God is NOT Transgender


Posted by Matt Postiff August 19, 2016 on Matt Postiff's Blog under Society  Bible Texts 

In a recent New York Times editorial piece, Mark Sameth claims that gender in the Hebrew Bible is a fluid concept, and that God is the He/She.

The first two paragraphs about the Bible are these:

I'm a rabbi, and so I'm particularly saddened whenever religious arguments are brought in to defend social prejudices — as they often are in the discussion about transgender rights. In fact, the Hebrew Bible, when read in its original language, offers a highly elastic view of gender. And I do mean highly elastic: In Genesis 3:12, Eve is referred to as "he." In Genesis 9:21, after the flood, Noah repairs to "her" tent. Genesis 24:16 refers to Rebecca as a "young man." And Genesis 1:27 refers to Adam as them.
Surprising, I know. And there are many other, even more vivid examples: In Esther 2:7, Mordecai is pictured as nursing his niece Esther. In a similar way, in Isaiah 49:23, the future kings of Israel are prophesied to be nursing kings.

These claims are totally false. Mr. Sameth is one rabbi who does not know Hebrew very well; or perhaps better stated, he has allowed his presuppositions about gender to color his vision of the text so that he cannot read it plainly. Gen 3:12 refers to Eve by the Hebrew pronoun "she." Gen 9:21 does not say Noah "repaired to her tent;" it says "he became uncovered (third person masculine singular verb) in his tent." There may be a slight manuscript variance in the pronominal suffix on the word tent, but the meaning is clearly Noah's (his) tent.

Gen 24:16 refers to Rebecca as a young woman (maiden, a virgin, not known by a man), and there is no question that she was a woman given her remarkable beauty. Finally, Genesis 1:27 is where Sameth is closest to the truth, but even that is misconstrued. He doesn't say that "Adam" is the generic use of the word, which refers not to the first man created by God, but rather refers to humankind generally (see NIV). NKJV has a very literal translation:

So God created man (Adam=generic use, humankind) in His own image; in the image of God He created him (him is masculine singular); male and female He created them (yes, it is "them" but obviously referring collectively to humankind). (Gen 1:27 NKJ)

Esther 2:7 does not picture Mordecai is breast-feeding his niece. The vocabulary there refers to Mordecai virtually adopting her (end of the verse) and bringing her up and being her attendant, "nourishing" her in the sense of providing for her. Similarly with the kings of Isaiah 49:23: the second phrase of that verse talks about the queens being nursing mothers; the kings will provide for the nation. The idea of provision and care is all that is implied. There is no gender confusion, mixing, or "well-expressed gender fluidity."

Finally, his argument about the name of God is simply an example of the logical fallacy of special pleading. He should go back and study Exodus 3:14 and see the derivation of the tetragrammaton name of God. God is not the He/She; God is the self-existent eternal ruler of the universe. God is identified as Father to creation and to believers. To be sure, God is sometimes gentle as a mother, but that doesn't warrant us to call Him a Father/Mother. He is also going to judge like a lion, but we shouldn't perceive God as a Human/Lion combination. These are obviously figures of speech describing characteristics of the infinite, non-corporeal God.

God's Son, Jesus Christ of Nazareth, is the perfect representation of God (Hebrews 1:2-3). He was and is still to this day incarnate as a human male. There is no lack of clarity on that point.

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