Is God Masculine?

Table of Contents

Discussions about the masculinity of God as the Bible portrays Him can get complicated. So, before digging into the details, let’s look at a broad overview of this issue. 

An Outline of Evidence for Why God is Masculine

I. How We Know God is Masculine 

A. He is always called "He" in the Bible. He is never called “She.” 

B. God identifies Himself in masculine roles and offices. 

C. Jesus is male and masculine. 

D. Jesus unites many “polarities” in Himself, but never masculinity and femininity. 

E. The masculinity of God and Christ have always been confessed by Jews or Christians in history. 

II. Objections to the Masculinity of God 

A. God is compared to females. 

B. God is a genderless spirit. 

C. The Bible shows a patriarchal bias. 

III. Why God’s Masculinity Matters 

A. The Bible reveals a masculine God. If He is not masculine, then the Bible is wrong. 

B. The Bible reveals a male and masculine Jesus. 

C. The real issue is the trustworthiness of the Bible. 

The outline above summarizes the main points of debate about the gender of God in our day. The discussion below follows this outline. 

The Main Idea: God is Masculine

Jews and Christians have believed in the masculinity of God for millennia, but today a huge controversy has arisen. Are the goddess worshipers right when they insist that God is “she?” Is God “beyond gender” or “androgynous” as more and more modern Christians think? 

Historically, Christians have always thought about God in masculine terms because the Bible shows us a masculine God. The answer is really that simple. Here is an overview of the evidence for the masculinity of God. 

God is Always Called "He" and Never "She"

From Genesis to Revelation, God is “He.” Nowhere is God “she.” Nowhere in the Bible is God referred to as “The Eternal It” or anything similar to this idea. When we speak of individual personalities, the grammatical gender is the same as their sex, and we should not be surprised at this. Humans come in two and only two types: male and female. The pronouns (“he,” “she,” “it,” and their other forms) agree in gender with what they refer to. When we read “He hit the ball,” we know that a male hit the ball. Similarly, “She caught the ball” tells us immediately that a female caught the ball. 

So the first evidence for the masculinity of God is the Bible’s exclusive use of masculine pronouns for Him. Jesus even bends the rules of Greek grammar in John 16:13 in order to avoid calling the Holy Spirit an “it.” When speaking of the Holy Spirit (“spirit” is grammatically neuter in Greek), Jesus uses the masculine personal pronoun: “He will guide you into all truth,” Jesus says. 

God is Masculine in Roles and Offices

In addition to the universal use of masculine pronouns for God, the Bible overwhelms us with descriptions of God’s words and works drawn from masculine models and images, offices and roles, most of them drawn from the family, government, and the military. 

God is Father, Son, Judge of all the earth, Lord of Armies. Christ is the First Born Brother, Bridegroom, Husband, King of kings, Lord of lords, the Prophet, and the great High Priest. An exhaustive list of masculine references to God would number in the scores of hundreds. We can hardly turn a page of the Old or New Testaments without finding dozens of masculine references to God. The Psalms are littered with them. Jesus’ teaching about God is almost exclusively on God the Father. Against this diverse spectrum of masculine roles, offices, and images, is it any wonder that Christians read their Bibles and find that it presents us with a thoroughly masculine deity? 

Jesus is Male and Masculine

“Male” signifies biological sex. Maleness arises from specific biological and physiological characteristics. However, maleness is not a matter of mere genital design; an animal’s sexual maleness arises from a host of hormonal, physiological, and chromosomal characteristics. 

What, then, about Jesus? First of all, He is male. Luke the physician preserves not only the angel’s prediction that Mary would conceive a male in her womb (Luke 1:31ff), he records the datum that Jesus was circumcised on the eighth day after His birth (Luke 2:21). 

“Masculinity,” on the other hand, is a social, psychological, and spiritual concept. So is femininity. This does not, however, erase a fundamental conviction of all human societies – male humans ought to be masculine and female humans ought to be feminine – no matter how the cultural particulars are worked out. Social roles, manners, customs, and fashions of dress ordinarily function to highlight and augment the biological gender of either sex and, particularly, to exaggerate the distinctions between the sexes. 

Jesus’ roles, manners, and customs are all conventionally and unambiguously masculine. We know next to nothing about Jesus’ dress or grooming; but, they too must have been ordinarily masculine, unlike the feminized portrait of Him displayed in so many Sunday school rooms today. Had they been otherwise, the Scribes and Pharisees – eager to spotlight the slightest unseemliness in His life – would surely have noted any hint of sexual ambiguity in Jesus. They slandered Jesus as a bastard (John 8:19, 41), as a half-breed, and claimed he was demon-possessed (John 8:48, 52). He was accused as a law-breaker (Luke 6:2), as a glutton, drunkard, and carouser (Matt. 11:19), and as a blasphemer (Mark 7:2). Never do we read that Jesus’ enemies accused Him of effeminacy. In view of their eagerness to lodge any complaint against Jesus which would stick, their silence on Jesus’ “femininity” is significant. 

Consequently, maleness and masculinity – a creaturely complex of biological, social, psychological, and spiritual characteristics – were united with the masculine God in the person of Jesus the Messiah. 

The Boundary God Never Crosses

According to Scripture’s prophecies and history, a feminine Messiah is impossible. In both Old and New Testaments, the Messiah unites within Himself a number of polarities never before brought together in one man. For example, Christ is both baby and ancient of days, both Master and Servant, King and Servant, Priest and sacrifice, Judge and the one judged for the sin of the world. He is both the Prophet and the Word, both Shepherd and the Lamb of God. He is both divine and human. 

Over against these polarities which are united in Christ, we note the Bible’s steadfast refusal to unite masculinity and femininity in the person of Jesus. Christ is a son, but never a daughter. Christ is a brother, never a sister. Christ is a bridegroom, never a bride. Christ is a husband, never a wife. Christ is a king, never a queen. 

But, what about Galatians 3:27-29?

 For as many of you as were baptized into Christ have put on Christ. [28] There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is neither male nor female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus. [29] And if you are Christ’s, then you are Abraham’s offspring, heirs according to promise. (Galatians 3:27-29) 

The union that Galatians 3:28 speaks of is irrelevant for this discussion, because Paul says nothing here about Christ integrating the polarities mentioned in the passage. Rather, Paul claims that neither ethnicity (“Jew nor Greek”), civic status (“slave nor free”), or sex (“male nor female”) have any impact on God’s promise to Abraham. Included within the body of Christ, therefore, are both Jews and Greeks, slaves and free citizens, males and females! As both men and women are “in Adam,” so both men and women are in Christ and thus heirs of God’s promise to Abraham which is fulfilled in Christ. 

The fact that all males and females are in Adam (a solitary male) does not make Adam to be anything other than an individual solitary human male. The fact that all redeemed human males and females are in Christ, the Second Adam, does not make His humanity to be any different from the First Adam’s. 

The polarity of gender does not vanish in the person of Christ. Instead, it is amplified and magnified throughout salvation history until sexual polarity reaches a climactic glorification in the marriage supper of the Lamb where Christ is the Bridegroom and the Church is His bride and wife (Rev. 21:2, 9-10, 22:17). Christ’s lack of “integration” with the feminine is not an insult to femininity. Rather He pursues and achieves a different kind of union, the wedding of the divine masculine and the created feminine. 

The Consistent Belief of the Faithful

In view of the extensive detail by which the Bible presents us with a powerfully masculine God, it is no surprise that God’s masculinity is the consistent belief of Old and New Testament saints over the centuries in which the Bible was written and in the centuries of the Church since the days of the Apostles. Their reason for this conviction is twofold. 

First of all, “the Bible tells me so” explains why faithful believers have consistently held to a belief in a masculine God for thousands of years. This is how the Bible portrays God, and so that is how faithful Christians have related to Him. For some modern-thinking people, this is a reason to reject God’s masculinity. For they suppose that this is simply part of a pre-modern (and, therefore, false) view of God which our enlightened age must throw off in the interests of justice and to gain a hearing with a culture which rejects old patriarchal concepts. 

But, this objection raises yet another aspect of the Church’s faithfulness to God the Father and His Son, Jesus Christ. Jesus Himself, more than any other personality in the Bible, is the most insistent that God is The Father – not “a father” but The Father, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. This portrayal of God is found as well in the Old Testament, but it is greatly emphasized in Jesus’ teaching. Jesus’ disciples were faithful to “teach all things whatsoever I have commanded you” (Matt 28:18), and so we are not surprised to find Paul writing something like this in Ephesians: 

For this reason I bow my knees before the Father, [15] from whom all fatherhood in heaven and on earth is named...(Eph. 3:14-15) 

Paul’s sense here is this: the original Father is God. Any and all other fatherhood is a creaturely copy of His Fatherhood. To speak of God as Father is not to apply human concepts to the Godhead. Rather, human fatherhood is modeled on the shape and nature of God’s Fatherhood. 

So, the persistence of this belief in God’s masculinity is exactly what one would expect if it is part of Jesus’ teaching, committed to His Church through His Apostles. An abiding belief in God’s masculinity is what one would expect from the ministry of the Spirit of Christ, as He has guided not only the Apostles, but the fathers of the Church after them. 

But, what about ... ? 

The objections lodged against God’s masculinity fall into the following three categories:

  1. Divine Androgyny: Some claim that God is not only masculine, He is also feminine. They posit a divine androgyny. Since there are no express statements in the Bible to support such an idea, such people like appeal to passages which compare God to some feminine entity. These passages, they claim, reveal to us that God is feminine as well as masculine.

  2. Patriarchal Bias: Others acknowledge that the Bible presents God as a powerfully masculine personality. But, they also point out that the Prophets and Apostles spoke to a culture which was profoundly patriarchal. So, the Bible presents God in masculine terms in order to accommodate the patriarchal bias in the biblical audience. Today, they claim, we are free to worship God as a personality who transcends our feeble notions of gender.

  3. Spirits have no gender: Others emphasize that God is a spirit, and spirits are “beyond gender.” Gender, they claim, is a feature of mere animal existence. A variation of this idea is that gender distinctions or roles are a transient cultural phenomenon. God, on the other hand, is beyond all that, above all that. If we insist that God is masculine, they claim, we are acting like idolators—forcing God to conform to our own image, putting Him in a box.

Many similar criticisms dispute the idea that God is masculine, but all are variations or combinations of the three criticisms just described. What are the answers to these criticisms?

“But God is compared to females.” (Divine Androgyny)

Two things answer this criticism. First, the passages where God is compared to females number less than a dozen (depending how you count them). If we grant that each passage actually supports the idea that God is feminine, we must still account for the hundreds of passages in both Old and New Testaments which present God as masculine! If we include every passage where the pronoun He refers to God, we have many thousands of references to God’s masculinity, over against six to eight alleged references to God’s femininity. Moreover, there is not a single use of the pronoun “she” in either Testament to refer to God! These proportions call into serious question whether the adduced passages for God’s femininity are being interpreted rightly by egalitarians.

Second, when we examine the passages used to support God’s femininity, we find they do nothing of that sort! The most that can be said is this—they compare God a feminine entity. However, the comparison is never made in order to reveal something about God’s gender. Many of these verses (and, they are very few) include a comparison of God to a man, right alongside the comparison of God to a woman. Deuteronomy 32:18 is a typical example: 

You [Israel] deserted the Rock, who fathered you; 

you forgot the God who gave you birth. 

Notice how both the father and the mother are set before us as a picture of something true about God? And, what is that “something?” God’s gender has nothing to do with this statement in the Song of Moses. This verse is part of an indictment in the Song of Moses which sets forth the filial duty that Israel has toward Yahweh. God’s actual gender is irrelevant to the subject of this section of Scripture – His gender is not the point here. If it were, we would need to deduce that God is both masculine and feminine, some sort of cosmic hermaphrodite, or else utterly androgynous. 

The same use of male and female can be seen in Psalm 123:2 – 

As the eyes of slaves look to the hand of their master, 

as the eyes of a maid look to the hand of her mistress, 

so our eyes look to the Lord our God, till He shows us His mercy. 

Some argue that God is compared to a mistress here. But, the comparison is between “our eyes” as they look toward God and the eyes of menservants and maidservants as they look toward their masters and mistresses respectively. Notice that there is a clear gender marker for God in the last phrase: “...till He shows us His mercy.” 

The handful of verses which compare God to a woman diminish in significance when we notice the verses that compare human males to women. For example, in Numbers 11:12, Moses complains to God about the nation Israel, using these words, 

“Did I conceive all these people? Did I give them birth? Why do you tell me to carry them in my arms, as a nurse carries an infant?” 

Was Moses trying to tell God – or to tell us – that Moses, the male, is actually female? The notion is preposterous. 

Paul speaks the same way about himself in Galatians in 4:19 – “My dear children, for whom I am again in the pain of childbirth until Christ is formed in you ...”. Paul likens himself to a mother in childbirth, and compares the Galatians to pregnant women, who are attempting to form Christ within their own wombs! This is certainly strange language. But, whatever Paul means, it is incredible to suppose that he is telling us that he is actually female, and that the Galatians are all females too! 

The Bible compares God to many things. He is compared to a mother bear (Hosea 13:8), and He is compared to a mother eagle (Deuteronomy 32:11). Does this mean that God has brown fur and claws? Does this mean that God has wings or a beak? Does this mean that God is feminine? These comparisons mean none of these things. The point of the comparisons have nothing to do with God’s form or His gender. It is the fierceness of the mother bear’s searching for her cubs that the comparison is highlighting. It is the attentiveness in a mother eagle’s care for her eaglets that the comparison is highlighting. These mere comparisons are very different from the teachings of Christ or Paul discussed above that insist that God’s fatherhood is His true nature and the original authentic fatherhood model for the rest of the universe. Similarly God is not merely “like” the King of kings; He is the King of kings and all the other masculine roles discussed earlier.

“But God is a genderless spirit.” 

This objection makes sense only if we ignore all the evidence already set forth in the Bible: all the times that God is referred to as “He” and all the times He is portrayed as a masculine personality. Angels, of course, are also spirits, but they are universally referred to as “he.” 

This objection seems weighty because creatures with bodies have a biological sex. This argument supposes God has no body (i.e. “spirit” must mean that there is no body), then God (who is a spirit) cannot have a sex. But, there is a kind of sex which has nothing to do with bodies.  In fact, that’s what we usually mean by the word “masculine.” A woman can be masculine. A man may be feminine. Masculinity and femininity are not determined by biology. They are a complex of qualities, traits, dispositions, roles, and behaviors that are typical of males and females respectively. But, you do not have to be biologically male to be masculine. Angels are masculine, even though they are understood to be spirits (Heb. 1:7). God is masculine, but before the incarnation, nothing about God had anything to do with biological sex. After the incarnation, it is another matter. 

“But the Bible shows a patriarchal bias.” 

The idea behind this objection goes like this: "the cultures of the Old and New Testaments were very pro-male and anti-female. So, the biblical writers reflect this in how they write about God. Either the biblical writers didn’t know any better, or if they knew better, they didn’t make an issue of it, so that their audience would receive their message. God is presented as masculine, because that’s how the original readers of the Bible needed to hear about God."

This objection, however, is almost comically out of touch with history and the Bible. The cultures that were contemporary with the Old and New Testament writers had no problem with female deities at all. They were full of female deities! Egypt, Assyria, Persia, Greece, Rome – they worshiped as many feminine goddesses as they worshiped masculine gods. And so did the Jews when they turned away from Yahweh. In fact, the religion of the Jews, and the faith of Christians after them, cut straight across all these cultures by insisting that God was masculine alone, that He was not feminine, nor did He have any goddess girlfriends, or wives, or concubines, like all the other masculine gods of the Ancient Near East. 

When the Bible shows us a masculine God, it is not indulging a backward, sexist audience. Instead, it is boldly challenging the cultures in which the Bible was written, cultures that are quite happy with feminine deities. 

Why God's Masculinity Matters

No one seriously denies that the Bible’s portrait of God is thoroughly, enthusiastically masculine. So, the question about the gender of God comes down to this: Is the Bible’s portrait revealing? Or, is it deceiving? Does the Bible show us something true about God when it shows us a masculine God, or does it hide what He is really like behind a masculine mask? 

Christianity, whether we like it or not, is a revealed religion—whatever we know truly about God, we know only because God reveals Himself to us. This revelation occurred as God spoke directly to or through the Prophets and the Apostles. Their words were God’s words, and they were written down to form what we know today as the Bible. Most importantly, God revealed Himself in tangible form when He entered history as the son of Mary. Jesus of Nazareth is God in the flesh, fully human male and fully divine. He remains fully human male and fully divine today. 

If a masculine spiritual deity is a scandal to modern sensibilities, Jesus is a greater scandal! He is not merely masculine, He is male! He was born of the Virgin Mary, He grew up in Nazareth as the son of Joseph, and He ministered in Israel 2,000 years ago. He was crucified because He claimed to be God. Afterwards, He proved His claim by rising from the grave three days after His execution. The resurrection accounts, the teaching in the Book of Hebrews about Jesus as our great High Priest, and John’s encounter with Jesus on Patmos – all these show us that Jesus is still a masculine male. 

If God is actually a genderless spirit, the Bible is wrong, so very wrong as to earn our distrust and rejection. Christians who claim that God is feminine stand above the Bible and judge it to be mistaken. But, what is their authority for this teaching? Why should we believe they are right and the Bible is wrong? 

The Christian faith loudly insists – in the Bible and down through the centuries – that what we truly know about God comes from His own revelation of Himself in Jesus Christ and in the holy scripture. This testimony is vast, clear, and compelling. No one can question God’s masculinity without simultaneously rejecting the truthfulness and sufficiency of God’s self-revelation in the Old and New Testaments and in the person of Jesus of Nazareth.