Objections to a Masculine God, Part Two

Last Updated on Friday, 2 December 2011 07:00 Written by Father Bill Friday, 2 December 2011 07:00

god masculinity bible


Before more completely unpacking Paul’s contention that God is masculine in 1 Corinthians 11:7, we are first examining the most common objections to this idea, beginning with objections lodged even by committed patriarchalists. One of the most common objections from their quarter goes like this:

“Masculinity” is not in the Bible’s lexicon. We should, therefore, defer from speaking terms that the Bible does not.

The fact that the lexicon of Biblical Hebrew, Aramaic, and Greek cannot be mapped word for word to the lexicons of any other language has never hindered anyone from undertaking a translation of the Bible. Masculinity is not the only word in modern English, for example, that has no equivalent in Biblical languages. In fact, most of the Bible’s vocabulary (in Hebrew, Aramaic, and Greek) is only approximated by vocabulary in modern English! Nevertheless, translators have inevitably resorted to “work-arounds” of various sorts (including paraphrase in the target language).

But, this critique of God’s masculinity goes beyond mere lexical equivalents. Because the words masculine or feminine do not exist as such in any Biblical lexicon, some will ruge that the concepts themselves have no meaning within a Biblical mode of expression. This is not true; but before showing this, we must note that these critics’ concern for the primacy of Biblical lexicons does not extend to other terms commonly used by them, terms which also never appear in any Biblical lexicon.

An obvious example, of course, is the word trinity and its related terms (trinitarian, Holy Trinity, triune, and so forth) These are wholly manufactured words, purely theological terms, technical terms if you will, terms applied to a fundamental doctrine of the Christian faith. Yet none of these trinitarian terms ever appear in the Bible. This fact is sometimes raised by unitarians or any who would repudiate Trinitarian doctrine. By appeal to what the Biblical lexicons do not contain, heretics score rhetorical points against their orthodox opponents.

Another word missing from the Bible is evangelize. Nor evangelism. But an entire Christian industry arises from these terms! Indeed, name any sub-group of Christendom and you can find within the parlance of that group any number of terms and expressions never found in the Biblical text.

To see this point, try to name each Christian subgroup which is known for using the following terms: (a) sacred heart; (b) move of God; (c) soul competency; (d) supralapsarian; (e) entire sanctification; (f) tight meeting; (g) Kingdom of the Left Hand and Kingdom of the Right Hand; (h) evensong; (i) Theotokos. The answers are given at the end of this blog post.

But, if there is no term within the Biblical lexicons for our term masculine, does this make it unwise or even impossible to affirm that God is masculine? For such an affirmation to be possible and credible does not, in fact, rest on a specific entry in a lexicon, but rather upon equivalent concepts in both the Biblical writings and extra-Biblical languages. And that is precisely what we find various parts of the Bible.

But, before examining these, let us first engage other criticisms of the statement “God is masculine” in the next two blogs.

(a) Roman Catholics; (b) modern charismatics; (c) Baptists; (d) strict Calvinists or the “Truly Reformed;” (e) Wesleyan Methodists; (f) Brethren; (g) Lutherans; (h) Anglicans; (i) Eastern Orthodox.

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“Man, the glory of God” Means What? Part Three

Last Updated on Saturday, 19 November 2011 04:44 Written by Father Bill Saturday, 19 November 2011 04:44

man glory godNow it’s time to tackle the semantic question: what does it mean to say man is the glory of God? Paul says flatly that man is the glory of God but woman is the glory of man. Yet he never expounds these phrases; he assumes his Corinthian readers already know what he means when he uses these phrases. It’s an assumption that cannot be made with much confidence today.

Fortunately, as we shall see, the idea working in these phrases is comfortable in English prose. And even more fortunately, the Old Testament contains exactly the formulaic phrase “A” is the glory of “B.” along with a few more verses easily reducible to it.

So, to get a handle “A” is the glory of “B,” let’s look at a few examples. And, the first example – while not expressed in exactly the formula we have in 1 Corinthians 11 – is close enough to show us the idiomatic sense of the formula.

Read the following two verses from Isaiah 60, which look to Israel’s future when the Gentile nations shall worship Israel’s God in Jerusalem:

13 “ The glory of Lebanon shall come to you,
The cypress, the pine, and the box tree together,
To beautify the place of My sanctuary;
And I will make the place of My feet glorious.
14 Also the sons of those who afflicted you
Shall come bowing to you,
And all those who despised you shall fall prostrate at the soles of your feet;
And they shall call you The City of the LORD,
Zion of the Holy One of Israel.

In verse 13 a number of trees are mentioned. How many? What are they?

Inexperienced Bible students will see three trees mentioned here: the cypress, the pine, and the box tree. More seasoned Bible students will add one more to this list: the cedar.

“Where is the cedar mentioned?” you ask. It is mentioned in that phrase “the glory of Lebanon.” The cedars of Lebanon were so large, so remarkable in their size and beauty, that the region itself became synonymous with these trees. The cedar tree was the glory of Lebanon – it was what came immediately to mind when one thought of Lebanon itself. And, though the trees which originally lent their reputation to Lebanon have largely disappeared, their reputation was so great for so long in history that today the national flag of Lebanon still features that tree at its center.

The cedar is the glory of Lebanon. It is what comes to mind when one thinks of Lebanon.

Now, let’s keep in mind what the phrase “the cedar is the glory of Lebanon” means, and then let us examine a few examples of the exact formula “A is the glory of B.” We’ll begin with something straightforward and simple, Proverb 20:29 –

The glory of young men is their strength,
And the splendor of old men is their gray head.

First, we note that this proverb (like almost all of them) are couplets, two lines in some form of parallelism (formal, rhetorical, semantic, synthetic, whatever). This proverb is called a synonymous parallelism – the ideas expressed are synonymously parallel, and almost perfectly parallel in a formal way as well. For this reason, glory in the first line is parallel with splendor in the second line.

Now, we need to ask, what is the proverb telling us when it says that the glory of young men is their strength or that the splendor (a synonym of glory) of old men is their gray head? Well, if the cedar is the glory of Lebanon because the cedar is what comes to mind when Lebanon is mentioned, then …

When young men are in mentioned, what comes to mind is their strength, their youthful vigor or some other kind of potency arising from youth itself. When old men are mentioned, the color of their hair – the gray color of their heads – is what comes to mind. Again, when A is the glory of B, then when B is mentioned or thought about, it is A that comes to mind.

Will this interpretive formula work in other instances? Indeed it does. Consider, for example, Proverbs 17:6:

Children’s children are the crown of old men,
And the glory of children is their father.

This again is a couplet, though the parallelism is a bit looser than the previous example we examined. “Crown” in the first line is an emblem, it is emblematic of a reward or a prize for meritorious accomplishment. Today we think of a crown as an emblem of royal office – something a king wears on his head – but in the Old Testament that idea is more often expressed by a different emblem of royal office, the scepter.

So, the first line is saying that grandchildren are a reward, a prize of old men.

And, the second line? Ever heard the taunt “Who’s your daddy?” Wikipedia explains this taunt in this way:

Who’s your daddy? is a slang expression that, in one use, takes the form of a rhetorical question. It is commonly used as a boastful claim of dominance over the intended listener. The phrase itself stands out as a noteworthy lyric from the 1968 song “Time of the Season”, by The Zombies: “What’s your name? Who’s your daddy? Is he rich like me?”

The same idea lies behind the second line of Proverbs 17:6 and the contemporary taunt “Who’s your daddy,” namely that one’s worth or identity arises from the identity (and, therefore, the worth) of one’s father.

Interestingly, Jesus’ virgin birth very early on led to the gossipy slander that Joseph did not, in fact, sire his son Jesus, bur rather some Gentile. “Where is YOUR father?” the Pharisees taunt Jesus in John 8:19. Later, in the same argument with Jesus (John 8:41), they challenge him with “We were not born of fornication [implying that Jesus was!]. The taunt “Who’s your daddy” is far older than the Zonbies song in 1968!

Knowing that “A is the glory of B” means that B comes to mind when A is being spoken about helps us to understand statements in the Psalms that would otherwise be very murky indeed.

Consider, for example, the introduction to Psalm 57, written by King David:

1 O God, my heart is steadfast;
I will sing and give praise, even with my glory.
2 Awake, lute and harp! I will awaken the dawn.
3 I will praise You, O LORD, among the peoples,
And I will sing praises to You among the nations.

Now, consider that interesting phrase at the end of verse 1: even with my glory. What is that talking about? What does it refer to? If someone were to point to something we could see that is “David’s glory,” what would he point to?

Well, one must know something about David to answer that question. And, the thing we would need to know is listed in 2 Samuel 23:1 which introduces the last words of King David before he died:

Now these are the last words of David. Thus says David the son of Jesse; Thus says the man raised up on high, The anointed of the God of Jacob, And the sweet psalmist of Israel.

Among the things for which David is renowned – things that are his glory, if you will – is the fact that he is “the sweet psalmist of Israel.”

We have lost a sense of the term “psalmist” that was clear to the original listeners of this Old Testament text, namely that a psalm was a song accompanied by a plucked string instrument. No doubt, David developed his musical talent, particularly his skill on the harp, during the long days he spent alone in the fields with the sheep when he was a boy. It was a skill he maintained and matured into adulthood, and it shaped his formation of the Levitical choirs which he created for the worship of the Temple, even before Solomon constructed it.

Now, go back to verse 2 of Psalm 58: “Awake harp and lute! I will awaken the dawn,” David cries out. David addresses his signature instruments as if they are people he awakens from slumber. He declares that he will make such a torrent of music that even the sun will get up!

All that to explain this: when David says in Psalm 58:1 that he will sing and give praise, “even with my glory,” that phrase my glory does not refer to some fuzzy, mushy capacity of David’s soul; rather, it refers to the musical instrument(s) which invariably accompanied the songs which David composed in order to praise God.

So, what does Paul mean when he says “man is the glory of God?” Or that “woman is the glory of man?” It should now be obvious what he means. And, the implications of this are the subject of the next blog in this series.

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Millennial Women Are Burning Out

Last Updated on Thursday, 17 November 2011 11:32 Written by Father Bill Thursday, 17 November 2011 11:32

Larissa Faw, a contributor to Forbes, tells us that “a growing number of young professional women who seem to ‘have it all’ are burning out at work before they reach 30.” Most of her piece summarizes various reasons for why Millennial Women – “ambitious go-getters [who] are working as doctors, lawyers, engineers, and advertising executives, blessed with great salaries, health benefits, and paid vacation – nevertheless flame out while their male peers do not (at least not nearly in the same numbers, with the disparity increasing as the Millennial Careers advance beyond entry-level positions).

For example, Ms. Faw opines that lack of relaxation probably takes a toll. She cites Melanie Shreffler of the youth marketing blog Ypulse: “These women worked like crazy in school, and in college, and then they get into the workforce and they are exhausted.” On the other hand, Captivate Network reveals that compared to their female peers “Men are 25% more likely to take breaks throughout the day for personal activities, 7% more likely to take a walk, 5% more likely to go out to lunch, and 35% more likely to take breaks ‘just to relax.’”

Here’s a shocker: “It’s not as if these women expected their jobs to be parties and good times, but many underestimated the actual day-to-day drudgery.” And why, you ask, is this so shocking to read? Well, it’s because the classic work of women – to make a home for husband and children – was so thoroughly trashed by all the feminist founders of the Millennial Woman lifestyle, beginning with Betty Friedan in the 1950s and on to all the Women’s Studies centers in universities which insinuated their agenda into every other degree program in every other college on campus for the past 50 years.

Home making? Drudgery! And, now the workplace is filled with drudgery too? Who knew??

Ms. Faw continues, without the slightest hint of embarrassment: “Also, while earlier generations may have opted out of the workforce through marriage or motherhood, these paths aren’t viable for these self-sufficient women, who either are still single or unwilling to be fully supported by men.”

Well, there you have it. Women need men like fish need bicycles, right? Self-sufficient Millennial Women can’t “opt-out” through marriage or motherhood. These are paths Millennial Women are unwilling to take. Evidently, they prefer single self-supporting drudgery to the drudgery of companionship and (yes, it’s shocking to say such a thing nowadays) the support of a husband. It’s soooo demeaning to be a “kept-woman,” dontcha know!

Purdue University’s Teri Thompson’s analysis is cold comfort. Ms. Faw summarizes Thompson’s insight this way: “Ultimately these women are going through the difficult realization that they may have to redefine their goals and come up with different measures of success in order to thrive in the corporate world.” Why, we wonder, is departing the corporate world for something more – uh, well, sheltered? – not a possibility to consider? Instead, Millennial Women “are turning to therapists and prescription medicines, as well as [to] explore alternative remedies, including acupuncture, yoga, and even psychics.”

Over a hundred years ago, when feminism was giving its first full-throated cry, G. K. Chesterton had its mistake accurately analyzed and published for all to read in What’s Wrong With The World (1910). Following the teaching of Christendom, which itself had learned from the Bible how men and women differ in their work, Chesterton nailed the feminist mistake about the old way of women in the home with these words:

When domesticity, for instance, is called drudgery, all the difficulty arises from a double meaning in the word. If drudgery only means dreadfully hard work, I admit the woman drudges in the home, as a man might drudge at the Cathedral of Amiens or drudge behind a gun at Trafalgar. But if it means that the hard work is more heavy because it is trifling, colorless and of small import to the soul, then as I say, I give it up; I do not know what the words mean.

To be Queen Elizabeth within a definite area, deciding sales, banquets, labors and holidays; to be Whiteley within a certain area, providing toys, boots, sheets, cakes and books, to be Aristotle within a certain area, teaching morals, manners, theology, and hygiene; I can understand how this might exhaust the mind, but I cannot imagine how it could narrow it. How can it be a large career to tell other people’s children about the Rule of Three, and a small career to tell one’s own children about the universe? How can it be broad to be the same thing to everyone, and narrow to be everything to someone? No; a woman’s function is laborious, but because it is gigantic, not because it is minute. I will pity Mrs. Jones for the hugeness of her task; I will never pity her for its smallness.

These days, of course, “woman’s function” is nothing like what it was in Chesterton’s day.  That function –  to be wife and mother to a family – is now deemed to be drudgery in the nonsense meaning Chesterton describes above.  Rearing children is something for the State, at as early an age as politics will permit.  And wifery?  Well, Friedan broke women out of that comfortable concentration camp (her term for domesticity, in case you haven’t read The Feminine Mystique).  Now women are free to pursue their Millennial Careers as Millennial Women – single, self-sufficient, and burned out.

The penchant women have for playing the generalist, in contrast to the specialist bent of most men in the workplace, is a distinction between the sexes as old as Adam and Eve in the Garden. And, if we take the human who is by design (yes, yes, feminists won’t grant you that one either, I know) equipped to administrate in a private domain 100 disparate agendas simultaneously and place her instead in competition against the male in the public arena where he excels in a narrow focus relentlessly pursued as a hound chases a fox – well, might we not predict the woman to burn out as Ms. Faw describes?

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