Laura Martin just posted a review of Biblical Femininity, Discovering Clarity and Freedom in God’s Design for Women. She ably discusses the book’s premises, pointing out that its reliance on weak exegeses leads to weakly supported conclusions on the role of women in the kingdom of God.
I think there is another weakness to the book that can influence even those who merely read the title and never look inside. The problem?
There’s no such thing as “Biblical Femininity”.
That’s because the Bible doesn’t say we are created feminine and masculine; it says we are created male and female.
So God created human beings in his own image.
In the image of God he created them;
male and female he created them. (Genesis 1:27.)
Being feminine or masculine is a cultural concept, while being male or female is biological. To oversimplify the biology of sex, if you have two X chromosomes you’re female and if you have an X and a Y chromosome you’re male. Acting feminine or masculine might reflect your gender, but it won’t affect your sex:
What are feminine and masculine traits anyway? Each culture has traits or behaviors it assigns generally to one sex or another, and other cultures in a different place or time can take those same traits and behaviors and assign them to the opposite sex.
The Bible itself shows differences in gender expectations over time and place:
- In Proverbs 31 the woman (who is actually a personification of Godly wisdom) is an entrepreneur in the Israelite community and manages all the household finances and personnel.
- In Paul’s letters and travels to various cities in the Roman Empire (heavily influenced by Greek culture and not at all looking to Jewish history for its guidance) he commended a women who taught a man (Priscilla in Acts 18:24-26, 1 Corinthians 16:9), sent greetings to a woman who was a fellow apostle (Junia in Romans 16:7), and specified that in Ephesus – a city with a centuries-long preexisting matriarchal cult – women in the church should learn about Jesus quietly (1 Timothy 2:11).
- And on returning to Judea, Paul enjoyed the hospitality of an evangelist whose daughters each had the gift of prophecy (Philip and his four daughters in Acts 21:8-9).
So I wonder where anyone thinks the Bible dictates particularly feminine or masculine traits people must adopt today in order to live “Biblically”.
Perhaps they mean this passage:
Greet each other with a kiss of love. (1 Peter 5:14.)
OK men, when you show up at the men’s breakfast next weekend make sure you’ve got plenty of lip balm because you’re going to be smooching … a lot.
Or perhaps they mean this passage:
… a man must not wear women’s clothing. (Deuteronomy 22:5.)
You hear that Scottish men? I don’t care how tough Braveheart was, no more kilts!
And Maori warriors, no more piupiu!
And American male judges, no more robes!
All those flowy things are women’s wear! But wait a second … men back in the days of Deuteronomy wore flowing robes, so perhaps we should outlaw pants today.
But the femininity/masculinity proponents will tell us that those Old and New Testament passages must be understood in their contexts, that what men and women wore in Bible times was culturally informed.
I completely agree.
So let’s have no more nonsense about femininity and masculinity being the key to understanding how to be women and men in Christ, because the Bible doesn’t teach masculine and feminine traits. It doesn’t even tell us how to be Biblical men and women.
Rather, the Bible tells us we are:
… growing in every way more and more like Christ, who is the head of his body, the church. (Ephesians 4:15.)
That’s not feminine and it’s not masculine, but it sure is Biblical.