views of Genesis
your article on courses at the University devoted to a single
text ("Page-Turners," February/01), the writer assures
readers that Prof. Leon Kass and his students treat the book of
Genesis "not as a narrow religious document, but as a philosophical
text." The presumption of this phrase is breathtaking, if
not particularly surprising. The church and the synagogue, it
appears, are too "narrow," too exclusive, to handle
a text such as Genesis: only the cosmopolitan university can unearth
the philosophical treasures buried within. The irony is that in
disparaging the religious as "narrow," the writer in
fact demonstrates the particular type of parochialism typical
of the secular university.
Epp Weaver, MDV'99
applaud Professor Leon Kass and class for looking at Genesis as
something other than a narrowly religious text. But they passed
quickly over its second principal word, usually written "God"
in English. I find that the Hebrew 'elohiym is the plural
of 'elowahh, which is an emphatic form of 'el, meaning
"strength" and therefore often "God." So by
basic meaning, all those things in the first chapter were actually
created by the "great strengths" (or powers, or forces,
Chapter 2, we meet Yahweh making humans, other animals, and a
garden for them. Eleven times, his name is followed by 'elohiym.
This wouldn't make much sense if the two words meant the same
thing, but "Yahweh of the great strengths" does.
do hope that Kass and his class paused when they got to Chapter
6, where the sons of the gods ('elohiym) find the daughters
of humans attractive and produce oversized offspring. Translating
that word as "God" (as in their Kings James version)
makes Yahweh the grandfather. Might all those good old monotheists
(whether Hebrew or more recent) realize what they have done to
W. Joseph, SM'57, PhD'59