Jesus and Gender revisited

One question that sometimes gets asked is how Jesus as a man could represent women in his death and resurrection, bringing salvation to all.  Amy Peeler, has offered this solution to the perceived problem.

All orthodox Christians who affirm the virginal conception would affirm that he—in a way unique to the human race—embraces female and male in his body because his male body came from a female alone.[1]

She goes on:

Jesus, son of Mary, radically includes females and males in his imago Dei body. The body that embraces male and female is the same body that reveals God.[2]

Peeler’s argument, from what I can tell is that there was something about Jesus’ incarnation, through the virgin birth that made him a different kind of male because he lacked a human father and so, this enabled him to represent women in his body on the cross.  She argues that this is consistent with Christian tradition, citing Augustine:

“He was born of a woman; don’t despair men; Christ was happy to be a man. Don’t despair, women; Christ was happy to be born of a woman” (Sermon 72a.4).[3]

I think that Peeler is making more of what Augustine is saying there.  I take his point simply to be that the doctrine of the Incarnation involves male and female, without saying anything ontological about Jesus’ nature.  Now, I do think there is something important in the virgin birth. In effect, it does offer a mirror image with Genesis 2. If woman came from the first man, Adam, then the second/new Adam comes in human terms from the women, offering symmetry

I find Peeler’s position problematic because it seems to suggest that the lack of a human father radically alters Jesus’ human nature.  We want to be clear about two things here. First, that there is nothing lacking in Jesus, second that he completely shares the same human nature as us.

And therein we get to the heart of the problem. The need to answer the question “could a male Jesus save women” seems to assume that there is a distinction in nature between men and women that we are not truly equal, that we belong to different species.  I don’t think this is Peeler’s intention but I believe that it is where, in effect, we end up.

I think there is a better answer to the question. It’s the one offered by Elyse Fitzpatrick and Eric Schumacher in Jesus and the Gender of God. Their response is simply that all humans, male and female, share the same human nature.  Therefore, the important thing concerning our salvation is not Jesus’ gender but that he came in that same human nature.  He was both fully human and fully God. This is good news and means that we are all one in Christ Jesus.

[1] Peeler, Amy. Women and the Gender of God (p. 185). Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co.. Kindle Edition.

[2] Peeler, Amy. Women and the Gender of God (p. 186). Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co.. Kindle Edition.  Note, the primary focus of the book is on gender and God.  Peeler is seeking to counter views of God that treat Him as male/masculine.  It is worth noting that orthodox/evangelical views would agree that God as Spirit is not gendered and that we should not understand the use of gendered pronouns like Him and titles like Father, Son, King of Kings in the same way that we understand human gender distinctions.  However, it is important to recognise and believe that God reveals himself as Father and uses those gendered identifications.

[3] Peeler, Amy. Women and the Gender of God (p. 185). Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co.. Kindle Edition.

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