Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Gen 1:27 and the Gendering of God

You hear people saying all sorts of stupid things about the Bible and if I blogged each one I would never stop blogging.  However a particularly choice example was the time I was told, with great enthusiasm, that Gen 1:27 tells us that God is both male and female, because God created male and female in his image.  (wait for it, that wasn't the most stupid bit) Because God is both male and female, but humans in his/her image are only male or female, when a man and woman have sex they bring those two aspects of God together and so when we have sex it is the closest we come to bearing the complete image of God!  I might forgive the person who said that, because they were single and so had no first hand experience that might dissuade them that coitus resulted in such a elevated state.  No I blame the supposed Bible teacher who told her that. 

Male and female fairy wrens, from here
The verse reads:
So God created man in his own image,
in the image of God he created him;
male and female he created them.
The point of course, is that God created them in his own image and he also created them male and female.  The point is not that male and female make up different aspects of God's image, but that BOTH male and female bear God's image equally.

In fact the male and female is not what makes us "in God's image" at all, but in actual fact gives us something in common with the animals.  Hence the Hebrew, zachar unekevah (זָכָר וְּנְקֵבָה), are the same words that you would use to refer to male and female animals.  And this is why, for Christians, sex, although a good gift from God, has nothing to do with being more or less close to God because eternal life does not involve marriage or procreation (Mark 12:25).  Being male and female is a consequence of the need to go forth and multiply, not of being made in God's image.  Consequently those who are single/celibate are no less bearers of the image of God than those who are married.  Finally it needs to be pointed out that if God were both male an female he would be an hermaphrodite.  No offence to hermaphrodites, but God has no body so for him/her to have any sexual organs, let alone both sets, is not possible.  God only gets called "him" or "her" because English has no gender neutral personal pronoun, which is pretty inconvenient, just ask an hermaphrodite.


  1. Well done, Jonathan - a blog on theological matters which made me laugh! Love the last line


  2. Hi Ryan, thanks, but i was only half joking. It is a serious lacuna in our language and theology that we don't know what to do with/say to hermaphrodites. people are born like that from time to time, and for them it is no joke.

  3. I agree! Succinctly and humorously put!

  4. Thanks Brook, welcome to the blog. :-)