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Woman and Her Husband’s “Rule Over” Her, per Genesis 3:16

It's not uncommon—at least in my experience—for Genesis 3:16 to be used as a proof text to support complementarianism, particularly the form that says men are to give orders and women are to follow them. The verse is also used to call women's desire for any authority over a man as a sinful part of the Fall. Sometimes this even happens in the middle of discussions asking, "What, precisely, does this verse even mean?"

Unto the woman he [God] said, I will greatly multiply thy sorrow and thy conception; in sorrow thou shalt bring forth children; and thy desire [shall be] to thy husband, and he shall rule over thee.

That bold part is what's both debated and used as a proof text.

Now, if you happen to look at the specific words in the original, two things are obvious:

  1. This verse relies on its context for meaning. (Not all words are explicitly in the sentence ["shall be"]; some are assumed/understood from context. This is normal in language.)
  2. This verse doesn't translate easily into English. (It could be read a few ways, and looking at the original words ["desire to thy husband"?] suggests there is a nuance missing in the translation. Again, this isn't unusual in translation.)

So what does this verse mean? Let's take a look.

It's worth noticing the phrasing: "he shall rule over thee". That "shall rule" is yimšāl. When you look at how yimšāl is used elsewhere in Scripture, it looks as if that phrasing indicates a declaration about what is—"this is what will happen," not "this is what should happen." (Ex. Proverbs 22:7: "The rich ruleth [yimšāl] over the poor, and the borrower [is] servant to the lender.")

The precise construction of the word in Hebrew is not entirely the same across all references, but that doesn't necessarily indicate a change in imperative. The entire "thy desire [shall be] to thy husband, and he shall rule over thee" could be saying "Men are gonna rule the world in general, but you women are gonna want your husband's power."

Such a construction—of curse followed by prophecy—would also be consistent with the context, which has just both cursed the physical serpent and given prophecy about the metaphorical serpent (ref. v. 14 & 15a for curse, v. 15b for prophecy). And then the following verses speak to Adam, the man, and give a curse (v. 17v. 18) followed by a prophecy (v. 19).

So…are women actually cursed to be subservient to men, where that's our God-created place? Or is that subservience merely something that exists as part of life and isn't necessarily true in a universal sense or as something that necessarily "should" be?

I've just shown that the actual verbiage and context of Genesis 3:16 better fit the latter scenario—which is consistent with the female deacon named in Romans 16:1 and the female apostle named in Romans 16:7. It's also consistent with Galatians 3:28 (which explicitly says there is neither male nor female because [gar] we are in Christ).

Genesis 3:16b as a description of reality in general would also explain why there are more male than female examples in Scripture—and works with II Timothy 3:16 to undermine the claims that all the women leaders in Scripture [many described here] are exceptions. When you put those concepts together, it's not unlikely that the women in Scripture intended to be examples.

Men in Scripture are often accepted as examples for the Christian. Sometimes—as in the cases of Lot's incest and David's adultery and murder—those examples are what we should not do; sometimes they're what we should do. No other kings committed adultery and murder in the same fashion David did, so why is that not dismissed as an exception, just as Deborah is?

Dismissing anything in Scripture as an "exception" seems risky, to me. Deuteronomy 4:2 and all.

What are your thoughts on my analysis or the topic under discussion? :-)

Woman and Her “Desire to Her Husband”, per Genesis 3:16

Last time, I went into the "husband rules over wife" part of Genesis 3:16. Now let's look at the first part and see what meaning that adds (and if it changes how what follows can be interpreted):

Unto the woman he said, I will greatly multiply thy sorrow and thy conception; in sorrow thou shalt bring forth children; and thy desire [shall be] to thy husband, and he shall rule over thee.

bold added to show the part I'm looking at; brackets indicate words added in translation but not in original text; some translations use italics to show the same thing

"Desire shall be to thy husband"? What does that even mean?

First thing to note is that there are necessary-in-English parts of speech left implied by context rather than explicitly stated. The omission of words is common in languages, including in English. English speakers just tend to be less aware of it because what we skip and why [we skip it] tends to be more context-specific than [it is] content-specific. (Those brackets indicate spots that can be understood with or without those words.)

Many languages leave subjects or pronouns stated via the context rather than putting the actual nouns or pronouns on the page. English has this in in the imperative form of verbs ("Go home!") and, in my experience as a student, is very badly and even outright incorrectly explained in English classes. But what matters here is that the subject of "Go home!" is necessarily whoever or whatever it is being told to—which means the subject is stated by context, which is precisely what's going on in the "and thy desire to thy husband" in Genesis 3:16.

Looking back at the specific words in the original, we see that "and thy desire [shall be] to thy husband is more literally "and unto thy husband thy desire [shall be]." That makes a bit more sense, but still isn't precisely clear. Unto can mean "to" or "until", and "strong desire to" WHAT "thy husband"? Or might it actually be meaning "your husband, you [will] desire"? (I don't think that last one likely, since it changes the part of speech on desire.) And why is the verb missing from this tidbit, anyway?

The common assumption in complementarianism is that the desire is a reference to the following "and he shall rule over thee"—but there's a distinct problem with possibility.

The clauses are in the wrong order.

Perhaps you're thinking, "Well, duh it isn't in the same order as English!" And you're right that Hebrew does not have the same syntax as English. But that's not what I'm referring to.

No, I'm referring to two things:

  1. the conjunction ("and") separating "and thy desire [shall be] to thy husband" and "he shall rule over thee"—which makes these two distinct albeit potentially related thoughts
  2. words can't be omitted/understood from context until after the context has been defined—which means the reference to ruling should be in the first item, not the second*

It's possible for a translator to swap things to that degree and thereby accidentally change meaning, but that doesn't seem to have been the case here.

Now, this logic, about words needing to be defined before they can be omitted, does indicate that, to supply the verb missing from Genesis 3:16, we need to look to earlier in the context, not later. Digging into the original words indicates that it can't be "thou shalt bring forth"—besides the construction not working, the pronoun is already built into that verb. We need a verb that didn't have the subject built in, because "thy desire" already is the subject here—that's why the King James has added that "shall be" in there.

At first glance, "will greatly multiply" might work—it could be read as a reference to the lengths many women are willing to go to keep their men or to women having sexual desire—but unfortunately that verb has the subject ("I") built in, too. So it looks as if "thy desire [will greatly multiply] unto thy husband" isn't right, either, though it makes sense and describes reality.

This means we have to step back into to Genesis 3:15. (For those who don't know or don't remember, the numbering of chapters and verses is an artificial construct out of convenience. They aren't in the original texts.)

And I will put enmity between thee and the woman, and between thy seed and her seed; it shall bruise thy head, and thou shalt bruise his heel.

Verbs! We have verbs without built-in pronouns! Yay!

…er, wait. "Shall bruise" doesn't work, not with the preposition. "And thy desire [shall bruise] unto thy husband"?

And even if that did work, there's another problem: God's talking to someone else in this verse. (The serpent.) That kind of jump is possible…but odd—especially since an omitted "shalt bruise" doesn't show up in the verses addressed to Adam. If it were going to be defined but omitted in one, that would need to happen in both other sets of comments—that's basic parallelism, which is an element of structure, logistics, and syntax that is integral and essential to much skillful nonfiction writing, especially when it's intended to teach. And if the text's author were intentionally making such jumps, the context should have more of them.

Okay… Looking back for a verb isn't working, and trying to interpret the line that way is getting convoluted in ways that tend to indicate the reader is adding meaning. That's means it's time to take a step back and look at the text, again, to make sure there isn't something simple that's getting missed. (Because, from the context, there probably is.)

Unto the woman he said, I will greatly multiply thy sorrow and thy conception; in sorrow thou shalt bring forth children; and thy desire to thy husband, and he shall rule over thee.

Genesis 3:16, KJV (added words omitted)

Hey, wait a minute (and I seriously noticed this at this point in writing this post). Why is the line punctuated like that? Punctuation isn't in the original text—or so I understand, from multiple sources—and that punctuation outright creates the undefined sentence fragment ("and thy desire to thy husband") that necessitates the addition of the verb "to be". If you remove that second semicolon, the sentence isn't missing anything.

Unto the woman he said, I will greatly multiply thy sorrow and thy conception; in sorrow thou shalt bring forth children and thy desire to thy husband, and he shall rule over thee.

Genesis 3:16, semicolon removed after children

"In sorrow thou shalt bring forth […] thy desire to thy husband" fits with the context before it, which references conception, and the "[…]" I omitted is a reference to childbirth, which is consistent with that topic. So maybe the entire "thy desire to thy husband" is a reference to sexual intercourse and/or the hymen, which probably wouldn't have hurt before the Fall. Offspring are spoken of as the woman's in v. 15 and v. 20, which is also compatible with that continuing to be the focus of how the Fall effected women.

So a reference to intercourse does fit the context logically and linguistically. (Awkward, I know.) Such a reference even fits the structural considerations that any skilled didactic writer would have in mind while writing.

But why, then, to translations consistently add punctuation that breaks the sentence in the way that doesn't really make sense? Is it expectation and bias affecting the translation, or is there some other reason to believe that "and thy desire [shall be] to thy husband" is intended to be a grammatical clause with unstated pieces rather than an entirely explicit phrase?

Do you see any other ways of looking at it? What do you think of the potential interpretation I've pointed out?

Why is I Corinthians 5:11 Ignored?

I know why it's ignored. If you're reading this, you might know the answer to that question, too.

But knowing why doesn't change the fact that the verse is ignored, and anybody who dares obey it gets backlash from people who claim them to be unloving and angry.

Before we get into that pesky question of why, let's first look at what the verse says:

But now I have written unto you not to keep company, if any man that is called a brother be a fornicator, or covetous, or an idolater, or a railer, or a drunkard, or an extortioner; with such an one no not to eat.

I Corinthians 5:11, KJV

The context is overall about whom we're not to have fellowship with. (It's the context where Paul's telling the Corinthians to "put away from among yourselves that wicked person" [v. 13].)

According to this verse and its context, we're not to even eat with someone who 1. claims to be a Christian and 2. engages in one of those sins. (We'll get to what those sins actually are—or at least what the one is that explains why the verse gets ignored—in a moment.)

This is a "both/and" setup, not an "either/or"—something Paul says explicitly in v. 9v. 10. We can associate with people who engage in egregious sins—that's what witnessing is! We just mustn't associate with folks who claim to follow Christ yet engage in habitual sin.

Note that "habitual" before "sin". We're all sinners (ref. Romans 3:23), and we'll slip into sin despite our intentions (ref. Romans 7:15, v. 19), but we must not use that reality as an excuse to go on sinning (ref. Romans 6:1, v. 15).

Someone who gets drunk is only a drunkard if they have a habit of drunkenness. That doesn't mean it's okay to be drunk—it isn't (ref. Ephesians 5:18)—but it is a distinction between someone who is drunk (which is a temporary state) and someone who is a drunkard (which describes a habitual pattern of behavior).

Both the temporary state of being drunk and the habitual pattern of being a drunkard can be changed, and a believer will act to change them (ref. Ephesians 5:18).

"Ye shall know them by their fruits" (Matthew 7:16) and "by their fruits ye shall know them" (Matthew 7:20)—and Matthew 7:15–23 makes clear that we are to be mindful of others' fruits. Not merely their words.

Others are to apply that same mindfulness to us—and this mindfulness is to be practiced carefully. As believers, understanding that we are imperfect ourselves and that we will be judged by the standards we use to judge others (ref. Matthew 7:1), we must look for specks in our own eyes before alerting others of two-by-fours sticking out of their own eyes.

But all too often, people instead focus on specks' in others eyes while two-by-fours are sticking out of their own (ref. Matthew 7:1–4), revealing themselves to be hypocrites.

That hypocrisy itself is not unexpected, due to the nature of our hearts (ref. Jeremiah 17:9), and wolves in sheeps' clothing are in the church (ref. Isaiah 29:13, Matthew 15:8, Mark 7:6). So how do we know what we are?

Well, how do we react when someone points out an inconsistency in our own behavior? Or when someone's conviction means they practice I Corinthians 5:11 on us?

Do we assume that one party must be in the wrong, thereby idolizing the opinion of that party? Or do we carefully examine ourselves (ref. I Corinthians 11:31) and the Scriptures (ref. Acts 17:11) to find what merit there is in the words, regardless of source, and then respond according to that merit?

Others have rights to their own convictions and consciences—that's the entire point of the debate about meat sacrificed to idols, described in I Corinthians 8. How they respond to something is on them, not us.*

*No person is responsible for any other person's behavior, though there are situations wherein a person isn't without guilt for another's behavior. If the distinction isn't obvious to you, you've experienced redefinition of words.

It doesn't matter if you scream in my face; you're responsible for your own behavior, and I'm responsible for my response. My response might be justified or not—but that's on me, not you, and you're still responsible for your own behavior. Even if you wouldn't have done it if I hadn't done some other thing.

This brings us to why people ignore I Corinthians 5:11.

See, that word "railer" in the original Greek, loidoros is itself the adjective form of the verb loidoreó—which refers specifically to verbal abuse as a whole (ref. John 9:28, John 9:28, John 9:28, John 9:28).

Our actions are what reveal what we believe (ref. James 2:18), regardless of our words—and regardless if we're aware we believe it or not. Wolves depend on us to pay attention to the sheepskins they wear (the pretty words) and ignore the fruits in their actions that reveal the wolf beneath. So they distort some of God's Word to hide or overwrite other parts of it, ignoring the inconsistency and the violation of the commands to mind others' fruits (ref. Matthew 7:16, v. 20).

I Corinthians 5:11 both tells us to pay attention to others' actions and to act ourselves in response to the fruits of their actions, and that makes wolves uncomfortable. They want to be perceived as sheep, not wolves, so they have a vested interest in dissuading others from paying attention.

What’s with the Idolization of Church Attendance?

It is idolized, with Hebrews 10:25 used as support while ignoring Matthew 18:20 and II Thessalonians 2:1.

What am I talking about?

I'm talking about articles like this one, saying that the organized church is necessary to the Christian life, and situations like this one, where a pastor seems to have been put under discipline for his chronically ill wife not attending church "enough". I'm talking about the queries regarding church attendance—where and how often—regardless of what the person is already known about health issues, work situation, or theological points—questions that come from reformed Presbyterians and independent Baptists both.

Notice that, despite the linked-to situation, I'm not specifically targeting the OPC, here. Basic logic and linguistics.

I'm talking about all the focus on what folks do on the street corners, rather than what we do in secret, as if it's more important to attend the "right" organized church three times per week than it is to study the Scriptures, pray, and engage with other believers.

"But wait!" you might be saying, thinking of Hebrews 10:25. "We're told to attend church regularly! You even just admitted it!"

Not at all.

Let's first look at what, precisely, Hebrews 10:25 actually says.

24And let us consider one another to provoke unto love and to good works: 25Not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, as the manner of some [is]; but exhorting [one another]: and so much the more, as ye see the day approaching.

Hebrews 10:24–25, KJV

The key phrase here is "the assembling of ourselves together", with "assembly" being said to refer specifically to the organized church—after all, you need a group to "assemble"!

Problem: That translation ignores the Greek.

"'grouping together that fulfills (builds on) the specific purpose of the gathering together" (HELPS Word-studies)
"a gathering together, an assembly" (Strong's Concordance}
(derived from episunagó)
"properly, bring together (gather), i.e. group together (collect), especially to accomplish the intended purpose of the gathering" (HELPS Word-studies)
"I collect, gather together, assemble." (Strong's Concordance}

The Greek word episunagógé appears one other place in Scripture: II Thessalonians 2:1.

Now we beseech you, brethren, by the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, and [by] our gathering together unto him,

II Thessalonians 2:1, KJV (bold added to show episunagógé)

That verse only includes two parties, Christ and the "you"—which can be singular or plural in English. When I dig into the Greek, the word looks to have a dual meaning: both "you" in the singular specific person sense, and "you" in the group collective unit sense. Note that's a both/and situation, not either/or, and both meanings are singular. And then use of episunagó fits with that meaning of "gathering of 2+ for a purpose".

For what purpose? For that, we just have to look back up to Hebrews 10:24 again: "provoke [one another] unto love and to good works".

An organized church isn't necessary for such purpose, and that's made clear by Matthew 18:20.

For where two or three are gathered together in my name, there am I in the midst of them.

Matthew 18:20, KJV

It doesn't matter how many are gathered or where we gather. What matters is why we gather. A Sunday School class can gather to watch a football game, if they want, and that could be some lovely socialization, but it wouldn't be gathering together according to Hebrews 10:24 or Matthew 18:20.

So when focus is placed on on attendance at the "right" church or with the "right" frequency, that's assigning definition and import to attendance at the organized church that isn't actually there. It's focus on what can be seen in public, which is worrying in itself (ref. Matthew 6:5).

Some claim that such regular attendance at the "right" local church is a fruit of the Spirit, but it's not listed in Galatians 5:22–23. And even verses that speak of the fellowship of believers an be applied outside an organized church.

The only thing that matters is gathering for the "right" purpose. The number of persons involved and the location of that gathering are not listed as affecting God's presence or the benefit to the believer. No, what matters is the purpose.

All the focus on the overt action of being in the right place instead of having the right heart ends up idolizing attendance, and that isn't right.

What are your thoughts on the idolization of church attendance? Do you agree or disagree?

What Is the Biblical Love We Are to Display Towards Others?

If you look up the word “love” in the dictionary, you’ll find definitions ranging from “A friendly form of address” to “A strong feeling of affection and sexual attraction for someone”—and that’s not including what it means in tennis (ref. Oxford Dictionaries).

Yet love is central to the Christian life, an integral part of the two commandments Christ gave to sum up the Ten Commandments:

28And one of the scribes came, and having heard them reasoning together, and perceiving that he had answered them well, asked him, Which is the first commandment of all? 29And Jesus answered him, The first of all the commandments [is], Hear, O Israel; The Lord our God is one Lord: 30And thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind, and with all thy strength: this [is] the first commandment. 31And the second [is] like, [namely] this, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself. There is none other commandment greater than these.

Mark 12:28–31, KJV

According to this excerpt from Mark 12, Christians are to do everything out of these two precepts: 1. loving God above everything and 2. loving others in the way that we love ourselves. This is entirely consistent with what Jesus told the rich young ruler in Matthew 19, as well as with the other Scriptural commands about Christian love, such as is found in Leviticus 19:18, John 13:34, Romans 12:10, and James 2:8.

Studies into these verses so often focus on what is meant by “neighbor”—on whom we are to love—rather than what we are to do: love. Love is also the first fruit of the Spirit listed in Galatians 5:22, suggesting it’s the first one that manifests in a believer, even before the rest of the list.

Linguistically speaking, the order of items on a list can but does not necessarily indicate the order of importance or the order in which a series progresses/develops. Because the fruits of the Spirit are part of a process—the one of the believer becoming increasingly Christlike—I’m inclined to believe the fruits are listed in the order which they manifest in a believer. The fact that love is both the root of the greatest commandment and the first item on the list supports my view but doesn’t definitively prove it. But whether or not the fruits of the Spirit manifest in a particular order is irrelevant in the current discussion; what matters is the clear Biblical statement that love is to be central to the Christian life.

Mark 12 is far from the only reference where Christians are commanded to love others. We are commanded to love each other.

A new commandment I give unto you, That ye love one another; as I have loved you, that ye also love one another.

John 13:34, KJV

This is my commandment, That ye love one another, as I have loved you.

John 15:12, KJV

But loving others who love us is (or should be) easy. As Christians, we’re outright commanded to even love our enemies!

43Ye have heard that it hath been said, Thou shalt love thy neighbour, and hate thine enemy. 44But I say unto you, Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you, and persecute you; 45That ye may be the children of your Father which is in heaven: for he maketh his sun to rise on the evil and on the good, and sendeth rain on the just and on the unjust. 46For if ye love them which love you, what reward have ye? do not even the publicans the same? 47And if ye salute your brethren only, what do ye more [than others]? do not even the publicans so? 48Be ye therefore perfect, even as your Father which is in heaven is perfect.

Matthew 5:43–48, KJV

But what is this “love” that Christians are to display? What does it look like? What are its features?

To define what the Bible means when it tells we believers to love God and our neighbors (and each other and our enemies), we have to look at what it means “to love” (agapaó) someone. And in order to examine what Scripture means by that, we must examine what’s commonly called “the love chapter” in the Bible: I Corinthians 13.

1Though I speak with the tongues of men and of angels, and have not charity, I am become [as] sounding brass, or a tinkling cymbal. 2And though I have [the gift of] prophecy, and understand all mysteries, and all knowledge; and though I have all faith, so that I could remove mountains, and have not charity, I am nothing. 3And though I bestow all my goods to feed [the poor], and though I give my body to be burned, and have not charity, it profiteth me nothing.

4Charity suffereth long, [and] is kind; charity envieth not; charity vaunteth not itself, is not puffed up,5Doth not behave itself unseemly, seeketh not her own, is not easily provoked, thinketh no evil;6Rejoiceth not in iniquity, but rejoiceth in the truth; 7Beareth all things, believeth all things, hopeth all things, endureth all things.

8Charity never faileth: but whether [there be] prophecies, they shall fail; whether [there be] tongues, they shall cease; whether [there be] knowledge, it shall vanish away. 9For we know in part, and we prophesy in part. 10But when that which is perfect is come, then that which is in part shall be done away. 11When I was a child, I spake as a child, I understood as a child, I thought as a child: but when I became a man, I put away childish things. 12For now we see through a glass, darkly; but then face to face: now I know in part; but then shall I know even as also I am known. 13And now abideth faith, hope, charity, these three; but the greatest of these [is] charity.

I Corinthians 13, KJV

The word translated as charity in the King James Version is agapé, which is what we now (centuries after the KJV was originally translated) call “love, goodwill” and is the noun form of agapaó, the verb Jesus uses in Mark 12 that is translated as “love”. The noun agapé and verb agapaó are each used more than 100 times each in Scripture—for how we are to feel towards God and each other, for how God feels towards His children, and for other relationships.

bold added to indicate which word(s) are agapé in the original Greek

Love worketh no ill to his neighbour: therefore love [is] the fulfilling of the law.

Romans 13:10, KJV

But I know you, that ye have not the love of God in you.

John 5:42, KJV

Nor height, nor depth, nor any other creature, shall be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.

Romans 8:39, KJV

But if thy brother be grieved with thy meat, now walkest thou not charitably. Destroy not him with thy meat, for whom Christ died.

Romans 14:15, KJV

Now as touching things offered unto idols, we know that we all have knowledge. Knowledge puffeth up, but charity edifieth.

1 Corinthians 8:1, KJV
bold added to indicate which word(s) are agapaó in the original Greek

But I say unto you, Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you, and persecute you;

Matthew 5:44, KJV

Woe unto you, Pharisees! for ye love the uppermost seats in the synagogues, and greetings in the markets.

Luke 11:43, KJV

A new commandment I give unto you, That ye love one another; as I have loved you, that ye also love one another.

John 13:34, KJV

Husbands, love your wives, even as Christ also loved the church, and gave himself for it;

Ephesians 5:25, KJV

This illustrates that within the King James Version of the Bible, love and charity are essentially synonymous (because the same Greek word, agapé, is translated charity in I Corinthians 13 and love in the other references). It’s also worth noting that the context of Romans 13 is in fact reiterating how the law of God as it pertains to other people is summarized by “Love others”.

However, the word translated as love doesn’t mean quite the same things that we as humans like to say it does. This is at least in part because English conflates a multitude of concepts into the word love.

If we look back at I Corinthians 13 again, specifically verses 4–7, we can determine several things about what precisely is meant by the Scriptural commands to “love” one another.

Biblical love for another person is patient and persevering.

(I Corinthians 13:4: Love “suffereth long”; makrothumeó)

bold added to indicate which word(s) are makrothumeó in the original Greek

The servant therefore fell down, and worshipped him, saying, Lord, have patience with me, and I will pay thee all.

Matthew 18:26, KJV

And so, after he [Abraham] had patiently endured, he obtained the promise.

Hebrews 6:15, KJV [ref. Hebrews 6:13]

The Lord is not slack concerning his promise, as some men count slackness; but is longsuffering to us-ward, not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance.

II Peter 3:9, KJV

Therefore any love/goodwill that is impatient (or vanishes when a situation requires patience) is not love, per the Biblical definition.