Desiring to Rule Over Genesis 3:16

There is 1 Comment

dmyers's picture

Tyler R, thank you for this forum post.  The Reformation21 post and the Denny Burk post are both very good.  The Scot McKnight post is borderline silly, as Burk demonstrates.  In addition to the six possible/historical interpretations of Gen. 3:16 listed in the Davidson passage cited in the Reformation21 post, there is now apparently a seventh interpretation, sometimes called "new wave complementarianism," that I don't think falls squarely into any of the Davidson six.  Wendy Alsup (I think; if she participates here, I hope she'll correct me if I get it wrong) would agree with the hierarchical views of the Creation state (Davidson's 1-3), and would agree that Gen. 3:16 describes a curse on the woman rather than a blessing (Davidson's 1-2), but she contends that the woman's/wife's "desire" is "for" her husband in the sense that she is cursed to make him an idol, seeking from him the ultimate satisfaction that is only available in God, not in the sense of seeking to wrest control from him.  See here:  

I have voiced my disagreements with Alsup's approach in comments to her post(s), as follows:

I am not a theologian, but I have been married (and divorced); have observed dozens if not hundreds of marriages among friends, fellow church members, family, co-workers, etc.; have attempted to help with several troubled marriages as a church leader; and have spent a lot of time examining Scripture on male/female and especially husband/wife relationships. I find it impossible that the Church (or Adam and Eve and their progeny) wouldn't have understood, long prior to second wave feminism, the problem Foh described in 1975. I am not being flippant, though I may be politically incorrect: any married man in the Church would have noted the problem in his very real, everyday married life. (Even the man married to the (rare) woman who did not manifest the problem in her marriage would have been well acquainted with other husbands who weren't so fortunate.) In other words, at least on a practical level, what you call Foh's reinterpretation of Gen. 3:16 can't be novel in Church history because it accords so well with what nearly all husbands will have seen in their own marriages. (I'm not saying wives are the sole or even the primary problem in marriages; husbands are equally depraved, equally at fault, and have their own typical sins.)


Claire Smith (whose essay was posted at TGC with an essay by Wendy as “countering perspective[s]”) saw the same real-life evidence I mentioned above (and that I agree is not a primary interpretive argument): “We might also add that it makes sense of much of our experience, but, of course, that's a secondary matter. . . . Not only does it accurately describe a universal human experience that long predates feminism—-the conflict of men and women going back to the Fall—-but it also, as we have seen, best reflects the linguistic, literary, and theological considerations of this part of God's Word.” Smith's interpretive arguments still make more sense to me. 

And, meaning no disrespect at all, I'm concerned that the “new wave complementation” interpretation of Gen. 3:16 makes the sin being discussed a lot more socially acceptable. It's idolatry? Ah, well, we're all idolaters one way or another, aren't we? It's TOO MUCH love for the husband? Ah, well, that's kind of sweet, actually, isn't it? Much less objectionable to us humans than what boils down to a propensity for rebellion, I think. (And now, having used the word rebellion, I may in fact need to duck.) I'm not aware (though that may not mean anything) of any parallel movement to prefer an interpretation that would similarly soften “and he shall rule over you.” We husbands have no choice but to own up to our propensity, as a group, for abusing our position/authority, and that seems to me to be correct also.

One of the many faults in McKnight's post is his similar adoption of a one-way street interpretation of Gen. 3:16 -- while the man/husband sinfully dominates the woman/wife, the wife is merely loving her husband and keeping up her half of the "beautiful harmony" God designed.  It may not be politically correct, even (or especially) in fundamental/conservative evangelical circles, but Alsup's interpretation and McKnight's even more glowing interpretation end up being quite palatable to feminists.  I know that doesn't in itself make their interpretations wrong, but I think it should at least prompt extra scrutiny.