Creation recreated

Blake_ancient_of_days

I’ve always been interested in the way things translate from one language to another. Of course, that also means from one culture to another, and, as in the case of Bible translation, from one era to another. Time changes, language metamorphoses, and our world-views alter with our understanding of the world around us.

There is no question that the most powerful translation of Genesis can be found in the King James version, but words that meant one thing in the era of Shakespeare may very well mean something different now. And the verse forms of ancient Hebrew are different from our expectations of poetry, now.

So, I’ve always wondered, what does the original Hebrew mean in the Torah? Is there a way to make a translation that hews closely to the original meaning, the tribal meaning of the language?

I’ve gone through several interlinear translations, several translations in clear text, and lots and lots of footnotes to come up with something that gives me as close as I can tell, what the original Creation story meant in its Hebrew iteration, uninflected by several millennia of religious interpretation, sectarian wars and violence, pogroms and anathemae.

In the interests of disclosure, I should admit up front that I have no stake in this game: I am not a believer (when asked, I usually say I have no religion, I’m not even an atheist), so I’m not trying to persuade anyone that the Bible is true, or not true, or that this or that dogma is the “true” one. This is just my attempt to understand what metaphors and language was used in the ancient Middle East as they slowly came to terms with what would become their religion.

Believe me, I don’t claim this is a good translation of the first Creation story in Genesis. But it is a defensible one.

King James is still the king, but its rather archaic feeling — which, of course, was not archaic when it was written — has unfortunately become the default diction and rhetoric of belief. (So much that Joseph Smith’s “Book of Mormon” is written in a botched imitation of the sound of KJV, albeit with lousy grammar and many gross lexical misunderstandings).

There are many points in the Hebrew text where scholars either disagree, or throw up their hands and say, “We just don’t know what is being said here.” They give it their best guess, like the bit about the stars being created for calendar use. The original Hebrew is obscure.

Anyway, here’s my version:

Genesis, the beginning

When it all started up, and the gods were arranging the sky and the ground,

When the earth was emptiness with darkness over the ocean,

the wind of the gods hung over the face of the water

The gods said:

“Let there be light,” and light happened.

And the gods said, “We did a good job.”

the gods split up the light and the dark,

calling the light “Day,” and the dark, “Night.”

There was a sunset; there was a sunrise — One Day.

The gods said:

“Let there be a bowl over the water and let it split up water from water.”

The gods made the bowl

and separated the water that was below the bowl

from the water that was above the bowl.

It Was.

The gods called the bowl, “Sky.”

There was a sunset; there was a sunrise — Two Days.

The gods said:

“Let the water under the sky be brought together in one place

and let the dry land be seen.”

It Was.

The gods called the dry part “Ground,” and the collected waters they called “Sea.”

The gods saw the craftsmanship was good.

The gods said:

“Let the ground sprout with growing sprouts —

plants that seed-forth seeds, fruits trees that fruit, according to their type.”

It Was.

The ground grew growing sprouts, seeding plants seeding seed plants, fruiting fruit trees.

The gods recognized they were well made.

There was a sunset; there was a sunrise — Three Days.

The gods said:

“Let there be lamps in the bowl of the sky to split up the day from the night, that they may be signs (Hebrew “difficult”) for a calendar, and let them be lamps in the bowl of the sky to provide light on the ground.”

It Was.

The gods made two big lamps:

The bigger lamp for ruling the day; the smaller lamp for ruling the night.

And the stars.

The gods placed them in the bowl of the sky to provide light on the ground and to rule the day and the night.

The gods liked what they saw.

There was a sunset; there was a sunrise — Four Days.

The gods said:

“Let the water swarm with a swarm of beings, and let the birds fly across the bowl of the sky.”

The gods created huge sea serpents and all the crawly things that crawl about, with which the water swarmed, after their type, and all the birds, after their type.

And the gods saw they looked good.

And the gods blessed them, saying:

“Grow fruit and be many and fill the water of the seas and let the birds be many.”

There was a sunset; there was a sunrise — Five Days.

The gods said:

“Let the ground bear creatures in types, herd-animals, crawling things, wild things of the earth, all divided by type.”

It Was.

The gods made the wild things of the earth, divided by type, and the herd animals, divided by type, and the crawling things in the dirt, divided by type.

The gods saw it was working out well.

The gods said:

“Let us make people in our shape, looking like us.

Let them rule over the fish in the sea, the birds in the sky, all the earth, all the crawling things that crawl on the ground.”

So the gods made people in their shape, so they looked like the gods,

male and female, the gods created them.

The gods blessed them and said to them:

“Grow fruit and be many and fill up the earth and conquer it. Have rule over the fish in the sea, the birds in the sky and all the crawly things that crawl on the ground.”

The gods said:

“Here, we give you all the seeding plants that seed that are on the face of the earth, all the trees in which fruits fruit. For you they will be for eating. And also for all the living things of the earth — all the birds of the sky and the crawly things that crawl about on the ground — all green plants for eating.”

It Was.

Then the gods looked at all they had done with exceeding satisfaction.

There was a sunset; there was a sunrise — Six Days.

So, everything was finished — sky and earth, with all their entourages.

The gods had finished, on the seventh day, the work they had done

Then they stopped on the seventh day, all the work they had done.

The gods gave the seventh day their blessing and made it sacred, for on that day, they stopped working on all that they had done.

This is how it all began, the sky and the earth and all history.

Advertisements

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: