Sexual Complementarity in Genesis 1:27

Human sexuality is hotly disputed today, with many now contending that “gender” is a set of learned behaviors that have no intrinsic basis in a person’s sex. The idea is that being born with male body parts doesn’t require a male to obey Paul’s command to “act like men” (1 Cor 16:13), just as being born with female body parts would not require a female to be ladylike (cf., though, 1 Cor 11). Telling a boy not to act like a girl is offensive to those who conform to prevailing opinion in our culture, which would also teach children that “transgender” is normal.

The Bible teaches, however, that God made man male and female, and the Bible clearly stipulates that males and females have gender roles assigned according to sex.

The most basic aspect of this is something our culture is at war against: the way that men are to be fathers and women are to be mothers, God having created male and female such that they have the requisite biological equipment to fulfill these roles.

The very terms used to describe the man and the woman in Genesis 1:27 reflect the way that God made man and woman to correspond to one another, to complement one another. In the language of Genesis 2:18, God made the woman “according to the front of him.”

The anatomical and biological glory of the way male and female complement one another in God’s good creation (Gen 1:31) is reflected in the terms used for male and female in Genesis 1:27. Here’s an embed from Google Books showing the TDOT entry on zachar, the term used for “male” in Genesis 1:27–the relevant portion is in the first full paragraph, beginning with “The etymology,” and be sure to read the third full paragraph as well on the Genesis 1:27 term for “female”:

The language Moses chose to use reinforces what Bible readers have always concluded from these texts: God made man male and female, and he intended them to complement one another. The correspondence between them is built into the biological specifics of what God made and reflected in the linguistic realities of the biblical text.

However the culture might try to redefine sexuality and gender roles, God’s creation is clearly seen, and his word is firmly fixed.

See further Denny Burk’s award winning book, What Is the Meaning of Sex?

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  1. Dr. Hamilton,

    This is great. I’d never looked deeply into zkr. I did have a question for you that I’ve received a few times, namely, what are we to say about hermaphrodites/intersex conditions who, at a later date, say the feel like the opposite sex?

    I’m looking for a solid way to respond to the question. Thanks!


    1. Denny Burk addresses that in his book, linked in the post. Definitely see his answer. Briefly: exceptions don’t undermine what is normal or call for its redefinition.

  2. What do we do about the Greek instruction to find a “manly wife” what about all the manly women who accepted matyrdom, also Esther and Judith committed manly deeds, and Melania and Olympias were calked manly. A worthy Christian woman would aspire to being called manly, in spite of their neqaba shape. Women worship God, not with their peirced through genitals,not through having sex, but with wisdom, bravery and fidelity to God.

  3. Act like a man, is used for many Christian women who were known for bravery. It means act like an adult, responsible member of society, legally denied to women but morally recognized. Plato wrote about the aner, both female and male. Women were also ish at times.

    Zakar and neqaba, we share with animals, not made in the image of God. But for humans, who are both male and female, we are all made in the image of God. We complement one another the way animals complement one another. We are alike in how we image God.

  4. Basically men value themselves for how they image God, and value women for what we have in common with animals.

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