Some say that the Hebrew word translated here as "desire", really means "turning" and was interpreted as "desire" or "lust" because of the perversion of the rabbinical tradition. Katherine Bushnell, in God's Word to Women writes about teshuqa,
- With such testimony as this before us (and we have quoted every ancient version we have been able to find, and none of importance, as likely to shed the least light on the meaning of this word are omitted from the list), we can see no justification for rendering this word "desire." Even the Babylonian Targum renders it "turning" in the second passage (Genesis 4:7), and thus lends its authority to this sense. Nothing but that rabbinic perversion and addition to the Scriptures, teaching that God pronounced ten curses on Eve (something that Scripture nowhere teaches) seems to be at the bottom of this extraordinary reading. A hint of such a meaning for teshuqa as "lust" seems to have crept into the Bible through Jerome’s Latin Vulgate. But even he did not give the sense "appetite" for the word as relates to Eve, but as to Abel; and further, even Jerome adds his authority, in his translation of the third passage, to the sense "turning," and for 3:16, in his writings.
After Wycliffe's version, and before any other English Bible appeared, an Italian Dominican monk, named Pagnino, translated the Hebrew Bible. The Biographie Universelle, quotes the following criticism of his work, in the language of Richard Simon: "Pagnino has too much neglected the ancient versions of Scripture to attach himself to the teachings of the rabbis." What would we naturally expect, therefore? That he would render this word "lust,"—and that is precisely what he does in the first and the third place; in the second, he translates, "appetite."
First, let's look at the rabbinical tradition. Here is a translation of what Rashi wrote,
- And to your husband will be your desire: for intimacy, but, nevertheless, you will not have the audacity to demand it of him with your mouth, but he will rule over you. Everything is from him and not from you. — [from Eruv. ad loc.]
your desire: Heb. שוקָת , your desire, like: (Ps. 107:9):“a yearning (שוֹקֵקָה ) soul.” - [after Targum Onkelos]
Bushnell also states that Pagnini was responsible for translating teshuqa into Latin as "lust." In fact, Pagnini translated teshuqa as desiderium in Gen. 3:16 and as appetitus in Gen. 4:7. We have no way of knowing exactly what connotation Pagnini intended to attach to his translation of teshuqa. However, it is most likely that Pagnini intended this word to mean "longing" or "longing for intimacy" either emotional or physical.
Coverdale did translate teshuqa as "lust" and I simply do not know the reason for this. Coverdale says that he depended on four translations in producing his English Bible. These were the Vulgate, Pagnini, Tyndale and Zwingli's Zurich Bible. I can only express curiosity about whether Zwingli used the German word "lust" in the Zurich Bible, which would make relatively good sense.
So Rashi, Pagnini, or Zwingli? Who is responsible for Coverdale's use of the word "lust?" I don't know and I don't think that I have any way of finding out what was in the Zurich Bible. Help, anyone?
Here's to Valentine's Day, Rashi and Pagnini.