Did the Dove (in Genesis) Carry a LEAF or a BRANCH?

Thora

According to Christian and Jewish orthodox beliefs: In 2105 BCE (on the 301st day of the great Flood) Noah sent a dove for the 2nd time from the ark. The dove (יוֹנָה – yona) brought Noah an olive leaf after the flood, to show that the waters had abated and that calm had been restored. It is from this that the most well-known symbol for peace (a symbol for the end of destruction; the sign that the flood was ending) is that of a dove with an olive branch. All Jewish Biblical texts and most Christian texts seem to reflect an account of the Flood where there is no reference to the dove carrying an olive branch.

Dove with an olive branch from the Catacombs of Domitilla, Rome
Catacombs of Domitilla, Rome

 

So what is going on?

LET US SEE A FEW LEADING BIBLICAL VERSIONS:

KJ21 21st Century King James Version
And the dove came in to him in the evening, and lo, in her mouth was an olive leaf plucked off; so Noah knew that the waters were abated from off the earth.

ASV American Standard Version
And the dove came in to him at eventide; and, lo, in her mouth an olive-leaf plucked off: so Noah knew that the waters were abated from off the earth.

AMP Amplified Bible
The dove came back to him in the evening, and there, in her beak, was a fresh olive leaf. So Noah knew that the water level had subsided from the earth.

AMPC Amplified Bible, Classic Edition
And the dove came back to him in the evening, and behold, in her mouth was a newly sprouted and freshly plucked olive leaf! So Noah knew that the waters had subsided from the land.

BRG BRG Bible
And the dove came in to him in the evening; and, lo, in her mouth was an olive leaf pluckt off: so Noah knew that the waters were abated from off the earth.

CEB Common English Bible
The dove came back to him in the evening, grasping a torn olive leaf in its beak. Then Noah knew that the waters were subsiding from the earth.

CJB Complete Jewish Bible
The dove came in to him in the evening, and there in her mouth was a freshly plucked olive leaf, so Noach knew that the water had cleared from the earth.

CEV Contemporary English Version
It returned in the evening, holding in its beak a green leaf from an olive tree. Noah knew that the water was finally going down.

DARBY Darby Translation
And the dove came to him at eventide; and behold, in her beak was an olive-leaf plucked off; and Noah knew that the waters had become low on the earth.

DRA Douay-Rheims 1899 American Edition
And she came to him in the evening, carrying a bough of an olive tree, with green leaves, in her mouth. Noe therefore understood that the waters were ceased upon the earth.

ERV Easy-to-Read Version
And that afternoon the dove came back to Noah. The dove had a fresh olive leaf in its mouth. This was a sign to show Noah that there was dry ground on the earth.

ESV English Standard Version
And the dove came back to him in the evening, and behold, in her mouth was a freshly plucked olive leaf. So Noah knew that the waters had subsided from the earth.

ESVUK English Standard Version Anglicised
And the dove came back to him in the evening, and behold, in her mouth was a freshly plucked olive leaf. So Noah knew that the waters had subsided from the earth.

EXB Expanded Bible
and that evening it came back to him with a fresh olive leaf in its ·mouth [beak]. Then Noah knew that the ·ground was almost dry [L waters had subsided from the ground].

GNT Good News Translation
It returned to him in the evening with a fresh olive leaf in its beak. So Noah knew that the water had gone down.

HCSB Holman Christian Standard Bible
When the dove came to him at evening, there was a plucked olive leaf in her beak. So Noah knew that the water on the earth’s surface had gone down.

ICB International Children’s Bible
And that evening it came back to him with a fresh olive leaf in its mouth. Then Noah knew that the ground was almost dry.

ISV International Standard Version
The dove returned to him in the evening, but in its beak there was an olive leaf that it had plucked! So Noah knew that the flood waters had decreased on the land.

JUB Jubilee Bible 2000
And the dove came in to him in the evening, and, behold, in her mouth was an olive leaf plucked off, so Noah knew that the waters were abated from off the earth.

KJV King James Version
And the dove came in to him in the evening; and, lo, in her mouth was an olive leaf pluckt off: so Noah knew that the waters were abated from off the earth.

AKJV Authorized King James Version
And the dove came in to him in the evening; and, lo, in her mouth was an olive leaf pluckt off: so Noah knew that the waters were abated from off the earth.

LEB Lexham English Bible
And the dove came to him in the evening, and behold, a freshly-picked olive tree leaf was in her mouth. And Noah knew that the waters had subsided from upon the earth.

TLB Living Bible
And this time, toward evening, the bird returned to him with an olive leaf in her beak. So Noah knew that the water was almost gone.

MSG The Message
He waited seven more days and sent out the dove again. It came back in the evening with a freshly picked olive leaf in its beak. Noah knew that the flood was about finished.

MEV Modern English Version
The dove came to him in the evening, and in her mouth there was a freshly plucked olive leaf. So Noah knew that the waters had receded from the earth.

NOG Names of G0d Bible
The dove came to him in the evening, and in its beak was a freshly plucked olive leaf. Then Noah knew that the water was gone from the earth.

NABRE New American Bible (Revised Edition)
In the evening the dove came back to him, and there in its bill was a plucked-off olive leaf! So Noah knew that the waters had diminished on the earth.

NASB New American Standard Bible
The dove came to him toward evening, and behold, in her beak was a freshly picked olive leaf. So Noah knew that the water was abated from the earth.

NCV New Century Version
And that evening it came back to him with a fresh olive leaf in its mouth. Then Noah knew that the ground was almost dry.

NET New English Translation
When the dove returned to him in the evening, there was a freshly plucked olive leaf in its beak! Noah knew that the waters had receded from the earth.

NIRV New International Reader’s Version
In the evening the dove returned to him. There in its beak was a freshly picked olive leaf! So Noah knew that the water on the earth had gone down.

NIV  New International Version
When the dove returned to him in the evening, there in its beak was a freshly plucked olive leaf! Then Noah knew that the water had receded from the earth.

NIVUK New International Version – UK
When the dove returned to him in the evening, there in its beak was a freshly plucked olive leaf! Then Noah knew that the water had receded from the earth.

NKJV New King James Version
Then the dove came to him in the evening, and behold, a freshly plucked olive leaf was in her mouth; and Noah knew that the waters had receded from the earth.

NLV New Life Version
The dove returned to him in the evening. In her mouth was an olive leaf that had just been picked. So Noah knew that the water had gone from the earth.

NLT New Living Translation
This time the dove returned to him in the evening with a fresh olive leaf in its beak. Then Noah knew that the floodwaters were almost gone.

NRSV New Revised Standard Version
And the dove came back to him in the evening, and there in its beak was a freshly plucked olive leaf; so Noah knew that the waters had subsided from the earth.

NRSVA New Revised Standard Version, Anglicised Catholic Edition
And the dove came back to him in the evening, and there in its beak was a freshly plucked olive leaf; so Noah knew that the waters had subsided from the earth.

NRSVACE New Revised Standard Version Catholic Edition
And the dove came back to him in the evening, and there in its beak was a freshly plucked olive leaf; so Noah knew that the waters had subsided from the earth.

NRSVCE New Revised Standard Version Catholic Edition
And the dove came back to him in the evening, and there in its beak was a freshly plucked olive leaf; so Noah knew that the waters had subsided from the earth.

RSV Revised Standard Version
And the dove came back to him in the evening, and lo, in her mouth a freshly plucked olive leaf; so Noah knew that the waters had subsided from the earth.

RSVCE New Revised Standard Version Catholic Edition
And the dove came back to him in the evening, and lo, in her mouth a freshly plucked olive leaf; so Noah knew that the waters had subsided from the earth.

VOICE The Voice
This time the dove came back to him in the evening, and there, in its beak, was a freshly plucked olive leaf. So Noah knew then that the waters had begun to retreat from the land.

WEB World English Bible
The dove came back to him at evening and, behold, in her mouth was a freshly plucked olive leaf. So Noah knew that the waters were abated from the earth.

WYC Wycliffe Bible
And she came (back) to him at eventide, and bare in her mouth a branch of (an) olive tree with green leaves. Therefore Noe understood that the waters had ceased (from flowing) on (the) earth.(And so Noah understood that the waters had now gone from off the face of the earth).

YLT Young’s Literal Translation
And the dove cometh in unto him at even-time, and lo, an olive leaf torn off in her mouth; and Noah knoweth that the waters have been lightened from off the earth.

It seems that in a 4th century Latin translation of the story of Noah’s dove, St Jerome rendered “leaf of olive” as “ramum olivae” in the Latin Vulgate as written by St. Jerome:

8 11 And she came to him in the evening carrying a bough of an olive tree, with green leaves, in her mouth. Noe therefore understood that the waters were ceased upon the earth. at illa venit ad eum ad vesperam portans ramum olivae virentibus foliis in ore suo intellexit ergo Noe quod cessassent aquae super terram.
According to umn.edu‘s page: “As the Christian Church formed an organization in the early centuries of the Christian era, the question of an agreed-upon canon and text for the Bible became paramount. This task fell to Saint Jerome, in the late 4th century CE. He was well versed in Hebrew, Greek and Latin and produced a version of both Old and New Testaments in Latin, that being the lingua franca of the Church in that day. This became known as The Vulgate, meaning the vulgar, or common, tongue version and it remained the basic Bible for the Church for many centuries. It was the Bible read and used in the churches, except that a variant translation of the Psalms was incorporated into the Roman Psalter for liturgical purposes.” Prior to Jerome’s Vulgate, all Latin translations of the Old Testament were based on the Septuagint not the Hebrew version.  In detail from this site:

The Aramaic language, a dialect of Hebrew, became the common language of the Jews in the centuries before the Christian era and editions of the Hebrew Canon in Aramaic, with much commentary, became the books of common usage, while Hebrew was used for readings in the synagogue.

The two prominent Aramaic editions were the Targum Onkelos and the Targum Jonathan. Meanwhile, the great Library at Alexandria was endeavoring to obtain copies of all extant books, and as a part of that effort copies of all Hebrew Scriptures were translated into Greek, the language of scholarship of that time, in the 3rd century BCE. The text used ante-dated that of the Aramaic Targum. Because seventy-two translators were used, this translation has become known as The Septuagint and formed the basis for subsequent translation efforts into other languages. The earliest actual manuscripts of the Septuagint (usually abbreviated as LXX) date from the 7th century CE.

The books used for the LXX translation were not all accepted by Jews as being Holy Scripture, but the LXX fixed them in place until Luther made a distinction between canonical and apocryphal and separated some books out for Protestant Bibles and placed them between the Old and New Testaments as the Apocrypha -a distinction that still remains between Catholic and Protestant versions. via: d.umn.edu.

ON SAINT JEROME’S LANGUAGE SKILLS:
Jerome’s knowledge of Hebrew is considerable only when compared with that of the other Church Fathers and of the general Christian public of his time. His knowledge was really very defective. Although he pretends to have complete command of Hebrew and proudly calls himself a “trilinguis” (being conversant with Latin, Greek, and Hebrew), he did not, in spite of all his hard work, attain to the proficiency of his simple Jewish teachers. But he did not commit those errors into which the Christians generally fell; as he himself says: “The Jews boast of their knowledge of the Law when they remember the several names which we generally pronounce in a corrupt way because they are barbaric and we do not know their etymology. And if we happen to make a mistake in the accent [the pronunciation of the word as affected by the vowels] and in the length of the syllables, lengthening short ones and shortening long ones, they laugh at our ignorance, especially as shown in aspiration and in some letters pronounced with a rasping of the throat” (comm. on Titus iii. 9). Jerome not only acquired the peculiar hissing pronunciation of the Jews, but he also—so he declares—corrupted his pronunciation of Latin thereby, and ruined his fine Latin style by Hebraisms (preface to book iii., comm. on Galatians; “Epistolæ,” xxix. 7; ed. Vallarsi, i. 143). This statement of Jerome’s is not to be taken very seriously, however. In his voluminous works Jerome transcribed in Latin letters a mass of Hebrew words, giving thereby more or less exact information on the pronunciation of Hebrew then current. But, although he studied with the Jews, his pronunciation of Hebrew can not therefore be unhesitatingly regarded as that of the Jews, because he was led by the course of his studies, by habit, and by ecclesiastical authority to follow the Septuagint in regard to proper names, and this version had long before this become Christian. … More: http://www.jewishencyclopedia.com

Texts which follow Saint Jerome include:

The Vulgate Bible – Douay-Rheims And The Wycliffe’s Bible in translations into Middle English that were made under the direction of John Wycliffe. They appeared over a period from approximately 1382 to 1395.  Read more.

In conclusion:

No Protestant or Jewish Biblical source mentions an olive branch. And most Catholic sources are faithful to the original Hebrew.

In art the symbol of the “peace dove” with its branch might be used with a need to see with clarity what the dove is holding. Or Saint Jerome’s error lives on in the now powerful symbol of a dove holding an olive branch; an error never corrected for a dove that does not fly enough these days.

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