'ish vs. 'adam

Garry DeWeese (deweese@ucsu.Colorado.EDU)
Tue, 4 Jun 1996 16:18:13 -0600 (MDT)

Catching up in some 80 or so posts that came in since I last logged on, I
deleted them rather than saving the one or two I wanted to reply to. So I
apologize for not reproducing the exact language to which I'm responding.

Dick Fischer rests much of his case on a putative distinction between 'ish
and 'adam in the Hebrew text. But this is very tenuous at best. As we
should all know, usage determines meaning, nothing more, and if it is not
possible to demonstrate from the usage of the two words a semantic
difference, then we should not postulate one ad hoc.

When challenged with material from Harris, Archer and Waltke, _Theological
Wordbook of the Old Testament_, Dick replied (somewhat disdainfully, or
perhaps sarcastically, I couldn't hear his tone) that these were
theologians, who got us in this mess in the first place. Please! First
of all, Laird Harris, Gleason Archer and Bruce Waltke are all highly
trained specialists in Hebrew and cognate Semitic languages. Being
Christians, of course they have a high interest in applying their learning
to biblibal exegesis, and then to theology. But they are not first and
foremost professional theologians.

But second, even if they were theologians, is that grounds to dismiss
their scholarship? This is to commit the genetic fallacy--rejecting a
proposition based solely on who proposed it. (BTW, a similar fallacy
plagues those who reject Phil Johnson's arguments because he is "only a
lawyer," not a (pick one) molecular biologist/evolutionary
biologist/paleoanthropologist.) At least Harris et al. offered evidence
for their view that is about as objective as semantic evidence adduced
from ancient documents can be.

Third.similar conclusions are reached by Fritz Maass (for 'adam) and N.P.
Bratsiotis (for 'ish) in vol I of the Theological Dictionary of the Old
Testament (ed. Botterweck and Ringgren). Given that 'adam occurs 562
times in the OT, and 'ish occurs 2160 times, there is a rather large
amount of data with which to work.

Fourth, Gn 2:23 seems fatal to any attempt to make a distinction of the
kind Dick is attempting: "She shall be called 'woman' ('ishshah) for she
was taken out of man ('ish)." The etymology of 'ishshah and 'ish are
different--they come from different Semitic roots--but 'ishshah sounds
loke the feminine form of 'ish. Thus Adam is making a pun by calling her
'ishshah. But the "popular etymology" of 2:32 becomes meaningless if Adam
is the first covenant man and not an 'ish.

BTW, for what it's worth, I have a masters in theology, taught Hebrew and
OT for several years, hae a masters in philosophy and am completing the
dissertation for a PhD in philosophy.

Garry DeWeese