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God Language in the New Testament

Ben Witherington Discusses Biblical Gendered Language

God Language in the New Testament

Ben Witherington III

When it comes to talking about God, language matters. Every instance of so-called “God language” in the Bible gets parsed and dissected by scholars (and lay readers) in an attempt to gain a better understanding of the nature of God. Language, then, can become understandably controversial at times, as New Testament professor Ben Witherington III reveals in his Biblical Views column “Spirited Discourse About God Language in the New Testament,” in the May/June 2012 issue of Biblical Archaeology Review.

Ben Witherington offers an interpretation of the brief episode about Jesus and the Samaritan woman at the well from the Gospel of John to resolve an apparent oxymoron with the God language used there.

God Language in the New Testament

A quick look at God language in the New Testament reveals that only male-gendered language is used to describe God (e.g., he, him, father, etc.). According to Ben Witherington of Asbury Theological Seminary, gendered language such as calling God “Father” does not imply that God has a gender; rather, this sort of God language describes a relational aspect of God to his people.

While speaking to the Samaritan woman, Jesus calls God “Father” and also says “God is spirit.” The gendered language of “Father” might suggest to some readers that God is a male with flesh and gender. Yet, according to Jesus, “God is spirit” and therefore has no body or gender. In fact, Ben Witherington argues, the use of gendered language such as “he,” “him” or “father” has nothing to do with the maleness of God or a gender-biased patriarchy. Instead, “father” describes the relationship of God to Jesus and all believers who become God’s adopted children.

Unlike Hebrew and Greek (in which all nouns, even inanimate ones, have gender), English is not a gendered language. Thus, Ben Witherington explains, when we hear male pronouns, we (wrongly) assume it implies a physically male gender. But “there is no connection between gendered language and gender identity,” according to Ben Witherington. “Our cultural biases have led to an overly sexualized reading of the God language in the Bible.”

For more about gendered language in the Bible, see Ben Witherington III, Biblical Views: “Spirited Discourse About God Language in the New Testament,” in the May/June 2012 issue of Biblical Archaeology Review.

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6 Responses

  1. “misplaced” Manuscripts of J.B. Lightfoot discovered! | newsantiques.com says:

    […] to investigate some-more about his analysis? learn “understanding Revelations in a Bible,” “God Language in a New testament” and “The Göbekli Tepe Ruins and a Origins of Neolithic faith,” 3 Bible story day-to-day […]

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6 Responses

  1. “misplaced” Manuscripts of J.B. Lightfoot discovered! | newsantiques.com says:

    […] to investigate some-more about his analysis? learn “understanding Revelations in a Bible,” “God Language in a New testament” and “The Göbekli Tepe Ruins and a Origins of Neolithic faith,” 3 Bible story day-to-day […]

  2. God Language in the New Testament | Ocala Christian Radio says:

    […]  Email This Post […]

  3. God Language in the New Testament | Believers Radio says:

    […]  Email This Post […]

  4. God Language in the New Testament | St Petersburg Christian Radio says:

    […]  Email This Post […]

  5. God Language in the New Testament | AnythingGospel News says:

    […] Delicious/christianheadlines/topheadlines Posted in Top Headline News Tags: language, Testament « AZ sheriff: Justices did their homework You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site. […]

  6. God Language in the New Testament | Shreveport Christian Radio says:

    […]  Email This Post […]

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