I’m going to state now, and you’ll see more proof later on this blog, that language controls what a story means, and now I’m going to bust an urban legend that has to do with language.
Hebrew once had two forms of verb for past actions, and both of them appear extensively in Torah. One still exists; it used to be called the past tense but in the 21st century linguists have realized that it is a perfect aspect. The other is called imperfect aspect. I will cover this on the Biblical Hebrew page in a few months.
The perfect aspect has always been understood as including the features of a pluperfect tense, that is, something that was over and done with before something else took place. That’s its role at the start of the episode I’m discussing now. When Torah says “Adam knew Chavah,” it’s in perfect aspect, meaning something that happened long ago.
In Gan Eden, in fact.
Jewish tradition says that Qain and Hevel were conceived and born in Gan Eden.
The urban legend considers sex sinful and claims that Adam and Chavvah were pure until the expulsion. That doesn’t fit with what we just said about Adam’s mortality. When Gd said “be fruitful and multiply,” that was when Adam and Chavvah had just been formed. The expulsion hadn’t happened yet. Gd planned for Adam and Chavvah to have children while they lived in Gan Eden, otherwise there would be nobody left to take care of it once they died. It all goes together. There’s no need for a tree of life if Adam and Chavvah are immortal, likewise there is no need for children if they are immortal. But since they were created mortal, they need to have children and Gd runs into a dilemma about the tree of life that I discussed last week.
Jewish culture does not consider sex sinful. Not when it happens between a married couple like Adam and Chavvah. It shouldn’t happen outside of marriage but if it does… well, to avoid repeating myself I’ll just refer you to the legal posts about extra-marital sex that isn’t adultery.
So urban legend number one about Qain and Hevel is that they weren’t born until after the expulsion, after sin first came into the world. But the language and Jewish culture says that ain’t so, and claiming that it is runs head on into something I’ll talk about much later on the blog. For next week, read Genesis 4:1-15.
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