to consider both. This is the kind of thing I think an apostle can do that I can’t! That and the Gal. 4 comparison of the two women as two covenants being “what the law really says.” Still, if those are authoritative examples of how far the text can be stretched to insert Christ (while not denying the reality of the underlying events) then what I am doing is well within the bounds of sound handling of the word. Indeed it explains things that even an expert like you have some difficulty coming up with a better explanation for.

I thought you might know offhand of a link but I’ll give it a look. Thanks for your link.






I am suggesting that this period saw the word translated from Greek and Hebrew to the King’s English and other European languages around this time so that the translation of the text went through the hands of a very small number of people who had only a fraction of the knowledge and documents we have available today. And these people were connected to one another in thought and culture so that if they got something a little off then it would be copied and repeated until it gained momentum as “tradition”. This would be so even if the underlying case from the text was not so strong as the tradition which supported it. This is, in my view, exactly what happened with the tradition to translate “ha-adam” as “Adam” in chapter two, as the King James and other early versions have done. It stood that way for centuries even though those with the right training knew what it literally said was “the man”. Finally, in the last 70 years or so the reality of what was in the text of chapter two overcame the tradition about how it was supposed to be interpreted. Most of the most recent translations properly translate it “the man” now. This momentum has not extended to 1:27…yet.

*******


: Isn’t the real traditional reading the way that the Jewish rabbis would see it over thousands of years?
@deuteroKJ Reference? That’d be interesting to study.


The best I can do with five minutes of internet research with cartoons blaring and three year-old whining, page 33 of the document on this link references an apparently large school of Jewish thought which translated 1:27 as “the man”.
See last paragraph of page 33





PS- as near as I could tell no side in the debate at the time (5th century), Christian or Jewish, took 1:27a to refer to more than a single man (or maybe a single couple).

*************************************
And that was it. Not that I sold him or anything, but not the thrashing I had been promised by any means. If anything, it seems he was more open to it at the end of the discussion that at the beginning.

Get the book

Genesis 1

26: Let us make man in our own Image, according to our own likeness...and let them have dominion
27 So God created THE Man in his own image-
     In the image of God created He him, male and female created He them.

- the Mark Moore translation.

************************************

I have been a frequent visitor at the "Peaceful Science" forum. They are a highly educated group, and very opinionated. What a guy like me is doing there I have no idea. Anyway they have been telling me that my take on these verses must be wrong, and a real Hebrew scholar would easily refute my claims about the text. In particular the presence of the definite article before "man" in verse 27. For months I have been saying "Well, if there is one out there, come on and let's see." Finally, one kind soul stepped forward. I reproduce the relevant discussion below. Needless to say, I would not bother to put this up unless I thought it went very well. His turn is in dark green, mind in black. The shaded boxes are where one of us is quoting the other prior to commenting on it. The bold print is where I come back as an editor to try and keep straight for the reader who is talking and what is happening….

(******************************)


I’m an OT/Hebrew Professor. You’re mistaken about the necessary reference of the singular pronoun in v. 27. As you note the antecedent (‘adam) is a collective noun (thus always grammaticlly singular, whether referring to an individual or group). If it’s is meant to be a group, then a subsequent pronoun could either be singular (to show grammatical congruity) or plural (to show conceptual congruity). Both are legit in Hebrew…only larger context can decide.

Also, be careful not to make too much of the article in v. 27. Though Hebrew is closer to Greek in the use of articulation, they are not identical. The article could simply be a reference back to the ‘adam in v. 26 (I.e., this ‘adam).


I reply citing him…

You’re mistaken about the necessary reference of the singular pronoun in v. 27. As you note the antecedent (‘adam) is a collective noun (thus always grammaticlly singular, whether referring to an individual or group)
Well Professor I am glad to see you here. I do hope to pick your brain a bit about this and other passages.

Now when I speak of a collective noun I am referring to verse 1:26*. That is a collective noun. I should think that the antecedent to the “o-tow” in the second segment of verse 27 is the ha-adam in the first segment of verse 27. After all the verb is different in verses 26 and 27. His intention is to make (asah) in verse 26. What He does to bring that intention to reality is create (bara) in verse 27.

So is the antecedent to the “o-tow” in the second segment of verse 27 the “ha-adam” in the immediately preceding first segment of verse 27 or is it the “adam” back in verse 26?

*with the caveat that the Body of Christ is also collective and it too can be described with a singular pronoun. I do in fact think that’s what its saying here and in 1:27 but it is my guess that this is not what you meant when you were tying o-tow to a collective noun.

He answers…..
The pronoun goes back to 27a, but I’m suggesting that ha-adam in 27a need not be distinct from adam in 26. In fact I don’t see a good reason to separate them-neither by the change of verbs (the two do overlap semantically quite a bit) or the presence of the article in 27a.

Btw I’ve enjoyed much of what you’ve written on this site (I’m one of those lurkers). Sorry for the first correspondence was on a point of disagreement.

And I reply first citing him…

You’re mistaken about the necessary reference of the singular pronoun in v. 27. As you note the antecedent (‘adam) is a collective noun (thus always grammaticlly singular, whether referring to an individual or group).

Let me back up a bit and be more specific. We do speak loosely and say “this is a collective noun” but “Adam” is not a true collective noun. Examples of true collective nouns are things like “bunch”, “board”, “herd” etc. Collective nouns like that refer to a group of things and yet still have a plural form, while at the same time they always refer to a group of whatever is in the collective.

This is not the case at all with a-dam. Rather this is just a noun which has the same form whether singular or plural. It is a case of an irregular noun where the single and plural forms are unchanging, like (the example I think I gave in the book) deer.

So then I can say “In four days we can legally hunt deer” and this refers to the entire species. It is collective in that sense, just as 1:26 is referring to a collective. But should I say “Last year I got an award for the deer I shot” then the presence of the definite article “the” indicates that it is referring to a specific deer or (because singular and plural form is the same) a group of deer. The article clarifies that I was not claiming to have eradicated the entire species. Notice that my prior reference to the species deer (“we can legally hunt deer”) and my use of the definite article (“the deer I shot”) does in a sense refer back to deer as a concept or the whole group of them but it is wrong to say that this reference means the deer specified by the definite article is equal to the entire species of deer or even the concept of deer.

Now it may still be unclear whether I have taken a single animal or a group of them, owning to the identical form of the noun in singular or plural. So if I follow on with this statement and say “He had the biggest antlers of any taken that year” then you know that I am referring to a single deer because I followed the reference to the deer I had taken with a singular pronoun.

Now you are the expert in Hebrew, and therefore I accept that what you say is possible in Hebrew, but considering what I have written above, your point about what is possible in Hebrew sounds extremely awkward when you lay it all out in English.

26: “Let us make Man in Our own image, and let them…” note a plural pronoun. Though I don’t think its in the Hebrew the context of the plural reference to God and 27c sort of demands it. That’s why the vast majority of translations give it a plural pronoun, though a few don’t use a pronoun here. The only one I can find that uses a singular pronoun is the Douay-Rheims Bible. Now you are aware that I don’t take translations as binding when they translate the Hebrew inconsistently, but here the use of the plural seems justified.

I again cite him..

Also, be careful not to make too much of the article in v. 27. Though Hebrew is closer to Greek in the use of articulation, they are not identical. The article could simply be a reference back to the ‘adam in v. 26 (I.e., this ‘adam).

 27a. “So God created THE man in His Own image.” The article IS there. You are one of the few people on this board confident in your understanding enough to see what is there. Now you have suggested that the singular pronoun be “this” as in referring to the noun He spoke of creating in 26. That is, man as “mankind” or humanity. Consider how that reads. “So God created this mankind in his own image”.
Is there another mankind out there that we might think He was referring to? Indeed, verse 26 is not even strictly the same object as that in 27a, even if it is a collective because 26 describes the idea of mankind. Until 27a there is no actual and extant mankind to refer back to.

So while I understand that definite articles can be used to refer back to an already given example of something, this isn’t quite that. So one might say “King David went out to battle. THE king ordered his army to surround Moab.” Yes, in that case the definite article refers us back to David. But that’s because A) David was not the only king in creation so an article to make the ordering king more specific adds clarity to the text and B) There was already a David there to refer back to. He actually existed. Did Mankind already exist in 1:26? Does the article add any clarity to the text if it is only referring to humanity as a whole in this situation?

The vast majority of translators (with good reason that’s the key) assign a plural pronoun to the adam in verse 26. The Hebrew explicitly pairs both a definite article and a singular pronoun with the adam in 27a-b. It is not until you get to 27c that the pronoun switches up to plural again, matching what is implied in 26.

Look, you are the expert in Hebrew, and so if you say it’s possible, if one threads the needle just so, that I am mis-interpreting the passage then I accept that it is possible, if one threads the needle just so, that I am mis-interpreting the passage. But isn’t it also at least as likely that I am getting it right? That 27a and b refers to a single individual and 26 and 27c refer to multiple individuals? The grammar, as you are describing what it could be, sounds awkward and as forced as it can be in English.

He replies…

As you note, there are two types of collective nouns. I use the example “flock of sheep”–flock is the group collective; sheep is the other type (what you call irregular). Terrminology isn’t the issue; it seems we basically see this the same way.

He then cites me….

what is possible in Hebrew sounds extremely awkward when you lay it all out in English.

And he replies….

Yes, that’s what happens in translation. As the old saying goes, “Translation is treason.” There is always a trade-off, a fudging that must take place from one the patient language to the target language. In this case, the use of the definite article is not exact between Hebrew and English (though it’s pretty close). The same goes for resumptive pronouns (i.e., a pronoun that refers back to an antecedent).

And cites me again….

26: “Let us make Man in Our own image, and let them …” note a plural pronoun. Though I don’t think it’s in the Hebrew the context of the plural reference to God and 27c sort of demands it.

But his answer actually gives support for what I am contending about the plurality of a’dam in verse 26……

Actually the verb “let them have have dominion” is plural in the Hebrew.

He then cites me….

27a. “So God created THE man in His Own image.” The article IS there. You are one of the few people on this board confident in your understanding enough to see what is there. Now you have suggested that the singular pronoun be “this” as in referring to the noun He spoke of creating in 26. That is, man as “mankind” or humanity. Consider how that reads. “So God created this mankind in his own image”.

And gives his contrary view….

I’m suggesting the article in 27a naturally refers back to the adam just mentioned in 26 (I used “this” as shorthand for “the one just mentioned”). There’s no need to force an awkward Engllsh translation. Assuming it is the same adam, the English translations are right to translate with “humanity/humankind” and not translate the definite article.
And cites me again….
Is there another mankind out there that we might think He was referring to? Indeed, verse 26 is not even strictly the same object as that in 27a, even if it is a collective because 26 describes the idea of mankind. Until 27a there is no actual and extant mankind to refer back to.
And scores a point by saying….

This seems off base. A definite article doesn’t necessarily mean your choosing one of many. Even in English we can say “the universe,” “the earth,” “the sun,” “the messiah,” “the church,” etc. Still, a Hebrew definite article need not be translated with “the” or anything (see above). Besides, you have the something similar (concerning the article, not singular/plural) in Gen 2:5-7 – "there was no adam [no article; perhaps fits your “idea”?] to work the ground…“the LORD God formed the man [with article].”

Your idea vs. object is too abstract for the Hebrew mindset (especially for it to show up in its grammar). It’s the general pattern in the creation days in Gen 1 for God to make a statement about intent to create (e.g., “let there be”), and then the description fulfilling that intent. Why break this consistency in the creation of adam? (I grant there are other discontinuities with adam in Day 6, but I don’t this as one of them.)

He then cites me….

…isn’t it also at least as likely that I am getting it right? That 27a and b refers to a single individual and 26 and 27c refer to multiple individuals?

Only to shoot the idea down as unlikely….

No, not likely. The grammar could be construed this way theoretically (or maybe I should say hypothetically, since we’re on a science blog), but its not the most natural reading to me. Thus, I would need strong warrant from other clues to consider it as a live option. But every angle I consider says otherwise–the general pattern in Gen 1; the poetic parallelism in v. 27; the later references to image in the Bible (against the ANE backdrop); the consistent translation and interpretation in the guild (and maybe church history, but I don’t know that); etc.

I don’t know what the rabbis did with this, but it’s the kind of thing up their alley. You might find some support among them.

He then cites me again…

The grammar, as you are describing what it could be, sounds awkward and as forced as it can be in English.

I hope I’ve cleared this up above. I was explaining the function of the article, not how the English should be translated. Our present translations are just fine.

In my view this represents the high water mark of the case against my position. It is now my turn to respond. And I start by citing him, going back to something he mentioned but perhaps did not get the full significance of….

Actually the verb “let them have have dominion” is plural in the Hebrew.

And of course this affects his arguments right down the line as I begin to point out…

Thank you for pointing that out. This appears to strongly confirm the interpretation I am giving for these verses. You say it may be that ha-adam in 27a is only referring back to the adam in 26, but if so why is that adam is paired with a plural verb in 26 and the ha-adam in 27a is paired with a singular pronoun in 27b?

Translation may be treason but that’s an awkward fit in any tongue. A much better fit is that 27 is a list of three things done to fulfill God’s intent in 26.

I cite him again….

It’s the general pattern in the creation days in Gen 1 for God to make a statement about intent to create (e.g., “let there be”), and then the description fulfilling that intent. Why break this consistency in the creation of adam?

Then reply that this is also amenable to my view…

That is just what I am saying is happening too. As I see it you are going “He said He was going to do X and then it says He did X”. I am saying “He said He was going to do X and then it says the things He did in order to do X”. I see that as what the other days do as well. If there is any difference its that in the previous circumstances He ordered some part of creation to do something and then helped. With man, He did it Himself.

I then cite him again….

I hope I’ve cleared this up above…Our present translations are just fine.
…….. Thanks for the iron sharpening!

And reply….

As for our present translations- they are getting better. For example most of them shifted from the old translating ha-adam in chapter two as “Adam” to the more correct translation of “the man”. They just haven’t made that final step yet and moved to consistency by extending that to the ha-adam in chapter one.


He then replies, and seems more conciliatory…..starting with him citing me….

why is that adam is paired with a plural verb in 26 and the ha-adam in 27a is paired with a singular pronoun in 27b?

Good question. Assuming my position for now, one could argue that it’s simply stylistic (i.e., the narrator liked variety, and this would form a chiasm of plural [26], singular [27a], singular [27b], plural [27c]) (EDITORS NOTE: the chiastic structure fits beautifully with what the Revealed Cosmology says about this passage, but it was not discussed here) Or, one could add a theological nuance: Taking advantage of the collective noun, the narrator wants to emphasize that image of God applied individually and corporately (counter-intuitively, the plural focuses on individuals; the singular focuses on corporate). This is done elsewhere. One thinks of the “seed” (another collective noun) in Gen 3:15 and 22:17-18 (though this example may help your case), or in another vein the David’s “son” in the Davidic covenant (2 Sam 7), which refers both to a succession of sons (i.e., dynasty) and to the greater Son. My own work in Deuteronomy shows the tension in the alternation of the singular “you” vs. the plural “y’all” (perhaps the only time Southern English is helpful!). The point is there could be a good explanation for the phenomenon within the traditional reading.

He then cites me again…

If there is any difference it’s that in the previous circumstances He ordered some part of creation to do something and then helped. With man, He did it Himself.

I’d have to think about this more on whether there’s a real distinction intended. It’s also possible different phrases are being used without too much distinction (though, I admit, it’s possible depending on authorial intent). The main differences with Day 6B (humans) that I see are: more time/text spent on it; divine deliberation (“Let us”); the lacking “according to their kinds”; the status as image of God; the added “very good” which is also delayed as a reflection on all 6 Days and not just Day Six (though “good” lacking in Day 2 since, as Waltke quips, God hates Mondays too!); and the use of the definite article “the sixth” (it also appears on “the seventh” in 2:3, but not Days 1-5; though I’m not quite sure the significance of it; I wonder what this does to our previous discussion of the article).

And I reply, beginning with citing him on his admission that something in the text may help my case…

This is done elsewhere. One thinks of the “seed” (another collective noun) in Gen 3:15 and 22:17-18 (though this example may help your case)

And I am quick to agree…..

I do think it helps my case. As I suppose you know, Galatians 3:16 throws that collective noun thing out the window and says that because it says “seed” instead of “seeds” in Genesis 22 that it is referring to Christ and not all the physical offspring of Abraham. And that’s fine too because we know that the true sons of Abraham are those who have the faith of Abraham- the body of Christ is a collective even if Christ is singular. The spiritual reality of what is happening goes to the edge of what human language is able to convey, and perhaps beyond it.

Genesis 3:15 helps my case too, for the same reasons. And as a bonus, it negates the claim that 3:20 is evidence against an adamic race before the man Adam. “Mother of all the living” is a strange thing to say about someone who had just gotten them both killed. But it makes sense if Yahweh-Elohim told them that the 2nd Adam would come, God’s only begotten son, through the seed of a woman and redeem mankind. All “in Christ” are the living. The Christ-centered model makes sense of what otherwise does not, either in context of the passage or bounced against the evidence from the natural world that there were people before the time period Adam must have lived in if the text is accurate.

So we do see a pattern here in Genesis where the ambiguity in nouns being collective or singular are later discovered to point to Christ and Christ is both singular as the man and collective as in the believers which comprise His body. This is of course like the idea of the person of a king standing in to represent his nation. So really 1:26-27 fits into the same pattern.


And I cite him again…

The point is there could be a good explanation for the phenomenon within the traditional reading.

Here it seems he has moved from my reading being “unlikely” to there “could be” an explanation that fits with the traditional reading…language which completely reverses the earlier probabilities…but I even question the weight of validity that goes with the “traditional reading” label…..

Isn’t the real traditional reading the way that the Jewish rabbis would see it over thousands of years? I should think they would not have a problem with what I am saying about “the man” and the verbs and pronouns. They would be fine with the idea that “man” in 26 is a plural thinking ahead to the race as a concept while 27a and 27b were singular (Adam). That’s what they believed anyway. Of course where I take it from there is not something they would approve of, but I just mean structurally and what the words are saying. The “traditional” reading from 1611 to today may be different but I suspect if one goes before that it would not be. You are in a much better position to say than I of course.

I also pointed out that his questions regarding the lack of “good” in day two and the lack of definite articles on all but day six could be answered by my book…

No need to get side-tracked by these jewels hidden in the word here and it takes a long time to build the case where it all fits beautifully together, but I do think I have been shown the significance of these things and write about it in the book 1.

In his reply to me he cites me….

Isn’t the real traditional reading the way that the Jewish rabbis would see it over thousands of years?

Reference? That’d be interesting to study.

And cites me again…

The “traditional” reading from 1611 to today may be different but I suspect if one goes before that it would not be. 

Then questions me…

Are you suggesting the Christian reading of Gen 1:26-27 changed in 1611?

So it is now my turn to reply and I start by citing him…

but I myself am a bit cautious to start finding things in a text without warrant, nor do I want a Christological reading to dismiss/discount earlier layers. Perhaps we have different hermeneutical grids at play here. I prefer Christotelic to Christological, though I’ve shifted in the past couple of years to think more Christologically

The issue then I suppose is the metric one uses to decide how many dots have to line up before something is “warranted”. I don’t discount the earlier layers. I am one of those here that does NOT ascribe to a straight-up sequential reading of Genesis. I am thus keeping more of the original layer and view than most here. There was an historical Adam and Eve and that is a part of what this text is talking about here. But Christ is also there in the text, as are the adamites outside the garden which makes the parallels between Christ and Adam stronger than it would be were his role the father of humanity.

As for the different grids, we are many members but one body. I think we can each emphasize the thing that we do while still seeing and proclaiming value in the part that the other emphasizes..

And I cite him again…he is not disputing me at this point but just commenting on the text…..

That’s a cheeky thing Paul does there …His point about Christ as the ultimate seed is a good Christological reading (already nestled in the ambiguity of the Hebrew text). This does not discount the original meaning, which also includes a plural referent.

So I replied….

Well it is an indication that he valued the Septuagint relative to what would be the Masoretic text more than we do today. It is useful to consider both. This is the kind of thing I think an apostle can do that I can’t! That and the Gal. 4 comparison of the two women as two covenants being “what the law really says.” Still, if those are authoritative examples of how far the text can be stretched to insert Christ (while not denying the reality of the underlying events) then what I am doing is well within the bounds of sound handling of the word. Indeed it explains things that even an expert like you have some difficulty coming up with a better explanation for.

And I cite him…..

Are you suggesting the Christian reading of Gen 1:26-27 changed in 1611?

And reply…

I am suggesting that this period saw the word translated from Greek and Hebrew to the King’s English and other European languages around this time so that the translation of the text went through the hands of a very small number of people who had only a fraction of the knowledge and documents we have available today. And these people were connected to one another in thought and culture so that if they got something a little off then it would be copied and repeated until it gained momentum as “tradition”. This would be so even if the underlying case from the text was not so strong as the tradition which supported it. This is, in my view, exactly what happened with the tradition to translate “ha-adam” as “Adam” in chapter two, as the King James and other early versions have done. It stood that way for centuries even though those with the right training knew what it literally said was “the man”. Finally, in the last 70 years or so the reality of what was in the text of chapter two overcame the tradition about how it was supposed to be interpreted. Most of the most recent translations properly translate it “the man” now. This momentum has not extended to 1:27…yet.

All that was left was for me to provide a reference that the “traditional” reading supported a translation of 1:27a as “the man” instead of “man”. Below is what I found…

The best I can do with five minutes of internet research with cartoons blaring and three year-old whining, page 33 of the document on this link references an apparently large school of Jewish thought which translated 1:27 as “the man”.
See last paragraph of page 33
A Study of the Development and Significance of the Idea of the ‘Image of God’ from its Origins in Genesis through its Hi...

PS- as near as I could tell no side in the debate at the time (5th century), Christian or Jewish, took 1:27a to refer to more than a single man (or maybe a single couple).


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And that was it. Not that I sold him or anything, but not the thrashing I had been promised by any means. If anything, it seems he was more open to it at the end of the discussion that at the beginning.
Get the book

 Genesis 1


26: Let us make man in our own Image, according to our own likeness...and let them have dominion
27 So God created THE Man in his own image-
     In the image of God created He him, male and female created He them.

- the Mark Moore translation.

************************************

I have been a frequent visitor at the "Peaceful Science" forum. They are a highly educated group, and very opinionated. What a guy like me is doing there I have no idea. Anyway they have been telling me that my take on these verses must be wrong, and a real Hebrew scholar would easily refute my claims about the text. In particular the presence of the definite article before "man" in verse 27. For months I have been saying "Well, if there is one out there, come on and let's see." Finally, one kind soul stepped forward. I reproduce the relevant discussion below. Needless to say, I would not bother to put this up unless I thought it went very well. His turn is in dark green, mind in black. The shaded boxes are where one of us is quoting the other prior to commenting on it. The bold print is where I come back as an editor to try and keep straight for the reader who is talking and what is happening….

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I’m an OT/Hebrew Professor. You’re mistaken about the necessary reference of the singular pronoun in v. 27. As you note the antecedent (‘adam) is a collective noun (thus always grammaticlly singular, whether referring to an individual or group). If it’s is meant to be a group, then a subsequent pronoun could either be singular (to show grammatical congruity) or plural (to show conceptual congruity). Both are legit in Hebrew…only larger context can decide.

Also, be careful not to make too much of the article in v. 27. Though Hebrew is closer to Greek in the use of articulation, they are not identical. The article could simply be a reference back to the ‘adam in v. 26 (I.e., this ‘adam).


I reply citing him…

You’re mistaken about the necessary reference of the singular pronoun in v. 27. As you note the antecedent (‘adam) is a collective noun (thus always grammaticlly singular, whether referring to an individual or group)
Well Professor I am glad to see you here. I do hope to pick your brain a bit about this and other passages.

Now when I speak of a collective noun I am referring to verse 1:26*. That is a collective noun. I should think that the antecedent to the “o-tow” in the second segment of verse 27 is the ha-adam in the first segment of verse 27. After all the verb is different in verses 26 and 27. His intention is to make (asah) in verse 26. What He does to bring that intention to reality is create (bara) in verse 27.

So is the antecedent to the “o-tow” in the second segment of verse 27 the “ha-adam” in the immediately preceding first segment of verse 27 or is it the “adam” back in verse 26?

*with the caveat that the Body of Christ is also collective and it too can be described with a singular pronoun. I do in fact think that’s what its saying here and in 1:27 but it is my guess that this is not what you meant when you were tying o-tow to a collective noun.

He answers…..
The pronoun goes back to 27a, but I’m suggesting that ha-adam in 27a need not be distinct from adam in 26. In fact I don’t see a good reason to separate them-neither by the change of verbs (the two do overlap semantically quite a bit) or the presence of the article in 27a.

Btw I’ve enjoyed much of what you’ve written on this site (I’m one of those lurkers). Sorry for the first correspondence was on a point of disagreement.

And I reply first citing him…

You’re mistaken about the necessary reference of the singular pronoun in v. 27. As you note the antecedent (‘adam) is a collective noun (thus always grammaticlly singular, whether referring to an individual or group).

Let me back up a bit and be more specific. We do speak loosely and say “this is a collective noun” but “Adam” is not a true collective noun. Examples of true collective nouns are things like “bunch”, “board”, “herd” etc. Collective nouns like that refer to a group of things and yet still have a plural form, while at the same time they always refer to a group of whatever is in the collective.

This is not the case at all with a-dam. Rather this is just a noun which has the same form whether singular or plural. It is a case of an irregular noun where the single and plural forms are unchanging, like (the example I think I gave in the book) deer.

So then I can say “In four days we can legally hunt deer” and this refers to the entire species. It is collective in that sense, just as 1:26 is referring to a collective. But should I say “Last year I got an award for the deer I shot” then the presence of the definite article “the” indicates that it is referring to a specific deer or (because singular and plural form is the same) a group of deer. The article clarifies that I was not claiming to have eradicated the entire species. Notice that my prior reference to the species deer (“we can legally hunt deer”) and my use of the definite article (“the deer I shot”) does in a sense refer back to deer as a concept or the whole group of them but it is wrong to say that this reference means the deer specified by the definite article is equal to the entire species of deer or even the concept of deer.

Now it may still be unclear whether I have taken a single animal or a group of them, owning to the identical form of the noun in singular or plural. So if I follow on with this statement and say “He had the biggest antlers of any taken that year” then you know that I am referring to a single deer because I followed the reference to the deer I had taken with a singular pronoun.

Now you are the expert in Hebrew, and therefore I accept that what you say is possible in Hebrew, but considering what I have written above, your point about what is possible in Hebrew sounds extremely awkward when you lay it all out in English.

26: “Let us make Man in Our own image, and let them…” note a plural pronoun. Though I don’t think its in the Hebrew the context of the plural reference to God and 27c sort of demands it. That’s why the vast majority of translations give it a plural pronoun, though a few don’t use a pronoun here. The only one I can find that uses a singular pronoun is the Douay-Rheims Bible. Now you are aware that I don’t take translations as binding when they translate the Hebrew inconsistently, but here the use of the plural seems justified.

I again cite him..

Also, be careful not to make too much of the article in v. 27. Though Hebrew is closer to Greek in the use of articulation, they are not identical. The article could simply be a reference back to the ‘adam in v. 26 (I.e., this ‘adam).

 27a. “So God created THE man in His Own image.” The article IS there. You are one of the few people on this board confident in your understanding enough to see what is there. Now you have suggested that the singular pronoun be “this” as in referring to the noun He spoke of creating in 26. That is, man as “mankind” or humanity. Consider how that reads. “So God created this mankind in his own image”.
Is there another mankind out there that we might think He was referring to? Indeed, verse 26 is not even strictly the same object as that in 27a, even if it is a collective because 26 describes the idea of mankind. Until 27a there is no actual and extant mankind to refer back to.

So while I understand that definite articles can be used to refer back to an already given example of something, this isn’t quite that. So one might say “King David went out to battle. THE king ordered his army to surround Moab.” Yes, in that case the definite article refers us back to David. But that’s because A) David was not the only king in creation so an article to make the ordering king more specific adds clarity to the text and B) There was already a David there to refer back to. He actually existed. Did Mankind already exist in 1:26? Does the article add any clarity to the text if it is only referring to humanity as a whole in this situation?

The vast majority of translators (with good reason that’s the key) assign a plural pronoun to the adam in verse 26. The Hebrew explicitly pairs both a definite article and a singular pronoun with the adam in 27a-b. It is not until you get to 27c that the pronoun switches up to plural again, matching what is implied in 26.

Look, you are the expert in Hebrew, and so if you say it’s possible, if one threads the needle just so, that I am mis-interpreting the passage then I accept that it is possible, if one threads the needle just so, that I am mis-interpreting the passage. But isn’t it also at least as likely that I am getting it right? That 27a and b refers to a single individual and 26 and 27c refer to multiple individuals? The grammar, as you are describing what it could be, sounds awkward and as forced as it can be in English.

He replies…

As you note, there are two types of collective nouns. I use the example “flock of sheep”–flock is the group collective; sheep is the other type (what you call irregular). Terrminology isn’t the issue; it seems we basically see this the same way.

He then cites me….

what is possible in Hebrew sounds extremely awkward when you lay it all out in English.

And he replies….

Yes, that’s what happens in translation. As the old saying goes, “Translation is treason.” There is always a trade-off, a fudging that must take place from one the patient language to the target language. In this case, the use of the definite article is not exact between Hebrew and English (though it’s pretty close). The same goes for resumptive pronouns (i.e., a pronoun that refers back to an antecedent).

And cites me again….

26: “Let us make Man in Our own image, and let them …” note a plural pronoun. Though I don’t think it’s in the Hebrew the context of the plural reference to God and 27c sort of demands it.

But his answer actually gives support for what I am contending about the plurality of a’dam in verse 26……

Actually the verb “let them have have dominion” is plural in the Hebrew.

He then cites me….

27a. “So God created THE man in His Own image.” The article IS there. You are one of the few people on this board confident in your understanding enough to see what is there. Now you have suggested that the singular pronoun be “this” as in referring to the noun He spoke of creating in 26. That is, man as “mankind” or humanity. Consider how that reads. “So God created this mankind in his own image”.

And gives his contrary view….

I’m suggesting the article in 27a naturally refers back to the adam just mentioned in 26 (I used “this” as shorthand for “the one just mentioned”). There’s no need to force an awkward Engllsh translation. Assuming it is the same adam, the English translations are right to translate with “humanity/humankind” and not translate the definite article.
And cites me again….
Is there another mankind out there that we might think He was referring to? Indeed, verse 26 is not even strictly the same object as that in 27a, even if it is a collective because 26 describes the idea of mankind. Until 27a there is no actual and extant mankind to refer back to.
And scores a point by saying….

This seems off base. A definite article doesn’t necessarily mean your choosing one of many. Even in English we can say “the universe,” “the earth,” “the sun,” “the messiah,” “the church,” etc. Still, a Hebrew definite article need not be translated with “the” or anything (see above). Besides, you have the something similar (concerning the article, not singular/plural) in Gen 2:5-7 – "there was no adam [no article; perhaps fits your “idea”?] to work the ground…“the LORD God formed the man [with article].”

Your idea vs. object is too abstract for the Hebrew mindset (especially for it to show up in its grammar). It’s the general pattern in the creation days in Gen 1 for God to make a statement about intent to create (e.g., “let there be”), and then the description fulfilling that intent. Why break this consistency in the creation of adam? (I grant there are other discontinuities with adam in Day 6, but I don’t this as one of them.)

He then cites me….

…isn’t it also at least as likely that I am getting it right? That 27a and b refers to a single individual and 26 and 27c refer to multiple individuals?

Only to shoot the idea down as unlikely….

No, not likely. The grammar could be construed this way theoretically (or maybe I should say hypothetically, since we’re on a science blog), but its not the most natural reading to me. Thus, I would need strong warrant from other clues to consider it as a live option. But every angle I consider says otherwise–the general pattern in Gen 1; the poetic parallelism in v. 27; the later references to image in the Bible (against the ANE backdrop); the consistent translation and interpretation in the guild (and maybe church history, but I don’t know that); etc.

I don’t know what the rabbis did with this, but it’s the kind of thing up their alley. You might find some support among them.

He then cites me again…

The grammar, as you are describing what it could be, sounds awkward and as forced as it can be in English.

I hope I’ve cleared this up above. I was explaining the function of the article, not how the English should be translated. Our present translations are just fine.

In my view this represents the high water mark of the case against my position. It is now my turn to respond. And I start by citing him, going back to something he mentioned but perhaps did not get the full significance of….

Actually the verb “let them have have dominion” is plural in the Hebrew.

And of course this affects his arguments right down the line as I begin to point out…

Thank you for pointing that out. This appears to strongly confirm the interpretation I am giving for these verses. You say it may be that ha-adam in 27a is only referring back to the adam in 26, but if so why is that adam is paired with a plural verb in 26 and the ha-adam in 27a is paired with a singular pronoun in 27b?

Translation may be treason but that’s an awkward fit in any tongue. A much better fit is that 27 is a list of three things done to fulfill God’s intent in 26.

I cite him again….

It’s the general pattern in the creation days in Gen 1 for God to make a statement about intent to create (e.g., “let there be”), and then the description fulfilling that intent. Why break this consistency in the creation of adam?

Then reply that this is also amenable to my view…

That is just what I am saying is happening too. As I see it you are going “He said He was going to do X and then it says He did X”. I am saying “He said He was going to do X and then it says the things He did in order to do X”. I see that as what the other days do as well. If there is any difference its that in the previous circumstances He ordered some part of creation to do something and then helped. With man, He did it Himself.

I then cite him again….

I hope I’ve cleared this up above…Our present translations are just fine.
…….. Thanks for the iron sharpening!

And reply….

As for our present translations- they are getting better. For example most of them shifted from the old translating ha-adam in chapter two as “Adam” to the more correct translation of “the man”. They just haven’t made that final step yet and moved to consistency by extending that to the ha-adam in chapter one.


He then replies, and seems more conciliatory…..starting with him citing me….

why is that adam is paired with a plural verb in 26 and the ha-adam in 27a is paired with a singular pronoun in 27b?

Good question. Assuming my position for now, one could argue that it’s simply stylistic (i.e., the narrator liked variety, and this would form a chiasm of plural [26], singular [27a], singular [27b], plural [27c]) (EDITORS NOTE: the chiastic structure fits beautifully with what the Revealed Cosmology says about this passage, but it was not discussed here) Or, one could add a theological nuance: Taking advantage of the collective noun, the narrator wants to emphasize that image of God applied individually and corporately (counter-intuitively, the plural focuses on individuals; the singular focuses on corporate). This is done elsewhere. One thinks of the “seed” (another collective noun) in Gen 3:15 and 22:17-18 (though this example may help your case), or in another vein the David’s “son” in the Davidic covenant (2 Sam 7), which refers both to a succession of sons (i.e., dynasty) and to the greater Son. My own work in Deuteronomy shows the tension in the alternation of the singular “you” vs. the plural “y’all” (perhaps the only time Southern English is helpful!). The point is there could be a good explanation for the phenomenon within the traditional reading.

He then cites me again…

If there is any difference it’s that in the previous circumstances He ordered some part of creation to do something and then helped. With man, He did it Himself.

I’d have to think about this more on whether there’s a real distinction intended. It’s also possible different phrases are being used without too much distinction (though, I admit, it’s possible depending on authorial intent). The main differences with Day 6B (humans) that I see are: more time/text spent on it; divine deliberation (“Let us”); the lacking “according to their kinds”; the status as image of God; the added “very good” which is also delayed as a reflection on all 6 Days and not just Day Six (though “good” lacking in Day 2 since, as Waltke quips, God hates Mondays too!); and the use of the definite article “the sixth” (it also appears on “the seventh” in 2:3, but not Days 1-5; though I’m not quite sure the significance of it; I wonder what this does to our previous discussion of the article).

And I reply, beginning with citing him on his admission that something in the text may help my case…

This is done elsewhere. One thinks of the “seed” (another collective noun) in Gen 3:15 and 22:17-18 (though this example may help your case)

And I am quick to agree…..

I do think it helps my case. As I suppose you know, Galatians 3:16 throws that collective noun thing out the window and says that because it says “seed” instead of “seeds” in Genesis 22 that it is referring to Christ and not all the physical offspring of Abraham. And that’s fine too because we know that the true sons of Abraham are those who have the faith of Abraham- the body of Christ is a collective even if Christ is singular. The spiritual reality of what is happening goes to the edge of what human language is able to convey, and perhaps beyond it.

Genesis 3:15 helps my case too, for the same reasons. And as a bonus, it negates the claim that 3:20 is evidence against an adamic race before the man Adam. “Mother of all the living” is a strange thing to say about someone who had just gotten them both killed. But it makes sense if Yahweh-Elohim told them that the 2nd Adam would come, God’s only begotten son, through the seed of a woman and redeem mankind. All “in Christ” are the living. The Christ-centered model makes sense of what otherwise does not, either in context of the passage or bounced against the evidence from the natural world that there were people before the time period Adam must have lived in if the text is accurate.

So we do see a pattern here in Genesis where the ambiguity in nouns being collective or singular are later discovered to point to Christ and Christ is both singular as the man and collective as in the believers which comprise His body. This is of course like the idea of the person of a king standing in to represent his nation. So really 1:26-27 fits into the same pattern.


And I cite him again…

The point is there could be a good explanation for the phenomenon within the traditional reading.

Here it seems he has moved from my reading being “unlikely” to there “could be” an explanation that fits with the traditional reading…language which completely reverses the earlier probabilities…but I even question the weight of validity that goes with the “traditional reading” label…..

Isn’t the real traditional reading the way that the Jewish rabbis would see it over thousands of years? I should think they would not have a problem with what I am saying about “the man” and the verbs and pronouns. They would be fine with the idea that “man” in 26 is a plural thinking ahead to the race as a concept while 27a and 27b were singular (Adam). That’s what they believed anyway. Of course where I take it from there is not something they would approve of, but I just mean structurally and what the words are saying. The “traditional” reading from 1611 to today may be different but I suspect if one goes before that it would not be. You are in a much better position to say than I of course.

I also pointed out that his questions regarding the lack of “good” in day two and the lack of definite articles on all but day six could be answered by my book…

No need to get side-tracked by these jewels hidden in the word here and it takes a long time to build the case where it all fits beautifully together, but I do think I have been shown the significance of these things and write about it in the book 1.

In his reply to me he cites me….

Isn’t the real traditional reading the way that the Jewish rabbis would see it over thousands of years?

Reference? That’d be interesting to study.

And cites me again…

The “traditional” reading from 1611 to today may be different but I suspect if one goes before that it would not be. 

Then questions me…

Are you suggesting the Christian reading of Gen 1:26-27 changed in 1611?

So it is now my turn to reply and I start by citing him…

but I myself am a bit cautious to start finding things in a text without warrant, nor do I want a Christological reading to dismiss/discount earlier layers. Perhaps we have different hermeneutical grids at play here. I prefer Christotelic to Christological, though I’ve shifted in the past couple of years to think more Christologically

The issue then I suppose is the metric one uses to decide how many dots have to line up before something is “warranted”. I don’t discount the earlier layers. I am one of those here that does NOT ascribe to a straight-up sequential reading of Genesis. I am thus keeping more of the original layer and view than most here. There was an historical Adam and Eve and that is a part of what this text is talking about here. But Christ is also there in the text, as are the adamites outside the garden which makes the parallels between Christ and Adam stronger than it would be were his role the father of humanity.

As for the different grids, we are many members but one body. I think we can each emphasize the thing that we do while still seeing and proclaiming value in the part that the other emphasizes..

And I cite him again…he is not disputing me at this point but just commenting on the text…..

That’s a cheeky thing Paul does there …His point about Christ as the ultimate seed is a good Christological reading (already nestled in the ambiguity of the Hebrew text). This does not discount the original meaning, which also includes a plural referent.

So I replied….

Well it is an indication that he valued the Septuagint relative to what would be the Masoretic text more than we do today. It is useful to consider both. This is the kind of thing I think an apostle can do that I can’t! That and the Gal. 4 comparison of the two women as two covenants being “what the law really says.” Still, if those are authoritative examples of how far the text can be stretched to insert Christ (while not denying the reality of the underlying events) then what I am doing is well within the bounds of sound handling of the word. Indeed it explains things that even an expert like you have some difficulty coming up with a better explanation for.

And I cite him…..

Are you suggesting the Christian reading of Gen 1:26-27 changed in 1611?

And reply…

I am suggesting that this period saw the word translated from Greek and Hebrew to the King’s English and other European languages around this time so that the translation of the text went through the hands of a very small number of people who had only a fraction of the knowledge and documents we have available today. And these people were connected to one another in thought and culture so that if they got something a little off then it would be copied and repeated until it gained momentum as “tradition”. This would be so even if the underlying case from the text was not so strong as the tradition which supported it. This is, in my view, exactly what happened with the tradition to translate “ha-adam” as “Adam” in chapter two, as the King James and other early versions have done. It stood that way for centuries even though those with the right training knew what it literally said was “the man”. Finally, in the last 70 years or so the reality of what was in the text of chapter two overcame the tradition about how it was supposed to be interpreted. Most of the most recent translations properly translate it “the man” now. This momentum has not extended to 1:27…yet.

All that was left was for me to provide a reference that the “traditional” reading supported a translation of 1:27a as “the man” instead of “man”. Below is what I found…

The best I can do with five minutes of internet research with cartoons blaring and three year-old whining, page 33 of the document on this link references an apparently large school of Jewish thought which translated 1:27 as “the man”.
See last paragraph of page 33
https://discourse-cdn-sjc2.com/standard17/uploads/peacefulscience/original/1X/fa023cb318b93f7dd58d5dcdbfdd94bc3b444dbe.png
A Study of the Development and Significance of the Idea of the ‘Image of God’ from its Origins in Genesis through its Hi...

PS- as near as I could tell no side in the debate at the time (5th century), Christian or Jewish, took 1:27a to refer to more than a single man (or maybe a single couple).


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And that was it. Not that I sold him or anything, but not the thrashing I had been promised by any means. If anything, it seems he was more open to it at the end of the discussion that at the beginning.
Get the book
https://1.bp.blogspot.com/-W4Fp6PJ9d3c/Wduqt8Zbu_I/AAAAAAAABBA/ITmBCe1mh1MFLcbmsHWdFUreUE7bOrK0ACLcBGAs/s200/Early%2BGenesis%2Bfront%2Bcover.jpg