Reading Genesis via New Eyes

As someone who is always interesting in the baroque and not only baroque but historical texts to read to gain a better understanding of the world I was recently come upon by a new translation of Genesis by a man called Robert Alter. I must confess that while I did not read through all of it I did manage to read through enough to notice subtle differences between that and any ordinary everyday Bible you might pick up be it an ESV, NIV, or even a NKJV. While reading through I happened to fall upon a very interesting way of posing of actions within the Bible that I had never before known or had thought of in that particular way.

It was about the intimate relations of the various people in Genesis particularly when regards to procreation. However, rather than Alter using the classic words used by many translators of “lay with” or “slept with” he used the words “knew”. Now while some might say this is a twisting of the words one has to remember that Robert Alter is fluent in Hebrew and also incredibly well versed in translating and understanding even better ancient Hebrew. He is considered by many to be the foremost scholar on the subject.

None-the-less the use of the language opened my eyes to the fact that while many people in the world see sex as a much more carnal thing or something that is very instinctual the Bible places it instead with the intimate and the knowledgeable. Abraham “knew” Sarah and as far as I could tell later on in the Genesis translated by Robert Alter it was similar in other cases. What makes this astonishing though is that it places the role of sex in a relationship to something akin to absolute and full knowledge of the spouse. It not only brings them together physically but it gives them knowledge and understanding of the other that now one else can know. Its an interesting way of looking at relationships than what we normally see here in the United States being that sex is something gratuitously portrayed as being very immediate and gratifying contrasted with the understanding and total knowledge and time taken to realize that person fully and to “know” them. Just posting my thoughts on that.


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