In Genesis there is word play for man (ish איש) and woman (ishah אשה); also in regards to Eve, the name (chawah חוה) means living or life bearer does it not? With this in mind, in regards to the literalism and historical Adam and Eve, how does the Hebrew word play, which I assume is modern Hebrew, work if it was written by Moses who used a more ancient iteration of Hebrew? Also did Adam and Eve use an even more ancient iteration of Hebrew?

Example passages:

Therefore shall a man leave his father and his mother, and shall cleave unto his wife: and they shall be one flesh. (Genesis 2:24)

And Adam called his wife’s name Eve; because she was the mother of all living. (Genesis 3:20)

2 Answers 2


The Hebrew of Genesis is not modern Hebrew, but Biblical Hebrew (which itself is not monolithic, but developed over time as all languages do).


Dating the Torah

The Torah consists of the first 5 books of the Hebrew Bible/Old Testament.

The majority of Biblical scholars believe that the written books were a product of the Babylonian captivity (c. 6th century BCE), based on earlier written sources and oral traditions, and that it was completed with final revisions during the post-Exilic period (c. 5th century BCE). (source)

This is, however, a contested conclusion:

  • Although much of the Torah exhibits what appears to be the Hebrew of the time of the Babylonian captivity, some of it is a much older Hebrew still. Some scholars conclude that this means that the Torah was written long before the Babylonian captivity, but that the most common rendition of it (that has survived) was the one cast in Babylonian-captivity era Hebrew (kind of like how the most common English rendering of the Bible is written in Elizabethan English even though that is neither current English nor the original English translation)
  • For many years, one of the mainstay arguments for the Torah being oral-only prior to ~6th century BC was that there were no known extant examples of written Hebrew pre-dating that time. However, much older examples of written Hebrew have since been discovered. Some of the source-critical hypotheses of the Old Testament were so well-entrenched that they were not modified even when one of their principal pieces of evidence was overturned.
  • Even if the well-known redaction of the Torah dates to the Babylonian exile, it does not mean the material had never been committed to writing prior to that time--the OT is indeed replete with passages indicating that Israel was writing things well before this time.
  • Secular scholarship generally presupposes that Moses was not a real person and therefore could not have written anything. Using this assumption to assign late dates to the Torah is invalid, as it presupposes what it aims to prove.

Summary: the Hebrew of the Torah as we know it today is likely based on an older version of the language (such as may have been spoken by Moses)


Adam & Eve

There is no evidence that Adam & Eve spoke Hebrew. Their names as written in the Hebrew text are a Hebrew rendering; the text does not explicitly state to what extent Genesis relied upon oral teaching, earlier written sources, and direct revelation, though many students of the Bible acknowledge a role played by all three.

Traditional Jewish attribution indicates that Genesis was written by Moses, not by Adam, Abraham, Jacob, etc.


Origins of Written Hebrew

The Hebrew Bible is the most prominent example of early Hebrew writing, and may well be the reason Hebrew developed a written script. An interesting thought experiment (for which we do not have a definite answer) is:

  • Was the Torah written in Hebrew because that was the written language of the Israelites? OR
  • Was written Hebrew developed specifically as a means of preserving the teachings of the Torah?

Exodus 2:10 gives reason to believe Moses obtained an Egyptian education--in creating written records, it is reasonable to ask (and the answer is unknown), would he have written in an early form of Hebrew, or would he have written in Egyptian?



The names "Adam" (אָדָם) and "Eve" (חַוָּה) (and the terms "ish" & "ishah") in the book of Genesis preserve the way ancient Hebrew writers referred to them, not what they would have called themselves in their own language. This of course does not rule out the possibility that these terms are translations of what Adam & Eve called themselves. The view that the language they spoke has been lost is perfectly compatible with the view that they were real people.

Genesis is full of word-play. The names--like many in the Old Testament--serve a dual purpose: they refer to individuals, and their meaning tells us something of significance about those individuals. Whether the word-play existed in the language spoken by Adam & Eve is unknown.


The underlying meaning can be understood by going from hebrew to phonecian pictoral charachters. The first word in Genesis 1:1 references the son of God dying by his own hand on he cross.

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