Why did Jesus have to be a man?
In our day of gender dysphoria and radical ideas about God (i.e., God is Transgender), we cannot take anything for granted—including the maleness of Jesus. Since everything about gender is being questioned, we need to see all Scripture says about gender, including why Jesus had to be a man. In the Incarnation, Jesus gender was not chosen at random. It was not accidental, nor was it incidental to his identity and mission.
Rather, as the centerpiece of God’s revelation, Jesus gender was divinely-intended. And as the canon of Scripture reveals, Jesus was the antitype to which all other types—saviors, leaders, kings, and priests—pointed. His maleness, therefore, was a vital component of his ability to save Israel and the world.
Though we don’t often question Jesus’ maleness, we should not take it for granted either. By considering why Jesus had to be a man helps understand who he is, what he came to do, and why gender is not a fluid concept we create for ourselves. Just like everyone else, Jesus received his gender for the purpose of glorifying God and fulfilling his calling.
May we consider Jesus’ maleness and why playing fast and loose with XY chromosomes—his or ours—has deadly, devastating effects.
A Typological Understanding of Jesus’ Maleness
In Romans 5, Adam is called a ‘type’ of Christ. As the head of humanity, the first Adam typified Christ because he functioned as the covenant mediator.
Related to manhood and womanhood, it is significant that Adam was the head of the human race and not Eve. Typologically, there is a necessary correspondence between the maleness of Adam and the maleness of Jesus. Or to say it another way, when God made man first and endowed him with the responsibility to lead his family (and all families), he did not draw straws. Man was created first to be the covenantal head, because Jesus Christ himself would be the greater covenantal head.
In fact, throughout the history of redemption, men are called upon to be covenant leaders, warriors, kings, and priests. Feminists and cultural anthropologists might look on this trend of male leaders in Israel and assume that patriarchal tendencies in society led to this phenomena. But such an assertion would miss the typological significance of each office. Each office from Adam’s covenant headship to Isaiah’s suffering servant functioned in a typological relationship with Jesus Christ—such that maleness is not an accidental feature of these leaders, nor is it an accidental feature of Christ’s personhood.
Type and antitype correspond. The leaders of Israel had to be men because their offices—which pointed to Christ—would be fulfilled by a man, the man, Jesus Christ. Christ’s maleness, therefore, was not accidental. As the eternal Son of God, he took on flesh to fulfill offices that God had prepared for him centuries earlier. He was the substance to which these offices pointed, and thus the essence of his being, manifested as a male says something particular about how God intended to reveal himself. It also gives solid ground, not just a temporal arrangement for why Christ came as a male.
Jesus Had to be a Man
Consider six truths and five types (e.g., head of humanity, priest, king, heir, and husband) that Christ fulfilled and how the Old Testament required a male to fulfill them.
- He came as a Son to perfectly reveal the Father. As the Son of God eternal, the only begotten of the Father, he came as a Son to display the submission he has towards the Father. At the same time, he came as a male to reflect the authority intrinsic to the Godhead. Accordingly, Jesus could not have come as a woman, without doing violence to God’s revelation of himself. He is the perfect revelation of the Father, the image of the invisible God, and as such his maleness is not incidental.
- He came as a Son, so that he could be a Father of a new race. Though properly, the Son of God, Jesus as the head of a new humanity functions as it’s spiritual father. Because all that he is in his divinity, he shares with the Father (and the Holy Spirit), it makes sense that in a derivative sense, Jesus would be a ‘father.’ In covenantal terms, whereas the first Adam had physical offspring (all humanity), Jesus as the head of the church, has spiritual offspring. Accordingly, his gender is not incidental. He is the head of his Father’s household.
- He came as a Son, so that he would qualify to be a priest. In this he entered into Jewish life as a son of Israel. Born of a woman, he entered the human race not as a generic savior, but a Jewish savior who would serve as a priest. (N.B. The same argument cannot be made for his status as prophet. As Andreas and Margaret Köstenberger have argued, the role of a prophet was less official and more situational—my words, not theirs. It was based on charismatic giftedness more than official capacity. Therefore, unlike the priest, it could be held by men or women).
- He came as a Son of David, so he could be the king. According to the Law and the Prophets, the king of Israel would be a brother to the Israelites (Deuteronomy 17) and a son of David (2 Samuel 7). Had God’s savior been a woman, he could have done not have been king. Or to reverse course and speak more eschatologically—the law was created to prepare the way for a male savior, the Son of God, the Son of David.
- He came as a Son, so that he could inherit the earth. In Israel, sons inherited the land. Yes, there were times in the Bible when sons were absent and so the daughters received the property. But by and large, firstborn sons received the inheritance. Hence, Jesus came as the firstborn son, not daughter. In fact, speaking in covenantal terms, since all those who are in Christ receive all the blessings he has for them, men and women are considered “sons of God” in Galatians 3:26.
- He came as a Son, so that he could marry a bride. The imagery of marriage begins in Genesis and runs to Revelation. It is a living parable meant to portray Christ and his bride the church. The gospel depends on this fact: Christ as a man came to lay down his life for his bride. Like Adam who was put to sleep, and while he slept God made a bride. So Christ, when he was laid to rest in a tomb, God created a bride from his own body. This is not some the accidental truth of history; this is—from the beginning of time—the very design of God. When he made humanity male and female, he intended for each marriage to be parable of Christ and the church. (This, of course, also has implications for the nature and design of marriage).
While admittedly, there is a bit of circular reasoning in this argument, the fact remains: Christ could only be a covenant mediator, priest, king, heir, husband, and thus a true revelation of God if he was a man. Therefore, in the Incarnation he came as a man so that he could, under the law, fulfill all of these offices. In this way, a robust understanding of biblical typology provides one more layer of understanding of who Christ is, what he is has done, and how his person and work inform all things—including his gender.
A Theological Truth with Vast Ethical Implications
This theological truth has incredible potential for ethical application today. If Jesus’ gender is fixed by God and God’s immutable Word, his gender also defines gender for the whole human race. Instead of being of mere sidenote—“Yes, Jesus was a man”—it give us an anchor of understanding and a firm foundation on which to construct a biblical theology of gender. That’s a consideration for another day, but today we must not be led to believe that his gender is arbitrary. Jesus was male and his mother was female, just like he was a brother to his brothers and sisters, and and adopted son to Joseph.
In this way Jesus’ gender is not arbitrary and neither is yours. Made in the image of God, formed and fashioned to be like Jesus, our gender is no more arbitrary than Jesus. And that Jesus was not a gender-fluid individual and lived in the context of many dimorphic (male-female), covenantal relationships argues against the whole ruse of socially-constructed genders. Moreover, it asserts that Jesus is the starting place for the discussion on gender.
To make such an assertion certainly doesn’t end the conversation on gender today, but it should begin the conversation. The maleness of Jesus is not an accidental feature of biblical history; it is the benchmark for which all other discussions about gender must begin and end. After all, it is he who made each and everyone us—as male or female.
Soli Deo Gloria, ds
4 thoughts on “The Maleness of Christ: A Typological Necessity with Vast Ethical Implications”
I find myself agreeing with most everything you have here David and I think the ultimate conclusions are correct and laudable. But I think it better to frame it as the logical (not typological) necessity of Christ’s maleness. Typology is more than correspondence, it is also prefigurative and involves escalation. An entailment of the typological figures (Adam, Abraham, Melchizedek, Moses, David and so prophet/priest/king) is that Christ had to be male, but saying there is a “typological understanding of Jesus’ maleness” confuses the matter. Again, I think it is clearer to say that the tracing of critical typological persons and themes (covenant headship, sonship, marriage) reveals and necessitates that Jesus be male. I also find comments as “the leaders of Israel had to be men because their offices—which pointed to Christ—would be fulfilled by a man, the man, Jesus Christ” to be a little too simplistic.
Lastly, this is pure allegorizing: “Like Adam who was put to sleep, and while he slept God made a bride. So Christ, when he was laid to rest in a tomb, God created a bride from his own body.” Oh I know certain Church Fathers put it that way over and over, and it is appealing because of how clever it is, but this is an allegorical interpretation and a misinterpretation because it has no textual warrant. This interpretation pushes the details to more than what the text will allow, and such a statement is crafted in the mind of the clever interpreter instead of through the careful deliberation of the skilled exegete.
In the end, despite these interpretative quibbles I whole-heartedly agree that Jesus’ maleness is not happenstance, he had to be male to fulfill the types, but there is the theological necessity of his maleness as well, not least of all as He is the eternal Son.
Thank you for this insightful post! It provides a good inner-biblical argument underlining the importance of Jesus being a man and I find it helpful as it looks at the question of gender in terms of the whole width of God’s story, while focusing on Jesus’ role and offices. It’s always refreshing to see how much one learns to better understand and love Jesus by seeing him through the lens of the Old Testament, So, thanks again for this post.
Thanks for commenting. I am convinced most of the arguments coming from ‘evangelicals’ against ‘traditional’ (read=biblical) marriage, gender, sexuality are based on poor reading of Scripture—they are fighting proof texts with other proof texts. In contrast, we need to recover a robust biblical theology of humanity in all its glorious facets. Glad you are working with that framework on your blog.
From one follower of Christ on the Road to Emmaus to another, ds
I think this piece sums up the Christian position reasonably well. It is a belief system that rules out the female completely in relation to the divine. Christianity isn’t relevant to women as it isn’t addressed to them. It is about men looking into the mirror and worshipping themselves. Nothing more than narcissism.
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