by Rev. Bruce C. E. Fleming, DEA, author of The Book of Eden, Genesis 2-3

A polluted source. When I was young, my father took me to visit the old family homestead in the hills in which my grandmother and her 11 siblings were born. The Civil War era farmhouse and its outbuildings had tumbled down long before and were being overgrown by the returning forest.

Dad took me over to where the old spring house had been. There was little trace of that building where the water came from the hillside. We found the pool where the family had gathered their water. It was all muddied and foul. Carefully, Dad knelt down cleaned it out.

We moved on to discover half-buried foundation stones. Disturbed wildlife scattered away into what had been the farmyard and the evening pasture. After a while my father said, “Are you thirsty?” I certainly was after hours under the hot sun! “But, Dad,” I pointed out, “We didn’t bring anything to drink!”

He led me back to the old spring house and the pool of water. As we approached we smelled the fresh scent of watercress that was growing along the edges. We had inadvertently crushed a few leaves as Dad hopefully cleaned out the spring. The water now was clear and fresh! He and I knelt down and scooped up handfuls of cold refreshing family spring water that day. We had to clean out the spring to get pure water from the source.

The source of much of our theology on women and men needs cleaning out. How has Genesis chapter 3 and especially 3:16 been muddied? What has polluted the stream that flows down into the disputed New Testament passages on women and men?

I and my wife, Old Testament scholar Dr. Joy Fleming, believe it comes first of all from the mistaken belief that God imposed an unfair punishment, resembling a curse, on the woman in the Garden of Eden. She has shown, in her seven years of doctoral work and her research since that time, that God didn’t curse Eve (or Adam) or limit woman in any way.

Much of the pollution of the theology on women and men can be traced to the mistranslation of the first Line of 3:16. It has been made to read like God struck woman with pain in the hours of childbirth. The Hebrew text in Line 1 of 3:16 tells us that God took action in Line 1 in two ways. But neither action had to do with pain in childbirth!

A result of mistranslation and misinterpretation. In Africa, where we served as seminary professors and as village Bible teachers, I was told by a Christian man the following:

  • “As we see it, if God struck the woman with multiplied pain in childbirth she must have deserved it. And if she deserved it she must have sinned in an extraordinary way. The job of village men is to keep Eve’s daughters from similarly going astray. Therefore, while God continues to punish Eve’s daughters with childbirth we are going to restrict all women in the home, in the church and in society because it looks like the Bible says so!”

What did God say in Genesis 3:16? If you look at the King James Version (KJV) of Genesis 3:16 you’ll get a good idea of the Hebrew words. God took action in two ways, multiplying sorrowful-toil and conception.

What was the sorrowful toil? It came from the curse on the soil because of the man as recorded in Genesis 3:17. Of course the man experienced this too. And Genesis 5:29 tells us that both parents of Noah had this same sorrowful toil in doing fieldwork. This sorrowful toil had nothing to do with the process of a woman giving birth.

God also promised the woman that she would conceive the promised offspring who would crush the head of the enemy serpent. The KJV clearly shows God taking action in two ways as follows:

  • Correct: “I will greatly multiply thy sorrow and thy conception”

Yet this is not what many Bible versions say when you read them. They have polluted the meaning of these two key words and have replaced them with a single alternative reading. For example, the English Standard Version (ESV) reads as follows,

  • Incorrect: “I will surely multiply your pain in childbearing”

How do we clean up this mistranslation? We need to “true” the verse and get back to the meaning of the original Hebrew text. The translators of the ESV may give you their reasons for why they are doing what they do. Do you know how to point out their errors?

We offer you the book by Dr. Joy Fleming titled, Man and Woman in Biblical Unity, Theology from Genesis 2-3. It is available for now as a free audiobook by clicking on the bar at the top of Tru316.com! You may also purchase an eBook copy from Tru316.com/trubooks.

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