What Dr. Joy Fleming found in Eden, by Bruce C. E. Fleming
African church leaders asked us to come teach as graduate school seminary professors in French-speaking Africa. Before we came they advised us to focus our doctoral research not on obscure Bible passages that might interest just us, but to study in detail something that interested the church in Africa in a vital way.
My wife, Joy, studied Genesis 2-3 on the Garden of Eden. These two chapters tell about God, humanity, marriage, death, God’s judgment and why we are now living outside of Eden. I studied New Testament passages related to her work.
Here’s what she found and taught me.
On Day 6 of creation God had made man and woman.
God blessed them and told them to be fruitful and multiply.
God made the Garden of Eden and said Just don’t eat from the one tree.
In 6 Days God took action and created.
Then, all was completed and on Day 7 God rested.
And Adam and Eve honeymooned.
God spent time with them in Eden as well.
Sometime after, Satan attacked them.
The serpent used plural pronouns and spoke to both.
Both reacted and ate the fruit.
God came in the cool of the day and called to them. They were hiding. God asked, Did you eat the fruit you were not to eat?
The man spoke and rebelliously defended himself. He didn’t blame the serpent tempter. He didn’t even mention the serpent tempter. He wrongly blamed the woman and God. He had eaten on purpose and he had followed the words of the rebellious serpent.
God asked the woman what she had done. She realized what had happened. She had been deceived into eating.
She wasn’t rebelling like the man. She pointed out she had been deceived by the serpent. Then she confessed point blank, “I ate.”
She was not guilty of first degree rebellion as was the man. She had not sinned on purpose. She had to be tricked into it. The best Satan could get her to do was second-degree eating. She ate, but not in rebellious disobedience like the man had shockingly done.
Jesus said, in John 8:44, Satan was been the Father of lies and a murderer. Satan attacked using lies. He attacked in order to bring about the death of the man and the woman. And he succeeded.
So in the Garden of Eden there were four. There was God. There was the serpent-tempter, the angel Satan. There was the rebellious man. And there was the woman. God judged all three of the others.
My wife, Dr. Joy Fleming, points out that in the Hebrew text God speaks to the serpent tempter and the man using the same six key words or phrases for each.
We may not notice this in English as readily but it is there and is very clear and deliberate in Hebrew.
God imposes two curses. One because of each rebel – the serpent tempter and the man.
But God speaks to the woman in a very different way. None of the key words God uses in His speeches to the serpent and the man are used by God in His speech to the woman in 3:16. In 11 Hebrew words God takes action and then explains or teaches the woman. At no point does God curse Eve (or Adam) or limit woman in any way.
Joy analyses the 11 Hebrew words in four Lines. In Line 1, the first four words, God acts. In the other three Lines, God describes but takes no further action. This is where many people go astray. They think God is acting all through the verse.
In Line 1 the first two words tell us how serious God is. The words can be translated as “multiplying, I will multiply” or “I will greatly multiply.” Basically God says I’m really going to act. And God does so in two ways. The two things God will multiply involve words 3 and 4 in Line 1.
One thing God multiplies, sorrowful-toil, happens when God curses the ground because of the man in verse 17. God introduces it here in word 3 of Genesis 3:16.
The other thing God multiplies is her conception or pregnancy which is Hebrew word 4. This will begin when Eve conceives and she then has offspring all the way down to include Jesus Himself. So God says, (word 1) Multiplying, (word 2) I will multiply, (word 3) your sorrowful-toil in field work, (word 4) and your conception.
When God tells her in word 3 of Line 1 that she too will have sorrowful toil in field work, God is not here telling her about the act of childbirth. When God tells her in word 4 of Line 1 that she will have conception, or pregnancy, God is not here telling her about the act of childbirth either. The act of childbirth comes only at the very end of pregnancy, nine months after conception.
Here is what God is saying to the woman in Genesis 3:16. Remember, in Line 1 God acts. In Lines 2-4 God describes.
Line 1: I will surely multiply (1) your sorrowful-toil [in fieldwork] and (2) your conception.
Line 2: With effort you will bring forth children
Line 3: Your [loving] desire [is] to your husband
Line 4: But he [is rebelliously ruling over himself and ] will rule over you.
But almost all English versions of the Bible say something very different. They don’t tell us about the two ways God promises to act. They make it seem like God acts in only one way.
They make God seem out of line and strangely vindictive toward the woman. They make it seem like God acts again after her punishment in which she and the man had already become mortal. They make it seem like God now zaps or changes woman’s body somehow when God never touches the dying mortal man in any additional way.
These translations incorrectly push together the last two words in Line 4 and make it sound something like a curse related to changing the act of childbirth! But these four words aren’t about the act of childbirth at all!
When words 3 and 4 in Line 1 are mistranslated, this leads to mistranslation and misinterpretation of the remaining 7 words in Genesis 3:16!
Our new book which has just come out, The Book of Eden, Genesis 2-3, was just reviewed and the review was very positive. One of the lead comments was, “It gives unique insights into aspects of Genesis 3:16 that I had not encountered before this work.”
That’s what I felt as Joy was doing her research. And I thought, this changes everything about how I have to approach the important New Testament passages on woman, and specifically on Eve in 1 Timothy 2.
So, my doctoral research was done on New Testament passages based on what Genesis 3:16 really says in Hebrew.
I think Joy’s findings, and what we put into The Book of Eden, Genesis 2-3 is the missing link. I think that, lacking these insights, a lot of writing and research has been turning in circles. But with these insights we can drive straight through these passages.
I’ve been teaching these insights on our podcast, The Eden Podcast. The eight episodes of Season One that we turned into our book covers Genesis chapters 2 and 3. Season Two of The Eden Podcast is about Ephesians chapters 5 and 6. Season Three of The Eden Podcast is about 1 Timothy chapters 2 and 3. Plans are to release the other Seasons each in a book like we just did for The Book of Eden, Genesis 2-3.
I’m thinking playfully maybe we should retitle our book as The Great Eve Rescue, because we “rescue” Eve from being cursed. Because she was not cursed or limited in any way in Genesis 3:16!
I launched the Tru316 Project and created our website TRU316.com to cover all this. And also the YouTube Channel for the Tru316 Project.
We have to get clarity on Genesis 3:16 first. Then, we can think again about the rest of Genesis chapters 2 and 3 and the related New Testament passages like 1 Peter 3 and 1 Corinthians 11 and 14, and the others I have already mentioned.
The Book of Eden, Genesis 2-3 has study guides that go with each chapter. The Study Guides were written by our friend Joanne Hagemeyer. They make The Book of Eden, Genesis 2-3 great to use in book clubs, in church groups and with family members.
Not too long ago, I was prayerfully meditating about Genesis 3:16 and the importance of correcting the incorrect translations of it. I felt God wanting to say something to me in an out of the ordinary way. I gathered my thoughts and tried to focus. And here is what I heard. It wasn’t something I would say to myself. It wasn’t said in a way I would come up with. But suddenly and with force I heard these five words: “I want my Word back!”
Let’s give God’s word back! That’s what we try to do in The Book of Eden, Genesis 2-3. Let’s rediscover and stick with the plain meaning of God’s great eleven words to the woman in the Garden of Eden in Genesis 3:16.
In Line 2 God does tell her about effort in childbirth. In Line 3 God checks the attitude of her heart. Her loving desire is for him. It has not changed. In Line 4 God explains to her that the man’s heart has changed. And for the worse! We go into all of this on our podcast and in our book.