7.5.09

Neatly put

CBE expresses something I've often thought and have raised with other Christians. They put it so crisply and clearly:

In Genesis we read the description of how things would be between Eve & Adam after they had both disobeyed God’s direct command. No matter what translation we read, the end result is the same - the woman’s desire would be toward her husband and he would rule over her. The woman would have increased pain in childbirth and the man would have to work hard to make a living from the ground which now had thorns and weeds.

The reality is now that many women do not have to experience pain in childbirth and many men do not have to work the land to make a living. Only a small percentage of believers teach that women should refuse pain relief in childbirth and likewise, only a small percentage of believers teach that men should all work as farmers without any form of weed control.

But….many believers teach that wives should show desire toward their husbands and that husbands should rule their wives (albeit lovingly) Why the strict adherance to one part of God’s judgment on the sin of Eve & Adam and the ignoring of the other statements ?

Redemption through Christ’s reconciling work on the cross brings release from the judgment and consequences of the first sin which includes the pronouncements made by God to Adam & Eve after they had disobeyed. So, if there is a continuing to live under the judgment of their sin and our own subsequent sin, surely we are following after our sin nature and not the new life we have been given through Jesus.

Maybe there is something inherent in the sin nature that tends toward hierarchy and gender roles and that is why so many respond to this teaching which strikes a chord deep within the human heart. Praise God our hearts and minds can be transformed to see a new way of living in relationship with each other……..but it can take some time.

11 comments:

David Rudel said...

I'm not sure how much it modifies anything you are saying here, but it is probably worth pointing out that the curse on the land was rescinded (without any sacrifice) after Noah [Genesis 8:21]. This is actually how Noah got his name [Genesis 5:29].

I personally think the case you make is a hard one when one considers the details. If Christ's death lifted God's curse, we would probably have read about a diminution of labor pains immediately after Christ's death.

On the other hand, I'm not sure that there is even a case to be made here. I assume the thing you are reacting to is the misguided notion that we should actively conform or attempt to intensify the effects of that curse.

Even if we take the English translation as an acceptable one, the curse is "Your desire will be for your husband." That is not a command. It is a curse. It does not mean women should feel compelled to show desire.

Similarly, when God said "he will dominate you," (once again accepting our English translation), God was talking to Eve --- not Adam. It was certainly not a license for Adam to mete out this curse.

These curses are not commands describing the structure humans should seek to establish. They are (to whatever extent they may or may not be in effect today) a description of God's reaction to these sins, not an invitation to exalt that reaction and intensify it.

Nor does the curse "and he will dominate you" excuse that domination. It was prophesied that someone would betray Christ. Does that excuse it? No.

So, rather than attempt to show these curses are no longer in effect (which I think is hard to do), I would propose that we should engage them as what they are: curses. Not laws, not establishments of God's desires, and not excuses for any institutionalized domination of women.

As one final note, I think those who would claim there is some God-ordained difference between women and men (I personally am on the fence) should get together and decide whether it was due to Adam being the first human or because of the curse on Eve. It really cannot be both. Indeed, you could make a case for the latter disproving the former: If Adam were already supposed to have domination over Eve, then it would hardly have been much of a curse.

[Of course, we must read Genesis more as a description of how things came to be...so the logic utilized above might not be fair to use.]

David Ould said...

simple answer to your question - plain bad exegesis.

The "desire" word is far more about control. So you see that more clearly in Gen 4:7 where sin is seen to want to "control" Cain. Same word as in Gen 3. The principle being communicated is that Eve will move from willing submission to her husband to, instead, wanting to control him. The man, in turn, moves from loving care of his wife to domination. God's not saying these things are good, He's setting them as a curse, a punishment. Akin to Rom 1 God "handing over" mankind to their sin.

As for the men struggling on the land, again it's a very simplistic reading that takes it as being a straight mandate for farming and nothing else. Rather, the implication is that what came easily will now be hard. So tonight I had a bible study at my house and a whole bunch of guys were tired and depressed from work. That's just that part of the curse working its way out.

Rachel said...

The parallel between a woman’s desire for her husband and sin’s desire for Cain (Gen 4:7)and both the woman and sin needing ‘mastering’, is rather a leap, do you not think?

Are you a fan of Foh's interpretation?

I followed the ugly vicar on Foh and then it travelled to a Forum thread. See ugly vicar thread on Foh's interp of Genesis 3:16 to avoid repetition on this site.

We might have to agree to disagree on this one - I am realising that there are very different readings of our curses and the fall.

Interesting 'Proverbs 3:16' stuff
God bless
Rachel

David Ould said...

it's not so much a "leap" us just simple exegesis. The same term is used on both occasions. It refers to a "desire to control" rather than a sexual desire.

It's just the meaning of the word. No more, no less. This is no a matter of "interpretation" but simple exegesis. The hebrew either means something or it doesn't.

David Rudel said...

David, if we are going with that framework, then (regardless of your interpretation of Song of Songs), doesn't that run into problems with Sgs 7:10?

We see a picture of an ideal romance, and in that ideal romance the man not only controls the woman but desires to?

David Ould said...

well hang on a minute, David, there's a world of difference between noting the similarity in the usage of a word by the same author dealing with the same theme (ie the question of sin and its outworking in both Gen 3 & 4) and the same word used hundreds of years apart in an utterly different context.

Yes, in SoS7 the same word is used (these are the only three occurrences in the OT) but that doesn't mean you transfer over the exact same semantic use. The word itself means simply a urge, craving or impulse. It has no romantic sense attached.

In SoS it clearly is being used to denote a sexual desire. But not so in Genesis. In Genesis there is a deliberate double usage. We find that the same term spoken of Eve's cursed behaviour (remember, this is part of the curse) is used a breath away about sin itself. That has got to make you sit up and take notice - any responsible exegesis must make a link between that quite unique term being used twice in the same short breath.

If so, then the term is being used in the same way. And when we allow it to be so we find a quite accurate description of the break down in relationships between men and women.

At least it's true in every marriage I've come across and rings a bell in every course of marriage preparation I've run.

Rachel said...

I think I'll just watch the two Daves slog it out from the side-lines ;)

David Rudel said...

David,
Your earlier post was suggesting that the word really only had one meaning and that perhaps the other meanings people read into it were just that [reading into it.] I was simply pointing out that the word has multiple meanings, and so the interpretation of the story is not an open-and-shut one.

Nor do I find that their being used by the same author in the same book can account for much. Paul uses the word "Law" in at least five different ways within the context of Romans. The writer of Leviticus and Numbers regularly uses the word "sin" and "guilt" to both represent the transgression and the offering for the transgression, etc.

But the biggest issue (for me) is not what the word means in Genesis 3 but the conclusions drawn based on the same word in Genesis 4. As Rachel pointed out: "Sin desires to control, and hence needs to be controlled...so Eve desires to control and hence needs to be controlled."

This shows fallacious logic on the one hand (after all, the "control of sin" refers not to controlling sin but rather preventing its control over you, while "control" of another human being eclipses simple interpersonal relationships. If we were going for an argument through similarity here, we would say that it is only Eve's desire to control that needs to be controlled, not Eve herself.

But not even the above makes sense because I submit that the word does not refer to the same thing in both cases. I do think it makes sense for the term to mean control in Genesis 3, but not Genesis 4.

What does it say in Genesis 4? Sin is [rabats] at the door. [rabats], translated "crouching" here is a term almost used exclusively [at least in the OT] of animals. Sin was already personified as a serpent, and that serpent has lost its legs in Genesis 3:15...and [rabats] NORMALLY means "lying" not "crouching."

Doesn't it make more sense to see "sin" here as that snake lying at the door? And if sin is an animal (as [rabats] is typically used of), wouldn't it be more appropriate to use the verb that goes with animals? When [tĕshuwqah] is used of animals it means "a desire to devour."

Hence we have "Sin is lying at the door, desiring to devour you, but you must subdue it."

Isn't this just 1st Peter 5:8?

David Ould said...

David,
Your earlier post was suggesting that the word really only had one meaning and that perhaps the other meanings people read into it were just that [reading into it.]
Now that's simply not true and, if I may say so, slightly unfair.

I pointed out that the word used is about "control" and showed how 4:7 reiterates that understanding. I didn't claim that this was the only usage - we were simply discussing Gen. 3.

I was simply pointing out that the word has multiple meanings, and so the interpretation of the story is not an open-and-shut one.Yes, but simply pointing out the semantic range of a word didn't actually answer the point I was making. As I then noted, the meaning in SoS is actually towards the edge of the understood definition.

Nor do I find that their being used by the same author in the same book can account for much. Paul uses the word "Law" in at least five different ways within the context of Romans. The writer of Leviticus and Numbers regularly uses the word "sin" and "guilt" to both represent the transgression and the offering for the transgression, etc.Yes, and so context aids our understanding of νομος. Same with "desire" in Genesis 3 and 4. The context there is the sentence of death passed by God for sin. We are shown the key issues of sin and God's punishment. Genesis 4 is then a continuation of the story. We are given a child - and instinctively wonder if he is the promised child of 3:15. He turns out not to be but the narrative continues with the same basic issues now thrust before us - sin and the punishment of sin. It is therefore far more likely that the two words used here (and only here in the whole OT, apart from one use in SoS) are being used in very similar ways. This is not a 1st century greek text - it is a far earlier hebrew text. In hebrew repetitions are used for emphasis and this is, I put it to you, a classic example of such emphasis and the development of the theme.

More than this, the two Hebrew phrases have essentially the same grammatical structure and resonance. Any reader of the original would, upon reading of 4:7, be immediately drawn back to 3:16. All the evidence points to a mirroring of the two phrases.

But the biggest issue (for me) is not what the word means in Genesis 3 but the conclusions drawn based on the same word in Genesis 4. As Rachel pointed out: "Sin desires to control, and hence needs to be controlled...so Eve desires to control and hence needs to be controlled."But that is not what is being said in 3:16 nor have I argued for it. There is a subtle distinction made.
In 3:16 God does not say that the woman (she has not, till this point, been named) must be controlled, as though it is an imperative of Adam's (and if it were, then God is telling the wrong person), rather He tells Eve an indicative - Adam will rule over her. Just as she will now seek to control him so Adam, in turn, will seek to dominate her. There is no command, just a simple description of how life is going to be - this is the curse working itself out.

Whereas in 4:7, though the language is remarkably similar, Cain is told something different. He is told that sin will seek to control him, but also that he must master it - here there is an imperative.

Thus, one cannot infer a parallel as you have pointed out - the grammar simply does not allow it.

This shows fallacious logic on the one hand (after all, the "control of sin" refers not to controlling sin but rather preventing its control over you, while "control" of another human being eclipses simple interpersonal relationships. If we were going for an argument through similarity here, we would say that it is only Eve's desire to control that needs to be controlled, not Eve herself.It would be fallacious if
1. it were true.
2. anyone had actually claimed it.

But none of these actually are the case. Rather, the only thing fallacious (to use your term) at this point is some of the exegesis.

But not even the above makes sense because I submit that the word does not refer to the same thing in both cases. I do think it makes sense for the term to mean control in Genesis 3, but not Genesis 4.

What does it say in Genesis 4? Sin is [rabats] at the door. [rabats], translated "crouching" here is a term almost used exclusively [at least in the OT] of animals. Sin was already personified as a serpent, and that serpent has lost its legs in Genesis 3:15...and [rabats] NORMALLY means "lying" not "crouching."

Doesn't it make more sense to see "sin" here as that snake lying at the door? And if sin is an animal (as [rabats] is typically used of), wouldn't it be more appropriate to use the verb that goes with animals? When [tĕshuwqah] is used of animals it means "a desire to devour."

Hence we have "Sin is lying at the door, desiring to devour you, but you must subdue it."

Isn't this just 1st Peter 5:8?
Quite possibly. I think Peter is certainly evoking Gen 4:7. But none of this actually undoes the exegesis of the text itself, particularly given the clear symmetry with 3:16. Even though we may be uncomfortable with what we read there, we cannot simply jettison grammar and forms of language because we do not like where they take us.

David Rudel said...

This shows fallacious logic on the one hand (after all, the "control of sin" refers not to controlling sin but rather preventing its control over you, while "control" of another human being eclipses simple interpersonal relationships. If we were going for an argument through similarity here, we would say that it is only Eve's desire to control that needs to be controlled, not Eve herself.It would be fallacious if
1. it were true.
2. anyone had actually claimed it.
One of us, then, is misreading something because this is precisely the conclusion Rachel mentioned at the very beginning of her first comment on this post as a "leap of logic."

At least, I assume Rachel was referring to the "leap" being the part about both sin and Eve needing mastering.

David Ould said...

One of us, then, is misreading something because this is precisely the conclusion Rachel mentioned at the very beginning of her first comment on this post as a "leap of logic."Yes, it's what Rachel mentioned but I have never ever seen anyone exposit the passage in that way and I hang around with some fairly conservative people.

Can you (or Rachel, for that matter) point to an example of someone expositing that text in that way? If so I will gladly join you in denouncing the reading as plain sloppy exegesis. Until it is little more than a straw man.

As with all these things, it's just about slowing down and
1. reading the text properly
2. reading those we instinctively disagree with properly

both are needed for this sort of conversation, rather than attacking straw men.

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A little background reading on the two theological integrities in the Church of England regarding women in ministry.