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Draft of Genesis 5:1-2
The Book of Man's birth and a few notes on the translation of Plato.
Chapter 5 begins in a similar way to 2:4, but with the genesis of Man rather than the genesis of Heaven and Earth:
2:4 Αὕτη ἡ βίβλος γενέσεως οὐρανοῦ καὶ γῆς
5:1 Αὕτη ἡ βίβλος γενέσεως ἀνθρώπων
I quote the Septuagint because Substack still cannot render Hebrew sentences properly when they are in the same post as English. Both verses speak of a book, סֵ֔פֶר/βίβλος. (Michael Carasik and I traded comments the other day on the meaning of סֵ֔פֶר in Genesis, and he offered a few reading suggestions.) The most interesting comment on the word book is from Ramban:
In my opinion, this alludes to the entire Torah, for the entire Torah is the book of the generations of Adam. Therefore, He says here “book” and does not say, “And these are the generations of Adam,” as He says in other places, e.g. And these are the generations of Ishmael; And these are the generations of Isaac, and so in all such cases.
Alas, Ramban doesn’t help us with the comparison with 2:4!
But what fascinates me most about 2:4 and 5:1 is תֹּולְדֹ֖ת, which is translated in the Greek as γενέσεως (whence the name Genesis). The common English translation of תֹּולְדֹ֖ת is “generations”. The “generations of Adam” makes sense, but what does “the generations of Heaven and Earth” mean? If this word simply describes lineage, why is it also used for Heaven and Earth? The word comes from ילד, a root for words about birth and children. Thus the temptation to render 2:4 as Book of the birth of Heaven and Earth. The Greek γενέσεως is singular, whereas the Hebrew תֹּולְדֹ֖ת is plural.
It’s not absurd to understand γένεσις as age or generation. LSJ gives that as a possibility, citing this passage from Plato’s Phaedrus:
καὶ οὕτω καθ᾽ ἕκαστον θεόν, οὗ ἕκαστος ἦν χορευτής, ἐκεῖνον τιμῶν τε καὶ μιμούμενος εἰς τὸ δυνατὸν ζῇ, ἕως ἂν ᾖ ἀδιάφθορος καὶ τὴν τῇδε πρώτην γένεσιν βιοτεύῃ, καὶ τούτῳ τῷ τρόπῳ πρός τε τοὺς ἐρωμένους καὶ τοὺς ἄλλους ὁμιλεῖ τε καὶ προσφέρεται. τόν τε οὖν ἔρωτα τῶν καλῶν πρὸς τρόπου ἐκλέγεται ἕκαστος, καὶ ὡς θεὸν αὐτὸν ἐκεῖνον ὄντα ἑαυτῷ οἷον ἄγαλμα τεκταίνεταί τε καὶ κατακοσμεῖ, ὡς
The indomitable Jowetttranslates τὴν τῇδε πρώτην γένεσιν with the clunky, “the first period of his earthly existence.” Fowler offers “his first life on earth.”
Unlike other instances of תֹּולְדֹ֖ת (Genesis 5:1; 6:9; 10:1; 11:10, 27; 25:12, 19; 36:1, 9; 37:2; Numbers 3:1; Ruth 4:18; 1 Chronicles 1:29), there is a pause here before beginning to describe descendants. Genesis 1:26 is repeatedbut without צֶ֫לֶם. In 1:26, the LORD creates Man בְּצַלְמֵ֖נוּ כִּדְמוּתֵ֑נוּ. I translate it thus:
He said, “Man in our semblance Man like us
Both the “likeness” words have the first person plural possessive suffix. In 5:1, בִּדְמ֥וּת stands alone. It also has a different prefix: בְּ instead of כְּ. It’s a subtle difference, and I need to return to my translation of 1:26 to reflect the difference.
Here is my translation of 5:1-2:
Book of Man's birth When God made Man in His semblance He authored him Male Female He made them blessed them called them Man when they were made Man made on that day in God's image Man and woman He made them and blessed them He gave their name Adam on their day of making
I’m not sure what to make of the comments on Genesis 5:1-2 in Genesis Rabbah:
Rabbi Tanchuma said in the name of Rabbi Eliezer and Rabbi Menachem in the name of Rav said, "Adam taught all the craftsmen, as it says, 'And the craftsmen, they are adam-ic,' (usually, 'merely human,' Isaiah 44:11) i.e. they are from Adam." The Rabbis taught: "Even the ruling of manuscripts, Adam taught, as it says, 'This is the book,' i.e. it and its ruling, and continues, 'On the day that God created Adam;'" (Genesis 5:1) this accords with that which Rabbi Elazar b. Azaryah said, "Three wonders did God do on that day: On that day he created him, on that day he attended him, and on that day he gave him offspring." Ben Azzai said: “These are the generations of Adam" (Genesis 5:1) is a great principle in the Torah. Rabbi Akiva said: "This is a great principle of the Torah: 'You shall love your neighbor as yourself,' (Lev. 19:18). meaning that one should not say, 'Since I am scorned, I should scorn my fellow as well; since I have been cursed, I will curse my fellow as well.'" Rabbi Tanchuma says, “If you do this -- know that God made the person you put to shame in His own image."
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Jowett is a good example of how a single translator can have an enormous influence. His Plato was published in 1871, and it was really the way that Plato entered Anglophone civilization. We often think of Plato’s work as central to Western philosophy, but that’s not true. At the center were Aristotle, Cicero, Virgil, St. Augustine, and the like. (It’s impossible to overstate the importance of Virgil’s replacement of Latin over Greek as the language of poetry.) As another Plato translator points out, “Plato’s work was unknown to Western Europe for most of its history. The full body of Plato’s writings first became available to Latin language readers in 1484 A.D. – 1,831 years after Plato’s death. From the time of Cicero until the 12th century only half of the Timaeus was available in Latin, then around 1160 A.D. the Phaedo and the Meno were translated. Plato started becoming available in modern languages in 1804 A.D. – 2,151 years after his death, almost a quarter century after Kant’s Critique of Pure Reason, and almost two centuries after Descartes’s Discourse on Method.”
St. Augustine writes, “The reason for this break in the narrative [in the description of the genealogies to the flood] was, I take it, that the writer, as though bidden by God, was unwilling to have the beginning of world chronology reckoned from the earthly city (that is, from the generation of Cain), and so he deliberately went back to Adam for a new beginning.”
Louth, A. – Conti, M. (ed.), Genesis 1–11 (Ancient Christian Commentary on Scripture; Downers Grove, IL 2001) 116.
Or this from Kohelet Rabbah: “Rabbi Ḥiyya bar Tanḥum [said], and some say it in the name of Rabbi Yoḥanan: The messianic king will never come until all the souls that entered His mind to be created will live, and these are the souls that are stated in the book of Adam the first man, as it is stated: “This is the book of the descendants of Adam” (Genesis 5:1).” … Rabbi Yehuda ben Rabbi Simon said: Adam the first man was worthy to have had the Torah given through him, as it is stated: “This is the book of the generations of Adam. [On the day that God created man, in the likeness of God He made him]” (Genesis 5:1). The Holy One blessed be He said: Adam is my handiwork, will I not give him the Torah so that he may toil in it? Then He said: If six mitzvot were given him and he was unable to keep them and observe them, were I to give him six hundred and thirteen mitzvot – two hundred and forty-eight positive commandments and three hundred and sixty-five prohibitions – all the more so will he not keep them. That is why it is written: “He said to Adam [la’adam]” (Job 28:28) – not Adam [lo adam], I will not give them to Adam. To whom will I give them? I will give them to his descendants. Rabbi Yaakov of Kefar Ḥanan said: Adam the first man was worthy of having twelve tribes emerge from him, as it is written: “This [zeh] is the book of the generations of Adam” (Genesis 5:1) – zayin – seven, heh –five, twelve tribes, this is the numerical value of “zeh is the book of the generations of Adam.” The Holy One blessed be He said: Adam is My handiwork, will I not give him twelve tribes? He then said: If I gave him two sons and one rose and killed his brother, had I given him twelve sons, all the more so. That is why it written: “He said to Adam [la’adam]” (Job 28:28), not Adam [lo adam], I will not give them to Adam. To whom will I give them? I will give them to Jacob the righteous.