Thursday, March 01, 2018

The Genesis of Blame: Anne Enright in London Review of Books Winter Lectures at the British Museum Feb 23rd 2018

Anne Enright's first of the LRB Winter Lectures, "The Genesis of Blame" on Friday Feb 23rd 2018 held at the British Museum is here.

Anne Enright is a wonderful writer. Born in Dublin in 1962, she was educated in Dublin, Canada and at the University of East Anglia, on the creative-writing MA course. For six years, she was a television producer in Dublin, and now broadcasts on RTE; she also writes for the London Review of Books and the Irish Times. She is married to the actor and director Martin Murphy; their children are aged four and seven. Her fiction includes the short stories of The Portable Virgin (which won the Rooney Prize for Irish Literature), and four novels: The Wig My Father Wore, What Are You Like?, The Pleasure of Eliza Lynch and The Gathering (Cape), which won the Man Booker Prize. She has also published a non-fiction book on motherhood, Making Babies. She lives with her family in Bray, Co Wicklow.

In "The Genesis of Blame" Anne Enright first investigates whether the Pope was correct to describe the serpent's overtures to the woman in Genesis 3 as "seduction" in a recent statement on "fake news." She argues that the fault was not in Genesis but in fact found in the fake translation into Latin by Jerome of the fake letter of 1 Timothy 3 (fake because not written by St Paul):

 ‘I suffer not a woman to teach, nor to use authority over the man: but to be in silence’ because ‘Adam non est seductus, was not seduced; but the woman being seduced mulier autem seducta was in the transgression.’

In fact, in the beautiful complex story of Genesis, there was no seduction and no Satan. And she has grounds for making this case by e.g. careful investigation of the underlying Hebrew.

But there's one other textual tradition she doesn't consider that makes a difference in regard to these Genesis texts that are or are not about seduction: the 2nd Century BCE Greek translation of Hebrew Scripture or the Septuagint (from the legend of its origin in the Letter of Aristeas describing the 70 translators working in Alexandria). This textual tradition exists in various forms and recensions in the first and second century CE where it became the means through which first century Jewish writers like Paul and the author of 1 Timothy encountered the Hebrew Bible. A version of Gen 3:13 in the LXX reads, "The serpent tricked me and I ate." The Greek verb behind this translation, "apatao," can be translated "deceive, mislead" and also "seduce." These connotations of the Greek verb "apatao," including seduction, are alive and well in the book of Judith the Greek version of which dates to 100BCE (cf. Judith 10:4; 12:16). None of this contradicts Jerome, Jerome's translation, or his influence but it helps to explain the traction of a reading of Genesis 3:13 as seduction well before he began to work.

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