Could Our Savior Have Been a Woman? The Relevance of Jesus’ Gender for His Incarnational Mission -- By: Bruce A. Ware

Journal: Journal for Biblical Manhood and Womanhood
Volume: JBMW 08:1 (Spring 2003)
Article: Could Our Savior Have Been a Woman? The Relevance of Jesus’ Gender for His Incarnational Mission
Author: Bruce A. Ware


Could Our Savior Have Been a Woman?
The Relevance of Jesus’ Gender for His Incarnational Mission

Bruce A. Ware

Editor, Journal for Biblical Manhood and Womanhood;
Senior Associate Dean, School of Theology
Professor of Christian Theology
The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary,
Louisville, Kentucky

Introduction

1) Jesus Christ of Nazareth was fully God.

2) Jesus Christ of Nazareth was fully human.

3) Jesus Christ of Nazareth was a male human being.

All three of these statements are judged to be true in the orthodox tradition, and each is borne out by abundant biblical testimony. The first two of these are often stated together as necessarily true for the incarnation and substitutionary atonement to occur. Anselm’s classic treatment, Cur Deus Homo, spells out why an atoning sacrifice would have required Jesus to be both divine and human - divine, to be of sufficient value to pay fully and finally for the sin of the world and satisfy the offence against the honor of God; human, to die as a fit substitute in our place. But, the question of whether Jesus had to be a male human being has seldom been discussed, until recently. Was his male gender a merely arbitrary feature of the incarnational design? Did the Father throw dice or draw straws in choosing to send the Messiah as a male human being? Or, was the male gender of Jesus essential to the reality of his incarnational identity and to the accomplishment of his incarnational mission? That is, did Jesus have to be male, or could our Savior have been a woman?

A couple of recent developments raise this question to a level of higher poignancy. I have in mind, first, the publication in 1995 of The New Testament and Psalms: An Inclusive Version,1 in which the male gender of Jesus was decided not to have any “christological significance, or significance for salvation.”2 As the editors explain,

When in the Gospels the historical person, Jesus, is referred to as “son,” the word is retained. But when Jesus is called “Son of God” or “Son of the Blessed One,” and the maleness of the historical person Jesus is not relevant, but the “Son’s” intimate relation to the “Father” is being spoken about (see Mt 11.25-27), the formal equivalent “Child” is used for “Son,” and gender-specific pronouns referring to the “Child” are avoided. Thus readers are enabled to identify themselves with Jesus’ humanity.

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