Prologue to Genesis

The Unauthorized Version

Genesis 2

 thenOn the day that Yahweh of the Elohim made the earth and the heavens, when no plant or herb had yet grown – he had not yet made it rain, and there was no one to farm the soil, but a spring would bubble up and water the whole face of the ground. On that day, Yahweh of the Elohim formed adam – the earth-creature – from the dust and breathed life into its nose.

Yahweh of the Elohim planted a garden in Eden, in the East, and placed the adam there. He also grew many trees in the garden, trees of beauty and fruit, and in the centre the Tree of Life and the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil. A river flows from Eden to irrigate the garden and from there splits four ways. The Pishon runs around the mountains of Havilah, where there is excellent gold, as well as bdellium and onyx. The Gihon flows through Cush. The Tigris flows east of Assyria. And then, of course, the Euphrates. Yahweh of the Elohim appointed the adam as a gardener and said “All the fruit of these trees is yours to eat, except for the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil. If you eat that fruit you will die the same day.”

Then he said, “It’s not good that this adam is alone; I will make it a partner. So from the ground, Yahweh of the Elohim formed every animal of the field and every bird of the air and brought them to the adam to see what it would call them; whatever the adam called a creature, that was its name. But when the adam had named all of them, still there was no partner to help it. So Yahweh of the Elohim put the adam into a deep sleep, took a piece from its side, and closed up the wound. And with that side of the adam, Yahweh of the Elohim created a woman and brought her to the adam. Who said:

“This is bone hammered out from my bone,
and flesh torn out from my flesh;
she is Woman
who will take from Man.”

And so a man leaves his parents and grasps a woman so they become one flesh.

Both the adam and woman were naked, but neither were ashamed.

Translation notes

– As in Chapter 1 I have kept the proper name for the ‘god’ figure. ‘Yahweh Elohim’ is the proper name that is usually translated LORD God. (Yahweh is a distinctly Hebrew name, whereas Elohim is borrowed from Canaanite religion.) ‘Yahweh of the Elohim’ is a way of re-situating the name of Yahweh within the pantheon – the Elohim. Though this is not really how the grammar of the name works in its Hebrew original, I don’t believe it is possible to use that grammar to recreate the novelty of monotheism within a resolutely polytheist world; we are used to monotheism by default, I have chosen to emphasise the polytheistic origin of the name as a way of prising the name of ‘God’ away from its Christian history. To open up the Otherness of this account.

– Again, I have used the Hebrew ‘adam’ instead of translating it ‘human’. This is also a way of locating the creation of humans in a primordial-mythological narrative, and also of resisting the move of designating gender in the story too quickly (see note below).

– The gender of the name ‘adam’ is unclear, so I have kept the designation gender-neutral until the end of the chapter and ‘woman’ is formed from the side of adam, and then ‘adam’ becomes ‘man’. There are a lot of different translation possibilities with the gender of this chapter. My translation offers an origin myth of gender inequality, oppression and even violence.

Prologue to Genesis

The Unauthorized Version