August 17, 2016 by Gene Veith
The contours of a new liberal theology, one in accord with the new ideology of sex and gender, are starting to come together. (Liberal theologians have never found a new leftist ideology that they don’t like and won’t refashion theology around.) A rabbi has written an op-ed in the New York Times maintaining that God is transgender.
After the jump, read why he thinks so and read a response from a Bible scholar.
The argument hinges on confusing linguistic gender with natural gender, confusing a Being who transcends gender with someone who purports to change the sex he or she was born as, and scholarly bloopers of an embarrassing scale. But it exemplifies how liberal theologians often twist the Bible so that it can seem to support their ideology.
From Mark Sameth, Is God Transgender? – The New York Times:
I’m a rabbi, and so I’m particularly saddened whenever religious arguments are brought in to defend social prejudices — as they often are in the discussion about transgender rights. In fact, the Hebrew Bible, when read in its original language, offers a highly elastic view of gender. And I do mean highly elastic: In Genesis 3:12, Eve is referred to as “he.” In Genesis 9:21, after the flood, Noah repairs to “her” tent. Genesis 24:16 refers to Rebecca as a “young man.” And Genesis 1:27 refers to Adam as “them.”
Surprising, I know. And there are many other, even more vivid examples: In Esther 2:7, Mordecai is pictured as nursing his niece Esther. In a similar way, in Isaiah 49:23, the future kings of Israel are prophesied to be “nursing kings.”. . .
The Israelites took the transgender trope from their surrounding cultures and wove it into their own sacred scripture. The four-Hebrew-letter name of God, which scholars refer to as the Tetragrammaton, YHWH, was probably not pronounced “Jehovah” or “Yahweh,” as some have guessed. The Israelite priests would have read the letters in reverse as Hu/Hi — in other words, the hidden name of God was Hebrew for “He/She.” Counter to everything we grew up believing, the God of Israel — the God of the three monotheistic, Abrahamic religions to which fully half the people on the planet today belong — was understood by its earliest worshipers to be a dual-gendered deity.
[Keep reading. . .]
Now read Robert A. J. Gagnon, No, God Is Not Transgender. Samples:
Proposing that the God of Israel was worshipped originally as “a dual-gendered deity,” the rabbi asserts, untenably, that the etymological derivation of Yahweh is “He/She” (HUHI). His argument requires that the Tetragrammaton be read, not from right to left (as Hebrew always is), but from left to right. . . .
Sameth’s purported evidence for a “highly elastic” view of gender in the Hebrew Bible is anything but. For instance, Sameth alleges: “In Esther 2:7, Mordecai is pictured as nursing his niece Esther. In a similar way, in Isaiah 49:23, the future kings of Israel are prophesied to be ‘nursing kings.’” While the feminine participle ‘omeneth refers to a woman who nurses a child (2 Sam 4:4; Ruth 4:16) the masculine participle ‘omen can simply designate a male “guardian,” “attendant,” or “foster father” of children (i.e., someone who cares for all their needs), as the very example cited by the rabbi from Isa 49:23 indicates (so also 2 Kings 10:1, 5). . . .
Sameth’s further evidence mostly amounts to indefensible misreadings of orthographic variations. He claims: “In Genesis 3:12, Eve is referred to as ‘he.’” But this is an orthographic matter. The Hebrew consonantal text suggests hu’ (“he”) (with later scribes providing vowel pointing for hi’[“she”])—an artifact of an early stage in writing, when hu’ was used generically of both sexes and the feminine form hi’ was used sparingly. By assigning her the pronoun hu’, Genesis is not imaging Eve as a man. This point is underscored by the fact that the verb form following this pronoun, nathenah, has a feminine ending (“she gave”).
Similar fallacies proliferate. Sameth writes that “Genesis 24:16 refers to Rebecca as a ‘young man.’” On the contrary: Here and elsewhere where the masculine/generic noun na’ar is used (of Dinah in Gen 34:3, 12; of young women in the legal texts of Deut 22:15-16, 21, 23-29) the context makes quite clear that no ambiguity of gender is implied by the non-use of the feminine na’arah. This instance constitutes either a generic usage (like Greek pais “child” for both male and female) or an orthographic variation in which the use of the final –h to indicate a feminine “a” is optional.
Again, Sameth claims: “In Genesis 9:21, after the flood, Noah repairs to ‘her’ tent.” The use of the suffix –h (usually feminine) with reference to men is common enough in the Hebrew Bible (it is used some fifty-five times) and associated only with a handful of specific words (such as the word for tent)—suggesting not “gender fluidity” but orthographic variations. . . .
Sameth’s propagandistic reasoning goes back to the very beginning. The image of the first human in Genesis 2, who is either male with a female element or sexually undifferentiated (the adam or earthling), from whom God then extracts a part to form woman, is no endorsement of attempts to erase one’s birth sex in order to transition to the opposite sex. Sameth’s statement that “Genesis 1:27 refers to Adam as ‘them’” is true, but Sameth overlooks the fact that “Adam” is here not a proper name but a description of “the human” or “humankind”: “God created the adam in his image.” Genesis 1:27 goes on to say, “male and female he (God) created them,” which is simply to acknowledge what Sameth denies: the significance of sexual differentiation for humanity.
August 17, 2016 by Gene Veith