The Masculine Jesus

In light of all of the recent buzz about men/women bibliobloggers, Damian’s note that the 100 Names of Jesus is lacking in feminine language is timely and worth reading.

I agree with the point that there is no specifically feminine language used by the Bible authors to describe Jesus. Which begs the question, in my mind at least, “So?”

Not that the issue presented or question raised is irrelevant, it is a very astute point that Damian makes. I did note in a comment on Damian’s blog that the vast majority of the names are gender neutral, those beginning with “Son,” “King,” and containing words like “Husband” being the obvious exceptions. Nor do I think God is losing any sleep over this issue. I did also mention in my comment that I think the whole gender-as-point-of-dispute issue is an entirely human construct, and one that can readily be resolved by following the simple command to love your neighbor (equally).

However, I just can’t quite figure out why the authors of the Bible would use feminine-specific gender language to describe a historical figure who was male.

Thoughts? Comments? Ideas?

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  1. #1 by Scripture Zealot on September 11, 2009 - 6:07 pm

    Oh brother.

    • #2 by Peter on September 12, 2009 - 7:46 am


  2. #3 by Bob MacDonald on September 11, 2009 - 6:20 pm

    G-d neither slumbers nor sleeps – so how do we lose sleep here?
    Jerusalem, Jerusalem, … how often I would have gathered you as a hen gathers her chicks and you would not.

    There’s a mother image for our Lord

    • #4 by Peter on September 12, 2009 - 7:46 am

      That’s a good example, Bob. I hadn’t thought of that one.

  3. #5 by mondaymorningreview on September 11, 2009 - 7:15 pm

    Hey Pete,

    Here’s a repost of my comment to Damian’s question.

    I do believe God transcends gender as we understand it from the human experience. In fact, Genesis 1:27 seems to indicate it took both genders in creation to reflect the image of the Creator.

    However, you will be hard pressed to discover feminine aspects of God in the self proclaimed “Son of God.”

    Our Lord Jesus also directs us to regard God from a masculine perspective as “our Father.” Though I believe Bible translators have made some very chauvinistic errors in their translation of gender regarding the roles of men and women in the Church, they seem to be very accurate in their representation of God through the use of masculine language.

    God, by His own choice, has presented Himself to mankind as a masculine figure.

    The best place to encounter the qualities we would refer to as feminine are in the nature of the person of the Holy Spirit. I believe the Holy Spirit reveals those aspects of God that we would most closely associate to a mother.

    • #6 by Peter on September 12, 2009 - 7:47 am

      Indeed. Bob did have a nice example though, but you’re right.

  4. #7 by brianfulthorp on September 12, 2009 - 7:44 pm

    like others have said they are just anthropamorphisms (human characteristics used to describe an invisible God).

  5. #8 by Bob MacDonald on September 12, 2009 - 8:22 pm

    anthropomorphisms – In Harold Bloom’s book, Jesus and Yahweh – in which he considers that the enigmatic Jesus is more like Yahweh as personality than the exalted Christ, he is very dismissive of that word anthropomorphism. The problem is us as humans, recognizing that we are what we are, and God is not what we are, and so we think (and such ‘thinking’ can trouble knowledge) that God is not like us. If God is so totally unlike, then we could have no concourse with God. Since we do have connection and covenant with God, God is therefore not totally unlike ‘anthropos’. In Jesus we believe he became like us. So be careful not to ‘explain him away’. To follow is better…

    • #9 by Peter on September 15, 2009 - 8:59 am

      To follow is better…


  6. #10 by hiscrivener on September 13, 2009 - 5:43 am


    Harriet Lutzky (of Univ. of Chicago’s Divinity School) has presented evidence linking the epithet of “Shaddai” with Hebrew šad “breast” as “the one of the Breast”, as Asherah at Ugarit is “the one of the Womb.”

    If there is nothing that sounds feminine on that list, maybe Damian can rest easy on that nugget of apologetic gold.

    Good times.


    • #11 by Peter on September 15, 2009 - 9:01 am

      Yeah, I’ve read that. I don’t have a problem with that as being one of the many aspects of “Shaddai.” I think we need all of the descriptors we can to try and describe God.

  7. #12 by Damian on September 14, 2009 - 4:30 am

    In the context of my previous posts, I’m more hung up on the idea that there is little feminine language to describe God in any way, shape or form. Sue has certainly picked some holes in that assertion, but nevertheless, I find it interesting that in both Father, Son and Holy Spirit language, female language amongst Christians is almost totally limited to Holy Spirit (which of course is one reason why God is so often portrayed as masculine).

    With regards to Jesus’ names, Jesus’ masculinity doesn’t preclude any use of feminine language – feminine language is often used to describe males. Men can still ‘mother’, for example. It’s simply a conspicuous absence to me. (Sue, in my comments, did point out that there are a number of names that are gender-neutral, and has argued on her site since then that certain names – protector of widows, for example – are actually feminine).

  8. #13 by hiscrivener on September 15, 2009 - 5:59 am

    And Damian, regretfully, you have to realize the Bible wasn’t just written for man… but by man. Although these oracles of God were led of the Spirit to scribe perfunctory guidelines that would stand the test of time, there’s a mindset of the day that is prevalent in the writings.

    Why else would male-chauvinist pigs have anything by saying, “Well the Bible says women ain’t supposed to talk in church?” Because back then, men were stupid and didn’t let them. The principles of God are true. Man? Not so much.

    Look beyond that and you’ll find the heart of the Lord – on this issue, or any other. Peace.

  9. #14 by Damian on September 15, 2009 - 6:29 am

    I’m fully aware of that fact, hiscrivener, just as I’m aware of the patriarchal bias in much of scripture. Hence why I’m interested the entirety of Christian tradition, which, as some people have shown, does have a place for feminine language when it comes to all three parts of the Godhead.

  10. #15 by Peter on September 15, 2009 - 9:13 am

    Damian, Hiscrivener, I think it’s a non-issue. Another way to divide the body of Christ. Whether the language divide is gender, race, cultural, class, or otherwise based, it is what it is. It is humanity trying to impose – in its own very limited way – ideas about God on God. The descriptions provided in scripture are for our benefit, to give us an understanding about who God is. Jesus is also called a lion and a lamb. We can come up with ways of describing Him as an elephant, horse, or any other such animal, and it would be perfectly fine, but none of that would alter the intent of the authors of the Bible. I think sermons are an excellent example. Most sermons, I hope, are based on scripture, but they apply some Biblical principle or teaching to present-day life. I think we can do this with how we describe God, but it doesn’t change a thing – other than to clarify something for somebody.

  11. #16 by Damian on September 15, 2009 - 6:02 pm

    Peter, the reasoning behind my looking is not to divide the body of Christ, or to impose ideas about God on God. It is – as you say – for our benefit – to increase our understanding about who God is. It seems to me that we know (from scripture) that God displays certain characteristics (feminine ones), and yet our tradition hasn’t picked up on this, and our language reflects this. It’s not describing God has a horse or elephant, it’s describing him in terms of a creature made in his image, and that reflects his glory uniquely. It doesn’t change anything about God – but it gives us understanding about who he is, which may change the way we perceive him, and live our lives as Christians.

    • #17 by Peter on September 16, 2009 - 9:23 am

      Damian, I don’t think you were meaning to divide the body, but I do think it is something that we need to be careful of. I agree, I think we should explore every aspect of God, including any characteristics that might be labeled “feminine”. And I’ve also commented on your latest post on the subject where I’ve elaborated a little. Thanks.

  1. More on feminine language as described by God « Castle of Nutshells

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