Tuesday, August 28, 2007

Adam did what?

A recent post on the Coded for Worship blog asks: "Adam did what?" The blogger, Andy, compares the ESV and TNIV translations of Gen. 4:1:
I’ve decided to read through the Bible twice before the end of the year. Once for story’s sake with the TNIV. The second time to be a content-focused (more in-depth) reading using the ESV, the Bible version that I use 95% of the time. By the time I’d reached chapter 4 of Genesis, I began to think that I’d put the TNIV back on the shelf. I thought this because, as I took as sip of my coffee and started reading verse 1 of chapter 4, I stopped dead in my tracks.

Adam made love to his wife Eve, and she became pregnant and gave birth to Cain.
-Genesis 4:1 (TNIV)

Adam did what?! I mean, I know what Adam did (he knew Eve), but do you really have to tell me that they made love? Does it really need to be correctly stated that they consummated the first marriage in history? I’m sure there are entire papers written on both the defense and criticism of this one verse in this particular translation. I’m not going to add to that collection. But I will say this: I’m wondering if the TNIV is going to be worth my time.

Then again — I suppose that for someone who didn’t grow up in an area so heavily influenced by the Christian sub-culture that exists here in “the south,” reading the phrase “Adam knew his wife” might make about as much sense as a hearing kid asking his mom if he can help her “salt hay” in front of a skillet full of fried eggs.
The ESV translation of Gen. 4:1 is:
Now Adam knew Eve his wife, and she conceived and bore Cain, saying, "I have gotten a man with the help of the LORD."
I think that for most current speakers of English, the word "knew" communicates far less accurately what Adam did than does the wording of the TNIV. Another win for the TNIV!

1 comment:

David McKay said...

Concerning Adam knowing his wife, in Australia at least, people often answer the question
"Do you know Johanna?"
with "Not in the biblical sense"
indicating they know perfectly well what "knowing" means in Genesis 4:1.