Thursday, August 12, 2010

gen 3:22

I went to some Doug Green lectures yesterday. Good stuff. An interesting new take on Gen 3:22.

"And the LORD God said, "The man has now become like one of us, knowing good and evil. He must not be allowed to reach out his hand and take also from the tree of life and eat, and live forever."

What if 'has now become' was translated 'used to be'?

"And the LORD God said, "The man used to be like one of us, knowing good and evil. He must not be allowed to reach out his hand and take also from the tree of life and eat, and live forever."

The man [and woman] were already like God. They knew the difference between good and evil. But now they don't. Their minds have been darkened (Rom 1). It would be bad if they lived forever. They must leave the garden.

I'm drawn to Doug's alternate translation because it makes better sense than the traditional 'has now become'. The way I've heard the traditional translation explained is that Adam and Eve were previously innocent. Post-fall they 'knew' evil in the way that a husband 'knows' his wife. They'd experienced it. I struggle with this explanation because it makes the sinful state sound like the mature state of humanity. It almost glorifies sin. 'Used to be' captures the great fall from wisdom and knowledge that happened in ... the fall!

I know no Hebrew so I can't make a call on this. I've heard that 'have now become' is how that tense is usually rendered elsewhere in the OT. Anyone know anything?


  1. I know nothing.

    But I'm wary of new takes on things. They're usually wrong.

    And the traditional reading for me makes good sense. To have become like God is to become the judge of what is right and wrong. It's to kick God off the throne and to become the boss.

    The word "knowing" is probably the key. I'll have a bit more of a think about it and read what others say.

  2. I know a little.

    So, for instance, 3:1 uses exactly the same verb. Is it that the serpent used to be crafty, but is now a dunce? Hmm. And Cain used to be a farmer? Where'd he get the offering from then?

    He's right, in a sense. The verb is 'perfective' in aspect, which basically refers to a whole action, seen in its completeness. Sadly, it can mean 'be, or become' - so you could go with 'had been', or 'had become' as suited the context.

    Also a challenge is that the Septuagint opted out of the ambiguity and went with a verb that is far more likely to mean 'become' - so they took God to refer to the traditional meaning.

    As for Al's principle...well, which is the new take? Perhaps Doug is going back to the source, and it's the traditional interpretation that had it wrong ;-)

  3. That's fascinating. I know nothing of Hebrew so can't throw any more light, but it makes me wonder if others of our favourite interpretations are based on mis-translation. Adam and Eve walked with God in the cool of the day before they ate the fruit, but not after, which does suggest that they became less like God.

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  5. I did a little digging.

    There's another use of the same Hebrew word only a few verses back. "Now the serpent was more crafty than any other beast of the field (Gen 3:1 ESV)"

    But you'd probably need a precedent from the direct speech of a character in the action for a true comparison. The first one I found seemed to follow Doug's translation. "They said, "We see plainly that the LORD has been with you (Gen 26:28 ESV)"

    The 'has been' is the same verb as Gen 3:22.

    I reckon sliding a 'was' in for 'has now become' seems to work just fine. ;)

    I suspect that the argument isn't going to be entirely solved by Hebrew precedents though. Hebrew tenses seem pretty flexible.

    I'd be genuinely surprised if Doug's the firs to have thought of this approach. In fact, I'm quite surprised that it's not more popular.

  6. As I was listening to Doug's talks I was struck by how he connected pre-fall humanity and re-created/glorifed humanity. That wasn't something that I'd particularly thought about previously.

    Given the connection between unfallen and glorified humanity, there is perhaps some room to look at how glorified humanity is spoken of and see if there are some elements that may also be true for unfallen humanity (with caution and careful examination of the Scriptures though).

    I hope that made some sense. In reality I thought of that later as a justification for what I'm about to say next.

    I wonder if we can also draw support for the idea of unfallen humanity having knowledge of good and evil, and in our fallen state not having that knowledge from Romans 12:2. There humans who are being conformed to the image of Christ are instructed to "not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect." It is a mark of re-created humanity to be able to have this discernment of God's will, which suggests that we don't have it now.

    That was something that I thought of. What do you reckon?

    [ps - any thoughts on what Doug's term "hyper-restoration"?]