Saturday, January 19, 2013

Subtled into Nakedness

This posts links to RAnn's Sunday Snippets
 Right there it says naked

We cover the first two chapters of Genesis in the first class of each year. The kids figure out pretty fast why Adam and Eve weren't ashamed to be naked in Eden. Later, while discussing chapter 3, they explain why after Adam and Eve sinned, their nakedness was cause for shame. Of course, naked is naked- right? Or could there be more to it?

Someone corresponded with me recently regarding a post I wrote in 2011 about Semitic triliteral roots. Commenting on the wordplay of the Hebrew Old Testament he said: "...somebody who gave me his Hebrew OT had underlined two words in the early chapters of Genesis. If I remember, they were 'erom and "erom, one with the light opening and the other with the ayin opening. One means naked, and the other means subtle -- and I'd say that the author was saying something there. What do you think?"

I didn't think anything yet, but would check it out. I use the Protestant Blue Letter Bible website. I reference the King James Version there. Just FYI, it's very close to the Douay-Rheims Challoner translation.

Not knowing either of those Hebrew words, I first searched for instances of subtle in the KJV O.T., found none. Huh...that was unexpected. Tried naked, found lot of verses. Naked was always used in its literal sense, e.g. "he was naked"  vs. "the naked truth." That might simplify things. Checked the Hebrew for one of the instances of naked:  עָרוֹם `arowm, naked, Strong's H6174. (Strong's Concordance is a Bible Greek and Hebrew language reference) I had a look at the Septuagint translation just to see how `arowm was translated into Greek. In every case, `arowm was translated as gymnos, naked: you know, like in gymnasium. No alternate words, no shadings of meaning: naked is naked. That's good. Yes, `arowm isn't  'erom, but I don't know if there's a single standard for transliterating Hebrew into English letters and sounds.

I noticed that `arowm derives from a root word, עָרַם `aram Strong's H6191. `Aram means shrewd, crafty, and...subtle. That was easy! Now I check on instances of `aram in the OT, and in Genesis in particular, because that was where my friend said the words were underlined. Uh-oh, it's not used at all in Genesis. Huh. That must mean there's another word that's close to`aram, and basically means the same thing. I try Strong's 6190 and 6192: sometimes adjacent words are related. No luck. I go back to`arowm, naked, and try H6173: no luck. H6175, yes: עָרוּם `aruwm, shrewd, crafty, sly, subtle. First use of `aruwm is in Genesis 3:1, "Now the serpent was more subtil than any beast of the field which the Lord God had made." (KJV) Aaack! the KJV spells 'subtle' an older way: subtil. That's why I didn't get a word search hit on "subtle." I may as well check on naked again while I'm at it, but this time just looking at Genesis. Ha! There are two Hebrew words for naked in Genesis:

"And they were both naked, the man and his wife, and were not ashamed." `arowm, Strong's 6174, I've already looked at that one.

Here is the other naked used three times:

"And the eyes of them both were opened, and they knew that they were naked; and they sewed fig leaves together, and made themselves aprons.... And the Lord God called unto Adam, and said unto him, Where art thou? And he said, I heard thy voice in the garden, and I was afraid, because I was naked; and I hid myself. And he said, Who told thee that thou wast naked? Hast thou eaten of the tree, whereof I commanded thee that thou shouldest not eat?" This naked, a shameful naked, is עֵירֹם `eyrom, Strong's H5903. And here's an elegant closure: `eyrom's root is H6191, `aram, shrewd, crafty, subtle. If you are like me and can't read Hebrew, you can still see how all these related words have the same 3 letters, and differ mostly by the jots and tittles, the vowel points, that affect pronunciation. When you consider that those markings weren't invented until around 700 A.D, for practical purposes all these similar "words" are more like a single word with an array of vowel changes to clarify particular meanings (sort of like woman and women; or read and read).

So why does all this matter? Well, it's a wordplay-  like this: Adama is Hebrew for ground; Adam is Hebrew for man. So Adam אדם was made of Adama אדמה, see? And both words spring from a common root. Likewise, the name Yitschaq /Isaac יצחק springs from the root word Tsachak צחק, laughter. Sarah laughed at the idea of bearing a son in her old age; and laughed again when Laughter was born.

So in our Genesis case there are two related Hebrew words, which tell us that Adam and Eve didn't realize they were shamefully naked until the serpent had subtled them into eating the fruit. That is, "[T]he serpent was more `aruwm (subtle, tricky)  than any beast...and they knew that they were `eyrom (naked)." I imagine the lesson is that after the Fall, there persists unashamed pre-Fall nakedness within marriage; and shameful, sly nakedness outside of marriage. That's my guess. And it's a lesson I can work into Catechism class starting next year.

An Adam-Adama sort of pun, which I already teach along with Isaac and Laughter. So when it comes to the Old Testament, though the Greek Septuagint often provides specificity, something may be overlooked if you don't check the Hebrew as well.

8 comments:

Barb Schoeneberger said...

I wish I had the background to dig like you do into the Scriptures. Very interesting. Associating subtle with tricky or sneaky as I think of it, is something I wouldn't have thought of before reading your post.

Moonshadow said...

Favorite part -- Aaack! the KJV spells 'subtle' an older way: subtil.

Magister Christianus said...

I really have to learn Heberew. Excellent post!

Ron Geyer said...

Nicely done. Of course, in the South, you also have to check "nekkid".

Christian LeBlanc said...

I wanted to but couldn't find an online Bible with that spelling.

Moonshadow said...

I had the same thought as Ron, actually.

Athanasius Contra Mundum said...

I wonder though if they sow together fig leaves to cover themselves why does no one suggest they ate a fig instead of an apple or pomegranate? I know that apple comes from a pun on Latin, I'm just saying that fig is the only fruit mentioned in the scene.

Unknown said...

How can wordplay exist when they are the SAME WORD in verses right beside each other?? The word for "naked" in Gen. 2:25 is the plural (Adam & Eve are the plural subject (they)) of the singular "Subtle" of Gen. 3:1 in Hebrew. They are the exact same word; and it truly changes the whole narrative. Btw, Vowel points are not jots and tittles. Jots and Tittles have to do with the original Hebrew language's smallest letter and horns on the tips of letters. Vowel points, as you indicated, came much later in AD. How else could Christ claim not one jot or tittle will be lost?? :)