Andrews University Seminary Studies, Summer 1988, Vol. 26, No. 2, 121-131.

            Copyright © 1988 by Andrews University Press. Cited with permission.

 

 

           THE THEOLOGY OF SEXUALITY

             IN THE BEGINNING: GENESIS 3

 

 

                                          RICHARD M. DAVIDSON

                                                Andrews University

 

 

            The creation accounts (Gen 1-2) coupled with the portrayal of

disruption and divine judgment presented in Gen 3 have been

described as of seminal character and determinative for a biblical

theology of human sexuality. In a previous article we focused upon

the theology of sexuality in the creation accounts.1 Now we will

explore the theological insights on sexuality emerging from Gen 3.

Two basic issues related to sexuality call for our attention in

Gen 3. The first concerns the contention by some scholars that

Adam and Eve's "knowledge of good and evil" and their knowledge

"that they were naked" (3:5, 7) both refer to the awakening of their

sexual consciousness. The second issue involves the debate over the

correct interpretation of the divine judgment on Eve (3:16).

 

                                    1. Sexuality in Genesis 3:5

 

            We cannot be long detained by those who contend that the

knowledge of good and evil gained by Adam and Eve as a result of

eating the forbidden fruit was actually a consciousness of sex.2

Stephen Sapp rightly points out that "such a position assumes that

sexuality itself occasions shame by its very nature (once one is

aware of it)" and thus "suggests that sexuality was not part of

God's intention for humans in creation," whereas both Gen 1 and

2, to the contrary, "consider sexuality to be a purposeful part of

God's good creation, with no indication whatsoever that sexual

experience was jealously withheld from Adam and Eve."3

 

     1 Richard M. Davidson, "The Theology of Sexuality in the Beginning: Genesis

1-2," AUSS 26 (1988):5-24.

     2 See, e.g., Cuthbert A. Simpson, "The Book of Genesis: Introduction and

Exegesis," IB (New York, 1952), 1:485-486. For a full discussion, cf. Robert Gordis,

"The Knowledge of Good and Evil in the Old Testament and Qumran Scrolls,"

JBL 76 (1957):123-138.

    3 Stephen Sapp, Sexuality, the Bible, and Science (Philadelphia, 1977), p. 18; cf.

pp. 17-19 for further arguments advanced by Sapp against this option.

                                                121



122                             RICHARD M. DAVIDSON

 

The Nakedness of Adam and Eve

           

            The idea that a consciousness of sex came only after the Fall

seems to be largely based on a misunderstanding of the meaning of

Gen 3:7 and its relationship to Gen 2:25. It has been argued that

since, according to Gen 3:7, Adam and Eve knew that they were

naked only after the Fall, then Gen 2:25 must mean that they were

not aware of their nakedness (or sexuality) in the beginning. But

this line of argument fails to recognize that Gen 2 and 3 utilize two

different Hebrew words for "naked."

            In Gen 2:25 the word for "naked" is ‘arum, which elsewhere in

Scripture frequently refers to someone not fully clothed or not

clothed in the normal manner.4 Gen 2:25 does not explicitly indi-

cate in what way Adam and Eve were without clothes in the

normal sense ("normal" from the post-Fall perspective), but the

semantic range of ‘arum is consonant with the conclusion toward

which parallel creation/Paradise passages point, namely, that Adam

and Eve were originally "clothed" with "garments" of light and

glory.5 If such is the case in Gen 2:25, then the contrast with Gen 3

becomes clear. In Gen 3:7, 10, 11, the Hebrew word for "naked" is

‘erom, which elsewhere in Scripture always appears in a context of

total (and usually shameful) exposure, describing someone "utterly

 

     4 In 1 Sam 19:24, for instance, the term is "used of one who, having taken off his

mantle, goes only clad in his tunic" (William Gesenius, Hebrew and Chaldee

Lexicon to the Old Testament Scriptures [Grand Rapids, MI, 1949], p. 653). Again,

in Isa 20:2 the reference is to one "dressed with saq only" (Ludwig Koehler and

Walter Baumgartner, Lexicon in Veteris Testamenti Libros, 2d ed. [Leiden, 1958],

p. 735); cf. Jn 21:7. Other passages employ the term in the sense of "ragged, badly

clad" (Job 22:6; 24:7, 10; Isa 58:7; Gesenius, p. 653).

     5 We note in particular the parallel creation account in Ps 104. Jacques Doukhan,

The Genesis Creation Story: Its Literary Structure, Andrews University Seminary

Doctoral Dissertation Series, Vol. 5 (Berrien Springs, MI, 1978), pp. 81-88, has

analyzed the point-by-point parallels between Ps 104 and the Genesis creation story.

What is significant for our discussion at this point is that in Ps 104, along with the

poetic description of God's creative work, there appears to be at least one indication

of his appearance, or rather, his "clothing" (vss. 1-2): "Thou art clothed with honor

and majesty, who coverest thyself with light as with a garment." If God is portrayed

as clothed with "garments" of light and majesty, it is not unreasonable to deduce

that man, created in the image and likeness of God, is similarly clothed. Ps 8:5

(6 Heb) may also point in this direction. According to this verse describing man in

Paradise, God "crowns" or "surrounds" (the latter if `afar is taken as Qal) him with

glory and honor.

 



                        THEOLOGY OF SEXUALITY                                 123

 

naked" or "bare.”6 As a result of sin, the human pair find them-

selves "utterly naked," bereft of the garments of light and glory,

and they seek to clothe themselves with fig leaves.

            Even this post-Fall "nakedness" should not, however, be inter-

preted as causing Adam and Eve to be ashamed of their own bodies

before each other. There is no mention of mutual embarrassment

or shame before each other. The context is rather one of fear and

dread before God. Adam says to God (3:10), "I heard the sound of

thee in the garden, and I was afraid, because I was naked, and I hid

myself."

            Adam's nakedness described here is also obviously more than

physical nudity, for Adam depicts himself as still naked even

though already covered with fig leaves. The nakedness of Gen 3

seems also to include a sense of "being unmasked,"7 a conscious-

ness of guilt, a nakedness of soul. Likewise, God's clothing of

Adam and Eve with skins appears to represent more than a concern

for physical covering, more than a demonstration of the modesty

appropriate in a sinful world, though these are no doubt included.

The skins from slain animals seem to intimate the beginning of

the sacrificial system and the awareness of a substitutionary atone-

ment, because of which "man need no longer feel unmasked or

ashamed."8

 

                        2. The Divine judgment on Eve

           

            When God comes to the Garden after Adam and Eve sinned,

he initiates an encounter that constitutes nothing less than "a legal

process," a "trial and punishment by God."9 God begins the legal

proceedings with an interrogation of the "defendants," and the

defensive and accusatory responses by Adam and Eve (vss. 9-14)

indicate the rupture in interhuman (husband-wife) and divine-

human relationships that has occurred as a result of sin. Following

the legal interrogation and establishment of guilt, God pronounces

 

    6 See Ezek 16:7, 22, 39; 18:7, 16; 23:29; Deut 28:48. Cf. Gesenius, p. 625; Francis

Brown, S. R. Driver, and C. A. Briggs, Hebrew and English Lexicon of the Old

Testament (Oxford, 1953) pp. 735-736 (hereinafter cited as BDB); Koehler and

Baumgartner, p. 702.

     7 Claus Westermann, Creation (London, Eng., 1974), p. 95.

     8 Ibid., p. 104.

     9 Ibid., p. 96.



124                             RICHARD M. DAVIDSON

 

the sentence in the form of curses (over the serpent and the ground,

vss. 14, 17) and judgments (for the man and the woman, vss. 16-19).

            What is of particular concern to us is the judgment pro-

nounced upon the woman (vs. 16):

 

            (a) I will greatly multiply your pain [labor] in childbearing;

            (b) in pain [labor] you shall bring forth children,

            (c) yet your desire shall be for your husband,

            (d) and he shall rule over you.

 

            The first two lines of poetic parallelism in this verse (a and b )

indicate that as a result of sin, childbearing will involve much

‘issabon (RSV, "pain") for the woman. The word ‘issabon occurs

only three times in Scripture: here, vs. 17, and 5:29. The context of

vs. 17 demands that ‘issabon in that verse be translated as "toil" or

"labor" (as in RSV) and not "pain": "Cursed is the ground because

of you; in toil/labor [‘issabon] you shall eat of it all the days of

your life." The same translation of ‘issabon is required by the

context in Gen 5:29, and seems to be also more appropriate in Gen

3:16, with an emphasis upon the hard work and not the pain.10

Such an emphasis is accurately captured by the English term

"labor" used to describe the birthing experience of woman.

            But what is the meaning of the last two enigmatic lines (vs. 16

c and d) of the divine sentence upon the woman? The answer to

this question is crucial for a proper understanding of the nature of

God's design for sexual relationships after the Fall.

 

                        Interpretations of the Divine judgment on Eve

           

            Five major views have been advanced in the history of biblical

interpretation. A first, and perhaps the most common, position

maintains that the subordination of woman is a creation ordinance,

God's ideal from the beginning, but as a result of sin this original

form of hierarchy between the sexes is distorted and corrupted and

must be restored by the Gospel.11

 

     10 See BDB, pp. 780-781.

    11 John Calvin, Commentary on Genesis (Grand Rapids, MI, n.d.), 1:172, for

instance, sees woman's position before the Fall as "liberal and gentle subjection,"

but after the Fall she is "cast into servitude." C. F. Keil, The First Book of Moses

(Grand Rapids, MI, 1949), p. 103, similarly understands the original position of

 



                        THEOLOGY OF SEXUALITY                                 125

 

            A second major interpretation also views subordination as a

creation ordinance but sees in Gen 3:16 not a distortion but a

reaffirmation of subordination as a blessing and a comfort to the

woman in her difficulties as a mother. The meaning of vs. 16c-d

may be paraphrased: "You will have labor and difficulty in your

motherhood, yet you will be eager for your husband and he will

rule over you (in the sense of care for and help you, not in the sense

of dominate and oppress you)."12

            A third major view contends that the subordination of woman

to man did not exist before the Fall, and the mention of such a

subordination in Gen 3:16 is only a description of the evil conse-

quences of sin (the usurpation of authority by the husband), to be

removed by the Gospel, and not a permanent prescription of God's

will for husband-wife relationships after sin.13 Proponents of this

position underscore the culturally conditioned nature of this pas-

sage and vigorously deny that it represents a divinely ordained

normative position for sexual relationships after the Fall.

            A fourth major position concurs with the third view that the

submission of wife to husband is part of the evil consequences of

 

man-woman as rule/subordination rooted in mutual esteem and love, but he argues

that after sin the woman has a "desire bordering on disease" and the husband

exercises "despotic rule" over his wife. James B. Hurley, Man and Woman in

Biblical Perspective (Grand Rapids, MI, 1981), pp. 218-219, concurs with a pre-Fall

hierarchy of the sexes and a post-Fall distortion, but argues that Gen 3:16 should be

interpreted along the lines of the similarly worded statement of God to Cain in Gen

4:7. Just as God warned Cain that sin's desire would be to control him, but he must

master it, so woman's desire would be to control/manipulate man and the husband

must master her desire. Cf. a similar position in Samuele Bacchiocchi, Women in

the Church: A Biblical Study on the Role of Women in the Church (Berrien

Springs, MI, 1987), pp. 79-84.

     12 Stephen B. Clark, Man and Woman in Christ: An Examination of the Roles

of Men and Women in the Light of Scripture and the Social Sciences (Ann Arbor,

MI, 1980), p. 35. Clark does not rule out view 2 as a possibility, but he more

strongly favors view 1. See also Ambrose, De Paradiso, p. 350 (quoted in Clark,

p. 677): "Servitude, therefore, of this sort is a gift of God. Wherefore, compliance

with this servitude is to be reckoned among blessings."

     13 "See, e.g., Leonard Swidler, Biblical Affirmations of Women (Philadelphia,

1979), p. 80; Paul K. Jewett, Man as Male and Female: A Study of Sexual

Relationships from a Theological Point of View (Grand Rapids, MI, 1975), p. 114;

Phyllis Trible, "Depatriarchalizing in Biblical Interpretation," JAAR 41(1974):41; cf.

Raymond Collins, "The Bible and Sexuality," BTB 7(1977):149; Helmut Thielicke,

The Ethics of Sex (New York, 1964), p. 8; Patricia Gundry, Woman Be Free! (Grand

Rapids, MI, 1977), pp. 60-63.

 



126                             RICHARD M. DAVIDSON

 

the Fall and did not exist as a creation ordinance. But in the fourth

view Gen 3:16 is to be understood as prescriptive and not just

descriptive--i.e., it presents God's normative pattern for the relation-

ship of husband and wife after the Fall.14

A final view agrees with the second that vs. 16c-d is a blessing

and not a curse, but differs in denying that subordination of woman

to man is a creation ordinance. This position also argues, in effect,

that even in Gen 3 no hierarchy or headship in the sexes is either

prescribed or described.15 According to this view, the word for

"rule" (vs. 16d) is translated "to be like," emphasizing the equality

of husband and wife.

 

Assessment of the Divine judgment on Eve

 

In our attempt to assess the true intent of this passage, we

must immediately call into question those interpictations which

proceed from the assumption that a hierarchy of the sexes existed

before the Fall--i.e., views 1 and 2. The analysis of Gen 1-2 in my

previous article has led to the conclusion that no such subordina-

tion or subjection of woman to man was present in the beginning.16

 

    14 See e.g. Francis Schaeffer, Genesis in Space and Time (Downers Grove, IL,

1975), pp. 93-94; cf. Theodorus C. Vriezen, An Outline of Old Testament Theology,

rev. ed. (Oxford, 1970), p. 399.

   15 See, e.g., John H. Otwell, And Sarah Laughed: The Status of Women in the

Old Testament (Philadelphia, 1977), p. 18.

   16 See Davidson, pp. 5-24. The views favoring a hierarchy of the sexes already in

creation seem to be largely based on the Pauline passages that, at first sight, appear

to ground the subordination of woman in creation. Two passages are especially in

view: 1 Tim 2:13 and 1 Cor 11:8-9. This is not the place for an exposition of these

Pauline statements. But it seems that most studies of these passages have made Paul

say what in fact he does not say. Paul does indeed refer to creation in discussing the

submission of wife to husband. But he does not say that the submissive role was in

effect from creation. Rather, it seems more likely that Paul is arguing that after the

Fall, when a subjection of one spouse to another was necessary in order to preserve

union and harmony (see discussion below, pp. 127-130), God chose the man to

"rule," because, among other reasons, he was created first and Eve was made from

and for Adam. It should be noted that in 1 Tim 2:14, Paul specifically places the

submission within the context of the Fall. Krister Stendahl seems to be correct when

he points out that Gen 3:16 constitutes "the decisive Scriptural passage for the

whole New Testament's instruction concerning the submission of women." (Krister

Stendahl, The Bible and the Role of Women: A Case Study in Hermeneutics

[Philadelphia, 1966], p. 29.) In another Pauline passage describing subordination of

women, 1 Cor 14:34-35, support for Paul's position is given as "the words of the

 



THEOLOGY OF SEXUALITY                                 127

 

Furthermore, it appears that view 3 is unsatisfactory, for it fails to

take seriously the judgment/punishment context of the passage. As

we have already noted, Gen 3:16 comes in a legal "trial" setting.

God's pronouncement is therefore not merely a culturally con-

ditioned description. It is a divine sentence! It must be concluded

that "the judgments of God, who is Lord of time and culture, are

universally applicable to the fallen (sinful) world."17 Just as God

destines the snake to crawl on its belly; just as God ordains that

woman's childbirth 'is to involve her "going into labor"; just as

God curses the ground so that it will not produce crops spon-

taneously but require man's cultivation and labor--so God pro-

nounces the irrevocable sentence upon Eve with regard to her

future relationship with Adam outside the Garden.

It seems clear that according to Gen 3:16c-d a change is insti-

tuted in the relationship between the sexes after the Fall, a change

which involves the subjection/submission of the wife to the hus-

band. The force of vs. 16d is difficult to avoid: "He [your husband]

shall rule over you." The word masal in this form in vs. 16d

definitely means "to rule" (and not "to be like") and definitely

implies subjection.18 Theodorus Vriezen correctly concludes that

woman's position after the Fall is one of subjection to her husband:

"This is considered as a just and permanent punishment in Gen

iii."19 Umberto Cassuto aptly paraphrases and amplifies the divine

 

law." In this phrase, according to Stendahl, "it is still Gen 3:16 which is alluded

to." Statements regarding creation are made only with reference to their applicability

after the Fall. And significantly, only after the Fall is Adam representative (Gen 3:9;

cf. Hurley, p. 216).

    17 Susan T. Foh, Women and the Word of God: A Response to Biblical Feminism

(Phillipsburg, NJ, 1979), p. 66.

   18 Recent attempts by some feminists to translate masal as "to be like" instead of

"to rule" face insurmountable lexical/grammatical/contextual obstacles. It is true

that (following BDB nomenclature) the root msl1 in the Niph’al does signify "to be

like, similar," but in Gen 3:16 the root msl is in the Qal. Both mslII "to use a

proverb" and mslIII "to rule" occur in the Qal, but the context of Gen 3:16 seems to

clearly preclude the idea of "use a proverb" (mslII). That mslII "to rule" is

intended in this passage is confirmed by the use of the accompanying preposition be,

the normal preposition following mslIII (cf. BDB, p. 605), and other Hebrew words

of ruling, governing, restraining (mlk, rdh, slt, ‘sr, etc.), and never used with msl1

or mn 11. Arguments based largely on the meaning of ancient Near Eastern cognates

should not be allowed to override the biblical context, grammar, and usage.

     19 Vriezen, p. 399.



128                             RICHARD M. DAVIDSON

 

sentence: "Measure for measure; you influenced your husband and

caused him to do what you wished; henceforth, you and your

female descendants will be subservient to your husbands."20

But we should immediately note that the word masal, "rule,"

employed in vs. 16 is not the same word used to describe human-

kind's rulership over the animals in Gen 1:26, 28. In the latter

passages the verb is radah, "to tread down, have dominion over,"21

not masal. A careful distinction is maintained between human-

kind's dominion over the animals and the husband's "rule" over

his wife. Furthermore, although the verb masal does consistently

indicate submission, subjection, or dominion in Scripture, "the

idea of tyrannous exercise of power does not lie in the verb."22 In

fact, there are many passages where masal is used with the connota-

tion of "rule" in the sense of "comfort, protect, care for, love."23

The semantic range of the verb masal thus makes it possible to

understand the divine sentence in vs. 16 as involving not only

punishment but blessing, just as the judgments pronounced upon

the serpent and man included an implied blessing in the curse/

judgment.24 That the element of blessing is especially emphasized

in this verse appears to be confirmed by recognizing the probable,

 

    20 Umberto Cassuto, A Commentary on the Book of Genesis (Jerusalem, 1961),

1:165.

    21 BDB, pp. 921-922.

    22 John Skinner, Genesis, ICC (Edinburgh, 1930), p. 53.

    23 See e.g., 2 Sam 23:3; Prov 17:2; Isa 40:10; 63:19; Zech 6:13. Cf. Robert D.

Culver, "lwm (mashal) III," TWOT, 1:534: "mashal usually receives the transla-

tion 'to rule,' but the precise nature of the rule is as various as the real situations in

which the action or state so designated occur." Specific examples follow to support

this statement. Note, e.g., that the first usage of masal in Scripture is in reference to

the two great lights created by God (Gen 1:16)-they were to "dominate" (NJV) the

day and night.

     24 Hurley, pp. 216-219, has rightly pointed out how in each of the divine

judgments in this chapter there is a blessing as well as a curse. In the curse upon the

serpent appears a veiled blessing in the Protoevangelion (3:15): "The warfare be-

tween Satan and the woman's seed comes to its climax in the death of Christ."

(Hurley, p. 217; cf. Walter Kaiser, Toward an Old Testament Theology [Grand

Rapids, MI, 1978], pp. 35-37, for persuasive evidence in favor of this traditional

interpretation in contrast to the modern critical tendency to see here only an

aetiological reference.) Likewise, in the curse of the ground and the "toil" that is the

punishment of Adam, there is at the same time a blessing in that God promises the

ground will continue to yield its fruit and man will still be able to eat of it.

Furthermore, the term ba`abbz2r employed in vs. 17 probably means "for the sake of"

 



THEOLOGY OF SEXUALITY                     129

 

synonymous parallelism between vs. 16c and vs. 16d.25 God pro-

nounces that even though the woman would have difficult "labor"

in childbirth--an ordeal that would seem naturally to discourage

her from continuing to have relations with her husband--"yet,"

God assures her, "your desire shall be for your husband." The

meaning of the Hebrew word tesugah, "strong desire, yearning,"26

which appears only three times in Scripture, is illuminated by its

only other occurrence in a context of man-woman relationship,

i.e., Cant 7:10 (11 Heb).27 In this verse the Shulamite bride joyfully

exclaims, "I am my beloved's, and his desire [tesugah] is for me."

Along the lines of this usage of tesugah in the Song of Songs

indicating a wholesome sexual desire, the term appears to be

employed in Gen 3:16c to denote a positive blessing accompanying

the divine judgment. A divinely ordained sexual yearning of wife

for husband will serve to sustain the union that has been threatened

in the ruptured relations resulting from sin.

If Gen 3:16d is seen to be in close parallelism with vs. 16c, then

the emphasis upon blessing as well as judgment seems to accrue

also to man's relationship with his wife. The husband's "rule"

 

(KJV) and not "because of " (RSV) inasmuch as the meaning of "because" is already

expressed by ki earlier in the verse. The ground is cursed "for his [Adam's] sake"-

that is, the curse is for Adam's benefit. Though it did result from Adam's sin, it also

is to be regarded as a needful discipline, part of the divine plan for man's recovery

from the results of sin.

    25 Otwell, p. 18, cogently argues that the normal structure of Hebrew parallelism

is followed here in that Gen 3:16a and b are in parallel and 3:16c and d are likewise

in parallel. As the first two parallel members of this verse duplicate content with

regard to childbearing, so "we may expect ... that `he shall rule over you' parallels

`your desire shall be for your husband.'" Otwell's argument is strengthened by the

use of the conjunctive translated by "yet."

     26 See BDB, p. 1003.

     27 The only other occurrence of this word in the Hebrew Bible is in Gen 4:7,

which has no reference to a man-woman relationship. Despite the similarity of

grammar and vocabulary, the latter verse must not be held up as a standard of

interpretation for Gen 3:16, which involves a completely different context. Those

who interpret Gen 3:16 by means of 4:7 generally hold to the hierarchy of the sexes

as a creation ordinance, and therefore must find something more than subordination

in 3:16. But it hardly seems justified to compare the experience of Eve with the

picture of sin as a wild animal crouching in wait for his prey (Derek Kidner,

Genesis: An Introduction and Commentary [Downer's Grove, IL, 1967], p. 75). For a

discussion of the possible reasons for similar wording between the widely different

contexts of Gen 3:16 and 4:7, see Cassuto, 1:212-213.

 



130                             RICHARD M. DAVIDSON

 

over his wife, even though it grows out of the results of sin, may be

regarded as a blessing in preserving the harmony and union of the

relationship. As is implied in the semantic range of masal, and as

becomes explicit in the Song of Songs, this is to be a "rule," not of

tyrannical power, but of protection, care, and love.

 

3. Conclusion

 

We thus conclude that of the suggested interpretations for Gen

3:16 described above, view 4 is to be preferred, in that there is a

normative divine sentence announcing a subjection/submission of

wife to husband as a result of sin. This involves, however, not only

a negative judgment but also (and especially) a positive blessing (as

suggested in views 2 & 5).

Two final points must be underscored with regard to a the-

ology of sexuality in Gen 3. First, it must be noted that the relation-

ship of subjection/submission prescribed in vs. 16 is not presented

as applicable to man-woman relationships in general. Gen 3 pro-

vides no basis for suggesting that the basic equality between male

and female established in creation was altered as a result of the

Fall. The context of Gen 3:16 is specifically that of marriage: a

wife's desire for her husband and the husband's "rule" over his

wife. The text indicates a submission of wife to husband, not a

general subordination of woman to man. Any attempt to extend

this prescription beyond the husband-wife relationship is not

warranted by the text.28

 

     28 Some commentators argue that in such passages as 1 Cor 14:34-35 and 1 Tim

2:13-14, Paul has widened the original submission of wife to husband in Gen 3:16

to include the submission of all women to men in general, and based on this, he is

thought to have excluded woman from teaching authority in the church, etc. But

may I suggest this widening may be in the minds of the commentators and not in

the mind of Paul! The possible ambiguity comes because in the original text the

same Greek word (gyne) means both wife and woman, and another single Greek

word (aner) means both husband and man. In these crucial Pauline passages on the

role of woman which allude to Gen 3:16, the translation can be either "woman-

man" or "wife-husband." These passages that have usually been taken to refer to

the role of woman in relation to man in general, may instead be referring to the

relationship of wives to their husbands and may have nothing whatever to do with

limiting woman's sphere of service and leadership in the church. As a case in point,

1 Tim 2:11-12 is translated in the RSV: "Let a woman learn in silence with all

submissiveness. I permit no woman to teach or to have authority over man; she is to

keep silent." But the Williams translation puts it this way: "A married woman must



THEOLOGY OF SEXUALITY                                 131

 

Second, we must emphasize that although in Gen 3 the hus-

band is assigned the role of "first among equals"29 so as to preserve

harmony and union in the marriage partnership, yet this does not

contradict or nullify the summary statement of Gen 2:24 regarding

the nature of the relationship between husband and wife. As we

have already observed,30 Gen 2:24 is written in such a way as to

indicate its applicability to the post-Fall conditions. God's ideal

for the nature of sexual relationship after the Fall is still the same

as it was for Adam and Eve in the beginning--to "become one

flesh." The divine judgment/blessing in Gen 3:16 was given, we

may conclude, in order to facilitate the achievement of the original

divine design within the context of a sinful world.

 

 

learn in quiet and perfect submission. I do not permit a married woman to practice

teaching or domineering over a husband; she must keep quiet." A world of

difference in meaning! For evidence supporting this latter translation, see N. J.

Hommes, "Let Women Be Silent in Church," Calvin Theological Journal 4(1969):5-

22. Note in particular how an almost exactly parallel passage in 1 Peter 3:5, 6 clearly

demands the translation "wife/husband" and not "woman/man." Likewise the

passage in 1 Cor 14:34-35 is in close parallel with Eph 5:22-24, and in the latter the

translation must be "wives and husbands" and not "women and men" in general.

   29 Gerhard Hasel, "Equality From the Start," Spectrum 17(1975):26. Note the

parallel relationship of God and Christ (1 Cor 11:3).

   30 See Davidson, pp. 12-24.

 

 

This material is cited with gracious permission from:

Andrews University Seminary Studies

SDA Theological Seminary
Berrien Springs
, MI 49104-1500

http://www.andrews.edu/SEM/

Please report any errors to Ted Hildebrandt at:  thildebrandt@gordon.edu