Study Bible Notes are Not Scripture – A Case Study in the CSB Study Bible
We must handle “study Bibles” very carefully, always remembering that the notes and articles are not the Word of God. The following article appears in the Holman Christian Standard Bible, Study Bible edition and it is also in the newer edition, the CSB, published by Holman in 2017.
The article convinced me that I will not use or recommend the HCSB Study Bible or the CSB Study Bible. The author of the article is Daniel L. Akin, president of Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary, North Carolina. There are huge, troubling problems with what Akin writes here. I have interspersed my comments into the article.
The Bible and Sexuality, Daniel L. Akin
God created men and women as sexual creatures. Therefore sex should be viewed as a good gift from a great God. Sex as God designed it is to be enjoyed within the covenant of marriage between a man and a woman. It should be good, exciting, intoxicating, powerful, and unifying.
Comment: I certainly would have clarified the opening sentence here. “God created human beings as male and female. One important aspect of humans is their sexuality.” As you will see in the rest of this article, Akin gives far too much weight to the importance of sex, and in particular male sexuality. Men and women, human beings, are far more that “sexual creatures.” At best, Akin is unclear in his opening sentence.
Akin continues [bold-facing is mine]:
This “one-flesh” relationship (Gn 2:24) is the most intense physical intimacy and the deepest spiritual unity possible between a man and woman. It should remind both partners of the even more remarkable oneness that the human spirit can experience with God in spiritual new birth through faith in Jesus Christ (Jn 3). God approves of sexual relations within marriage alone, where husband and wife are to serve each other and meet each other’s physical needs in sexual intercourse (Pr 5:15-21). Paul indicates that sexual problems in marriage can hamper the Christian life, especially prayer (1Co 7:5). Both husband and wife have equal sexual needs which are to be met in marriage (1Co 7:3), and each is to pursue the needs of the other and not his or her own (Php 2:3-5).
Comment: Notice very, very carefully that some of the most sweeping statements in this paragraph are simply stated and not supported in Scripture. For example, the sentences above which I have boldfaced are simply never taught in Scripture. Oh sure, Akin lists a couple of Scripture references, but neither teach what he is saying.
Think it through. Where does this sex as “deepest spiritual unity” leave a husband and wife who for reasons beyond their control cannot have sexual relations? I can tell you. Akin leaves their relationship at second rate.
And he just keeps on making sex much, much more than the Lord ever intended it to be. Listen to him again: “It should remind both partners of the even more remarkable oneness that the human spirit can experience with God in spiritual new birth through faith in Jesus Christ.” As Barbara Roberts noted when she read this, it is really virtual heresy. This is just the kind of thing that is used, through its perversion of Scripture, to justify all kinds of weird “spiritual” practices. I say once more, Akin did not find this teaching in the Bible.
Though the Bible is not a book on sex, it does contain a complete theology of sexuality: the purposes for sex, warnings against its misuse, and a beautiful picture of ideal physical intimacy (see especially the Song of Songs). Below are some of the Bible’s most important teachings on human sexuality.
• God’s Purposes for Giving Us the Good Gift of Sex Knowledge (Gn 4:1) Intimate oneness (Gn 2:24) Comfort (Gn 24:67) The creation of life (Gn 1:28) Play and pleasure (Sg 2:8-17; 4:1-16) Avoiding temptation outside marriage (1Co 7:2-5)
• God’s Commands to the Husband He is to find satisfaction in his wife (Pr 5:19) He is to find joy in his wife (Ec 9:9) He is to concern himself with meeting her unique needs (Dt 24:5; 1Pt 3:7)
• God’s Commands to the Wife She is to be sexually available to her husband (1Co 7:3-5) She is to prepare and plan to capture her husband’s heart (Sg 4:9-15) She is to show sexual interest in her husband (Sg 4:16; 5:2) She is to be sensitive to his unique masculine needs (Gn 24:67)
Comment: Do you conclude what I have concluded from Akin’s words here? That the husband (because he is a man) has ‘unique masculine needs” and it is the wife’s duty to see that she meets those needs. The verses that Akin cites here in no way support what he claims Scripture teaches. And I believe I am being objective when I conclude that Akin sees the wife as having far, far more responsibility to sexually please her husband than her husband has to please her. Oh yes, I know Akin threw in the “He is to concern himself with meeting her unique needs” caveat. But I find it interesting that Akin went into far more sexual detail regarding the wife’s duties to her husband than the husband’s duties to his. Am I imagining that? I think not.
Akin continues, claiming in his sub-title that the principles he is about to lay on us are biblical:
Biblical Principles to Govern Sex
• Sexual relations within marriage are holy and good.
• God encourages intimate relations and warns against their cessation (1Co 7:5).
• Pleasure in sexual relations is both healthy and expected.
• The bodies of both parties belong to the other (Pr 5:15-19; 1Co 7:4).
• Sexual pleasure is to be guided by the principle that one’s sexuality is to be other-oriented. “Rights” over one’s body are given in marriage to our mate (Php 2:3-4).
• Sexual relations are to be regular and normal. No exact number of times per week is prescribed, but the biblical principle is that both parties are to provide adequate sexual satisfaction so that both “burning” (sexual desire) and temptation to find satisfaction outside marriage are avoided (1Co 7:9).
• The principle of satisfaction means that each party is to provide sexual enjoyment (which is “due” him or her in marriage) as frequently as the other party requires. Other biblical principles (moderation, seeking to please another rather than oneself, etc.) also come into play. Consideration of one’s mate is to guide one’s requests for sexual relations.
• In accordance with the principle of “rights,” there is to be no sexual bargaining between married persons (“I’ll not have relations unless you . . .”). Neither party has the right to make such bargains. This is a form of “marital prostitution” and must be avoided.
• Sexual relations are equal and reciprocal. The Bible does not give the man superior rights to the woman or the woman superior rights to the man. Mutual service is the goal.
• Whatever is safe, pleasing, enjoyable, and satisfying to both is acceptable. The body of each belongs to the other (1Co 7:4). Neither should demand from the other what is painful, harmful, degrading, or distasteful to him or her.
Comment: Alright, as we always do here at ACJF, let’s put ourselves in the place of a woman who is an abuse victim. What is Akin telling her? She MUST yield her rights whenever he wants sex. Her husband’s lust is her duty to control. She must give him sex whenever he wants it. She is prohibited from setting any boundaries with her abuser! If she does, she is a prostitute.
As I said, Akin throws in a couple of caveats, as he does in the last bullet point above. But the fact is that this entire article is steeped in testosterone and very light on the estrogen. What I am getting from Akin is that men need sex a lot more than women do, that it is the duty of the wife to meet those needs no matter what, and in the end what is communicate is that if her husband is abusing or adulterating or porning, well, it is her fault.
And remember now how serious this all is. This article appears in the pages of Holy Scripture in the Holman Christian Standard Bible!! Someone in charge down there at Holman picked Akin to write on this subject and agreed with what he wrote. In addition, there are other PhD’s from the halls of Christian academia who wrote other articles in this Bible, whose track record in rendering real justice in abuse cases is anything but spotless.
[This article has been quoted from the Holman Christian Standard Bible Study Bible, published by Holman Bible Publishers, 2010, Nashville, TN]. The same essay appears in the newer Christian Standard Bible, Study Bible published by Holman in 2017].