Posted by: duncandrews | May 21, 2011

Genesis 3:4-6 – the Andrews Amplified Version

Apologies for the lack of blogging lately – have been hard at work on an essay on universalism and Jurgen Moltmann, which I’ll hopefully blog about later.

But for now, I’ve been really enjoying getting into translation with Andrew Shead. Sheady reckons that it’s not helpful to use words like ‘literal’ when talking about translations, as if a more ‘literal’ translation were by definition better. Translation just doesn’t work like that – all translations are a movement away from the source text to the target reader. The key issue is not how ‘literal’ a translation is, but how you are going to mediate between the two worlds that collide in the translation process. Will you try and pull the reader into the world of the text? Or will you try to translate the text into the world of the reader? Whichever way you go, there are gains and losses, and the path you decide on ought to be determined by who you have in mind as your target audience.

Here’s my attempt at two translations of Gen 3:4-6. The first tries to remains closer to the source, the second to the target. I like the second better, but there are things I’ve lost in it too. I’ve also made more interpretive decisions for the second. That’s not a bad thing – every translation makes them and the danger is of pretending that you haven’t. But it also needs to be kept in check – the more you shift from and add to the source text the greater the margin for error!

Anyway, if anyone’s still out there, I’d be interested in your thoughts – which do you prefer? What do you think has been gained/lost in each?

Gen 3:4-6, source-oriented translation:

And the snake said to the woman, “You will surely not die, for God knows that on the day of your eating from it, your eyes will be opened and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.”
And the woman saw that the tree was good for eating and that it was attractive to the eyes, and that the tree was desirable for wisdom. So she took from its fruit, and she ate. And she gave also to her husband with her, and he ate.

Gen 3:4-6, target-oriented translation:

The snake replied, “There’s no way you’re going to die. God only told you that because he knows that as soon as you eat it, you’ll see things the way they really are and become truly wise. He wants to keep you his slave; but when you eat the fruit, you’ll become his equal.”
The woman thought the tree’s fruit looked tasty, and as she gazed at it her mouth started watering. It would, she strongly felt, make her wise. She reached out and plucked some of its fruit, and took a bite. What’s more, she called her husband over, offered it to him and he ate some too.


  1. Hi Duncan, thanks for your post, I find this sort of stuff fascinating. I’m doing the same sort of thing with the NT (Luke at the moment) to help me when I’m doing my consulting work.

    I totally agree with Andrew Shead, the implication that “literal” is better is not helpful. “Literal” translation can easily be less accurate because they don’t give key information which was assumed by the target audience.

    So, what’s gained in your target oriented translation? Vividness and emotiveness, I can really feel like I’m there. I sympathise with Eve more. I love reading any translations which is the way I actually speak. I especially like:
    * “her mouth starter watering” that’s totally what we say when we see something which is “good for eating” and we want it. (That’s a nice metaphor for how we feel when tempted to sin).
    * I also love “plucked” – yes! That’s how we take fruit off a tree, not “took”. Plucked also has a lovely onomatopoeia about it.
    * “there’s no way you’re going to die” – that’s a nice rephrasing of that sense of “surely”. It’s the confident boast of a person who, in reality, doesn’t know what they’re talking about.

    I’m wondering if a few things are accurate in the target oriented text (I’m not a Hebrew scholar so I’m just comparing to literal English translations)
    *”God only told you that because” – seems to have been added.. Seems that the original is a statement about what God knows, not the reason for him telling the people that.
    *”She called her husband over” – I think that’s one possible interpretation, but isn’t the source silent as to in what part of the discussion Adam was there? I’d just say “what’s more, she offered some to Adam who was standing next to her”.
    * Another thought I learned in college that this whole text is a chiasm with the “and he ate” as the central phrase, implying that it is the climax of, and turning point of the whole story. If so, I’d slow down the discourse here and put more emphasis on Adam’s eating… something like “then he raised the fruit to his lips, and took a (delicious?) bite.

    As I say, I’m no Hebrew scholar, so I’d be interested in hearing your thoughts on what I’ve said. Now I seriously must get back to work.

  2. Hi Donna – lovely to hear from you.
    Here’s my thoughts:

    1. ‘God only told you that because…’ – yes, that’s an addition. This was a line ball – depends on how you take the כִי at the start of the clause. It could be causal (‘because’/’for’), but what is it refering to? It could be expanding the previous clause – you won’t die, and the reason you won’t die is because God knows when you eat it etc. That seemed a bit clunky to me, because of the ‘God knows…’. If it just read ‘you won’t die, because when you eat it your eyes will be opened…’ that would make more sense as a causal clause. But the ‘God knows’ in the middle there seems to make that a bit awkward.

    So כִי could be some kind of emphatic – ‘Indeed, God knows…’. Interestingly Holman has ‘In fact, God knows…’. I think my rendering is something along those lines, with the כִי linked back to the last thing Eve has said (also to do with God), rather than the serpent’s first statement.

    It seemed to me that what the serpent is doing is trying to undermine Eve’s trust in God’s command, that it was really for her good. The last thing she’s said is to tell the serpent what God said to her; The serpent wants her to doubt that God really had her best interest in mind – he wants her to think of God’s command as suppressive – he wants her to resent the command by questioning the motives of the one who gave it. Not sure if that makes sense, but that’s the background to adding in that extra phrase…

    2. You’re right, the man is absent until this point, and all it says is that he was ‘with her’. That could mean in close proximity – but then later on in verse 13 it’s only Eve that’s pictured as having interaction with the snake. Also, in verse 17, God curses Adam for listening to his wife’s voice – assuming she said something to get him to eat, rather than just handed the fruit over to him as he stood next to her. So, again it’s line ball, but I took ‘with her’ to mean ‘with her in the garden’; and her voice as calling him over and persuading him to eat.
    At the same time, there could be something quite important about his sudden appearance here – perhaps he was, after all, lurking in the background the whole time, aware this was going on? Could he hear the snake, but was too weak to step in and keep his wife from disobeying God’s command? Not sure.

    3. I think I’ve heard that before, although I can’t remember in detail so couldn’t say either way. But I’ll take your word for it – love your rendering! A nice way of highlighting the central element of the chiasm for us English readers for whom chiasms are foreign territory and without any real rhetorical effect…

  3. […] my effort. I’ve tried to be fairly source-oriented (see previous post) in both the vocabulary used and the form it’s in (longer first line, shorter second; […]

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