The word, adam, means “man” (SH 120) and it’s also a name, Adam (SH 121), and it can mean “red” (SH 119 with the same vowel points). Ha means “the” in Hebrew, so ha-adam means “the man.”

I’m not particularly concerned about homonyms or linguistic ambiguities—English absolutely thrives on them! Does “sanction” mean permit or punish, does “cleave” mean join or separate, and when you “dust the roses,” are you adding or removing dust? How about their, there, and they’re?

However, I wonder about some translation choices from Hebrew into English. In this case, the online interlinear version (https://biblehub.com/interlinear/genesis/2.htm) provides a literal translation as follows:

Genesis 1:26 adam (אָדָ֛ם) is translated man, not Adam, which is contextually reasonable.

Genesis 1:27 ha-adam (הָֽאָדָם֙) is translated man, not the man.

Genesis 2:7 ha-adam (הָֽאָדָם֙) is translated man, not the man.

Genesis 2:8, 15, 16, 18 ha-adam (הָֽאָדָם֙) is translated the man this time.

Genesis 2:19-24 ha-adam (הָֽאָדָם֙) is translated Adam, not the man.

Here’s how some popular English versions treat ha-adam Genesis 2:20.

  • American Standard Version: the man

  • Amplified Bible, Classic: Adam

  • Darby Translation: Man

  • English Standard Version: the man

  • Geneva Bible (1599): the man

  • King James Version: Adam

Manic digression: The KJV was based on the Geneva Bible without “the seditious margin notes” that King James objected to. However, it was the Geneva Bible that was first brought to America in 1620 and perhaps in 1609. Seditious indeed!

  • Legacy Standard Bible: the man

  • New American Standard Bible: the man

  • New International Version: the man

  • Wycliffe Bible: Adam

Why not use “the man” for all instances of ha-adam?

  • Some version do just that. It is good to have different versions. No one here is going to defend any particular version.
    – Dottard
    Commented Apr 26 at 22:04
  • Because words often change meanings depending on the context.
    – Perry Webb
    Commented Apr 27 at 11:07
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    All true, but word choices have consequences. Detectives rely heavily on word-choice revelations in interviews with suspects and witnesses. "I did not have sex with that woman." is a famous example of distancing. Translating kathairó as "prunes" in John 15:1-4 rather than "cleanses" (as in ritually clean) has a profound impact on our perspective of what Jesus was teaching!
    – Dieter
    Commented Apr 27 at 15:24

2 Answers 2


First and foremost, literal meaning of the word Adam is not 'man'. Footnote under Gen 2:7(NIV) explains thus: Hebrew for man (adam) sounds like and may be related to the Hebrew for ground (adamah); it is also the name Adam (see verse 20). That said, the terms man, the man and Adam are interchangeable in so far as Genesis is concerned. Why ? Adam was the only man available and the definitive article ' the' is a fitting prefix, just as we say 'the sun'. Mind that the usage of definitive article 'the' is peculiar to English language. Many oriental languages find it convenient to use demonstrative adjectives like 'this' and 'that' in place of 'the'. For instance, they would say: "God put that man into deep sleep." For that matter, do not be surprised if you find 'the Adam' in some translations since it would only mean 'the one from the ground'. Here again, the usage of capital letter to start a proper name ( John, David...) with, is not universal across languages. As such, use of definitive article before a proper name would not look awkward in many languages.
< One intriguing thing about NIV is that it abruptly uses the name Adam in verse 20 of Chapter 2 without telling that God named the man Adam.

Gen 2:7 of Orthodox Jewish Bible reads: " And Hashem Elohim formed the adam of the aphar min haadamah, and breathed into his nostrils the nishmat chayyim; and the adam became a nefesh chayyah." Understandably, the raw material used by God in the formation of man was red clay which the potter uses, and not the dust, as translated in many versions.


As I learned,in growing up in a Roman catholic Church and School wich also later in life I was also married for a short time / not too short 5 years to a very nice youngman who was Israeliy. I learned in school and I study a great deal and I'm very Religious that God blew the Clay into the Man's Nostrils! For a breath of life . But as far as the serpent.He was originally a type of upright creature with legs and God removed his legs for him tempting Eve and said " On Your Belly Serpant You Shal sliver " so that's how we have Snakes cold blooded creatures.

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