Re: Genesis and inspiration

From: Don Winterstein (
Date: Wed Jun 25 2003 - 06:23:54 EDT

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    Peter Ruest wrote in part: =20

    PR: In "Genesis Reconsidered", we wrote: "In Genesis 2:7, God did not
    create man, but 'formed' Adam. Yatzar means to form, design and commit,
    plan and realize.(1) When used of God, it may be a 'technical term' for
    formation in one's mother's womb, suggesting that Adam had parents.(2)
    God 'com-mit-ting' to realization his specific 'design' does not
    exclude Adam's descent from earlier hu-mans. He was formed of _^afar_,
    used of any kind of unstructured matter,(3) referring either to the
    physical matter at the origin of life 4 Ga ago, or to the chemicals
    forming the basis of his own body. In any case, his whole pre-para-tion
    was God's work...
    (1) Claeys, K. (1979), note 34, 513-556: Hebrew _yatzar_ =3D German
    'entwerfend festlegen' (to commit by designing).
    (2) Literally, Genesis 2:7 reads: 'And God Yahweh formed [yatzar] the
    Adam, dust [^afar] from the ground [=B4adamah]', i.e., the Adam who =
    dust, de-rived from the ground. God did not form him _out_ of dust. In
    Genesis 3:19, God tells him: 'dust [^afar] you _are_ [present tense!],
    and to dust [^afar] you will return'. The same thing is said in
    Ecclesiastes 3:20 of _all_ humans and animals. Psalm 103:14 reads: 'He
    knows our frame [or formation, _yetzer_, derived from _yatzar_], he
    remembers that we _are_ [present tense!] dust [^afar]'. Isaiah 64:8
    says: 'We are the clay [not _^afar_] and you are our potter [participle
    of _yatzar_], we are all the work of your hand'. And Job agrees: 'I too
    was taken from clay' (33:6). He pleads with God: 'Your hands shaped me
    and made me ... Re-member that you molded me like clay. Will you now
    turn me to dust [^afar] again?' (Job 10:8-9). But he also specifies:
    'Did not he who made me in the womb make them? Did not the same one form
    [not _yatzar_] us both within the womb?' (Job 31:15). Similarly,
    Jeremiah (1:5) was formed [yatzar] in the womb by God. Thus, 'to be
    formed out of dust' by God, or 'formed out of clay' (as a potter does)
    was a customary metaphor for growing in one's mother's womb. The
    formation of Adam's body is couched in the same terms. Whatever
    constitutes the bodies of each human being is ultimately derived from
    non-living matter, 'dust' of the ground.
    (3)cf. Proverbs 8:26: '... before he had made the earth with its fields,
    or the first of the _^afar_ of the world ...'" =20

    I think the "customary metaphor" originated among the Israelites from =
    their _literal_ interpretation of Gen. 2:7 (perhaps also Gen. 1:24 for =
    the animals). A straightforward reading gives no hint that the very =
    first occurrence (Gen. 2:7) is metaphor, whereas in the other cases it's =
    obvious. The later ones depend on the first. =20


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