God—Our Father and Mother?
“LOVE YOUR ENEMIES and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may be children of [God] your [Mother and] Father who is in heaven.” Does that rendering of Jesus’ words surprise you? It was taken from The Inclusive Language Lectionary, a new translation of Bible selections published recently in the United States by the National Council of Churches.—Matthew 5:44, 45.
This is a translation with a difference. Its purpose, according to The New York Times, is to “eliminate the male-dominated language and imagery prevalent in earlier translations of the Bible.” Why? “If the language of the Scriptures is exclusively masculine, women feel left out,” said theology professor Dr. Susan B. Thistlethwaite, according to the Times.
Thus, God’s “only-begotten Son” becomes “God’s only Child.” The word “God” is repeated, rather than using the pronoun “he.” Similarly, the “Son of man” becomes “the Human One.” (John 3:13, 16) And Jesus, rather than healing a “man,” heals a “person blind from birth.”—John 9:1.
Perhaps the most startling change, however, is in the references to God as “Mother and Father,” as in the quotation in the introduction. Why should God be addressed in this way? According to the Times, the reasoning is: “Using ‘father’ as a metaphor for God ascribes to God a sexual identity not supported by close study of the Scriptures. They also say it fosters a male-oriented theology.” Does that make sense?
Well, it must be said that God is not a man in the human sense of the word, although, surely, to call him “Mother and Father” introduces the idea of a double sexual identity. As for Jesus when he was on earth, he certainly was a man. That fact is not changed by avoiding speaking of him as “he.” However, when he returned to heaven he, too, was no longer a man in the human sense.—1 Corinthians 15:50; 1 Peter 3:18.
Nevertheless, the original Bible writers invariably referred to God as “he.” He is almost always spoken of in male terminology, such as “Our Father.” (Matthew 6:9) Jesus, too, both while on earth and when in heaven, is referred to as “he” and often appears in a man’s role, such as the husband of his congregation, and the “Prince [not “princess”] of Peace.”—Isaiah 9:6; 2 Corinthians 11:2.
The apostle Paul said: “All Scripture is inspired of God.” (2 Timothy 3:16) Hence, God inspired the Bible to be written in this way. He wanted to be referred to as “Our Father,” not “Our Mother and Father.” Surely, a translator has no authority to conceal this to cater to 20th-century prejudices.
Does the Bible contain a “male-oriented theology”? Not really. Rather, a careful study of the Bible reveals an impartial arrangement for salvation where women are certainly not “left out.” Paul said that in the body of Christ, for example, “there is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor freeman, there is neither male nor female.”—Galatians 3:28.
True, the Bible does assign headship to the man over the woman, especially in the congregation and in the family. (1 Corinthians 11:3) Some modernists may dislike this teaching, but it is part of the inspired Word of God. Rather than trying to nullify it by changing the Bible, should not sincere Christian men and women study the headship principle closely to learn how to apply it to the benefit of both, following the perfect example of Jesus? In this way they will avoid the serious crime of changing the Word of God. (Revelation 22:18, 19) And they will allow God’s wisdom, not human wisdom, to guide them.—1 Corinthians 2:6; 3:19.