Why A Male Messiah?

Written by Father Bill 2 Comments

It’s almost blasé these days to find depictions of Christ as a woman. The saucy edginess of such a thing fomented frisson in feminist hearts 40 years ago, but one can now purchase artsy-fartsy greeting cards depicting female nudes affixed to a cross, complete with crown of thorns on their heads. I decline to give you links to them, though.

Still, is the sex of the Messiah as incidental to the Incarnation as the color of his eyes or the shape of his ears? If he would be no less the Messiah if he were an inch taller or an inch shorter, why could he not have been the daughter instead of the son of Mary? All these depictions of the Messiah as a woman, dying for the sins of the world, bluntly insist it might have been this way.

There are two answers to the sex of the Messiah arising out of the Bible, one factual, the other theological.

The Old Testament and a Male Messiah

The first mention of a savior of the world is found in the curse on the Serpent in Genesis 3:15:

“And I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your seed and her Seed; He shall bruise your head, and you shall bruise His heel.”

About the only thing one can learn about this promised serpent-crusher is that he is a human (seed of the woman) and a male (hence, he will crush …).

Without following all the references here, all additional prophecies of the Messiah reveal him to be male. To name one such prophecy, he is the male heir of King David (2 Samuel 7 and dozens of Psalms).

So, when it comes time to delineate the Messiah’s genealogy, he is “the son of ..” and “the son of …” and so forth (Luke 3; Matthew 1). From the factual forecasts of the Old Testament, Messiah could not be a female.

The Theology of Incarnation

The face of God in the Old Testament is fully and unambiguously masculine. No, God is not male in the Old Testament. For such a statement to be true would require God to have a whole raft of characteristics that constitute biological male sex. However, one could truthfully say “God is masculine.” Indeed, one would more or less be forced to say such a thing from His own revelation of Himself. Let God be true, and every man a liar.

After the Incarnation, however, one must say – in some sense – that God is male, meaning by this “humanly male” or “biologically male” as human males are male.

Jesus is male, not female. He is, obviously, masculine, not feminine (yeah, yeah, I know he’s supposed to be feminine via chickenness; but …sheesh!). He is the Bridegroom, never the Bride. He is our Brother, never our sister.

He is the King, never the queen. He is Lord of Lords, never lady of anything. He is the eternal and – since the Incarnation – human Son, never the Daughter.

And,He remains male and masculine, according to the Apostles’ reports in the Gospels, according to John’s visions on Patmos, according to author of Hebrews, according to the Apostles’ Creed, the Nicene Creed, and Athanasian Creed, and the Definition of Chalcedon. Orthodox Christianity has always, without reservation, confessed, taught, and defended Jesus’ eternal human maleness.

And, Jesus is God, too. Right?

A wise friend, whom I will not identify here, in a letter to me said it this way:

If we call what God is from eternity masculine, his Incarnation must be male. What we are focusing on [in this correspondence] is the nature of the event of Incarnation, which in one sense is something new and in another sense something old. God took maleness into himself at the Incarnation, but this maleness was a created expression of the eternal masculinity … from which it arose. If something arises as a wholly derivative expression of something prior, it may be called new, but in a qualified way. It is “taken up” into the Greater, but only as something that is, as its expression in another medium, already wholly its own.

Whether you approach the question from the standpoint of Old Testament prophecy or from the standpoint of Biblical theology, you arrive at the same place: the Messiah must be male.


2 Comments

  1. Karen   |  Saturday, 05 November 2011 at 1:47 pm

    So women have less of the image of God than men, or do so in an inferior to men way?

  2. Fr. Bill   |  Saturday, 05 November 2011 at 6:15 pm

    Hello, Karen,

    In short, no – women do not differ from men with respect to the imago dei. But, I’m curious to know how someone would make such an inference. Leaving aside the Incarnation and the necessity that the Son of God come into the humn race as a male and not a female (that was the subject of the blog above, you see), there is nothing in the blog which requires the inference you inquire about.

    The standard religious feminist premise is that Jesus’ maleness is accidental, or arbitrary (i.e. it might have been as a female). Their explanation of his maleness (when they posit one) is that it is an accomodation to patriarchal bias within Jewish culture.

    Consider, women are nowhere in the Old or New Testaments said to have less of the image of God than men do. They do have a different glory: man is the glory of God and woman is the glory of man (cf. 1 Corinthians 11:1ff), but that difference does not touch their common image of God.

    Alternately, if maleness is necessary in some sense for a man to bear God’s image, then women do not bear God’s image at all! Where in the Bible can one show such a thing?

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