Galatians 3:28, Neither Male Nor Female

There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither bond nor free, there is neither male nor female: for ye are all one in Christ Jesus. 

//These are wonderful words of equality, penned by Paul, meant to be interpreted symbolically. Right? A person can’t really be neither male nor female, can s/he? Didn’t Genesis tell the story of how mankind was created “male and female” by God?

Let’s go back and read that text a little more carefully:

So God created man in his own image, in the image of God created he him; male and female created he them. –Gen 1:27

Oh! Maybe we’ve been reading this wrong all along? God created “man” in His own image—being both male and female?

Hellenistic Jews read this text just this way! Mankind, they say, was created androgynous—both male and female—and they speculated that a time would come when human beings would once again return to this state of androgynous perfection.

Maybe you’ve read the Gospel of Thomas, and uncovered these words:

Jesus said to them: “When you make the two into one and when you make the inside like the outside and the outside like the inside and the above like the below, — that is, to make the male and the female into a single one, so that the male will no longer be male and the female no longer female– … then you will enter [the kingdom].” –Thomas 22

Maybe Paul was writing more literally than we thought?

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2 Comments

  1. I’m browsing back through your older posts, Lee, so commenting on this one a bit late. It’s a goodie!

    I’m of the firm opinion that Jesus, and Paul, too, each from their mystical experiences, both understood human beings created as you describe above. That we were initially created in the image of God’s perfect light/glory that was androgynous. Not androgynous (nor hermaphrodite as in both sexes in one) in a physical sense, but in an energetic sense. Just as God is both masculine and feminine in energy (symbolized by YHVH and the Shekinah (feminine presence of God, or Wisdom/Sophia — Christianity, because of its trinity, rendered the Holy Spirit masculine, when in Judaism she was feminine). It’s the same universal principle as the yin/yang in eastern philosophies — everything in creation contains both aspects to some degree of masculine and feminine, no matter if it appears strictly male or female on the outside. The ideal is a balance of both aspects within one person (i.e., perfection). When blended perfectly, the result is neutral, or “genderless”.

    I think Jesus’ understanding of this interpretation of Genesis 1:27 is summed up in Mark 12:18-27 (I quote below verses 23-27), in Jesus’ response to the Sadducees who questioned Jesus regarding a belief in a physical resurrection at the end of days (the Sadducees harbored no belief in an afterlife), in the hypothetical situation where a woman is married in sequence to seven brothers, per Levirite law. The Sadduccees ask Jesus,

    23“In the resurrection, when they rise again, which one’s wife will she be? For all seven had married her.”24Jesus said to them, “Is this not the reason you are mistaken, that you do not understand the Scriptures or the power of God?25“For when they rise from the dead, they neither marry nor are given in marriage, but are like angels in heaven.26“But regarding the fact that the dead rise again, have you not read in the book of Moses, in the passage about the burning bush, how God spoke to him, saying, ‘I AM THE GOD OF ABRAHAM, AND THE GOD OF ISAAC, and the God of Jacob’?27“He is not the God of the dead, but of the living; you are greatly mistaken.”

    Clearly, Jesus has explained that when humans “rise from the dead” they do not marry, they are like the angels in heaven. Angels are often depicted as beings of shining light or fire, or like “burnished bronze”. Angels might be depicted by we humans as being male or female (it’s how we relate!) but angels may be genderless — or both, but presenting one aspect more than another (the masculine represented power, action, and perfection in antiquity). Why in art are angels, and Jesus, and other holy persons/saints depicted with auras and halos of gold or stars? Perhaps they truly glowed with light. Those who ascended to the heavens (Ezekiel and Enoch, for example) describe other entities in bright white and/or golden “garments” or that they themselves donned brilliant garments of light upon entering the heavenly realm near God’s throne (think of Jesus’ transfiguration in a glowing white garment) — the “garments” aren’t literal, they symbolized the brilliant appearance of such beings — as LIGHT, the very image or reflection of God’s light and glory. The light is literal; the garments aren’t.

    Also note Jesus’ response is stated in the present tense — not in the future, as in a future resurrection. He says “when they rise from the dead” as if it’s an ongoing event or process, not something that will happen at a future time. This is reinforced with the last two verses: YHVH (which roughly means “I was, I am, I will be”, the eternal God) is the God of the LIVING, not of the dead. The righteous are in heaven, with God, not in the land of Sheol, of the dead or “sleeping.” In other words, when people die, the physical body dies, but their true core essences live on (perhaps to be transformed, as Paul believes) — we are non-physical, androgynous beings of light — like the angels.

    Perhaps what Jesus was teaching was a shift to higher consciousness, a Way of living and thinking, and being, that would allow the people of his time to transcend Sheol/Hades for the first time. He rent the veil, broke down the gates of Hades. Formerly Jews (and many Greeks/Gentiles) believed that when all people died, they “slept” in a sort of limbo or non-existence in Sheol or Hades forever. And for the Jews, many believed they would remain in Sheol until the end of days when God would finally resurrect all the righteous — physically (in a “new body” per Paul that was not flesh and blood) and to live forever in a new perfect world/Earth that God would prepare for us. Maybe that’s wrong? Maybe Paul was wrong in thinking the mass resurrection and coming new world would happen soon?

    According to the passage above from Mark, Jesus does not mention a resurrection. He says we rise from the dead, present tense, and we’re like the angels in heaven. No Sheol (or “Gehenna”) if we follow Jesus’ Way, no waiting in a limbo/non-existence for a final physical resurrection. Perhaps if there’s to be a new world where “God reigns” it’s up to us, as Jesus taught, to be the vessels of that bring the light and love and justice of God into this world, now, while we’re here. Maybe the resurrection happens in our consciousness, while we live, so that we can be transformed into those light beings in the heavenly realms with God, rather than sleep in the lower realms of Sheol or Hades.

    Just as Paul taught “there is neither Jew or Greek… neither male nor female… in Christ”, Jesus also taught, “You are the light of the world.” Maybe Jesus was speaking literally, too, as in angelic beings of light. Let your light so shine… Shine on!

    Sorry, got onto the topic of light beings again, but it is related to Genesis 1:27 and how the earliest Christians, and likely Jesus and Paul (as well as some Jews, such as the Essenes, and mystics of many religions) understood the original creation of human entities as androgynous beings of light, created in the image of God who is both masculine and feminine (thus neither; it/he/she is the great transcendent I AM).

  2. Yuri Futanari

    I personally belong to a group of people who believe that neither the greator nor humans are truly sexually binary from the start and that those who are born as intersexed are in essence a resurgence of the originasl form of Adam before Eve was created not from a rib but from that which is now labeled the ‘female’ reprodctive organs.

    Even in the bible, Jesus declared in Matthew 19 and starting in verse 11 But He said to them, “Not all men can accept this statement, but only those to whom it has been given. 12 “For there are eunuchs who were born that way from their mother’s womb…He who is able to accept this, let him accept it.”

    Then Jesus went on to say in Matthew 22:29 But Jesus answered and said to them, “You are mistaken, not understanding the Scriptures nor the power of God. 30 “For in the resurrection they neither marry nor are given in marriage, but are like angels in heaven.

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