Can the Word In Genesis 2:24 Translated "Flesh" Also Be Translated "Body"?


Genesis 2:24 The Hebrew Word Translated Flesh Also Means “Body.”

     According to the Brown, Driver, Briggs, Gesenius Hebrew Lexicon the Hebrew word basar, translated “flesh” in Genesis 2:24 has the following possible definitions (the definitions below are quoted from the on-line lexicon):
            a. Of the body 1. Of humans 2. Of animals

            b. The body itself

            c. Male organ of generation (euphemism)

            d. Kindred, blood-relations

            e. Flesh as frail or erring (man against God)

            f. All living things

            g. animals

            h. mankind


     Benjamin Davidson also includes “body” in his lexicon (The Analytical Hebrew and Chaldee Lexicon, Zondervan Publishing House, 1970, page 123).

     In Genesis 2:24 the word is not used in the a. definition. It is not referring to something “of the body.” It is not used in the sense of the male and female become one male organ (c.). Use of a word that carries the meaning of the male sex organ is an interesting aspect when one considers the question as a whole.

     The translation of kindred (d.) does fit here when one considers Dr. Wolterstorff's comment that verse 24 begins with "therefore." Due to that, verse 24 is connected to verse 23 which speaks of "one flesh" in the sense of the kindred relations.   

     Flesh as in man pitted against God (e.) is not appropriate. This verse is not using the word to refer to all living things (f.), animals (g.) or mankind in general (h.).

     Therefore, there are two meanings that fit in this passage is the translation “body” (b.) and kindred relations (d.).  

There Are Old Testament Examples Where the Word Translated Flesh Means Body.

     The two examples below show that “body” is a legitimate translation of basar.

Isaiah 10:18: "The glory of his forest and of his fruitful land the Lord will destroy, both soul and body, and it will be as when a sick man wastes away." The translation of basar is italicized.

Ezekiel 10:12: "And their whole body, their rims, and their spokes, their wings, and the wheels were full of eyes all around—the wheels that the four of them had." The translation of basar is again italicized.

Hebrew Words for Body.

     In biblical Hebrew there are fourteen words that are translated “body.” These include the words for corpses. These fourteen words are found a cumulative total of 38 times in the Old Testament. The one word basar on the other hand, appears a total of 255 times in the Old Testament. So basar is clearly a far more frequently used word. When one also considers the sexual overtones which the word carries, it is easy to see how basar would be the term chosen to communicate “body” in Genesis 2:24.

I Corinthians 6:16 and soma.

     The wording of this passage sheds light on what is meant by becoming “one flesh.”

I Corinthians 6:16: "Or do you not know that he who is joined to a prostitute becomes one body with her? For, as it is written, 'The two will become one flesh.'”

     When I Corinthians says “. . . he who is joined to a prostitute . . .” it is following very closely the wording of Genesis 2:24 where it talks about a man holding fast to his wife (ESV). Then I Corinthians specifically talks about becoming one body with the prostitute. There it uses the Greek word soma which is usually translated “body.” So the inspired words of I Corinthians prove that what God had in mind in Genesis 2:24 when He spoke of becoming one flesh (basar) was really becoming one body.

     Please bear in mind that the correct definition of "one flesh" could have a significant bearing on whether Dr. Brownson's theology of one flesh is correct or not. The ramification of the meaning will be dealt with in a later email.


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