Does Genesis 1 refer to the creation of one man and one woman?


(Marshall Janzen) #1

Continuing the discussion from The fossil record fits best with progressive creation:

This didn’t seem to fit in a “scientific evidence” thread, so I’m making a new one.

I agree with you on the two “doesn’t necessarily” points, and for that reason I disagree with your two “obviously” points.

Here is my understanding from reading and asking others and using tools (I don’t know Hebrew myself). The Hebrew word for humanity in Genesis 1:26–27 is adam, and its usual meaning is humanity or any human. This word is, as far as I know, always singular and masculine. Similarly, the English word “humanity” is a singular collective noun. Gender is very different between the two languages. English isn’t a rigidly gendered language like Hebrew and English has the neuter gender that Hebrew lacks. We can refer back to humanity with an “it” pronoun. In Hebrew, which lacks “it,” the appropriate pronoun is “he.”

So, for instance, Genesis 6:3:

Then the Lord said, “My spirit shall not abide in adam forever, for he is flesh; his days shall be 120 years.”

Here adam is singular, masculine, and takes the singular masculine pronouns “he” and “his”. This doesn’t mean adam is a man; adam is humanity, including men and women. The verse is either limiting the human life span or limiting the time then-living humans had on the planet (presumably before the flood comes). It is not limiting the days of an individual man named Adam.

Also, the few times a plural pronoun refers back to adam (which is singular itself, as always), such as Genesis 1:26, the pronoun is still masculine. The masculine doesn’t tell you it’s referring to a man. In “male and female he created them,” the “them” is just as masculine as the previous line’s “image of God he created him.”

So no, nothing about the grammar makes it obvious that the verses refer to one man and one woman. It uses a collective noun, adam, in much the same way the rest of the account uses singular collective nouns for the various categories of created things. For instance, 1:11 refers to deshe (vegetation) and 1:26 and 1:28 refer to dagah (fish). When the earth bursts forth with vegetation at God’s command in 1:11-13, nothing in the way the text is written leads us to expect only one or only two of each kind of plant are created. The same applies to when humanity is created. Nothing in this account suggests it is precisely one male and one female.

Now, of course many read “one man and one woman” into Genesis 1 based on Genesis 2 and other later texts. But that’s a different conversation than what Genesis 1 means on its own without retroactively changing it based on its canonical sequels.


(George Brooks) #2

@Marshall,

All the translations I have looked at (and posted below) - - and I mean ALL of them - - translate the Hebrew word - 'dm - as a plural form: “man” = “mankind” = “humanity”, rather than as “the man” or an individual man named Adam.

OOOPS! @Marshall found my error! There is one exception in that list!

YLT
And God prepareth the man in His image; in the image of God He prepared him, a male and a female He prepared them. Good work, @Marshall!

Translations for Gen 1:27
KJV
So God created man in his own image, in the image of God created he him; male and female created he them.

NKJV
So God created man in His own image; in the image of God He created him; male and female He created them.

NLT
So God created human beings[fn] in his own image. In the image of God he created them; male and female he created them.

NIV
So God created mankind in his own image, in the image of God he created them; male and female he created them.

ESV
So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them.

CSB
So God created man in his own image; he created him in the image of God; he created them male and female.

RVR60
Y creó Dios al hombre a su imagen, a imagen de Dios lo creó; varón y hembra los creó.

NASB
God created man in His own image, in the image of God He created him; male and female He created them.

NET
God created humankind in his own image, in the image of God he created them, male and female he created them.

RSV
So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them.

ASV
And God created man in his own image, in the image of God created he him; male and female created he them.

YLT
And God prepareth the man in His image; in the image of God He prepared him, a male and a female He prepared them.

DBY
And God created Man in his image, in the image of God created he him; male and female created he them.

WEB
So God created man in his own image, in the image of God created he him; male and female created he them.

HNV
God created man in his own image. In God’s image he created him; male and female he created them.

VUL
et creavit Deus hominem ad imaginem suam ad imaginem Dei creavit illum masculum et feminam creavit eos

WLC
וַיִּבְרָ֨א אֱלֹהִ֤ים אֶת־הָֽאָדָם֙ בְּצַלְמֹ֔ו בְּצֶ֥לֶם אֱלֹהִ֖ים בָּרָ֣א אֹתֹ֑ו זָכָ֥ר וּנְקֵבָ֖ה בָּרָ֥א אֹתָֽם׃

LXX
καὶ ἐποίησεν ὁ θεὸς τὸν ἄνθρωπον κατ᾽ εἰκόνα θεοῦ ἐποίησεν αὐτόν ἄρσεν καὶ θῆλυ ἐποίησεν αὐτούς


(Marshall Janzen) #3

Thanks George.

The words “man,” “mankind” and “humanity” are actually singular forms (and normally take a singular pronoun in formal English), but they refer to a group. The grammar is singular, but not the referent.

As the quote in the opening post shows, “man” is problematic as a translation because it encourages a misunderstanding on this. Even though the context should make it clear that “man” is a collective noun in Genesis 1:26-27, it’s easy to miss, especially if you’ve always been taught that adam is a man.

Of your quoted versions, I think Young’s translation (YLT) fits with the way @Edgar reads the verse. It has “the man” in the first part and then after adding “male and female” has “them.” Someone could certainly read that as thinking it first refers to the man Adam and then to Adam and Eve. But Young’s is a translation by an individual and so fairly idiosyncratic (as also seen by how it translates bara as “prepare” instead of “create”).


(George Brooks) #4

@marshall

Ahhhh… I missed that difference in Young’s! Good Eyes!

In this text, the word for man is like the English words “Deer”. When you are camping,
you can hunt a deer, or your group can bag many deer…


(system) #5

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