Saturday, December 01, 2018

Misunderstanding the Hebrew Bible: The First Creation Story, Genesis 1:1-26

Category: Mind Change

Hebrew Biblical History Simplified: Genesis 1:1-26: Parshaht B’raysheet part 1 - The First Creation Story

by Me’ira Pitkapaasi

Light was created and separated from darkness.  Then water, with a separation of the water on the Earth from the water above the Sky.  The water on the Earth gathered to allow land to appear, and plants and trees arrived giving seeds and fruit. We are next introduced to the Moon, the Sun, and far off stars in the sky.  We’re given fish, water mammals, birds, “sea monsters”, and animals that crept out of the sea onto the land.  Finally, cattle and other land animals appear. And humans, too, though this creation was to be in God’s image.  End line 25.

The traditional translation that comes next, in chapter 1, verse 26 is very controversial among modern Hebrew Biblical scholars and Christian scholars alike.  Just what is it that the humans are doing here on Earth?  The first section of this line, וַיֹּאמֶר אֱלֹהִים, נַעֲשֶׂה אָדָם בְּצַלְמֵנוּ כִּדְמוּתֵנוּ; is almost universally translated, “And God said: ‘Let us make man in our image, after our likeness.”

It is the next phrase that causes vehement discussion.  וְיִרְדּוּ בִדְגַת הַיָּם וּבְעוֹף הַשָּׁמַיִם, וּבַבְּהֵמָה וּבְכָל-הָאָרֶץ, וּבְכָל-הָרֶמֶשׂ, הָרֹמֵשׂ עַל-הָאָרֶץ
The Jewish Publication Society, from the Conservative Jewish movement, states, “They shall rule the fish of the sea, the birds of the sky, the cattle, the whole earth, and all the creeping things that creep on Earth.”  Sinai Publishing, from Masorti movement (modern traditional Israeli Jews) states, “They shall have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the fowl of the heaven, and over the beasts, and over all the earth, and over every creeping thing upon the earth.”    The Christian Protestant King James Bible agrees. Rabbi W. Gunther Plaut, on behalf of the CCAR Press of the Reform Movement translates, “And let them hold sway.” The most recent Catholic New Jerusalem Bible states, “And let them be masters.”

Looking at the Hebrew, not one of these definitions makes the grade.  Immediately following “Let us make man in our image, after our likeness,” we are literally told, word for word in the above Hebrew, “And He went down into the fish of the sea and in the far away heavens, and in all the Earth, and in all the insects, the insects on the ground.”

The majority of Jews and Christians alike do not read or understand the original Hebrew of the Bible, and therefore accept what is written and told to them by Sunday school teachers and clergy alike – who themselves might not fully understand the original version of this story.  It is essential that our religious leaders and educators look closely at what they are reading before they pass on their self-professed scholarly knowledge of this worldwide Number One Seller book.

Anonymous, The New Jerusalem Bible: The Complete Text of the Ancient Canon of the Scriptures: Standard Edition, 2018.

The Jewish Publication Society, JPS Hebrew-English Tanakh: The traditional Hebrew Text and The New JPS Translation – Second Edition, Philadelphia, 1999.

The Jewish Publication Society, The Torah: The Five Books of Moses: A new translation of the Holy Scriptures according to the Masoretic text – First Section, Philadelphia, 1962.

King James Bible, public domain in the U.S.A..

Plaut, Rabbi W. Gunther, The Torah: A Modern Commentary: Revised Edition, Central Conference of American Rabbis (CCAR), 1981.

Sinai Publishing, The Hebrew Bible with English Translation: Genesis – Braysheet – and Haftarahs, Tel Aviv, 1965.


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Old Comments

  • This is a nice thesis. However, we are all defined by our own perceptions, of words, language and so forth. What is not open to perception is universal realities, the sun, the wind, the rain and so forth. Those define ‘God’ more than any human, any book or any faith ever could.

    Posted by deminizer  on  02/14  at  12:04 PM
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