Revising The Biblical Decree On Womanhood

2:49 pm Bible translations, women's role in the church

The English Standard Version is now being used by many who may not be aware of some of the significant changes that have been made in that translation.  One such change is found in Genesis 3:16.  The ESV reads, “To the woman he said, I will surely multiply your pain in childbearing; in pain you shall bring forth children.  Your desire shall be contrary to your husband, but he shall rule over you.”  In Genesis 3, God expels the first two human beings from the Garden of Eden.  Eve succumbed to temptation and sinned against God by eating of the forbidden fruit (Gen. 2:17).  Then, she gave some of the fruit to her husband and he did it.  In doing so, Adam sinned against God.  God punishes Eve for her transgression.  In the KJV, Genesis 3:16 states, “Thy desire shall be to thy husband and he shall rule over thee.”
The ESV vs. the KJV
The ESV appears to suggest that women naturally oppose their husband’s desires.  Could this explain the battle of the sexes?  One reader responded that it sounds like wives are responsible for marital conflict (Bible Review Journal, vol. 4, no. 1, Spring, 2017, p. 27).  The ESV seems to teach that women oppose their husband’s desires, but that they (their husbands) will overrule them.  The KJV teaches that God by divine precept subjugated the woman to the man in the marriage relationship because of her being deceived and usurping his authority.  Adam was addressed by God regarding the forbidden fruit (Gen. 2:17) before Eve was created.  In all likelihood, she learned of the forbidden fruit from her husband.  When she succumbed to the temptation of Satan, she disobeyed God and disregarded the words of her husband.
Why the Translation Difference?
The translation difference hinges on a single Hebrew preposition: ‘el.  Virtually no other major translation takes this word to mean “contrary to,” as the ESV does.  The translation is false and misleading.
Two Problems Resulting From This Change
The first problem to consider is the destruction of the link between Gen. 3:16 and Eph. 5:23-24.  The subjugation of the woman to her husband in the marriage is divinely ordained by God.  It is a God-given decree that is tied to the fall of the woman.  If the subjugation of the woman to the man in marriage is not divinely decreed, then the cultural argument made by egalitarians is strengthened.  In Eph. 5:23-24, the ESV states that the husband is the head of the wife and that she is to be in submission to her husband.  However, verse 21 is already being used by egalitarians to show that the submission is mutual and equal.  While this is a misinterpretation of verse 21, it still is problematic.  The destruction of the link between Eph. 5:23-24 and Gen. 3:16 will further complicate the interpretation of both passages.
A second problem is the destruction of the link between Gen. 3:16 and I Tim. 2:12-14 subordinating women to men in the worship assembly of the New Testament church.  In I Tim. 2:13-14, the Holy Spirit through Paul makes it clear that a woman is not permitted to teach nor (in any other way) to usurp authority over the man.  He bases his argument on two important things:  (1)  Adam was created before Eve (the created order) and (2) Eve was deceived by Satan not Adam (the order and circumstances of the fall).  God by divine decree subjugated the woman to the man in marriage.  This cannot be reversed in the worship assembly (I Cor. 14:34-35).  For these reasons we do not have women preachers, women serving as elders or deacons, or women taking part in the public worship assemblies.  The ESV accommodates the egalitarians who argue for a cultural interpretation of I Tim. 2:12-14 and consequently permit a wider role for women in the church.
This translation change by the ESV translators simply demonstrates how a small change (the meaning of one preposition) can have a profound impact on the interpretation of God’s Word and the doctrines and practices of the New Testament church.

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