Friday, April 1, 2011

What Do You Think About Genesis 3:16?

Jay sends me a fb message asking,
... on Genesis 3:16. What are your thoughts on this verse? תּשׁוּקה αποστροφη desire, recourse, return ????
My reply:
...on G3:16 ... the LXX is fascinating with its choice of ἀποστροφή.  I'd compare with the choice in the nearby G4:7 (and why not ἐπιστροφὴ, as in Song of Songs 7:10)? And there's what Oedipus says to his sons as he lays dying, preparing for Hades (in Oedipus the King by Sophocles): "Ὦ παῖδες, ἥκει τῷδ’ ἐπ’ ἀνδρὶ θέσφατος βίου τελευτή, κοὐκέτ’ ἔστ’ ἀποστροφή." Are the translating Jews saying something here in G3:16? I'd say they're signaling "Eve's" or "Life's" desire ( תּשׁוּקה ) as "away from" rather than "towards" the mortal, human man? In "The Women's Bible," Lillie Devereux Blake stresses "Then follows what has been called the curse. Is it not rather a prediction?... It is a pity that all versions of the Bible do not give this word ["Life" in G3:20] instead of the Hebrew Eve. She was Life, the eternal mother, the first representative of the more valuable and important half of the human race." So, the LXX: Ζωή. The Greek translation is certainly playing with, leaving open, and opening up the meanings of, the Hebrew. What are your thoughts?
Thanks for your comments. You seem to have something more than I do. I really am puzzled. There seems something so rich here. What is happening in this curse and what is to be the eventual solution? Victor Hamilton in his commentary suggests that the LXX translators got it wrong. I don't know, but surely they had a reason. A reason to translate תּשׁוּקה as αποστροφη in 3:16 and 4:7 but as ἐπιστροφὴ in Song of Song as you said. And I too cannot understand why the other translators are not translating חוּה Eve as the Jewish translators did Ζωή. I learned the name Eve as a boy and it meant nothing to me until the first time I read her name in the LXX. Wow, what a difference, after the curse the she-man is named by the now curse man, Life. What hope after death. But what is the relationship of the αποστροφη in 3:16 and 4:7 Then rule in 3:16 משׁל κυριεύσει but in 4:7 αρξεις I really don't know.
What great questions and wonderful uncertainties here. I'd love to ask Sylvie Honigman (a wonderful LXX historian at Tel Aviv University), who makes the claim that to its earliest Jewish readers, the Septuagint was “at least as sacred as the Hebrew original.” And I believe Naomi Seidman (Koret Professor of Jewish Culture and Director of the Richard S. Dinner Center for Jewish Studies at Graduate Theological Union, and a translation theorist) could speculate on how the Talmud version of the LXX's history might offer some ideas on what the Septuagint translators were up to (if *seeming* to get it wrong). Would you mind if I posted our fb conversation here as a blogpost (at / to see if anyone else has thoughts?
Yes, you may post it. Looking forward to seeing what others might add.
So now it's your turn.  What can you add to our conversation?  What do you think about Genesis 3:16 (the writer's and translators' choices)?