The Messianic Expectation of Gen. 4:1 (Part 6)

THEOLOGICAL IMPLICATIONS OF A LITERAL TRANSLATION

It appears best, for the sake of Biblical integrity, to translate Gen. 4:1 in its literal terminology, rendering it something similar to what Fruchtenbaum asserts – ‘I have gotten a man: Yahweh.’ Such a translation is grammatically best, yet it is also linguistically and theologically possible. Though many commentators sacrifice syntactical accuracy for interpretive understandability, the proceeding analysis will examine the various interpretive implications of a correct syntactical translation of Gen. 4:1.

Allusion to the Messiah’s Divinity

Kaiser and Fruchtenbaum insist that this translation implies that Eve expected for her child to be the divine messiah. Eve was interpreting Gen. 3:15, seeing its fulfillment in the birth of her firstborn son. “If so, then Eve’s instinct about the coming Messiah were correct, but her timing was way off!”[1] Fruchtenbaum notes, “Eve’s interpretation of Cain’s birth is a good example of correct theology with the wrong application.”[2] Nevertheless, claiming that her son was a God-man ‘Yahweh,’ a supposed title for God, insinuates the expectation that this messianic figure would be divine. Therefore, the fulfilled messiah, Jesus Christ’s subsistence in the Godhead was hinted at as early as Gen. 4:1.

Expectation of Deliverance

Joseph D. Wilson and James Montgomery Boice, however, take a different approach to the interpretation of Eve’s sentence. Wilson believes that the ʾeth debate is not as crucial as the use of the word and title ‘Yahweh.’[3] “The word ‘Yahweh’ is the third person singular of the future tense of the verb ‘to be.’ It means ‘he will be’ or ‘he who will be.’”[4] Eve then was viewing the fulfillment of the protoevangelium in the birth of her son, but it was not necessarily a divine attribution; it was an attribution to one who would deliver, remove the curse brought on by the fall. The messianic interpretation is still vibrant, yet it is not necessarily a divine claim concerning her son.

A character within the Genesis narrative does not mention the title ‘Yahweh’ until Gen. 4:1. Eve’s statement concerning her firstborn son is the first recorded employment of ‘Yahweh’ in the OT.[5] Yes, “the word occurs in Gen. 2 and 3, but that is the work of the historian, Moses.”[6] The modern Christian perspective has led to an important piece of eisegesis that could extensively affect the meaning of this text. Indeed, Christianity Anno Domini naturally “assumes that the word [Yahweh] must have meant ‘[Yahweh] God’ to Eve and Adam.”[7] Scripture expresses, though, that God progressively revealed his names to the patriarchal fathers, and ‘Yahweh’ was not known as a title for God in the early stages of history (cf. Exodus 6:3). If God reserved the title ‘Yahweh’ until later in the history of his revelation, then Eve could not have possibly meant for the title ‘Yahweh’ to immediately connote a divine being. Rather, she “would have been using the word in a broader sense meaning perhaps ‘the one who brings into being,’ ‘gives life,’ or ‘delivers.’”[8] Boice thus supposes, “the best translation of Eve’s words would be, ‘I have brought forth a man, even the deliverer.’”[9]

If Boice and Wilson are correct in their assertions, the messianic interpretation still holds, but the divinity of that mentioned deliverer is not necessarily expected by Eve. Walton agrees, “It is unique in the Old Testament to refer to the Messiah as Yahweh himself. Such was not the nature of messianic expectation in the Old Testament.”[10] Generally, Eve was expressing her hope for a remedy regarding the curse of Gen. 3:15, and there is no reason for Eve to suppose this seed to be divine. “The promise of God had not given her the slightest reason to expect that the promised seed would be of divine nature, and might be Jehovah, so as to lead her to believe that she had given birth to Jehovah now.”[11]

Raymond Abba, however, supposes that Exodus 6:3 does necessarily imply that the patriarchs did not designate Yahweh as title for God. They were not ignorant of the title, but rather “God did not reveal to them those qualities of his Being which are signified by this name.”[12] Exod. 6:3 then should be understood as “I appeared to Abraham, to Isaac, and to Jacob in the character of El Shaddai, but (in the character of) my name Yahweh I did not become known to them.’”[13] The emphasis is on the personality connoted by the name, not the title itself.

Therefore, if Eve did not understand the ‘character’ signification of ‘Yahweh,’ then she could only have used the title in two ways: 1) as a title for God, but with no apparent reference to God’s personality, or 2) as the literal etymology of the word, which would be the idea of a deliverer, not a reference to the divine. If it was the former, she thought her child to be divine, but the divinity was the extent of the implication. There would be no expectation of deliverance or ‘covenantal presence’ tied to the title usage, because Eve would not have known that these were the significations of such a title according to Abba’s rendering of Exodus 6:3. Thus the messianic deliverance in reference to her interpretation of Gen. 3:15 would be non-existent; she would only be claiming her child to be divine, not delivering or ‘bruising Satan’s head’ in any manner. If Eve used the title in the second way – the literal etymology of the Hebrew – she would be affirming a messianic interpretation of Gen. 3:15, but not necessarily attempting to make a divine correlation; her emphasis is on the character of her seed, not his divine status or title. If one must choose between Eve implicating either a divine title or delivering character (it cannot be both in light of Exodus 6:3), then the delivering characteristic fits better with the context of Genesis.

Continuing through the Genesis narrative, one finds distinct allusions to expectations of an immediate deliverer. In Gen. 5:21-24, for example, the reader is informed concerning Enoch and his son Methuselah. Interestingly, Methuselah literally means, “When he dies it will come,” or “since there is no neuter in Hebrew, it actually reads, ‘When he dies he will come.’”[14] Methuselah gave birth to Lamech, who gave birth to Noah, whose name means ‘comfort.’ Thus, Fruchtenbaum suggests, in light of Gen. 5:29, Lamech thought Noah would be the one who came to fulfill the promise of Gen. 3:15 and act as deliverer. Although Lamech wrongfully applied his understanding of Gen. 3:15, his mere expectation of a promised one to fulfill the curse exposed the apparent messianic understanding of the protoevangelium in their time.[15] Thus it is apparent that many characters in the Genesis narrative had an expectation of deliverance, which weighs in favor of understanding Eve’s use of ‘Yahweh’ with a similar signification.


[1] Kaiser, The Messiah in the Old Testament, 42.

[2] Fruchtenbaum, Ariel’s Bible Commentary: The Book of Genesis, 116.

[3] “The wealth of learning and ingenuity which has been expended in making sense of [Eve’s] words would have been saved if commentators had sought the meaning of ‘Jehovah’ as Hengstenberg did.” Wilson, “Jehovah,” 223.

[4] Wilson, “Jehovah,” 223.

[5] See Utley, How It All Began: Genesis 1–11, 72.

[6] Ibid., 222.

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

[8] Ibid., 250.

[9] Ibid., 251.

[10] Walton, Genesis, 262. John Phillips notes the correct translation, but makes no mention of an insinuated divinity: “Her exclamation demonstrates her saving faith in the promise of a coming redeemer.” John Phillips, Exploring Genesis: An Expository Commentary (Grand Rapids, MI: Kregel Academic & Professional, 2001), 63.

[11] Delitzsch and Keil, Biblical Commentary on the Old Testament: Vol. 1 Pentateuch, 108.

[12] Raymond Abba, “The Divine Name Yahweh,” Journal of Biblical Literature, Vol. 80, No. 4 (1961), 323.

[13] Ibid., 323. Emphasis added.

[14] Fruchtenbaum, Messianic Christology, 16. This ‘coming’ refers to the flood. Indeed, the same year that Methuselah died, the flood came.

[15] Also see Fruchtenbaum’s analysis of Gen. 6:1-4 concerning the Nephilim and its attestation to innertextual proof of a messianic understanding of Gen. 3:15. Fruchtenbaum, Messianic Christology, 17.

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