Thursday, August 07, 2008

Do Wives Desire To Destroy Their Husbands As a Result of the Fall?

An all too common interpretation of the portion of Genesis 3:16 that says of the woman, "Thy desire shall be to thy husband," is that all women (because of sin) have a natural desire to dominate and rule over their husbands.

Bruce Ware and John MacArthur of The Council on Biblical Manhood and Womanhood believe this is what the Bible teaches and (along with many others) are aggressively promoting this view to evangelical Christians today.

They base their entire argument on a comparison of Genesis 3:16 with Genesis 4:7 where sin is depicted as a lion crouching at the door (obviously in preparation for a kill) and his DESIRE is for (to destroy) Cain.

By extension, those who promote this view, must also believe that all wives have a natural tendency to desire the utter destruction of their husbands--not just to rule over them.

Does this argument hold water?

Listen to entire commentary here

Following the line of reasoning embraced by The Council On Biblical Manhood and Womanhood via both Bruce Ware and John MacArthur, in interpreting Genesis 3:16, when compared with the obvious context of the verse itself and with Song of Solomon 7:10, the answer is, "NO." The argument of The Council on Biblical Manhood and Womanhood holds absolutely no water. They are teaching false doctrine. Their very destructive argument simply perpetuates the curse that Adam embraced, God Prophesied, and that Jesus sets free from.


Waneta Dawn said...

You are absolutely right!

That viewpoint is just plain silly. A person would have to stretch scripture all out of proportion to try to make it say that "thy desire shall be to thy husband" means she wants to dominate him. Especially since the rest of the verse is "he shall rule over thee." I think a very large proportion of women experience that longing for relationship with their husbands--the relationship that was (apparently) there when they were dating, but is either no longer there or very rarely there. Because of that longing or desire, they know exactly what that scripture means. I hope Bruce Ware etc have a very hard sell when it comes to convincing women.

On the other hand, a statement like that causes me to look harder at the speaker. Is he just plain a woman hater? Is his wife or was his mother a domineering type? Or are both women brow-beaten (or worse)? It is my experience that when men who teach the things Bruce teaches, (that domestic violence is CAUSED by wives not submitting to their husbands)also say this type of thing about the motives of all women, they are actually speaking from what is in their own hearts, ie: they are projecting their own desire to dominate, rule, and control women, onto women, saying women have those desires toward men. Just as Adam blamed Eve all those years ago.

What makes this even more ridiculous is that today women are known for their refusal to "boss" in the workplace. They tend to get everyone's opinion first, rather than order people around. I realize this is a very poor "proof" since cultures change. But I do see the same thing in Eve. The control we want, is to have a relationship where we are loved, respected, and (gasp) even valued. Wives want their husbands to want win-win solutions, instead of wanting their wives to lose so the husbands can win.

One of the things I have learned is that when a controlling man is in control, that feels like an equal relationship to him, it feels fair. But when the power is evened out and the woman gets her share of the say, to the man it feels like she is completely in control and totally dominating him. He feels shame and like he is less of a man and the balance of power in the relationship is totally unfair. In other words, when she has SOME say, to him it feels as if she is controlling the relationship and dominating him. For that feeling to not be present, he must be in total control of her. What these men need to do is to see things from her point of view. Why would she want to stay with him if she has no say? Would he stay in a relationship like that? Why wouldn't he want her to be happy, too? He thinks in terms of either she's in control, or I am in control, instead of both of us control this relationship. Either I win and she loses, or she wins and I lose, instead of both of us must make sure we are both winners, and neither of us lose.

Bruce Ware and etc. is/are clearly into making all women losers at the hands of their husbands--who vowed to cherish their wives. How ironic! With men being the primary physical abusers, it appears MEN are the ones who wait to pounce in order to destroy their wives.

~Waneta Dawn

Sheryl said...

I'm ignoring posting dates today, obviously...

What has always fascinated me about the "women desire power over their husbands" theory is how recent it is (I find no consideration of it prior to Susan Foh's article in 1975), and how radically disconnected it is from all other interpretations I've run across in reading numerous older commentaries.

"Barnes Notes on the New Testament," which is from the 1800's, like many other I've read, reaches the exact opposite conclusion, namely that "They desire shall be for they husband, and he shall rule over thee" means, essentially, that "The determination of thy will shall be yielded to thy husband, and, accordingly, he shall rule over thee." Calvin came to much the same conclusion.

The other common beliefs were that the woman would sexually desire her husband and thus would be subject to him, or that her desire was less sexual but still dedsperate enough that she would want to marry despite the fact that the man would rule over her - essentially, I've found no indication that any Christian authority argued that the woman's desire was to rule OVER the man until 1975.

Am I seriously to believe the church had no clue that's what that verse meant for nearly 2000 years? And if that's the case, how the heck am I supposed to take seriously the claim that this verse is foundational to understanding marital relations?

I don't buy it. God doesn't "hide" such foundational truth for generation after generation. Yes, I think it can be argued that the church can grow in our understanding of various passages, but when you completely reverse *everything* the church has historically taught on a passage, that isn't growth, that's a reversal. So either the verse isn't foundational, or Foh's interpretation isn't valid.

Barbara said...

I've looked thru my collection of photocopies I've gathered about Gen. 3:16. From the items I've gathered (which are not a comprehensive collection of all that has been written on that verse), Sheryl is right. The Foh interpretation was unheard of before Foh wrote her paper which was published in the Westminster Theologocial Journal. Foh admits this in her paper; stating that her interpretation is "contrary to the usual interpretation of commentators". Her paper came out in 1975.

It is also noteworthy that Foh's paper commences with the words "The current issue of feminism in the church has provoked the reexamination of the scriptural passages that deal with the relationship of the man and the woman. A proper understanding of Genesis 3:16 is crucial to this reconsideration of the Biblical view of the woman."

SO Foh tells us that her paper is written because of the provocation of feminism.

Sound familiar?

Now, to counter the imbalanced teaching of Foh, here is what Gerhard Von Rad wrote in 1972, in his book "Genesis: A Commentary" (London: SCM Press):
"[verse 16] The woman and the man are not cursed (it is unthinking to speak of their malediction!); but severe affliction and terrible contradictions now break upon the woman's life. There are three facts which because they are related to one another in unresolved tension grind down the woman's life: (1) hardships of pregnancy, pains at birth, and (2) yet a profound desire for the man in whom she (3) still does not find fulfillment and rest (Ruth 1:9), but rather humiliating domination!"

Interestingly, Foh makes no mention of Gerhard Von Rad in her paper, though this may not be particularly significant as there can be a delay of a year or more, I imagine, when getting papers published in major theological journals.

Here is some of what Gordon Wenham says in "Word Biblical Commentary volume 1, Genesis 1-15" (Waco:Wordbooks 1987):
"There is a logical simplicity about Foh's interpretation that makes it attractive, but given the rarity of the term "urge" ([desire]apart from Gen. 3:16 and 4:7 occurring only in Cant 7:11), certainty is impossible.

As Jocelyn points out in the post above, eminent theologians like John MacArthur and Bruce Ware appear to ignore all pre-Foh interpretations (and the post-1975 hesitancy about Foh's position) and simply cite Foh as if she is the only voice on the subject worth hearing.

Barbara said...

Jocelynn, can you please add the close quotes sign to my second last para above? Thanks

Barbara said...

Sheryl, can you please email me direct? Jocelyn can send you my email address if you don't have it already.
I'd like to talk with you as you seem to be an academic researcher like myself.

Danni said...

I found it interesting that Gerhard Von Rad pointed out that the man and woman were not cursed. In fact, if you read the text, God specifically stated that the serpent was cursed and He stated that the ground was cursed, but He did not say the man and woman were cursed. That seems deliberate to me, since He very specifically stated curses on the serpent and the earth.

Re: Sheryl's post, the fact that Foh's interpretation is not only recent, but apparently singular to that date, is significant, I think. Yet, it seems she has profoundly impacted the church. I think that was possible, however, because her interpretations dovetailed so superbly with prevailing theology on marital roles. Because it was an affirmation of wrong theology already in existence, it was easily adopted.

There's a flaw in Sheryl's logic in the assumption that the church couldn't get something wrong for 2000 years. The church has been getting this business about marital roles and marriage theology wrong at least since Augustine. I don't see any basis for thinking the original disciples had it wrong, but it got lost really fast. There are other examples in church history as well, but this comment is getting long enough as it is.

Another interesting thing that occurs to me on reading Sheryl's statement is about the curse of the fall being "foundational." The curse was a perversion of the foundation. Now addressing the semantics, lets say, rather than these role statements being curses, we can perhaps more accurately state they were consequences of disobedience.

Ironically, the church has based its role models on affirmation and limitation to these negative consequences of disobedience rather than on a realization that those roles were consequences of disobedence, and therefore not a good thing.

So if it was a consequence of disobedience for a woman to have her husband as the primary focus of her desire, and it was a consequence of disobedience for a man to rule over his wife - why does the church teach women to make their husband the center of their universe and teach that being husband-centered - as an expression of obedience to God - is godly? And if it was a negative consequence of disobedience for a man to rule over his wife, why does the church teach that men are responsible to "run" the family?

These two ideas must be wrong because they are based on consequences of disobedience as a result of the Fall. These consequences were not establishing a new principle of living. They were a punishment; a disciplinary consequence.

Jesus came to set us free from punishment for sin - including that one. He took on Him all sin and paid the price in full for it. He said the law was our tutor to show us our need for Him, until He came and fulfilled it. Granted, this incident in Gen. predates the Law (capital L), Jesus' point includes everything from the Fall of man until His own sacrifice and victory were complete.

Jesus' models of behavior under the New Covenant are in opposition to old-man ways of life. Resurrection living is about living out by faith on a supernatural level - beyond and free from the old-man ways. It does not incorporate these old patterns thinking as an acceptable part, or even basis, of the paradigm.