[b-hebrew] Genesis 3:5 - and ye shall be as gods

Harold Holmyard hholmyard at ont.com
Thu Aug 17 22:00:20 EDT 2006

Dear Steven,

>Genesis 3:5 (KJB)
>For God doth know that in the day ye eat thereof, 
>then your eyes shall be opened, 
>and ye shall be as gods, 
>knowing good and evil. 
>   Surprisingly we apparently have not discussed this verse.
>   Many translations have the second Elohim as "God", singular, although
>much traditional Jewish exegesis (Targumim, Ibn Ezra, perhaps Rashi) supports
> the plural non-Deity usage of elohim, which was followed by Geneva and the 
>King James Bible.  Also many Jewish Bibles today (e.g. Soncino, JPS) as well 
>as Fox.  (I am especially curious about notes in ArtScroll and Living Torah,
>and moderately interested in others, like Alter's translation here). 
>    Do you see anything special in the Hebrew that leans toward one 
>translation or another ?  Granted there are a lot of various doctrinal
>aspects that could be offered, I don't mind hearing those either :-) 
HH: I don't think the plural participle "knowing" makes a strong argumnt 
for taking 'elohim as plural. It is plural because Adam and Eve are 
plural. It is they who will know good and evil like God. The participle 
"knowing," modifies the verbal phrase "you will be," which is plural. 
Participles take their number from the word they modify. So one expects 
the participle to be plural. That is no sufficient reason for 
overthrowing the meaning the word 'elohim has had in every occurrence up 
to this point.  'Elohim occurs an astonishing 59 times in Genesis 1-3, 
and 51 times just through Gen 3:5. There are 61 verses between Gen 1:1 
and 3:5, so there is close to a one-occurrence-per-verse average use of 
'elohim. Previously it has always referred to the Creator. Adam and Eve 
only know about the Creator God. They know that he knows good and evil 
because he put a tree of the knowledge of good and evil in the garden.

Harold Holmyard

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