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Genesis 3:16[edit]

Things gathered as part of a discussion currently ongoing in the Tea Room:

  • 2011, Douglas A. Knight, Amy-Jill Levine, The Meaning of the Bible: What the Jewish Scriptures and Christian Old Testament can teach us:
    The first part of the comment is typically translated: "I will greatly increase your pangs in childbearing; in pain you shall bring forth children" (Gen. 3:16a). However, the phrase "pangs in childbearing" can also be read "your labors and your pregnancies." The word for "pangs" (Hebr. etzev) is the same term used in the next verse, typically translated, "Cursed is the ground because of you; in toil you shall eat of it all the days of your life." The term in 3:16 for "in childbearing" means "conception." Finally, instead of "in pain you shall bring forth children," the Hebrew can read, "along with toil you shall bear children." Women's burden is not, or not only, pain in childbirth. The curse is what sociologists call the "second shift": she will be responsible for pregnancy, childbearing, lactation, and child care, and she will also have to labor in the workforce.
  • 2010, John H. Walton, The NIV application commentary: Genesis:
    Pain. The noun translated "pain" in the first line is ciṣṣabon, a word used only two other times in the Old Testament (Gen. 3:17; 5:29). Nouns from the same root (ceṣeb II, coṣeb II, and caṣṣebat) refer to pain, agony, hardship, worry, nuisance, and anxiety. [] This is actually helpful because interpreters have generally had trouble working out how conception is painful. Despite the NIV's "childbearing," the Hebrew word is specifically concerned with conception. The word translated "pain" in the second line (ceṣeb) is used elsewere to reer to strenuous work and is therefore an appropriate description of giving birth. One last note regarding synax is that in the first line, "pains in childbearing," is a hendiadys (two nouns joined by "and" but functioning as a single entity, e.g., American "assault and battery") and thus conveys something like "conception anxiety."
Personally, I don't think either of these is cogent (they both seem to say one thing and then another, contradictory thing), but there they are, a start at a look at scholarly views of the subject of what [[הֵרוֹן]] means. - -sche (discuss) 01:32, 30 March 2012 (UTC)
Carol Meyers is cogent and asserts that "הֵרוֹן" is indeed "conception", and the word translated as "pain" is the one that is mistranslated. She disputes that hendiadys is used in the verse, though several other sources do interpret the verse as containing hendiadys. - -sche (discuss) 01:41, 30 March 2012 (UTC)
Good research! I think Carol Meyers' interpretation actually makes a lot of sense, but imputing her interpretation to the compilers of the KJV might be anachronistic and/or POV. On the other hand, my impression is that the compilers of the KJV really did not try to impose a POV through their translation, so it seems likely that they dealt with the conflicting interpretations of the verse by trying to hew as closely as possible to the literal words of the Hebrew text. (That would also explain why they went with singular "conception".) —RuakhTALK 03:13, 30 March 2012 (UTC)

Tea Room discussion[edit]

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Our quotation (KJV, Genesis 3:16) doesn't seem to match any of the senses; rather, I think in our quotation it must mean "pregnancy" (which is what the Hebrew means). Does anyone know if conception ever included pregnancy? —RuakhTALK 14:58, 29 March 2012 (UTC)

The Century Dictionary (which I looked to in the expectation that it would have now-obsolete senses of the term) uses Genesis 3:16 to illustrate "The act of becoming pregnant; the beginning of pregnancy; the inception of the life of an embryo". "Inception of pregnancy" is also the sense has; Merriam-Webster has "the process of becoming pregnant involving fertilization or implantation or both" (and also says "conception can mean "embryo, fetus"!)... none of those dictionaries has "conception" as "[the entire] pregnancy", which is what I think you mean(?), nor "childbirth"/"childbearing", which is what the NIV translates the Hebrew word as(!). FWIW, Luther's German translation is similar to "conception": "wenn du schwanger wirst" (when you become pregnant). Is it possible that (1) the KJV mistranslated the Hebrew (and used 'conception' in the standard sense), perhaps influenced by the Latin, or (2) the Hebrew word can also mean 'the beginning of pregnancy'? - -sche (discuss) 19:09, 29 March 2012 (UTC) - -sche (discuss) 20:17, 29 March 2012 (UTC)
Re: the possibility that the Hebrew form herón can mean "the beginning of pregnancy": It's possible — in fact, having consulted all of my dictionaries now, I find that two of them list not only "pregnancy" but also "conception" as translations, so I might upgrade it from "possible" to "true" — but I really don't see how Genesis 3:16 can be interpreted that way. G-d will increase pain and conception? The pain of conception? It just doesn't make sense to me. Both of my Bibles translate it as "childbearing". (Proof that I'm not the right Jew to answer this question: I have one Hebrew dictionary, six Hebrew-English dictionaries, six grammars of Modern Hebrew . . . and only two Bibles. Three if you count the one I keep at my parents' house. Unlike the compilers of the KJV, I am not a Biblical scholar, and it's no use pretending!) So, I really don't know. —RuakhTALK 23:39, 29 March 2012 (UTC)
True, "the pain of conception" doesn't make much sense. OTOH, in looking for more information on this, I spotted a couple of scholarly articles specifically saying herón meant conception, not childbearing/childbirth. - -sche (discuss) 01:14, 30 March 2012 (UTC)
I've started quoting scholarly analyses on Talk:conception. I don't think the first two I've quoted are internally consistent and cogent at all; they both say "herón means X, not Y [] so as you can see, herón means Z". - -sche (discuss) 01:33, 30 March 2012 (UTC)
For what it's worth, my NIV translates it as 'childbearing', which fits with how I've always understood the passage. In any case, isn't this whole discussion really about הרון, and not about conception? Might we simply say that the passage in question is probably a poor quote for the entry and remove it? -Atelaes λάλει ἐμοί 00:59, 30 March 2012 (UTC)
It might be a bad translation/quotation, but it's so well-known that it should probably be accounted for... - -sche (discuss) 01:14, 30 March 2012 (UTC)
@Atelaes: I thought it was a discussion about conception because I'd figured that the KJV compilers were interpreting the verse the same way I do, so I imagined that they were using the word conception differently from how I do. But it seems that I figured and imagined wrongly, so yeah, I guess it's now a discussion about הרון (herón) — and that discussion now seems easy to resolve, by re-editing [[הרון]], which I'll go do now. —RuakhTALK 02:54, 30 March 2012 (UTC)
Having spent way more than I should have on bible software, I have a good bit of material on this, but I think you'll find this the most interesting. It's a translator's note from the New English Translation:
“Conception,” if the correct meaning of the noun, must be figurative here since there is no pain in conception; it is a synecdoche, representing the entire process of childbirth and child rearing from the very start. However, recent etymological research suggests the noun is derived from a root הרר(hrr), not הרה(hrh), and means “trembling, pain” (see D. Tsumura, “A Note on הרון (Gen 3, 16),” Bib 75 [1994]: 398-400).
Chuck Entz (talk) 06:26, 30 March 2012 (UTC)
I just found the same translation online (with lots of other stuff!): [1] Chuck Entz (talk) 08:52, 30 March 2012 (UTC)