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Mike

I think you're right - and even if I didn't I couldn't argue with you since all I can do with my Hebrew is pronounce the words.

guest

You said: "Naming is not always about wielding authority. It can be an expression of love and appreciation, the conclusion of a process of discovery and self-discovery."

Which is exactly what I think we also find in Gen 16:13.

J. K. Gayle

Does the fact that the human (האדם) of Genesis 2 names the woman (אשה) mean he thereby wields authority over her?

Suzanne McCarthy has replied to this suggestion (has "named" it as a non-issue), with some authority I must add:

"And Naomi named Obed, and Tamar named Perez. And Hannah named Samuel. In fact, childbearing and inheritance is a domain where women showed a lot of initiative in the Bible. In many great Bible stories the women initiated sex in order to bear children. It was their domain. Think of Sarah and Hagar, Rachel and the mandrakes, Tamar, Ruth, Rahab, Hannah, Michal, and Abigail. They all took a crucial initial step to bear children or have sex at least. And Rebecca gave the birthright to Jacob. You can't really point to an unbroken line of uniquely "male authority" in the Bible narratives."

See Suzanne's post, "Adam in Genesis" for her additional insight.

Peter Kirk

Of course "turn the other cheek" is unhelpful advice for self-defence. That is the point. The one who said it was teaching that we should not defend ourselves.

But I agree that it is immoral to attack someone and then preach to them "turn the other cheek", or indeed to preach this to anyone unless we are ourselves practising what we preach.

Robert Holmstedt

John,

You may be right about the surface level of the text, but if it is read against its ANE background, then naming-as-power is right there floating underneath the surface. For Yhwh to have given "naming" authority to the human is one of the powerful anthropological statements in Genesis 2. Whether this is necessarily connected to power over the woman is questionable. But to take the power of naming entirely out of the text is a mistake, in my opinion.

Rob

JohnFH

But I think, Peter, that Jesus' advice must be contextualized. He was speaking in a context in which people were on the warpath with the Roman occupation. Many people were saying the right thing to do was to refuse to collaborate. To this, Jesus said, if they conscript you for one mile of impressed duty, do two.

Jesus was the ultimate anti-revolutionist in the instance his people faced.

History proved him right on that score, too.

Doug Chaplin

I agree with the thrust of your point, John. I tend to think that in this text there is an issue of power and authority in naming, but that there is a distinction drawn between the celebratory discovery of identity (his and hers) in 2:23, and the very explicit naming in 3:20, which might suggest that power relations between men and women are part of what needs to be redeemed, rather than a creation ordinance. It is, in my experience, only those who try to claim the latter, who also try to read authority into this text.

JohnFH

Hi Rob,

thanks for pointing the ANE background out. But I think the ANE background is multi-faceted, though I'm not able to come up with exact references off the top of my head.

Furthermore, all kinds of naming goes on in Genesis. God is given a name by a woman, as our mysterious guest pointed out.

In short, I think the matter deserves a thorough review.

JohnFH

And so, Doug, does explicit naming imply power over someone? What about Gen 16:13, for example?

I smell a non sequitur.

saint

I am pleased you are addressing this John (and that the new group has public archives). I think this would be a great topic for an extended, perhaps formal treatment (perhaps developed by group think)

Robert Holmstedt

John,

You are correct on both accounts, the ANE themes in Genesis are many and naming occurs throughout. In fact, naming is established as one of the activities of אלהים in Genesis 1 (much like Ptah in the Memphite Theology and Marduk in Enuma Elish, after the battle when he fashions and names "man"). So, to follow your own call to read the text's clues, it seems clear to me that in Genesis 1 יהוה is handing האדם a divine prerogative -- a mark of the importance of האדם in the created order (to use a loaded phrase).

To get to my point: I agree completely that the naming of the אשׁה in Genesis 2 is used to mark the appropriateness of this being as his mate (in contrast to all the failed examples he saw, named, and dismissed earlier). However, I think to set aside the power differential wrapped up in "naming" is also to miss the textual clues -- or rather, textual shouts -- that prime the reader all the way up to Gen 2.23.

As for Gen 16.13 -- it is very likely related in a general way. For הגר to give יהוה a name is to localize him and assert that a relationship exists. But Genesis 16 is a different type of literature than the mythico-cosmological stories in Genesis 1-3 and for that matter the naming in Genesis 16.13 is qualitatively different than the naming that happens after creation (Gen 1-2) or birth (a la McCarthy's post above), so I personally wouldn't stress the connections to Genesis 16.13 all that much.

Rob

JohnFH

Rob,

I agree that Gen 16:13 is relevant in a general way only. But I think the standard interpretation of Gen 2:23, which descends upon it with visions of Levi-Straussian "naming power" in the head, eisegetes that text.

Forget about the larger context for a moment. The verse itself, a poetic inset, is, to my form-critical ears, praise-speech. The language is that of appreciation. It's a stretch, I know, but one can almost hear a faint echo of the Song of Songs here - another text full of naming.

Now, if only for fun, put your hermeneutical vehicle in reverse and reread Gen 1. Naming is connected with praise there as well. He saw how good it was.

Delight in creation is also a divine prerogative. The human gets to share in that prerogative (compare Ps 104, and again, Ps 8!)

It's not all about power. Not with the animals either, unless one chooses not to read Gen 2 in light of the flood narrative, and vice-versa.

Robert Holmstedt

John,

To be honest, I think you're engaged in a bit of eisegesis.

Praise and delight may be part of the picture of Gen 1 (although I don't think it's such a prominent aspect), but so is authority (which is quite prominent in the standard ANE cosmogonic topoi of the authoritative and creating deity 'separating', 'naming', 'evaluating', etc).

And since setting aside the context is hardly a good idea, the Gen 2 naming of the animals and the woman in its context seems to include an element of authority, notwithstanding one's modern sensibilities or one's reading of other texts elsewhere in the Christian canon (or beyond). Gen 2.23 may be poetic and it may involve a bit of praise, but that does not necessarily negate the power differential involved.

You may not like the idea of male authority (I have no idea if you do or don't) -- authority need not be defined in terms of 'power', by the way -- and this your prerogative of course, but we can't make the ancient Hebrew texts say what they didn't or more than they did because of what we do and don't like it.

Rob

TheraP

Naming can be a sign of endearment - like nick-naming.

Doug Chaplin

John, I think there is probably some significance to the way in which after the fall (to import terminology alien to the text) Adam treats his wife as he has treated the animals before the fall.

JohnFH

Thera, I sense endearment Gen 2:23, but at this point I'm working on impressions only. It would be better to do a thorough study.

Rob, I agree with your point about not making the text say what we want it to say. The rule of all hermeneutical rules. You have also convinced me that I have been exporting the notion of naming as an (in this case constructive and positive) exercise of power in order to make room for seeing the naming of Gen 2:23 as an example of praise and appreciation and the conclusion of a process of discovery and self-discovery. But it's not an either/or, is it? Actually, you have been careful not to claim that it is.

In other words, it's possible to see "separating, naming, evaluating" as divine prerogatives being carried over and shared with ha-adam in Gen 2, and for the explicit tie-ins of pleasant for "seeing" and "good" to eat in Gen 2 with "seeing" that it was "good" in Gen 1, for example, to be understood as coloring the ANE "evaluation" topos in a particularly Israelite way. But this is not my thesis: it is that of J. J. Finkelstein in a justly famous essay in which he claimed that the main difference between the Mesopotamian and biblical world-views is the latter's essentially positive take on divinity and therefore humanity and divine-human relations versus the former's very ambivalent take on the same ("The West, the Bible, and the Ancient Near East: Apperceptions and Categorisations," Man 9 (1974) 591-608). I assume you've read it; if not, you're in for a treat.

Doug, I'm not sure I find it convincing to interpret ha-adam's naming of the isha as "mother of all the living" as an expression of the fall, as if, were it not for the disobedience, the isha would have named herself, or would never have had to have children at all, or similar. But maybe I'm wrong about this. I'm sure someone has argued, e.g., that childbearing replaces forfeited immortality.

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