What is the woman’s desire? How Susan Foh’s interpretation of Genesis 3:16 fed steroids to abusers. (Pt 1 of 2)

The idea that the woman’s desire for her husband is a desire to usurp authority over him was put forward by Susan Foh, who in 1975 advanced a novel interpretation of Genesis 3:16.

Related posts: Part 2  of this series, coda to this series
The change of Genesis 3:16, ESS, the colonial code of relationship, and a call to bystanders

In 1975, second-wave feminism was just getting off the ground. Conservative Christians were aghast. How could they stop feminism gaining ground in the church? In their minds, feminism and liberal theology were close cousins. Conservative Christians were keen to find arguments that would prevent feminism infecting the church. And readers of this blog can easily imagine how male pharisees in influential positions wanted to fix a triple-security lock onto the portcullis of their castle.

Susan Foh’s paper What is the Woman’s Desire? was published in 1975 in the Westminster Theological Journal. In the first sentence of the paper, she referred to the rise of feminism and the concern it raised for the church:

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.

She noted the linguistic parallels between Gen. 4:7 and Gen. 3:16 and proposed that therefore the two passages have similar meaning. Here is the core of her argument, with page references to the article as published in the Westminster Theological Journal. (trigger warning)

In Genesis 4:7 sin’s desire is to enslave Cain — to possess or control him, but the Lord commands, urges Cain to overpower sin, to master it. An active struggle between Cain and sin is implied; the victor of the struggle is not determined by the words God speaks to Cain.  (p. 380;)

The woman has the same sort of desire for her husband that sin has for Cain, a desire to possess or control him. This desire disputes the headship of the husband. As the Lord tells Cain what he should do, i.e., master or rule sin, the Lord also states what the husband should do, rule over his wife. The words of the Lord in Genesis 3:16b, as in the case of the battle between sin and Cain, do not determine the victor of the conflict between husband and wife. These words mark the beginning of the battle of the sexes. As a result of the fall, man no longer rules easily; he must fight for his headship. Sin has corrupted both the willing submission of the wife and the loving headship of the husband. The woman’s desire is to control her husband (to usurp his divinely appointed headship), and he must master her, if he can. So the rule of love founded in paradise is replaced by struggle, tyranny and domination.  (pp. 381-2)

… the desire of the woman in Genesis 3:16b does not make the wife (more) submissive to her husband so that he may rule over her. Her desire is to contend with him for leadership in their relationship. This desire is a result of and a just punishment for sin, but it is not God’s decretive will for the woman. Consequently, the man must actively seek to rule his wife.  …it is judgment for sin that the relation between man and woman is made difficult. God’s words in Genesis 3:16b destroy the harmony of marriage, for the rule of the husband, part of God’s original intent for marriage, is not made more tolerable by the wife’s desire for her husband, but less tolerable, because she rebels against his leadership and tries to usurp it.  (p. 383)

Foh’s argument hinged on her novel proposition that the woman’s desire for her husband is the same kind of desire that the devil (sin) had for Cain. Just as sin crouched on the threshold craving control over Cain, and Cain was told he must master this temptation, so the wife desires to control her husband by usurping his divinely appointed authority and the husband must master her if he can.

What a bonanza for abusive husbands! Foh’s interpretation dovetailed perfectly into an abusive man’s lying claim that he isn’t being abusive, he is only trying to exercise biblical headship, but his wife is trying to usurp his authority!

Susan Foh’s interpretation provided the perfect theological excuse for abusive men to shift the blame for their evildoing to their wives.

Since 1975, many evangelical Christians have swallowed and passed on Foh’s notion. Many conservative theologians gladly took it up when Foh’s paper was published and have been disseminating it ever since. In book after book, you will find it referred to (or presented as a fact, without Foh even being cited). Since it has been recycled so often it has now acquired, in complementarian circles, the lustre of orthodox, age-old doctrine.

Only if you accept Susan Foh’s aberrant interpretation do you swallow notions such as these:

  • Because woman usurped man’s headship in the temptation, God hands her over to the misery of competition with her rightful head. This is justice, a measure for measure response to her sin.
  • The woman wants to control her husband, but he must not allow his wife to have her way with him: he must rule over her.
  • God gave the woman up to her insubordinate desire, and penalized her with domination by her husband.

Note: each of the above bullet points are close paraphrases from page 109 of Recovering Biblical Manhood and Womanhood which is the core text of the complementarian movement.¹

A second example of the women-blaming, misogyny-enabling beliefs which have been fed steroids as a result of Foh’s interpretation:

In these words [Gen. 3:16b] God is indicating that as a result of sin, rather than exercising a caring headship and leadership, men will seek to “rule” in an autocratic, unloving way. And He is indicating with reference to women that rather than being submissive helpers, they will “desire” to have mastery over their husbands. We are understanding the word “desire” here in the same sense as that of its next occurrence (Genesis 4:7), where sin has the “desire” to master Cain.)²

And a third example. Affirmation 4 from The Danvers Statement (CBMW, 2007) [boldface mine] :

The Fall introduced distortions into the relationships between men and women (Gen 3:1-7, 12, 16).

In the home, the husband’s loving, humble headship tends to be replaced by domination or passivity; the wife’s intelligent, willing submission tends to be replaced by usurpation or servility.

In the church, sin inclines men toward a worldly love of power or an abdication of spiritual responsibility, and inclines women to resist limitations on their roles or to neglect the use of their gifts in appropriate ministries.

A dose of sanity after all that triggering!

Significant differences between Genesis 3:6 and 4:7

Here is an excerpt from Margaret Mowczko’s article Teshuqah: The Woman’s “Desire” in Genesis 3:16  —

There are some significant differences between Genesis 3:16 and 4:7. In Genesis 4:7, sin is unmistakably depicted as Cain’s adversary, crouching at the door; and Cain is told that he must master sin and that this is the right thing to do. Foh believes Eve is similarly presented in Genesis 3:16 as Adam’s adversary, even though this is not explicit in the Hebrew text.

Another difference is that, while Cain is directly told by God to master or rule sin, Adam is nowhere told by God to master or rule Eve. God never tells men to rule women. The [husband’s] “rule” spoken of in Genesis 3:16 is a consequence of sin. It is not divinely commanded, as in 4:7, nor does it refer to a beneficial rule.

The contexts of 3:16 and 4:7 are different, even though they share two keywords [“desire” and “rule”].

Early Translations of Teshuqah

In Genesis 3:16 and 4:7 in the Septuagint (LXX), the Greek Old Testament, teshuqah is translated as apostrophē. The etymology of apostrophē gives the meaning “a turning away”, but it is has a broader range of meanings, some of which are conflicting.

Liddell, Scott and Jones (LSJ), arguably one of the best lexicons of Ancient Greek, has several definitions for apostrophē. Most don’t fit the context of Genesis 3:16 at all. For definition III, however, the LSJ says that apostrophē is used rhetorically when one turns away from all others to one person and addresses him specifically. This meaning makes good sense in the contexts of Genesis 3:16 and 4:7.

Since the preposition pros (“towards”) also occurs in Genesis 3:16 (“your turning (apostrophē) will be towards (pros) your husband”), I think the meaning of a woman turning away from others to turn towards, or even long for, her husband may well be what is intended here.

Skip Moen believes that teshuqah may not mean “desire” and he looks to the early Greek, Syriac, and Coptic translations, for insight. He writes,

“But there is another translation stream arising through the LXX, the Syriac Peshitta and Coptic translations. This stream views the rare Hebrew word teshuqah as “turning,” not “lust.” If this stream is correct, then the word in Genesis 3:16 is about Eve’s mistake of “turning” her principle devotion toward Adam rather than God. Eve makes Adam her priority . . . .”

Walter Kaiser likewise states that teshuqah should be understood as “turning”.

The Hebrew word teshuqah, now almost universally translated as ‘desire,’ was previously rendered as ‘turning.’ The word appears in the Hebrew Old Testament only three times: here in Genesis 3:16, in Genesis 4:7 and in Song of Songs 7:10. Of the twelve known ancient versions (the Greek Septuagint, the Syriac Peshitta, the Samaritan Pentateuch, the Old Latin, the Sahidic, the Bohairic, the Ethiopic, the Arabic, Aquila’s Greek, Symmachus’s Greek, Theodotion’s Greek and the Latin Vulgate), almost every one (twenty-one out of twenty-eight times) renders these three instances of teshuqah as “turning,” not “desire.” Likewise, the church fathers (Clement of Rome, Irenaeus, Tertullian, Origen, Epiphanius and Jerome, along with Philo, a Jew who died about A.D. 50) seem to be ignorant of any other sense for this word teshuqah than the translation of “turning.” Furthermore, the Latin rendering was conversio and the Greek was apostrophē or epistrophē, words all meaning “a turning”.[19]

While Susan Foh, and a few others, see a power struggle implied in Genesis 3:16b, women turning towards their husbands, rather than having a desire to control them, fits better with what we see in the world at large.

… The precise meaning of teshuqah is not certain. It may mean “desire”. It may mean “turning”. But context, as well as the evidence from history and the present day, seems to rule out that it means “a desire to control”.
[Mowczko’s  article has many citations to original sources which I have omitted here. I have added a few paragraph breaks.]

Part 2 of this series, The woman’s desire in Genesis 3:16 — let’s be consistent with the context and with actual life.


¹ Page 109 of Recovering Biblical Manhood and Womanhood (ch 3,”Male-Female Equality and Male Headship,” by Raymond C Ortlund Jr.; in the endnotes Ortlund acknowledges his indebtedness to Susan Foh’s article)

² George W Knight III, in ch 20 of Recovering Biblical Manhood and Womanhood, p.346

Further Reading

The woman’s desire in Genesis 3:16 — let’s be consistent with the context and with actual life (Pt 2 of 2)
by Barbara Roberts

My experience with abuser-enabling misogyny in the church
by Jeff Crippen

Connecting genesis 3 and 4 through the most obscure verse
by Martin Shields

Since the Fall, men have been sinfully disposed to oppress women — but this doesn’t mean women must remain in abusive marriage.
by Barbara Roberts

Suzanne McCarthy’s post Kevin DeYoung and the subordination of women: cont. gives helpful quotes from a few Reformers’ comments on Genesis 3:16.

Critique of CBMW’s Statement on Abuse


51 thoughts on “What is the woman’s desire? How Susan Foh’s interpretation of Genesis 3:16 fed steroids to abusers. (Pt 1 of 2)”

  1. This is groundbreaking for me, and yet makes so much sense. I think of the young women who tell me of their boyfriends, and even my own struggles in relationships with my husband. Women desperately want the love of their man- even more than the love of God himself. Thank you so much for sharing this information!

  2. Oh my gosh, reading that false teaching makes me want to scream! And then laugh! This came along right about the time my husband’s family were active church goers. It explains a lot.

    My husband likes to accuse me of wanting to be the husband or the “man”. So many times over the years I’ve had to go ahead and do something or make a decision because he won’t! I don’t want to be him but someone has to step in and be the adult!

    Goodness knows I don’t desire to usurp him and don’t desire to do that to anyone. I wish he’d do his duties but he won’t. He will go for weeks not participating in family life at all and then one day it’s as if he realized he’s neglected his duties and things are getting away from him and he will go on a rampage of lectures and unjust demands and yelling. All the while accusing me of trying to be the husband. What had I’d done during the time he’d been absent from family life? Just trying to keep the family functioning.

    I’d always wondered where he’d gotten his strange notions of marriage. He seems to think it’s quite reasonable to treat me as he does because I deserve it. I never could understand what I’d done to deserve it begin with — although now he’s clear that I’m unwilling to be the wife. I’ve always thought he doesn’t have a very high opinion of women–no matter their accomplishments–even his mother!

    I’ve realized recently that his ideas must have come from the church he attended with his family. My husband has a habit of learning something (especially things he learned as a child) and never changing his thoughts on it despite new information or contradictory evidence. In fact, what he learned at church as a kid and young adult is basically all he knows. He has no desire to supplement his knowledge or expound on it. The pastor he grew up listening to is rather well known so I won’t mention him by name though he’s not on your list of questionable leaders. I am attempting to research the teachings of this particular pastor. It’s hard to find much so far because basically the pastor’s family fell apart at the height of his popularity in his part of the country (USA). My husband may not even know that (since he moved from that area years ago) or if he does he blames it on the wife. One of his favorite theories when he hears of a family breaking apart is that it’s the woman’s fault because they “go crazy at a certain age”!

    1. Annie, I know it’s extremely difficult to live with that mentality! May the Lord empower you and lift you even higher in His love. And may He guard your mind, heart and emotions!

    2. I know all too well the misery that the “woman wants to rule over” mentality can cause. It is still deeply entrenched in my husband’s thinking after almost 3 decades of marriage to a woman who has never wanted to rule over ANYONE. I read a comment sometime back on another blog (can I mention the Wartburg Watch?) from a commenter who quipped that surely some ‘C’hristian leaders imagined her “running hither and thither usurping male authority” at will, or something similar that made me spit my coffee, I was laughing so hard. Might as well laugh as cry, I suppose. 🙁 This school of thought is so evil, surely it must grieve the Holy Spirit.

      1. I agree KayJay,
        I never wanted to usurp my husband’s authority, never had the least desire to. I only wanted to be treated with the same kindness and goodwill I treated him with.
        You end up usurping authority by default so you don’t get harmed by their evil because their actions always harm you and can no longer be trusted.

        My ex made a big deal about “all my anger” as well, I had to do a double take because I didn’t feel anger like he said I did, so much as I recognized that I was like someone in a burning building and it was about to come down around me so I had no choice but to escape!
        The anger, actually was his anger that I needed to get away from!
        This is a contrived motive or theory that has no bearing on reality, this is a fear that lives in the mind of an abuser.

  3. [Note from Barb Roberts: I am publishing this comment. I am somewhat familiar with the work of Katherine Bushnell, but have not read it in the depth that Avid Reader has. And I do not know Biblical Hebrew or Greek. So, while I can’t comment on the validity of all of Bushnell’s conclusions, I am willing to include this in our discussion.]

    Wow! Thank you so much for posting about this. Reading this made me wonder why in all of our years of attending church, why hasn’t anyone told us about this much sooner?

    I was just reading a fascinating study on the Hebrew word “Teshuqah” by Dr. Katharine Bushnell (1855-1946) who is one of the first women in American history to become a medical doctor. After graduating from medical school in the late 1800’s, she went to China as a missionary. There as she studied the Chinese language in preparation to teach Bible studies, she began to notice differences between the Chinese version of the Bible and the English King James Version.

    That’s when she realized that the Bible translators had actually changed certain Scriptures to fit their personal opinions! Long story short—that inspired her to spend the rest of her life studying the Bible in the original Hebrew and Greek. After decades of research, in 1921 she published her findings in her book God’s Word to Women.

    That book does a fascinating study on how the word “Teshuqah” means “turning” in the literal Hebrew according to the ancient Septuagint manuscripts from 285 B.C.

    The mistranslation of “Teshuqah” as “desire” traces back to Jerome who translated the Bible into Latin in 382 A.D. Jerome believed that all sex was sinful and that prior to the fall Adam and Eve were virgins, therefore the fall resulted in them getting married!

    Even before that it dates back to part of the Babylonian Talmud which taught the “Ten Curses of Eve” including that God had allowed polygamy to punish women. (The Talmud was a rabbinical teaching not a Bible translation.)

    However, one hundred years before the King James Version, when William Tyndale translated the Bible into English in the 1500s, he translated “Teshuqah” as turning.

    Dr. Bushnell also found some fascinating things in the Hebrew about the story of Eve. For example, remember Genesis 3:16? The KJV translates God as telling Eve “I will greatly multiply your sorrow and your conception.”

    But in the Hebrew what God actually said to Eve was “A lying-in-wait has increased your sorrow and your sighing.” In other words, God recognized that the devil had set a trap for Eve. The devil had laid-in-wait to deceive her and that was the cause of her pain!

    When God confronted Eve, she told truth that “the serpent deceived me,” unlike Adam who tried to avoid responsibility by blaming her. Dr. Bushnell writes,

    Adam made an evil choice, advancing to the side of the serpent in becoming a false accuser of God. But Eve, by her exposure of the character of satan before his very face, created an enmity between herself and him.

    What followed was God’s decision to draw the woman yet farther away from satan by saying ‘I will put enmity between you and the woman.’ In effect, God is saying that woman chose to make the breach, ‘I will widen it.’ The Bible from its opening chapters, pictures woman as allied with God in the eventual salvation of the world. Paganism represents her as allied with the devil for the ruin of man.

    Dr. Bushnell pointed out that Genesis 3:16 actually reads that God is warning Eve that “you are turning away to your husband and he will rule over you.” In other words, Eve turned away from God’s good plan for her in the Garden of Eden where she could walk and talk with God, towards Adam’s decision to willfully sin.

    Then when “Teshuqah” appears again in Genesis 4:7, “God is warning Cain that he will be tempted to turn towards hurting his brother.” Cain ignores this warning and “turns” to hurt his brother. Then that causes him to also be “turned” away from God’s much better plan for his life.

    Dr. Bushnell, who had spent years working to pass laws against human trafficking, pointed out that the idea that this verse is telling men to control women’s desire for power actually teaches

    that all women must suffer pain for the sin of Eve. Then we are taught that God is punishing women—-not for their sins—not because Eve sinned—but God is punishing women for what He Himself made them—women!” But to believe that requires you to believe that the atonement of Christ washed all sin away except for Eve’s! And it “robs Christ of glory in that His death atoned for all sin, including Eve’s of course!

    However, God gave Eve a promise that her seed would crush the serpent. Dr. Bushnell writes that God’s plan was to give women the promise that even though they would suffer in childbirth, the redemption of women would come through the birth of Christ. That’s why 1 Timothy 2:15 which never made sense in the KJV when it described women being saved by child-bearing—-makes sense in the Greek where the Apostle Paul wrote she shall be saved through THE childbearing (birth of Christ).

    Thus Eve becomes the first believer in Christ—she believes God’s promise to her and says upon giving birth, “I have gotten a man—even The Coming One.” (Genesis 4:1)

    Another really fascinating insight that Dr. Bushnell pointed out in the Bible is the proper translation of Proverbs 14:1:

    KJV: “Every wise woman builds her house.”

    Literal Hebrew: “The wisdom of woman builds her house.”

    Imagine that! God actually honors the wisdom of women, but the Bible translators can’t accept that so they change the verse to fit their opinion!

    Then there’s Isaiah 3:12 which has been used to prevent women from voting.

    KJV: “As for my people, children are their oppressors and women rule over them.”

    The Septuagint: “As for my people, tax-gatherers glean them, and exactors rule over them.”

    Once again God is trying to protect his people for the abuse of power! Maybe that’s why Jesus warned us that it’s the tradition of man that makes the Word of God have no effect in our lives (Mark 7:13). Yet

    if you abide in Me and My words abide in you, you shall know the truth and the truth shall set you free. (John 8:31-32).

    1. UPDATE Sept 2021: I have come to believe that Jeff Crippen does not practise what he preaches. He vilely persecuted an abuse victim and spiritually abused many other people in the Tillamook congregation. Go here to read the evidence. Jeff has not gone to the people that he spiritually and emotionally abused. He has not apologised to them, let alone asked for their forgiveness.


      … why hasn’t anyone told us about this much sooner?

      Well, I apologize for my part in the delay. I’ve been meaning to write about this for years. I came across Susan Foh’s paper when I was researching all the commentaries in order to write my book — the book I haven’t written yet! My initial plan was to write one book which would have one chapter about divorce. Haha. That was a pipe dream. When I started working on the divorce chapter, it turned into a book. The doctrine of divorce had been so tangled and complicated by so many different wrong interpretations (plus the wrong translation of Malachi 2:16) that it took a whole book to untangle it all. Hence, I published Not Under Bondage [Affiliate link] in 2008.

      The other book is one I still need to complete. And in 2012, Jeff and I ‘met’ and I ended up joining him on this blog. And the blog takes so much time… but with God’s help, and a few other parts of my busy life becoming less demanding in the next year or so, I will, with God’s help, complete the second book. It will deal with all the scriptural issue facing victim of domestic abuse other than the divorce issue. And it will show, through certain Bible narratives, how much the Bible actually DOES have to say about domestic abuse.

      1. Barb, I cannot wait to read it!
        I’m just reading Not Under Bondage and really enjoying it. It is an excellent book and so edifying..

    2. Avid Reader, many thanks for the insightful commentary from K Bushnell you shared so clearly and patiently!! I actually started reading her book last year and have made it to lesson 11. The ‘Teshuqa’ debate is in lesson 16. I came across her writings because I’d been searching about the weird biblical passages about women especially in the New Testament.

      An important reason for Bushnell’s deep studies of the ‘controversial’ texts as she explains was exactly that. She shared her perplexity to the Lord, that she would go as a missionary to China only if she could be reconciled with the the apostle Paul and his contradictory passages on women and seemingly misogynistic. As she began her study, she found out that the meaning of these scriptures had been misinterpreted, mistranslated to fit the patriarchal mentality, as per examples you give.

      A few years back a pastor threw at me the passage you quote –1 Timothy 2:15– implying I was not saved because I didn’t have children then… How cruel..! Now this passage makes total sense!

      Abuse and ruling over the women in the church sadly is also due to deceptive and outright misleading translation of certain verses. You bet it suits most of the male readers since we hardly hear about the deep studies on these passages and their true meanings, like for example the thorough one done by Barbara on Malachi 2:16. If Paul heard what we have done with his writings he’d roll over in his grave!

      That a woman [Susan Foh] misinterpret a text such as Gen 3:16 is lamentable and outrageous. It does a lot of damage to the cause of women especially victims of abuse. Juxtaposing it with Gen 4:7 is intellectually fallacious because sin is not Eve, and Eve is not sin! It is twisting the Scriptures just as Satan did in the garden of Eden.

      Barbara, you have done all what you could to clear some of the fog of Scriptural abuse. I am sure the interactions on this blog will enrich your second book all the more. ((( Hugs )))

    3. In regards to the idea that 1 Timothy 2:15 means woman shall be saved through THE childbearing (birth of Christ), I am somewhat cautious. I have not had time to research the commentators and scholars on that in nearly as much depth as I would like, but here is an article by Margaret Mowczko where she explains why that is probably not the correct interpretation.

      Chastity, Salvation and 1 Timothy 2:15 [Internet Archive link]
      Here is an excerpt:

      Another interpretation of verse 15 is that “childbearing” should be translated as “the childbirth” (tēs teknogonias) and that it refers to the birth of Jesus Christ, through whom salvation comes. (The ISV, and footnotes in NEB and NLT, convey this idea.) Those who propose “the childbirth” interpretation highlight the connection between the birth of Jesus Christ and the seed of the woman promised in Genesis 3:15. However, while two verbs in 1 Timothy 2:13-14 are borrowed directly from the Septuagint’s version of Genesis 2: 7-8, 15 and 3:13, 1 Timothy 2:15 has no clear linguistic connection with Genesis 3:15.[11]

      The definite article is also highlighted in “the childbirth” interpretation. Abstract nouns, however, are commonly used with a definite article in Greek and these articles are usually left untranslated in English translations. So the definite article may not be significant. Some also make the argument that we can’t be sure of the precise meaning of teknogonia.[10] Yet, the cognate infinitive teknogonein appears a few chapters later in 1 Timothy where it is simply translated as “to have children” or “to bear children” (1 Tim. 5:14).

      I personally have difficulty accepting the validity of “the childbirth” interpretation of 1 Timothy 2:15 because elsewhere in 1 Timothy, Jesus and salvation are mentioned plainly. I agree with Margaret Davies when she says, “Had Christ’s birth been the subject, the name Christ Jesus would have been highlighted, as in 1:15 and 2:5.”[12] Nevertheless, I believe that salvation, rather than safety, is the meaning in 2:15.[13]

      (Figures in square brackets are endnotes to references in Mowczko’s article. Click on the link to see the references.)

      1. Barb, I appreciate your word of caution with this passage. I haven’t studied it in depth either (context, background, etc.).

    4. Just a head’s up about Katherine Bushnell. I’ve had a bit more of a look at her work and found one thing that concerned me. She argued that Adam was expelled from the garden, but Eve wasn’t expelled, she simply chose to follow Adam. Here is a quote from Bushnell’s book God’s Word To Women

      Now please rub your eyes carefully, search the latter end of chapter three of Genesis, and point me the place where the Bible teaches that Eve was expelled from Eden. I cannot find such teaching. I find that the one whose duty it was to “till the ground,” was expelled; the one who was “taken out of the ground” was expelled; but I find no account of the sex which was to bear children “in sorrow,” in the story of the expulsion; and I choose to believe that something of the odors of Eden have enveloped motherhood ever since creation. Yet Eve must soon have abandoned Eden to follow Adam.

      So Bushnell relied on an argument from silence. Arguing from what Scripture does not say (an argument from silence) is a dubious method of interpreting scripture. Unless there are substantial reasons why the silence of Scripture on a point can be explained from the cultural and historical background (such as when Jesus didn’t say, “divorce is allowed for simple desertion, and abuse”) an argument from silence is a very weak argument indeed. The mere fact that Genesis 3:22-24 doesn’t explicitly say that Eve was expelled from the Garden, doesn’t indicate that she wasn’t expelled along with Adam.

    5. I have been in touch by email with Margaret Mowczko, to ask her views on Katherine Bushnell. She has told me I can post this.

      Marg Mowczko’s comment on Katherine Bushnell:

      Bushnell was a smart, highly educated woman, and her book God’s Word to Women was ground breaking. She did her best with what resources were available to her at the time, and she got a lot of things right, but few biblical scholars today would quote from her. I’m wondering if Jerome was really to blame for rendering the meaning of teshuqah as “desire”. I need to check this.

      I’m glad Avid Reader made a remark about Isaiah 3:12. She, or he, is correct on this. Does Isaiah 3:12 Show That Women Leaders are a Bad Thing? [Internet Archive link]

      Our oldest copies of the Septuagint are far older than the Masoretic texts that most of our Old Testaments are based on, but some of the translators of some of the books of the Septuagint were not equal to the task. We have to be careful how we weigh the ancient evidence. Most scholars, however, believe the first five books of the Old Testament (which were the first books of the OT to be translated into Greek) to have been translated very literally. So that lends weight to the idea that teshuqah does indeed means “turning” in Genesis 3:16.

  4. Barbara,

    I’m really looking forward to reading your next book—-that type of Scriptural study sounds fascinating.

    For those of you who enjoy reading this blog but haven’t yet read Barbara’s book—-you’ve gotta read it. She has one of the best Scriptural research studies I’ve ever seen—-and this is coming from someone who reads a crazy amount of Christian books and Scriptural studies! What I liked best about her book is that she understands how to analyze Scripture according to Scripture—using several other verses to understand certain puzzling verses. That’s something that you don’t always see in Christian books. You’d be surprised how often some of the best-selling Christian books twist Scripture left and right to fit their personal opinion. Reading that literally makes me sick to my stomach—-that’s why we need more writers like Barbara and like Dr. Katharine Bushnell who were very careful in how they analyze the Word of God, working so diligently to “rightly divide the word of truth.” (2 Timothy 2:15)

    1. Note from Barb as an admin of this blog: As I mentioned above, I am not able to affirm or disconfirm whether or not Katherine Bushnell’s interpretations of scripture are right on every point. So while I’m publishing this comment by Avid Reader, I feel I need to add that reminder.

  5. When scripture is expounded on by people with an agenda who are not filled with the Holy Spirit they get it wrong and all kinds of damage is done.
    The wisdom that is God’s word can only be understood and properly applied when our eyes have been ‘unblinded’ by the power that raised Jesus from the dead: by the one who guides us into all truth, the counsellor, who lives in those who are His Own.

  6. This is excellent! As I read the article I was also thinking about Ephesians 5. Do we see Paul describing marriage there as an adversarial arena in which husband and wife are by nature at odds with one another trying to dominate? No! We see two Christians loving one another, working in harmony. In addition, even if (and I don’t think this is so) Eve’s desire was to dominate her husband, ALL THAT WOULD CHANGE IN THE NEW COVENANT as men and women are regenerate and led by the Spirit. Foh’s thesis goes down in flames.

  7. The woman who loves
    Will be wounded
    Over and over
    By one
    By others
    Maybe almost all

    She will hurt deeply
    With buckets of scouring tears
    She’ll seek wisdom
    Bravely battle fear
    Struggle to stand
    And force herself to breathe

    Then the woman who loves
    Will come to that place
    When she must decide
    If loving
    Really loving
    Is worth it

    Truth will say always
    Joy will peek in through the fog
    Hope will bloom in her desert
    Watered by forever springs
    And her miracle kindness will simply
    Not go away

    The woman who loves
    Who truly wants to love
    Will decide
    To trust just One
    Who is still by her side
    Who holds and feeds
    Her hungry open heart
    His voice is gentle
    His sure strong hand
    Leads tenderly with
    Astoundingly beautiful grace

    The woman who loves
    Will be lifted
    Will be filled
    Will be healed
    And the woman who loves
    Will love
    For she has been loved first
    By God

  8. Thank you all so much. I have learned as much from the comments as from the article itself. I went to renew my mind about women and gender roles earlier this year because I knew I had picked up some unhealthy baggage due to my time reading and listening to very legalistic teacher years ago. I did not like what I was learning from one side. It seemed like they wished to erase all but the reproductive differences from people and the Bible. Then I remembered running across the Danvers Statement from CBMW so I looked it up and my spirit was so disturbed when I tried to read it I could not delve into it enough to evaluate it. This article and it looks like part 2 along with all the comments is just the mind clearing renewal I was seeking for.

    1. Renewing My Mind,

      Thank you for your comment, and welcome to the blog!

      You will notice I changed your screen name so it wasn’t so identifying. We like to direct our new commenters to our New Users’ Page as it gives tips for staying safe when commenting on the blog. If you have any questions or would like a different screen name, feel free to contact me at twbtc.acfj@gmail.com

      Again, Welcome!

      P.S. And, yes, the Danvers Statement is bad news.

      1. Thank you for the info and name change. I’ve never been here before. It’s a good idea.

      2. Hi Renewing,

        I had to change your screen name to Renewing My Mind. WordPress sometimes puts in a default name based on information from your WordPress account. May I suggest that when you comment, check the ‘name’ field before replying. You are able to manually change it, if needed.

        WordPress can be confusing. If you have any questions, feel free to contact me at twbtc.acfj@gmail.com.

        And, we’re glad your here!!

  9. The woman wants to control her husband, but he must not allow his wife to have her way with him: he must rule over her.

    This has been my dad’s philosophy my entire life, and though my dad is a Christian, I have witnessed and been the recipient of the evil fruit of this kind of thinking. When a theology produces evil fruit, it’s a good indicator that there is something wrong.

  10. Horrors! The ESV translation committee have changed Genesis 3:16 to empower domestic abusers! They have issued what they call the Permanent Text of the ESV (2016) [Internet Archive link]. They have changed Genesis 3:16 from

    Your desire shall be FOR your husband, and he shall rule over you.


    Your desire shall be CONTRARY to your husband, but he shall rule over you.

    And they have changed Genesis 4:7 from

    Its desire is FOR you, but you must rule over it.


    Its desire is CONTRARY to you, but you must rule over it.

    This change effectively sets in stone Susan Foh’s interpretation which horribly slanders women. And it represents an interpretation as a translation.

    Shame on you ESV translators. You have done great wrong. May the Lord hold you accountable!

    The other changes seem to be pretty insignificant. But the change in Genesis 3:16 and 4:7 is MONUMENTAL.

      1. Um… I’m speechless, horrified. How do we stop this destruction of God’s Word? Do they not see that their doctrine is driving translation instead of the other way around. Why didn’t they fix this verse while they’re at it… It’s the same Hebrew word…

        I am my beloved’s, and his desire is for me.
        ‭‭The Song of Solomon‬ ‭7:10‬ ‭ESV‬‬

        To be consistent, it should read:
        “I am my beloved’s, and his desire is contrary for me.”

    1. Wow! That just takes the cake. Nothing like being able to just write your own opinion into the Bible—Oh wait, that’s what they keep accusing us of doing! Just watch, next they’ll say that anyone who disagrees with their opinions is disagreeing with Scripture itself because their opinion is now conveniently inserted into Scripture!

      Someday when lightening strikes, I don’t want to be standing too close to them!

      1. Can I do a new Bible translation and stick my name on it? Man, I could tweak this verse and that one and make God say….anything I want Him to say!!

      2. Sounds great! Maybe we can call this new Bible translation the Tillamook Revised Version (TRV). 🙂

    2. I wonder if the eternally subordinate son of God had to be subordinate because his desire is contrary to that of the Father? Hmmmm…. No, no – then that would mean….He isn’t God!!

      1. UPDATE Sept 2021: I have come to believe that Jeff Crippen does not practise what he preaches. He vilely persecuted an abuse victim and spiritually abused many other people in the Tillamook congregation. Go here to read the evidence. Jeff has not gone to the people that he spiritually and emotionally abused. He has not apologised to them, let alone asked for their forgiveness.



        People on our FB page have been making similar remarks Jeff.

        The ludicrousness of ERAS / ESS / EFS is made clear when its logical conclusions are pointed out. But the ESS people won’t listen, I bet. No maybe I should say “I predict” since good Christians don’t bet. Or maybe I should say “I prophesy” but that might be a bit risky since I’m only a woman and you know women might not be allowed to prophesy in the assembly….. sarc.

    1. Dishonesty has surrounded the English Standard Version (ESV) from the get go. Although they deny it, there’s evidence from their own patriarchal camp that the seed of it was born out of a reaction to the gender-inclusive NIV (called TNIV). Opportunists that they are, they also thought the market would be good for another translation because of the backlash to the TNIV.

      ESV is not at all a new translation. It’s a revision of the Revised Standard Version (RSV). There’s also evidence that they even considered making their “translation” (I use the word loosely) from the New RSV, and “undoing the gender-neutral language.” If you have a copy, turn to the copyright page, you will find:

      The Holy Bible, English Standard Version (ESV) is adapted from the Revised Standard Version of the Bible, copyright Division of Christian Education of the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the U.S.A. All rights reserved.

      I knew from my childhood that the National Council of Churches (NCC) was considered liberal. There was widespread thought that their relief money in communist countries ended up in the communist governments’ hands among other things. Also, the RSV was considered liberal for rendering Isaiah 7:14 as saying “young woman” rather than “virgin” and there were a few other controversial passages. I was going to say these criticisms may or may not be fair, but, there’ s evidence of them being liberal from their own web site. I got this from their home page:

      In addition to ecumenical partnerships, NCC promotes harmonious relations among Christians, Jews, Muslims, Buddhists, practitioners of traditional Native American religion and many other faith groups in a society that is increasingly multireligious. The NCC has been particularly focused on building relationships between Christians and Muslims in the aftermath of the national crisis of September 2001.

      Between yesterday and today, those lines disappeared from their home page. I suppose maybe it got a relook with tomorrow being the 15th anniversary of 9 / 11. All this to say Wayne Grudem and the Council of Biblical Manhood and Womanhood he co-founded and the NCC make strange bedfellows. They paid a lot in royalties for the use of the RSV and helped keep the NCC solvent.

      More than a few ironies here. ESV was born out of the gender-neutral NIV controversy, yet they considered buying rights to the NRSV and undoing their gender neutral language. Why not just go with the original NIV or RSV or for that matter NASB [NASB1995]? Why was a new “translation” needed? (Disclaimer: I would love to see a new translation myself, preferably by a woman who knows the original languages, but I digress.) Then for all the supposed outrage of the TNIV gender-neutral language, they later denied the ESV’s roots as being against it and the “translation” itself seemed to not to be terribly gender biased until the horrific ESV 2016 [Internet Archive link] update that Barb mentioned.

      There’s a lot of people who think the King James Version (KJV) of the Bible is the only real Bible that should be used (and not just any KJV, only the Authorized 1611 King James Version). I think many of those same people think it was the 1st English translation, but they are mistaken. The ESV promoters love to associate their “version” with the KJV even with their closing 2016 ‘permanent text’ update. (The ESV never associate themselves with the RSV, where it really came from, other than where they have to give the legal obligatory copyright reference.)

      Let’s quit calling it the ESV. Let’s call it what it really is the Revised Revised Standard Version. And in honor of their beloved desire to be associated with the KJV, let’s call the 2016 permanent version the “Authorized 2016 Revised Revised Standard Version,” as that is the text they hope will be used for generations to come.

      1. Thanks Sister!

        This is important information. I didn’t know the ESV was a revision or adaption of the Revised Standard Version. I have the ESV Study Bible in hard copy, but hadn’t ever paid attention to its copyright notice.

        I knew that the notes in the ESV Study Bible were dodgy when it came to gender and marriage issues. But I didn’t know it wasn’t a brand new translation.

        So it sounds like this is what happened. The NCC sold the copyright of the RSV to Crossway Publisher and the ESV Bible ‘translators’ revised it and issue it as the ESV, promoting it as a brand new translation made directly from the original Hebrew and Greek.

        While I suppose that the people who put together the ESV did consult the original Hebrew and Greek a lot, they gave us the impression that that was their primary material. They kept it pretty quiet that they had simply purchased and revised (oops, ‘adapted’) the RSV. Good grief.

        And who provided the money to buy rights to the RSV? Who bankrolled the whole thing?

      2. Fact: Wayne Grudem was General Editor of the ESV.

        Fact: Wayne Grudem received money from Sovereign Grace Ministries (SGM) which is notorious for covering up child sexual abuse and was led by CJ Mahaney. In the preface of his 2003 book Business for the Glory of God: The Bible’s Teaching on the Moral Goodness of Business (link) Grudem wrote:

        I wish to thank Sovereign Grace Ministries, a group of churches that has encouraged and supported me with funds for additional research assistance in this larger research project.

        For more info on Wayne Grudem’s relationship with CG Mahaney, see this post [Internet Archive link] at The Wartburg Watch.

      3. In order to produce the ESV, Crossway Publishers paid $625,000 to the National Council of Churches for special rights to use the Revised Standard Version.

        From The Christian Century, VOL. 119, NO. 17, August 14, 2002 [Internet Archive link]:

        through cost-cutting measures and, most recently, a $500,000 grant from the Lilly Endowment and a $625,000 advance royalty check from a conservative Bible publisher, the National Council of Churches has balanced its books with an unrestrained smile. …

        The $625,000 check from Crossway Books received this summer carried with it a bit of irony. Well before…1999, the council had sold special rights to its Revised Standard Version Bible to Crossway. That publisher edited “a derivative” version for a theologically conservative market–the English Standard Version. Other publishers with rights from the NCC use the updated NRSV translation.

        Rather than stringing out royalty checks over the term of the ten-year contract, Crossway negotiated a large advance payment.

      4. I have to make a slight correction to my comment. I just noticed the following on the ESV web site. So I was incorrect when I said they never associate themselves with the RSV. Apparently, the RSV 1971 is the 1st ancient manuscript they started with (2nd if you count the “Tyndale-King James legacy words and phrases” as the 1st), 🙂

        Manuscripts Used in Translating the ESV

        Each word and phrase in the ESV has been carefully weighed against the original Hebrew, Aramaic, and Greek, to ensure the fullest accuracy and clarity and to avoid under-translating or overlooking any nuance of the original text.

        The words and phrases themselves grow out of the Tyndale-King James legacy, and most recently out of the RSV, with the 1971 RSV text providing the starting point for our work.

  11. For the record, Susan Foh believed that women should wear head coverings in church. She wrote:

    1 Corinthians 11:2-16 teaches that women can and should actively participate in worship by praying and prophesying. The only requirement is that they be covered so that the glory goes to God, rather than their husbands; this requirement is necessary because of the husband’s headship. (p. 87 in Women in Ministry: Four Views)

  12. The precise meaning of teshuqah is not certain. It may mean “desire”. It may mean “turning”. But context, as well as the evidence from history and the present day, seems to rule out that it means “a desire to control”.

    It ‘may’ not be certain…but, Barb, you have done an excellent job of exposing that the ‘meaning’ of the word teshugah is the antithesis of ‘desire to control’ a man!!!!!

    Thank you for your VERY studious work on this topic…

  13. I understand “desire” to mean both a longing to connect to her husband and when this pure yearning is deliberately unmet by the husband it becomes him “ruling”, using tactics of control both to passively deny her heart’s desire and to deny it by keeping her heart at a distance.

    The “turning” away from her husband is to simply turn toward God and away from his power and control.

    To me, a controlling, unloving husband wants to blame her rather than own his responsibility or failure to keep, preserve, love and protect his Garden. He shuts down her Help-Meet voice that calls her to face off (mirror) those areas in his life which hinder love and connection in relationship.

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