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Kevin DeYoung and the subordination of women: cont.

April 2, 2014

I said I would write more about this because new evidence for the interpretation of Gen. 3:16 iw being called into play, and DeYoung is going to speak on he Beauty of Difference in Heaven and on Earth.

First, let me demonstrate that some complementarian women, some of those who speak out, do not believe in the subordination of women in creation, but rather that subordination comes with the fall. This, of course, is the belief of egalitarians as well. In some ways, vocal complementarian men and women are seriously out of sinc. For example Tim Challies in 2006 wrote

I have discussed this topic with several women and have been a little bit surprised by their reactions. It seems to me that women would be glad to know that the idea of submission precedes the fall. This shows us that the headship of the husband is not rooted in a punishment, and perhaps even an unfair punishment where woman was given the harsher penalty of having to submit, but is rooted in the very purpose and creation of mankind. Yet women have told me that they prefer to think that submission is a product of the Fall. Perhaps this shows just what a poor job the church has done in teaching this subject and what a poor job husbands have done in making submission joyful.

You would think he would be embarrassed to express his views on the submission of women given this feedback. But not so. He reblogged this notion herehere and here. Next Wendy Alsup and Lisa Robinson, influential and strong bloggers, who were at least at one time affiliated with well known complementation groups, have blogged on “New Wave Complementarianism.” These women disagree on a fundamental point. They do not hold to Susan Foh’s intepretation of teshuqah in Gen. 3:16. They do not believe that it means “to desire to control your husband.” Not that some don’t, but just as much the other way around, a pitched battle of sorts for some people. Other couples do seem to live in peace.

However, Kevin DeYoung takes exception to the protest of Wendy Alsup against this interpretation. DeYoung needs women to be in the wrong, and to be submissive in creation, and submissive perhaps for eternity. Here is his response to Wendy Alsup,

Susan Foh – Her argument that the “desire” in Genesis 3:16 is the women’s desire to domineer over her husband makes sense to me from the parallel passage in Genesis 4:7 (cf. Claire Smith’s excellent post defending this view). Alsup believes this is an entirely new interpretation that was never before heard of until Susan Foh argued for it in 1975. Even if this were the case—and my quick perusal of the Reformation Commentary on Scripture shows that Johannes Brenz (1499-1570) wrote about “when women aspire to dominate their husbands in running the household” in his commentary on Genesis 3:16—it doesn’t do much to alter the central point; namely, that the blessing of the male-female relationship has been twisted into a burden by sin. Husbands, who can be tyrannical, need to love their wives; and wives, who can chafe at submission, need to respect their husbands (Eph. 5:33). This basic point is hardly dependent on Foh or her almost 40 year old article, which no one but a handful of scholars has heard of or references.

Sounds like Brenz believed, like Foh, that teshuqah meant that a woman would aspire to dominate her husband. But not so fast. Has DeYoung pulled a fast one? Perhaps, and it is starting to spread among those who want to believe it. And the fact that few reference Susan Foh is neither here nor there. So much is written without decent footnotes. Let’s read what Brenz says about Gen. 3:16,

Woman’s “Corrections” Johannes Brenz,

Now let us attend to the cross – or what they call the “corrections” (for so they call the works of satisfaction that are customarily imposed on sinners for the sake of correcting their lives) – that God imposes on the woman. … There are two parts to a woman’s cross. One concerns conception and childbirth. This includes all the sorrow, all the labor, all the worry and anxiety of bearing and raising children. …

The other part of a woman’s cross is subjection to the man’s authority. This is a great cross. Just as the woman, if she hadn’t sinned, would have given birth not only without pain but even with great joy and delight, so also she would have been equal to the man in the administration of things, though the man would always have been head of the woman. But now, having sinned, she is subjected to the will and authority and domination of the man. Accordingly, God not only imposes this cross on the woman … but also establishes this order in the public administration of things, so that the man may be the ruler and the woman would be under the man’s authority. page 164 – 165 Gen. 1-11, Thompson, John L. Inter Varsity Press 2012.

So Brenz thought that the authority of her husband was a great cross, not a delight and joy as complementarians believe. He would not be surprised that women “chafe” at submission. Would Brenz have said that women would be under male authority in heaven? I don’t think so. These reformers were a little more realistic. DeYoung got his quote from Brenz on how a woman desires to dominate from another passage by Brenz based on his personal observations of real life and a discussion of Deborah and the Amazons. He did not get it from Brenz exegeting Gen. 3:16 word by word, which we have above. Let’s not forget that the Geneva Bible said, “thy desire shall be subject to thine husband, and he shall rule over thee.” That was the cross a woman would bear.

Here are a couple more opinions on this line first from Peter Martyr Vermigli,

God wants her to have troubles and toil, to care for her family and to labor over household concerns. If she should strive to void or mitigate these things by using maids or servants, nonetheless by these means she cannot, in any case, escape the hardships of childbearing. But this punishment seems rightly to have been fulfilled when she is captivated by the desire for children.

Martin Luther,

If she had not sinned, Eve would have carried her child in her womb without any inconvenience and with great joy. Now there is also added to these sorrows of gestation and both that Eve has been placed under the power of her husband, she who previously was very free and, as the sharer of all the gifts of God, was in no respect inferior to her husband. … If Eve had persisted in the truth, she would not only not have been subjected to the rule of her husband, but she herself would also have been a partner in the rule which is now entirely the concern of males.

Konrad Pellikan,

Having forsaken the man, you stuck with the serpent and sought delights against my precept; you desired to be like God, and you deceived the man, Therefore, I will increase your afflictions and impose sorrowful conceptions upon you. Your delights will be subject to your husband, to look always to him and to pay attention mindfully.

This is a smattering of the Reformers on teshuqah. No, they did not think that this word meant “to control” or “to desire to control.” They thought it meant that desire subjected the woman to her husband. Of course, they said lots of things about the submission of women, but they never thought of it as something a woman would like. They were a little more realistic than that. Go back and read what Tim Challies wrote,

It seems to me that women would be glad to know that the idea of submission precedes the fall. This shows us that the headship of the husband is not rooted in a punishment, and perhaps even an unfair punishment where woman was given the harsher penalty of having to submit, but is rooted in the very purpose and creation of mankind.

It appears that men and women in complementarianism are going their separate ways. Men just don’t understand that submission does not feel like the purpose of creation. It is a great cross. This stuff is such a pain, but I like to remind people that exegesis is based on different understandings of the text in different times. If you don’t take this into account, you won’t understand what you are reading.

Kevin DeYoung is speaking on this topic of the submission of women on April 8.

Notes: Gen. 1-11, Thompson, John L. Inter Varsity Press 2012. pages 162 – 165




3 Comments leave one →
  1. krwordgazer permalink
    April 3, 2014 1:53 pm

    Isn’t it kind of odd, watching all these patriarchalists hang their understanding on the interpretation of one woman?

  2. May 2, 2016 7:47 pm

    Thank you for handling God’s Word appropriately.

    For your consideration:

    These are the best, most accurate translations:

    Genesis 4:7 – “Will you not, if you do the right thing, be uplifted? And if you don’t do the right thing, there at the entryway lies a “male goat”, a sin offering. He is turning towards you, so rule over him.”

    Genesis 3:16 – “To the woman he said, ‘I will greatly increase your pain in pregnancy. In painful toil you will bear children but your turning will be towards your husband (like a sheep turns toward its shepherd); therefore he will rule over you.” (Genesis 3:16)


  1. What is the woman’s desire? How Susan Foh’s interpretation of Genesis 3:16 fed steroids to abusers. (Pt 1 of 2) | A Cry For Justice

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