Questions on Adam in Strong's


(Marshall Janzen) #1

I’m trying to understand the way Strong’s Concordance lists the references to ʾādām in the Old Testament. From what I’ve read, Strong’s normally has a separate entry (or “Strong’s number”) for each distinct word used in the Bible, regardless of how many discrete meanings that word has. But for ʾādām there are two entries, H120 and H121. It appears H120 is for the general meaning of humanity or any human while H121 is for when the word appears as a proper noun. But against this idea H121 doesn’t include Genesis 5:2 where Adam is given as a name.

I’m interested in this because the way Strong’s divides words has lasting significance. Since it’s widely used and in the public domain, its “Strong’s numbers” continue to be used by many current tools. Especially for non-experts, digging a bit into the Hebrew behind a verse of Scripture will usually lead to Strong’s numbers. The way Adam is divided often prevents the general meaning of the word (“humanity”) from appearing when one looks up Adam in the Bible.

So, my questions:

  1. Is there an actual difference between the words Strong’s classifies as H120 and H121 that is visible in manuscripts (even if only later pointed ones)?

  2. If not, is this a deviation from the usual way Strong’s records words, or are there certain kinds of words that are also split into two (or more) entries? (I’m aware that Baal/master is another word that seems to be split like this, but Satan/adversary isn’t, so I don’t see a fixed pattern at work.)

  3. Some sources state that ʾādām means red or ruddy, and they do this in the context of speaking about the Adam named in Genesis. This seems to be based on the related word H119 that isn’t found in Genesis. Is this a distinct word from H120/H121?

  4. Is the whole concept of a “distinct word” so fuzzy that one can’t really say whether Strong was right or wrong in how he split H119, H120 and H121?

Thanks to anyone who is able to help with this somewhat technical issue!


(George Brooks) #2

@Reggie_O_Donoghue

Aren’t you fluent in written Hebrew? If not you, there must be someone here who is…


(RiderOnTheClouds) #3

No, I can read some Ugaritic and Phoenician, but I can;t get the hang of Hebrew, I;m trying to learn though.


(RiderOnTheClouds) #4

I can understand some Hebrew when it is written in Latin script

Shalom- Peace

Rosh- Head

Shamayim- Sky

Eretz- Land

Shemesh- Sun

Yareach- Moon

Kodesh- Holy

Anan- Cloud

Adam- Mankind

Ishah- Woman

etc


(Andrew M. Wolfe) #5

Interesting that they don’t split out Satan. I thought to myself, “There have to be other names that are also common nouns…” and indeed, there’s Stephen, whose name of course doubles as “crown.” Strongs splits the two out into 4735 (common) and 4736 (proper). There’s also Syzygos, “yokefellow,” but because the word only appears once, so Strongs can punt and have a single entry. There may be others; I didn’t spend too much time thinking about it.

I’m not a lexicographer, but I believe that when a word functions in more than one grammatical category, it usually gets more than one dictionary entry. The split between common nouns and proper nouns seems to me like sort of a gray area, since both are nouns. But it seems to be common practice in dictionaries. Merriam-Webster, for instance, has two separate entries for “John” and “john,” and this despite the fact that lower-case “john” can mean either a toilet or a prostitute’s client — needless to say, quite different meanings, but kept together under one entry, separate from upper-case John.

The concept of a “distinct word” is indeed quite fuzzy, on a number of fronts, actually. In the particular case you’re discussing, I know @jay313 has some views on this topic. And, depending on how others answer your questions #1 & #3, we could argue that Strongs sort of made an incorrect interpretive call here. But I think in theory, at least, he was merely trying to stick to lexicographic norms.


(John Dalton) #6

Can one think of any good reason why such a solid biblical name has taken on such connotations?


(George Brooks) #7

@AMWolfe

Strong’s methodology is to take all the meanings of any given collection of Hebrew letters, and list all the meanings applied to that spelling.

If there is a virtual clone that has a different spelling, some Strong online tools have the link to the synonym… and almost always a link to the presumed origin of the word being examined.


(Andrew M. Wolfe) #8

So how is the spelling different in the case under consideration?


(George Brooks) #9

@AMWolfe

Use this link - - they have pictures for each Hebrew word under consideration… I have a deadline at work, so I cannot be as helpful as I usually am in providing details.

https://www.blueletterbible.org/

Just type in Adam in one of the search blocks… and it will all lay out before you.

Click other buttons to see the Strong’s number in the verses… click on another button to see 20 bibles versions of a single verse.

Click on another button, and you will get a breakdown, in Hebrew (or Greek for the New Testament) , of the entire text.

Unfortunately, unless you know how to read Hebrew letters, some questions are not easily answered… like when English translations use “little words” like “to”, “around”, “about”, “near” and so forth. Grammar and syntax based on Hebrew spelling is not something I ever learned… so it takes me 10 times as long to get answers along those lines…


(Jay Johnson) #10

I’m surprised you’re going down that road, John. Speaking as a “John’s-son,” I refuse to entertain any more speculation along these lines … :wink:

Ummm … Thanks for the shout out? haha. We should probably make our own shout out to a true expert, @JRM. In the meantime, Middleton’s recently reposted blog here on BL explains a little of his view of 'adam in Genesis, which I share (or stole, depending on your perspective):

"(W)hile we often think of the first human pair in Genesis 2 as “Adam and Eve,” the text originally designates them as “the human” (ha’adam) and “the woman” (ha’iššâ). “Adam” becomes a proper name only in Genesis 5:1 and “Eve” is the name given to the woman in 3:20. What are we to make of the fact that the name of the first man is “Human” (’adam) and the name of the first woman is “Life” (havvâ)? And who would name their son Abel (hebel = vapor/futility, the same word that recurs as a theme in Ecclesiastes)? These names are clearly a function of the story (Abel’s life is soon snuffed out). Given the symbolic meaning of the names “Adam” and “Eve,” we may understand the first couple in Genesis 2 as archetypal or representative of all humanity.[4]

“Fn #4: This is true also for other characters in Genesis 1-11, such as Cain (= gift), Noah (= comfort), Shem (= name); in each case the name is a function of the story, which suggests that the early Genesis narratives have a legendary quality and should not be taken as describing historical events in any simple way.”

On Strong’s, I found what I think is an excellent reply on the Biblical Hermeneutics Stack Exchange: Strong’s Concordance is not a lexicon. Basically, the problem with Strong’s (besides being obsolete) is that when a word is lexically ambiguous – i.e. the sentence “She is looking for a match” – one must consider the grammatical and contextual features to arrive at a meaning, which Strong’s does not provide.

A good example is Strong’s #121 (Adam, or a city in the Jordan Valley) and Hosea 6:7. Looking up that verse on biblehub, I find these various translations:

Place Name: NIV (As at Adam, they have broken the covenant…), CEV (At a place named Adam…), NET (At Adam they broke the covenant…)
Personal Name: NLT (But like Adam, you broke my covenant…), ESV (But like Adam they transgressed…), NASB (But like Adam they have transgressed…), HCSB (But they, like Adam, have violated…)

But there are those who translate this verse according to Strong’s #120:
Generic noun: KJV (But they like men have transgressed…), JPS Tanakh 1917 (But they like men have transgressed…)

Which is it? I can’t answer the question, and Strong’s is no help.


(George Brooks) #11

Try Strong’s with this tool … it’s awfully good … except on the topic of “ha”!

https://www.blueletterbible.org/


(Andrew M. Wolfe) #12

Hi George,

I can read Hebrew (painfully slowly), having taken a year of it in college. But I’m going to refer your helpful hints to Marshall, who was the original poster. I have no interest in pursuing this further. My only interest was in helping Marshall. :slight_smile:

Best,
AMW


(Andrew M. Wolfe) #13

An re-gifted shoutout! A re-shoutout? Ana-shoutout-osis, even?

Ok, ok, enough, Wolfe…


(Marshall Janzen) #14

Thanks everyone for your help on this! I really didn’t expect to get much on such a limited topic, but this has been great.

That’s helpful! I didn’t think to check Greek names. This helps to show that the splitting isn’t just something done with Adam. But if the Strong’s division is based on whether it’s a proper name, Genesis 5:2 should definitely be with H121. In that verse, ʾādām is the name God called humans.

That’s what I thought as well, though with consideration for words that differ based on the vowels. But with H120 and H121, the Hebrew letters and vowel points are identical. (And yes, BlueLetterBible is one of the tools I checked for this, as well as some tools in Logos.)

I loved that blog. I hadn’t made the connection with the meaning of Abel before that, and that blog collected lots of info about the names in early Genesis in one place.

Yes, I know it’s obsolete in many ways. It’s also still everywhere, especially for non-experts. BlueLetterBible, for instance, uses it for their tools. Even when they use definitions from other tools, such as Gesenius, they adjust them to match Strong’s numbers. So, for ʾādām, they put the first three definitions from Gesenius with H120 and clip out the last two definitions for H121. The result is someone looking up the Adam named in their English Bible won’t easily find the actual meaning of the word ʾādām.


(Andrew M. Wolfe) #15

See, when you ask about language-y stuff on here, there are some of us that have pent-up frustration about being complete noobs about genetics and being unable to contribute meaningfully to those conversations, and so we unleash all of that on the 1.5 posts per quarter that have to do with something we know something about… :smiley:

(or… I suppose I should speak for myself here… :smiley: )


(J Richard Middleton) #16

Alright, alright . . . I’ll chime in. :grinning:

I really can’t comment on Strong’s concordance. Even as a student, before things went digital, and before I learned Hebrew, I used Young’s. Now I tend to avoid concordances.

As anyone who knows two or more languages will tell you, the meaning of a word (where on the possible semantic range it falls) depends on the kind of sentence it is in. So we rarely translate one specific word in one language by one specific word in another language.

The question of whether two homynyms (I’m thinking of words spelled exactly alike; two words pronounced alike in a primarily oral language could also be thought of as homynyms) should be listed in a lexicon/dictionary as two separate words or as two meanings of the same word is debated; and Hebrew lexicons don’t always agree on this.

One of the really interesting examples of this is whether rûaḥ should be thought of as one word, which has nuances of breath, spirit, wind, or whether these are three separate words. I lean to the former, since it is sometimes difficult to distinguish these meanings in a particular sentence.

And then there is the question of the meaning of yôm in Genesis 3:8. Whereas it is traditional to take it to mean “day” (so "the rûaḥ of the yôm " is often translated as “at the breezy time of day”), yôm is listed in some lexicons with a secondary entry as “storm.”

The translation “the breezy time of day,” which takes "the rûaḥ of the yôm " to mean “the wind of the day” is mediated through the Greek and Latin; Theodotion has “the wind/breeze of the cool of the day”; the LXX thus has “evening” and old Latin translations have “afternoon.”

But it is just a likely that the text intends to say that God came in a judgment theophany, “in the wind of the storm.” This is what the first couple heard (the trees were whipping around, as in Psalm 29) and this is why they hid themselves.

As for ’ādām specifically, Jay’s quote accurately gets at what I would say. I do have a bit more on the use of ’ādām in Genesis 2–4, from another article I wrote, for those who are interested in more detail. Here it is (from a footnote in an essay called “From Primal Harmony to a Broken World”):

There are four places in the narrative of Genesis 2–3 where ’ādām appears without the definite article, but none of these is a proper name. According to 2:5, “there was no-one [lit. no ’ādām] to till the ground.” In Gen 2:20, 3:37, and 3:21 we have lĕ’ādām (to/for the human); here the preposition (to or for) is appended to ’ādām) without the vowel change that usually indicates a definite article (lā’ādām). However, in the first case (2:20), the same verse also uses ha’ādām (the human); and it should be remembered that there would have been no distinction in the original Hebrew consonantal text (so the vowel pointing that the Masorites introduced, which we have in our current Hebrew Bibles, may be idiosyncratic). Gen 4:25 is the first clear use of ’ādām without the definite article (“Adam knew his wife again”). Yet Gen 4:2, which first mentions the man knowing his wife, has ha’ādām. In Gen 5:1, which begins a genealogy, we finally have the proper name Adam clearly intended.

I hope this helps (somewhat).


(Marshall Janzen) #17

Much appreciated @JRM!

If the consonantal text is the standard, would it be equally accurate to say that ’ādām means red/ruddy as to say it means humanity/human? Or is it reasonable to use the vowel pointings to distinguish these as two words?


(George Brooks) #18

@Marshall,

I never noticed that before! The spelling and pointing of H120 and H121 are indeed identical! So what’s going on? Why did Strong break them out?

Apparently the difference is in the connotation, rather than the denotation!

You can see that H120 and H121 both refer to “the first man”… but no texts using H121 are cited as a reference to generic humanity. Strong has intentionally grouped all the generic references under H120.

Strong reserves 12 uses of the same spelling for creating his H121 entry (see bottom).
There is a reference to a city in Jordan valley here. And for whatever linguistic reason, Strong segregates these texts because they somehow invoke “Adam” from the word play on “Red” and “Redness” or “Ruddy”.

It’s certainly as interesting as it is puzzling!

^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^

Strong’s Number H121 matches the Hebrew אָדָם ('Adam),
which occurs 12 times in 12 verses in the Hebrew concordance of the NASB

Gen 2:20
The man gave names to all the cattle, and to the birds of the [fn]sky, and to every beast of the field, but for [fn]Adam H121 there was not found a helper [fn]suitable for him.

Gen 3:17
Then to Adam H121 He said, “Because you have listened to the voice of your wife, and have eaten from the tree about which I commanded you, saying, ‘You shall not eat from it’; Cursed is the ground because of you;
In [fn]toil you will eat of it All the days of your life.

Gen 3:21
The LORD God made garments of skin for Adam H121 and his wife, and clothed them.

Gen 4:25
Adam H121 [fn]had relations with his wife again; and she gave birth to a son, and named him [fn]Seth, for, she said, “God [fn]has appointed me another [fn]offspring in place of Abel, for Cain killed him.”

Gen 5:1
This is the book of the generations of Adam. H121 In the day when God created man, He made him in the likeness of God.

Gen 5:3
When Adam H121 had lived one hundred and thirty years, he [fn]became the father of a son in his own likeness, according to his image, and named him Seth.

Gen 5:4
Then the days of Adam H121 after he became the father of Seth were eight hundred years, and he had other sons and daughters.

Gen 5:5
So all the days that Adam H121 lived were nine hundred and thirty years, and he died.

Jos 3:16
the waters which were [fn]flowing down from above stood and rose up in one heap, a great distance away at Adam, H121 the city that is beside Zarethan; and those which were [fn]flowing down toward the sea of the Arabah, the Salt Sea, were completely cut off. So the people crossed opposite Jericho.

1Ch 1:1
Adam, H121 Seth, Enosh,

Job 31:33
“Have I covered my transgressions like [fn]Adam, H121 By hiding my iniquity in my bosom,

Hos 6:7
But like [fn]Adam H121 they have transgressed the covenant; There they have dealt treacherously against Me.


(J Richard Middleton) #19

The word ’ādām does not mean “red” or “ruddy.” This is at most a possible connotation of ’ādām, what we might call a folk etymology, based on ’ādām sounding like the Hebrew for “red” (’ādom) and “blood” (dām). Note the use of “red” (lit., that “red red” stuff) for the stew that Esau got from Isaac (Gen 25:30), which leads the text to explain that this is why Esau is called “Edom” (’ědôm). It’s all wordplay.

Just as today a Hebrew speaker can read an Israeli newspaper that has no vowels, and still distinguish which word is which from the context (in most cases), so I think that the ancient Hebrews could usually do this fine.


(J Richard Middleton) #20

A fascinating example of the similarity of “Edom” (’ědôm) and 'humanity" (’ādām) is how the LXX translates Amos 9:12. The Hebrew says “they shall possess the remnant of Edom.” But the LXX, which James quotes at the Jerusalem council about the inclusion of the gentiles (Acts 15:17), takes ’ědôm as ’ādām, and so translates it as “the remnant of humanity [the gentiles]”).

Some scholars think this is just a misreading; others think it is intentional, and reflects a universalizing approach in Second Temple Judaism.

P.S. I should add that James doesn’t quote the LXX in Acts 15 in any pure and simple way. He inserts multiple changes taken from passages in other minor prophets that address the inclusion of the gentiles in the last days. This may be why in Acts 15:15 he introduces his quote from Amos 9:11-12 by saying, “This agrees with the words of the prophets” (plural).