Wednesday, August 20, 2008

desire to control

Last year attended two courses taught by well known evangelical theologians. The one, an Old Testament specialist, taught Gen. 3:16. He said something to the effect that women "desire to take control" and this is the cause of the recent increase in the rate of divorce.

I talked to him privately later and asked him to think of the couples that he knew who were divorced. I asked him if he felt that most of these divorces were caused by the woman's desire to control. He said on reflection, perhaps not. But 200 young people heard his public teaching that day and only I heard his private admission.

Not long after I listened to the other theologian, an egalitarian, a NT specialist, teach on 1 Cor. 7. He looked up from the text and commented that divorce is a terrible thing. And then he tearfully said that the things that men and women do to each other makes him weep. He told a story of a friend of his, in his 70's who had recently left his wife to live with his secretary.

The things that people do to each other, both men and women, are very cruel. There is no need to lay this burden on the shoulders of women alone. Let us all be egalitarian in the way we distribute guilt and blame. I would rather not know that some complementarians give the priority of leadership to the man, and the priority of blame to the woman.

So, when I read in this book, page 30,

"you will desire to control your husband,
but he will rule over you,"

I would be a lot happier if I had not heard that text over and over again used to prove that women are the primary cause of divorce. I would be a lot happier if there were a footnote. I would be a lot happier if someone explained that this is the insight of Susan Foh, writing in the 1970's and not the eternal word of God. In fact, I don't even know what translation this is. Is it the private translation of the authors of this book.

Update: I can't believe that I did not realize that this was from the NLT. That was really fuzzy of me. Not a translation I would recommend. Give me Pagnini. English is not doing it for me today. I am going to have to work off my cranky mood somehow. The NLT does have a footnote, which I accept as good enough, but the book I cited does not include the footnote.


David Ker said...

"The things that people do to each other, both men and women, are very cruel. There is no need to lay this burden on the shoulders of women alone. Let us all be egalitarian in the way we distribute guilt and blame."

I can whole-heartedly agree with you on this.

Your reaction to this verse: "you will desire to control your husband,
but he will rule over you," reminded me of an online dialogue I had with Peter Kirk. I really wanted God to say something like, "Be good stewards of the earth." But according to Peter, it was pretty much "rule/subdue." At that point I had admit that within the worldview of the original authors that this was the way they would perceive God's mandate even if we in a more enlightened age see it differently.

I don't know if this is going to make you crankier... I hope not! By the way did you get my email about Son of Rambow?

Suzanne McCarthy said...


My point is that "desire to control" is about 30 - 40 years old as an interpretation, whereas, subdue/rule is 2000 years old as an interpretation. That is the difference. It is not my personal flavour that I am talking about, it is history that I am talking about. So, yes, I am cranky, because I didn't express my main point very well.

But I am not that cranky because I forgot to look at the video clip you sent. So, I'll go and do that now. Thanks for reminding me. :-)

Lynne said...

The NLT actually translates it that way? Yuck! Now I'm sure that somewhere out there there are women battling to control their husbands and swap the underdog role with them, but that's not what I mostly see. I see women made vulnerable by their longing for a man's love, yielding up their power and letting men become tyrants .. quite the opposite.

But something really puzzling just occurred to me about the whole comp argument. if that's what they really think the passage is saying, why do they make the statement about husbands prescriptive, and the one about wives descriptive. How can this be? If it is somehow "proper" for husbands to rule over wives, how come it's terribly wrong for wives to want to control husbands, when the 2 statements are presented side by side? They'd actually argue a better case (if they somehow think curses should be prescriptive) if they translated tesuqa as "yielding" or something like that, then they could turn both statements equally into commands ..

Anonymous said...

It's not just comps that have that interpretation. Rebecca Merrill Groothuis explained it that way in her blog entry of May 19th at entitled 'Adam & Eve in Genesis & First Timothy'. Gordon Fee (in Discovering Biblical Equality) and Linda Belleville, two other egalitarians, believe this is the correct interpretation as well. Hmmm..... Maureen

Anonymous said...

Desire to control? My King James and ESV say no such thing even as English translations which are highly touted for their supposed word-for-word renderings.

I can only conclude that authors Allender and Longman have extrapolated out of thin air something that does not exist in the original text.

Unknown said...

Very good. God's Word never says that women will "desire to control" men. This is a false doctrine put forward by Susan Foh in the 70's to combat the 2nd wave of feminism and it was adopted by many Evangelicals. I praise God that He has given me a definitive answer to debunk this false doctrine. Please read my blog. I think that you will find it encouraging and theologically sound.

Much love,