WLBA 10: The Geneva Bible Notes
- Commend unto you Phoebe our sister, which is a servant of the Church of Cenchrea;
- for she hath given hospitality unto many, and to me also.
- Salute Andronicus and Junia my cousins and fellow prisoners, which are notable among the Apostles, and (*) were in (d) Christ before me.
(*) They were grafted in Christ by faith afore I was called, and were well esteemed of the Apostles, and of the Churches.
(d) Engrafted by faith.
1 Cor. 11:10
- 10 (9) Therefore ought the woman to have (c) (*) power on her head, because of the (10) (♣) Angels.
(9) The conclusion: Women must be covered, to shew by this external sign their subjection. (c) A covering which is a token of subjection.
(*) Something to cover her head in sign of subjection. (10) What this meaneth, I do not yet understand.
(♣) To whom they also shew their dissolution, and not only to Christ.
A note on 1 Cor. 11:4 is as follows,
- Every (b) man (*) praying or (♣) prophesying having anything on his head, (♠) dishonoreth his head. is as follows,
It appeareth that this was a politic law serving only for the circumstances of the time that Paul lived in, by this reason, because in these our days for a man to speak bareheaded in an assembly is a sign of subjection.
- 12 (*) I permit not a woman to teach, (8) neither to usurp authority over the man, but to be in silence.
(*) 1 Corinthians 14:34 .
(8) The first argument, why it is not lawful for women to teach in the Congregation, because by this means they should be placed above men, for they would be their masters; which is against God's ordinance.
14 And Adam was (♣) not (g) deceived, but the woman was deceived, and was in the (♠) transgression.
(*) Genesis 3:6 .
(10) Then because that after sin God enjoined the woman this punishment, for that the man was deceived by her.
(♣) The woman was first deceived, and so became the instrument of Satan to deceive the man; and though therefore God punisheth them with subjection and pain in their travel, yet if they be faithful and godly in their vocation, they shall be saved.
15 (11) Notwithstanding, through bearing of children she shall be saved, if (*) they continue in faith, and love, and holiness with modesty.
(11) He addeth a comfort by the way, that their subjection hindereth not, but that women may be saved as well as men, if they behave themselves in those burdens holily and modestly, with faith and charity.
So subjection is not a role that woman was created to fulfill, but a punishment for her sin in being deceived first. Although this is not explicitly stated in the notes, it may be worth considering whether the annotators had in mind that it is subjection to a husband in the fulfillment of marital duties which makes a woman vulnerable to childbearing, pain and possibly death. Subjection and pain are inextricably linked as a burden and a punishment.
And verse 15 is therefore the comfort that a woman receives, the reassurance that she will be saved if she bear herself in these burdens with modesty, faith and charity.
I could not help but reflect on the fact that the male annotators of this Bible enjoin women to be subject and accept their circumstances in life, to bear their punishment for the sin of Eve with forbearance. But the Puritans as a party ultimately stifled their own scruples regarding the subjection of men to a ruler. Some left for America, some captured and beheaded their king and eventually some revolted in a second mutiny against the monarchy and set up self-government. Subjection was not for man but for woman.
I leave behind the Bibles of the 16th and 17th century with regret but hope to return to them again later in a fresh context. From the study of these bibles, I learned that although there was a firm belief in the subjection of women, based on their inequality and lower degree, the text of the Bible itself was not altered.
The literal translation of Rom. 16:7, 1 Cor. 11:10 and 1 Tim. 2:12 was not doctored to line up with the belief in women's subjection.The Bishops', Geneva and King James Bible had a relatively similar translation for the women's verses. It is significant that the KJV, which became the enduring translation, was devoid of interpretive notes refering to women's subjection.
I found it of interest that the notes in the Geneva Bible reflect a very different view of childbearing than what is taught by some theologians today. For 1 Tim. 2:15, there was a reference to the burden and travail of childbearing as a punishment from God. How different this is than the view widely written about now, that childbearing saves women in that they are preserved from temptation by staying either under their husband's authority, or within the domestic sphere, or in submission to male leadership.
Frankly I find the notes of the Geneva Bible preferable. They demonstrate recognition of the suffering of women in childbirth and no more posit subjection of the female to the male as a circumstance of rejoicing than the subjection of citizens to a tyranical ruler.
The 1582 Rheims Bible, contributed by Iyov, follows the Latin Vulgate very closely and does not in any way show that the notes, although particularly prejudiced against women, have influenced the translation itself. Junia was "noble among the apostles," and the other phrases are likewise literal, "have power upon her head" and "nor to have dominion over the man".
I especially enjoyed the many delightful phrases refering to women as "great talkers of scripture and promoters of heresie," as well as the rule of repression of "the saucinesse of contentious ianglers."