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Thread: Literal translations of Biblical names?

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    Literal translations of Biblical names?

    Could someone offer possible literal translations for Biblical names such as:

    Adam
    Eve
    Cain
    Abel

    I've been trying to get a grasp on how the original Hebrew speakers would have heard certain names and words. Today, most english names have roots in other languages and we rarely know what they mean (unless we look them up). But this was different in early history, correct? I'd be curious how certain names would have been heard?

    For instance, Eve is said to have named Cain based on him being an acquisition. Cain is a transliteration, but how would it be rendered literally? The only example I can think of where names are not transliterations is Native American names such as Sitting Bull, Crazy Horse, Standing Bear, etc. In those cases they are translated literally. Is this similar to how original Hebrew speakers heard names?

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    I would think so, yes.

    Abel I was recently seing as meaning "vanity", but I am not a Hebraist myself.
    http://notontimsblogroundhere.blogspot.fr/p/apologetics-section.html

    Thanks, Sparko, for telling how I add the link here!

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    tWebber robrecht's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Calminian View Post
    Could someone offer possible literal translations for Biblical names such as:

    Adam
    Eve
    Cain
    Abel

    I've been trying to get a grasp on how the original Hebrew speakers would have heard certain names and words. Today, most english names have roots in other languages and we rarely know what they mean (unless we look them up). But this was different in early history, correct? I'd be curious how certain names would have been heard?

    For instance, Eve is said to have named Cain based on him being an acquisition. Cain is a transliteration, but how would it be rendered literally? The only example I can think of where names are not transliterations is Native American names such as Sitting Bull, Crazy Horse, Standing Bear, etc. In those cases they are translated literally. Is this similar to how original Hebrew speakers heard names?
    Adam (אָדָם, 'adam): Mankind, humanity, sometimes of an individual male, reddish (perhaps like clay). Surprisingly, unlike almost everything else of significance in the creation narrative, ’adam is not named when created on the sixth day, or when he is formed from the earth in Genesis Chapter 2. The actual naming of ’adam does not occur until Gen 5,2, where, like in Gen 1,26, 'adam refers explicitly to the couple, male and female, which is given the name ‘humankind’. 'adam is closely related to the word 'adamah, which means 'ground', 'earth' in the sense of dirt (not the planet). Mankind comes from the earth and returns to the earth (Gen 2,19). The individual man whom we today call Adam, is never actually given a name in the Hebrew Bible.

    Eve (חַוָּה, chawah): Unlike Adam, who is never given a name, Eve is named twice. At first the man rather crudely named her merely 'Woman' (Gen 2,25), but later after they are spared from immediate death on account of their disobedience, he gives her a true name (3,20), an ancient form of the word for 'life'. It can also mean 'village', and to this day, the women are the true center of all village life. The men go off and hunt and gather, make war, drink and carouse, but the women make sure everything is taken care of properly back home in the village.

    Cain (קַיִן, qayin): In Gen 4,1 the biblical author makes a word-play on the name Cain (qayin) and the verb qanah (to acquire, buy, create, make) when Eve says she has acquired/made a man (with Yahweh). Qayin could be a (copper) 'spear', or in Aramaic a (copper) smith, and it may be related to the Kenite tribe (in Hebrew spelled with a Q) of Moses' father-in-law'. One might also think of Cain as evoking the Canaanites, but this is a different word in Hebrew, spelled with a K rather than a Q and signifying traders, merchants. The word 'Cain' is closely related to qiynah, which is a a funeral dirge, which is also evocative of Cain's role as the first murderer.

    Abel (הֶבֶל, hevel): The meaning of the 'hevel' is 'mist' or 'fog', as he too like the fog disappears quickly from the scene, leaving no progeny. It is the same word that Qoheleth (Ecclesiastes) uses in the theme of his book: Vanity of vanities, all is vanity, says Qoheleth. One might also say, Fog of fog, all is fog. Or, what is the ultimate meaning of our short life, if we all die so soon like Abel?
    Last edited by robrecht; 01-24-2017 at 11:46 AM.
    βλέπομεν γὰρ ἄρτι δι᾿ ἐσόπτρου ἐν αἰνίγματι, τότε δὲ πρόσωπον πρὸς πρόσωπον·
    ἄρτι γινώσκω ἐκ μέρους, τότε δὲ ἐπιγνώσομαι καθὼς καὶ ἐπεγνώσθην.

    אָכֵ֕ן אַתָּ֖ה אֵ֣ל מִסְתַּתֵּ֑ר אֱלֹהֵ֥י יִשְׂרָאֵ֖ל מוֹשִֽׁיעַ׃

  4. Amen Scrawly, One Bad Pig, Rushing Jaws amen'd this post.
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    Troll Magnet Sparko's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by robrecht View Post
    Adam (אָדָם, 'adam): Mankind, humanity, sometimes of an individual male, reddish (perhaps like clay). Surprisingly, unlike almost everything else of significance in the creation narrative, ’adam is not named when created on the sixth day, or when he is formed from the earth in Genesis Chapter 2. The actual naming of ’adam does not occur until Gen 5,2, where, like in Gen 1,26, 'adam refers explicitly to the couple, male and female, which is given the name ‘humankind’. 'adam is closely related to the word 'adamah, which means 'ground', 'earth' in the sense of dirt (not the planet). Mankind comes from the earth and returns to the earth (Gen 2,19). The individual man whom we today call Adam, is never actually given a name in the Hebrew Bible.

    Eve (חַוָּה, chawah): Unlike Adam, who is never given a name, Eve is named twice. At first the man rather crudely named her merely 'Woman' (Gen 2,25), but later after they are spared from immediate death on account of their disobedience, he gives her a true name (3,20), an ancient form of the word for 'life'. It can also mean 'village', and to this day, the women are the true center of all village life. The men go off and hunt and gather, make war, drink and carouse, but the women make sure everything is taken care of properly back home in the village.

    Cain (קַיִן, qayin): In Gen 4,1 the biblical author makes a word-play on the name Cain (qayin) and the verb qanah (to acquire, buy, create, make) when Eve says she has acquired/made a man (with Yahweh). Qayin could be a (copper) 'spear', or in Aramaic a (copper) smith, and it may be related to the Kenite tribe (in Hebrew spelled with a Q) of Moses' father-in-law'. One might also think of Cain as evoking the Canaanites, but this is a different word in Hebrew, spelled with a K rather than a Q and signifying traders, merchants. The word 'Cain' is closely related to qiynah, which is a a funeral dirge, which is also evocative of Cain's role as the first murderer.

    Abel (הֶבֶל, hevel): The meaning of the 'hevel' is 'mist' or 'fog', as he too like the fog disappears quickly from the scene, leaving no progeny. It is the same word that Qoheleth (Ecclesiastes) uses in the theme of his book: Vanity of vanities, all is vanity, says Qoheleth. One might also say, Fog of fog, all is fog. Or, what is the ultimate meaning of our short life, if we all die so soon like Abel?
    That's interesting.

    The question then is:

    Were they named that because of the meanings? Or did the meanings come from the names later?

    For example, did Adam come to mean "mankind" because Adam was the first man? Considering Hebrew wasn't around then probably, I would think so.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Sparko View Post
    Considering Hebrew wasn't around then probably, I would think so.
    Hebrew WAS around. It is the language God spoke with Adam in all probability (Aramaic might be a candidate too).
    http://notontimsblogroundhere.blogspot.fr/p/apologetics-section.html

    Thanks, Sparko, for telling how I add the link here!

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    tWebber robrecht's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Sparko View Post
    That's interesting.

    The question then is:

    Were they named that because of the meanings? Or did the meanings come from the names later?

    For example, did Adam come to mean "mankind" because Adam was the first man? Considering Hebrew wasn't around then probably, I would think so.
    The only instances in the earliest Hebrew consonantal text of Genesis where 'adam is unambiguously used as a name is in Genesis 4,25 and 5,3-5. On the basis of those texts, you could make a case that it was originally understood to be the name of a single man. Personally, I would not assume that the first man was named Adam, 'though the author(s) of these verses did, and the tendency of later translators and Masoretes tended to variously understand the earlier text of Genesis in this way, at the risk of obscuring the deep significance of the collective and symbolic force of ’adam in these Hebrew narratives.

    The LXX first uses the transliteration Adam (rather than a translation) at Gen 2,16, when Adam is commanded not to eat from the tree of life, but note that while he is addressed with one singular 2nd person verb in 2,16, this is immediately followed by three 2nd person plural verbs in 2,17. The LXX uses the transliteration more than other translations, but not exclusively after 2,16 (see 2,18.24 4,1 and 5,1). Does the Greek translator sometimes translate and other times transliterate ‘Adam’ because is trying to evoke the polyvalent sense of the Hebrew original that was otherwise lost in Hebrew? The Vulgate first uses the transliteration at 2,19, the naming of the animals. The Masoretic text does not vocalize the Hebrew consonantal text as a name until 3,17 (cursing of the ground) and 3,21 (making of clothes). Luther did not use the name Adam until Gen 3,8, after the fall of man. The King James Version followed the Vulgate in starting to use Adam at 2,19. Is Adam to be understood strictly as a name? That very much depends on what translation you read:

    MT arthrous: 1,27; Chapter 2: 14x (2,7bis.8.15.16.18.19bis.20.21.22bis.23.25); Chapter 3: 6x (3,8.9.12.20.22.24); 4,1 Chapter 6: 6x; Chapters 7-25: 10x
    MT anarthrous: 1,26 2,5 (w אַ֔יִן)] [2,20* 3,17.21 (w לְ)] 4,25 5,1bis.2.3.4.5 16,12
    DSS arthrous: 1,27 2,15.16.19; cf 1,26 plural verb 1,27 them
    Sam anarthrous: 1,26 2,5.7.25 3,8 4,25 5,1bis.2.3.4.5
    Sam arthrous: 1,27 2,7.8.15.16.18.19bis.20.21.22bis.23 3,9.12.20.22.24 4,1
    - Cannot say if 2,20 3,17.21 are arthrous or anarthrous because of prepositions
    LXX Anthropos: 1,26.27[o] Chapter 2: 6x (2,7bis[o].8[o].15[o].18[o].24; 4,1 5,1 Chapter 6: 11x; …
    LXX Adam: Chapter 2: 10x (2,16[o].19bis[o1x].20bis[o1x].21[o].22bis[o].23.25[o]); Chapter 3: 9x (3,8[o].9bis[o1x].12[o].17[o].20.21[o].22.24[o]); 4,1.25 5,1.2.3.4.5
    Vulg Adam: Chapter 2: 8x (2,19bis.20.21.22bis.23.25); Chapter 3: 6x (3,8.9.12.20.22.24); 4,1.25 5,1.2.3.4.5
    Vulg Homo, homines: Gen. 1,26-27 2,5.7-8.15.18.24 4,1 5,1
    Luther 1545 Adam: Chapter 3: 8x (3,8.9.12.17.20.21.22.24); 4,1.25 5,3[1x!]
    KJV Adam: Chapter 2: 6x (2,19bis.20bis.21.23); Chapter 3: 5x (3,8.9.17.20.21); 4,1.25 5,1.2.3.4.5
    NRSV Adam: 4,25 5,1.3.4.5
    Last edited by robrecht; 01-24-2017 at 01:34 PM.
    βλέπομεν γὰρ ἄρτι δι᾿ ἐσόπτρου ἐν αἰνίγματι, τότε δὲ πρόσωπον πρὸς πρόσωπον·
    ἄρτι γινώσκω ἐκ μέρους, τότε δὲ ἐπιγνώσομαι καθὼς καὶ ἐπεγνώσθην.

    אָכֵ֕ן אַתָּ֖ה אֵ֣ל מִסְתַּתֵּ֑ר אֱלֹהֵ֥י יִשְׂרָאֵ֖ל מוֹשִֽׁיעַ׃

  8. Amen Sparko, Scrawly amen'd this post.
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    Quote Originally Posted by robrecht View Post
    Personally, I would not assume that the first man was named Adam, 'though the author(s) of these verses did,
    In other words, you feel disagreeing with a hagiographer and with God is good enough for you?
    http://notontimsblogroundhere.blogspot.fr/p/apologetics-section.html

    Thanks, Sparko, for telling how I add the link here!

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    tWebber robrecht's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by hansgeorg View Post
    In other words, you feel disagreeing with a hagiographer and with God is good enough for you?
    I would never disagree with God, unless he wanted me to, but I'm not sure which hagiographer you are referring to here?
    βλέπομεν γὰρ ἄρτι δι᾿ ἐσόπτρου ἐν αἰνίγματι, τότε δὲ πρόσωπον πρὸς πρόσωπον·
    ἄρτι γινώσκω ἐκ μέρους, τότε δὲ ἐπιγνώσομαι καθὼς καὶ ἐπεγνώσθην.

    אָכֵ֕ן אַתָּ֖ה אֵ֣ל מִסְתַּתֵּ֑ר אֱלֹהֵ֥י יִשְׂרָאֵ֖ל מוֹשִֽׁיעַ׃

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    Troll Magnet Sparko's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by hansgeorg View Post
    Hebrew WAS around. It is the language God spoke with Adam in all probability (Aramaic might be a candidate too).
    really hans, you should not be contributing to threads in biblical languages. You have absolutely no knowledge in the area. I trust robrecht's answers and comments. He is a first class biblical language scholar. You could learn a lot just from reading his posts.

    Remember the old saying, better to be silent and seem a fool, than to open your mouth and remove all doubt.

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    Troll Magnet Sparko's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by robrecht View Post
    I would never disagree with God, unless he wanted me to, but I'm not sure which hagiographer you are referring to here?
    I think he is referring to Luke's genealogy maybe?

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