This article is in response to an article regarding the nature of God, the question of masculinity and femininity, and specific gender roles as established within the context of the Bible. A careful and thoughtful review of the article has required an adequate response to some assertions that may be misleading, irrelevant, and potentially harmful concerning such ideology and perceptive interpretation of scripture.
The first part of this article will provide the context and foundation of the assertion being made, the question that is being addressed and answered, and whether or not the writer has given due diligence in providing an accurate, scriptural response and answer to the question postulated. The second part of this article will briefly introduce some of the main assertions that are cause for questioning and examination and how they falter in meeting true scriptural teaching on the nature of God, masculinity, femininity, and gender roles. The third part of this article will explore a more in-depth analysis of the presenting issues derived from the main points of the article itself and how a more appropriate answer is given to the misinformation of the article under review.
The presenting dilemma and postulation of God, masculinity, femininity, and gender rolesAn article at Biblical Gender Roles caught my interest. The title: Why God’s Identification as Male Is the Key To Understanding Life’s Meaning. The premise of the writer’s post seems to be summed up with this statement:
What if I were to tell you that God’s Identification as male in the Bible is not because of the “misogynist” and “patriarchal” times the Bible was written in nor is it a mystery we must just accept. What if I were to tell you that understanding why God identifies as male can actually answer the greatest question any man or woman could ask and that is “Why am I here?”
This premise appears to be based on the following perception of the writer:
Is the only reason God is identified in the Bible by masculine titles such as Father, Husband, Son and King and not also as Mother, Wife, Daughter and Queen because of the “misogynist” and “patriarchal” times the Bible was written in? Many non-Christians and sadly even professing Christians today would have us belief this.
On the other hand, we have Bible believing conservative Christians who tell us that “Everything created in woman that sets her off from man comes from God and reflects something of him… God is not male and God is not female… And yet God’s self-chosen titles matter”. So, these Bible believing Christians are basically saying God is not masculine or feminine and they don’t understand why he chooses masculine titles or even why he established male headship, just that he did and we must accept it. It is a mystery to them as to why God consistently reveals himself in the masculine sense.
And, the reason the writer has chosen to focus on this issue is due to a reported email from one of his readers asking about some of the passages of scripture where people seemed to have identified a dyadic nature with God (meaning, dual qualities of being both male and female). He further reports that the concern centers on the split … attributes of his [God’s] nature into male and female human beings so only together do man and woman represent the nature of God. He reports that his research into the subject matter led him to an article by Tony Reinke at DesiringGod.org titled Our Mother Who Art in Heaven. The writer acknowledges that Reinke’s article is a review of the movie “The Shack” that came out in 2017. A movie that is also based on the book with the same title.
Now, prior to mentioning of the article, the writer states that they will:
While writing a response to her concerns I decided to look into a few other conservative Christian sites to see their response to this issue in comparison to my own.
After responding to, what he refers to as biblical errors, Reinke’s review, the writer turns to John Piper’s article titled – Creation, Culture, and Corinthian Prophetesses. The writer appears to dismantle Pipers understanding of 1 Corinthians Chapter 11. In his refutation of Piper’s understanding, the writer makes this assertion:
Is there anything in this passage that states “Man is God’s glory in that he came from God through Christ without coming through woman”? Absolutely not. These verses do not just “imply” that “she is not the image and glory of God”, they EXPLICILTY state it!
This is why I always chuckle when people act like John Piper is this big traditional gender roles guy. He is NOT. Yes, he teaches male headship, but like most complementarians today he does not teach the REASON for male headship.
God did not just flip a coin and put men in charge of women. He put men in charge of women because the male human being “is the image and glory of God”. And because Piper and most Christian teachers refuse to acknowledge this truth that is staring them in the face – they cannot fully understand the purpose in why God placed men over women.
What is complementarianism? The website gotquestions.org has this answer (and may be the best answer to the question):
Complementarianism is the teaching that masculinity and femininity are ordained by God and that men and women are created to complement, or complete, each other. Complementarians believe that the gender roles found in the Bible are purposeful and meaningful distinctions that, when applied in the home and church, promote the spiritual health of both men and women. Embracing the divinely ordained roles of men and women furthers the ministry of God’s people and allows men and women to reach their God-given potential.
This is opposite of the doctrinal position of egalitarianism, where the idea is that there are no specific gender roles within the body of Christ. From the Latter-day Saint (Mormon) perspective of the Restored Gospel, there is a sense of a complementary component through the ordination of priesthood authority given to worthy men and women being subordinate to the proper and healthy authority of a righteous and worthy priesthood holder within the home.
The writer concludes with this thought (in response to Reinke’s quote of Piper):
This is FALSE. There is not one scripture passage that says everything that sets a woman apart from man reflects something of God’s nature. In fact, in 1 Corinthians 11:9 we are told this truth: Neither was the man created for the woman; but the woman for the man.” That means that everything that “sets her off from man” was created in her FOR MAN, not to further reveal the nature of God.
The writer is calling the attention to the assertion of this statement (from Reinke’s article):
Everything created in woman that sets her off from man comes from God and reflects something of him.
The writer makes this additional response to Piper’s statement of – Women was not modeled after some other god. There is no other god. She was modeled after God.
This is what is called a strawman argument. Who said woman was modeled after some other god? The false argument Piper is pushing is woman must be modeled after a god, and therefore since we know there is only one God then woman must be equally modeled after God in the same way man is. The fact is that woman is NOT modeled after God or man while she does share common attributes with man whom she was taken from and therefore God as well because man was made in the image of God.
The writer, further, postulates the idea that the Bible never states that woman is the image of God, nor does it state she is the image of man. She shares a common human nature with man but she is not his image as her nature is still very different. He justifies his statement with this:
Woman was given her core human traits like self-awareness, creativity, the ability to feel emotions, the ability to appreciate beauty and the ability to learn to make her a “help meet” (Genesis 2:18) for man. Man was given these same core human traits and then addition traits of increased strength, competitiveness, aggressiveness and many other traits we understand as masculine for a different purpose.
He contrasts the nature of woman to that of man by saying this:
Man was given his masculine human nature to image God and thereby bring him glory. Woman was given her feminine nature not to be God’s image bearer, but instead to be a HELP to his image bearer. This is the truth of the Word of God.
The reader continues to push the issue that MAN alone is the image bearer of God and woman is not made in the image and likeness of God. His conclusion asserts that because MAN is the sole proprietor of God’s image, then we are able to conclude that God is masculine. He also makes the conclusion (based on John 4:24) that all Evangelical’s make and that God is spirit with no ontological or anthropomorphic nature. He further concludes with this:
We are told that if we embrace the truth of God’s Word that woman was not made in God’s image then we are saying women are less human than men, and less valuable to God. This is false. God loves men and women equally and men and women are equally saved by Christ and can both become part of the body of Christ as the scripture tells us.
He continues with another point on the nature of marriage being only for this time and time alone (which the Bible itself is actually silent on and the only scripture reference Evangelical’s use to prove that marriage is for this time is Christ’s response to the religious leaders question of the woman who died after marrying seven men). The writer also makes a soft polemic against transgenderism in his concluding remarks.
It is not until we get to the final paragraph of the article that he revisits the question of Why am I here? By claiming to have answered the question:
And what I have just described answers the most important question that we as human beings can ever ask and that is Why am I here? If we not only accept that God identifies as male, but accept why he identifies as male then we as men and woman, can know the meaning of life. But if we do as so much of the world today does and reject that fact that God identifies as male and why he identifies a male then we reject our very purpose for being here.
To which one may ask, scratching their head to make sense of this last paragraph, in what way have you actually answered the question? Sadly, the article never fully addressed the question, and provided a scriptural perspective regarding the nature of God and why the scriptures refer to God in the masculine, while also making reference to a feminine connotation.
Briefly addressing the main observations and false teachings The first main observation of the question has to do with the nature of God, creation of humanity (both male and female) and whether or not both were created after the image and likeness of God. This lays down the foundation regarding the scriptural context of God’s nature as it relates to gender roles and the difference between masculinity and femininity within humanity. This appears to be the heart and core issue the writer of the article at Biblical Gender Roles attempts to address.
The second observation we will discuss is the heart of a heretical teaching that has perpetuated within the theological landscape of modern Christiandom – namely a heretical doctrine and teaching on the idea of God’s incomprehensible and ontological nature. This begins with understanding the proper interpretation of John 4:24 and how the Bible (both Old and New Testament’s) speak to an anthropomorphic construct of God’s nature.
The third main observation is the linguistic dynamics of how the masculinity and femininity represent God’s nature, man’s nature, and specific gender roles of man and woman. This is important to understand because all languages have 2 or more gender fluid attributes. This is true within the Biblical context in how one comes to understand the nature of God in relation to the nature of man and woman and their specific gender roles.
For the fourth main observation has to do with a more symbolic understanding of certain scripture passages that do not appear to be linguistically feminine and more prone to reveal a hidden truth that appeared to have been suppressed by modern Christian teachings. This pertains to the nature of the final aspect of our observation concerning marriage.
A fifth, and final, observation is the nature of marriage from a Biblical construct and understanding. While the Bible itself is appears to silent on the actual doctrine of marriage, there are some scant verses that bring to light the purpose and relationship between man and woman, their gender roles, and the importance of marriage.
This article will conclude with the appropriate answer concerning the question – Why am I here? and how this question never received the appropriate and honest treatment Biblical Gender Roles attempted to answer.
The Nature of God, Creation of Humanity, and Gender Roles defined
We believe in God, the Eternal Father, and in His Son, Jesus Christ, and in the Holy Ghost.
~ First Article of Faith ~
… all things denote there is a God; yea, even the earth, and all things that are upon the face of it, yea, and its motion, yea, and also all the planets which move in their regular form do witness that there is a Supreme Creator
.~ Alma 30:44 ~
The Existence of God
The foundation of Judeo-Christian belief constitutes the knowledge of the attributes and character of a Divine, Sovereign, and Supreme Being. This is central to an intelligent exercise in faith.
James E. Talmage remarked, “There is a filial passion within human nature that flames toward heaven.” (Articles of Faith – Chapter 2). Talmage also observes that humanity has a natural propensity toward worshiping:
…his soul is unsatisfied until he finds a deity. When men through transgression fell into darkness concerning the true and living God, they established for themselves other deities, and so arose the abominations of idolatry. And yet, even the most revolting of these practices testify to the existence of a God by demonstrating man’s hereditary passion for worship.
Talmage refers to this as an inborn attribute of mankind that needs demonstration of proof or a question of reasonable logic. The existence of God is proven as evidenced by history and tradition, human reason and intellect, and conclusive evidence through direct revelation (whether ancient or modern).
In Hyrum L. Andrus works – God, Man and the Universe – he remarks on the following observation: “The Father is the ultimate source of all attributes and powers of life, and He is the Supreme Intelligence over all other beings known to man.”
The Supreme, Sovereign, and Divine Council
Members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints have long held the belief that the Godhead is comprised of three separate and distinct personages. The Father and Son possess resurrected, glorified bodies of flesh and bone. The Holy Spirit is a personage of spirit.
Through Jesus Christ, the only begotten of God in the flesh, we worship the Father as the absolute sovereign and supreme being. We accept Jesus Christ as not only the Savior and redeemer of fallen humanity, we recognize him as mediator and the only means by which salvation is given. It is through the power and gift of the Holy Spirit are we able to find comfort, guidance, inspiration, and personal revelation.
The doctrine of a divine council is nothing new. It is a restored revelation based on ancient origins and theophanies recorded throughout ancient cultures of the Hebraic, Sumarian, and Canaanite peoples. Much scholarly work continues to enlighten us on the nature of this divine and supreme council.
Fatherhood of God
When Mary came to the Tomb, she found it to be empty. Afraid, she turned and spoke to whom she thought was the gardener. Instead, the Savior revealed himself to her. Naturally, she wanted to reach out and touch him. The Savior forbade this, saying: “Touch me not: for I am not yet ascended to my father:but go to my brethren, and say unto them, I ascend unto my Father, and your Father; and to my God and your God. (See John 20:17, KJV).
This is the only place in scripture where we read how Christ referred to God as not only His father, but the father of the disciples whom followed him. What did he mean by my father and your father; and my God and your God?
Through modern revelation, we are taught:
“Man, as a spirit, was begotten and born of heavenly parents, and reared to maturity in the eternal mansions of the Father, prior to coming upon the earth in a temporal [physical] body” (Teachings of Presidents of the Church: Joseph F. Smith , 335).
Joseph Fielding Smith also taught:
God is our Father; he is the being in whose image man is created. He has a body of flesh and bones as tangible as man’s (D&C 130:22), and he is the literal and personal father of the spirits of all men. He is omnipotent and omniscient; he has all power and all wisdom; and his perfections consist in the possession of all knowledge, all faith or power, all justice, all judgment, all mercy, all truth, and the fullness of all godly attributes. … If we are to have that perfect faith by which we can lay hold upon eternal life, we must believe in God as the possessor of the fullness of all these characteristics and attributes. I say also that he is an infinite and eternal being, and as an unchangeable being, he possesses these perfected powers and attributes from everlasting to everlasting, which means from eternity to eternity (Teachings of Presidents of the Church: Joseph Fielding Smith (2013), 35–47)
Through these teachings, we see God as a loving Father who cares for our needs and blesses us accordingly. This is quite important for us to understand.
Importance of Knowing God
We are only able to know who God is through His Son, Jesus Christ. In John 17, Christ offers up a priestly prayer. In this prayer, Christ proclaims that our eternal life is based on knowing whom God isand Knowing Jesus Christ (see, John 17:3). In Moses 1:39, we understand that God’s purpose is to “bring to pass the immortality and eternal life” of humanity.
This requires our obedience to the commandments God has established. Through our obedience, we come into perfect harmony with Jesus Christ, who is in perfect harmony with the Father. In our reverential awe toward the supreme sovereignty of God, we see Him as merciful, kind, compassionate, and forgiving. We walk with him as our ancient fathers have walked with God. This comes out of our love toward God, and His love toward us.
What do we know about God?
- He is supreme, sovereign, full of wisdom, power, and glory
- He is a distinct being who is glorified and exalted, omniscient and omnipotent
- He is our Eternal Father who desires us to believe on Jesus Christ for salvation and eternal life
- He provides comfort and direction through the gift and power of the Holy Spirit.
Creation of Humanity
The first passage we want to address is that of Genesis 1:26-27. I also want to include the passage of Genesis 2:7, 18-24. There is a difference between Genesis 1:26-27 and Genesis 2:7, 18-24. This is because the accounts seem to be from two different sources.
According to the Jewish Study Bible, the following comments are observed regarding Genesis 1:26-27:
The plural construction (Let Us…) most likely reflects a setting in the divine council (cf. 1 Kings 22:19-22; Isa. 6; Job chs 1-2): God the King announces the proposed course of action to His cabinet of subordinate deities, though He alone retains the power of decision. The midrash manifests considerable uneasiness with God’s proposal to create something so capable of evil as human beings are. Playing on Ps. 1:6, one midrash reports that God told his ministering angels only of “the way of the righteous” and hid them “the way of the wicked” (Gen. Rab. 8:4). Another one reports that while the angels were debating the proposal among themselves, God took the matter in hand. “Why are you debating?” He asked them. “Man has already been created!” (Gen. Rab. 8:5).
The commentary continues with this observation:
…humankind has a different origin and a different character. In the ancient Near East, the king was often said to be the “image” of the god and thus to act with divine authority. So here, the creation of humanity in God’s image and likeness carries with it a commission to rule over the animal kingdom (1.26b, 28b; cf. PS. 8:4-9).
The Jewish commentary of Genesis 1:26-27 appears to show that God created both, male and female, after his own image and likeness. This is something that we find disagreeable with the article at Biblical Gender Roles. However, let us continue the consideration of what aspect image and likeness humanity was created after.
In an extant, and modern discovery of one of the missing texts of the Old Testament, we have a more condensed version of the Genesis account. Taken from R. H. Charles interpretation of the Ethiopic language of Ge’ez, the Book of Jubiless has this to say: And after all this He created MAN, a man and a woman created He them. This passage does not specify image and likeness as that of Genesis 1:26. However, it does reflect that man and woman were created in a collective sense.
It is not until we get to Jubilees 3 that we gain some interesting insights on the nature of man and woman’s creation:
And the Lord said unto us: “It is not good that the man should be alone: let us make a helpmeet for him:” And the Lord our God caused a deep sleep to fall upon him, and he slept, and He took for the woman one rib from amongst his ribs, and this rib was the origin of woman from amongst his ribs, and he built up the flesh in its stead, and built the woman. And He awaked Adam out of his sleep and on awaking he rose on the sixth day, and He brought her to him, and he knew her, and said unto her: “This is now bone of my bones and flesh of my flesh; and she will be called my wife [Hebrew ishah] because she was taken from her husband [Hebrew: ish]
Modern Christians may excuse the nature of the Book of Jubilees as not being part of the canonicity of scripture, however, it was well known among first century Christians and very well may have been part of some ancient canon of scripture. It became lost and was only discovered when the Dead Sea Scrolls were discovered.
Regardless of one’s view on the Book of Jubiless, it does provide some insight that the Book of Genesis does not provide. Namely that it refers to a marriage ceremony by God himself between man and woman. It also provides insight in that woman was created in the same manner as Adam was from the dust of the ground. With one exception, God took a rib from Adam and created woman around that rib.
The creation of man and woman is solely not a Biblical account. Prior to the creation (as rendered in Genesis 1:26-27 and Genesis 2:4-25), we have a more ancient Sumarian creation story that describes the God Enki and the Goddess Ninhursag-ki dwelt in paradise:
‘Enki and Ninhursag’ is perhaps one of the most difficult Mesopotamian myth for Judeo-Christian Westerners to understand, because it stands as the opposite of the myth of Adam and Eve in Paradise found in the Old Testament Bible. Indeed, ‘ the literature created by the Sumerians left its deep imprint on the Hebrews, and one of the thrilling aspects of reconstructing and translating Sumerian belles-lettres consists in tracing resemblances and parallels between Sumerian and Biblical motifs. To be sure, Sumerians could not have influenced the Hebrews directly, for they had ceased to exist long before the Hebrew people came into existence. But there is little doubt that the Sumerians deeply influenced the Canaanites, who preceded the Hebrews in the land later known as Palestine’ (Kramer, 1981:142). Some comparisons with the Bible paradise story: 1) the idea of a divine paradise, the garden of gods, is of Sumerian origin, and it was Dilmun, the land of immortals situated in southwestern Persia. It is the same Dilmun that, later, the Babylonians, the Semitic people who conquered the Sumerians, located their home of the immortals. There is a good indication that the Biblical paradise, which is described as a garden planted eastward in Eden, from whose waters flow the four world rivers including the Tigris and the Euphrates, may have been originally identical with Dilmun; 2) the watering of Dilmun by Enki and the Sun god Utu with fresh water brought up from the earth is suggestive of the Biblical ‘ But there went up a mist from the earth and watered the whole face of the ground’ (Genesis 2:6); 3) the birth of goddesses without pain or travail illuminates the background of the curse against Eve that it shall be her lot to conceive and bear children in sorrow; 4) Enki’s greed to eat the eight sacred plants which gave birth to the Vegetal World resonates the eating of the Forbidden Fruit by Adam and Eve, and 6) most remarkably, this myth provides na explanation for one of the most puzzling motifs in the Biblical paradise story – the famous passage describing the fashioning of Eve, the mother of all living, from the rib of Adam. Why a rib instead of another organ to fashion the woman whose name Eve means according to the Bible, ‘she who makes live’? If we look at the Sumerian myth, we see that when Enki gets ill, cursed by Ninhursag, one of his body parts that start dying is the rib. The Sumerian word for rib is ‘ti’ . To heal each o Enki’s dying body parts, Ninhursag gives birth to eight goddesses. The goddess created for the healing of Enki’s rib is called ‘Nin-ti’, ‘the lady of the rib’. But the Sumerian word ‘ti’ also means ‘to make live’. The name ‘Nin-ti’ may therefore mean ‘the lady who makes live’ as well as ‘the lady of the rib’. Thus, a very ancient literary pun was carried over and perpetuated in the Bible, but without its original meaning, because the Hebrew word for ‘rib’ and that for ‘who makes live’ have nothing in common. Moreover, it is Ninhursag who gives her life essence to heal Enki, who is then reborn from her (Kramer, 1981:143-144).
There is scholarship regarding the commonalities and parallels between the Ancient Near Eastern creation stories and that contained with the Bible. All of these creation stories have variant understandings. Despite the variant’s of the stories, the point is that all creation stories match up with the understanding that God (or Gods) created man from the dust of the ground in His image and likeness, and then realized Man is not meant to be alone and therefore fashioned woman from man and in the image and likeness.
The question is, what do we mean by image and likeness? The Bible Study Tools has an excellent article that presents varying degrees of thought concerning the understanding of Image and Likeness regarding man’s creation. None of which substantiates the Biblical Gender Roles main assumption concerning the creation of woman.
In another lost book – the Book of Jasher, we read the same type of account that we find in Genesis 2:4-25, with some slight variations within the text.
And God said, let us make man in our image, after our likeness, and God created man in his own image. And God formed man from the ground, and blow into his nostrils the breath of life, and man became a living soul endowed with speech. And the Lord said, it is not good for man to be alone; I will make unto him a helpmeet. And the Lord caused a deep sleep to fall upon Adam, and he slept, and he took away one of his ribs, and he built flesh upon it, and formed it and brought it to Adam, and Adam awoke from his sleep, and behold a woman was standing before him. And he said, This is bone of my bones and it shall be called woman, for this has been taken from man; and Adam called her name Eve, for she was the mother of all living. And God blessed them and call their names Adam and Eve in the day that he created them.
Again, while the text of Genesis 1:26-27, Genesis 2:4 – 25, and the book of Jubilees and Jasher share the same understanding, both conclude that God created both man and woman. The Hebrew for create is Bara and it means to create, shape, form. This is consistent in reviewing the different variants of the Creation accounts and how men and women were created. In addition, we understand that humanity was fashioned after the image and likeness of God. This is direct correlation to God’s physical, spiritual, and characteristic attributes.
Not only were men and women fashioned after God’s own divine likeness and image. They were brought together under the divine marriage of God (which we will explore in the other main point). Suffice it to say, the Bible does clarify that man and woman were created after God’s divine image and likeness.
This brings us to the next point of observation within the article at Biblical Gender Roles. Namely, the understanding of God’s ontological nature as revealed in scripture.
However, it will be remiss if we did not move forward into the New Testament to Paul’s epistle to the Colassae Church. In there, Paul describes the nature of Creation as being completed by Christ himself. We know Christ existed with the Father as the Gospel of John mentions the term Logos and how this Logos became flesh (cf, John Chapter 1). In that passage, it compliments the doctrinal truth that Christ (Logos) made all things through the Power and authority of God the Father.
The Apostle Paul writes:
Who is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of every creature: for by him were all things created, that are in heaven, and that are in earth, visible and invisible, whether they be thrones, or dominions, or principalities, or powers: all things were created by him and for him: And he is before all things, and by him all things consist. And he is the head of the body, the church: who is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead; that in all things he might have the preeminence. For it pleased the Father that in him should all fulness dwell…(Colossians 1:15-19).
While there is much pertaining to our next observation, what we learn in this passage (and that of the Gospel of Joh) is this:
1) Christ pre-existed and was with the Father before the Creation of the Earth and the creation of Humanity.
2) Christ is the active person that has created all things – under the direction and will of the Father.
In fact, what we will see in our next point is that Christ will hand over all that he has to the Father. The most significant point is the use of image of the invisible God. We know that Paul encountered the resurrected Christ. We also know that upon Christ’s resurrection, he showed himself unto his disciples. He possessed a body that is resurrected and glorified. This is important to follow because it will set the foundation going into our next main observation regarding the ontological nature of God, the Father.
Since Christ was resurrected with a body of flesh and bones, and that he ascended into heaven with flesh and bones, we conclude that Paul is referring to the nature of Christ’s physical image being in that same image and likeness of the Father.
Elsewhere, we see this in relation to our own resurrected bodies:
Beloved, now are we the sons of God, and it doth not yet appear what we shall be: but we know that, when he shall appear, we shall be like him; for we shall see him as he is (cf 1 John 3:2)
In our resurrection (which the Biblical text distinguishes two different resurrections) we will come to see Christ in His Image and Glory and that our own resurrected bodies will be in like manner – when Christ appears, we will see him and be like him – resurrected with a body of flesh and bone. This is not including just men. It is including women for they will also possess a resurrected body of flesh and bone as that of Christ has.
Where this is going is that the pre-incarnate Christ, through the direction of the Father, created all things including humanity – men and women by fashioning them after the image and likeness of – God. Christ was only a spiritual being without a body as tangible as man. So, he had to fashion humanities body after the image and likeness of the Father.
Understanding the deeper significance and meaning brings us closer to answering the question of Why am I here? While addressing the false understanding of the article at Biblical Gender Roles on God’s nature and masculinity.
Within the creation of humanity, there were specific gender roles defined between man and woman. These roles were first defined in the Garden of Eden under the marriage ceremony God anointed. The other gender role involved human sexuality: Go therefore and be fruitful and multiply the earth. This included the authority of humanity (both man and woman) to work together in having dominion over all of God’s creation. This may also be an allegory toward the doctrine of theosis and human potential toward progression into divinity (which will be explored under the main observation point of the wedding ceremony itself).
One thing is clear, the roles became more defined when Adam and Eve transgressed the law of partaking of the forbidden fruit. No, they did not transgress the law by thinking they shall become like God. In fact, when you read the account in Genesis Chapter 3, God does say, Behold man has become LIKE ONE OF US to know good and evil. Humanity (Adam and Eve) were banished from the Garden of Eden so as to not partake of the fruit of the Tree of Life and live forever.
Once out of the Garden of Eden, God declared that Man will be the patriarch, and the woman will be under his protection and authority, yet both were to still have dominion over the Earth, and were still required to multiply and replenish the earth. Through them, humanity sprung up. In this context, we see the gender roles defined in the marriage relationship.
The Ontological Nature of God and Biblical Anthropomorphic Descriptors
One of the most common passages modern Christians utilize to prove that God does not have a physical resurrected body of flesh and bones is based on a grossly misinterpretation of John 4:24. Biblical Gender Roles writes this in their article on God’s nature:
If the male human being is “the image and glory of God” then we can we rightly say God IS male in the sense that the Trinity is imaged in the masculine human nature. Now does that mean God is biologically male? Yes and No. Christ is the God man, but God the Father and God the Holy Spirit are spirit as the Bible tells us: “God is a Spirit: and they that worship him must worship him in spirit and in truth.” John 4:24 (KJV)
Like many modern Christians and Evangelical Apologists, they make a false interpretation on this one passage.
There are two main reasons such an interpretation is wrong. The first one is that it is contextually in error; and the second, it is contradictory toward the many passages relating to Christ’s ontological and anthropomorphic descriptors in comparison to that of the Father.
Let us address the first main issue with how John 4:24 is contextually misinterpreted. We will do this by appealing to the immediate context of the passage where Christ is at the well and a Samaritan woman comes to draw out water. They engage in a conversation regarding the nature of worship and the idea of salvation being from the Jews. In fact, Christ informs the Samaritan woman:
You worship what you do not know; we worship what we know, for salvation is from the Jews. But an hour is coming, and now is, when the TRUE worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth; for such people the Father seeks to be His true worshipers. (Cf. John 4:22-23, NASB).
Since the context around John 4:24 refers to the nature of Worship as a Spiritual discipline, there is no means to interpret the understanding from an act of spiritual discipline into an ontological argument. To do so will render the context to refer that those who are “TRUE WORSHIPERS” that the Father (GOD) seeks must also have the same ontological nature as that of God – both being of Spirit.
Since the context of John 4:22-25 does not refer to the ontological nature of the worshipers, we cannot conclude that verse 24 suddenly refers to God’s ontological nature of being Spirit only. The actual rendering that is contextually applicable is that because God seeks true worshipers that will engage in a spiritual discipline renders us to conclude that God is a Spiritual Being.
Many Bible Commentaries reflect the present mindset that John 4:24 is an ontological descriptor of God being A Spirit and not a Spiritual Being. Take for example Ellicott’s commentary for English Readers:
God is Spirit – better, God is spirit. His will has been expressed in the seeking. But his very nature and essence is spirit, and it follows from this that all true worship must be spiritual.
Benson Commentary says this:
As a further answer to the woman’s question, our Lord delivered a doctrine which may justly be called his own, as it exhibits an idea of God, and of the worship which is due to him, far more sublime than the best things said by the philosophers on that subject. Christ came to declare God to us, and this he has declared concerning him, that hi is a Spirit. and he declared it to this poor Samaritan woman
Benson goes further and says this:God is a spirit, for he is an infinite and eternal mind; an intelligent being, yea, the supreme intelligence, who by one act sees the thoughts of all other intelligence whatever, and so may be worshiped in every place; he is incorporeal, immaterial, invisible, and incorruptible: for it is easier to say what he is not than what he is. If God were not a spirit, he could not be perfect, nor infinite, nor eternal, nor independent, nor the Father of spirits.
Keep the above statement in mind because what will be revealed is that this idea of God being spirit, and therefore being incomprehensible, incorporeal, immaterial, and invisible is a Gnostic heretical teaching from the Second Century. This heretical Gnostic teaching stems from the Valentinius school of thought on the nature of God:
Valentinians believed that God is incomprehensible and cannot be known directly. Therefore he defies accurate description. He is infinite, without beginning or end and is the ultimate origin of all things. He encompasses all things without being encompassed. Everything including the world lies within the deity and continues to be part of it. The Godhead manifests itself through a process of self-unfolding in the subsequent multiplicity of being while maintaining its unity.
Notice how this follows the same vein of thought Benson’s commentary provides. Yet, this is recited as Biblical doctrine within the construct of the Trinity. The problem here is that if the present understanding of God’s nature as being a spirit stems from the second Century heretical teaching of Valentinius, then what is the actual Biblical ontological descriptors concerning the nature and being of God?
Part of that is provided in the previous segment on the nature of humanity and our creation from God’s image and likeness. Briefly spoke on the ontological descriptors of Jesus Christ himself. Here, we will explore the relationship between those ontological descriptors as it serves to understand and define Christ’s nature (a Physical being who now possesses a Physical and resurrected body).
We first turn ourselves over to the first statement Christ made in relation to himself and the Father: The Apostle (yet still a disciple of Christ) asked the Savior to show unto them (the disciples) the Father. Christ responds that if they have been with Christ so long, how do they not understand that if he (referring to Philip) has seen Christ, then he certainly has seen the Father (cf. John 14:8-9).
A careful read through the New Testament (specifically the gospels) reveal that Christ always differentiates himself from the Father. He does this when relating to the disciples, and he does this when relating to the religious leaders.
Peter’s very own confession reveals that there is a very distinct nature between Christ and the Father:
Thou art the Son of the LIVING GOD.
More specific, one unique passage stands out and that is in the resurrection account of the Gospel of John. Here, Christ meets a woman who mistakes him for the gardener. Christ reveals himself to her and admonishes her not to touch him. His reason for her to not touch him?
Jesus saith unto her, Touch me not; for I am not yet ascended to my Father: but go to my brethren and say unto them, I ascend unto my Father and your Father and to my God and your God. (cf John 20:17, KJV)
This is further understood when we look at Christ coming to the upper room where the disciples were present. When the disciple Thomas came in, he wanted to see for himself. On both accounts, Christ refers to the fact that He is not a spirit. That he possesses a body of flesh and bone that was resurrected.
Not only does the New Testament show that Christ had a bodily and physical resurrection, it also relates that he ascended into Heaven and that the Disciples were informed that Christ will return with his resurrected glorified body.
Paul describes in detail the nature of our own resurrection in 1 Corinthians 15. Revelation describes the resurrection of the Righteous and the Resurrection of those whose names were not written in the Book of Life.
Going back to Colossians, Paul writes that Christ is the First born of the Resurrection.
What we conclude here is that Christ possesses a body of flesh and bone. The Bible explicitly states that Christ rose from the dead with a resurrected body of flesh and bone, and that Christ will appear and we will see him as we are – with a glorified and resurrected body of flesh and bone.
Christ consistently differentiated himself from the Father, yet expressed in ways and terminologies that he also is in the express image of his father (if ye seen me, ye have seen the Father). The New Testament also places Christ in position of authority at the right hand of God’s throne.
We also understand and know that when he was challenged, the religious leaders decried blasphemy because Christ either said that he was “I AM” (YHWH) or that he was placing himself Equal to God. When in reality, Biblical teachings and understandings is that Christ is YHWH in the Old Testament and the God of Abraham, Jacob, and Isaac.
What modern day scholarship has revealed is that YHWH was a subordinate God to the Most High God and part of the Divine Counsel. This is evident in passages like Deuteronomy 32: 8 – 9, Psalm 82, Job 1 and 2.
Therefore, the rendering of God being spirit traces it’s origins back to the heretical teaching of Gnosticism of St. Valentinius where God is incomprehensible, incorporeal, and a Spirit (or essence).
These leaves us with the last three main points of observation. The third relies on the linguistic style of Hebrew and Greek (which I will not further discuss here to any length or extent as I have the last two main points). And, the fourth and fifth observation coincide with one another where the fourth focuses on the feminine descriptors within the Old Testament and the symbolism of Wisdom as it pertains to the nature and idea of a Goddess consort. The final thought further extends from the symbolism of a female consort within the divine council and into the realm of Adam and Eve’s marriage, the Temple, and priestly authority.
Those three observations will be treated in a follow up article to Biblical Gender Roles article. However, where does this leave us in answering the question postulated by the article? How are we going to understand the reason we are hear and in what context does our purpose have? That will be in the third installment to follow up these two articles.