The Messianic Expectation of Gen. 4:1 (Part 5)

Appositional Objective Marker

Those few scholars (Fruchtenbaum, Kaiser Jr., Boice, Phillips and Wilson) who reject the prepositional use of ʾeth, do so for a variety of reasons. Firstly, similar accusative structures containing ʾeth are found throughout Genesis – e.g., 1:1, ‘In the beginning God created [ʾeth] the heaven and [ʾeth] the earth.’ Walton also states, the “same grammatical construction is used in [Gen. 4:2], ‘his brother, Abel.’”[1] Joseph D. Wilson notes,

This particle occurs forty times in the first five chapters, always with the same signification. It may be thought that Gen. 5:22, “Enoch walked with God,” is an exception; but it is not. The English requires the preposition; “walked with” is the translation of the Hebrew verb.[2]

Secondly, in Boice’s judgment, the translation rendered ‘I have brought forth the Lord’ “should be preferred for linguistic as well as theological reasons.”[3] It is apparent that ʾeth is part of a parallel formation, appearing before ‘Cain’ previously in the sentence and before ‘Yahweh’ later in the sentence. The sentence thus reads, “‘She bore ʾeth-Cain, and she said, I have brought forth a man, ʾeth-Yahweh.’”[4] It would require durable linguistic evidence to purpose different translations for equivalent constructions in the same sentence.

Being that “the Hebrew construction for Yahweh is the same as in the previous phrase: bore Cain,” there is a clear implication in Eve’s statement.[5] The same meaning expressed in Eve’s birthing Cain is equivalently articulated in her claim to have ‘gotten a man: Yahweh.’ “It is because of this very obvious connotation that attempts are made to redo the obvious meaning of the verse.”[6] The prepositional translations of ʾeth are thus wrongfully deduced, which conversely ensures the accuracy of the literal rendering.

Ancient attestation for the translation of ʾeth as an appositional objective marker is found in the Jerusalem Targum and Targum Pseudo-Jonathan. The former translates the phrase ‘I have gotten a man: the angel of Jehovah.’ The latter reads, ‘I have gotten for a man the Angel of the Lord.’[7] Though the mentioned Aramaic paraphrases read Gen. 4:1 as the supernatural birth of the Angel of the Lord, the appositional use of ʾeth is evident. This rendering was a means for Jewish scholars to preserve the authenticity of a correct translation without insinuating an unorthodox interpretation. If the divinity of the Messiah were a true claim of the OT, it would make Jesus’ claims and works all the more fulfilling. Additionally, Luther is often cited by many commentators for having translated the verse literally, ‘I have gotten a man, namely (or even), the Lord.’[8]

Translation Conclusion

Quite frankly, the translators who insert ‘with the help of’ are moderately permitted given the obvious confusion of Eve’s statement. They suppose that she certainly could not be claiming her child to be divine, and somewhat rightfully so. Nevertheless, the text must stand its ground, and interpretation must be guided by the text. Translation should allow for the text to render what it intends to render, whether that be an apparent correct or incorrect statement. The perplexity of a passage is not grounds for making a necessary alteration or insertion into the text, especially if the literal translation carries important signification for theological concepts – i.e., the expectation of a divine messiah.

[1] Walton, Genesis, 262

[2] Wilson, “Jehovah,” 222-223.

[3] James Montgomery Boice, Genesis 1-11, vol. 1 of Genesis: An Expositional Commentary (Grand Rapids, Mich.: Baker Books, 1998), 250.

[4] Boice, Genesis 1-11, 250.

[5] Arnold G. Fruchtenbaum, Ariel’s Bible Commentary: The Book of Genesis (San Antonio, TX: Ariel Ministries, 2009), 115.

[6] Ibid., 115

[7] Fruchtenbaum, Messianic Christology, 15.

[8] See Luther and early Lutheran exegetes T. Gallus, Die ‘Frau’ in Gen 3:15, 31-32.


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