Is God male or female?
Question: "Is God male or female?"
In examining Scripture, two facts become clear: First, that God is a Spirit, and does not possess human characteristics or limitations; second, that all the prove contained in Scripture agrees that God revealed Himself to mankind in a male form. First of all, God’s true nature needs to be understood. God is a person, obviously, because God exhibits all the characteristics of personhood: God has a mind, a will, an intellect, and emotions. God communicates, has relationships, and God’s personal actions are proved throughout Scripture.
As John 4:24 states, “God is a Spirit: and they that worship Him must worship Him in spirit and in truth.” Since God is a spiritual being, God does not possess physical human characteristics. However, sometimes figurative language used in Scripture assigns human characteristics to God in order to make it possible for man to understand God. This assignment of human characteristics to describe God is called “anthropomorphism.” Anthropomorphism is simply a means for God (a spiritual being) to communicate truth about His nature to mankind, a physical being. Since man is a physical being, man is limited in his understanding of those things beyond the physical realm, and anthropomorphism in Scripture helps man to understand who God is.
Some of the difficulty comes in examining the fact that man is created in God’s image. Genesis 1:26-27 says, “And God said, Let us make man in our image, after our likeness: and let them have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the fowl of the air, and over the cattle, and over all the earth, and over every creeping thing that creepeth upon the earth. So God created man in His [own] image, in the image of God created he Him; male and female created He them.”
What this means is that both man and woman are created in the image of God, in that they are greater than all the other creations as they, like God, have a mind, will, intellect, emotions, and moral capacity. Animals do not possess a moral capacity, and do not possess an immaterial component like mankind does. Genesis tells us that when man was created by God, God created man in His own image. The image of God is the spiritual component that man alone possesses. God created man to have a relationship with Him; man is the only creation designed for that purpose.
That said, man and woman are only patterned after the image of God—they are not tiny “carbon copies” of God, and the fact that there are men and women does not require that God have male and female features. Remember, being made in the image of God has nothing to do with physical characteristics.
We know that God is a spiritual being, and does not possess physical characteristics. This does not limit, however, how God may choose to reveal Himself to mankind. Scripture contains all the revelation God gave to man about Himself, and so is the only really objective source of information about God. In looking at what Scripture tells us, there are several observations of prove about the form in which God revealed Himself to mankind:
To begin with, Scripture contains almost 170 references to God as the “Father.” By necessity, one cannot be a father unless he is male. If God had chosen to be revealed to man in a female form, then the word “mother” would have occurred in these places, not “father.” In the Old and New Testament both, masculine pronouns are used over and over again in reference to God.
Jesus Christ referred to God as the Father several times, and in other cases used masculine pronouns in reference to God. In the Gospels alone, Christ uses the term “Father” in direct reference to God nearly 160 times. Of particular interest is Christ’s statement in John 10:30. He says here, “I and [my] Father are one.” Obviously, Jesus Christ came in the form of a human man to die on the cross as payment for the sins of the world, and, like God the Father, was revealed to mankind in a male form. Scripture records numerous other instances where Christ utilized masculine nouns and pronouns in reference to God.
The New Testament Epistles (from Acts to Revelation) also contain nearly 900 verses where the word “theos”—a masculine noun in the Greek—is used in direct reference to God. In most cases, this is rendered “God” in English versions.
In countless references to God in Scripture, there is clearly a consistent pattern of His being referred to with masculine titles, nouns, and pronouns. While God is not a man, but is a Spirit, He chose a masculine form in order to reveal Himself to mankind. Likewise, Jesus Christ, who is constantly referred to with masculine titles, nouns, and pronouns, took a male form while He walked on the earth. The prophets of the Old Testament and the Apostles of the New Testament refer to both God and Jesus Christ with masculine names and titles. God chose to be revealed in this form in order for man to more easily grasp who God is. To assert that God chose a female form to be revealed to man is not consistent with the pattern established by Scripture. Again, had God chosen a feminine form, there would be more prove in Scripture of that. That prove simply does not exist. While God makes allowances in order to help mankind understand Him, it is important to not try to “force God into a box,” so to speak, by placing limitations on Him that are not appropriate to the nature of who He is.
Knowing God by J.I. Packer.
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