Textualist/Originalist Old Testament Scholar Reveals Bible Mistranslated, God did not create the Earth

October 14th, 2009

This article may cause a bit of a stir (H/T Greg B. on fb):

Professor Ellen van Wolde, a respected Old Testament scholar and author, claims the first sentence of Genesis “in the beginning God created the Heaven and the Earth” is not a true translation of the Hebrew.

The first sentence should now read “in the beginning God separated the Heaven and the Earth”

She said: “It meant to say that God did create humans and animals, but not the Earth itself.”

A spokesman for the Radboud University said: “The new interpretation is a complete shake up of the story of the Creation as we know it.”

Prof Van Wolde added: “The traditional view of God the Creator is untenable now.”

But what is most interesting to me, is the textualist/originalist type analysis she employs.

Prof Van Wolde, 54, who will present a thesis on the subject at Radboud University in The Netherlands where she studies, said she had re-analysed the original Hebrew text and placed it in the context of the Bible as a whole, and in the context of other creation stories from ancient Mesopotamia.

She said she eventually concluded the Hebrew verb “bara”, which is used in the first sentence of the book of Genesis, does not mean “to create” but to “spatially separate”.

She writes in her thesis that the new translation fits in with ancient texts.

This methodology could come right out of a Scalia opinion. She considers the words used in the context in which they were  written, she looks to dictionaries for meaning, and explores other contemporary texts. Fascinating. Original public meaning theology anyone?