Last night I finished off Mark’s gospel and decided to read Genesis in the TNIV. I’m not sure I’ve ever read Genesis in the TNIV, beyond just the first chapter or so.
Well, I got up to chapter four, and suddenly my sensibilities were jarred by the first verse.
1 Adam made love to his wife Eve, and she became pregnant and gave birth to Cain. She said, “With the help of the LORD I have brought forth a man.”
Now it wasn’t the word “pregnant” that bugged me, as one might think. It was the second and third words of the first sentence, “Adam made love to his wife…” I think what I didn’t like about it was that it seemed too personal. It was more than having sex, it was that it said they “made love”. I don’t doubt that Adam loved Eve, and that Eve loved Adam. But the term “made love” somehow seemed a little too personal, like the author was trying to let us in on the feelings of these two people. The fact that they had sex was enough to know.
To “have sex” and to “make love” are both euphemisms for “doing it”, which also happens to be a euphemism. There are euphemisms for sex in the Bible, as well as many other euphemisms outside of the scriptures which I will not deal with because this is supposed to be a G-rated blog.
Probably the best-known of these euphemisms is the Biblical “know”. The venerable old King James Version says that Adam “knew” his wife, and this phrase is always explained by the preacher so we will know that Adam and Eve were not strangers. This euphemism is used by the KJV, the NKJV, the old American Standard Version, Young’s Literal Translation, Darby, the ESV, and even the NRSV. I didn’t check, but I assume the old RSV also uses “knew”.
The Holman CSB tries to make it clearer by saying that Adam knew his wife intimately. Yeah, that’s clearer, especially if you are already aware of the euphemistic meaning of “knew”.
Other translations have tried their hand at clarifying the meaning. The NASB says Adam and Eve “had relations”. (Is that the same as having relatives?) The NET Bible adds that they had “marital relations”. Now, everybody is supposed to know what that means, right?
The NLT and the New Century Version say Adam had sexual relations with his wife, which does make it clear that it was sexual, right?
The NIV took a little different tack by saying that Adam lay with his wife. I really kind of like that one. I think it makes it clear what’s going on without actually saying it, especially when they add that she conceived. Yet it remains a description of the physical without getting into the emotional part of it all.
The NIrV joins the TNIV in saying that Adam made love to Eve. The Message tries out a different euphemism when it says that Adam slept with Eve. But I think they did more than sleep, don’t you?
The CEV, the Contemporary English Version, avoids the whole thing by saying Adam and Eve had a son.
So everybody is tip-toeing around with these euphemisms. It will be interesting to see what the translators of the CEB do with it, as well as what the CBT does with it in the new NIV next year.