Why does God refer to Himself with masculine and not feminine pronouns?
In recent history there has been a debate about re-translating the Bible from the original Hebrew and Greek to eliminate masculine pronouns and phrases. The goal has been to accommodate women who are offended that God seems to prefer men. Consequently, gender neutral and gender inclusive Bibles are being created. As a result, the question we are concerned with is, “Why does God refer to Himself with masculine and not feminine pronouns?”
The Starting Point – Who Wrote The Bible?
Some individuals believe that the prophets and apostles were the only ones who wrote the Bible, but 2 Peter 1:21 tells us that the real author of the Bible is God Himself. The verses reveal that the Holy Spirit moved men to write Scripture, which we call the Bible.
. . . for no prophecy was ever made by an act of human will, but men moved by the Holy Spirit spoke from God. 2 Peter 1:21 (NASB)
In this passage we discover that God Himself caused the prophets and apostles to write what He wanted written. Scripture or the Bible is also called the Word of God. The phrase Word of God reminds us that the words in the Bible are the words of God. He wrote it.
Acts 4:25 helps us understand that both the Holy Spirit and David wrote the prophetic statement (Psalm 2:1-2) that is quoted. Acts 28:25-26 illustrates that Isaiah and the Holy Spirit were the two authors of Isaiah 6:9. There are two authors to every book in the Bible. A human author wrote as God the Holy Spirit influenced him to write the words God wanted written. God did not just communicate the concepts; He even directed the individual words. In Galatians 3:16 the apostle Paul makes the point that God wrote “seed” and not “seeds” in Genesis 22:18. That is God was concerned about the plurality of the word. In Matthew 5:18 Jesus refers to the Hebrew language in which the Old Testament was written and states that the strokes on Hebrew letters and the letters will not change. That is, God directed the writing of the Old Testament in exact detail. For more information read “What does it mean that the Bible is inspired? – Inspiration of Scripture and “Teaching The Truth.”
We understand that God wrote the Bible. He directed the words even to the plurality of the words, letters, and strokes on the Hebrew words. Therefore, if we ignore the meaning of the words that God wrote, then we distort what He so carefully wrote. God has warned those who change His Word that they will be punished (Deuteronomy 4:1-2; 12:32; Proverbs 30:5-6; Jeremiah 26:2; Revelation 22:18-19). Since God carefully selected the very words of the Bible, should we change them? Never!
Translation of The Hebrew – Into English
Some have reasoned that the Hebrew word for God, elohim, in Genesis 1:1 has both a feminine and masculine gender. But the Hebrew language has only the masculine gender for elohim. Some would have us believe that Genesis 1:27 reveals that elohim is actually both masculine and feminine, but that appears to be a misunderstanding of the concept of Adam and Eve being made in the image of God. Since the word image cannot mean that Adam and Eve were identical copies of God, this reasoning is faulty.
The sacred name for God is the tetragrammaton YHWH, Yahweh or Jehovah. It is always masculine and can never be of neutral gender since the Hebrew language does not have a neutral gender. Therefore, the two words for God will always have a masculine gender, but that does not mean God is a physical male. Scripture says God is spirit.
However, God initially used the masculine gender for Himself when He communicates with us. For example in Psalm 89:26 we read,
He will cry to Me, “You are my Father,
My God, and the rock of my salvation.”
Psalm 89:26 (NASB)
Here God is referred to as the Father. In Isaiah 9:6 Christ is referred to as the eternal Father and God.
For a child will be born to us, a son will be given to us;
And the government will rest on His shoulders;
And His name will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God,
Eternal Father, Prince of Peace. Isaiah 9:6 (NASB)
There are many other examples in the Old Testament that reveal God intentionally chose masculine pronouns when applied to Himself. Remember that God is without physical gender. He is spirit (John 4:24).
The Perspective – The Pronoun Is Not The Issue
The root issue to the question, “Why does God refer to Himself with masculine and not feminine pronouns?” is not found in God’s use of masculine or feminine pronouns to describe Himself. The root problem is a sin issue.
For example if God had referred to Himself using feminine pronouns, eventually males would be asking, “Why does God refer to Himself with feminine and not masculine pronouns?” It would not matter which pronoun God used one of the sexes would complain. It is an issue of pride and that is the root of all sin.
After Adam and Eve sinned, God pronounced a curse on husbands and wives. Genesis 3:16 teaches us that due to their sin, husband and wives would become warriors seeking control of one another. In Ephesians 5:22-25 and 1 Peter 3:1-7 God commanded wives to submit to their husbands. His command provides a solution to stopping the war within marriage. In fact God has commanded families to submit to husbands/fathers in the home, congregations to submit to elders, and people are to submit to governments. Throughout Scripture God chose to use masculine terminology to refer to those who are to be in authority.
The answer to the question, “Why does God refer to Himself with masculine and not feminine pronouns?” appears to be that masculine terminology refers to the one who has the responsibility to provide leadership in the core human institutions. it is important to notice the word “appears.” We cannot be certain since Scripture never tells us specificaly why God uses masculine pronouns for Himself.
What is clear is that God selected the words to be used in the Bible. He used masculine pronouns to refer to Himself. He has warned us to not change His words. Even though God uses masculine terms to refer to Himself, He still loves everyone (John 3:16).
For while we were still helpless, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly. For one will hardly die for a righteous man; though perhaps for the good man someone would dare even to die. But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us. Romans 5:6-8 (NASB)
1. Gender and sex are not equivalent in language. For example, words in most languages have gender. For example in the French language the refrigerator has a masculine gender and the television has a feminine gender assignment. For those who speak English this seems to be backward. Notice that the refrigerator is not a male and the television is not a female. Some have confused gender assignment with sex. Words in other languages have different gender assignments. The same is true for the Hebrew language.
Suggested Links:What does it mean that the Bible is inspired? – Inspiration of Scripture
What Is The Bible? – Discipleship Series
Teaching The Truth