“God, Gender and Biblical Metaphor” (Ch. 17) by Judy L. Brown -- By: H. Wayne House

Journal: Journal for Biblical Manhood and Womanhood
Volume: JBMW 10:1 (Spring 2005)
Article: “God, Gender and Biblical Metaphor” (Ch. 17) by Judy L. Brown
Author: H. Wayne House


“God, Gender and Biblical Metaphor”
(Ch. 17) by Judy L. Brown

H. Wayne House

Professor of Law, Trinity Law School
Trinity International University, Santa Ana, California
Distinguished Professor, Biblical Studies and Apologetics
Faith Seminary, Tacoma, Washington

Thou hast been faithful to my highest need:
And I, thy debtor, ever, evermore,
Shall never feel the grateful burden sore.
Yet most I thank thee, not for any deed,
But for the sense thy living self did breed
That Fatherhood is at the world’s great core.1

Judy Brown, in her chapter in Discovering Biblical Equality, entitled “God, Gender and Biblical Metaphor,”2 seeks to dissuade her readers from viewing God in masculine terms by explaining that such terms are merely ways in which we speak of God in figurative language, but a language which does not reflect who he really is (287). She reminds us that God is spirit and that the Bible presents God through personification and anthropomorphism which reflects only a likeness to God (287–88). Titles like “Father” and “King” are human characteristics ascribed to God but should not be carried too far for self-serving reasons (287–88).

She then seeks to affirm the use of the masculine gender, third personal singular pronoun in modern translations for the person of God. Declaring that even though God is not male she does recognize that English, Greek, Hebrew, and most ancient and modern languages do not have a third person personal pronoun which does not express gender. Consequently, she continues, the third person pronoun he refers to a male person or to a generic individual without reference to gender (288). She concludes, by alluding to Carl F. H. Henry, that the only pronoun that may be used of God is a masculine, but the point is not “to convey that God has a sexual or gendered nature but to emphasize God’s personal nature. When he is used for God in Scripture, it is used in its general sense as a generic personal pronoun, not in its gender-specific sense as a masculine pronoun” (288).

Though Brown is correct that Henry believes any sexual overtones should be avoided in speaking of the biblical teaching regarding God, he also recognizes that masculine terminology is inherent in speaking of God in a way that feminine terminology is not. Henry says,

But the Bible’s predominant use of masculine imagery and metaphors is not to be hurriedly dismissed as a matter of indifference. Even as the biblical writers do not indiscriminately employ a...

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