Wednesday, October 10, 2007

Josh and the Snake

Josh Waxmen has an excellent response to the post I wrote yesterday about the origins of Chava's name.

I tired to comment there, but Blogger is bloggered; anyway, responding here might send Josh traffic he richly deserves

He writes:

So too here, Alter discards the explicit etymology of the [naming] verse, but then wishes to connect it to the narrative anyway. Since there is a serpent in the story, connect her name to the serpent. But who is to say there was any connection to the story at all? For example, connect it to חוה, to express, to state, to experience.

Is he discarding the etymology or is he attempting to understand it on its own terms? The verse gives us a n explanation for Chava's name that fits neither the story nor her name. Nowhere do we see Chava acting as "the mother of all that lives;" and even if she did, wouldn't ChaYa be the appropriate name? (Rashi catches this problem and smooths it out by arguing that the vav and the yud are interchangeable.)

Anyway, it isn't the serpent in the narrative Alter wishes to connect her to, but the Mesopotamian serpent ancients imagined was "the mother of all that lives." He holds that the Garden story is a myth built on older myths, and adapted to suit new times and places. Perhaps he would say that our Garden story was conceived as a response to the older serpent myth, a way of establishing that a woman called Chava, and not a chivya, was the progenitor of all living things.

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