Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Is God Male?

Biblegems #134
Question: Is God male, female, both or neither?

When the Bible speaks of God in a descriptive way it is either His nature or His attributes that are in view. Descriptions of His nature tell us what kind of being God is, like saying your pet is a dog or a cat. Descriptions of God’s attributes tell us how God behaves, like describing someone as a hard-working dad or a self-sacrificing mom.

There are several times in the Bible where God is portrayed as possessing both masculine and feminine attributes. For instance, God’s feminine attributes can be seen in Isaiah’s prophecy:
Is. 66:12-13 For this is what the LORD says: “I will extend peace to her like a river, and the wealth of nations like a flooding stream; you will nurse and be carried on her arm and dandled on her knees. As a mother comforts her child, so will I comfort you; and you will be comforted over Jerusalem.

Even Jesus, who almost always refers to God in masculine terms, also likens God to a mother hen:
Matt. 23:37  “O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, you who kill the prophets and stone those sent to you, how often I have longed to gather your children together, as a hen gathers her chicks under her wings, but you were not willing.

On the other hand, Jesus—and Scripture in general—typically attribute masculine qualities to God. In the Gospel of Mark Jesus calls God “abba” (Aramaic for “daddy”):
Mark 14:36 “Abba, Father,” he said, “everything is possible for you. Take this cup from me. Yet not what I will, but what you will.”

And as the underlined pronouns below demonstrate, God is referred to as “he” in the book of Deuteronomy, which is typical of the Bible as a whole:
Dt. 32:10  In a desert land he found him, in a barren and howling waste. He shielded him and cared for him; he guarded him as the apple of his eye…

These masculine and feminine traits only reveal by analogy how God relates to us. They say nothing about what kind of being He is in His nature. The reason for this is that God as a being is neither male nor female. He has no gender. God is Spirit. As Jesus says:
John 4:24 God is spirit, and his worshipers must worship in spirit and in truth.

Unlike biological creatures who cannot be in two places at once, God as Spirit is everywhere all the time: 
Ps. 139:7-10 Where can I go from your Spirit? Where can I flee from your presence? If I go up to the heavens, you are there; if I make my bed in the depths, you are there. If I rise on the wings of the dawn, if I settle on the far side of the sea, even there your hand will guide me, your right hand will hold me fast.

Most of the time God is spoken of in masculine terms throughout Scripture. And when He took on human flesh and lived among us for a while, God chose to come into the human race as a male—Jesus Christ the Son of God.

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