Teshuqa Turnings – Rabbinical Roots of Desire

Teshuqa Turnings – Rabbinical Roots of Desire

In all English translations, Genesis 3:16 says that “…Your desire will be for your husband, and he will rule over you.” The word that is  translated as “desire” in today’s English Bible is the Hebrew noun teshuqa. It’s meaning underwent a transformation over the centuries from “turning” in the Greek Septuagint to “desire” in today’s English translations. (Read more) This change of teshuqa can be traced to the Jewish Talmud by following the influence of Jewish scholars on Bible translators, notably Jerome.

From Rabbi to Latin (app. 4th century CE)

The Rabbinical teaching  found in the Talmud and other Midrash was being formed and compiled only after the destruction of the temple in 70 CE. Originally, the Rabbis passed their teaching along orally . This oral tradition became the foundation of Jewish religious law, called the Mishnah. Rabbis continued to debate and make legal judgement from the Mishnah, and this commentary formed the Gemara. Together, the Mishnah and the Gemara form a Talmud. The most influential Talmud was the Babylonian Talmud. Scholars point to 200 CE as being the earliest  date for the first completed Talmud, but most point to a later date in the 4th century.

Many of our Christian “traditions” regarding the creation of humans are first found in the Talmud or the extended teachings on the Talmud (Midrash). It is in the Talmud that we first hear of Adam’s “rib” as opposed to his “side,” and we are taught that Eve was a temptress. Here we find much imaginative and explicit exposition about the sexuality between Adam and Eve…and yes, even the serpent. It is also here that we find that teshuqa has been re-defined as “urge,” and the battle of the sexes is born. The all-male Jewish rabbis filled volumes with their ideas about women and women’s behavior.

The depiction of the woman’s creation leads the Rabbis to inquire into gender differences and the nature of the female sex, all through the eyes of the male Rabbis. They discuss woman’s different temperament, her mental maturity, her habits, the physical shape of her body, her behavior, and other aspects of female existence. Tamar Kadari

It is only after the compilation of the Talmud that we see a different definition for teshuqa than “turning” in translations from the Hebrew. Jerome, arguably the most influential Bible translator on early English translators, spent 35 years studying alongside Jewish scholars, and his Bible , the Latin Vulgate, is known to display rabbinical influence in its translation. And we see it pop up in his translation of Genesis 3:16. “Thou shalt be under the power of a husband.” Centuries later, English translators followed course and the original meaning of teshuqa was lost.

From Hebrew to Greek (app. 2nd century BCE)

Let’s back up a bit further.

During the 3rd and 2nd centuries BCE, seventy-two Jewish scholars convened in Alexandria to translate the Hebrew Scriptures into Koine Greek for the Alexandrian library. They translated teshuqa as “turning.” Jesus, his disciples, 1st century Rabbis, even Paul, all used the Septuagint as evidenced by its quotations throughout the New Testament. Genesis 3:16 said that “Eve’s turning was to her husband” in every Greek Scriptures, and other notable translations from that time.

Now understand, the Rabbis, called Sages at that time, were teaching all during the five hundred years from the translation of the Septuagint (132 BCE) until the Talmud was compiled in approximately the 3rd century CE. So, I’m sure their ideas of Eve’s teshuqa as desire was commonly taught in synagogues and academies. When they pulled out their Hebrew Torah, they could have expounded on teshuqa as desire. But, if they pulled out the most widely accepted Greek Scriptures, they would have read “turning.”

teshuqa-illustration Where did the substitution with desire occur?

The Ten Curses of Eve

The Talmud tells us of Eve’s Ten Curses. (Babylonian Talmud, p 2684,  Eiruvin, 100b)

“R. Yitzchak bar Avodimi [Rabbi Isaac Abdimi] taught that Chavah [Eve] received 10 curses.”

  1. “Greatly multiply” (blood of mensuration and virginity)
  2. “thy sorrow/pangs” (pain in child rearing)
  3. “thy conception” (pain of impregnation)
  4. “in sorrow shalt thous bring forth children” (childbirth pain)
  5. “thy desire/urge shall be unto thy husband” (the heartache felt by a woman when her husband sets out on a journey)
  6. “and he shall rule over you” (the distress of woman, who desires intercourse only in her heart, while the man can explicitly demand it )
    [In Eruvin ,there is a break here as the student declares: “But that’s only seven!” I guess ancient Jewish disciples can’t count. I can’t seem to make sense of the numbering. This is my best guess.]
  7. “the woman is garbed like a mourner”
  8. “she must cover her head”
  9. “she is banished from the company of all men” (She may not be married to two men. She is forbidden to all men other than her husband, whereas a man can have two wives.)
  10. “and she is imprisoned” (since she is always at home)

Additional points: “She grows hair like a Shed [Lilith]. She sits while urinating, like a mule. She is a pillow to her husband [she is underneath during relations].”

Adapted from PROPER CONDUCT REGARDING RELATIONS, ERUVIN 100, prepared by Rabbi Pesach Feldman

Inbar Raveh, in  Feminist Rereading of Rabbinic Literature (p 42-46), explains this midrash-teaching on the punishment of Eve as having two parts: biological and social. The social curses were designed to do the very thing God prophesied in Genesis 3:16: control  women. Eve’s teshuqa was recast as sexual desire and then harnessed with the words of Curse #6: “and he shall rule over you.” A woman will feel desire, but may not act on it. She is cursed to repressing her sexual desire to the man’s. To a man’s mind, there is nothing so punishing as resisting a sexual urge, right? The Curses of Eve were designed to control the most important aspect of women from a man’s point of view: her sexuality. And since Rabbis were all men, they had no correcting female voice to balance the veracity of their ideas of what Eve’s teshuqa really was.

Ironically, Raveh points out that there are many cracks in the Rabbi’s reasoning which might reveal the true motive behind the redefining of teshuqa to sexual lust; mainly, that “a woman’s desire for her husband is not, in fact, self-evident…Thus, in between the cracks of the midrash there seeps a pervasive anxiety concerning feminine ambivalence toward the heterosexual monogamous institution of marriage whose ultimate aim is childbirth.”(p. 46)  Could the transformation of teshuqa from “turning” to “desire” be nothing more than wishful thinking on the part of the all-male Jewish Rabbis?

Perhaps the Rabbis connected the dots back from childbirth to intercourse, and then assumed this was the intent of the word teshuqa? We get that impression from another midrash found in Genesis Rabbah, which is a verse by verse Jewish commentary on Genesis. In this portion on Genesis 3:16, a glimpse at teshuqa‘s original meaning is seen, indicating the original meaning of “turning” was not lost on the Jewish Rabbis. Notice too, the connection the woman in labor makes with the act that put her in such agony, and the Rabbi’s commentary taking the authority of God’s Voice in insisting her “desire” will “return.”

Another interpretation of “And thy desire shall be to thy husband”:

When a woman sits on the birthstool, she declares, ‘I will henceforth never fulfil my marital duties/ whereupon the Holy One, blessed be He, says to her : ‘ Thou wilt return to thy desire, thou wilt return to the desire for thy husband.’

Genesis Rabbah 20, 7-8 (p 166) [emphasis mine]

Who knows? This might be the passage that teshuqa‘s meaning crossed over once and for all into the land of desire?

Rabbi says!

The rabbinical understanding of women and the role of women is disturbing in parts of the Talmud. Their attitude is summed up in the notorious prayer of Jewish men thanking God for not making them a woman. Equally so, is Jerome’s outright scorn of anything female, which highly influenced the medieval church’s position on women. How heartbreaking that these men have defiled Eve’s teshuqa, transforming women into sexual effigies and creating centuries of misunderstanding and stigma and justification for male domination.

We cannot allow them the last word on Eve and her daughters. Instead, let us turn to the Great Rabbi, Jesus of Nazareth. When faced with the chance to scorn and judge woman’s sin, to exaggerate or berate her wrong choices, to expound upon the weakness of women and justify male dominance…  he simply says,

“I do not condemn you.”

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Teshuqa Turnings – Times Three

Teshuqa Turnings – Times Three

The translation of the noun teshuqa in Hebrew from “turning” in the Greek Septuagint (and other early non-Hebrew translations) to “desire” in today’s English translations is a bit of an enigma. (Read the history of this change.) In the Old Testament, teshuqa is rarely used. In fact,  it is used only three times.

Genesis 3:16: [to Eve] … your teshuqa to your man…

Genesis 4:7 [to Cain]…sin’s (or Abel’s) teshuqa toward you…

Song of Songs 7:10 [about lover]…his teshuqa at me…

I list the three occurrences not to show you the similarities or differences, but simply to illustrate how narrow the use of teshuqa is. It is tempting to  start at one verse and argue backward to a definition in another verse, but that is generally considered poor exegesis. Each verse carries its own context, and even though the meaning of the word may be consistent, it’s place within the sentence often lends a nuance leading to differing translation. So, my BIG caution is to be wary of interpretations that rely fundamentally (and that word is key) on how another verse uses the word in question.

But, the fact is, the interpretations of these other two verses HAVE influenced the translation of the word teshuqa in Genesis 3:16. The context of Genesis 4:7 is anger that leads to jealous murder. Naturally, we see overtones of dominance and control. Song of Songs 7:10 is smack in the middle of euphemistic poetry describing intimacy, so of course we feel the undercurrent of sensual desire. But can either of those connotations be accurately overlaid on teshuqa in Genesis 3:16?

Dominance?

In the new ESV-unchangeable-so-shall-it-forever-be-version (I just can’t help myself), we witness the culmination of decades of scholarship interpreting Genesis 3:16 from a starting point in Genesis 4:7. In 4:7, it is sin’s teshuqa to Cain that certain scholars believe parallels the woman’s teshuqa to man in 3:16. The context of 4:7 is set in the midst of conflict as God warns Cain that if he does not follow the right way, sin would be at his door and it’s teshuqa toward him. Cain is instructed to resist sin by controlling or ruling over it. There is an apparent enmity, and rightly so, between sin and Cain.

(It is a newer trend, for the last hundred years or so, to interpret Genesis 4:7 as referring to sin. Older theologians believed it was referencing Abel. If it is Abel’s teshuqa, then the heightened sense of domination disappears.It could also be interpreted as referring to Cain’s sin offering. The Hebrew does not have a clear meaning, which should caution basing a foundation theological point on it.)

As a result, many on the ESV Oversight Committee read enmity between the principle players in the context of 3:16. See what John Piper wrote about Genesis 3:16.

But what is really being said here? …

The key comes from recognizing the connection between the last words of this verse (3:16b) and the last words of Genesis 4:7

…When 4:7 says that sin is crouching at the door of Cain’s heart (like a lion, Genesis 49:9) and that it’s desire is for him, it means that sin wants to overpower him. It wants to defeat him and subdue him and make him the slave of sin…

…Now when we go back to 3:16 we should probably see the same meaning in the sinful desire of woman. When it says, “Your desire shall be for your husband,” it means that when sin has the upper hand in woman she will desire to overpower or subdue or exploit man.

Eve wants to control Adam, but Adam will rule over her. The play for power in Genesis 4:7 is overlaid onto 3:16, and as a result, we begin to hear popular speakers and preachers discussing the “curse” on Eve as wives desiring to manipulate and have dominance over their husbands, just like sin did to Cain. The ESV inserts this desire for dominance into 3:16 with the words, “your teshuqa (desire in ESV) shall be contrary to your husband.” Enmity achieved.

As stated previously, I believe relying solely on a word as it is used in another context is poor exegetical practice. And in this case, it results in a number of problems.

  1. There is a major linguistic complication in 4:7 that is not present in 3:16. The presence of a conditional phrase as introduction. God warns with the word “if,” and introduces two possible outcomes. This conditional element is not found in 3:16 and it complicates a straight parallel comparison with presumptions.
  2. Where do we draw the line at a straight parallel between the two verses? Woman has a teshuqa and sin has a teshuqa. Are they the same thing? Sin and women are both “ruled.” I hope we all get uncomfortable with the direction this could go in likening women to sin…and tragically you and I both know that religious scholars have delved deeply in these comparisons over the years resulting in millennia of subjugation and rotten theology.
  3. The parallel breaks down even further when we proceed to the second phrase found in both 3:16 and 4:7: “he/you will rule over you/it.” Cain did not succeed in ruling sin. Indeed no man anywhere (except Jesus) has subjugated sin. Too bad we couldn’t apply Cain’s same halfhearted effort to man’s rule over women! The contextual parallels of the two phrases just don’t match up without back flips and stretches.
  4. This mismatch of logical fallacies  should warn us against translating teshuqa in 3:16 on the basis of the context in 4:7.

 Desire?

The most widely used English translation for teshuqa today is “desire.” How did this definition make its way to our English page? Katharine Bushnell initiated the search for the roots of “desire” from teshuqa in the early 1900s, but continued study has not gained much momentum in the last hundred years outside egalitarian circles. Why was the meaning of teshuqa changed to desire? I like Bushnell’s explanation.

It must, then, impress reasoning minds that the interpretation of Genesis 3:16 has had a history something like this: Men of old found a phrase here that seemed to have to do with woman’s relation to her husband, but it was beyond their comprehension. Unconsciously these men of olden time have consulted their own ideas of what a wife should be, in relation to her husband, and inserted those ideas into their interpretation. The interpretation has been accepted by other men, without challenge, because it conformed to their unsanctified wishes, and handed on from generation to generation, until it became weighty through “tradition.” No effort, scarcely has been put forth to reconcile such teaching with the spirit of Jesus Christ. (para. 112)

Bushnell suspects the definition was changed because the of male bias in the translation process. This charge deserves a post of its own along with the origin of lust/desire to Genesis 3:16.

But, what about the influence of Song of Songs (Songs) 7:10 on Genesis 3:16? Interestingly, all early English versions (15th-16th centuries) retain “turning” as the meaning of teshuqa in Songs 7:10, but translate teshuqa as “lust” or “power” or “appetite” in Genesis 3:16. So, the original meaning of teshuqa was not lost on the early English translators. Though, by the end of the 1700s, all three verses were unified in their translation to “desire.” And the turning of teshuqa‘s meaning in English was complete. So historically, the influence of “desire” did not originate in Songs 7:10, but the other way around with “desire” in Genesis 3:16 taking the lead.

Three Turnings

I close with the three uses of teshuqa translated with its original meaning.

Genesis 3:16 You are turning to your husband, and he will rule over you.

Genesis 4:7  But if you do not do what is right, sin is crouching at your door; it is turning to you, but you must rule over it.

Songs 7:10 I belong to my beloved and he is turning to me!

 

Teshuqa Turnings (Genesis 3:16)

Teshuqa Turnings (Genesis 3:16)

In Genesis 3:16, the word that is most often translated as “desire” in today’s English Bible is the Hebrew noun teshuqa. It’s meaning underwent a transformation over the centuries from “turning” in the Greek Septuagint (and other early non-Hebrew translations) to “desire” in today’s English translations. Why this happened is a bit of an enigma and fodder for another post. (Read the history of this change.)

Teshuqa Turnings is an exploration of the original definition of the word. Through a series of posts, we’ll explore what could teshuqa  have meant for the story of the fall? What could it teach us about women and men? Where did the definition of desire come from? What is important about the ESV changes to this word? How has the altered definitions affected women through the centuries?

The etymology of teshuqa from Katharine C. Bushnell

The noun teshuqa is derived from the verb shuq  which means in its primitive form “to run.” It is prefaced with te which is an abstracting device, like adding “ness” to “good” to make “goodness.” The ending is a, which is a normal feminine ending for Hebrew. “If this word is taken from the intensive form of the verb, it would bear the sense ‘to run repeatedly,’ that is ‘to run back and forth.'” The back and forth motion necessitates turning which is where teshuqa might have found its source meaning. It is an abstract noun, not literal in meaning. It describes a quality of character. (This information was paraphrased or quoted from God’s Word to Women, para. 129)

Eve’s Curse?

Genesis 3:16 has traditionally been called “the curse of Eve.” This misapplied title must be rejected, for this verse holds no curse words. The curse on the serpent begins with the words, “because you have done this…cursed are you.” The curse on the ground because of Adam begins with the words, “because you listened to your wife and ate fruit from the tree about which I commanded you…cursed is the ground.” But there is no curse for Eve, no words of culpability. Even the notorious, “I will greatly increase your pain” is not so intentional in the Hebrew, lending a passive tone to Eve’s oncoming sorrows. This pain of children could be called a curse, but it is not inflicted by the hand of God as such. At least, He does not name it so. Eve was His friend.

Eve’s teshuqa or “turning”

Eve’s turning is to follow Adam away from God. Her pain begins when she leaves the Garden and God’s intimate friendship to follow Adam. Some points to consider:

Satan tempted Eve because Adam was already on or leaning toward his side. Adam didn’t need to be tempted. (Gen 2:15-18)

In her innocence, Eve was completely deceived by the serpent’s guile. Adam was not. (Gen 3:6, 13, 1 Tim 2:14, 2 Cor 11:3, Job 31:33, Hosea 6:7, Romans 5:12-21)

Adam continues in his rebellion and joins Satan in blaming God for the evil that was now present inside him. (Gen 3:12)

When queried, Eve accuses the true adversary. She tells the truth about her deception and that Satan was to blame. (Gen 3:13)

Because she named the enemy, Satan would war with woman. But God prophesied that woman would be victorious. Her heir would defeat him. (Gen 3:15)

Adam would toil for the things that God freely provided for him in the loving commune of the Garden. Adam would struggle in his new role of provider because that was not a role he was meant to play. (Gen 3:17-19)

Adam would physically die. (Gen 3:19)

Life was found in Eve. She is titled “the source of life” in hopeful anguish by her husband who had just received his death sentence. (Gen 3:20)

Adam, the man, was banished from the garden so that he would not eat of the Tree of Life and live forever separated from God’s goodness. (Gen 3:22-24)

Then, Eve turned and followed Adam.

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ESV changes Genesis 3:16 – A brief history of this verse’s transformation

ESV changes Genesis 3:16  – A brief history of this verse’s transformation

One word in Genesis 3:16 has caused centuries of controversy. Why? Because this one word affects half the world’s population, the women. What is that word? teshuqa What does it mean? Well, let me introduce you to the evolution of teshuqa  from “turning” to “desire,” and now in the unchangeable ESV to “contrary to.”

A brief history of teshuqa

The following is a summary from Katharine Bushnell’s book God’s Word to Women.

Below is Genesis 3:16 in its natural beauty, in Hebrew. It is in this original form that you find the word teshuqa

 אֶֽל־הָאִשָּׁה אָמַר הַרְבָּה אַרְבֶּה עִצְּבֹונֵךְ וְהֵֽרֹנֵךְ בְּעֶצֶב

תֵּֽלְדִי בָנִים וְאֶל־אִישֵׁךְ תְּשׁוּקָתֵךְ וְהוּא יִמְשָׁל־בָּֽךְ׃ ס

Below it is in the form as Jesus read it. This is from the Septuagint, which is the Greek translation of the Hebrew Scriptures (the Old Testament). The seventy two Jewish scholars, whose goal was to put their ancient Scriptures into a language that the common (literate) person could read, translated teshuqa to ἀποστροφή in Greek. To a Greek reader, teshuqa is defined as “turning (BDAG 100).”

καὶ τῇ γυναικὶ εἶπεν πληθύνων πληθυνῶ τὰς λύπας σου καὶ τὸν στεναγμόν σου ἐν λύπαις τέξῃ τέκνα καὶ πρὸς τὸν ἄνδρα σου ἡ ἀποστροφή σου καὶ αὐτός σου κυριεύσει

For the next few centuries, the notable translations (Syriac version from the first century, Samaritan version, Old Latin version, various Coptic versions) all translated teshuqa in Genesis 3:16 with the same meaning as the Septuagint: “turning.” There were various other Greek translations that we have bits and pieces of. Most follow the Septuagint and render teshuqa as “turning” or some cognate. Notably, one of these Greek translations pulls in the idea of alliance to teshuqaThe Arabic version even concurs.

The first notable departure for teshuqa is found in Jerome’s translation to Latin in the late fourth century. Below is Genesis 3:16 in the Latin Vulgate.

mulieri quoque dixit multiplicabo aerumnas tuas et conceptus tuos in dolore paries filios et sub viri potestate eris et ipse dominabitur tui

Jerome pulls rabbinical interpretation into the mix by rendering teshuqa  as “under the power of.” This is such a departure, Katharine Bushnell speculates Jerome picked up this idea from the Jewish Talmud’s Ten curses of Eve while studying in Palestine (now-Israel).  This rabbinic Midrash blames Eve for tempting Adam and expounds upon God’s curse of all women as the result. It is Jerome’s Latin Vulgate that we get the first definition of teshuqa with hints of desire or lust. Or, as Bushnell words so bluntly:

Jerome plainly shows he does not know what teshuqa means, but since the latter part of the phrase refers to the man’s part,—”he will rule over thee,”—he concludes that the beginning of the passage must refer to woman’s position, and renders, “Thou shalt be under the power of a husband.” –Katharine Bushnell 

Fast forward to English translator, John Wycliffe, in the 14th century. Wycliffe did not go back to the Hebrew to make his translation, he used Jerome’s Latin. Hence, it is evident his version of Genesis 3:16 completely misses the original meaning of teshuqa, but relies heavily on Jerome’s mis-translation.

Also God said to the woman, I shall multiply thy wretchednesses and thy conceivings; in sorrow thou shalt bear thy children; and thou shalt be under (the) power of thine husband, and he shall be lord of thee.

Drawing heavily on Jewish midrash on Genesis, which draws all sorts of conclusions surrounding a woman’s urge, lust or desire for men, Pagnino (an Italian Dominican monk in mid-16th century) translates teshuqa  as “lust.”  Every English version thereafter repeats this definition of teshuqa  as lust or desire. On the cusp of the 17th century, the Geneva Bible cements teshuqa as modern translators have adopted.

In sorrow shalt thou bring forth children, and thy desire shall be subject to thy husband, and he shall rule over thee.

From “Desire” to “Contrary to”

Recently, the ESV translators have written their version of teshuqa in stone and declared they will never change it.

Your desire shall be contrary to your husband, but he shall rule over you.

How did they get “contrary to” from “desire?” And what about its original meaning of “turning?” We’ve come a long way from the definition Jesus used!

My guess is that the translators are confusing Genesis 3:16 as God’s prescription for women for God’s description of what would occur to women after the fall. So what the ESV translators have given us is a their interpretive understanding of what God is talking about in Genesis 3:16, instead of what  teshuqa actually means. Naturally, this must happen in all translation because language doesn’t literally equate word for word and make sense. The ESV has prided itself on adherence to the original language, even at expense of a natural English reading, but it has failed miserably in Genesis 3:16.

Conclusion

My hope is that this brief summary of teshuqa ‘s  evolution will caution you to accept the new definition. Another article will have to be written on why ESV’s new definition is dangerous. Another day.

Satan’s best tactic

Satan’s best tactic

How many of you have heard the sermon about what to do when tempted? <raises hand>

I bet the teacher used either the temptation of Jesus or the armor of God as text, right?

  • What did Jesus do when faced with temptation? He quoted God’s Word, of course!
  • We must weild the sword of the Spirit, which is the Word of God!

But does quoting the Words of God alone work in our battle against sin? Nope. Words are not a talisman of protection against strong desire or deceit. In fact, referencing God’s Word is Satan’s best tactic in tempting Christians to act like heathens. As the first woman learned to her shame.

The Bible describes two famous temptation scenes: The First Humans and Jesus.

These two stories have much in common. Both Jesus and the First Humans were perfect. Neither knew what life was like unconnected to God. Unlike us, they were not enticed by the evil desires of their flesh, because their flesh did not desire sinful things. (James 1:14-15) Could that be why a literal Being presented itself as the tempting force?

Both the First Humans and Jesus were tempted by the evil one, who took visible form and talked with them. Not only did Satan appear, he initiated.

Now the serpent was more crafty than any of the wild animals the LORD God had made. He said to the woman…

Then Jesus was led by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil. After fasting forty days and forty nights, he was hungry. The tempter came to him

The devil used food as his opener.

…“Did God really say, ‘You must not eat from any tree in the garden’?” It asked the woman.

The devil said to him, “If you are the Son of God, tell this stone to become bread.”

Both Eve and Jesus battled with God’s Word.

[The woman said] … God did say, ‘You must not eat fruit from the tree that is in the middle of the garden, and you must not touch it, or you will die.’

Jesus answered, “It is written: ‘Man shall not live on bread alone.’”

Satan responded by using God’s Word. To the woman he said God said something He never did, and to Jesus he twisted the context.

You will not certainly die,” the serpent said to the woman. “For God knows that when you eat from it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.”

Then the devil took him to the holy city and had him stand on the highest point of the temple. “If you are the Son of God,” he said, “throw yourself down. For it is written:  “‘He will command his angels concerning you, and they will lift you up in their hands, so that you will not strike your foot against a stone.’”

Eve used God’s Word, but it wasn’t enough.

These two situations had more in common than not. But the distinction is what made the difference between success and failure. Eve was deceived.  She probably didn’t even know she was being tempted! She believed something that wasn’t. She acted on information that was false. Believing she was doing the right thing, she ate. But she understood God all wrong. And she was ashamed that she was duped by lies.

Oh dear. How often have I done the exact same thing? Believing my actions were what was required from God’s Word, I’ve sown discord, pain and destruction. Looking back, I realize I was tempted with pride, self-righteousness and the fear of man. I succumbed to the deceit of those desires. And, I too am ashamed I fell for the lies I believed about God.

3 But I am afraid that just as Eve was deceived by the serpent’s cunning, your minds may somehow be led astray from your sincere and pure devotion to Christ.  2 Corinthians 11

Paul, who wrote those warning verses, understood deceit. He was a zealous Jew. He loved God’s Word. He believed killing Christians was the right way to serve God. His sincere desire was to live -or die – for the Lord. But he got it all wrong.

Deceit blinds us to the temptation.

13 Even though I was once a blasphemer and a persecutor and a violent man, I was shown mercy because I acted in ignorance and unbelief.  1 Timothy 1

I wonder at this. Can I even tell I’m being tempted if there is deceit sugaring the bait? How can I battle this ignorance? Paul was blindly sinning away, all the while believing he was acting righteously…based on his understanding of the Word of God. Only an encounter with the true Word, the incarnate and resurrected Christ, set him straight. And this is what he taught as the antidote to deceit. Holding our beliefs up to the light of Jesus, with the help of His Spirit. Paul knew how easy  it is to be deceived, and so he warns Christians to be aware to the possibility that teachers are twisting God’s Word to bind us to a gospel that is not Jesus’. Just like Satan. (2 Corinthians 11:13-15)

Heed the warning.

There really isn’t a formula of Words. Sure, knowing God’s truth helps us discern error, but what if we ignorantly follow an interpretation that is in itself an error? It is Satan’s best tactic. He twists God’s Word to tempt us.

 

 

Here I lay my Ebenezer

We sang “Come Thou Fount” this morning in church. They skipped the Ebenezer verse. Boo. So, because I’m plagued with a condition called Earworms, I’ve been humming that vacant verse all morning.

Here I raise my ebenezer,
Hither by thy help I’ve come.

Eben-ezer

Before Ebenezer was Scrooge, it was a place. Eben, in Hebrew, means Rock or Stone. Ezer means help. The history behind the location of this helpful rock is found in 1 Samuel 7.

When the Phillistines gathered to attack Israel at Mizpah, Samuel asked the Lord for help in defeating them.  This wasn’t a case of needing an extra hand to finish the job. The Israelites were facing death without help. They didn’t just need assitance in winning the battle. They needed rescuing.

10 While Samuel was sacrificing the burnt offering, the Philistines drew near to engage Israel in battle. But that day the Lord thundered with loud thunder against the Philistines and threw them into such a panic that they were routed before the Israelites.11 The men of Israel rushed out of Mizpah and pursued the Philistines, slaughtering them along the way to a point below Beth Kar.

To bear witness to God’s help, Samuel erected a standing stone. Standing stones were common in the ancient world. They marked a place to be remembered. They said to the locals, “Something happened here.” The what would either be remembered through oral tradition, or in the case of Samuel, eventually written down and preserved long after the stone’s spot eroded away.

Stone of help. Here is the place where God rescued us.

Ezer me, please!

It seems when we are in need, we are receptive to God’s presence. The Israelites were terrified of dying at the hand of the Phillistines, and they cried out for Ezer! They recognized they could not go it alone against the foe. They needed rescue.

So did Adam. Although created good, he was not. He was alone. He needed help. Not an assistant. Not a personal aide to prop him up. He needed something more than that. He was in severe danger. Without help, he would fail. He needed ezer: rescuing help.

Genesis 2:20 says, “adam matsa ezer.” The man found not help. Maybe he could find that missing something somewhere in God’s creation? But, among all the animals the man called, the man found not help. Because God had not formed her yet.

For Samuel, God brought ezer in the form of a storm. For man,  ezer was his own form, but stood face-to-face to him (the Hebrew word kenegdo found in verse 18). It was wo-man, God’s rescuing help for man.

 

Be careful what you say

It is so easy to speak harshly of those who believe differently than you.

I have entered what Brian McLaren calls the third stage of faith: perplexity. Everyone has an opinion. Who knows what is right? And I’m slowly shifting to the fourth: Harmony/Humility. Love God. Love Others.

My thoughts

As I begin a new Bible study group this fall studying the Pentateuch, I’ve considered this week how to handle Genesis 1-2. Did God create in a literal week? Did He use evolution? Why was woman created? What is the creation mandate for marriage?

I know how I used to teach these things. What is the right way for today? How will I react when someone differs, or passionately clings to their understanding and condemns mine? Will I bristle at the labels: biblical, clear teaching, plain meaning and traditional? Can I express the liberal truth of inclusion in a humble way? I know what I used to think of those who believe like I do now…can I take the judgement myself?

Science and faith

History astonishes me. Because we usually repeat it.

Everyone once believed the earth was the center of our solar system. Why? Because the Bible said so. The world cannot be moved. It is firm and secure. It is held by strong pillars. (Psalm 93:1 Psalm 96:10 Psalm 104:5 Job 9:6 Psalm 75:3 1 Samuel 2:8) Science was proving the earth revolved around the sun. But because that “theory” went against the “clear” teaching of Scripture, that theory must be condemned as un-biblical and wrong. The people who believed it were accused of being in sin, rebellious and anti-God.

 “Those who assert that ‘the earth moves and turns’…[are] motivated by ‘a spirit of bitterness, contradiction, and faultfinding;’ possessed by the devil, they aimed ‘to pervert the order of nature.'” `John Calvin, sermon no. 8 on 1st Corinthians, 677, cited in John Calvin: A Sixteenth Century Portrait by William J. Bouwsma (Oxford Univ. Press, 1988), A. 72  (Read the whole article here.)

Sound familiar? Evolution, genetics, brain chemistry and homosexuality are being probed by science. Does the science match our understanding of “clear” biblical teaching? If not, how do we respond? Like Calvin? I know I have…

…but now, I am humbled by my ignorance. And I am motivated to understand more. I am cautious about dogmatics. And I hope to love those in a different stage than I am with kindness, patience and sometimes simple silence. It is better to be quiet than to argue, namecall, or  condemn.

Simple silence

It is so hard.