Characters that confirm the Bible record
Where should we start? Why, of course it is always best to start at the beginning. That is where the Bible account starts as well.
Genesis 1:1 states “In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth”.
The Chinese Border Sacrifice recitation reads “Of old, in the beginning there was the great chaos… You, O Sovereign … made heaven. You made earth. You made man …”[i]
Adam was the first man. Luke 3:38 describes him as “son of God”. 1 Corinthians 15:45,47 states “The first man Adam became a living soul … the first man is out of the earth and made of dust …”. (See also Genesis 2:7) If you wanted to remember these facts as to the first man, what he was and how he was made, how could you do so?
At the beginning we gave some basic characters. Let us see what we can learn when they and other characters are combined together and what the meaning of those combined characters are in the Chinese language even today.
The Creation of Man and Woman
What was Adam made of?
It was dust or earth. This is (tǔ)土.
He was then given life (shēng) 生.
He was the (first) human son of God 儿 (son, child).
These are combined into 先 (xiān – first).
Yes, the first human was a son of God, made from dust or earth and given the breath of life. Even as Genesis 2:7 reads “And Jehovah God proceeded to form the man out of dust from the ground and to blow into his nostrils the breath of life, and the man came to be a living soul.”
What did God declare?
The account of Genesis 1:26 has God saying, declaring, announcing “Let us make man in our image”.
Adding the characters for dust + life + breath / mouth, we get the character for “tell”, “announce”, “declare” as follows:
土 (tǔ – soil) => 生 (shēng – life) +口(kǒu – mouth) = 告(gao – tell, announce, declare).
God then went on to declare: “Let us make [or create] man in our image”.
If we take the character of tell, announce, declare from above and add walking implying movement we find we have the complex character of create which is describing that God spoke/declared and breathed life into things and they moved.
dust + life + breath / mouth = tell, announce, declare + walking/movement (God spoke, and things were so)
土 (tǔ – earth) => 生 (sheng – life) + 口(kǒu – mouth) = 告(tell, announce, declare)
+ 辶 (walking, action) = 造 (“zào” – create, make, invent).
By God’s word or declaration, things came to be so.
Why did God make Eve?
Genesis 2:18 gives the reason as “It is not good for the man to continue by himself. I am going to make a helper for him, as a complement of him”.
A complement is something that completes.
If we add the characters for son/man + one + one, we get “first” as in the following:
儿 + 一 + 一 = 元 (xiān = first).
Then adding 宀 (roof) = 完 (Wán) which means “complete, whole, finish”.
We can therefore understand the pictogram to mean “one man with one more person [Eve] made the first [couple] which under a roof [of a house] is complete [as a family unit].
What did God do after creating man and woman?
Genesis 1:28 states that “Further, God blessed them [man] and God said to them, Be fruitful”.
The character for blessing, happiness is “fú” 福.
If we start from the right this complex character is constructed from the characters: one + mouth + garden.
This is 一+口+田. To these characters a character for God/ spirit (shì) is added 礻and we get the character for blessing / happiness 福.
We could therefore understand this character to mean that “God spoke to one in a garden (Eden)”. This essentially is a reminder of what Genesis 1:28 records. Before Adam and Eve sinned, it was a blessing that God would talk to them in the garden, something that would cease when they sinned (Genesis 3:8).
Where did God put the man and woman he created?
God also put Adam and Eve in a garden, the Garden of Eden.
The “tián” character meaning “field, arable land, cultivated”, is田.
This character is highly interesting as both Persian carpets with garden motifs and actual Persian gardens are usually designed in this shape. Surely it is not a coincidence, because Genesis 2:10-15 describes how a river’s source was in Eden and it parted into four heads of 4 rivers, each of which went in a different direction as we can discern from the description given in the Bible account. Now this is a description from pre-flood times, but there are still two easily identifiable today, the Tigris (Heddekel) and the Euphrates which seem to correspond to the easterly and southern directions.
The “yuán” character for garden, park, or orchard is made of the following sub characters clay/earth/dust + mouth + man + woman + enclosed.
土+口+ (人+女) = 氏(family) + enclosed (wéi) =園 (yuán).
This could be interpreted as “dust by declaration was formed into man and woman [or family] who were put in an enclosure which was a garden”. This describes what is recorded in Genesis 2:8 “Further, Jehovah God planted a garden in Eden …, and there he put the man he had formed”.
Where was this Garden?
To the Chinese people, it was to the West of where they were now. If we add the characters for one + son, man, person + enclosure we get West (xi).
一 + 儿 + 囗= 西 (West).
Yes, to the west of China was where the first (one) person (human son of God) was put in an enclosure or garden.
Did God give them any restrictions?
When God put Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden, he gave them one restraint.
Genesis 2:16-17 records this as being “From every tree of the garden you may eat to satisfaction. But as for the tree of the knowledge of good and bad you must not eat from it, for in the day you eat from it you will positively die.”
The character “shù” for restrain, control, bind, is made of two characters a tree + a mouth. 木 + 口= 束.
What better way to remember the “command (mouth, speak) not to eat from the tree” as “to restrain”.
Discussing this Bible account, we will often say that Adam and Eve were forbidden to eat from the tree of knowledge of good and bad, but they went ahead and ate the forbidden fruit. The character for forbidden which is “Jìn” = 禁.
Before they sinned, they had been told what they should not to do and shown the trees. It was insignificant not to be able to eat from just one tree out of all the trees in the garden.
To show 示 (shì – show), is formed by the sub characters of one + one + small, tiny, insignificant)
一+ 一+ 小.
When show is added to two trees [many trees] we get 木 + 木 + 示 = 禁.
This could be understood as “out of many trees [they] were shown or pointed out [forbidden] something insignificant [to do, to not eat from only one of the many trees]”. Does this not convey the events recorded in Genesis 2:16-17 which says “Jehovah God also laid this command upon the man, ‘From every tree of the garden you may eat to satisfaction. But as for the tree of knowledge of good and bad [one tree among all the trees, insignificant] you must not eat from it [forbidden].’”
What would happen if they were to disobey?
Genesis 2:17 finishes with “you will positively die”.
What is the Chinese character for “put to death”? It is zhū, 誅.
It is made up of the following characters: words (yan), + a complex character made of one + tree + KangXi radical 4 meaning “slash”.
言 + 丿+ 木 + 一 = 誅.
This radical is also highly similar to the Japanese for “no”. If we take this the pictogram could be understood that “put to death” was the result of ignoring the command to “no [not to eat] from one tree”, or “words about one tree led/lead to slash/death”.
To be continued ….
[i] James Legge, The Notions of the Chinese concerning God and Spirits. (Hong Kong 1852 p28. Reprint Taipei 1971)