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  • Writer's pictureElaine Kelly

God is neither male nor female

What does it mean that Humans are in God's Image?

God created all humans in God’s image (Gen. 1.27), but since women and men are different, how can they both be made in God's image? Because God is both male and female, but a spirit. Humans are made in the image of a spirit and represent God to others in the way that ancient peoples used images or statues to represent their gods. Our words and actions affect God’s name and reputation in the world. Seeing how we love one another may show others who God is (John 13:35). God intended all to know God by the way we share God’s love.

“Human beings are made in God’s image. God is neither male nor female and we all share God’s spiritual, intellectual, compassionate, and creative nature,” said Salome, Forgotten Followers, Chapter 23.
When God created human beings,[a] he made them to be like himself.2 He created them male and female, and he blessed them and called them “human.” (Genesis 5:1-2 NLT)

God made humans to have both male and female traits. We are in Jesus's image when we are the light of the world (John 8:12, Matthew 5:14-16).

What is the Gender imagery of the Holy Spirit?

Photo: Dove of the Holy Spirit, Saint Peter's Basilica, Wikimedia Creative Commons

In the three persons of the Holy Trinity, some may use the terms Father, Son, and Spirit and refer to them as all male. The Holy Trinity can also be described as Creator, Redeemer, and Sustainer. Does the use of gender-neutral terms have a different impact on how you view God?

The Bible talks about spirits in heaven having no gender:

"For when the dead rise, they will neither marry nor be given in marriage. In this respect they will be like the angels in heaven." (Matthew 22:30 NLT)
"But the time is coming—indeed it’s here now—when true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and in truth. The Father is looking for those who will worship him that way. For God is Spirit, so those who worship him must worship in spirit and in truth.” (John 4:23-24 NLT)

The Hebrew word for spirit (ruach) is feminine yet we know that spirits are not gendered and neither male nor female. Let's look at the characteristics and functions of the Spirit.

  1. Giving Birth: The Bible often refers to the Holy Spirit as wind or breath that gives birth to life or being born by the Spirit: Gen. 1:2 Gen. 2:7, Isaiah 42:5, Job 33:4, Ezekiel 37:5-6, Psalm 33:6

  2. Raises up Jesus to new life: Romans 8:11, 1 Peter 3:18 (Other passages show the Father raising Jesus or Jesus raising himself or the Trinitarian God raising Jesus).

  3. Gives believers new life: John 3:5-6, John 20:22

  4. Advocate, spokesperson: John 14:16

  5. Source of wisdom, guidance, and teaching: John 14:26

  6. Comforter, encourager, helps us in our weakness, prays for us: Romans 8:26

Are these male or female traits? Are traits like gentleness, patience, kindness, and generosity specific to both genders? Are bravery, courage, speaking, and strategizing specific to one gender? Pauls both women and men to be courageous, stand frim, be strong and loving (1 Corinthians 16:13). Is giving the breath of new life a male or female trait? Can both women and men be in labour and co-creators with God?

We are in the image of the Creator when we give birth. Both women and men are in God's image when we give birth to spiritual children. Paul calls himself a mother in labour to birth spiritual children (1 Tim. 1:2, Gal. 4:19), and in nurturing them as a mother would (1 Thessalonians 2:7). Peter and John also use female imagery for themselves 1 Peter 5:13, 3 John 1:4. LIkewise, the elect lady of 2 John 1:4 also has spiritual children.

How were Men and Women Different in Creation and the Fall?

From the beginning of creation, God authorized all humans with the same authority and purpose. Males and females were two equal counterparts. The tasks of creating and stewarding creation are not allocated by gender.

Photo Adam and Eve Peter Paul Rubens, Wikimedia Commons, Public domain
"Then God blessed them and said, 'Be fruitful and multiply. Fill the earth and govern it.'"(Gen. 1:28 NLT )

In the Fall, Eve was deceived by Satan, while Adam chose to disobey. However, God did not curse either the woman or the man. God cursed the Serpent for attacking Eve, and God cursed the ground because of the man's disobedience. God explained the consequences of multiplied sorrow and toil farming the ground, but also the blessing of multiplied conception and fertility. Then God warned Eve that Adam chose to rule himself and her, rather than obeying God's rule (1)

"Unto the woman he said, I will greatly multiply thy sorrow and thy conception; in sorrow thou shalt bring forth children; and thy desire shall be to thy husband, and he shall rule over thee." (Genesis 3:16 KJV)

God is the one ruler, and any man or woman acting as a ruler is usurping God's role. Jesus demonstrates this equality in equipping both woman and men as disciples, affirming their decision to learn as disciples, and authorizing women to go out as apostles. Paul also affirms this equality in his letters, saying that in Christ, there is no longer male or female, slave or citizen, Jew or Gentile (Galatians 3:28, Colossians 3:11). In God's family, the sons and daughters receive the same inheritance (Romans 8:15-17, 1 John 3:1, 1 Peter 3:7 Matt. 25:34). Being male or female had no impact on an individual's role or function either before or after the fall. Jesus and the Apostles affirm that being male or female has no impact on salvation, role, or calling for Christians.

God as He/ She/ It/ They

If a person thinks of God as male, they may think only males may deliver God's words. However, the Bible refers to God with both male and female imagery. The use of English male pronouns and a historical focus on the male imagery of Father and Son have obscured the Bible’s uses of non-male descriptions of God. The Bible uses pronouns for God including plural pronouns (they/their), neutral pronouns such as it and various objects, female pronouns such as she/her and male pronouns such as he/his. For each of the quotes below, consider which pronoun the Bible uses to describe God:





Then God said, “Let us make human beings in our image, to be like us. Genesis 1:26 NLT

So, God did just that. He created humanity in His image, created them male and female. Gen. 1:27 VOICE

... you forgot the God who gave you birth. Deut. 32:18 AMP

Pray like this: Our Father in heaven Matthew 6:8-9 NLT

The Spirit itself beareth witness with our spirit, that we are the children of God. Romans 8:16 KJV

I am the light of the world. John 8:12 ERV

So, the baby to be born will be holy, and he will be called the Son of God. Luke 1:35 NLT

I will comfort you like a mother comforting her child. Isaiah 66:13 ERV

How often I have wanted to gather your children together as a hen protects her chicks beneath her wings. Matt. 23:37 NLT

In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. John 1:1-1 KJV

I will encounter them like a bear robbed of her cubs… I will also devour them like a lioness.” Hosea 13:6-8 AMP

Through faith we understand that the worlds were framed by the word of God. Hebrews 11:3 KJV

The Word was present at creation: The Lord merely spoke,and the heavens were created. Psalm 33:6 NLT

He will call together his friends and neighbors, saying, Rejoice with me because I have found my lost sheep. Luke 15:6-7 NLT

She will call in her friends and neighbors and say, ‘Rejoice with me because I have found my lost coin.’ Luke 15:9-10 NLT

I am the vine. John 15:5 GW

Christ died so that he could give the church to himself like a bride in all her beauty. Ephesians 5:27 ERV