by Mary Phil Korsak

      Certain attributes of the Godhead have been forgotten by interpreters of the Garden of Eden story. Furthermore, biblical commentary imposes a negative image of the first human couple and particularly of the woman in the garden. Words with moral overtones such as "fall", "evil", "temptation", "shame", legal terms such as "prohibition", "forbidden", "guilty", "punishment", "time of judgment", psychologically dismal terms such as "doubt", "suspicion", "anxiety", "broken relationship", "hostile", "estrangement", "anxiety", characterize biblical footnotes to this "temptation story" (cf. The Oxford Annotated Bible. RSV 1962:3-5).
      This article sets out to demonstrate how working on a new translation of Hebrew Genesis has led to fresh exploration of the text. First the translation, At the start… Genesis made new, is presented along with the translator's working method. This presentation illustrates in particular the hermeneutical possibilities of Hebrew/English word patterns. Second, a creative approach to the unraveling of new interpretation of the Garden of Eden story is proposed. The intention is to give the myth new life and keep it in touch with modern (post-modern?) times. Emphasis shifts from a negative, moralizing interpretation to a positive understanding of the story.

      My work as translator of the Hebrew text of Genesis, which falls into the category of ethno-poetics, has led me to discern vital forces at work in the Garden of Eden story: the basic theme of the story concerns the emergence of life. This theme emerged thanks to an "archeological" approach to the text. In the translation At the start... Genesis made new (Korsak, 1993) Hebrew word patterns are retained in English. This method of "excavating" the ancient text suggested new hermeneutical possibilities. In the latter part of this article, two specific aspects of the story are examined: they concern the nature of the stay in the garden and the divine figure of YHWH Elohim.
The presentation of At the start... Genesis made new (henceforward referred to as At the start...) is illustrated by quotations. Whenever this is deemed helpful, parallel passages are cited from The Revised Standard Version (henceforward referred to as Genesis). This juxtaposition facilitates the highlighting of fresh hermeneutical insights.
      At the start... is inspired by the biblical translations of Martin Buber and Franz Rosenzweig, whose work set an example for a twentieth century school of translators (E. Fleg; A. Chouraqui; E. Fox..). The working method adopted represents a radical break with that of many translators. The source text is the Hebrew text: influences stemming from ancient Greek, Latin and vernacular versions are purposely left aside. Furthermore, an attempt is made to narrow the gap between the original Hebrew and the English version. This is achieved by echoing Hebrew word order and rhythm, and by a word for word rendering of Hebrew vocabulary. One English word systematically corresponds to one Hebrew word. The rules of mutual concordance are also respected. One English word translates only one Hebrew word, not two. In this way, verbal repetitions and distinctions that have often been lost or obscured in the translation process are transferred to the English version.
      In The Revised Standard Version the first book of the Bible is entitled The First Book of Moses commonly called GENESIS. In the new translation, the term Genesis is rejected because of its Greek origins. Instead, in keeping with the tradition of the ancient near east, the first word or phrase of the book, bereshit, provides the title. (cf. the Babylonian Poem of Creation, known as Enuma elis, "When on high", and the Epic of Gilgamesh, Sa nagba imuru, "He who experienced all": Speiser, 1962: xvii). The novelty of the title At the start... for bereshit announces the color of the translation, which proposes a "Genesis made new".
      Fresh initiative is also taken with regard to the lay-out of the text. Whereas the pages of Genesis are made up of two columns of prose sub-divided into paragraphs, the text of At the start... is presented in the free verse form. This lay-out recalls the structure of the Hebrew text, in which the spoken rhythms of biblical, oral tradition correspond to consecutive units of meaning. These rhythms, which are heard when the text is recited, are projected onto paper by means of a line by line breakdown, which acts as a guide for the eye as well as the ear. The frugal use of punctuation harks back to the Hebrew text, whilst linking up with modern poetics. To illustrate how this lay-out functions, here are two passages from the Joseph story. They tell how Joseph interprets the dreams of the chief butler and the chief baker. The passages quoted are at once similar and different. The structure of the new lay-out sets off verbal repetitions, variants and omissions. In particular, the crucial words "off you" in the second passage stand out in a startling manner

      This is its interpretation
      The three tendrils? They are three days
      Within three days
      Pharaoh will lift up your head
      and return you to your office (40,12-13)

      This is its interpretation
      The three baskets? They are three days
      Within three days
      Pharaoh will lift up your head off you
      and hang you on a tree (40,18-19)

      The word for word method of translation ensures the transfer of Hebrew word patterns to the target language. These patterns are formed by interconnected words, which are related etymologically, e.g. adam/adama, or associated through the sound links of "folk etymology", e.g. isha/ish. The combination and repetition of such words form an extended word pattern. In Genesis no importance is attached to this phenomenon. In chapter 2,5-9a, adam/adama are translated as "man/ground". Consequently, the repetitive pattern which characterizes the Hebrew text is lost in English:

In the day that the Lord God made the earth and heavens, when no plant of the field was yet in the earth and no herb of the field had yet sprung up - for the Lord God had not caused it to rain upon the earth, and there was no man to till the ground; but a mist went up from the earth and watered the whole face of the ground - then the Lord God formed man of dust from the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and man became a living being. And the Lord God planted a garden in Eden in the east; and there he put the man whom he had formed. And out of the ground the Lord God made grow every tree that is pleasant to the sight and good for food... (2,5-9a)

It Is suggested that in the above translation, the loss of the word pattern formed by adam/adama involves a loss of color and a consequent weakening of impact. In At the start..., adam/adama are echoed by equivalent paronyms: "groundling/ground". Here, the same passage, in which the Hebrew words inserted for the purpose of clarification, reads as follows:

      On the day YHWH Elohim made earth and skies
      no shrub of the field was yet in the earth
      no plant of the field had yet sprouted
      for YHWH Elohim had not made it rain on the earth
      and there was no groundling (adam)
      to serve the ground (adama)
      But a surge went up from the earth
      and gave drink to all the face of the ground (adama)
      YHWH Elohim formed the groundling, (adam)
      soil of the ground (adama)
      he blew into its nostrils the blast of life
      and the groundling (adam) became a living soul

      YHWH Elohim planted a garden in Eden in the east
      There he set the groundling (adam) he had formed (2,5-8)

The verbal link "groundling/ground" emphasizes an important aspect of human identity: the adam, the human being, is closely related to the "ground". The repetition of the words "groundling/ground" underscores the nature of this relationship: the vocation of "the groundling" is "to serve the ground" (2,5); "the groundling" is formed from the "soil of the ground" (2,7). These statements at the beginning of the story are counterbalanced by similar statements at the end of the story: the "groundling" "will return to the ground" (3,19) and will be expelled from the garden "to serve the ground from which it was taken" (3,23). In summary, the word pattern draws the reader's attention to two facets of the human situation: the destiny of the groundling is to emerge from the ground and to return to it; the groundling's vocation is to serve the ground.
      Moreover, the word pattern points to further relationships. Through their common origin "the ground", "the groundling" is also connected with trees:

      YHWH Elohim made sprout from the ground (adama)
      all trees attractive to see and good for eating... (2,9a)

and the beasts and fowl:

      YHWH Elohim formed out of the ground (adama)
      all beasts of the field, all fowl of the skies
      and brought them to the groundling (adam)
      to see what it would call them (2,19)

Ecologists interested in biblical sources may find food for thought here.
      The second word pattern to be discussed here is formed by the pair isha/ish. Though isha and ish are not true paronyms, they are connected by the sound of their common syllable ish. Happily for the translator, although familiarity has effaced awareness of this, the English equivalents "woman" and "man" also share a common syllable. To recuperate this advantage, in At the start..., a hyphen is inserted in the English word "wo-man". The hyphen draws attention to the similarity and dissimilarity of the pair "wo-man/man".
      In Hebrew, isha/ish and adam/adama form two distinct word patterns. When the rule of mutual concordance is applied, these distinctions emerge in English. In Genesis, no importance is attached to this phenomenon. Hebrew ish and Hebrew adam are both translated as "man". The choice of one English word for two Hebrew words has hermeneutical consequences. In effect, Genesis relates that "man" exists before "woman" and that "woman" is made from "man's" rib:

So the LORD God caused a deep sleep to fall upon the man and while he slept took one of his ribs and closed up its place with flesh; and the rib which the LORD God had taken from the man he made into a woman and brought her to the man. Then the man said,
           "This at last is bone of my bones
           and flesh of my flesh;
           she shall be called Woman,
           because she was taken out of Man" (2,21-23)

In At the start..., "groundling/ground" (adam/adama) and "wo-man/man" (isha/ish) are dissociated. On the one hand there is the "groundling" related to the "ground", on the other there is "wo-man" related to "man". When these distinctions are maintained in English, the translation conveys the following message: "wo-man" and "man", like and unlike, issue from the "groundling". The word "man" does not appear in the text before verse 2,23. In order of appearance the word "wo-man" precedes the word "man". The translation conveys the following message: the word "man" represents a new identity, that of "man" facing "wo-man".

      YHWH Elohim made a swoon fall upon the groundling (adam)
      it slept
      He took one of its sides
      and closed up the flesh in its place
      YHWH Elohim built the side
      he had taken from the groundling (adam) into woman (isha)
      He brought her to the groundling (adam)
      The groundling (adam) said
           This one this time
           is bone from my bones
           flesh from my flesh   
           This one shall be called wo-man (isha)
           for from man (ish)
           she has been taken this one (2,21-23)

      It is important to note that the systematic choice of one English word for one Hebrew word respects the shifts of meaning present in the original text. Both languages allow for semantic evolution: first there is the "groundling", described as "male and female" (1,27); then there is the "groundling" who, in the absence of its counterpart, is seen to be alone (2,18.20); subsequently the "groundling" falls asleep to wake up as "man" facing "wo-man"; finally, the "groundling" is used for the male when accompanied by the female (2,25).
      Despite these shifts of meaning, the term "groundling" (adam) appears to be a generic term. The presence of a common noun is signaled by the definite article ha. The definite article, ha, accompanies the noun adam throughout the text with three exceptions. In two of the three cases (1,26 and 5,2) adam is defined as "male and female": it is a generic. The remaining example (2,5) may be considered the exception that proves the rule. Even when ha-adam refers to the male in particular, it remains a generic. This is signaled by the presence of woman. The phrase "the groundling and his woman" (2,25) can be compared to the phrase "the bear and its mate", in which both male and female are "bear". Despite the fact that in the Garden of Eden story, ha-adam is said to be "alone" in verses 2,18.20, the term is a generic here also. This is signaled by the remarked absence of the female: the groundling is incomplete, in need of "its counterpart". A final remark: in verse 4,25, adam appears for the first time as the proper name of an individual, "Adam". The proper name is not accompanied by the definite article ha.
      Another form of word pattern based on the sound associations of folk etymology plays an important role when names are given. In so-called naming verses, a new name is followed by an explanation justifying the choice of a particular name. The word-play connecting name and explanation points to the nature of the one born, the circumstances of birth, the character's destiny or vocation. A change of name implies a vocational change, e.g. Abram becomes Abraham, "Father of a Multitude" (17,5). Hebrew names are thus seen to be meaningful. Hebrew word-play in these verses indicates in what way they are meaningful. In Genesis, the explanations in naming verses are translated without any echo of Hebrew word-play in the text. Here are three examples:

And Adam knew his wife again, and she bore a son and called his name Seth, for she said "God has appointed for me another child instead of Abel" (4,25)

Therefore its name was called Babel, because there the LORD confused the language of all the earth (11,9)

The man called his wife's name "Eve", because she was the mother of all living (3,20)

In At the start... Hebrew word-play is reproduced. Sometimes, rarely, it seems best to add the familiar name in a bracket, e.g. "Life (Eve)". Here is how the above verses are translated. The Hebrew terms are inserted for the purpose of clarification:

      Adam knew his woman again
      She bred a son
      She called his name Seth (shet)
     "for Elohim has set (shat) another seed in Abel's place (4,25)

      So they called is name Babel (babel)
      for there YHWH made the lip of all the earth babble (balal) (11,9)

      The groundling called his woman's name Life (Eve) (havva)
      for she is the mother of all that lives (hay)(3,20)

The last example is particularly important. It marks a radical break with standard translations, which do not echo the word pattern in the text and which have thus allowed the name "Eve" to drift away from its significant root and to be associated with sin, guilt and death. Ignoring the word-play has led to a shift of stress from "life" to "mother". Eve is thus currently seen to be mother but she is a bad mother! In the Hebrew text, the word-play havva/hay connects the woman with life-giving forces. Indeed, the name havva derives from the verb h'ava, "to live, to dwell" and hay, "lives" derives from h'aya, "to live, to be alive". (Korsak:1994/95).
      The word-play of naming verses is sometimes extended beyond the original naming verse. When repeated, it provides a hermeneutical key to the story of the one named. Isaac, "He Laughs", is an example. Laughter occurs eleven times in the Isaac story (17,17.19; 18,; 21,; 26,8). In Genesis, however, the meaning of Isaac's name is not communicated in the naming verses (17,19; 21,3). Moreover, in verse 21,9, "laughing" is replaced by "playing" (the words "with her son Isaac" are added from the Septuagint and the Vulgate) and again in verse 26,8, "laughing" is replaced by "fondling" to fit the context of sexual play. In all, four fewer laughs for Isaac! In At the start..., the meaning "He laughs" appears in the naming verses and the key word is repeated in the text wherever it appears in Hebrew. Laughter bubbles up in unexpected ways. In the following passage, where Elohim tells Abraham that he will have a son, Abraham falls over with laughter; spluttering with laughter, he interrupts his own sentence; finally Elohim joins in the joke (Liebenow,1987:21-22):

      Abraham fell upon his face and laughed
      he said in his heart
      Shall a child be bred for a hundred-year old?
      And if Sarah...
      Shall a ninety-year old breed? (17.17)
      Elohim said
      You shall call his name He Laughs (Isaac) (17.19)

When the laughter theme is examined more closely, it provides a possible key to the intrigue involving Isaac and his family. Adrien Bledstein convincingly argues that it is Isaac who outwits Rebekah and not the contrary, as is usually supposed (Bledstein,1993:282-95). If Bledstein's theory is right, Isaac laughs longest and last.
      It has been shown above that technical details in translation, such as word patterns and word-play, have repercussions on the interpretation of meaning. The close examination of the vocabulary it uses is one way of entering into the spirit of a text, of absorbing its literary, poetic, mythological implications. I have stayed a long time with the Hebrew text of Genesis and perceive, as a result of this experience, a new way of understanding the Garden of Eden story. This alternative reading is about growth and birth. It suggests that the groundling, male and female, is formed in the garden like the child in the womb and, like the child from the womb, is expulsed from the garden to face life and death. Only two main points will be developed in this article, however. First, whereas it is generally taught that the groundling is put into the garden and is expected to stay there, a re-examination of the text suggests that, on the contrary, the groundling is put into the garden with a view to leaving it. Second, an attempt is made to explore obscure sides of the divinity. How does YHWH Elohim relate to what is bad in life? Does YHWH Elohim have mother-like as well as father-like attributes.?
      The argument suggests that an in/out movement characterizes the groundling's stay in the garden. It is clear in verses 2,7-8 that the groundling exists before the garden and that the garden is made subsequently as a setting for the groundling:

      YHWH Elohim formed the groundling, soil of the ground
      he blew into its nostrils the blast of life
      and the groundling became a living soul
      YHWH E lohim planted a garden in Eden in the east
      There he set the groundling he had formed (2,7-8)

      The question then arises as to whether the garden is to be a temporary or a permanent setting. Observation of the four rivers provides a clue to the answer. Indeed, as soon as the groundling has been put inside the garden, the story is interrupted by the following passage:

      A river goes out in Eden to give drink to the garden
      >From there it divides and becomes four heads
      The name of the first is Pishon
      It winds through all the land of Havilah
      where there is gold
      The gold of that land is good
      Bdellium is there and onyx stone
      The name of the second river is Gihon
      It winds through all the land of Cush
      The name of the third river is Tigris
      It goes east of Asshur
      The fourth river is Euphrates (2,10-14)

A river rises in Eden and enters the garden to water it. From there it flows out to form the four great rivers of the known world. The four rivers set a precedent for the in/out process. They also effectively draw the attention of the reader to the outside world. If the human horizon is to be limited to the garden, why introduce the outside world here? Why map out those particular areas where water makes life possible on earth and name rivers that evoke early cultural development? Who will delight in the gold and the precious stones that are mentioned? The world described here is attractive to humankind. The story suggests that it is waiting for the groundling, who to profit from it must come out of the garden.
      This destiny is confirmed by the groundling/ground relationship evoked earlier. Three sentences, which all include the verb abad, "to serve" are particularly relevant here:

      and there was no groundling to serve the ground (2,5)

      YHWH Elohim took the groundling
      and set it to rest in the garden of Eden
      to serve it and keep it (2,15)

      ... the groundling ... (3,22)

      YHWH Elohim sent it away from the garden of Eden
      to serve the ground from which it was taken (3,23)

In the above examples, we are told twice that the groundling's vocation is "to serve the ground" (le abod et ha-adama): first, before the garden is planted (2,5); second, when the groundling is expelled from the garden (3,23). In both cases, the ground to be served is outside the garden. These two examples suggest that the vocation "to serve the ground" outside the garden exists independently of the garden episode.
      The intervening passage (2,15) presents an anomaly. If one reads the text in translation, one understands here that the groundling is to serve and keep the garden. The Hebrew word for "garden", gan, however, is masculine, while the following pronoun "it" of "serve it and keep it" is feminine, like adama, "ground" (Humbert, 1940:79). The Hebrew phrase is le abdah u le shamrah. There is a grammatical mistake here, which, curiously, (purposely?), has not been rectified. It suggests that "to serve" is associated with adama, "ground" as in the two preceding examples and that gan, "garden" has replaced adama, "ground". The feminine pronoun, however, remains like a fossil in the text pointing to the groundling's two-fold vocation. Its basic task is "to serve the ground" outside the garden (2,5; 3,23). Its temporary task is "to serve and keep the garden" (2,15). This analysis of the phrases le abod et ha-adam, "to serve the ground", and le abdah u le shamrah, "to serve it and keep it", points in the same direction as the observations about the river/rivers: the stay in the garden is a transitory experience to be interpreted against the larger background of the outside world.
      Turning now to the figure of YHWH Elohim, it may be said that in Jewish and Christian traditions, certain images of God have had little or no press. In effect, concepts such as divine goodness and divine fatherhood are so familiar they have hardened and become exclusive: God's goodness tends to eradicate the association of God with bad; God as father has come to exclude God as mother. In the first case, a taboo seems to lie on the association of the divine with bad. This is illustrated by versions of the serpent's words to the woman. In the Hebrew text, the serpent pronounces the name Elohim three times (3,1.5.5) In Genesis, the divine name is rendered as "God", in At the start..., as "Elohim". As both these translations are systematic here, they call for no special comment. Looking further afield, however, one finds that many Bibles, which commonly translate Elohim as "God", prefer to speak of "divine beings" or "gods" when the divine name is linked with "knowing good and bad", . To illustrate, here are the textual renderings of the Jewish Publication Society of America and the New Jerusalem Bible:

Did God (Elohim) really say : You shall not eat of any tree of the garden? (3,1)
but God (Elohim) knows that as soon as you eat of it your eyes will be opened and you will be like divine beings (Elohim) who know good and bad (3,5 JPSA,1978)

Did God (Elohim) really say you were not to eat from any of the trees in the garden (3,1)
God (Elohim) knows in fact that on the day you eat it your eyes will be opened and you will be like gods (Elohim), knowing good and evil (3,5 NJB,1968) (emphasis mine)

      Commentators also shy away from associating God with bad. The inherent difficulty is sometimes avoided by the argument that "knowing good and bad" means "knowing everything". In this way the image of God, in whom "knowing everything" is considered an acceptable attribute, is redeemed. Everett Fox summarizes as follows: "Interpreters disagree on the meaning of this phrase. It could be a merism (as in knowledge from A to Z - that is, of everything) or an expression of moral choice" (Fox,1983:11). Textual evidence, however, confirms that YHWH Elohim knows good and bad. First, YHWH Elohim grows "the tree of the knowing of good and bad" (2,9). Second, the serpent's words to the woman (3,5) are corroborated by YHWH Elohim. Here are the relevant passages from At the start....

      YHWH Elohim made sprout from the ground
      all trees attractive to see and good for eating
      the tree of life in the middle of the garden
      and the tree of the knowing of good and bad (2,9)

      YHWH Elohim said
      Here, the groundling has become as one of us
      knowing good and bad (3,22)

      When "God" (RSV) or "Elohim" (At the start...) is retained throughout the serpent's speech the difficult and profound question raised by the Hebrew text remains in the translation. The question might be phrased as follows: is YHWH Elohim, who plants a garden with the tree of knowing good and bad at its center and who puts the groundling in that garden, in part responsible for what takes place there?
      A similar taboo affects the association of God and motherliness. Here the reader of this article is invited to accept the idea that God can be both father-like and mother-like and with this in mind to listen to the following passage with fresh ears. Two commands, one positive and one negative, are given in verses 2,16-17:

      Of all the trees of the garden, eat! you shall eat
      but of the tree of the knowing of good and bad
      you shall not eat
      for on the day you eat of it
      die! you shall die (2,16-17)

"Of all the trees of the garden, eat, you shall eat": the first command expresses a total giving of all that is needed for human sustenance. The tone of voice expresses care. "But of the tree of the knowing of good and bad you shall not eat": the second command establishes a limit or law. The tone of voice expresses authority. The structure here is not either/or but both/and. The Hebrew language expresses this structure admirably. The coordinating conjunction vav, "and/but", establishes perfect balance between the two poles, "you shall" and "you shall not". Two commands, two tones of voice. Here is the third part of the sentence: "for on the day you eat of it, die! you shall die" (2,17). Here an intriguing question arises. What tone of voice is heard now? How should this be recited? What emotion is suitable here?. "Die! you shall die": is this a threat, a reminder that consequences do follow upon deliberate action? The text is usually read this way, whence the current sin/punishment interpretation of the story. However, the third part of the sentence can be read as a warning expressed with a note of anxiety. It has been argued above that the stay in the garden is transitory. It is argued here that the voice knows that the groundling will leave the garden, will risk free choice and autonomy. The apparent threat masks anxiety and fear concerning what will happen outside the garden. I call these mother-like propensities in YHWH Elohim. Furthermore, subsequent events described in the text show that these sentiments are well-founded. Outside the garden, the woman will give birth but it will be at the cost of hard labor. She will be drawn to her man but will have to recognize the limits he sets her.

      Increase! I will increase
      your pains and your conceivings
      With pains you shall breed sons
      For you man your longing
      and he, he shall rule you (3,16)

      Outside the garden, the ground will yield crops for food but again at the cost of hard labor. The ground that produces life- giving sustenance will also be burial ground.

      cursed is the ground for you
      With pains you shall eat of it
      all the days of your life
      Thorn and thistle it shall sprout for you
      You shall eat the plants of the field
      With the sweat of you face you shall eat bread
      till you return to the ground
      for from it you were taken
      for soil you are and to the soil you shall return (3,17-19)

      The reality of life's experience thus proves to be good and bad like the symbolic fruit of the tree. But worse follows. Subsequently, moral evil is introduced into the world through the murderous sin of Cain (4,8) and Cain's violence is amplified in his descendant Lamech.

      For I have killed a man for wounding me
      a child for bruising me
      For 7 times is Cain avenged
      but Lamech 77 times (4,23-24).

      When with Cain's sin bad takes on the dimension of moral evil, the fears of YHWH Elohim are fully justified. This observation prolongs the earlier difficult question: does YHWH Elohim, who knows bad, apprehend evil? Chapter 6 tells that YHWH is pained by the growth of evil in the world. YHWH therefore not only apprehends evil, he suffers from it.

      YHWH saw
      that the groundling's badness increased on earth
      All the thoughts its heart formed were only bad
      all the day long
      YHWH was sorry he made the groundling on earth
      he was pained in his heart (6,5-6)

Interestingly, the same Hebrew root atsab is used for YHWH's pain, for woman's birth pains (3,16) and for the pains of agricultural labor (3,17).
      To conclude, if we search for the mother-like in YHWH Elohim, we may find meanings and analogies that resemble the birth process in the Garden of Eden story, in the first stirrings of human life, the preparation for autonomy, the expulsion from a protected environment, the vulnerability of the newly-born, the irrevocable severing from the life source, the risks and dangers (including sin) involved in life's adventure. This search enhances divine attributes such as generosity, concern, worry, tenderness. With these in mind, the last verses of the story lend themselves to gentler interpretation than the current, punitive one.

      YHWH Elohim made for the groundling and his woman
      robes of skin and clothed them
      YHWH Elohim said
      Here the groundling has become as one of us
      knowing good and bad
      Now, let it not put out its hand
      to take from the tree of life also
      and eat and live for ever!
      YHWH Elohim sent it away from the garden of Eden
      to serve the ground from which it was taken
      He cast out the groundling
      and made dwell east of the garden of Eden
      the Cherubim and the scorching, turning sword
      to keep the road to the tree of life (3,21-24)

Translating the first book of the Bible has proved a liberating experience. Long frequentation of the text has bred familiarity with the Garden of Eden myth, has led to creative hermeneutical exploration, inspired initially by Hebrew word patterns, punning and key words. An analogy between the Garden of Eden story and the birth process has given rise to this article. Textual evidence has been brought forward to support the view that the garden, like the womb, is a temporary dwelling place, that from the outset it is part of the divine plan that the groundling should leave the garden to assume its destiny, which includes the experience of good and bad, of life and death. Metaphors facilitating God-talk have been discerned in the text, widening the image of the Godhead to include a mother-like figure, closely involved in the experience of good and bad. If the groundling must leave the garden because it has become like YHWH Elohim (3,22 ff), the patriarchal/good image alone is not sustainable as a model in our lives. These concepts distance us from God. A shift of emphasis to a mother-like divine figure, affected by human experience, good and bad, brings God closer to us, makes God more worthy of our veneration and especially of our care...
Published in Semeia 81, "Thinking in Signs", Scholars Press, USA 1999


Bledstein, Adrien J. "Binder, Trickster, Heel and Hairy-Man: Rereading Genesis 27 as a Trickster Tale Told by a
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