Unbinding What Rules?

Unbinding What Rules?

A while back Dave Black linked to a review of Genesis Unbound by John Sailhammer.  The review is by Andrew Kulikovsky and is on the Answers in Genesis site, titled Unbinding the Rules.  The interesting thing for me about this review is that despite being very negative, it made me much more anxious to read Sailhammer’s book.

It’s hard to evaluate some of the criticisms without having read the book itself, but I’m going to comment on one, and write a bit more after I’ve gotten my hands on a copy of the book itself.  The one issue is the translation of Genesis 2:19.  To state the problem simply, there is a difference in translation between the NIV (continued in the NIV2011, ESV agrees) for example, and the NRSV amongst others.  To illustrate:

Now the LORD God had formed out of the ground all the wild animals and all the birds in the sky. (NIV2011) So out of the ground the Lord God formed every animal of the field and every bird of the air, (NRSV)

The translation arises from the perceived need to reconcile the order of events in Genesis 1 and 2, since in 2:19 the animals would be created after human beings rather than before as in Genesis 1. Using a past perfect in English solves this problem.  The question, of course, is whether such a translation is legitimate.

Regarding this, Kulikovsky says:

According to Sailhamer, the rendering ‘ … now the Lord God had formed …’ for Genesis 2:19, is faulty because ‘the Hebrew  text doesn’t contain the proper verb form for such a translation’  (p. 89). This is a very surprising statement from a Hebrew  scholar. Firstly, Sailhamer seems to be confused over the  aspectual identification of the clause ‘had formed’—this is actually indicative of a pluperfect not a perfect. Secondly, the standard grammars1,4 stand against Sailhamer on this, as do modern translations such as the NIV.

I was rather surprised to see this, because the standard grammars say no such thing, and the NIV and ESV are pretty much isolated amongst modern versions in this translation.  The NLT, also evangelical, translated “formed” for example.  I had recently been investigating this issue to see just what support the NIV had for their rendering, and had found very little such support.

The footnotes, unfortunately, are duplicates of previous references, and simply point to Gesenius-Kautzsch (with the latter name misspelled), and to Waltke-O’Connor without referencing any particular page or section number in either grammar.  There are only two  direct references to Genesis 2:19, and only one provides a translation of the first part of the verse, which he translates “YHWH God formed …” (11.2.11d, p. 213), but there he is discussing the translation of the preposition min.  There are, of course, substantial discussions of Hebrew verb tense, but I cannot discover which would provide Kulikovsky with support for his view.  Sailhammer’s statement is hardly surprising; it’s pretty standard.

I would note that I have found cases cited in which the waw-consecutive form can be translated with an English past perfect.  They are very rare, and not too similar to the case of Genesis 2:19.  I’ll provide some references when I read and comment on Sailhammer’s book.

3 thoughts on “Unbinding What Rules?

  1. What would you say to the argument that I am putting forward on my blog- http://www.booksofgrandeur.blogspot.com-that Christianity works not because God, Jesus or the Holy Spirit exists but because a strong belief in ANYTHING will produce results. In other words, GOOD comes out of the teachings of the Bible only because Christians believe God exists but in actual fact, there is no GOD as so called “miracles” can also happen if one has a strong belief in some other force, the fact that whatever force that might does NOT also exist, notwithstanding.

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