When Jesus Gave Birth (Part 7)

November 25, 2013  Leave a comment

As I pointed out in the last post, the Gospel of John’s emphasis on a birth from God points to John’s thematic climax, the cross, as Jesus’ labor for the birth of the believer.  And there’s simply no better picture of birth in this scene than the well-attested allusion to the creation of Eve in the depiction of Jesus’ pierced side  (John 19:34).

Though she comes from the side of a man, Eve’s creation is in fact the first birth recorded in scripture.  Note the implicit twist in the fact that the woman comes out of the man instead of the other way around. Genesis 2:21-22 reads,

So the Lord God caused the man to fall into a deep sleep; and while he was asleep, he took part of the man’s side and closed up the place with flesh.  Then the Lord God made a woman from the part he had taken out of the man, and he brought her to the man.  Then the man said, “This one at last is bone of my bones and flesh of my flesh; this one will be called ‘woman,’ for she was taken out of man.

The languages of the original readers also indicates they would have understood it this way.  In Hebrew, the imagery of coming from a man is at the heart of several idioms referring to a man’s offspring.

  • the fruit of the man’s belly/womb.  (Deut 28:4, 11, 18, 53, 30:9, Psalms 132:11, Mic 6:7)
  • One who will come fourth from the man’s inward parts  (2 Samuel 7:12, I Chr 17:11)
  • That which comes out from the man’s loins.  (Gen 46:26, Ex 1:5, Judges 8:30, 1 Kings 8:19)

These word-pictures allude to a male parallel to a woman’s labor and delivery, a fact which is somewhat obscured by our English translations.  For instance, the Hebrew word for loins above is not exclusive to men.  It’s the seat of a woman’s labor pains.  And the Hebrew word “belly” has the broader meaning of abdomen which includes the womb.

The LXX, the first translations of the Bible into Greek 200 years before the time of Christ, moved further in this direction.  It rendered “belly” and “inward parts” in the first two examples as koilia, a Greek word which mean’s “hallow” but by extension refers to the abdomen and womb. We might expect than that the translators would have rendered “loins” in the parallel expression of 1 Kings 8:19 in the same way.  Not so.  Instead they translated it as “sides.” (pleura).  This is interesting.  According to the earliest translation of the Hebrew Bible, a man’s child idiomatically comes from his belly, womb, and or sides.  These idiom appear to be linked in no small degree to the “birth” of Eve.

To be continued…

Matthew Scott Miller

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