[b-hebrew] Genesis 3:15 and order of ideas

Harold R. Holmyard III hholmyard at ont.com
Wed Dec 22 14:52:13 EST 2004

Dear Chris,

>On 12/22/04 6:38 AM, "Harold R. Holmyard III" <hholmyard at ont.com> wrote:
>>  What makes me
>>  sympathetic with Doug's idea is that a man obviously deposits seed.
>>  Since ancients could see that, whether they understood anything about
>>  an egg would not be so important. They would have seen that the man
>>  planted seed in the woman. So the Hiphil of ZR( may have been a term
>>  to indicate that this seed germinated.
>Yet our ideas about what "ancients ... would have seen" is not a solid basis
>on which to make philological claims.

HH: I did not make my argument on the basis of 
some questionable modern idea. I made on the 
basis of what their experience was. They would 
have seen with their eyes that male seed went 
into women.

>  Are there any _attested_ uses of the
>verb ZR( taking a masculine subject and meaning "to impregnate"? I can't
>find any in the Tanakh. Am I missing them?

HH: We're dealing with this topic because that 
information is not in the Tanakh. This fact does 
not mean that one cannot draw conclusions about 
basic realities of life and how they impinge on 
the use of a word. I did not say I was right. I 
said that I was sympathetic with Doug's idea, and 
in fact both the lexicons and even Moshe in his 
translation agrees with Doug.

HH: It is obvious that the wording in Lev 12:2 is 
similar to many places in the OT when it says 
that a woman became pregnant and gave birth. here 
is just a sample in the first book of the Bible:

Gen. 29:33 ¶ She conceived again, and when she 
gave birth to a son she said,  "Because the LORD 
heard that I am not loved, he gave me this one 
too." So she named him Simeon.
Gen. 29:34 ¶ Again she conceived, and when she 
gave birth to a son she said,  "Now at last my 
husband will become attached to me, because I 
have borne him three sons." So he was named Levi.
Gen. 29:35 ¶ She conceived again, and when she 
gave birth to a son she said,  "This time I will 
praise the LORD." So she named him Judah. Then 
she stopped having children.
Gen. 30:7 ¶ Rachel's servant Bilhah conceived 
again and bore Jacob a second son.
Gen. 30:19 ¶ Leah conceived again and bore Jacob a sixth son.
Gen. 38:4 She conceived again and gave birth to a son and named him Onan.

HH: The ancients were fully aware of the role of male semen in conception:

Gen. 38:8 ¶ Then Judah said to Onan,  "Lie with 
your brother's wife and fulfill your duty to her 
as a brother-in-law to produce offspring for your 
Gen. 38:9 But Onan knew that the offspring would 
not be his; so whenever he lay with his brother's 
wife, he spilled his semen on the ground to keep 
from producing offspring for his brother.

HH: I've already argued that the Hiphil of ZR( in 
Lev 12:2 is a functional word looking forward to 
giving birth and probably functioning like HRH in 
the texts above. Otherwise, you have to assume 
that the text is speaking of simply producing 
eggs, which Peter says was an unknown reality 
until the nineteenth century. Or you have to 
imagine some other strange scenario. Why not just 
assume that the Hiphil in ZR( speaks of 
conception, which the ancients understood to 
involve male seed?

					Harold Holmyard

>R. Christopher Heard
>Assistant Professor of Religion
>Armstrong Fellow in Religion
>Pepperdine University

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