Faith, Spirituality, Theology — June 13, 2012 8:23 am

The Significance of the Maleness of Jesus Christ?

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Or, “It’s a man’s world?” 

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How important was it that Jesus was male? How important was/is it that he was incarnated as a man for our salvation? Well, the St. Nina Journal that explores the ministry of women in the Eastern Orthodox Church asks the same question. Here are a few excerpts from the fascinating and helpful article:

But as Verna (Sister Nonna) Harrison shows in an article in the Journal of Theological Studies, the one place where he does assign significance to Christ’s being male concerns the symbolic importance of Jesus Christ as the paschal lamb and as the fulfillment of the Old Testament prophecies. Harrison rightly recognized that, “if Christ saves as male, half of the human race is excluded from salvation.” In another homily, St. Gregory disregards the fact that Jesus Christ is a male human being and instead balances Christ’s redemption of both man and woman:

Christ saves both by his passion. Was he made flesh for the man? So he was also for the woman. Did he die for the man? The woman is also saved by his death. He is called of the seed of David; and so perhaps you think the man is honored. But he is born of a virgin, and this is on the woman’s side. Thus the two, he says, shall be one flesh, so let the one flesh have equal honor.3

One more,

The Son of God did, of course, become incarnate as a male human being. But, according to St. Theodore of Stoudios, Christ’s maleness is important only because it shows the fullness of his humanity:

Maleness and femaleness are sought only in the forms of bodies, since none of the differences which characterize the sexes can be recognized in bodiless beings. Therefore, if Christ were uncircumscribable [in other words, unable to be depicted in images], as being without a body, He would also be without the difference of sex. But He was born male, as Isaiah says, from “the prophetess” (Is. 8:3); therefore He is circumscribed.4

What do you think? Talk back to me.

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  • “Christ’s maleness is important only because it shows the fullness of his humanity”

    I believe this idea that maleness shows and can represent the fullness of both sexes is rooted deeply in the bible and it’s why we find that Eve comes physically out of Adam. Just as Christ has a part of woman’s flesh by being born a woman, (the two becoming one) women and men are actually initially from the same flesh (the one becoming two). God is traditionally referred to male for the same reason, I think. He is revealed to the ancient Hebrews as male so that it would be clear that YHWH isn’t a god for just men or just women, but for humanity.

  • How timely! This afternoon I was engaged in a theological discussion on this very topic with a group of various Christian and Unitarian ministers. I absolutely agree that the incarnate Jesus Christ was a man (though one with many of the more nurturing, “female” characteristics), but an interesting question that this group discussed is the Son as the eternal Word of God. While I am uncomfortable picturing the incarnate Jesus who walked the earth as a female, I am more (but not much more) comfortable with seeing the eternal Son as also the Daughter of God. I’ll be thinking about this for a while yet.

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