A Chronological Comparison Of Some English Translations Of Genesis 3:16b

  • Wycliffe (14th century; based on the Vulgate): “and thou schalt be undur power of the hoseband, and he schal be lord of thee”
  • Tyndale (1530s): “And thy lustes shall pertayne to thy husbond and he shall rule thee.”
  • Great Bible (1540): “Thy lust shall pertain to thy husband, and he shall have the rule of the[e].”
  • The Geneva Bible (1559): “and thy desire shall be subject to thy husband, and he shall rule over thee.”
  • King James Version (1611): “and thy desire shall be to thy husband, and he shall rule over thee.”
  • American Standard Version (1901): “and thy desire shall be to thy husband, and he shall rule over thee.”
  • New English Bible (1970): “You shall be eager [Or feel an urge] for your husband, and he shall be your master.”
  • Living Bible (1971): “yet even so, you shall welcome your husband’s affections, and he shall be your master.”
  • New American Standard Bible (1971): “Yet your desire will be for your husband, And he will rule over you.”
  • Revised Standard Version (1971, 2nd ed.): “yet your desire shall be for your husband, and he shall rule over you.”
  • New King James (1982): “Your desire shall be for your husband, And he shall rule over you.”
  • New Revised Standard Version (1989): “yet your desire shall be for your husband, and he shall rule over you.”
  • Good News Translation (1992): “In spite of this, you will still have desire for your husband, yet you will be subject to him.
  • New American Standard Bible (1995): “Yet your desire will be for your husband, And he will rule over you.”
  • English Standard Version (2001): “Your desire shall be for your husband, and he shall rule over you.”
  • New International Version (2011): “Your desire will be for your husband, and he will rule over you.”
  • New Living Translation (2013): “And you will desire to control your husband, but he will rule over you
  • English Standard Version (2016): “Your desire shall be contrary to your husband, and he shall rule over you.”

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  1. Sorry, I’m a bit slow. Is this related to complementarianism the whole Eternal Subordinationism controversy?

  2. Need to put second edition behind RSV 1971. Original edition was 1952. Feel free to delete this comment. Wikipedia is the source.

  3. Surely this goes back to Susan Foh, who wrote in WTJ 7 (1974/75) 376-83:

    “Contrary to the usual interpretations of commentators, the desire of the woman in Genesis 3:16b does not make the wife (more) submissive to her husband so that he may rule over her. Her desire is to contend with him for leadership in their relationship. This desire is a result of and a just punishment for sin, but it is not God’s decretive will for the woman. Consequently, the man must actively seek to rule his wife.”

    What was Foh’s new interpretation in 1975 has 40 years later been embedded in the translation.

    This was taken up by Grudem, Ware, George W. Knight III, Schreiner, Ortland Jr and so many others.

    The ESV has tinkered with so many verses to push this line, and I see this strongly associated with the eternal subordination debate (because they have made it so – which is, to me, nothing but old-fashioned Arianism in its ontological subordinationism, and in its projection from the created order back into the godhead). Its sticky fingers are there a few verses earlier in Gen 3:6, which in the ESV suggests that Adam was at Eve’s side when she ate the forbidden fruit and didn’t exercise proper control over her – exploiting an ambiguity of the meaning ‘with’ in English translations that cannot be substantiated from the Hebrew. And then, the ESV translation of I Cor 11:1-16 is simply outrageous, chopping and changing between man and woman and husband and wife to suit a narrative being forced upon it: the translators’ eisegesis. I have noted several translations in the ESV that lean towards both Arianism and Docetism. It is interesting to note the parallels between the mistranslations of John 1:14 and Gen 3:6: “the only God, who is at the Father’s side” and “she also gave some to her husband who was with her”.

    Rebutting feminism is not well served by dubious exegetical arguments, issuance of Bible translations with heavy-handed and faulty tampering, and the projection of subordinationism into the theology of the godhead.

  4. I don’t find Foh’s exegesis compelling. For a start, she compares with Gen 4:7b (which is fine as a linguistic comparison), and says the meaning is ‘its [sin’s] desire is for you, but you [Cain] must master it’, commenting “In Genesis 4:7 sin’s desire is to enslave Cain — to possess or control him, but the Lord commands, urges Cain to overpower sin, to master it.”

    This is objectionable in several respects. For a start the ‘sin’ in 4:7a is feminine, but the pronouns in 4:7b [rendered ‘its’ and ‘it’] are masculine, [cf KJV ‘And unto thee shall be his desire, and thou shalt rule over him.’]

    Secondly, the ‘lying’ or ‘crouching’ at the door uses the Hebrew verb for the recumbent position of a quadruped, and so, in the context of acceptable sacrifice, it is far more likely that ‘sin’ is a figure of speech (as frequently used elsewhere in the OT) for ‘sin offering’ such as a lamb – there was a sin-offering to hand, even at the door.

    Thirdly, on a theological note, Foh’s suggestion is objectionable as practical Pelagianism. This event was after the Fall, with a man conceived after the Fall, when man was already enslaved to sin not merely potentially subject to it, (and certainly Cain was, as the narrative demonstrates), and had no ability to ‘overpower sin, to master it’. Foh misses the point that God is directing Cain not to mastery of sin but to substitutionary atonement, prefigured in the sin offering, which Cain already knew had been accepted by God when offered by his brother. ‘If thou doest well, shalt thou not be accepted? and if thou doest not well, sin lieth at the door’ can thus easily be understood that the sin offering (a lamb?) that lay at the door was even provided by God himself for atonement, should Cain accept that he had need of it because he (like us all) ‘did not do well’ and so could not be ‘accepted’ on his own merits.

    So, I think Foh has got the wrong end of the stick in 4:7, and then she draws a parallel with 3:16b, which she must inevitably get wrong also. However, as I mentioned, this new interpretation by Foh (did the church really have to wait until 1975 to get the ‘right’ interpretation?) was eagerly seized upon by some as just what they were looking for, perhaps because it had the ‘street cred’ of appearing in the WTJ.

  5. Is there a summary somewhere of the ESV’s revision process or history? The Bible I purchased recently was the ESV translation, and gives an initial copyright of 2001, with a note stating that the text is the 2011 edition of the translation.

    Gen. 3:16b reads in it, “Your desire shall be for your husband, and he shall rule over you,” though a footnote (the ESV seems plagued by them) suggests “against” as a possibility. It seems odd that they’d now promote the previous footnote, especially as it runs against the entire strain of English translation.

    I’m perhaps most perplexed in that, in English, the new text has connotations of will rather than emotion.

  6. John Gil, the Particularly Baptist has some interesting comment which seems to back the
    Genevan Translation in that “thy desire shall be subject to thy husband,”

    and thy desire shall be to thy husband, which some understand of her desire to the use of the marriage bed, as Jarchi, and even notwithstanding her sorrows and pains in child bearing; but rather this is to be understood of her being solely at the will and pleasure of her husband; that whatever she desired should be referred to him, whether she should have her desire or not, or the thing she desired; it should be liable to be controlled by his will, which must determine it, and to which she must be subject, as follows:

    and he shall rule over thee, with less kindness and gentleness, with more rigour and strictness: it looks as if before the transgression there was a greater equality between the man and the woman, or man did not exercise the authority over the woman he afterwards did, or the subjection of her to him was more pleasant and agreeable than now it would be; and this was her chastisement, because she did not ask advice of her husband about eating the fruit, but did it of herself, without his will and consent, and tempted him to do the same.

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