Genesis and Gender: Biblical Myths of Sexuality and Their Cultural Impact

By William E. Phipps | Go to book overview
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Chapter 1
Androgyny in Myths

THEOLOGY

Those sharing the Judeo-Christian heritage have generally assumed that the gender of deity is masculine. Embedded in the Western psyche is a figure resembling the bearded Creator painted by Michelangelo on the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel. That Renaissance artist was indebted to Greco-Roman images of Father Zeus/Jupiter. According to one recent survey, most adult Americans think of God as a male and none think of God as a woman. 1 As for children, the typical outlook is articulated in this letter: "Dear God, Are boys better than girls? I know you are one but try to be fair. Sylvia." 2 When a representative sample of Presbyterians were asked what images came to mind when they thought of God, Father was among the most frequent and Mother was among the least. 3 A 1987 poll by the National Opinion Research Center shows that 6 percent more favor thinking of God as father than in 1984. 4

Gender stereotyping with respect to the divine has doubtlessly been much influenced by the profuse use of masculine imagery in the Bible. Some scholars as well as most common readers discern nothing but masculinity in the biblical conception of God. Northrop Frye, for example, states unequivocally in his discussion of biblical perspectives: "God is male because that rationalizes the ethos of a patriarchal male-dominated society." 5 But a closer examination of biblical theology dis

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