Some translations of Genesis 2:24 (eg NKJV) say:

Therefore a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and they shall become one flesh.

While others (eg KJV) use the active tense:

Therefore shall a man leave his father and his mother, and shall cleave unto his wife: and they shall be one flesh.

Which is the better translation? I ask because in Mark 10:9, Jesus seems to be quoting v24 to point out the passiveness of the joining, because it is God who joins husband and wife together:

Therefore what God has joined together, let not man separate.

Which translation of the verb did the LXX use?

  • I highly doubt that the NKJV's replacement of the less common and more archaic shall cleave with the more common and contemporary shall be joined has some deep, mystical connotations. I also doubt that the joining of man and woman in marriage is passive on the side of the two spouses; God does not exactly pick random strangers of the street, and then informs them that He will now join the two of them in marriage. – Lucian Oct 15 at 15:58
up vote 2 down vote accepted

The verb in Hebrew is דָבַק with the preposition בְּ; in Greek, it is προσκολληθήσεται πρὸς. Thus, in Hebrew it is a Qal verb, and in Greek it is a passive voice.

However, this does not really mean anything. For example, in Russian, to spell is a reflexive (i.e., literally "the word spells itself as W-O-R-D"), but this does not mean that Russian speakers imagine spelling differently than English speakers. Whether a verb is active, middle or passive morphologically does not have a direct bearing on the question of meaning.

The verb is in my opinion best understood as a stative, which can easily be expressed with both an active and a passive voice depending on the language. In the Hebrew text there is no basis for Mark's interpretation, because we would then expect a passive Hiphil, "man is caused to cleave to ... [by God]", or an active Hiphil with God as the subject, "God causes man to cleave to ...".

  • 2
    So... in Hebrew, it's active. In Greek, LXX, it's passive. Mark uses the LXX, so he understands it to be passive. – xiota Oct 11 at 10:01

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