Male and Female He created them

There has been much discussion in recent times about whether or not we can identify Biblical Manhood and Womanhood. . At one end of the spectrum are those who insist that it is possible. At times, it seems that their Biblical view of manhood aligns neatly with particular cultural perceptions of manliness and likewise there are particular cultural norms for women that just happen to align with what Scripture is supposed to teach. At the other end of the spectrum are those who insist that such an enterprise is impossible, that there isn’t a Biblical view of manhood and womanhood.  My position lies somewhere between the two.  I think that it is possible, in general terms to identify what men and women are like and what men and women do without becoming over constrained or legalistic about this.

In Genesis 1:26-28 we read:

26 Then God said, “Let us make human beings[a] in our image, to be like us. They will reign over the fish in the sea, the birds in the sky, the livestock, all the wild animals on the earth,[b] and the small animals that scurry along the ground.”27 So God created human beings[c] in his own image. In the image of God he created them; male and female he created them. 28 Then God blessed them and said, “Be fruitful and multiply. Fill the earth and govern it. Reign over the fish in the sea, the birds in the sky, and all the animals that scurry along the ground.”

The story of the human race is the story of men and women together, made in God’s image. Despite what pop psychology books along the lines of “Men are from Mars and Women are from Venus” have suggested, there is just one species not two. This is important because sadly, some Christians seem to think, speak and act as though there are whether engaging in a battle of the species of believing that men exist in a hierarchy over women.  I’ve even come across teaching that applies v28, and the instruction “govern” or “have dominion” specifically to men whereas, here it clearly applies to men and women together. Where older translations talked at this point about “man”, they meant “mankind” or “humankind” as we would prefer to label ourselves today.

However, the Bible distinguishes within species between male and female.  So, we may find it helpful to trace the individual stories of male and female, men and women through the Bible to see a little more of how God deals with us and blesses us. 

Biblical Manhood

The man in his Garden

Genesis 2 focuses in on the detail behind that summary in Genesis 1. We discover that God didn’t create male and female humans at the same time as he seemed to do with the other creatures. This might suggest that there are specific things he wants to teach us. God makes man first and places him in a Garden, both to enjoy its provision and protection, and to work in it. He too is to provide and protect. He is to tend to the garden and he is to guard it.  It is against the background of his work and also his worship (obedience to the command not to eat from the tree), that God identifies a need, “It is not good for the man to be alone.”

The Man, Adam needs a helper but Eve’s identification as that helper does not indicate inferiority.  God himself, including in the person of the Holy Spirit comes to help his people.  The role does not correspond to hierarchy.  Male and Female are made equally in God’s image.  Adam takes delight in his wife, the woman.  He recognises that she is from him, “bone of my bone, flesh of my flesh.”  From then on, it is the man who leaves behind his parental family to cleave to his wife.

It is notable in Genesis 3, that Adam is not absent when the conversation with the serpent happens and yet he remains silent. There seems to be a failure to take responsibility there. Indeed, we might argue that the serpent usurps that responsibility to provide and the man relinquishes his responsibility to protect. [1]

God is clear that Adam must shoulder responsibility for sin.  He will return to the dust from which he came, the death penalty is enacted. He continues to carry the role of providing and protecting as his part in the Creation Mandate of filling and subduing the earth. However, obstacles are put in place so the work becomes a struggle with thorns and weeds requiring sweat and toil.[2]

The consequence of the Fall is the litany of death in Genesis 5 but this begins with the first mention of physical death coming through murder as Cain, the first born negates any responsibility for provision and protection asking “am I my brother’s keeper?” and through jealousy killing his younger brother.

In Genesis 6:2, the “Sons of God”, see, desire and take women, the “daughters of men”.  There has been much discussion about who exactly the “Sons of God” were with one possibility being that they are angelic beings, however, given that Luke traces the line of Jesus back through Adam with Adam as “the Son of God” it is at least strongly possible that this is a reference to the descendants of Seth intermarrying with the descendants of Cain.  The language echoes that in Genesis 3 where Eve is encouraged to see, desire and take the forbidden fruit.  Under this interpretation, we have men who instead of acting to provide and protect, instead seek to grasp and devour for personal satisfaction.

Covenants with new Adams

Noah in Genesis 6-9 is in effect a new Adam. He is given responsibility for keeping and caring for his family and representative animals through the flood in order to enable a future re-subduing and filling of creation. After the Flood, God makes the first explicit Covenant with Noah. There is a renewing of his relationship to Creation but with a difference.  Humans may now eat meat but animals will also fear men.  Noah fails early, instead of providing and protecting through his farming, he drinks to excess leading to nakedness and shame so that his sons have to protect him by providing clothing.[3]

Similarly, Abraham has an Adamic role.[4] He is blessed with land to keep and to subdue. He is promised many descendants who will fill and subdue the land. Abraham is therefore a father. Fatherhood is central to the role of men. The Covenant with Abraham, centres upon a promised son, Isaac. In response to the command to go, Abraham criss-crosses the land, checking out the furthest boundaries and builds an altar.[5] Abraham’s desire to get the lie of the land and then to build an altar, might be seen as the equivalent of planting a flag. He is declaring intent to fill and subdue the place under Yahweh’s rule.

Abraham and his nephew Lot don’t always do a good job when it comes to provision and protection.  Abraham asks his wife Sarah to pretend to be his sister, putting her at risk from Pharoah’s advances whilst Lot takes his family into danger in Sodom, is willing to offer up his daughters for the sake of his male guests, fails to get his wife safely out of Sodom and by hiding away fails to provide for his daughters in terms of husbands leading to further sin.

Notice that for Abraham’s grandsons, manhood is reflected both in the hairy hunter Esau and in the smooth skinned, quiet and gentle Jacob.  Though note that we should probably associate the “stay at home” with pastoral farming rather than domestic service. (Genesis 25). Note that the stronger, older ends up serving the younger, gentle brother.

God’s People Israel

The Deuteronomic Law often highlights the responsibilities of fathers towards their daughters to care for them and protect them.[6] Old Testament  society may be described as “patricentric.”   Whilst it is tempting to see such patriarchal as out of date, I would argue that the focus on fathers at the centre of life and society is intentional in order to point us towards God as the Father at the centre.

God calls men to act as judges when the people enter the promised land. These judges have a responsibility for rescuing and ruling over the people. There is once again a sense that they guard/protect and subdue.  This does not exclude women from leadership and prophecy -take the example of Deborah but there is shame in the failure of a man, Barak to take responsibility for leading his people.[7]

Men are called to be Kings. David is the archetype King of Deuteronomy 18. Kings are to rule and protect the people but not to lord it over them for selfish gain. Sadly, even David falls and we see him using his position to acquire wives as well as wealth and power. This is most explicitly seen in his taking Bathsheba and taking the life of her husband Uriah the Hittite.  In seeking to protect and provide for himself, as well as pursuing excess, David fails to protect his people.  Indeed, the very incident happens at the point when David should have been out leading the army, protecting the nation.[8]

Solomon, David’s heir seeks wisdom from God in order to rule well. Again, this is in order that he might provide and protect.  In Proverbs, he tells us that Sons are to pursue wisdom and fathers are to teach them wisdom.  However, he is distracted by excess both in terms of wealth and wives. Instead of providing spiritual protection, he leads the people into the danger of idolatry. 

The Gospel and Men

At the Cross, the disciples (men) are contrasted with the women -the betray, desert and deny Jesus. Women meanwhile are the last to leave the Cross and the first to the tomb. Men again are seen in their fallen state as tending to abdicate responsibility and towards absence. The one man present, John is given responsibility for the care and protection of Jesus’ mother but he is also committed to her motherly care.

It is fascinating that the Ephesian elders in Acts are portrayed like Shepherds with a cultivating feeding role and also a guarding/keeping role.[9]  This might help us to understand why elders are men, there is a fatherly responsibility here to provide and protect spiritually. If elders are shepherds, fulfilling the Biblical call to provide and protect, wolves are those who see, desire and take, devouring the flock for their own satisfaction.

Jesus is portrayed as the husband, the church his bride and he is the head of the church in Ephesians 5.  As the husband, he does not seek to impose and benefit from his authority but instead willingly gives his life for his bride, the church. In the same way, husbands are not to be those who seek to fulfil their desire and satiate their need for gratification by taking a wife but instead are to sacrificially love and serve their spouse.[10]

Again, according to Peter, men are not to see in their generic greater physical strength, spiritual superiority to women but are to honour them, to treasure then as co-equal heirs in Christ. In fact failure to do so will hinder prayers.[11]

Man is ….

This survey suggests that we would be wise to stay clear from an over-legalistic attempt to pin down Biblical manliness. Certainly, it is nothing to do with particular physical features or even jobs. However, generally speaking, there does appear to be a focus on men as fathers who provide and protect.  The contrast to Biblical manliness then is not to do with social perceptions around physique, work or hobbies but with those who forsake such responsibilities in order to seek out personal satisfaction and gratification.

Biblical Womanhood

A Biblical Theology of Womanhood

Creation and Fall

Women along with men are made in God’s image.[12]  Woman is made from man she is bone of his bone, flesh of his flesh. She is literally both  like and opposite to him, from which .we get the term “complementarian.  A man will leave his parents to cleave to his wife.[13]

When tempted, Eve seems to act autonomously from her husband (even though he is present) and God when she reasons and argues with the serpent. Instead of helping her husband to worship God and to guard the garden by keeping the command, she helps him to fall into sin by sharing the forbidden fruit with him.[14]

The consequence for Eve’s sin primarily focus on the pain of child-bearing. It is also possible, but not certain that Genesis 3:16 suggests conflict in marriage with the woman seeking to control her husband and him seeking to lord it over her.  Eve is the mother of all the living.[15] Just as fatherhood is significant to men, motherhood is significant to women.  Eve, therefore, takes delight in the birth of her firstborn son and sees this as a gift from God.[16]


We often focus on the Patriarchs in Genesis, telling the stories of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. The risk of course is that we can miss out on the vital stories of Sarah (and don’t forger Hagar),

The importance of motherhood is seen in the sadness and distress that barrenness causes to Sarah, Rachel and Hannah. There is a specific link for Sarah to her role in the fulfilment of the promise whilst Hannah and Elizabeth’s infertility act as precursors to the birth of prophets who will each prepare the way for a coming King/Messiah. These women are not treated well by their husbands, fathers and fathers-in-law. Consider Jacob and Laban horse-trading over Leah and Rachel or Judah’s behaviour towards Tamar.[17] 

Yet women stand out heroically as those willing to give all in order to bring about and preserve life. We might include here the Hebrew midwives who act to protect the baby boys in Egypt, then there is Moses’ mum, his sister Miriam and even the Pharoah’s daughter, all of whom who have a part to pay in protecting and delivering the man who would later deliver the people. 

Finally, we cannot ignore the beautiful story of Ruth, a Moabite foreigner who marries an Israelite refugee only for him to die.  She commits to return with her mother-in-law to Bethlehem making Naomi’s God her God and people her people. Ruth, demonstrates loyalty and faith leading to her experiencing the protection and provision of Boaz, a man who stands out as righteous in his treatment of the vulnerable.  This brings her into the family line of Jesse, an ancestor of David and Jesus.

Prophets, Judges and deliverers

Women can speak for God (prophesy) and play their part in the good and just government of Israel and the protection/salvation of the people c.f. Deborah (Judges 4(. In the New Testament women are also seen to play their part in prophesying, as deacons and as co-workers in the Gospel mission.

Women can be brave and wise (, Abigail  Esther). They can carry great responsibility. The “home maker” is not merely responsible for looking after the children, cooking and keeping the house tidy but rather is a resourceful and successful business woman  who ensures that her family flourishes and thrives(Proverbs 31).

Women can be victims of rape and betrayal, treated as objects, used and abused (Dinah, Tamar, Bathsheba). There is a sense that their honour is to be cherished and protected. Lest we paint women only as saints or victims, ungodly women can lead God’s people astray (Deuteronomy 7, Jezebel). Indeed, the book of Proverbs sets up two female characters for contrast, Lady Wisdom and Lady Folly. In many respects both appear similar in nature and what they have to offer but one encourages faithfulness and life whilst the other entices men into debauchery, unfaithfulness and death. 

The Gospel and Women

Women are part of the group around Jesus and help to provide for him. Jesus crosses cultural barriers to speak specifically to women. Jesus observes a widow giving at the Temple and contrasts her sacrifice in giving all with the throw away abundance of rich, powerful men.  It is a woman who shows Jesus hospitality and care when proud men fail and anoints him ahead of his crucifixion for burial.[18] Indeed, we might argue that given he is crowned as King at his crucifixion, that Mary had the honour of taking Samuel’s prophetic place in anointing Jesus as Messiah-King. Women are last at the Cross and first at the tomb when the men have fled and are in hiding. Their eyewitness accounts although doubted by men prove true.[19]

God’s people Israel and the church are portrayed as the bride of the Lord (Ezekiel 18, Hosea, Ephesians 5). The bride is chosen not because of her own innate loveliness but made beautiful by him and ready for marriage.  Often unfaithful, she is forgiven and redeemed by her husband.  Beauty is to be admired and treasured (see Sarah and Esther). However inner beauty is to be valued more.[20]  According to Peter, women may appear to be the “weaker” or more fragile/delicate in terms of physical build of the sexes but are co-heirs, equal with men.[21]

Woman is …

If the focus for men is generally speaking on provision and protection, we might argue that when it comes to women that it is on care and nurture.  Women are associated with the giving or bringing about of life and ensuring that it thrives and flourishes.  Contra cultural assumptions, this does not place women as lesser than men, nor does it restrict them from prominence, from speaking and from leading, though how they lead in life will look different to how men lead.  Women, as much as men are presented as bold and courageous. 


We can talk in general terms about men and women in ways that recognise both likeness, that we are made equally in the image of God and co-heirs with Christ but also that pay attention to distinction.  As with Christological and Trinitarian Theology, it is important in our Doctrine of Humanity and Gender to be careful not to over separate nor to confuse together! 

Men and women then are together, equally and wonderfully made whilst at the same time fallen through sin and equally dependent upon God’s Grace.  Men and women are together responsible for fulfilling the Creation Mandate and the Great Commission.

[1] Genesis 3:6.

[2] Genesis 3:17-19.

[3] Genesis 9.

[4] Genesis 12:1-3

[5] Genesis 12:4-9.

[6] See e.g. Deuteronomy 22:13-30.

[7] Judges 4.

[8] 2 Samuel 11.

[9] Acts 20:28

[10] Ephesians 5:21-32.

[11] 1 Peter 3:7

[12] Genesis 1-26-28

[13] Genesis 2.

[14] Genesis 3:1-7.

[15] Genesis 3:20

[16] Genesis 4:1.

[17] Genesis 38.

[18] John 12:1-8.

[19] Mark 15:40-16:8.

[20] 1 Peter 3:4

[21] 1 Peter 3:7. The use of the word “weaker” needs to be handled carefully as it can sound disparaging in our context but that is not Peter’s intent. Rather, it is a generalized observation that men tend over all to be taller and carry more muscle bulk. This is recognised in Sport when men and women compete in separate categories. It’s a generalism and does not mean that all men will be taller or stronger than all women. Nor is it intended as a value judgement on men and women.

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