Welcome to Episode 5 of Season 5 of The Eden Podcast where we think again about the Bible on women and men, and we start with a correct understanding of what happened in the Garden of Eden back in the beginning. In this Episode we hear from Bruce C. E. Fleming, founder of the Tru316 Project. He’s a former Academic Dean and Professor of Practical Theology. The foundation of the Tru316 Project is based on the research of Dr. Joy Fleming.
Do you want to know what the eleven Hebrew words mean that God spoke to the woman in the Garden of Eden? We put that and more in The Book of Eden, Genesis 2-3. We invite you to get a copy today and make sure you have a solid foundation for understanding the seven key passages on women and men in the Bible. It turns out when Genesis 3:16 becomes clear all the other passages become clear too! You can learn more at our website Tru316.com.
And now –
Genesis 3:16 and 1 Corinthians 11, 14 and 1 Peter 3.
When I was growing up in America, everybody knew the 23rd Psalm told a story with two different scenes in two different settings. One took place outside. One took place inside.
The first scene was about a shepherd caring for his sheep in green pastures and beside still waters. Then, everybody said, the picture shifted to a second scene. This one took place inside an oriental tent somewhere and people were seated at a banquet table. Not everyone at that table was friendly however. No! The host was there in the presence of his enemies.
It was a good Psalm and everybody loved it even though where I lived nobody was a shepherd and we really didn’t know much at all about how to take care of sheep. My ancestors had a farm with cows and some pigs and some chickens. But no sheep.
Later, when I was married and we were beginning our career as professor we moved to France to learn the language before heading to French-speaking Africa to teach the Bible. In France, I came across a little book written by an Armenian shepherd in the first half of the twentieth century who was very familiar with shepherding in the Middle East. The copy of the book I found was in French so I had to work hard to learn the specialized vocabulary relating to the care and feeding of sheep.
As I got to the second half of the book I got a big surprise. There were several famous books that came out later in English that have to do with my surprise. But this shepherd’s book was the first time I came across the assertion that every last verse down through to the end of the 23rd Psalm was all about sheep and the shepherd. It did not change scenes to a banqueting table surrounded by enemies.
The author explained that when the shepherd prepared a table for the sheep, the shepherd was working across a tableland section where the sheep would move in next to feed. There were enemies in that tableland. Tasty but toxic plants were growing here and there in the grass that were not good for the sheep to eat. So with his stick the shepherd would prepare the table. He would dig up those bad plants and set them aside so the sheep wouldn’t be harmed by eating them. And he gave more surprising details about the life of the sheep and their care by the good shepherd.
Who was right? Did the Psalm have two scenes?
Did the Psalm start with a safe and pleasant pasture scene and then suddenly shift to a banquet table with a good guy surrounded by bad guys? Or did the scene of the sheep and the shepherd continue all through the Twenty Third Psalm.
Which interpretation made more sense? Could both of these very different interpretations be acceptable? I thought not. After reading that book in French, ever afterward I have pictured David caring for his real sheep throughout the Shepherd’s Psalm.
My wife and I chose this Psalm as the subject for our first sermon in French. When a newly planted church in Belgium moved into its rented rooms for the first time, we were asked to give the message. Joy preached the first half of our message on the Psalm. I preached on the second half.
In my half I explained how the shepherd continued to care for the sheep by preparing the table removing the bad weeds and later how the shepherd used oil to care for the bites and scrapes the sheep had gotten during the day as they were gathered together for the night.
The message proved to be a great blessing to our hearers that Sunday morning in Belgium. We used that sermon again later in Africa and finally in America.
There are three New Testament passages I have studied where I have shifted my view of what is going on as dramatically as in my shift in understanding of the passage of the Twenty Third Psalm. Two of the passages are in Paul’s first letter to the Corinthians. The other is in First Peter chapter three.
These passages are famous for causing confusion among readers. Just like the confusion I experienced for a long time with Psalm 23.
In Season Four of The Eden Podcast there are several episodes that go in detail into each of these three passages. These passages will also be covered in the forthcoming book, Because of Eden. It will be the fourth volume of The Eden Book Series that starts with the Book of Eden, Genesis 2-3.
That first book, The Book of Eden, is critical to our understanding of the seven key passages on women and men in the Bible. Because it explains the true content of the badly mistranslated verse into modern languages of Genesis 3:16.
My wife, Dr. Joy Fleming spent more than seven years researching the meaning of the Hebrew text of Genesis chapters 2 and 3 and especially 3:16. It turns out that when Genesis 3:16 is made clear all the other passages can be made clear as well. She revealed that God didn’t curse Eve, or Adam, or limit woman in any way in Eden.
With that in mind I studied 1 Corinthians chapter 11, 1 Corinthians chapter 14 and 1 Peter chapter 3. In 1 Corinthians I came across the fact that in it, in several places, Paul is in dialog with input he received from the people in Corinth. More than once he quotes something they have said, or something they have proposed and then he gives his opinion on their ideas.
In 1 Corinthians 11 and 14 it is important to get the flow of Paul’s thoughts clearly in mind. In these passages Paul doesn’t veer wildly from one point of view to another. He does not inexplicably contradict what he has taught clearly elsewhere. He is not giving in to religious or cultural pressure or criticism.
No. He is inserting quotations from a critical subgroup of legalists who were challenging his teaching and the practices he recommended to the believers. The words in the quotes seem to go against Paul’s normal teaching because they are not Paul’s words or ideas. They do indeed contradict Paul’s normal teaching. He quotes them and then he refutes them. He maintains his point of view and makes clear how the Christians are to continue following the good doctrine he has been teaching them.
In 1 Corinthians 11 what is the contentious proposal he inserts? We need to put quotation marks around verses 4, 5 and 6. These three verses do not contain Paul’s words. They come from his critics and contain their ideas.
In verse 2 of chapter 11 Paul praises the Corinthians for maintaining the practices he had taught them to follow. Later in verse 17 he will criticize them for going astray. The topic from that point on is related to something else. But in the passage that has come to be numbered verses 2-16 Paul focuses on reinforcing their keeping the traditions he had taught them in spite of challenges to change their practice.
What were the challenges? He quotes those challenges in verses 4-6. And he rejects them.
Some people wanted to treat the believing men and women differently. And they had their reasons for this. Frankly, they were harsh in their view of women and wanted to set them aside and treat them differently from the men. Paul would have none of this.
Is the demeaning view of women in the verses that came from Paul’s opponents something you have heard advocated in teaching you have encountered on this passage? If so, then your modern teachers have thought that verses 4-6 were Paul’s opinions too and they have tried to impose them on themselves and on you. But the ideas in verses 4-6 come from the outside and go against Paul’s good tradition. They are a confusing mix of legalistic rules that are not to be required of Christian women at all.
Paul, sums up proper teaching in verses 7-16. He famously says in the Greek words of verse 10 that a Christian woman is in charge of her own head. Just as one day all believers will judge the angels (see 1 Corinthians 6), so Christian women can judge Paul’s teaching to be valid and they can follow his practices and not the limitations the legalists wanted to impose on them.
A dramatic change in understanding comes about when it is recognized that verses 4-6 are Paul’s quotation of other people’s ideas. His praise for proper conduct is the main subject and this praise runs from verses 2-3 and 7-16.
In 1 Corinthians 14 Paul inserts another quote from the contentious legalists. Here again, they wanted to set women apart and place them in a lower position than the men. Anyone who advocates the following of verses 34-35 mistakenly is advocating the ugly proposals of the outsiders who wanted to change the glorious good news.
In my print Bible, I have penciled in quotation marks around verses 34 and 35. When that is done, Paul’s vigorous refutation of the quoted words becomes clear.
In Greek, he begins verse 36 with the word “What?” or “Indeed?” Then he describes those who are proposing the ideas in the quotation of verses 34-35. This description fits the four-point description of the Jewish scribes, the teachers of the Jewish oral law of his day, that was not part of the inspired books of the Old Testament. They had their own rules they had added to the Bible.
These are some of the ideas Jesus corrected in the Sermon on the Mount when he famously taught, “You have heard it said, but I say unto you!” Jesus corrected them where they had gone astray. Paul too corrected them where they had gone astray.
The proposals in 1 Corinthians 14:34-35 that women should be silent came not from Jesus or from Paul. They came from the Jewish oral law. You can spot this yourself at the end of verse 34 when they say “Do what we want because it is what ‘the law says.’” It was what their law said.
You will come across people who even say that this “law” refers back to Genesis 3:16. As if Genesis 3:16 teaches that “women must keep silent in church and if they have any questions they must ask their husbands at home.” Really? Does Genesis 3:16 teach this?
Genesis 3:16 does no such thing! In Line 1 of Genesis 3:16 God takes action in two ways.
First, God tells Eve that because of Adam’s rebellion the ground will be cursed. The result will be that Adam and she will experience sorrowful toil when they use their hands in doing fieldwork. This sorrowful toil will be done both by the man and the woman. It has nothing to do with childbirth.
Second, God tells Eve that she will surely have conception. She will have offspring who will crush the head of the tempter. The word for pregnancy or conception is not about the act of childbirth either.
But modern language translations are mistranslating these words in Line 1 of Genesis 3:16. They replace the two-part news God gives to Eve, that (1) along with Adam she will experience toil in fieldwork and that (2) she will conceive making possible the promise that her offspring will one day crush Satan’s head.
Instead of this two-part announcement, you’ll most likely read in the Bible version you use that God will only bring about one very bad thing. These versions word Genesis 3:16 to make it look like it says that God will act in such a way that she will experience one new very bad thing, pain-in-childbirth.
In Genesis 3:16 God gives a two-part announcement to Eve. God then teaches her what life will be like with a mortal body in Lines 2-4 of 3:16. It will take effort to bring forth children. God looks in her heart and affirms that her affection, her loving desire for her new husband, is still intact. But that he, in his active rebellion against God at the tree, and in his blaming her and God for his own disobedience, he will sinfully rule over her.
None of this has anything to do with asking questions at home after church as some people claim when they come across 1 Corinthians 14. The Jewish oral law did place many restrictions on women. The Babylonian Talmud looked back at what happened in Eden and got so much of it so very wrong. They placed all kinds of restrictions on women in the home and at worship too.
What did Paul do with this? What should we do? He denounced the contentious group he describes in verse 36 and the first part of verse 37. Then at the end of verse 37 he affirms that what he taught were commandments from God. In verse 38 he dismisses the critics and their ideas altogether. And so should we.
1 Peter 3:1-7, the third key passage on women and men, changed for me when I realized that verse 1 was about unbelieving husbands married to Christian wives. Peter’s words in verses 1-6 are advice to witnessing wives who are unequally yoked to unbelievers. He encourages them as they try to witness to their husbands, if necessary even without using a word. Just as God appreciated Sarah’s faith so God appreciates wives who are witnessing and waiting for their husbands to come to Christ.
Then in Greek, I read the first word in verse 7, “likewise.” Likewise how? Likewise who? Verse 7 was Peter’s advice to witnessing husbands who were unequally yoked to wives who had not yet become believers.
They were not to be unwise in their actions. They were to be loving and wise in living with their unsaved wives. Their wives without Christ were in a weaker position spiritually but they were to be treated in every way as worthy adults.
If the husband acted unwisely he could hinder her coming to Christ. His actions could work against his prayers for her salvation.
When I was growing up, hearing that the 23rd Psalm was about enemies sitting around a table in a tent somewhere, I also heard that 1 Peter 3 taught that any disagreement at home could result in answers to everyone’s prayers being blocked. I wondered at that.
Now I’ve come to see that 1 Peter 3 doesn’t teach that at all. It teaches that we need to be loving witnesses if only one member of a married couple comes to Christ. We need to wisely and prayerfully share the love of Christ until our spouse is saved as well. The first seven verses in 1 Peter 3 are special. They apply to couples who are unequally yoked. If we want to know how to get along as believers together there are other passages in the Bible we can go to for that.
One famous passage people turn to is in Ephesians 5 and 6. What is really said there is covered in the second book of The Eden Book Series. You can get a copy of that. It is titled Beyond Eden, Ephesians 5-6.
Now here’s my challenge for you.
It is wonderful and a great privilege to read and study the whole word of God, all sixty six books! This was my experience for quite some time.
But I became concerned when I saw that many of the good passages that were being taught to God’s people and to unbelievers were tainted by untruths and even harmful contradictions. I have set aside the privilege of teaching widely here and there from the whole Bible to alert the church and clear up the harmful teachings that have been weakening the church and repelling those looking in from the outside.
What am I talking about? The mistruths being taught because of the mistranslation of Genesis 3:16. People would have us believe that Eve was like Pandora. That Eve did wrong. That Eve released trouble into the world. That Eve was cursed by God because she deserved to be cursed. That men should rule over silly women because all are like Eve the guilty one. And on and on they go. And none of this is what the Bible says!
We have ugly scenes with men making demeaning jokes about women, even from the pulpit. Patriarchal practices from the pagan world are being baptized as gospel truth and are imposed on women in the home, in the church and even in the workplace. This is all unjustified. This is not what God says in the Bible.
I just heard on the radio a rebroadcast of a chapel sermon given at a small training school in our area. The speaker said, “The Bible teaches that wives are to obey their husbands. I won’t marry a couple that doesn’t have in their wedding vows that the wife promises to obey her husband.” I was astounded! What he so confidently affirmed is nowhere taught in the Bible.
So what will I do? What will you do? I challenge you to focus in on this poisonous problem. Get things clear in your own mind what is taught and what is not taught about women and men in the Bible, starting with Genesis 3:16.
And then, in whatever way God leads you to get involved with the Tru316 Project. What will you do? Will you help spread the word?
Thanks for listening to The Eden Podcast! Do you have your own copy of The Book of Eden, Genesis 2-3 and our other books on the seven key passages on women and men in the Bible? Visit our website at Tru316.com.
Do you want to go deeper? You are invited to enroll in the current Study Unit of TruSchool. Take a look. Go to www.Tru316.com/school.