Gender in Scripture

In spiritual subjects

Today, and for some time in the past, there has been an effort in some quarters to set aside the clear teaching of Scripture that the right personal pronoun to use for God is he. It is used in Genesis 1:27 and in 2:2/3 a number of times and from then on all through Scripture in both the Old Testament and the New. See Hebrews 1:2 for example and then at the end of Revelation 22:3 we are told that Godís servants will serve him (not her). Need we say more? Were the Bible translators in error? Certainly God is a spirit (John 4:24) and is neither male nor female. Neither shall we be in the resurrection (Luke 20:34-36). However, the thought of masculine and feminine is found throughout Scripture.

Christ is always shown to be a man; not a woman. He is Godís Son; not his daughter. Take for example what Paul says in 1 Corinthians 15:45-47.

As to Christians, although while in the body we are spoken of as Godís sons and daughters (2 Corinthians 6:18) and also as sisters (Romans 16:1 & Mark 3:35), we know that in the resurrection we shall all be sons of God (Luke 20:36 & Galatians 3:26). I only quote here cases other than natural sisters.

What about the Holy Spirit? The Spirit in the New Testament is almost always spoken of using the personal pronoun he, though there is at least one case where he is spoken of as it in the New Testament (Romans 8:26) and I think always in the Old (e.g. Numbers 11:17).

Angels are always spoken of as sons of God (compare Daniel 3:25 & 28)

Where then does the feminine thought come in? It is in relation to the saints as a whole for they are the bride of Christ, so that the feminine thought comes in there (Revelation 21:11). This appears to be an eternal thought (Revelation 21:1-8). Wisdom in Proverbs is portrayed as a woman (Proverbs 8:2 & 9:1) so that the feminine thought goes back to the beginning of creation at least (Proverbs 8:22-31).

It is noticeable that cities are usually, if not always, treated as being feminine. Consider the holy city in Revelation, which has been pointed to already, and then we have the objects of love, for instance, in Psalm 48:11-13 which speaks of Zion. Consider also Psalm 78:68 & 87:2.Then we have Zion again spoken of using the feminine pronoun her in Psalm 132:13-18. In the New Testament we have Jerusalem above being spoken of as our mother (Galatians 4:26) clearly a feminine idea. On the negative side we have great Babylon the mother of the harlots in Revelation 17:5. She is said to be ďthe great city, which has kingship over the kings of the earthĒ (vers18). The thought of Babylon being feminine is not limited to the New Testament, for we find that she is spoken of as she in Jeremiah 51: 7-10.

In natural subjects

††††††††††† When I am writing about gender I think I should make it clear that when Scripture uses terms such as he, she, him or her it is not always, having what we speak of as, male or female in mind, but may well have a spiritual or metaphorical meaning as one has considered above. However, there is also the physical meaning which applies to us as men and women and the physical is necessary for reproduction purposes at least (Genesis 1:28). Of this, more below:-

††††††††††† When God made mankind He spoke of making him in his image (Genesis 1:26), but then we are told He made them male and female (Genesis 1:27). However, as we learn from Genesis 2 God made woman out of Adamís rib, so that Eve was in that way a part of Adam (Genesis 2:21-23). She became his counterpart (Genesis 2:20). It is to be noted that when Christ died his side was pierced and this indicates that in a spiritual sense the assembly (his wife) comes out of him. Adam underwent a deep sleep and Christ slept the sleep of death. However, the physical relationship of man and woman ends at death. Persons will not be husband and wife in the resurrection (Luke 20:34-36). In English, man can mean man in contrast to woman or it can mean mankind, that is, the race which includes both man and woman. However, this is not so in every language. In German, there is Menschen which means the race and Mann which means man in contrast to Weib which means woman. There is a similar distinction in Greek so that we have Anthropos (a man, a human being) and Aner (a man, husband). Then we have Gune (woman, wife). It will be appreciated that it can be difficult in some cases to determine whether an instruction relates to all women or only to married women (e.g. 1 Corinthians 11:5).

††††††††††† Often Scripture speaks of Brethren, the Brotherhood and suchlike and on the face of it only male persons are being addressed. However, in many cases although the word Brethren is used and it would probably be men who would read the letters it would not I believe have reference only to males, though as always in public women (including sisters) would not be prominent? Such would wear a head covering (Song of Songs 5:7). However, we know that when Christís mother and brethren sought to see him Christ said of his disciples that they were his brother and sister and mother. He was contrasting his spiritual relations with his natural relatives that included sisters (Matthew 12:46-50). Maybe it would be correct to say that Brethren often effectively included all siblings and that when Christian assemblies were being addressed the sisters were included because in any case they would be sons of God in the resurrection and effectively that now in Christ Jesus (Galatians 3:28/29).

††††††††††† If we go back to Genesis 1:27 we are told that the term Man in that passage includes both male and female. It is not therefore out of accord with Scripture to assume that the term brethren may also in some cases include sisters as well as brothers. Consider 1 Corinthians 15:6


June 2015