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The Oxford Handbook of Biblical Studies Provides a comprehensive survey of Biblical scholarship in a variety of disciplines.

Problems of Coherence and Consistency

In the preceding examples, a degree of incongruity was immediately obvious. However, in other cases the problem of linguistic or logical coherence arises only within a somewhat larger context than that of the sentence or verse. For example, Gen. 3: 21 speaks of God making for Adam and Eve ‘tunics of skin’, although the slaughter of animals, at least for food, had not yet been sanctioned (cf. Gen. 1: 29; 9: 2–4). Early translators and interpreters saw a problem here and solved it in various ways. A lexical solution was to see in the Hebrew ‘or (‘skin’) an equivalent of ’or (‘light’); i.e. God covered them with light (cf. Targum Onqelos: lebušin diqar (‘garments of honour’)). A lexico-grammatical solution was to interpret the skin as belonging to Adam and Eve, not to an animal, and to understand the genitive (‘of’) construction as conveying the sense of ‘for’, i.e. ‘tunics for their bodies’. A third solution might be called referential: the text was retained in its regular sense, but the skin was taken to be that of the serpent, which periodically sheds its skin.

Whereas Gen. 3: 21 seems to point to a lacuna in our information, Gen. 2: 17 shows two apparent inconsistencies. The first concerns the addressee. In MT it is clearly Adam alone who is spoken to (as Eve had not yet been sculpted): ‘you shall not eat…; when you eat…you will die’, with singular forms throughout. However, LXX, probably with an eye to Eve's reporting of the same words at Gen. 3: 3, switches from singular ‘you’ in v. 16 to the plural in v. 17. Gen. 2: 17 conceals another problem of inconsistency, in that quite plainly neither Adam nor Eve fell down dead on the day they ate from the forbidden tree. In connection with this verse we can see in the translation of Symmachus how a translator can be at one point more faithful to the text (more ‘literal’) and at another more interpretative. Unlike LXX, Symmachus renders ‘you shall not eat’ (etc.) as a singular, in line with the Hebrew; however, later in the verse, perturbed like many by the apparent non-fulfilment of the punishment stated, Symmachus does not, like LXX, render quite literally, but adds a modifying interpretation: ‘you will become mortal’. It is, of course, not entirely impossible that this was the meaning intended by the Hebrew (and this interpretation is broadly followed in ancient times by, for example, Targum Pseudo-Jonathan, and in modern times by, among others, REB). However, we should note that although the translator has tried to make sense of the text and to help the reader, in presenting one particular interpretation that crystallizes his own exegetical and theological insight into the passage he has removed from the reader the possibility of reaching a different conclusion (albeit one that the translator might regard as erroneous).

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