Saturday, August 22, 2009

The Battle between the Sexes!

The battle between men and women constitutes one of the enduring conflicts of the ages. When did it begin? “With Adam and Eve,” say some Bible interpreters focusing on Genesis 3:16, “To the woman [God] said, ‘I will greatly increase your pains in childbearing; with pain you will give birth to children. Your desire will be for your husband, and he will rule over you.’” (New International Version, NIV) The last two clauses bear the brunt of this interpretation, “Your desire will be for your husband, and he will rule over you.”

The focal points for this “conflict” interpretation are the word desire and the English future tenses. Ron and Beverly Allen (Liberated Traditionalism, page 124) state that “the desire spoken of here is a desire to usurp [the husband’s] leadership. That is, in addition to pain in childbearing, the curse on the woman produces conflict between herself and her husband.” The future tenses suggest that the conflict will continue through time. In this view she wants to rule but he has the leadership role.

This interpretation, however, is not a foregone conclusion. The usurping of leadership idea attached to the word desire has to be transported into the text. The word simply refers to an urge, craving, impulse, longing (William L. Holladay, Editor, A Concise Hebrew and Aramaic Lexicon of the Old Testament; Francis Brown, Samuel Rolles Driver and Charles Augustus Briggs, Enhanced Brown-Driver-Briggs Hebrew and English Lexicon). The context must determine the reason for such feelings, and Genesis 3:16 speaks clearly about childbearing not leadership.

Furthermore, neither of the other two uses in the Old Testament (Genesis 4:7; Song of Solomon 7:10, English) states or implies a leadership conflict in their respective contexts. This is eminently clear in the Song of Solomon, “I belong to my lover, And his desire is for me” (NIV). The crouching animal in the imagery of Genesis 4:7 also has no innate aspirations for leadership but does have an inborn desire to satisfy hunger. To read a leadership conflict into this verse distorts the literary imagery. As in Genesis 3:16, the immediate contextual issue is the satisfying of a biological need.

Also, the imperfect form of the Hebrew verb to rule can but need not have simple future reference. The Imperfect of Obligation (Ronald J. Williams, Hebrew Syntax: An Outline) is very possible here as it is in 4:7 where the same verb is so translated in the NIV, “you must master [have dominion over] it.” Genesis 3:16 and 4:7 are remarkably similar (3:16, וְאֶל־אִישֵׁךְ תְּשׁוּקָתֵךְ וְהוּא יִמְשָׁל־בָּךְ׃ and 4:7, וְאֵלֶיךָ תְּשׁוּקָתו וְאַתָּה תִּמְשָׁל־בּו׃—I had to remove two holem vowels because the program won’t display them accurately!) and the probabilities are high that the syntax of both verses is the same, the first reference setting the pattern for the second unless some textual clue makes a differentiation which is not the case in Genesis 4:7. The most natural idea that fits both passages equally well is that of obligation. The Genesis 3:16 clauses would then read, “Your desire will be for your husband, and he must have dominion over you.”

The broader context of Genesis 3:16 is Eve’s unintentional reversal of authority outlined by the order of creation as stated by Paul in 1 Timothy 2:13-14:

13 For it was Adam who was first created, and then Eve.
14 And it was not Adam who was deceived, but the woman being deceived, fell into transgression.

(For an exegetical discussion of 1 Timothy 2:11-15 email me [] for a Word formatted copy of my paper “How Childbearing Saves Women.”)

Genesis 3:16 provided the solution for the woman’s transgression. The woman by biological nature is the subordinate partner in the conception of children. Her innate need for children, the immediate context of the last two clauses of Genesis 3:16, moves her to sexually desire her husband, the dominant partner. This natural relationship should remind her of her subordinate role in the family structure.

An interpretive paraphrase of Genesis 3:16 may read like this: The woman’s inborn need for children means that she will desire her husband sexually who is the dominant partner and without whose cooperation children cannot be conceived. A “battle of the sexes” there may be, but Genesis 3:16 is not its source.

Monday, August 17, 2009

The Present and Future—Out of the Past

Abraham deVries, “Ignorant Preachers,” Christianity Today, 1970—Every preacher and aspiring preacher, or for that matter, anyone passionate about knowing the Word of God, could benefit by reading or rereading this entire article. Here are just a few quotes introduced in bold font as to their themes.

Opening theme statement“Seminarians of the current and coming generations may well become the most ‘ignorant’ generation of preachers in the later history of the Church.”

Criticism of seminaries—“Making this language study optional implies, of course, that it is of only secondary importance in the training of the minister. Given that implication, the seminarian is understandably reluctant to subject himself to such rigorous courses.”

Justifications for diminishing the study of the biblical languages in the seminaries—“One line of reasoning given for making language study optional begins with the complexities of modern civilization and begrudges time devoted to study of Greek and Hebrew; this time might better be spent, it is said, in the study of sociological disciplines. Another line of reasoning is based on the ready availability of many translations and exegetical studies. Both these arguments rest . . . upon fallacies. The first fallacy is that extensive knowledge of man in his world is adequate for effective ministry. The second is that translations and exegetical studies are adequate for “rightly dividing the word of truth.”

Regarding the first fallacy—“Making man the locus of theology greatly diminishes the need for study of the Scriptures . . . . The Bible, then, is no longer ‘the only rule for faith and practice,’ . . . but simply another sourcebook for man’s quest of knowledge about himself. As a consequence, knowledge of the original languages, sufficient to enable one to interpret ‘lexically, syntactically, contextually, historically, and according to the analogy of Scripture’ . . . is no longer important.”

Regarding the second fallacy— “The assumption that the multiplicity of available translations gives one all the tools he needs for ‘rightly dividing the word of truth’ is fallacious also. Translators suffer from the same vagaries of thought, the same occasional spiritual sloth, the same variations of belief and conviction that are the lot of us all. They take the Word, subject it to their own abilities and belief, and translate it into words and phrases adequate for them— but perhaps woefully insufficient for others.”

Dependence upon translations—“How can a preacher really know what the Scriptures say to the world today if he must always depend upon a translator?”

The Bible in the biblical languages, the original glory—“If we believe that God, who inspired the writing of his Word, will also illumine it to our hearts and souls and life, then obviously the first requirement for rightly dividing the word of truth is simply to know that Word, in all its original glory.”

Biblical languages and intellectual integrity—“The Church, the world, and the Kingdom will always be poorer for lack of able exegetes. Intellectual integrity should not allow men to preach, daring to be spokesmen for God, while willingly lacking first-hand knowledge of his Word.”

Rigors of study—“Coming face to face with eternal truth, in such first-hand experience, changes us. And when it has changed us and spoken to our hearts, we are ready to say, ‘Thus saith the Lord!’ We can then lead a congregation to feed on his Word. Then the immense value of those long hours of agonizing work with conjugations, declensions, and vocabulary drills becomes clear.”

Conclusion—“A potential preacher will not deliberately choose ignorance if he wants to become, as the Today’s English Version of Second Timothy 2:15 has it, a ‘worker who is not ashamed of his work, one who correctly teaches the message of God’s truth.’”

“Seminarians of the current and coming generations may well become the most ‘ignorant’ generation of preachers in the later history of the Church.”

When issues of concern don’t change for the better they usually get worse.

What was “prophesied” 40 years ago . . . .