[b-hebrew] FW: origin of evil

K Randolph kwrandolph at gmail.com
Mon Sep 11 16:36:04 EDT 2006


On 9/11/06, Lisbeth S. Fried <lizfried at umich.edu> wrote:
> >
> > Sameer, Lisbeth, Harold, et al.:
> >
> > I agree with Sameer that we ought confine ourselves first to the
> > question, is "evil" the correct translation of the term R(? After
> > that, and only after that, should we ask what is and what is not R(.
> >
> > My understanding of the term "evil" is that it always includes a moral
> > aspect, is that not true?
> OK
> >
> > Examples of R( in Tanakh include uses that, though they are
> > displeasurable to the suffering of harm, they do not include the moral
> > aspect.
> Examples, please.

Genesis 37:33 where it is used as an adjective
Genesis 41:21 the emaciated cattle pharaoh saw in his dream
Leviticus 27:10 the animals designated for sacrifice
Leviticus 27:12 the value, the pleasing value of course costing more.
Deuteronomy 15:21
Deuteronomy 17:1
Deuteronomy 28:35
Shall I go on?

My understanding is that when an adjective stands alone, as in Isaiah
45:7, that it refers to an event(s) or object(s) that can be
understood as described by that adjective.

> >
> > Therefore, my conclusion is that "evil" is an incorrect translation
> > for R(. I have suggested that "harm" or something similar is a better
> > translation.
> I don't agree, unless you can show me examples of the use of Ra( which do
> not include a moral aspect. Please do not include sentences with God as the
> subject, as that is the issue.
> >
See  above.

> > Shall we discuss this linguistic aspect, or shall I join with Sameer
> > in requesting that the moderators shut down this thread?
> I'm very happy to discuss the meaning of this word. Understanding its
> meaning is crucial.
> You might start with Gen.2 and 3. What type of knowledge is available to
> Adam and Eve after they eat of the tree of da'at tov v ra'? I assumed it was
> knowledge of moral discernment, not a knowledge of what sort of occurrences
> are beneficial and what sort are disastrous. I would think that even the
> animals know when a pleasant thing happens to them and when a calamity
> strikes.
> Liz Fried

Genesis two and three are where not to start, as God is the (indirect) subject.

My understanding of the term is that it refers to that which is
displeasing, but in a semantic domain that is much broader than the
English term, to include also physical harm. In itself, it is morally
neutral, but it is often used in a context where the displeasure is
caused by moral actions, hence the context is adding something not
contained in the word alone. Where the context does not include the
moral aspect, I do not think a term that has morality as a necessary
part should be used as a translation, such as "evil".

I understand that the word for "evil" is the same as for "wicked", namely R$(H.

Because of the strong theological traditions that have accrued to R(,
I have found it hard to analyse it for itself. Did I miss anything?

Karl W. Randolph.

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