Cattle etc in the Garden of Eden
Posted: 16 September 2011 08:10 AM   [ Ignore ]
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And the LORD God said unto the serpent, Because thou hast done this, thou art cursed above all cattle, and above every beast of the field… (Genesis)

So the KJV has cattle (and sheep and goats by implication) hanging out in fields in the Garden of Eden long before the domestication of livestock.

Whoever translated the same verse in the wikipedia entry for Fall of Man anticipated this objection because they have

Because you have done this,
cursed are you among all animals and among all wild creatures;

So is the KJV bad translation or does the problem lie in the Hebrew source material?

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Posted: 16 September 2011 08:37 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 1 ]
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That’s Genesis 3:14 by the way. (It’s helpful to give the exact reference.)

I can’t speak to the Hebrew, but the Vulgate uses animantia, which means “living things, animals.” Douay-Rheims translates this as “cattle” as well, but that may reflect the influence of the KJV.

Tyndale also uses catell, which is probably where the KJV gets the word. The earlier Wycliffe, who relied on the Vulgate, uses lyuynge thingis.

And in Jacobean English cattle would mean probably mean “livestock” in general and not the specific bovine variety. That more specialized sense existed in 1611, but it was relatively new and post-Tyndale.

[After the fact explanation:
Vulgate = late 4th century translation of Hebrew and Greek scripture into Latin, the “versio vulgata” or “common translation”
Douay-Rheims = 18th century translation of the Vulgate into English, the standard Roman Catholic Bible today
Wycliffe = John Wycliffe and his associates translated the Vulgate into English in the late 14th century
Tyndale = William Tyndale did a partial translation of the Bible into English from Hebrew and Greek scriptures in the early 16th century
KJV = King James or Authorized Version, 1611 translation into English from Hebrew and Greek scriptures that relied heavily on Tyndale’s earlier work]

[ Edited: 16 September 2011 10:51 AM by Dave Wilton ]
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Posted: 16 September 2011 09:10 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 2 ]
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Right now I need the emoticon in which the little guy slaps his brow, “Of course!” I hadn’t realized that cattle is cognate with capital and chattel and in fact initially meant property. From OED:

Middle English catel , < Old Northern French catel (= central Old French chatel , Provençal captal , capdal ) < late Latin captāle , Latin capitāle , neuter of the adj. capitālis head-, principal, capital adj., used subst. in mediæval times in the sense ‘principal sum of money, capital, wealth, property’; compare mod. English capital n.2 = stock in trade. Thus Papias has ‘capitale , caput pecuniæ, capitis summa’, the Catholicon ‘capitale , pecunia’. Under the feudal system the application was confined to movable property or wealth, as being the only ‘personal’ property, and in English it was more and more identified with ‘beast held in possession, live stock’, which was almost the only use after 1500, exc. in the technical phrase ‘goods and catells (cattals)’ which survived till the 17th cent. In legal Anglo-Norman, the Norman catel was superseded at an early period by the Parisian chatel ; this continued to be used in the earlier and wider sense (subject however to legal definition), and has in modern times passed into a certain current use as chattel n., so that the phrase just cited is now also since 16th cent. ‘goods and chattels’. Down to 1500 the typical spelling was catel ; in the 16th cent. this became cattel , cattell ; only since 1600, and chiefly since 1700, spelt cattle . As this spelling is never found in earlier use, and, hence, never in the earlier sense, it would be possible to treat this sense as a separate word Catel , property; but on the other hand the modern sense has all the forms catel , cattel(l , cattle , according to date, and the history is better elucidated by treating the word as a historical whole. chattel n., however, as a distinct modern form and sense, is dealt with in its own place.

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Posted: 17 September 2011 04:06 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 3 ]
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Thanks for your replies.
The KJV verse livestock references look anachronistic and probably inaccurate to me especially after Dave pointed out the earlier Vulgate and Wycliffe terms. The Jacobean translators were cloistered academics with a limited worldview and perhaps were only familiar with pastures and animal husbandry so maybe they imposed this conception on the G of E. But how come Wycliffe wasn’t also? Better translation?
I’d love to know what it was in the original.

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Posted: 17 September 2011 05:02 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 4 ]
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Tyndale also has cattle, or actually catell. That makes me think there may be a difference between the Latin and Hebrew. Wycliffe translated the Vulgate, not the Hebrew like Tyndale and the KJV translators. But I don’t have any good sources for the Hebrew, nor the expertise in that language to interpret them if I did.

I’m thinking there might be a justification in using the domesticated term in the peaceful nature of the Garden of Eden. The pre-fall animals were all domesticated. But then that’s probably reading too much into it.

Note my NSRV translates the verse as “cursed are you among all animals and among all wild creatures.”

[ Edited: 17 September 2011 05:08 AM by Dave Wilton ]
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Posted: 17 September 2011 06:18 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 5 ]
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The Hebrew word, behamah, just means beasts and refers to the large class of land animals in distinction to reptiles and birds. It can also be used to mean domesticated beasts. The KJV translates the same word in Proverbs 30:30 as “the lion [which is] the strongest among beasts” (King of beasts?)

In Job 40:15 the largest and wildest of all land animals, “behemoth” (where the plural ending “oth” is used as a singular to mean “great") is, in the hands of God, but a domesticated pet.  “Behold now behemoth, which I made with thee; he eateth grass as an ox.”

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Posted: 17 September 2011 11:06 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 6 ]
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So the KJV has cattle (and sheep and goats by implication) hanging out in fields in the Garden of Eden long before the domestication of livestock.

This would be an anachronism if there was anything like the chronological in the first 15 chapters of Genesis.

I think Dave’s interpretation is as good as any. The myth of the creation is that all was well and all animals are domesticated in at least the sense that they would present no danger to the human creatures.

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Posted: 17 September 2011 11:49 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 7 ]
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Oecolampadius - 17 September 2011 11:06 AM

The myth of the creation is that all was well and all animals are domesticated in at least the sense that they would present no danger to the human creatures.

Except for that pesky serpent!

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Posted: 17 September 2011 01:28 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 8 ]
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I’ve no idea exactly what animals are meant in Genesis by behemah -Oecolampadius’ interpretation of the word as “beast” is borne out by the verse he quotes from Proverbs. In modern Hebrew, I think the word could be used to refer to a wild beast as well as to a domestcated one.

The word “behemoth” in Job is a once-off usage, not found elsewhere in the Bible AFAIK. I think I’ve heard it said that in that context, it is actually a reference to the hippopotamus. What we need to sort this out is an authority, like Reb Wm.

Aldi: just like a human, to put the blame on someone else! The only animal on earth actively dangerous to human beings is homo sapiens (a whopping misnomer, if ever there was one) ;-)

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Posted: 18 September 2011 08:09 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 9 ]
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Dave Wilton - 17 September 2011 05:02 AM


Note my NSRV translates the verse as “cursed are you among all animals and among all wild creatures.”

This is the source of the second quote in my OP, then, ta.

I have been wondering if the KJV (and other Bibles?) was/were aimed at its/their readership/s who would understand cattle and beasts of the field rather than wild beasts (except stags, deer, wolves, bears etc) though the argument that all pre-fall animals were understood to be kindly is persuasive. What were the artists of the day depicting in religious paintings of the G of E around this time?

Mind you, I can recall Shakespeare referring to a ‘pard’ (leopard) somewhere so lions and tigers must also have been known as exotic creatures then. As well as the lion Oceolampadiusus mentions, the KJV has the camel/eye of the needle metaphor so camels must have also been known in the west (maybe from pictures) if not what an eye of a needle was back in the Biblical day. Africa wasn’t that far from the Bible and its writers either.

The pesky serpent got off lightly in its punishment especially the ones who now thrive where there is no desert religion dust!

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Posted: 18 September 2011 08:39 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 10 ]
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I have a question about the (biblical) Hebrew language.  I have been led to believe: 

‘there are very few words in (biblical) Hebrew (~6,000??); consequently, it is highly idiomatic, forced to do so much with so few words; thus, it is difficult to translate.’

How much, if any truth is there here?

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Posted: 18 September 2011 11:02 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 11 ]
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I hadn’t realized that cattle is cognate with capital and chattel

And head; OE heafod is from PIE *kaput-, a beautiful illustration of several Germanic sound changes.  So “head of cattle” is an etymological redundancy.

The word “behemoth” in Job is a once-off usage, not found elsewhere in the Bible AFAIK. I think I’ve heard it said that in that context, it is actually a reference to the hippopotamus.

Which is what it (or rather its borrowed form бегемот [begemot]) means in Russian; if any of you are fans of Bulgakov’s wonderful novel The Master and Margarita, that’s what the supernatural black cat’s name means.

How much, if any truth is there here?

Virtually none; Biblical Hebrew was as rich as any other language, but many of its words simply didn’t happen to be used in the relatively short collection of texts we call the (Hebrew) Bible, or Tanakh. And it’s no harder to translate than any other language (though it can seem that way because of the immense cultural and religious freight it carries, and thus the spotlight turned on every choice on the translator’s part).

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Posted: 18 September 2011 01:03 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 12 ]
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Evidence of the fact that (as languagehat points out) many ancient Hebrew words never made it into the Bible, and therefore didn’t survive, is the large number of words that only appear once in the Hebrew Bible (such words are called hapax legomena* and I think we’ve discussed the subject before in this forum). There are about 1300 such words (out of a total of 6000 or so) in the Hebrew bible - many are derived from other words using the same three-letter root, but about 400 or so have no connection to other words, which makes them hard to translate.
Biblical Hebrew is a very laconic language - partly, again, because you can build lots of words from a three-letter root by hanging prefixes and suffixes on the root. A word count of a text from the KJV, and from the corresponding Hebrew text, will yield a ratio of about 2 English words to one Hebrew—even though the KJV itself doesn’t waste words!

vayehi or (2 words) - “and there was light” (4)

vayotziuhu mehutz la’ir vayiskeluhu vayamot (5 words) - “then they carried him forth out of the city, and stoned him with stones, that he died” (17) (the murder of Naboth - I Kings 21:13)

* http://www.jewishvirtuallibrary.org/jsource/judaica/ejud_0002_0008_0_08389.html

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Posted: 20 September 2011 06:33 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 13 ]
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As Lionello pointed out, “beheimot” as hippopotamus probably comes from Egyptian, more specifically, “p-ehemau” “ox of the water” (per Brown Driver Briggs).

The “ot” (rhymes with “oat") ending in Hebrew signifies feminine plural (with a few exceptions), so this could be confused as a Hebrew plural, to wit:

The Hebrew word “beheimah” means, generally, a non wild beast, the latter being referred as, e.g., chayot ha-sadeh”, animals of the field.

BDB lists the word root “b.h.m.” in Aramaic to mean “shut in, tongue tied, mute/dumb”, i.e., a one word expression for “dumb animal” in its original sense, mute.

it seems, then, that beheimah (dumb animal) and behemot (ox of the water) are etymologically unrelated, though I am not entirely convinced. Perhaps “beheimoth) as in giant animal, is an example of Hebrew using an plural ending to suggest vastness:  El (a god) become Elohim. “ot” is the feminine plural ending.

the plural of beheimah would indeed be “beheimot”

there is much in the Midrash on the mythological beheimoth, (Job 40:15-24) and its cousin, the leviathan, referenced in Job 41:1-34. 

re cattle, capital, etc:  A common phrase in the Bible referred to the people Israel as “segulah”, e.g. Exodus 19: and Deuteronomy 17:6. this word is normally translated as treasured “ a treasured people”, probably from the Assyrian “segulu” “herds”. so we are back to “beheimot”—herds of mute/dumb animals. I won’t deduce from this any character traits of the Israelites.

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Posted: 21 September 2011 10:00 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 14 ]
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Thanks for clarifying “behemoth”, Reb Wlm. It is a word that has always puzzled me. An acquaintance with ancient Egyptian can come in useful now and then ;-)

A propos ancient Egyptian: I work with a translation software program called “Wordfast” which, besides being as cheap as can be (it actually costs nothing) is an absolute masterpiece of design. Its originator - a young Frenchman called Yves Champollion - tells me that he is directly descended from the Monsieur C. Perhaps genius is inherited after all, though I understand most geniuses are born to ordinary families

edited for spelling error

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