In Focus on the Family’s article How Can Woman Be Made in the Image of a Male God? the following question is posed:
How is it possible for both men and women to be made in the Divine Image when the Bible speaks of God primarily in masculine terms? I’m wondering if all the talk I’ve been hearing about the biblical basis for equality between the sexes is just an attempt on the part of liberal theologians to “feminize” God.
Focus on the Family answers this question thus,
according to the language of Scripture, it takes both man and woman – or, to put it another way, mankind as a whole – to reflect God’s Image in a complete way.
How does this not make God out to be a bifurcated man/woman, masculine/feminine God? The writers at the same time attempt to reassure us that God is not bifurcated,
Although it’s true that God has revealed Himself in the Bible as a Father who has many masculine traits, this isn’t quite the same thing as saying that He is a “male” God in the style of Zeus, Apollo, or Hermes. If you have trouble grasping this, remember that while the Lord is a personal God, He is neither human nor sexual in nature. There’s an important sense in which “masculine” is not necessarily the same thing as “male” – at least not when we’re talking about God.
Those sentences reflect the writing of someone who has not fully thought this through. We are told that God is a “masculine person” but that “women bear his image” and He is “not human” (what about Jesus!?). The statement is so conflicting and confusing that it leaves the reader hopelessly forced to assume ambiguous, abstract meanings to the words, FATHER, MASCULINE, FEMININE, MAN, WOMAN, etc. There’s also the reality of the image of Jesus being the image of God which is completely left out of their discussion (Col 1:15).
Here, and in most other complementarian resources, we are told to assume that MAN/WOMAN reflect the the IMAGE of God while at the same time told to believe he is a FATHER and not a MOTHER. This is the doctrine we are taught: God’s image is both masculine and feminine. There is absolutely no sense in this. But we’ve lived a long time under a fear of straying from such a doctrine so as not to reap the repercussions of getting our heads cut off. It became taboo to even question this. And so truth becomes squandered by our submission to fear.
The Complementarian Problem
So is the woman made in the image of God or not? The question is actually a very logical one and thus demands a logical answer. The answer is the woman isn’t. This is why I am not a complementarian. A man and woman do not complete the image of God, unless God is a bifurcated deity. Some might point to Jesus saying “How often would I have gathered your children together as a hen gathers her brood under her wings” (Matt 23:37). But this speaks of a protective characteristic which both mothers and fathers possess. Jesus is no more saying he is a mother in this verse than he is saying he is a chicken. We’re not interested in how Jesus relates to a chicken, because Jesus is not telling us that he is a chicken. If he is, we’re in trouble. What we want is the very character and image of God. I instead consider myself a “headship-ist”. It’s based on this: “But I want you to understand that the head of every [Christian] man is Christ, the head of a woman is her [Christian] man, and the head of Christ is God.”(1 Cor. 11:3). Man reflects God and woman reflects man. To explain how that is we’ll start with one of the most neglected and mistreated verses in the New Testament:
For a man ought not to cover his head, since he is the image and glory of God, but woman is the glory of man. (1 Corinthians 11:7)
The conjunction rendered “but” is the Greek “de” which means exactly that: but or however. Paul said it so plainly that none of the translations, not even the liberal, gender-neutered ones, can change it to mean anything else. Instead what has happened is an explaining away of the verse as being strictly about head coverings which were only relevant to the Corinthian culture, because there were apparently a lot of young widows causing trouble who needed to be kept in line. And to keep these young widows in line it was necessary to tell them they weren’t in the image of God, but were the glory of their men. An explanation, to say the least, is as foolish as it sounds. And never-mind that the very next verse starts with the conjunction “for” which is rendered from the Greek “gár“, the definition of which is,
1063 gár (a conjunction) – for. While “for” is usually the best translation of 1063 (gár), its sense is shaped by the preceding statement – the “A” statement which precedes the 1063 (gár) statement in the “A-B” unit.
This means Paul wastes no time in explaining exactly why he said what he did:
For man was not made from woman, but woman from man. Neither was man created for woman, but woman for man. (1 Corinthians 11:8)
So to put it succinctly, Paul is saying that the woman was not made in the image of God; she was made from man and for man just as man was made for God. There is no better thing to tell men in our era than that they were made for God. You, O man, were made for God. You were designed for God.
The New Creation Concept
Now before my female readers freak out, there is a significant catch to all of this for Christians. And it’s a glorious one. Men and women are both reborn through Christ in God’s kind (2 Pet. 1:4). Peter says they are a chosen kind or race. The race of heaven. This means that the new woman in Christ is not made from that old Adam. In Christ she is free from that pile of dirt. That corrupted, wretched, passive, ugly man! In Christ there is no carnal Adam and Eve anymore. No more “male and female”. The old has passed, the new has come. That is the ultimate liberation of women, is it not? And all the women said, “Amen!”
But wait, there is yet another catch! Why did Paul say all that he did in 1 Corinthians 11 and give us all these instructions based on the male-female distinction, if women in the Lord are now free from being Adam’s rib? Paul explains just four chapters later:
The first man was from the earth, a man of dirt; the second man is from heaven. (1 Corinthians 15:47)
Answer: because she is now saved by the second man. A second man. Is there any dispute that Christ, our God, is a male? How does such a fact not stop our mouths dead in their tracks when it comes to discoursing all our modern self-serving male-female interpretations of the Scriptures, especially when they are so illogical? Notice that I used the word “kind” in reference to rebirth. When a child is born it takes after the parents’ kind. This is spelled out for us in Genesis 1. But it only takes after one of the parents’ images. There is a difference between “image” and “kind” and this is also spelled out for us in Genesis 1. Eve was taken from Adam’s substance, his flesh and bone, and thus she was Adam’s kind. Hence, mankind. She was not made in Adam’s image. Later in Genesis 5:3 we read that Adam “fathered a son in his own likeness, after his image, and named him Seth.” The Church royally jacked itself over the last 60 years by confounding the concrete ideas of image, likeness, and kind. In fact, the Church preached “gender-fluidity” in God long before it became a national idol as it is today. Whoops.
It is here that we embark on the doctrine of sonship where we see that men come face to face as in a mirror (2 Cor. 3:18 NASB, 1 Cor. 13:12) with the image of the second man, Jesus, and see what they are to become. Paul uses this unique word, mirror, in these two scriptures very specifically. In reference to this word, mirror, Ellicott’s Commentary says,
The word is not a common word, and St. Paul obviously had some special reason for choosing it, instead of the more familiar words, “seeing,” “beholding,” “gazing stedfastly;” and it is accordingly important to ascertain its meaning. (Ellicott’s Commentary for English Readers, 2 Cor. 3)
It’s important to understand why Paul chose the word “mirror” because when a woman looks at the face of Jesus she does not see a mirror image of herself. A saved man does. Jesus is the firstborn among many brothers, the sons of God (Matt 5:9, Rom. 8:19, Gal. 3:26, Phil. 2:9). He is not a woman.
And what image is the new woman made in as a daughter of God? If there is a second man is there not also a second woman? Yes. God gave us a proverb,
Behold, everyone who uses proverbs will use this proverb about you: ‘Like mother, like daughter.’ (Ezekiel 16:44)
Here’s what it comes down to: daughters take after the form of their mother, and sons take after the form of their father. In other words, daughters take after the image of their mother, and sons take after the image of their father. Science confirms this, common sense confirms this, but for some reason the Church is completely confused on this. The Church has decided to swing left with much of the cultural shift into “gender fluidity” and teach us that sons and daughters are the same thing. Foolish Galatians, who has bewitched you! The proverb, “Like father, like son” is still as true today as it ever was. Jesus invokes this concept in depth in John 5:19-23. Read this verse without the capital letters applied:
Therefore Jesus answered and was saying to them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, the son can do nothing of himself, unless it is something he sees the father doing; for whatever the father does, these things the son also does in like manner.” (John 5:19)
Interpretation: fathers, your sons are watching you! This is why men in the Church are such weak, passive, milquetoast Christians. They come from fatherless backgrounds and thus are completely incapable of doing anything of themselves and in the Church they are unable to see the true image of the Father because the Church hides it from them. The Church tells them that God is part feminine, part woman. They follow women and let the women brood over and guard them, because after all, they are also in God’s image. So they sit there like the droopy deadbeats they are. All this does is kill their sense of self as men.
There are two fathers seeking out sons. One is God, through his Church. The other is the devil. Jesus has a long conversation about these two fathers in John 8. The Father of Lies finds many, many fatherless sons as ripe for the picking and then turns them into sons of destruction. This is why fatherless nations come to an abrupt end. According to fathers.com 57.6% of black children, 31.2% of Hispanic children, and 20.7% of white children are living absent their biological fathers. This is why the black communities are now absolute disaster zones that no one ever wants to talk about because it’s “racist” to. The issue has absolutely nothing to do with race. The black communities crossed the threshold. The majority of black sons were left completely unable to do anything of themselves and thus were left wide-open for the father of lies to give them an image to copy. The Church failed to give them a good image to copy–I mean, it told them God wanted women to rule and spread their wings over them anyway. So why bother? Church is for women. The same thing is happening with the Hispanic sons and White-sons. If these percentages don’t turn around, there will be nothing anyone can do to stop our doom. Mark my words. Malachi 4:6. You have been warned.
Jesus also has something to say to women as daughters. Listen to this very closely:
But turning to them [women] Jesus said, “Daughters of Jerusalem, do not weep for me, but weep for yourselves and for your children. (Luke 23:28)
The term “daughters of Jerusalem” is a term found throughout the Old Testament and is allegorical of women believers. I didn’t come up with that interpretation. Jesus did. Later Paul gives us insight into allegorical Jerusalem:
But the Jerusalem above is free, and she is our mother. (Galatians 4:26)
Like mother, like daughter.
Peter continues the proverbial truth as it relates to Sarah, the wife of Abraham,
as Sarah obeyed Abraham, calling him lord. And you [women] are her children, if you do good and do not fear anything that is frightening. (1 Peter 3:6)
Consider that Abraham and Sarah are allegorical of believers—the new man and the new woman. Again, not my interpretation. But Peter’s. And Paul’s too:
Know then that it is those of faith who are the sons of Abraham. (Galatians 3:7)
This concept of image was defined for us in Genesis 5:3
When Adam had lived 130 years, he fathered a son in his own likeness, after his image, and named him Seth. (Genesis 5:3)
Notice, so far, how all of this theology follows very logical, simple to understand lines of reasoning. None of it conflicts or contradicts. None of this leaves you with subjective, abstract mush that ties your brain into a knot. It’s not confusing.
Notice how I’m working my way backward to the inevitable Genesis 1. You may be wondering by this point how we are to explain Genesis 1 which (you thought) was unequivocally clear in the male and female both being made in God’s image. Well, looks look again, shall we? This time, lets really look.
The Four Images of God
It’s not until Genesis 1:26 that we learn of the word “image” in the Bible. So we assume that the following creation of Adam and Eve explain what that image is. But what if God’s image was already revealed in the preceding verses? Because Hebrew is a concrete language we are going to use the Hebrew, and not the abstract English, and see if we can’t find some things we missed. In Genesis 1:1-2 we read that God created. The Hebrew word for “created” is barah which means “shape, cut-out, fashion”. That gives us an image. We learn that God is a builder, craftsman, an engineer. He makes an designs things out of pre-existing material. When Jesus appeared he took up the occupation of a craftsman (Matthew 13:55, Mark 6:3). The Greek tektōn means builder.
In verse 2 we read that the earth is void and the Spirit of God was hovering over the waters. The Hebrew for “hovering” is rachaph which means “brood over”. The word is used in Deuteronomy 32:11 of an eagle brooding over its young. This passage speaks of a male eagle. The noun and all the verbs are in the masculine tense:
“Like an eagle[masculine noun] that stirs up[he stirs] its nest[masculine possessive noun], That hovers[yi-racheph, masculine verb] over its young[masculine possessive noun], He spread His wings and caught them, He carried them on His pinions. (Deut. 32:11 NASB)
A number of translations including the KJV and NLT plug the words “her” into this verse which is blatantly incorrect. How this got translated into the feminine, I have no idea. The ESV, NASB, BSB, and literal translations get it right though they choose to use the pronoun “it”. This is what Jesus’ is communicating in Matt. 23:37 using the illustration of a hen brooding over its young. The idea is clarified even further for us in Luke 1:35. There we find this same image and wording used of the Holy Spirit in a striking context: “The angel replied, ‘The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow[brood over] you. So the baby to be born will be holy, and he will be called the Son of God.'” This act is a masculine, fatherly act. The earth is a “womb” and in Genesis 1:2 we read that it is void or empty. Barren. The womb of a woman is not an arbitrary thing. It is not an obstacle to her success. It’s a sign of the earth and creation. Consider these words of Ruth:
“He said, “Who are you?” And she answered, “I am Ruth, your servant. Spread your wings over your servant, for you are a redeemer.” (Ruth 3:9 ESV)
Was this a cultural token or did Ruth have a deep understanding of the Creator God? This is the same language used by God in Ezekiel:
“When I passed by you again and saw you, behold, you were at the age for love, and I spread the corner of my garment[Heb. my wings] over you and covered your nakedness; I made my vow to you and entered into a covenant with you, declares the Lord GOD, and you became mine. (Ezekiel 16:8 ESV)
The Hebrew word for wings is kanaph. This “brooding” language of God is consistent throughout the Scriptures. Ruth knew something about God that most women seemed to have missed. God and the earth work in tandem to bring about glory. As God overshadowed the earth in Genesis 1:2, so he overshadowed Mary. Both acts brought forth something amazing. With this in mind we see that Genesis 1:2 shows God as a protective covering. A husband. He’s protective and covers her, and holds the seed of life which is his Word, and plants it into the womb of the earth. The “womb of the earth” is not my interpretation, but God’s:
Who enclosed the sea behind doors when it burst forth from the womb (Job 38:8)
God’s discourse in Job 38 actually describes the earth in its infancy as a baby daughter, “When I made a cloud its garment And thick darkness its swaddling band” (Job 38:9). And the earth brings forth (Heb. yatsa). This picture is supremely poetic and awesome. Our translations have robbed us of the beauty of the deeds of God in Genesis 1 and we have come to see the whole story as some sort of mechanical, inglorious sequence of events. The real picture however is that of two daughters born of water—heaven and earth.
We then see the creation of the sun and moon—the luminaries. We learn here that God is the source or Father of light. James notes this in his letter, “Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights, with whom there is no variation or shadow due to change” (James 1:17). The sun rules the day and the moon and stars rule the night. These are called signs (Gen. 1:14) and we see God later using them to signify a father, mother, and brothers (cf. Joseph’s dream in Gen. 37:9). The moon specifically—the “mother”—reflects the light of the sun. She is not the source of the light. Jesus teaches his disciples, “While you have the light, believe in the light, that you may become sons of light.” (Joh. 12:36). The stars. The Apostle This speaks of Jesus as the light of the world and his disciples, the sons of light, as lights of the world (Joh. 9:5, Matt. 5:14) and the Church as the reflection of Christ’s light in a dark world. It lines up perfectly. Psalm 148:3 says, “Praise him, sun and moon, praise him, all you shining stars!” Inanimate objects don’t praise God. People do. There’s one more significant revelation of these signs of the sun, moon, and stars. It is in the book of Revelation:
And a great sign appeared in heaven: a woman clothed with the sun, with the moon under her feet, and on her head a crown of twelve stars. She was pregnant and was crying out in birth pains and the agony of giving birth. (Revelation 12:1-2)
Once again we see the sun, moon, and stars as signs. The woman is related to the moon, clothed with the sun. And she is a pregnant mother. She represents heaven, pregnant. As the creation story continues we see the earth becoming pregnant and “bringing forth” vegetation, trees, animals, and finally, Adam and Eve.
This is just scratching the surface, but already we have an image of God developed for us and it’s that of a builder, protective husband, and father of light. Before the actual creation of Adam, we get one more significant revelation in Genesis 1:26. This verse in the literal Hebrew says,
Then God said, “Let us make Adam in our shape, after our form. And let them tread/trample over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the heavens and over the livestock and over all the earth and over every creeping thing that creeps on the earth.”
The word “tread over” is the real give away here but it’s hidden underneath our toned-down translations which render it “rule” or “have dominion”. The verb is radah which implies an action and not the possession of something. In Modern Hebrew radah means “to tyrannize or oppress”. The concrete translations of tselem and demuth are shape and form or pattern and figure. They are always rendered image and likeness. These are not abstract terms. This is Hebrew. The Hebrew language is not based on abstract ideas like Greek or English. It is based on the five senses—sight, hearing, taste, touch, smell. Moses and the people of Israel were not philosophers. These words “image and likeness,” are not philosophical. Genesis 1:26 is where we learn that God is a warrior. God has in mind for Adam to hunt down and subdue the birds, livestock, fish, and all the creeping lizards and animals that crawl the whole earth because he wants to make Adam in his image. This is where the instinct of men to run into the wild, alone for weeks, to chase animals comes from. Men have been hunters from the beginning. This is why brother Nimrod was so honored in the sight of God for being a mighty hunter,
And Cush became the father of Nimrod, who grew to be a mighty warrior on the earth. He was a mighty hunter before the LORD; so it is said, “Like Nimrod, a mighty hunter before the LORD.” (Genesis 10:8-9 BSB)
God really digs that. In a prophetic passage of Jeremiah, God tells us this,
But for now I will send for many fishermen, declares the LORD, and they will catch them. After that I will send for many hunters, and they will hunt them down on every mountain and hill, even from the clefts of the rocks. (Jeremiah 16:16)
Later Jesus says to his disciples,
And he said to them, “Follow me, and I will make you fishers of men.” (Matthew 4:19)
I assume we haven’t seen the fulfillment of the “hunters of men” yet, but it doesn’t sound as good as the fishers of men.
Women don’t have the instinct to run into the wild and subdue animals. They may do it, to prove themselves to men, or to be with their man, but the instinct is not there. My grandmother was a rugged woman who could fish, gather mushrooms in the forest, and build camp fires, but never did she care to go out and do it alone. She did it because my grandfather wanted to. The instinct that is in women, and only women, is obviously to bear children.
After God reveals to us this four-fold image of God as a builder, protective father, source of light, and hunter-warrior he forms Adam after his image and likeness. Genesis 1:27 does not say the woman is created in the image of God. Instead it says this,
So God created Adam in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them. (Genesis 1:27)
If you weren’t paying attention (most of us weren’t), you wouldn’t have noticed that it says very directly “him” which is the pronoun in the accusative singular. Not plural. The word for “man” is Adam. Adam means two things in Genesis 1:27: the man Adam, and the Adamkind.
This affirms it. Paul was truly smarter than all of us. Nothing escaped that man’s insight and knowledge of the Scriptures. Again, none of this was my own interpretation. I’m just going with Paul.
For a [Christian] man ought not to cover his head, since he is the image and glory of God, but [Christian] woman is the glory of [Christian] man. (1 Corinthians 11:7)
A man in Christ is made the image of God, just like Christ is. A woman in Christ is made the image of the spotless Bride, adorned in all her beauty, majesty, and glory. She is the royal diadem, the crown of beauty, our Church. This is the destiny of the Church and we all want it because it is so good. Women are not left out by not taking after Christ’s image. They are given the image that the whole Church of God waits eagerly for:
And I saw the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband.
The mother of us all, fully renewed, redeemed, made spotless, beautiful, adorned in majesty coming to meet her husband who she was made for. This elevates and liberates women because it does not subject them to the sons of Adam, fallen men, it redeems them to become majestic daughters who are enjoined to equally majestic sons in the coming age.
…remembering you in my prayers, that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give you the Spirit of wisdom and of revelation in the knowledge of him, having the eyes of your hearts enlightened, that you may know what is the hope to which he has called you, what are the riches of his glorious inheritance in the saints, and what is the immeasurable greatness of his power toward us who believe, according to the working of his great might that he worked in Christ when he raised him from the dead and seated him at his right hand in the heavenly places, far above all rule and authority and power and dominion, and above every name that is named, not only in this age but also in the one to come. (Ephesians 1:15-21)