The Gender Of God

Discussion in 'Bible Study' started by Roads, Aug 14, 2013.

  1. While doing some reading for another thread, I stumbled across this article from Christianity Today, Called Knowing What the Bible Really Means

    The article is by a translator, and offers his perspective on the nature of language how that impacts the translation of the Bible.

    I recommend to check out the whole article for its context, and it's an interesting read anyway. But what I really want to do, is to submit this except for the critical pleasure of my fellow truth-seekers (I did do a few searches on cfs to see if this has been discussed before, and nothing came up. Maybe it's a new one?)

    Take this example from a number of Chinese Bible translations. We know that God transcends gender, but most languages are limited to grammatical gender expressed in pronouns. In the case of English, this is confined to he, she, and it. Modern Chinese, however, offers another possibility. In modern Chinese, the third-person singular pronoun is always pronounced the same (), but it is written differently according to its gender (他 is he, 她 is she, and 它/牠 is it). In each of these characters, the first (or upper) part defines the gender (man, woman, or thing/animal), while the second element gives the clue to its pronunciation.

    I believe that translations of Scripture are not secondary fill-ins but an integral part of the ongoing and primary expression of God's message in written form.
    In 1930, after a full century with dozens of Chinese translations, Bible translator Wang Yuande coined a new "godly" pronoun: 祂. Chinese readers immediately knew how to pronounce it: . But they also recognized that the first part of that character, signifying something spiritual, clarified that God has no gender aside from being God. This translation discovery was an aha moment for Chinese believers. But knowing this benefits us as well—even if we don't understand Chinese—because it expands our comprehension of God's divine character.​

    Your thoughts?
  2. Expands? I would have thought it was obvious to most that God is God and not a man, woman, black or white :). I found it an interesting read though.
  3. There is no gender outside of earth for created beings....It's silly to suggest the Creator has a gender.
  4. #4 Roads, Aug 14, 2013
    Last edited: Aug 14, 2013
    Why do you guys think English Bible translators haven't coined a gender-neutral pronoun (besides "it," which removes personhood) to describe God like the Chinese translators did in this example? Essentially, they created a pronoun for "spirit" that suggests genderlessness and preserves personhood.

    From a translation point of view, do you think we should follow their lead? Given the lack of an appropriate gender-neutral pronoun in English, we're forced to choose between "He" and "She" when we need a pronoun to describe God. Is "She" acceptably interchangeable with "He" until there is a gender-neutral pronoun? Or should we stick with grammatical structures that avoid pronouns altogether?
  5. do the Hebrew also have that limitation? of the gender-neutral pronoun?
  6. Given the limitation/difference of “tongues” then:

    I think translation will just add “flavour” with local “ingredients”,it may capture more or less what the author meant...

    Although it will be “digested” faster : )
  7. Agreed. Gender itself was a creation of God, just as time, math, light, etc. are creations of God. To apply time and math to God would be suggesting that God himself is a measurable component, not the author of the components. Same goes with Gender.

    I can't say I know why God has always been acknowledged as "He" aside from fluidity of reading/describing God. He has been acknowledged as "The Father."

    I have a theory why God may have been automatically addressed as "He" could be because Hebrew was extremely gender-based (unlike today). I don't know much Hebrew at all, but I do speak Spanish because it was my wife's first language. In Spanish, when addressing the plural and both genders are present, it is always presented in the masculine form. I don't know if the same rule applied for old Hebrew, but perhaps that itself dictated an automatic gender in presenting God.

    Just a theory. I don't know how sound it is.
  8. Actually, it sounds as good as anything I could think of my brother.

    C. S. Lewis, has suggested that gender is far deeper than our human distinctions reveal. He suggests that God is so masculine that we all are feminine in relation to Him. If this is true, it might explain why the church is referred to as the bride of Christ, though it is composed of both men and women.
    Dr. Graham has stated..... This is the way God has chosen to reveal Himself to us. God is never described with sexual characteristics in the Scriptures, but He does consistently describe Himself in the masculine gender.
    While God contains all the qualities of both male and female genders, He has chosen to present Himself with an emphasis on masculine qualities of fatherhood, protection, direction, strength, etc. Metaphors used to describe Him in the Bible include: King, Father, Judge, Husband, Master, and the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ.

    While I accept both of those with no problems it might be helpful to remember that Moses wrote the 1st 5 books of the Bible thus setting the standard of thought. In those days, society was male dominated in the Hebrew lifestyle and it makes since to me that he would blend in the thought of God as a Father.

    But that is just me.
    KingJ likes this.
  9. That's such a C.S. Lewis thing to say -- I love it.

    That makes sense to me. Culture came before language after all.

    Oddly enough, many times language can and has altered culture (but I digress).
    Major likes this.
  10. God is refered to as the Father simply because Mary was refered to as Jesus' mother. Also during the time of the bible, men were in charge and God being in full charge of everything then is refered to as a man.
    Major likes this.
  11. Makes sense. It stays very consistent.
  12. Clark, I'm curious what you make of the Old Testament references to God as "Father."

    Isaiah 63:16
    Isaiah 64:8
    Deuteronomy 32:6
    Jeremiah 3:19

    It is interesting, though, that God does seem to be described as "Father" much more frequently in the New Testament. Baker's Evangelical Dictionary says the "Father" metaphor, or God being described as the Father of specific individuals, only occurs fifteen times in the Old Testament (father gender-specific imagery is invoked other times without specifically using the word "Father"), but it is used more than 165 times in the New Testament.

    The same entry cites two instances using female imagery to refer to God's parenthood.
    Isaiah 49:14-16, Luke 13:34
  13. My initial thought was "God new what was to come later" but of course, this wouldn't answer how the people in the OT would have known to call Him Father because they didn't know what was to come.
  14. Why would they not knowing what was to come make a differance?
  15. In regards to Clark's explanation of Mary being the mother of God. They knew what was to come, but not the blueprint of how it was to happen--in other words, consider God the Father only because Mary is the Mother. This is only in response to Clark's statement.
  16. Ooops, I thought you were talking about the people of the Old Test.
  17. Well I was talking about the people of the OT, but I think I worded it poorly. They knew of the savior to come, but I don't think it would have dictated the role as God to now be called "the Father." In other words, God was called "the Father" even before the Son was conceived.
  18. I'm am really never sure why this crops up periodically, but the Bible does say God is Spirit, and that we must worship Him in Spirit. Both men and women have spirit. God was the one that created gender, man and women/male and female, as well as the various languages of the world. This wasn't done haphazardly, but with a distinct purpose according to the Bible. Whatever the original language of humanity was, it was no more after Gen 11:9. So we have man, women and language. Whatever word conveys God is fine by me, but I only concern myself with English as all the other languages are irrelevant to me. If I was Greek or Hebrew I would feel the same way.
    The TNIV tried to be more gender neutral and received plenty of flack for it. The new NIV may have acquiesced to that pressure, but I'll be more than happy when English translations accurately reflect what the Greek conveyed, regardless of what the gender is there. At this point, it is a non-issue for me.
    Rusty likes this.

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