Is Christianity a Male Supremacy Cult?

Simply put, the answer is “no.”

In the New Testament time period, Roman law and Jewish oral tradition did not view the testimony of women as reliable.  In spite of these cultural norms, women were the first to be chosen to bear witness to Jesus’ resurrection—the sign of his triumph over sin and death (Luke 24:1-10).

The apostle Paul tells us there is “neither…male nor female,” for we are all “one in Christ Jesus” (Galatians 3:28).  In the body of Christ, men and women are called to serve according to their gifts, not according to their sex at birth (Romans 12:6-8).

In the book of Acts, we see women prophesying (Acts 21:9), and a woman named Priscilla teaching a man “the way of God more accurately” (Acts 18:26).

Phoebe was a deacon who made leadership decisions about supporting the ministry of the apostle Paul and others (Romans 16:1-2).

Junia, a woman, was “outstanding among the apostles” (Romans 16:7).

If the New Testament tells us that women and men are equally redeemed, equally sanctified, and equally called to serve God in accordance with their gifts, why do we even wonder if Christianity teaches that women should be subordinate to men?

Because a male supremacy cult does operate within the church, and it does masquerade as Christianity.

One of this cult’s present-day leaders recently equated the doctrine of male authority–which he calls complementarianism–with Christianity: “So, the reason among all the other reasons that I mentioned and could mention that I believe complementarianism will endure is not a passing fancy–is not going to go away–is that no matter how great opposition to Christianity becomes, there will always be a remnant of complementarians willing to die for the truth” (John Piper, desiringGod, April 19, 2017).

John Piper may or may not realize it, but his belief in male authority and female subordination cannot be found anywhere in the teachings of Christ.  In other words, it is not Christian.

John Piper refers to himself as a 7 point Calvinist (traditionally Calvinism is viewed as having only 5 main tenets).  In other words, he derives his understanding of the Bible from the 16th century commentary work of John Calvin (desiringGod, January 23, 2006).

This is what Calvin had to say about women: “Let the woman be satisfied with her state of subjection and not take it ill that she is made inferior to the more distinguished sex” (Calvin’s Commentaries: Vol. 39).

John Calvin did not take his view of women from the teachings of Jesus Christ; rather, he was strongly influenced by the 4th century commentary work of a man named Augustine (Institutes of the Christian Religion, Book III).

This is what Augustine had to say about women:

It is the natural order among people that women serve their husbands and children their parents, because the justice of this lies in (the principle that) the lesser serves the greater . . . This is the natural justice that the weaker brain serve the stronger.  This therefore is the evident justice in the relationships between slaves and their masters, that they who excel in reason, excel in power. (Questions on the Heptateuch, Book I, § 153)

Augustine did not derive his view of women from the teachings of Jesus Christ: rather, he was influenced by what he referred to as “the books of the Platonists” (Augustine’s Confessions, Book VII).

This is what Plato had to say about women:

Let me further note that the manifold and complex pleasures and desires and pains are generally found in children and women and slaves….  Whereas the simple and moderate desires which follow reason, and are under the guidance of the mind and true opinion, are to be found only in a few, and those the best born and best educated…

Very true.  These two, as you may perceive, have a place in our State; and the meaner desires of the [many] are held down by the virtuous desires and wisdom of the few [the best born and best educated men]…

You are quite right, he replied, in maintaining the general inferiority of the female sex….” (Plato’s Republic)

Is Christianity a male supremacy cult?  No, but there is a male supremacy cult within the church that claims to represent Christianity.

When human philosophy attempted to infiltrate the early church, the apostle Paul wrote, “See to it that no one takes you captive through hollow and deceptive philosophy, which depends on human tradition and the elemental spiritual forces of this world rather than on Christ” (Colossians 2:8).

I believe he would say the same today, regarding the deceptive philosophy and human tradition of male authority.

The Elephant in the Room: Denying Reality to Justify Male Power

Complementarians celebrate that they have always had the same view of 1st Timothy 2:12. As far as they are concerned, it tells us that God created men to “exercise authority over women,” and that anytime a woman attempts to share this authority with men, it is a sin.

Egalitarians take a different approach. I’ve completed a literature review of some of the most common egalitarian explanations of this passage. I’ve read the work of Gordon Fee, Catherine and Richard Clark Kroeger, Philip B. Payne, Sharon Hodgin Gritz, Linda Belleville, Leland Wilshire, Gilbert Bilezikian, Katharine Bushnell, Charles Trombley and others.

All of these scholars note that when talking about authority, Paul usually uses the word “exousia” in the New Testament (32 times). In 1 Timothy 2:12, Paul uses a different word, “authentein,” and he only uses it once. My first encounter with the word “authentein” outside of the New Testament occurred when I read the Wisdom of Solomon in the Greek Septuagint. Here a noun form of the same word, “authentas,” is used to describe parents who sacrificed their children to false gods and goddesses in secret rituals. This was my first indication that Paul probably did not see “authentein” simply as a synonym for “exousia.”  This impression has since been affirmed by many years of related research.

In addition to noticing that Paul uses “authentein” rather than “exousia” in 1 Timothy 2:12, many egalitarian scholars also see that 1st Timothy is a warning against a false teaching that was somehow “ascetic.” Ascetics taught that the body and its passions are evil. They commanded people to abstain from marriage and to avoid eating foods that might stimulate the passions (see 1 Timothy 4:3-4). Usually this meant avoiding meat and wine.

Many egalitarian scholars also note that this kind of asceticism was connected with a false teaching eventually called “Gnosticism.” The Gnostics taught that denying the body and its passions would enable people to receive special revelation knowledge (gnosis in Greek) from God. In 1st Timothy 6:20, Paul warns Timothy to guard the gospel message against the “profane and idle babblings and contradictions of what is falsely called knowledge”–gnosis.

Some egalitarian scholars also note that Gnostic asceticism in Ephesus and the surrounding region was influenced by pagan goddess mythology. Sometimes the goddess is identified as Artemis, sometimes she is called Cybele. When the Greeks first immigrated to this region, they began to confuse Cybele (who was already there) with one of their own goddesses, Artemis; so it isn’t difficult to see why both goddesses are mentioned in egalitarian literature. In addition to being “ascetic,” Paul identifies that the false teachers in Ephesus would, “devote themselves to myths” (1 Timothy 1:4).

Paul’s use of “authentein” instead of “exousia” in the context of a warning against Gnostic asceticism based on myths suggests a number of possible interpretations of 1 Timothy 2:12:

1) Some scholars see Paul as prohibiting the teaching that a woman was the “author” of man. “Authentein” is sometimes translated as “author,” or “the person ultimately responsible for something,” in ancient Greek literature. Goddess mythology in Ephesus did teach that women were the authors of men. Female deities were responsible for creation, and male deities were more often connected with evil.

2) Some scholars see Paul as prohibiting a woman from teaching a man in a “domineering” fashion. At least by the 2nd century A.D., the word “authentes” began to be used as a synonym for “despotes,” meaning “tyrant” or “despot.” In the goddess myths of Asia Minor, women were dominant. In the 4th century, 1st Timothy 2:12 was translated into Latin, and the word used for “authentein” was “dominari.” Latin commentaries explained that this meant a woman was not to have “domination” over a man. Some commentaries said that a wife was not to be “domineering” with a husband.

3) Some scholars see Paul as prohibiting a woman from simply assuming authority that was not rightly conferred upon her by the church. Again, women influenced by local goddess mythology may have had some sense that they had a special connection with the divine, and that this entitled them to teaching and leadership positions on the basis of gender alone. (Today, we see men making the same erroneous assumption.)

4) Finally, some egalitarian scholars see that just as “authentas” referred to murderous rituals in the Wisdom of Solomon, so too did the goddess cults regularly practice ritual violence against men. Men in these cults were called “slayers of themselves” in Roman literature of the 1st century. They offered sacrifices to the goddess from their own bodies. Ascetic Gnostics interpreted the mythology and practices of these cults as confirmation that the body and its passions are evil and must therefore be “put to death.” On numerous occasions throughout Greek literature extending into the New Testament period words such as “authentas, authentes, authenten, authentai, euthentekota, authentesonta, etc.” were used to indicate murder or violence done to oneself or others, either literally (as in the case of the goddess cults) or figuratively (as in the case of ascetic Gnosticism).  I find evidence for this viewpoint most compelling.  Anyone interested can read more about that here: https://equalityworkbook.wordpress.com/2017/02/08/pauls-concern-in-1st-timothy-false-teaching/

So what do we do with all of these possible egalitarian interpretations?

In my profession as a therapist, we would often use an analogy involving an elephant to describe a situation in which each person in a group had an understanding of one part of a larger situation. All of the people in the analogy are in a dark room, and they attempt to identify the elephant by touch alone. One person would discover the trunk of the elephant, another the ears, another the legs, and another the tail. The danger highlighted by this analogy is that all of these people might focus exclusively on their part of the elephant, divorce it from others’ findings, and begin to argue about what they have found. The one grasping the trunk might conclude it is a snake, while someone else grasping a leg might insist that it is a tree etc. In reality, they each have a hold of one part of something very large and very real—the elephant.

All of the egalitarian scholarship I have just referred to is excellent. It is based on years (sometimes decades) of credible scholarship. All of it points to different aspects of the same larger theme: Paul’s warning against ascetic teaching based on myths that gave priority to women over men. In other words, Paul is not talking about women merely “exercising authority” over men in the church. Those that insist he is are simply ignoring the elephant in the room so that that they can continue to justify the human tradition of male power.

Ephesians 5:22: When Men Add Commands to the Bible

Paul’s alleged command in Ephesians 5:22, “Wives submit to your husbands,” forms the foundation of the complementarian view that husbands must exercise authority over their wives in Christian marriage.[i]  This supposed command is often supplemented and reinforced by headings that have been added to the biblical text by translators.  Immediately above Ephesians 5:22 in the Open Bible: New King James Version, for example, we read the heading, “Wives: Submit to Your Husbands.”  The New American Standard Version adds yet another statement of obligation directed exclusively to wives in Ephesians 5:24: “But as the church is subject to Christ, so also the wives ought to be to their husbands in everything.”

In the oldest available Greek manuscripts of the New Testament (Parchment 46 and Codex Vaticanus), Ephesians 5:22 does not say, “Wives submit to your husbands.”[ii]  Neither the heading, “Wives Submit to Your Husbands,” nor the additional phrase in Ephesians 5:24 telling wives that they “ought to be” submissive can be found in any Greek manuscripts whatsoever.

In this passage, the apostle Paul introduces the idea of “submission” in Ephesians 5:21.  After telling all Christians to “be filled with the Spirit” in Ephesians 5:18, he then explains what this will look like: “submitting one to another out of reverence for Christ” (Ephesians 5:21).  In other words, all Christians who are filled with the Holy Spirit are to relate to one another with Christ-like humility and a willingness to serve.  Ephesians 5:22  then adds the phrase “wives to your husbands” as an example of what this mutual submission will look like.

In grammatical terms “be filled with the Spirit” is the imperative verb; “submitting one to another” is a participle phrase (that describes being filled with the Spirit); and “wives to your husbands” is yet another phrase that qualifies “submitting one to another” by providing an example.  Simply put, “wives to your husbands” is not a complete sentence; it cannot stand on its own as a separate command.  There is no new and separate command directed only to wives.  Patriarchal translators create the illusion that there are two different kinds of commands–one in Ephesians 5:21 directed to all Christians, and another in Ephesians 5:22 directed exclusively to wives.  The added command appears to reinforce a gender-based hierarchy in Christian homes.  It is important to recognize that this is not grammatically possible in the Greek text of the oldest available manuscripts.  It is only possible if a second imperative verb is inserted into verse 22.[iii]  The submission that exists in marriage from wives to husbands is one example of the humility and loving service that all Christians who are filled with the Spirit are called upon to demonstrate.

In Ephesians 5:24  Paul does not tell wives that they “ought to be” submissive to their husbands.  Rather, he makes an observation regarding “the way things were” in ancient Greek, Roman and Jewish cultures.  The verb he uses in verse 24 in reference to wives is “hupotassetai” (are subject); it is a present, indicative, middle or passive verb.  When understood in the passive voice, it is not a command; rather, it is used to describe something as it already is.[iv]  The same verb, in the same tense, mood and voice is used in Luke 10:20: “Nevertheless do not rejoice in this, that the spirits are subject (hupotassetai) to you, but rejoice that your names are recorded in heaven” (NASB).  The disciples discovered that unclean spirits “were subject” to them, in Jesus’ name.  This was not a command; it was an observation.  The same verb, in the same tense, mood and voice is used again in 1 Corinthians 14:32: “and the spirits of prophets are subject (hupotassetai) to prophets” (NASB).  Paul is explaining that a prophet’s spirit “is subject” to him or her.  This means that people have control over when and how they might prophesy.  Again, this is an observation, not a command.

When the biblical authors talk about what someone “should” or “ought” to do, they typically make use of the Greek words “opheilo” or “dei.”[v]  One example of such a statement is found in Luke 13:14: “But the synagogue official, indignant because Jesus had healed on the Sabbath, began saying to the crowd in response, ‘There are six days in which work should (dei) be done ; so come during them and get healed, and not on the Sabbath day.’”  The teachers of the Law are telling people how they “should” behave.  They are talking about a legal obligation, expectation or command.  They are telling people what to do.  Another example is found in Luke 18:1: “Now He was telling them a parable to show that at all times they ought (dein) to pray and not to lose heart” (NASB).  Jesus was telling his disciples what they “ought to” do.  He is giving them instructions that they are meant to follow.

Paul’s use of hupotassetai (are subject) with regard to wives in Ephesians 5:24 is the same as Luke’s use of the same word regarding unclean spirits and the spirits of the prophets.  In these texts, the Greek words opheilo and dei are absent.  Translators of the NASB version of the Bible acknowledge that they have added the phrase “ought to be” to the text of Ephesians 5:24. [vi]  This phrase is not found in any Greek manuscripts of this passage.[vii]  Paul is not telling wives what they “ought to” do; rather he is describing a situation that already existed at the time he wrote his letter.

To understand the situation Paul is referring to, it is helpful to become familiar with the Greco-Roman and Jewish literature of the New Testament era, concerning the relationship between husbands and wives.  According to Greek philosophy, which was embraced throughout the Roman Empire, a man was indeed the “lord” of his household, and women were “subject” to his authority.  According to Aristotle, women were to be viewed as the slaves and possessions of a man.[viii]  A similar view of women was proposed by the Jewish philosopher, Philo of Alexandria.[ix]  In the eyes of 1st century Greeks, Romans and Jews, men did indeed exercise lordship over women, children and slaves.

This is the culture Paul is addressing in his letter, and he correctly observes that wives “are subject” to husbands.  Instead of affirming this role, however, Paul says something very different; he tells husbands to imitate the love of Jesus, who laid aside his divine authority to make himself a servant: “Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her” (Ephesians 5:25, NIV).  Unlike the passive verb Paul uses to describe the pre-existing submission of wives, the verb directed towards husbands is present, active and imperative.  Simply put, it is a command.  Paul is indeed telling husbands what they “ought to do.”  In fact, he uses this exact language not with wives, but rather with husbands in Ephesians 5:28: “So ought [ophelousin] husbands to love their wives.”  This is not a command that Greek, Roman or Jewish men would have been accustomed to hearing.  Men filled with the Spirit, however, would “submit” themselves to other Christians–including women, including their wives: “submitting one to another out of reverence for Christ.”

In its original language and cultural context, how might we understand the apostle Paul’s overall message in Ephesians 5:18-28?  Be filled with the Spirit, submitting one to another, just as wives do to husbands, and just as the church does to Christ.  Husbands, you ought also to love and serve your wives, just as Christ loved and served the church, giving His life for her on the cross.

A patriarchal/complementarian reading of Ephesians 5:21-28 rejects the notion of mutual submission in Christian marriage.  It insists that just as Jesus was the Lord and Master of the church, so too must a husband be lord and master of his wife.  In other words, according to patriarchal theology, it is the “lordship” of Jesus that husbands are told to imitate in marriage.

Jesus fills many roles in his relationship to the church.  He is our “Lord.”  He is our High Priest.  He is the Good Shepherd.  He is our Teacher.  He is the Chief Cornerstone of God’s living temple, the church.  He made himself a servant and was obedient to the point of death on the cross to atone for our sins.  Among all of these aspects of Christ’s ministry on earth, husbands are told to imitate only one:

Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her, in order to make her holy by cleansing her with the washing of water by the word, so as to present the church to himself in splendor, without a spot or wrinkle or anything of the kind–yes, so that she may be holy and without blemish. (Ephesians 5:25-27, NRSV)

Husbands, love your wives, make yourselves a servant, just as Christ loved and served the church, even to the point of death on a cross.

The apostle Paul teaches the same principle of mutual servanthood in his letter to the Philippians:

Let the same mind be in you that was in Christ Jesus,
who, though he was in the form of God,
did not regard equality with God
as something to be exploited,
but emptied himself,
taking the form of a slave [doulos],
being born in human likeness.
And being found in human form,
he humbled himself
and became obedient to the point of death–
even death on a cross. (Philippians 2:5-8, NRSV)

Christians seeking to have “lordship” over others in the faith are firmly rebuked by our Saviour:

Jesus called them together and said, “You know that the rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their high officials exercise authority over them.  Not so with you.  Instead, whoever wants to become great among you must be your servant, and whoever wants to be first must be your slave–just as the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.” (Matthew 20:25-28, NIV)

Jesus reminds his followers that they have One Leader, and that is Christ alone.  All of Jesus’ followers are “siblings” and “equals”:

Do not be called leaders; for One is your Leader, that is, Christ.  But the greatest among you shall be your servant.  Whoever exalts himself shall be humbled; and whoever humbles himself shall be exalted. (Matthew 23:10-11, NASB)

Every Christian is called to love as Christ has loved us (John 13:35).  In the body of Christ, and in Christian homes, husbands are called to love, not to be lords over their wives.

(From Chapter 5 of “The Equality Workbook: Freedom in Christ from the Oppression of Patriarchy”)

End Notes:

[i] In his online article entitled “The Myth of Mutual Submission,” Complementarian Wayne Grudem claims, “the Greek text clearly specifies a restriction, ‘Wives, be subject to your own husbands,’” http://gospeltranslations.org/wiki/The_Myth_of_Mutual_Submission.

[ii] “P46 is a papyrus manuscript which dates from about 200. It is one of the oldest manuscripts we have. B is Codex Vaticanus, which is one of the best manuscripts we have, dating from about the fourth century. Neither of these manuscripts has a verb in verse 22,” http://episcopalarchives.org/cgi-bin/the_living_church/TLCarticle.pl?volume=221&issue=15&article_id=10; Photograph of Parchment 46: http://earlybible.com/manuscripts/p46-Eph-10.html; Cambridge Bible for Schools and Colleges: “It is probable that the Gr. original has no verb here,” http://biblehub.com/commentaries/ephesians/5-22.htm;  Nestle GNT “Αἱ γυναῖκες τοῖς ἰδίοις ἀνδράσιν,” http://biblehub.com/nestle/ephesians/5.htm.

[iii] The first instance on record of a second command “submit” being inserted into the Greek text of Ephesians 5:22 occurs in the middle of the 4th century A.D..  This alteration of the Greek coincides with the shift in Bible translation and commentary that we find in the 4th century work of St. Augustine and St. Jerome.

[iv] Hart, https://godswordtowomen.org/subject_to_their_own_husbands.pdf, pp. 3-4.

[v] http://www.biblestudytools.com/lexicons/greek/nas/opheilo.html; http://biblehub.com/greek/1163.htm.

[vi] New American Standard Bible: Text Edition with Illustrated Dictionary-Concordance (1977). New York, NY: The Lockman Foundation, Thomas Nelson Publishers, p. X & 819.

[vii] Parallel Greek texts of Ephesians 5:24, http://biblehub.com/texts/ephesians/5-24.htm.

[viii] Aristotle, Politics, Book I, Part II, translated by Benjamin Jowett, http://classics.mit.edu/Aristotle/politics.1.one.html.

[ix] Philo, Questions and Answers on Genesis, http://www.earlyjewishwritings.com/text/philo/book41.html.

Changing Genesis 3:16 to Rationalize the Subjugation of Women: A response to planned changes in the ESV Bible.

Immediately after both Adam and Eve choose to disobey God in the Garden of Eden, God predicts how this decision will impact the relationship between the sexes. He says to Eve, “Your desire will be for your husband, and he will rule over you” (Genesis 3:16, NIV). The subjugation of women by men is depicted as a tragic outcome of humanity’s decision to turn away from God and try to make our way without Him.

Sadly, patriarchal theologians have interpreted Genesis 3:16 not as a consequence of sin, but rather as a reflection of God’s will for husbands and wives. One complementarian website offers the following interpretation: “Eve will try to usurp her husband’s role as head, but God is requiring Adam to keep her from doing so.”[1] There are two problems with this kind of thinking. First, the passage does not say in any language (Hebrew, Greek, English) that a woman would desire “to usurp her husband’s role as head.” Rather, the passage simply says that while Eve will “desire” (long for, turn towards) her husband, he will “rule over” her. In Hebrew, the word translated “desire” is teshuqa. The same word is used in the Song of Solomon, in reference to a man’s desire for the woman he loves: “I belong to my beloved, and his desire (teshuqa) is for me. Come, my beloved, let us go to the countryside, let us spend the night in the villages” (7:10-11, NIV). Is this man desiring to “usurp the authority” of his romantic partner? No, he is not. There is no suggestion that teshuqa, either in the Song of Solomon or in Genesis 3:16, is a desire to usurp someone’s authority. Second, a patriarchal interpretation wrongly assumes that God’s prediction, “he will rule over you,” is actually a divine command: “he must rule over you.” Eve is portrayed as rebelling against “God’s created order,” and Adam is allegedly appointed to “keep her in her place.” The Hebrew text says none of this. Through patriarchal commentary, a horrifying consequence of humanity’s fall into sin (the male domination of women) is wrongly depicted as “the will of God.”

To reinforce a patriarchal interpretation of the passage, the publishers of the English Standard Version of the Bible (ESV) have recently announced that they are making changes to the English text of Genesis 3:16. The text is being changed from, “Your desire shall be for your husband, and he shall rule over you,” to “Your desire shall be contrary to your husband, but he shall rule over you.”[2] In addition to ignoring the meaning of the Hebrew word teshuqa (desire for) as it is used in Song of Solomon, the ESV also ignores the meaning of the Greek word used for desire in Genesis 3:16 of the Greek Septuagint. (The Septuagint is a 2nd century B.C. Greek translation of the Hebrew Scriptures.) The Greek word used to describe Eve’s “desire for” her husband is apostrophe. Writing in the first century A.D., historian Flavius Josephus used this word to mean turning to someone for deliverance. Here is an English translation of Josephus’ account:

But still, because there appeared no other way whither they could turn themselves for deliverance (apostrophe), they made haste the same way with the soldiers, and went to Claudius.[3]

Roman Senators who were previously opposed to the Emperor Claudius were deserted by the Roman army. With no other course available to them, they turned to Claudius for leniency, reaffirming their allegiance.

Born in the second century A.D., a Greek philosopher named Philostratus used apostrophe in a similar manner. In this account, servants of a man named Herodes turn to the people of Athens as a “haven”:

The terms of the will were as I have stated, and Atticus drew it up by the advice of his freedmen, who since they saw that Herodes was by nature prone to deal harshly with his freedmen and slaves, tried in this way to prepare a haven for themselves (apostrophe) among the people of Athens, by appearing responsible for the legacy.[4]

Expecting to be treated harshly by Herodes upon the death of his father Atticus, household servants turn to the people of Athens for refuge.

The use of apostrophe to mean turning towards someone for refuge or deliverance has a very long history. In the 5th century B.C., a historian named Herodotus used this word to explain that the Greeks had no one to turn to for water, but the god they called Zeus:

Greek land is watered by rain, but not by river water like theirs, they said that one day the Greeks would be let down by what they counted on, and miserably starve: meaning that if heaven send no rain for the Greeks and afflict them with drought, the Greeks will be overtaken by famine, for there is no other source of water for them [i.e. no one else to turn toapostrophe] except Zeus alone.[5]

The Perseus Digital Library from Tufts University explains that apostrophe was commonly used throughout the history of ancient Greek literature to mean, “when one turns away from all others to one, and addresses him specially.”[6] Reflecting this meaning, an apostrophe also became a literary device used in epic poetry; it occurs when a character turns away from one person (often a god or a judge) and turns suddenly to another person in a desperate appeal for sympathy, support or deliverance:

Apostrophe is turning away from the normal audience…and the addressing of another, second audience, surprisingly chosen by the speaker… Apostrophe is, so to speak, an emotional move of despair on the part of the speaker.[7]

Eve’s circumstances in the Garden of Eden mirror the contexts in which we find apostrophe used in ancient literature to represent a turning away from a god or a judge, and to an unexpected source for refuge. Eve (like Adam) had turned away from God by disobeying his command not to eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. Soon to be expelled from the garden, she would turn towards Adam (apostrophe). Rather than being the support she hoped for, however, he would now “rule over her.”

The male domination of women is portrayed in the book of Genesis as a direct consequence of human sin. Rather than accurately reflecting this biblical truth, the new ESV translation misrepresents Eve’s desire as somehow contrary to Adam’s rule. She is made to appear resistant to what is portrayed as Adam’s divinely ordained authority. In other words, a tragic consequence of humanity’s sinful choice is wrongly portrayed as God’s design.

It should be noted that the mistranslation of the new ESV does not appear to be simply an error. Some founding members of the highly patriarchal Council on Biblical Manhood and Womanhood (CBMW) have served on the ESV Advisory Council and Oversight Committee.[8] On their website, the CBMW endorses the ESV as “unapologetically complementarian.”[9] In other words, they firmly believe that patriarchy–the rule of men–is God’s will for humanity, and they evidently plan to alter the Bible’s language to conform to this belief. Their approach to the Bible brings to mind the words of the prophet Jeremiah:

How can you say, “We are wise,
and the law of the Lord is with us,”
when, in fact, the false pen of the scribes
has made it into a lie? (Jeremiah 8:8, NRSV)

End Notes:

1 Golden, S. (2012). Answers in Genesis: Is Male Headship a “Curse”? https://answersingenesis.org/family/gender/is-male-headship-a-curse/.

2 http://www.esv.org/about/pt-changes/.

3 Josephus, Judean Wars, http://sacred-texts.com/jud/josephus/war-2.htm.

4 Philostratus the Athenian, Vitae Sophistarum Carl Ludwig Kayser, Ed., http://www.perseus.tufts.edu/hopper/text?doc=Perseus:abo:tlg,0638,003:2:1:4&lang=original.

5 Herodotus, The Histories, A. D. Godley, Ed., http://www.perseus.tufts.edu/hopper/text?doc=Perseus%3Atext%3A1999.01.0126%3Abook%3D2%3Achapter%3D13.

6 LSJ, A III: http://www.perseus.tufts.edu/hopper/morph?l=a%29postrofh\&la=greek&can=a%29postrofh\0&prior=th=sd%27&d=Perseus:text:1999.01.0009:card=742&i=1#lexicon.

7 Sebastian, B. (2013). Apostrophe to the Gods in Ovid’s Metamorphoses, Lucan’s Pharsalia and Statius’ Thebaid, http://ufdcimages.uflib.ufl.edu/uf/e0/04/52/05/00001/sebastian_b.pdf.

8 ESV Translators, http://www.bible-researcher.com/esv-translators.html.

9 http://cbmw.org/uncategorized/literary-esv-is-unapologetically-complementarian/.

(From Chapter 2 of “The Equality Workbook: Freedom in Christ from the Oppression of Patriarchy”)