rss search

Topic 6: “Male” or “human”: What does this mean?


“For there is one God, and there is one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus, who gave himself as a ransom for all …” (1 Timothy 2:5-6).

One of the arguments used to support an all male clergy is the fact that Jesus was incarnated as a male human being:

◆ “The minister stands as a representative of Christ before the congregation.  Therefore, a woman cannot be a ‘male’ representative.  The argument is carried further in the example of an all-male choice of Apostles by Christ” (Springfielder, page 48).

◆ “The arguments against ordained women pastors on Scriptural prohibitions are well known …these … are not spun in thin air but are based on the deeper realities of Christ’s choice of His apostles and, beyond His choosing the apostles, of the sublime mysteries of the incarnation and God Himself.  God became incarnated in the man Jesus Christ because He was the eternal Son of the Father.  God is not only like a father, He is Father!  That eternal Father is perfectly mirrored in the eternal son incarnated in Jesus” (Scaer, Affirm).

“Against the Cololyridians, Epiphanius writes, ‘Never from the beginning of the world has a woman served God as priest’ (Panarion 79)…. Such an appeal … was predicated upon the belief that Jesus was the incarnated Word of God by whom all things were made and through whom all things were redeemed” (“Women in the Church,” the Commission on Theology and Church Relations’ 1985 document, pg. 14).

◆ “The NT is QUITE clear in Romans 5:12-19 and 1 Cor. 15:20-22 that the Savior HAD TO BE A MAN [sic]” (Christian News, May 18, 1998, pg. 6)

To the argument that “clergy must be male” because Jesus was male and his disciples were male, the Scriptures suggest that it is not Jesus’ maleness that is the key to his saving work, but, rather, his humanity is the soteriological component.

(A) Jesus did become incarnate as a human male (“…she gave birth to her first-born son” Luke 2:7).  (The only other choice would be female, hardly an option in terms of his ministry in first century culture.)

(B) The biblical witness to Jesus in his role as Savior stresses his humanity

(1)  The Greek word  anthropos means “humanity,” while the Greek term aner refers to the male gender.

(2) I Timothy 2:5: “…one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus…”:  The Greek in both instances is anthropos.  The use of the same generic term emphasizes Jesus’ full identification with humanity, both male and female.  When Jesus is held up as the mediator, it is not his maleness that is considered, but his humanity.

(3) The point is that he entered into our humanity (John 1:14, “The Word became flesh …”) in order to be our Savior.

(4)  His humanity, not his gender, is the soteriological issue (“… who gave himself as a ransom for all”).

(5) The Scriptures indicate nothing in Jesus’ maleness per se that is absolutely necessary or constitutive for God’s salvific work in and through him.

(C) Note other biblical witnesses which stress not Jesus’ male-ness but his humanity:

(1) John 19:5: “Ide, o anthropos!” (Pilate’s words, “Behold, the man [the one!]”

(2) Romans 5:12, 15: “[12] Therefore as sin came into the world through one man [enos anthropou] and death through sin, and so death spread to all men [pantas anthropous] because all men [the Greek has only pantes – “all”] sinned …. [15] But the free gift is not like the trespass.  For if many died through one man’s [the Greek has tou enos — “the one’s”] trespass, much more have the grace of God and the free gift in the grace of that one man [tou enos anthropou] Jesus Christ abounded for many.”

In both places where “male” [aner] could have been an appropriate Greek word choice, the inspired author emphasizes the humanity of the sinner and the humanity of the Savior.  Sin inhabits human nature, not just maleness. The Savior comes (yes, a male) to take on our humanity.

(3) Philippians 2:7: “… en omoiomati anthropov genomenos…” (“…being made in human likeness…”).

(4) Hebrews 7:16: “…[Christ] who has become a priest, not according to a legal requirement concerning physical descent but by the power of an indestructible life…”

(D) Yes, “the minister stands as a representative of Christ before the congregation” (Springfielder, page 48).  But (if male) he stands in this station as Christ’s representative in his embodiment as representative humanity, not as a male.

(1)  “The Church Fathers never evoked the maleness of Jesus or the apostles as an argument for regarding women as second-class members of the community of redemption.  This argument was developed in scholastic philosophy in the Middle Ages.  Thomas Aquinas and others adopted Aristotle’s views of biology which define women as misbegotten males” (cf. Reuther, Women and Redemption: A Chronological History, pgs. 92-97).

(2) “Any claim that there is something about the nature of another human being [emphasis added] as such that renders that person to be of inferior value not only denies the biblical doctrine of creation, but also calls into question what the Scriptures teach about the incarnation of Jesus Christ, the Son of God.  As a human, Jesus descended from Adam [Note: and Eve!], whom God created (Luke 3:38), and whom all human beings have as progenitor.  To deny the full humanity of any fellow human being is at the same time to compromise the apostolic truth that in Christ ‘the fullness of the deity dwells bodily’ (somatikoos, Col. 2:9), that is, that he truly ‘was made man’ (Nicene Creed)” (CTCR, “Racism and the Church,” February 1994, pgs. 38 and 39).  Since Galatians 3 mentions not only race (Jew and Gentile), but also male and female, would that the Commission on Theology and Church Relations’ theology in “Racism and the Church” were also applied to women in the church.

(E) Gnostic heresy is here, too, addressed and refuted.

(1) Gnostic theologians posited many intermediaries.  Paul says there is only one.

(2) Gnostic theologies sought to “enlighten” people; Paul says Jesus came to offer  himself a “ransom” for humanity.

(F) Whence comes authority in the Church?

(1) The Donatist heresy made the power of the Gospel dependent on bodily configuration of the proclaimer.

(2) Is authority inherent within the speaker, or is it in the Word?

(3) Is authority in the church determined by sex and gender, or is it bound up in the Gospel of Jesus Christ?