Friday, October 9, 2009

Oh, It's All So Clear, Now.

In a post from Thursday's Acts of the Apostasy, ["I Believe In God, Separator Of Heaven And Earth..." ] LarryD writes of a professor at Radboud College in the Netherlands, one Ellen van Wolde.

Professor van Wolde has analyzed the Book of Genesis and has determined that everyone has gotten it wrong. She claims that the Hebrew word "bara" - which has traditionally been translated as "created" - actually means "separated". According to her, God did not create the heavens and earth.....He simply separated what was already in existence.

The news report of van Wolde's claim can be found on the website.

Of course, I wasn't content with just the English source. I wanted to follow the story to original Dutch version. I found an article called God de Scheider on

Translating from one language to another can be a tricky thing. It's more art than science. Words in one language may not always have an exact equivalent in another language. Sometimes you just have to pick a word that seems nearest to what the original is trying to say.

To show how difficult translating languages can be, I like to use Babelfish to translate. It's always good for a laugh. Below, I will paste the original van Wolde article written in Dutch (in red) followed by the Babelfish translation into English (in blue).

God schiep niet, hij scheidde! God is niet de Schepper! Volgens theoloog en bijbelwetenschapper Ellen van Wolde van de Radboud Universiteit is Genesis in de Bijbel verkeerd vertaald. Het woord 'bara' betekent 'scheiden', niet 'scheppen'. De reacties bij Dagblad Trouw stromen niet, maar stormen binnen. Deze taalkwestie doet denken aan het woord 'druiven' in de Koran. Dat was altijd verkeerd vertaald als 'maagden'. Terroristen kwamen dus ook al van een koude kermis thuis. Staat het traditionele beeld van God nu op zijn kop?

'Het is in onze hersens gegrift. De eerste zin van de bijbel is ‘In het begin schiep God hemel en aarde’. Maar Ellen van Wolde, hoogleraar Exegese van het Oude Testament en bronteksten van het jodendom aan de Radboud Universiteit Nijmegen, toont aan dat er eigenlijk iets anders staat. In haar inaugurele rede, die zij op vrijdag 9 oktober uitspreekt, concludeert zij na nauwgezette bestudering van de Hebreeuwse grondtekst en de context daarvan, dat er geen sprake is van een creatio ex nihilo, een schepping uit het niets, maar van een scheiding van de hemel en de aarde in een uitgestrekte watermassa.'

God did not create, he separated! God is not the inventor! According to theologian and bible scientist Ellen van Wolde of the Radboud university genesis has been found oneself translated in the bible. The word ' bara' means ' scheiden' , not ' scheppen'. The responses at daily do not marry flows, but storm in. This language question does think speaking ' druiven' in the Koran. That had been always found oneself translated as ' maagden'. Terrorists came home therefore also already of a cold village fair. Does the traditional picture of god stand now on its head?

' It is in our brain gegrift. The first sense of the bible is `in the beginning created god sky and aarde'. but Ellen van Wolde, professor interpretation of the Old Testament and source texts of Jewry to the Radboud, shows there actual something else to university Nijmegen to that stands. In its inaugural reason, which she pronounces October on Friday 9, she concludes after precise study of the Jew original text and the context of it that there is no talk of creatio ex nihilo, a creation from nothing, but of a separation of the sky and the ground in extended watermassa.'

It's all very clear now. Isn't it?


LarryD said...

That actually makes more sense than the Telegraph article.

Will Johnston said...

I read the Telegraph article, and regardless of one's religious beliefs, this scholar's interpretation is far from settled fact. Translation and interpretation of any text is as much art as science. You can't just say "I've figured it out!" and expect it to be accepted as truth. People should look at this finding, analyze it, study it, and accept it if it seems to be true, but they certainly shouldn't accept it uncritically. Professor van Wolde's statement that, "The traditional view of God the Creator is untenable now," is hardly true just because she says so. It needs to be subjected to scholarly criticism and research.

Moreover, the article doesn't really address the content of her research. It says that she compared the Biblical creation narrative to other creation stories and placed it in context of the Bible as a whole but never actually mentions why any of these comparisons led her to the conclusion that she reached. It doesn't cite other uses of the word 'bara' that could be translated 'select' or 'separate.' Perhaps that is beyond the scope of this article, but it needs to be addressed before one's mind is made up about this particular point of interpretation.