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The book of Genesis, 1:28 reads:

Crescite et multiplicamini et replete terram et subicite eam et dominamini piscibus maris et volatilibus caeli et universis animantibus, quae moventur super terram

Most translations I have seen so far read animantibus quae moventur more or less like animals that move, but I was wondering whether it can be read in a broader sense.

I don't know Hebrew (or Greek, for what it's worth), so it is likely that the key is in the original languages, but for what concerns Latin,

  • Animans can also mean animate/living (beings).
  • moveor can also mean a lot of things like to be produced, to be put forth and... Maybe by extension, to reproduce, germinate?

Q: Is it possible that animantibus quae moventur in Gen 1:28 means 'all living beings?'

The relevant part of the Hebrew verse is: וּבְכָל־ חַיָּ֖ה הָֽרֹמֶ֥שֶׂת. The Septuagint, in turn, don't seem to help, since they apparently divide וּבְכָל־ into cattle and reptiles: τῶν κτηνῶν καὶ πάσης τῆς γῆς καὶ πάντων τῶν ἑρπετῶν τῶν ἑρπόντων.

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2 Answers 2

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(This is an answer about the meaning of the original Hebrew phrase, since the OP suggested in comments that such an answer would be useful.)

As the question indicates, the Hebrew phrase being translated as universis animantibus quae moventur is וּבְכָל־חַיָּ֖ה הָֽרֹמֶ֥שֶׂת uvekhol khaya haromeset. (I'm using a simplified/Modern Hebrew transcription in this answer since the precise Biblical Hebrew phonetics don't really matter).

חַיָּ֖ה khaya is the normal word for "animal". It transparently derives from the verb khay "to live", but that doesn't mean it includes "all living things" in the English sense, e.g. plants; plants in Hebrew are described as "growing" but not normally as "living". In Latin animal is a close equivalent; I don't know why animantibus rather than animalibus was chosen here.

As for the participle רֹמֶ֥שֶׂת romeset: Gesenius (Analytical Hebrew and Chaldee Lexicon) defines this verb as "1. to creep, of reptiles; 2. to move, of any living creature". There is a noun remes from the same root, meaning "1. reptile; 2. that which moves (on the earth), any land animal, in opposition to fowls; once of water animals, Ps. 104.25".

So the original phrase pretty clearly does mean "all animals which move", not more broadly "living things that reproduce" or the like.

(I don't know what the Septuagint is doing. πάντων τῶν κτηνῶν καὶ πάσης τῆς γῆς καὶ πάντων τῶν ἑρπετῶν τῶν ἑρπόντων ἐπὶ τῆς γῆς is "all beasts of burden/cattle and all the earth and all creeping things/reptiles that creep on the earth", which adds a bunch of things that aren't in the Hebrew.)

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    The Septuagint is probably clarifying what 3rd century scholars thought the text meant. I'm sure there's a comment somewhere in the Talmud or some of other text remarks on the matter. Too bad the extant of the Dead Sea Scrolls' Peshar to Genesis (4Q252ff.) doesn't go this early.
    – cmw
    May 7, 2021 at 23:50
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Animantes are all beings that breathe, so not exclusively animals. All living beings that move would be fine, I guess, though in the given context humans are evidently excluded. So I guess we're back to the animals... But animantes surely has a broader feel than bestiae or even (it seems to me) animalia.

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    This answer seems pretty speculative. I would suggest bringing in a few sources or parallel quotes to support your intuitions.
    – brianpck
    Apr 7, 2021 at 17:58
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    Brianpck, the opinion is yours, this is not intuition.
    – Batavulus
    Apr 7, 2021 at 18:02
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    @Batavulus thanks for your answer (+1). I partially support Brianpck's remark, though, in the sense that it is desirable to provide sources. Also do you think animantes could apply to plants too?
    – Rafael
    Apr 7, 2021 at 21:25
  • As for plants, I would say that's stretching things a bit, although I suppose in theory, yes. The problem with such words (as with very many) is that their semantic value (so to speak) depends on context. In certain contexts (I'm thinking Aesop) ‘animantes’ is indeed quite obviously used for “animals.” But in the example of Gen. 1, although practically correct, it strikes me as essentially too narrow. If you like, look in L&S s.v. animo II. (However I for one am a bit weary about turning dictionaries into bibles, as the CUP commentaries tend to do with OLD and many other Latinists with L&S.)
    – Batavulus
    Apr 11, 2021 at 16:08
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    The opinion pointed out by @brianpck was supported by several upvotes, so it is shared by a number of users. If seven users question whether an answer is valid, it is indeed a good idea to edit the answer to add a few sources. Requesting clarification is a standard practice on this site, and we all notice from time to time that we have to explain what we thought was clear. Please do not take such requests as anything personal.
    – Joonas Ilmavirta
    May 7, 2021 at 20:25

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