Neither male nor female

A little Greek…

Πάντες γὰρ υἱοὶ Θεοῦ ἐστε διὰ τῆς πίστεως ἐν Χριστῷ Ἰησοῦ·  ὅσοι γὰρ εἰς Χριστὸν ἐβαπτίσθητε, Χριστὸν ἐνεδύσασθε. οὐκ ἔνι Ἰουδαῖος οὐδὲ Ἕλλην, οὐκ ἔνι δοῦλος οὐδὲ ἐλεύθερος, οὐκ ἔνι ἄρσεν καὶ θῆλυ· πάντες γὰρ ὑμεῖς εἷς ἐστε ἐν Χριστῷ Ἰησοῦ.

My translation: “For you are all now SONS of God because of faith in Christ Jesus. After all, everyone baptized into Christ has put on Christ like a garment. There is no Jew nor Greek, slave nor free, male nor female — for you are all one in Christ Jesus.”

This passage is often used to deconstruct masculinity and femininity, but look what it says. We are all SONS. People who translate this “children of God” are missing the point. The Son was made complete/perfect through what he suffered. Just so, when we put on Christ, we are completed and brought to maturity only when we lay down our lives. This is something that we do AS Jew or Greek, slave or free, woman or man — but the fundamental reality behind it is the reality of SONSHIP.

We botch this in English, because “son”, for us, means merely “male child”. For the Greeks, though, “son” strongly implied “heir”. The Greeks would never call a “child” an heir, only a son. When people mistake this passage as a deconstruction of gender, they miss the radical nature of the passage: that women, slaves, and Greeks were invited to inherit the kingdom.  There isn’t the slightest notion that, once a slave has been baptized into Christ, they can abandon their master, or that, once a Greek is baptized into Christ, they equivalent to a Jew.

There is, however, a sense that these sub-identities (like male or female) are subsumed to our central New Covenant identity: the identity of a son.  My daughter is a daughter of Eve, but a “son” — which is to say, an heir — of the living God.  The power of this language is phenomenal, and yet it has become ordinary and casual in our ears, especially when we water it down and say that we are all “children” of God.

Children, schmildren.  We are sons.

So what is a son — aside from someone who receives the inheritance?  I’ll leave that question for my next post…

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6 thoughts on “Neither male nor female

  1. Zack says:

    I have come to hold a similar view as well. In my old family, I had an uncle whose lifelong theological concern was God’s gender. He had written reams and reams of stuff concerning and using Scripture to prove that God was, in fact, male. One of the prime arguments he had was “It is God the Father, not God the Mother”.

    It wasn’t until I was sent away and free to read into it myself that I looked into the Hebrew stuff and realized that Father is another word for Originator. Of course, in hindsight, it is obvious. Abraham is the Father of the Jews – not because he birthed all of them himself but because he is the Origin. The first one God contacted in the history since Noah and kin.

    I myself have a mix of some male traits but many more female traits in the way I think too. Oftentimes, I wonder if I am more female than male (though not transgender, it is almost enough to have me not even identify as male). Horrible spacial awareness, can’t read a map, no sense of direction, etc.

    I reckon God doesn’t see gender. Recall the guy who trips Jesus up (or tries) with the hypothetical of a lady who marries a bunch of guys who all die, one after the other. Who is she married to in heaven? Jesus hints at the genderlessness of the next life. And it does make a lot of sense, really.

    I strongly believe that gender and all related features are profanity. That is, aspects of the dust we were fabricated from. The idea of becoming beings of pure Godstuff and freed of these crude animal forms is something to look forward to if it pans out. I have been in a gross anatomy lab and there is little sacred in fallow flesh, filth, pus, and rot of the dust that makes us.

    The evidence I have witnessed just goes back to confirm Scripture: nothing good comes from the heart and flesh is forever at war with God and His Spirit within us.

    • I feel like you’re too hard on the body, here. Bodies are good. The intricacy of the body is profoundly awesome, and the way it serves its function deeply inspiring.

      As for gender, I’ve found the homilies of John Paul II helpful in thinking about gender. JPII wouldn’t agree with you that gender is unimportant, but he would perhaps say that the primordial reality of humanity is not dependent on our being “sexed” — broken up into genders. Thus he says:

      “Corporality and sexuality are not completely identified. Although the human body in its normal constitution, bears within it the signs of sex and is by its nature male or female, the fact, however, that man is a ‘body’ belongs to the structure of the personal subject more deeply than the fact that in his somatic constitution he is also male or female.”

      See http://www.ewtn.com/library/papaldoc/jp2tb8.htm

      and

      http://www.ewtn.com/library/papaldoc/jp2tbind.htm

  2. Zack says:

    Perhaps. One thing I never lost was a belief in Absolute Depravity. While I carry it far beyond the realm of where my family might have taken it, it makes sense to me still. Every good comes from God and His spirit. Without that we would be like animals – psychopathic be any clinical measure.

    Perhaps I am too hard on the flesh. Perhaps you aren’t hard enough.

    • My view: all good comes from God, yes, but our physical natures come from God too. So they are good.

      Bodies — human and animal — are made in the image of God. Male bodies express God’s power and fearlessness; female bodies express God’s nurturing and compassionate nature. My body can participate in all the virtues of God; but the masculine virtues are native to this body in a way that the feminine virtues are not.

  3. Zack says:

    I think I see your point. I suppose it comes down to a question of what came from God and what has been profaned by the world. I suspect our inherent masculinity and feminity is schismed by depravity but I maybe wrong. Seperating wheat from chaff is beyond us or any philosopher, unfortunately. Perhaps we can never know the truth of this till the end.

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