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Monday, November 12, 2007

in defense of desire

On the compegal blog Paula has quoted from God's Word to Women by Katherine Bushnell. I won't recap the discussion here, but I want to throw a pebble in the pond, so to speak. Bushnell mentions the history of the word teshuqa in Gen. 3:16. What was teshuqa in the curse of Eve? Some bloggers have watched in utter befuddlement as this issue is discussed at great length.

For the record, here are a few variations on a theme,
    καὶ πρὸς τὸν ἄνδρα σου ἡ ἀποστροφή σου LXX
    and to your husband your turning*

    et sub viri potestate eris Vulgate
    and under the power of the husband you will be

    ad virum tuum eris desiderium* tuum Pagnini
    towards your husband will be your longing

    and thy lust shal pertayne vnto yi hußbande Coverdale

    and thy desire shal be subiect to thine husbande, Geneva

    and thy desire shall be to thy husband, KJV

    and thou shalt be under thy husband’s power, D-R

    et te soumettras à ton mari, Olivétan (Calvin)
    and you will submit to your husband

    Your desire shall be for[a] your husband ESV
    (a) or against
These are the major variations as I know it. Here is the complementarian interpretation.
    Eve would now rebel against the God-given authority of her husband
I have been exploring a new interlinear Septuagint here. In contrast, it translates apostrophe as "submission"
    and to your husband your submission
So the curse of Eve can be either "submission to" or "rebellion against" male authority or anything else mentioned above.

No problem, Biblical interpretation is a free for all. However, I did want to share this with Paula, and Molly, so they know that there are not 2000 years of straight teaching about women rebelling.

In fact, history shows that biblical interpretation was and is a lot more varied and humane than that.

Historically the theories have included these ideas, that the curse of Eve is that she is under the power of her husband, or that she desires her husband even though her chances of dying in childbirth are considerable, or that she longs for her husband as one longs for something that one has lost. I think you get the message. These interpretations were for the most part initiated by men, and betray, to my mind, a fellow human feeling.

If the curse of man is that the ground is hard to till, then ask yourself how many women worldwide share that curse? More than a few. And so how many men share the curse of Eve, the longing for something lost?

* ἀποστροφή - turning away, however, explicitly "towards the husband", (Is it a turning away from God to the husband?)

* desiderium - a longing, ardent desire or wish, properly for something once possessed; grief, regret for the absence or loss of any thing.

PS If you want to know what teshuqa really means, ask John.


At Tue Nov 13, 04:36:00 AM, Blogger J. K. Gayle said...

Thanks for the pebble, Suzanne. Here's the Greek ripple turning:

What an important term strophe is. Aristotle, in trying to theorize rhetoric, opens up his treatise Around Rhetoric with the definition: "Rhetoric is the anti-strophe of Dia-lectic." The only other time he uses the term is when talking much later about poetry, and the turns poets make. Lots of rhetoricians speculate Aristotle, with his poets, is following the moves oxen make turning back and forth in plowing a field. (I think you're right: John would know this, with respect to teshuqa. What's it mean, John?)

When I turn next in LXX to apo-strophe, I find turning animals again, in Deut. 22:1 "You shall not see your countryman's ox or his sheep straying away, and pay no attention to them; you shall certainly bring them back to your countryman."

then, turnings from God, in Deut. 31:18 "But I will surely hide My face in that day because of all the evil which they will do, for they will turn to other gods."

(As your parenthetical aside in the footnote suggests, apo-strophe and anti-strophe too isn't always a good, positive thing.)

At Tue Nov 13, 06:20:00 AM, Blogger John said...

Suzanne, your approach here is insightful. Directly and indirectly, the entire string of curses of Gen 3 impact both genders.

I did a series of posts on this passage and a related one a while back. I argued that the teshuqa 'longing' of Gen 3 is a positive balanced by a negative 'dominate,' and that the sequence is inverted in Gen 4, with the 'longing' negative and 'dominate' positive.

Google 'Genesis 3:14-19 ancient hebrew poetry' with 'ugly' and w/o, and I think the relevant posts will be at the top.

Just as the curse of the soil impacts both genders directly and indirectly, so does the curse which interlaces desire and dominance.

In other words, it is also true that a man's desire is for the woman, but she will dominate him. Under the curse, the man can (and perhaps inevitably does) become a dominator. Under that same curse, the woman can (and almost inevitably does) become a dominatrix.

I wish to reemphasize that teshuqa is a positive in Gen 3, a negative in Gen 4, and a positive in Song of Songs 7:11.

At Tue Nov 13, 09:40:00 AM, Blogger Suzanne McCarthy said...

In other words, it is also true that a man's desire is for the woman, but she will dominate him.

I came to the conclusion that that could be what Chrysostom was referring to.

At Tue Nov 13, 01:49:00 PM, Blogger John said...

Wow, that passage from Mr. Golden Mouth is like a bracing bath of cold water! It would nice to see a first-rate philological and historical commentary on it. What tradition of interpretation is he drawing from, and how does he tweak it?

At Tue Nov 13, 02:15:00 PM, Blogger Suzanne McCarthy said...

cold water?

I thought it was kind of sweet myself.

At Tue Nov 13, 02:24:00 PM, Blogger John said...

A school of Greek rhetoric held to an ideal of isocolic composition of prose. That is, it was supposed to made up of continuously recurring segments of approximately the same length.

If Chrysostom adhered to this ideal, his prose might be formatted in terms of isocola. It would make it easier to follow the flow.

At Tue Nov 13, 02:56:00 PM, Blogger martin shields said...

I think a major difficulty in most translations lies in the meaning of תשוקה, "desire." LXX's αποστροφη almost certainly reflects a reading of תשובה in its Vorlage, so I don't think it helps in our understanding of the Hebrew. Traditionally, Song 7:11 is used to justify the meaning "desire" and specifically incorporate sexual overtones into the desire, although that hardly fits in Gen 4 where the syntax clearly reflects Gen 3:16. Further support for "desire" is found in appeal to Arabic šāqa, "to please, delight, arouse," but this association is incorrect because the appropriate cognate in Arabic is sāqa, "to drive, urge on, impel (as one would a prisoner)."

As such, I think that the better rendering of תשוקה is something like "control." Gen 3:16 is then a balance between the woman seeking to control her husband and the husband seeking to master his wife. It is a picture of discord in striking contrast to the unity of Gen 2. This also fits in the other two instances in the OT, even in Song 7:11.

At Tue Nov 13, 03:19:00 PM, Blogger John said...

Martin, your exegesis is attractive and I see from another blog you wrote a dissertation on Gen 1-3, so you have obviously thought through these texts with care.

Still, I don't think the traditional understanding of תשוקה as "desire" can so easily be overturned. The word means "desire, longing" in post-biblical Hebrew; that's what it means in Song 7:11, though of course you're right that a specifically sexual connotation is not inherent in the expression, but depends on context.

For your hypothesis that תשוקה means "control" to gain traction, you will have to show more clearly why it should mean such in Song 7:11, and examine occurrences of תשוקה in DSS and "Middle" Hebrew where it has also been taken to mean "desire, longing."

How did the minor Greek versions understand תשוקה?

At Tue Nov 13, 04:42:00 PM, Blogger martin shields said...

John, it is clear that the understanding "desire" can be traced back a long way, but I'm not sure how much weight can be given to the post-biblical Hebrew. From what we know of interpretation of Gen 2-3 shortly after the composition of the DSS, it would seem that there could be grounds for claiming that cultural notions of the status of women were impacting on readings of the text. If the Greek is older than the DSS then it may reflect a poor understanding of the Hebrew which casts some doubt on the value of the later Hebrew material (at least to my mind). I'm not aware of any variation in readings in Greek manuscripts at this point.

Furthermore, Song 7:11 does not lend so much support to the "traditional" understanding as many claim. I've discussed this in my dissertation on Gen 1-3 (which you're free to download from here), but in short I'd make the points that:

1. Song 7:11 is a very different context to both Gen 3:16 and 4:7;

2. The first line in the couplet in Song 7:11 connotes ownership which would balance quite well if תשוקה means 'control' or something similar;

3. The Song elsewhere uses harsh, often negative, words which, in the context of a love song, convey a sense not found elsewhere. For example, Song 7:6 uses אסר 'tie, bind, imprison' which is elsewhere almost exclusively used of harsh captivity. Love is, after all, as strong as death!

So I think that my understanding of תשוקה fits well in Song 7:11 as well.

At Wed Nov 14, 05:02:00 AM, Blogger Peter Kirk said...

John (Hobbins? I'm not sure, your profile is hidden), reading your mentions of "cold water", "isocolic composition of prose" and "easier to follow the flow", I couldn't help being reminded of colonic irrigation. Not the same kind of colon, of course. What a confusing thread this is in some way, with its multiple reuses of punctuation terms like "apostrophe" as well as "colon"! :'

At Wed Nov 14, 09:04:00 AM, Blogger J. K. Gayle said...

Hilarious, Peter!

It's about time for (word) play. And for any who wants to examine (or practice) (iso)colon or (apo)strophe, you may visit (or comment at) Gorgias's Weblog.

At Wed Nov 14, 01:14:00 PM, Blogger Peter Kirk said...

My comment on Gorgias' post about apostrophe:

O comma raised, with “s” a pair!
You always caused me trouble.
Now here’s a trope, its name you share,
It’s making me see double.

At Thu Nov 15, 12:50:00 PM, Blogger J. K. Gayle said...

playful Gorgias and poet Peter,

Have we nothing better to do? Look what you've inspired me to do, about the one thing then the other:

(iso)Colon: apostrophe;

turnabout’s fair(play)


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