Wow! or HUH???

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William | Forum Activity | Posted: Sat, Jan 9 2010 10:25 PM

I was just looking at a book I bought for an Old Testament Class that I am taking through my local community college.  I am going to reference Genesis 3: 15.  I have always been told this is the first reference to the Savior.   Well my problem is this... The Tanakh has "they" shall strike at your head"  I did some checking with other translations and all of the others had "he" while the KJV had "it"  I clicked on the interlinears when possible and it seems the word is singular masculine..  Is this just a typo?  Really strange? 

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MJ. Smith | Forum Activity | Replied: Sat, Jan 9 2010 11:14 PM

William Bingham:
the word is singular masculine..  Is this just a typo?  Really strange? 

Not a typo. Not strange. According to my Anchor and Jewish sources the term is normally collective i.e. "offspring". Collectives often become plural in translation. However, the Living Torah translates it "he".

Orthodox Bishop Hilarion Alfeyev: "To be a theologian means to have experience of a personal encounter with God through prayer and worship."

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Jeremy | Forum Activity | Replied: Sat, Jan 9 2010 11:28 PM

"Seed" can be thought of as a singular or as a collective. The author could have chosen to use the singular to focus on the singular man/makind fight with the singular serpent.

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William | Forum Activity | Replied: Sun, Jan 10 2010 12:23 AM

MJ. Smith:

Not a typo. Not strange. According to my Anchor and Jewish sources the term is normally collective i.e. "offspring". Collectives often become plural in translation. However, the Living Torah translates it "he".

This is really confusing me.  So almost every other translation treats this as singular in translation?  Why go the other way here?  What would this mean theologically?  Do the Jewish people consider this the savior(s) to be sent by God?  I can understand that the "offspring" or "seed" can be plural.  Since it is referred to as a singular though does this not focus the translation? I guess I just come back to that possible plural translation.  How would current Jewish people treat this passage in the overall scheme of things as a plural?

 

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MJ. Smith | Forum Activity | Replied: Sun, Jan 10 2010 12:53 AM

William Bingham:
How would current Jewish people treat this passage in the overall scheme of things as a plural?

The plural is used in some Christian sources as well as some Jewish sources. If you compare the passages that traditional Jewish sources consider Messianic it does not parallel which Christians read as messianic although there is overlap. Christian readings are not based upon Jewish readings but rather are read through the cross - a theological way of stating that Christian beliefs influence how we read the "Old Testament".

Your grammatical analysis is not quite accurate. When we refer to a flock of sheep - the flock is singular although there are many sheep. Were I then to the flock as individuals I would say "they look freshly shorn" ... that is the logic of the singular-collective--> plural pronoun. The isolated text does not definatively make the pronoun singular or plural ... one needs to look at:

  • use or allusion to the text elsewhere in Scripture to see if that provides a translation guide
  • look at the historical understanding of the text and the logic behind that understanding
  • literature of a similar date and genre to see if it provides any hints as to they intended meaning

Bible scholars should step in here. My part way through a first book of Hebrew does not make me an expert in Hebrew. But I do have the background to know how to approach the issue.

Orthodox Bishop Hilarion Alfeyev: "To be a theologian means to have experience of a personal encounter with God through prayer and worship."

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777 | Forum Activity | Replied: Sun, Jan 10 2010 2:09 AM

 

Howdy,

I'm not here to do anyone's homework but you'd all do well to look at the verbs used in Genesis 3:15.  Take a few minutes to pick apart BRUISE in both places that it's used and see where that takes you.

You're going to get more help actually dissecting the Word than you're going to get from any other source.  Your first tool of choice should always be The Word.  If you need a Hebrew grammar or three and a few lexicons, that's OK.  I use them all the time, but I use them to focus on The Word.

Also, keep in mind that the term Jewish in it's correct sense refers only to members of the tribe of Judah, inhabitants of Judeah, or followers of the Jewish religion.  It doesn't apply to members of all of the other tribes of Israel, who are still here today.  Read Genesis chapter 49.

Have fun with the verbs.  It also will settle the singularity or plurality of the seed.

Mike

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Damian McGrath | Forum Activity | Replied: Sun, Jan 10 2010 2:31 AM

MikeM:
It also will settle the singularity or plurality of the seed.

Mike, are you saying that knowing the verb/suffix forms will settle the question of whether the referent for זֶרַע is singular or plural (a particular descendant or descendants in general)?

Posts 405
Amy Leung | Forum Activity | Replied: Sun, Jan 10 2010 4:10 AM

Unfortunately the "seed" as a collective noun (plural idea) would also use verbs in their singular forms, so we cannot tell whether the "seed" in Gen 3:15 is singular or plural based on the number of the verb form alone.  C.f. Gen 15:13 (גֵר יִהְיֶה זַרְעֲךָ) or Gen 22:17 ( וְיִרַשׁ זַרְעֲךָ אֵת שַׁעַר אֹיְבָיו) where instances of the same word (זֶרַע) are collective nouns (plural from context), but they use verbs in the singular form.

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777 | Forum Activity | Replied: Sun, Jan 10 2010 6:00 AM

Amy Leung:

Unfortunately the "seed" as a collective noun (plural idea) would also use verbs in their singular forms, so we cannot tell whether the "seed" in Gen 3:15 is singular or plural based on the number of the verb form alone.  C.f. Gen 15:13 (גֵר יִהְיֶה זַרְעֲךָ) or Gen 22:17 ( וְיִרַשׁ זַרְעֲךָ אֵת שַׁעַר אֹיְבָיו) where instances of the same word (זֶרַע) are collective nouns (plural from context), but they use verbs in the singular form.

Who says it's a collective noun in Genesis 3:15?  The verbs here denote singularity.  Not all uses of "seed" are collective.

Check out Genesis 17:7 where it is indeed used as a collective noun and is absolutely plural, based upon the plural pronoun.  The verb here also denotes plurality.

And again we see it singular (non plural or collective) in use in Genesis 21:12 because of the use of the word Isaac.  If you're not buying this, then take it up with Paul.  He has something to say about it in Galatians 3:16.

Galatians 3:16 Now to Abraham and his seed were the promises made. He saith not, And to seeds, as of many; but as of one, And to thy seed, which is Christ.

Here Paul refers directly to Genesis 21:12.

Posts 403
777 | Forum Activity | Replied: Sun, Jan 10 2010 6:26 AM

Damian McGrath:

MikeM:
It also will settle the singularity or plurality of the seed.

Mike, are you saying that knowing the verb/suffix forms will settle the question of whether the referent for זֶרַע is singular or plural (a particular descendant or descendants in general)?

Hi Damian,

Actually all I was saying was to look deeper.  People stop looking at one word and don't consider context, they don't consider things like imperfect verb preformatives and afformatives.  They need to actually get the grammar out and lay into the Hebrew.  Taking one word in a sentence and staring at that is not going to clarify anything.  Take a passage and tear it apart and make your own morphology for it.

I'd just like to see people care a bit more about the Word itself and gather and use the necessary tools to get into the Word.  Reading other people's thoughts and ideas makes them followers of other people's thoughts and ideas.  If they want to be followers of The Word then they ought to keep their attention and focus on that.

Oh, and I get a kickback from Logos for each Hebrew Lexicon and Grammar I can hawk here.  Stick out tongue

I might add, that some people may not agree with my take on these passages regarding "seed".  I have no problem with that, as long as they prayerfully look into it for themselves.

Mike

 

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Amy Leung | Forum Activity | Replied: Sun, Jan 10 2010 6:52 AM

Mike, I didn't say that it's collective, actually I don't think it is, but I just wanted to point out that one cannot deduce whether the noun has been used as a singular or a collective based on the verb form alone.  This is not a valid argument, due to the reasons I quoted. 

I looked at Gen 17:7.  I don't see any verbs with זֶרַע as the subject there, so I suppose we cannot draw any conclusion about verb forms and the noun being collective/ not collective using this verse.

Posts 191
Sharon | Forum Activity | Replied: Sun, Jan 10 2010 1:22 PM

MikeM:
Your first tool of choice should always be The Word.  If you need a Hebrew grammar or three and a few lexicons, that's OK.  I use them all the time, but I use them to focus on The Word.

Amen!  Thank you, Mike, for "doing homage to  the Son".  Psalm 2

Sharon

 

wordcenterministries.org

Posts 191
Sharon | Forum Activity | Replied: Sun, Jan 10 2010 1:35 PM

MikeM:
I'd just like to see people care a bit more about the Word itself and gather and use the necessary tools to get into the Word.  Reading other people's thoughts and ideas makes them followers of other people's thoughts and ideas.  If they want to be followers of The Word then they ought to keep their attention and focus on that.

Mike,

Yes!  And Amen again!  I find your exhortation to be extremely appropriate to these forums! 

People need to go to the Law and the Testimony!

People need to stop studying the tools - and just use them...and only in their proper place...

People need to STUDY THE WORD!  PRACTICE THE WORD!  TEACH THE WORD!  Ezra 7:10

Sharon

wordcenterministries.org

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Robert Pavich | Forum Activity | Replied: Sun, Jan 10 2010 1:36 PM

MikeM:
I might add, that some people may not agree with my take on these passages regarding "seed".  I have no problem with that, as long as they prayerfully look into it for themselves.

 

And I, for one, thank you for your contribution.

You caused me to look more closely than I otherwise would have....

God bless,

bob

Robert Pavich

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Posts 1145
William | Forum Activity | Replied: Sun, Jan 10 2010 3:36 PM

MikeM:

You're going to get more help actually dissecting the Word than you're going to get from any other source.  Your first tool of choice should always be The Word.  If you need a Hebrew grammar or three and a few lexicons, that's OK.  I use them all the time, but I use them to focus on The Word.

Mike, I am sure you meant this to be positive.  I have not yet received the Hebrew and Greek videos that are coming and I do not know the Hebrew or the first thing about doing a dissection on the word.  The only thing that I have are the (English) translations and a few commentaries.  This is the reason why I was coming here.  My pastor said he was going to have to get back with me so he could look at that passage a little closer. 

I am hoping to learn the original languages but for now I must rely on you'll to help me.  What would I need to do to dissect this? 

William

 

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Tom Reynolds | Forum Activity | Replied: Sun, Jan 10 2010 4:28 PM

Don't forget to compare the LXX when looking at OT texts. It is often helpful in informing us how those around the time of the NT understood the text, besides being the OT of the early Church. Not saying that it is definitive in this case but it always needs to be checked (and it is singular).

καὶ ἔχθραν θήσω ἀνὰ μέσον σου καὶ ἀνὰ μέσον τῆς γυναικὸς καὶ ἀνὰ μέσον τοῦ σπέρματός σου καὶ ἀνὰ μέσον τοῦ σπέρματος αὐτῆς, αὐτός σου τηρήσει κεφαλήν, καὶ σὺ τηρήσεις αὐτοῦ πτέρναν.

Septuaginta : With morphology. 1996, c1979 (Ge 3:15). Stuttgart: Deutsche Bibelgesellschaft.
The idea that this refers to Christ was present in Paul and used from the beginning, as Ireneaus makes clear in this quote from Against Heresies 5.21.1:

Christ completely renewed all things, both taking up the battle against our enemy and crushing him who at the beginning had led us captive in Adam, trampling on his head, as you find in Genesis that God said to the serpent, “I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your seed and the seed of the woman. He will be on the watch for your head, and you will be on the watch for his heel.” From then on it was proclaimed that he who was to be born of a virgin, after the likeness of Adam, would be on the watch for the serpent’s head. This is the seed of which the apostle says in the letter to the Galatians, “The law of works was established until the seed should come to whom the promise was made.”10 He shows this still more clearly in the same epistle when he says, “But when the fullness of time was come, God sent his Son, made of a woman.”11 The enemy would not have been justly conquered unless it had been a man made of woman who conquered him. For it was by a woman that he had power over man from the beginning, setting himself up in opposition to man. Because of this the Lord also declares himself to be the Son of Man, so renewing in himself that primal man from whom the formation of man by woman began, that as our race went down to death by a man who overcame, and as death won the palm of victory over us by a man, so we might by a man receive the palm of victory over death. 10 10 Gal 3:19. 11 11 Gal 4:4. Louth, A., & Conti, M. (2001). Genesis 1-11. Ancient Christian Commentary on Scripture OT 1. (90). Downers Grove, Ill.: InterVarsity Press.
Posts 403
777 | Forum Activity | Replied: Sun, Jan 10 2010 4:41 PM

Amy Leung:

Mike, I didn't say that it's collective, actually I don't think it is, but I just wanted to point out that one cannot deduce whether the noun has been used as a singular or a collective based on the verb form alone.  This is not a valid argument, due to the reasons I quoted. 

I looked at Gen 17:7.  I don't see any verbs with זֶרַע as the subject there, so I suppose we cannot draw any conclusion about verb forms and the noun being collective/ not collective using this verse.

From Biblical Hebrew - An Introductory Grammar by Page H. Kelley:

Page 427 in the Glossary:

Collective Nouns:

nouns that are singular in form but are capable of being singular or plural in meaning.  Thus עַם may refer to "a people,"  requiring singular modifiers and singular verbs, or it may refer to a body of individual persons, "the people," in which in requires plural modifiers and plural verbs.

-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-

As far as Genesis 17:7 goes, you are indeed correct about there not being any verbs with  זֶרַע as the subject there.  I can see that you are one that actually goes and looks for yourself, which is a good quality.   In this case the noun is collective and is shown to be plural by the words "after thee" and by the plural pronoun in "their generations".

 

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Friedrich | Forum Activity | Replied: Sun, Jan 10 2010 5:51 PM

you know, I am all for going to the word.  my most memorable studies are often those where I did a lot of the ground work myself.  So I agree with this "go to the word" thing.  At the same time, my Hebrew is pretty poor.  My Greek is a tad better, but has been out of use a long time (I have the greek vid pre-pubs to help get back into it a bit more). 

That said, it could be perceived as a bit heavy handed to those (i don't feel it, however, myself) who don't know languages that much, if we badmouth their going to 2nd hand sources like commentaries or dictionaries to get at truth.  Who is to say God isn't working even in that study?  I believe He has and does work in that.  Even with greek and Hebrew knowledge, many are not experts and still have to rely on others' work (even dictionaries and lexicons can have their mistakes and opinions) to form understanding about the use of grammar and syntax in those foreign languages.  I also remember enough about Hebrew and greek that knowing those does not solve all exegetical problems.  Sometimes it makes it more frustrating because we see how ambiguous some texts are.  At those times we might allow our a priori theology to dictate our interpretation (not always a good idea).

Let's remember that our Lord gave some to be teachers . . . to lay a foundation . . . so that the body can build itself up.  Those teachers might teach orally, or by written word.  Either way, if they are God ordained, we should heed their teaching, investigate it (like the Bereans) to the best of our ability all the while calling upon the Lord to give us wisdom and understanding . . . which he does without fault.

 

I like Apples.  Especially Honeycrisp.

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Alex Scott | Forum Activity | Replied: Sun, Jan 10 2010 6:03 PM

This is just another case of sloppy translation as far as I'm concerned.  As has been pointed out, 'seed' is a collective, and sometimes the context defines whether it is singular or plural, sometime it doesn't.  Often the word is translated 'descendants'.  To me, that is a dishonest translation, or a poor one at best.  Descendants is plural, it cannot be singular.  If a translator finds 'seed' too obscure for the average reader, why not use another English collective such as offspring, leaving the reader the option of either application rather than leading them down a blind alley just to reflect the translator's bias.

Longtime Logos user (more than $30,000 in purchases) - now a second class user because I won't pay them more every month or year.

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Alex Scott | Forum Activity | Replied: Sun, Jan 10 2010 6:13 PM

Just as another aside to think about - this is another thing that complicates translation as opposed to the reader in an original language.  

For example, when WE read the Greek or Hebrew, we have to choose another word to express the original.  That word almost certainly does not reflect the total meaning of the original, and most likely also contains some meanings not found in the originals.  We are forced to choose.  The readers to whom the language was natural did not have to make this choice of a word, only the meaning since he would know the meaning could be taken in several ways.  For example, look at John 3:3-7.  When we translate, we have to choose whether the word means born again, or born from above.  The native reader did not - he might misapply it as Nicodemus MAY have - but he did not have to choose a word which left him no choice in the matter.

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