Dr. Richard S. Hess

Old Testament Questions from the desk of Dr. Richard S. Hess

Does Genesis 1 teach that there are more than 2 genders?

One of the important points in Genesis 1 that I tended to skip over for years because of its graphic nature, has now become something that I put in my lectures because of the trans movement.

Let me begin by saying that Genesis 1 is about the creation of life. Most of the animals are actually in Hebrew singular, understood as a collective (e.g. “bird,” “fish,” “domestic animal,” etc.)  The expression “according to its kind” appeared for these animals in the KJV.  However, this is not actually correct, especially in light of Ezek. 47:10, where the same phrase is translated, “of many kinds.”  Indeed, this is the sense of Genesis 1, reproduction for particular species (or wherever the class may fall: phylum, class, order, family, genus, species) is to be in “all their diversity.”  Interestingly the creation of ʾadam in vv. 26-28 is not in “all their diversity.”  If they wanted to, the author could have inserted it here.  The fact that it does not appear suggests that the commanded fruitfulness of this species is according to the specifics given.  That is my first point.

The second point that I now insert in my Genesis 1 lectures has to do with v. 27.  The “male and female” there are the closest possible expressions for the sexual organs distinctive to the sexes.  Zakar is understood by the Heb. dictionaries as a reference the male genitalia.  Neqēbâ comes from the root nqb “to bore through,” a clear reference to the female genitals.  The text could not be more explicit in identifying the creation of the sexes as two, identified according to their specific genital features.  

Further, there are ways in Hebrew to say two things (such as two genders) with other things in between. It appears in Joshua 6:21 where it identifies those “from man to woman” who would be killed in Jericho. Here the “from…to” is not covering a range of genders but of every kind of man (big, small, combatant, non-combatant, etc.) and every kind of woman. The same phrase occurs in the same verse, “from young to old.” Again, the same meaning applies (all types of babies and infants and all types of elderly that one might find in a sample group of people). The point is that such a phrase could have been used here in v. 27, where gender and sex are under consideration. One would expect the Hebrew to use an available means of expressing a variety of genders. The fact that this is not used suggests that such an interpretation was not in the mind of the writer or in the understandings of the readers. Male and female identify the two sexes and genders. There is no additional sex or gender envisioned here. (This is taken from my popular study of Genesis 1-11, forthcoming).

From a biblical standpoint the sexual connections with the genders is as clear as the Creator could make it.  The language of the text will not bear genders other than male and female created with distinctive physical features.

Of course, this is not to say that those who are born with “gender dysphoria” are somehow sinful.  They are not.  Before the current trans movement, this sort of individual did exist, rarely.  The figure I have read is about 1 in 10,000 of the population. See especially the important study of Abigail Shrier, Irreparable Damage: The Transgender Craze Seducing Our Daughters (2020).

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