Connect with us
[the_ad id="4069195"]

LGBTQ

The Bible Welcomes Every Color in the Gender Spectrum

Published

on

Robyn J. Whitaker for The Conversation

“God made Adam and Eve, not Adam and Steve,” is a line I’ve heard more than once in Christian circles. The Bible is often evoked to support so-called traditional views about gender. That is, there are only two binary genders and that is the way God intended it. But is this really the case?

Claims about gender in the Bible usually begin with the creation narratives. But the Adam and Eve story is also not as straightforward as it might appear when it comes to gender, namely because in English, we miss the Hebrew wordplay.

Adam is not a proper name in Hebrew, but rather the transliteration into English of a Hebrew word a-d-m. Using the imagery of God as potter, “the adam” is a humanoid being created out of the adamah (the earth).

Biblical scholar Meg Warner writes we might best translate this person as “earth creature”. The first human appears genderless.

In fact, gender roles are only introduced into the story when a counterpart is made for the earthling, when this human being is separated into two. At that point, they both become gendered: “Eve” is called woman (ishah) taken from the man’s (ish) rib.

Some Christians have read a gender hierarchy into this text as Eve is called a helper – or “helpmate” in the old English versions – for Adam. This term, “helper”, does not indicate a subordinate status. It is a word frequently applied to God in the Bible, and so without any sense of inferiority.

On the sixth day, God created a gender spectrum

There’s no doubt traditional male-female gender roles are common in the Bible. After all, this is an ancient text that reflects the values of the societies from which it emerged.

In these societies, masculinity was the ideal and polygamy not uncommon. This makes it all the more astonishing there are moments of gender subversion and gender diversity found within the Bible’s pages.

Another creation story is found in the very first chapter of Genesis 1. It states:

God created the human in God’s image, in the image of God s/he created him; male and female God created them.

At first glance, this might seem obvious: God made two different, discrete sexes. But if we look at this line in its context, we see this creation account follows a poetic structure made up of a series of binaries that indicate the breadth of God’s creation: light and dark, seas and dry land, land creatures and sea creatures.

In the structure of the Genesis poem, these binaries are not discrete categories, but indications of a spectrum.

The sea and dry land merge on tidal plains. Some animals inhabit both land and sea. Darkness and light meet in the in-between spaces of dusk and dawn. God didn’t create night or day, but night and day, inclusive of everything in between.

If we apply this same poetic logic to humanity, a case can be made for sex and gender diversity built into the very fabric of creation. A creative diversity categorically called “good” by God.

Intersex and asexual affirmations

Queer and feminist scholars have highlighted other moments of gender subversion in the biblical text.

For instance, Jacob is “smooth” and “stays in the tent” – traditional female attributes in the ancient world. Yet he is chosen over his hairy, hunter brother to lead God’s people. Rabbi Jay Michaelson describes Jacob as “gender non-conforming”.

Megan DeFranza is a theologian who works on the place of intersex people in Christianity. While acknowledging that intersex is a modern term, she argues we find traces of intersex persons in the Bible in the language of eunuchs.

Jesus’ comment in Matthew 19:12 that “some are born eunuchs” is acknowledgement he was aware of intersex people and passes no judgement on those who don’t fit traditional male-female sex categories. In this passage, Jesus both affirms heterosexual marriage as well as intersex and asexual persons.

This is not an isolated case of affirmation. Isaiah 56 speaks of God being pleased with eunuchs who come to the temple and in Acts 8, a eunuch is fully included in the new Christian community through baptism. In neither case is change required of them before they can join the community in worship.

Being an ancient text, the Bible obviously doesn’t use the same language nor reflect contemporary understandings of gender, including transgender or intersex persons.

So we cannot simply pull a sentence or two from the Bible as if it offers the final word on sex and gender. Not only does the Bible reflect a pre-scientific worldview but also because the multiplicity of voices will never be captured in this kind of proof-texting.

What we can say is that the Bible affirms in various ways the potential goodness of all humanity and the inclusion of those who diverge from male-female gender norms.

While many churches remain unsafe places for transgender and gender-diverse people, it is imperative to highlight these subversive moments in an otherwise patriarchal text that challenge narrow perspectives, both then and now.

__________

This article is part of a series exploring gender and Christianity

Robyn J. Whitaker is a Senior Lecturer in New Testament, Pilgrim Theological College, University of Divinity.

The Conversation publishes knowledge-based journalism that is responsible, ethical and supported by evidence from academics and researchers in order to inform public debate with facts, clarity and insight into society’s biggest problems.

Advertisement
Click to comment

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

Health

SF Pride Will ‘Proceed as Scheduled’ – for Now

Published

on

San Francisco Pride Will 'Proceed as Scheduled' — For Now
Photo: Wikimedia Commons

SAN FRANCISCO (Bay Area Reporters) — Following the postponement of several California Pride festivities in light of the novel coronavirus outbreak, San Francisco Pride will “expect to know more about our event and what it will look like in the next few weeks, by about mid-April,” according to Executive Director Fred Lopez.

The 50th annual San Francisco Pride parade and celebration is scheduled for June 27-28.

“At this time, SF Pride’s Parade and Celebration will proceed as scheduled,” SF Pride spokesman Peter Lawrence Kane wrote in an email to the Bay Area Reporter March 13.

In an email to the B.A.R. the afternoon of March 16, Lopez wrote that “we will follow whatever directives the city […]

Continue reading at ebar.com

Continue Reading

Bars & Clubs

The Strange Reality of a WeHo Without a Queer Nightlife Scene

Published

on

The Strange Reality of a WeHo without a Queer Nightlife Scene
Photo: Wikimedia Commons

WEST HOLLYWOOD (Los Angeles Magazine) — It was an epidemiologist’s worst nightmare set to the new Justin Timberlake/SZA collab from Trolls World Tour.

L.A. was hours away from shutting down all bars due to the coronavirus pandemic, but you wouldn’t have known it from the typical Sunday chaos on Santa Monica Boulevard, as throngs of people (some shirtless) crammed into West Hollywood gay bars like Mother Lode, Mickey’s, and Rocco’s for one last ungloved hurrah.

At Rocco’s, a drag queen in a black latex leotard bravely swooped her hand down to grab a dollar bill from a customer.

Another performer did the splits, touching the floor ever-so-quickly as she pulled herself up. Go-go dancers valiantly kneeled on bar tops, accepting cash in their […]

Continue reading at lamag.com

Continue Reading

Business

Keeping the LGBTQ Community Financially Strong During COVID-19

Published

on

Photo: Bigstoci

LOS ANGELES (Los Angeles Blade) — The LGBT community has been through joy and heartache many times in recent years, and we have always emerged stronger than ever because of our commitment to taking care of one another.

We know this new coronavirus (COVID-19) is top of mind for every entrepreneur, corporate partners, and supporters our community has these days. As NGLCC we regularly quote the late Senator Paul Wellstone who said, “We all do better when we all do better.”

Now, as our businesses and nonprofits push through the coronavirus pandemic and the recovery still to come, we must ensure we are all looking out for one another.

Many of us will be looking closely at price tags as we plan for brighter economic days […]

Continue reading at losangelesblade.com

Continue Reading
Advertisement

This Just In…

Trending