A Godly Man and a Manly God: Resolving the Tension of Divine Masculinities in the Bible

By 20th July 2022 No Comments

Will Moore


In the Hebrew Bible, God epitomises an ideal hegemonic masculinity: sexless but reproductive, in control of his creation, and hypermasculine when engaging with his feminised followers. As such, the Gospel writers depict Jesus as the Son of God with this, as well as the masculine ideals of the Greco-Roman world, in mind. Ultimately, this causes a tension of divine masculinities, which is particularly exposed in the act of crucifixion where two different divine masculinities are at play. Using the queer and social-scientific methodology of Butler and Connell respectively, I argue that these biblical divine masculinities disturb dominant constructions of gender in the ancient world and followers of Christianity might be called to do the same.


Masculinity; Bible; Jesus; Gospels; God; divine; Judith Butler; queer theory; gender trouble


The Gospel writers sought to portray Jesus in light of the hegemonic masculinity of the God of the Hebrew Bible, whilst simultaneously being aware of the ideal masculinities of the Greco-Roman world. As the physical embodiment of an already exemplary masculine deity, how Jesus is depicted in the Gospels will have repercussions for how we understand divine masculinity. If there are two divine masculinities at play across the Christian Bible, one in submission to the other to the point of death (Phil 2:8), then a dilemma occurs—a dilemma which has drawn little attention. My aim is fourfold: 1) to establish the hegemonic masculinity of the God of the Hebrew Bible, 2) to identify the various masculinities of Jesus in the Gospel accounts, 3) to locate the tension of divine masculinities between these two figures, particularly exposed across the Gospels in the crucifixion where God is both masculine and un-masculine, and 4) to resolve this tension by acknowledging that the divine masculinities might be queering ancient understandings of gender, in exhibiting a diversity of masculinities, which will have implications for Christians who aspire to these biblical divinities.

My discussion of the slippery concept of gender will firstly be underpinned by queer theory. Judith Butler understands gender to be “performative.”[1] This means that gender should be recognised as a configuration of repeated actions, rather than some sort of identity “behind” the actor. Butler says, “gender is an identity tenuously constituted in time, instituted in an exterior space through a stylized repetition of acts…as a constituted social temporality.”[2] But Butler argues against the cultural construction of binary gender and sex, stating that we have built up limitations to gender and sex when their possibilities are much more expansive.[3]

However, to study biblical masculinities we have to work with these constructions and parameters of what it means to be gendered to a certain extent. For example, to modern eyes masculinity and femininity may seem binary; they should instead be considered as a fluidity, in relation with one another, yet socially constructed as opposites. In this way, one may be performative in an amalgamation of different (gendered) ways and not be limited to a binarity, even if we still tend to label these characteristics as masculine or feminine to work within the binary thinking in which most of cultural discussion operates.[4]

 To acknowledge this tension between queer theory’s desire to abolish constructions of gender and sex, as well as my intent of studying a culture’s understanding of gender and sex, is important.[5] If we hold them in tension well enough, we can use social scientific and literary methods to understand constructions whilst disturbing these ideas with queer theory to expose the gendered ideas of the ancient world most effectively.

It would be dangerous to talk of masculinity as a homogenous concept. To talk of “masculinity” studies itself is misleading. Because we see the changeability of masculinity in different contexts, there must be multiple masculinities in existence. The idea that each cultural setting can produce multiple masculinities that are in conversation with one another is an important aspect of R. W. Connell’s work,[6] who will inform the secondary and social-scientific layer underpinning my discussion. Connell argues that masculinities do not co-exist uniformly but, instead, they usually take their form in a hierarchical structure: hegemony, subordination, complicity, and marginalisation.[7] General consensus communicates that in all societies a dominant hegemonic masculinity (or sometimes multiple hegemonic masculinities) reigns supreme, which will amend and modify itself depending on its context, with a descending scale of relative masculinities that fall away from such an ideal.[8] This means masculinity is enacted within a web of social relations between those performing different masculinities, forming a hierarchy. In sum, the criteria of what is deemed masculine is changeable depending on which culture and context one is analysing and what social relations exist within them. If masculinity is situationally and culturally defined, there is not a universally normative understanding of what it means to be an ideal or perfect man.

So, if masculinity is circumstantially defined, lauded hegemonic masculinity or masculinities must be too. Within a society, only a few men will actually demonstrate a hegemonically masculine performativity. Yet, this hegemonic masculinity becomes culturally normative in the sense that the majority of men who do not act according to this ideal must place themselves in relation to it. It is from idealised behaviour that we can work out what is considered hegemonically masculine and what actions deviates from those expectations.

If God is portrayed as powerful in an androcentric Bible (e.g. Job 26:14; Ps 147:4-5; Matt 22:29; Rom 1:20; Rev 11:17) and ancient setting, then we must assume he is the most masculine and thus exhibits a normative hegemonic masculinity to which men would aspire. As we shall see, these aspirations of biblical men are not without the knowledge that God remains supremely masculine, however. All men act in submission to the divine or are reminded to if they do not.[9] The hierarchy of masculinity proposed by Connell becomes even more important when we start to understand how God interacts with other men, as well as how the divine masculinities of God and Jesus coexist, particularly if Jesus offers an alternative or conflicting masculinity.

Gender and sex are unstable concepts, being constructed and then temporally determined and reified by factors such as culture, era, and environment. If we understand gender (and particularly masculinity) to be constructed, then, for the interdisciplinary methodology used here, the construction of gender is contingent on both the literary presentation of gender in the biblical texts as well as the gendered understandings of the society in which is the text is produced and that in which it is set, although they are likely to inform one another. Further, we can employ Butler’s queer understanding of gender performativity within Connell’s social-scientific gendered web of relations within the biblical texts to understand masculinity most comprehensively.

Understanding Masculinity in the Ancient World

In the ancient world, to be a man was, to some extent, biological but was also a socially gendered title. Manliness, or masculinity, was of a performative nature and was continuously under observation, and therefore judgement, by society.[10] It could be won, lost, and attacked. Masculinities were constantly in competition,[11] which we will see is a common biblical motif occurring between God and characters such as Adam, Moses, Pharaoh, and Israel.

In the Greco-Roman world particularly, biological sex was not understood within the binarity of “male” and “female.” All people were either a perfect or imperfect version of the male, and therefore the normatively “human,” body.[12] In short, women lacked the body heat of a man and so their genitals were an inverted version of male genitalia.[13] Just as gender has been more commonly understood as fluid and unstable in recent decades, so it seems was the case for sex in the ancient world.

Greco-Roman perceptions of sex were just as polarising and categorised as a more modern binary understanding, but in much more diversity, and primarily based around a hierarchy of penetration.[14] Penetration was the way in which one was identified, as either “active” or “passive.” We could assume because of sexual practices that women were usually considered passive, as part of their “nature,” but it would not necessarily limit them to acting in a passive manner, both sexually and more generally.[15] Sex and penetration were socially and politically implicated and so those who were passive could more broadly be described as those of a lower status than the penetrator.[16] This could have included women, slaves, and young boys—all of which would have been considered “unmen,” a term coined by Jonathan Walters which I will continue to employ.[17] As David Halperin says of Athenian culture, “sex was a manifestation of personal status, a declaration of social identity.”[18] Or, in the words of S. D. Moore, “sex becomes a mechanism for producing and maintaining gender hierarchy.”[19] We cannot underestimate the societal potency and influence of sex in the ancient world, though it obviously was not the only social mechanism at work in ancient culture.

Because of this hierarchy, in which some marginalised men could be even lower than women, an understanding of polarised masculinity and femininity in association with biological sex is near-impossible. The ancient world considered masculinity to be earned publicly. For example, a man could be feminised by bodily penetration, as well as being a lower status citizen, such as a slave, but still have a penis, and not be considered a man. This will have significance later for my discussion of the bodily invasion of crucifixion.

We will find particular traits of manliness and unmanliness in the ancient world as we approach the texts more closely. However, it is important to note that the Greco-Roman world was intertwined with imperial ideology as well as Greek philosophical ideas. In its very nature then, Greco-Roman society had several ideal and unideal masculinities at play which may have conflicted with each other, as we will see, which will all also be present in the Gospels, each being a form of a Greco-Roman bios. To be brief, some of the common manly qualities of the ancient world of Greco-Roman society included wisdom, courage, reason, and control—both self-control and control over others.[20] Some of these, though, might coincide and/or conflict with those gendered ideals of the Hebrew Bible. It is in this way that the tension of divine masculinities begins unearthing itself.

The identifying characteristics of hegemonic masculinity are a little more complex when discussing the divine, however. We cannot definitively say what qualities define God as hegemonically masculine, particularly in the Hebrew Bible, but that many of his attributes are associated with power and control speak enough of his masculinity to know it is superior to that of others biblical figures. Milena Kirova argues that we can consider the character of God to exhibit “one big and multifaceted hegemonic masculinity,” in which different biblical men appear to be like God, even though this divine likeness may involve conflicting characteristics because of such a wide variety of attributes to God’s masculinity.[21] As such, we will find that it will be more suitable to understand God’s masculinity through his interaction with and dominance over other biblical men, rather than examine a rigid checklist of characteristics as this might be too complex, following Kirova’s suggestion.

It is clear we cannot easily define masculinity because of its unpredictability, contextual dependency, and multidimensional complexity. However, the work of Butler and Connell help us to recognise that we can understand the construction of gender to be an individual performativity that realises itself in actions and interactions with others in society. When these actions are repeated, they become idealised as particularly masculine or feminine. As such, they form a hierarchy which is topped by hegemonic masculinity. As we will see, this hegemonic masculinity is enacted by God and what is deemed as masculine or feminine by humans is in relation to the hypermasculine divinity.

The backdrop of the masculine ideals of Greco-Roman society is one of two frameworks in which the text of the Gospels situate their portrayal of Jesus’s gender, the other being the ideal and hegemonic masculinity of God in the Hebrew Bible, that we have discussed, in order to identify him as the Son of God. My concern is not to reconstruct a measurement of ancient masculinity per se, but rather to understand the divine masculinities of Jesus, God, and the relationship between them. This means applying queer theory to disrupt our normative assumptions of sex and gender in the texts which will uncover and subsequently resolve the tension of divine masculinities, which will be revealed most explicitly in the act of crucifixion. This use of queer theory does not need to be detached from a historical or social-scientific approach, but they can be aided by one other. Gender is embedded in ancient texts and sometimes hidden to the modern eye. If we disrupt our familiarity with the text, we might understand something more of the ancient understanding of divine masculinities, their troubling of dominant constructions, and what it might mean for religious followers today.

The Masculinity of God in the Hebrew Bible

If we are understanding masculinity predominantly using performativity within a web of relations, we must briefly observe God’s masculinity through his interactions with others in the Hebrew Bible before assessing the relationship between the masculinities of God and Jesus. As outlined, we can assume God’s hegemonic masculinity primarily through his association with power, his dominance over other men, and these men’s aspirations towards him. I will now observe this in action with particular biblical examples.

God’s first relationship in the Hebrew Bible is with Adam, who is created in his image (Gen 1:26-27). Adam is given specific tasks of authority (Gen 1:26; 2:15, 19-20, 23). Yet, Phyllis Trible notices the definitional ambiguity in Genesis 2:5 and 15, in which the English can contrastingly appear as “to till” or “to serve.”[22] With which is Adam entrusted—lordship, as tilling implies some level of authority for use of the land, or servanthood? In this definitional uncertainty, perhaps we could queer our binary understanding of the choices here and assume Adam is charged with both, since he is still servant to God whilst acting archetypally as the first human with authority over God’s creation. Yet, God remains the most authoritative over Adam and all creation, particularly as Adam’s authority and power is derived from God, equating God as the most masculine.[23]

This forms the basis for understanding the men with whom God interacts and anticipates other relationships of masculinity in the Bible. Men are both lifted in their masculinity as they become associated closely with a God to whom they aspire because he exhibits normative and hegemonic masculinity, but must still be in feminine submission to this hegemonic masculinity.[24] For example, the figure of Moses also seems to have a “middle-man” masculinity. Whereas Pharaoh is outmanned by God in a competition of masculinities throughout the narrative (such as God’s successful killing of all firstborns in Egypt compared to Pharaoh’s unsuccessful culling of Hebrew boys),[25] Moses is granted a close relationship with the divine which makes him more masculine than Pharaoh but still under the submission of the hegemonically masculine God.[26] Being one of the closest male relationships in the Hebrew Bible, this intimacy with the ultimate masculinity of God creates a precariousness in the masculinity of Moses. Eilberg-Schwartz notices that in the moment of transfiguration Moses is described as using some sort of veil (Ex 34:33).[27] This is unavoidably feminine, something that Rhiannon Graybill ratifies as its use makes the body a concealed and private space.[28] It is certain that Moses acts out a unique masculinity.[29] He outmans Pharaoh because of his association with a God who sits at the top of the gender hierarchy, but yet also cannot outman God. Once again, we see that a man who is in close association to God has a dualistic masculinity. Adam could be understood as submissive to God but superordinate to creation (arguably his human partner, Eve, too), just as Moses is submissive to God but superordinate to Pharaoh and God’s chosen people. But, at the same time, just as Adam was depicted as a servant, so too is Moses (Num 12:7; Deut 34:5; Josh 1:1-2; Heb 3:5). He is servant of God but leader of the Israelites, which once again prefigures the duality of divine masculinities in God and Jesus in the Bible.

This un-masculine submission to a masculine God can also be seen on a collective level of biblical men, particularly in the consistent imagery of the prophetic literature of the marriage between God and Israel (e.g. Isa 54:5-6; Jer 2:2; 3:1; 31:32; Ezek 16:8, 32; Hos 2:16, 19-20), in which God is the masculine counterpart of husband. In Ezekiel, the metaphor repulsively shows the husband’s abusive and sexual domination over his wife (Ezek 16:8, 26, 37-43). This control might show us something of God’s masculinity, even if the way it is presented in the ancient world appears troubling to us.

Chiefly, this metaphor exalts God’s masculinity because it feminises the other participant, Israel. The male prophets who use this imagery in the prophetic literature are essentially referring to themselves as a woman, the wife of God.[30] This creates a homoerotic dilemma.[31] More precisely, “one cannot be both a man and a lover of God,”[32] because to be in close association with God in the ancient world was to make oneself appear feminine or take the position of a woman. It is unclear whether this would have been understood solely on a collective level, or that individual Israelite men imagined themselves married to God. Nonetheless, by feminising the other participant, God is once again pictured as the most masculine participant in encounters with biblical men.

Further, God being a divine model against which religious men measure themselves,[33] the command for humanity to procreate (Gen 1:28; 9:1, 7; 22:17) conflicts with the portrayal of God as ideally masculine because God is seen as sexless or unsexed, due to his absent (or, at the least, concealed) phallus in the Hebrew Bible.[34] If a man aspires to God’s masculinity, Eilberg-Schwartz states, “to be really like God, a man should have no sexuality,” for he cannot procreate and yet be made in the image of a sexless God.[35] It is here that we see a perfect example of the way in which divine masculinity operates. It is lauded, craved, and aspired to by human men. But, put simply, it is an impossible goal. Men cannot be expected to be masculine in reproduction and yet be sexless. This might be resolved if we understand God’s act of creation in the Genesis accounts to be reproductive, or his growth of religious followers. Nevertheless, he remains biologically unsexed but still hypermasculine in the Hebrew Bible.

The primary concern of this section has been to succinctly establish that the overarching biblical depiction of God’s masculinity is one of hegemony: never successfully challenged and still continually aspired to as normative by biblical men. This sets the framework in which the writers of the Gospels operated. In Stephen Moore’s words, “The biblical God is the supreme embodiment of hegemonic hypermasculinity, and as such the object of universal adoration.”[36] This has two functions, according to Eilberg-Schwartz: establishing masculine authority and threatening human masculinity.[37] If the divine masculine threatens human masculinity, then the important question that follows is where does the divinely human incarnation of Jesus fit into this dynamic of divine masculinity?

The Masculinity of Jesus Christ as Son of God

There has long been an understanding that the incarnation of God in Jesus Christ demonstrates an exemplary model of how to be a man. But the portrayal of the God of the Hebrew Bible demonstrates an ideal hegemonic masculinity which is not reproduced in full in the Gospel portrayals of Jesus. I will briefly explore the “multiple masculinities of Jesus,”[38] many alike and some conflicting, which will set up a discussion of the tension of divine masculinities that is present when we observe God and Jesus as agents of the same being.

Colleen Conway understands the Markan Jesus to be a militaristic and masculine leader. This is because of the titles he is given,[39] his success in confrontations with scribes and Pharisees (e.g. Mark 3:22-30),[40] and his triumph over the demonic man (Mark 5:1-20).[41] Warren Carter’s gender-critical analysis of this latter passage particularly exposes how Jesus’s masculinity is heightened in his victory over the piggish and feminine empire.[42] Not only this, but in a battle with spiritual beings, Jesus becomes identified as a divine figure, especially in association with the God of the Hebrew Bible who is in competition with other gods and idols. By doing this, Mark is associating Jesus with the hegemonic masculinity of the God of the Hebrew Bible as well as within the context of the empire in Greco-Roman society.

Susanna Asikainen instead sees the masculinity of Mark’s Jesus to be self-marginalised.[43] In a criticism of Roman leadership, Jesus teaches for one to be a servant or slave (Mark 10:44), echoing the servanthood of Adam and Moses. The Greco-Roman world would have considered servants and slaves unmen. Asikainen understands the disciples to adopt this unmanliness as they exhibit an “aversion to suffering” and a lack of courage,[44] although we see that this is criticised by Jesus (Mark 14:49-50). Despite this, the so-called Little Apocalypse of Mark does depict Jesus telling his followers to flee at the eschaton (Mark 13:14), which certainly would have been considered an un-masculine lack of bravery. This self-marginalisation of masculinity is seen most obviously in the death of Jesus, where he obeys his Father’s will to death and, as such, his masculinity is surrendered.

Presumably a result of Markan priority, the Gospel of Matthew is thought to be the Gospel that most similarly reflects the masculinity of Mark’s Jesus, although there are some divergences.[45] Asikainen argues that Matthew similarly presents a voluntary marginalised masculinity, such as in Jesus’s teaching about eunuchs (Matt 19:12). Eunuchs were a subordinate or effeminate masculinity, “detestable” in Greco-Roman society “because they confused the categories of male and female,” embodying “a lack of self-control.”[46] Asikainen understands this teaching of Matthew to advocate a self-controlled masculine ideal to the point of self-castration.[47] This essentially equates to the followers of Jesus relinquishing their ideals of masculinity for the sake of the kingdom and a relationship with God. Halvor Moxnes’s queer reading moves the context of this passage from Jesus’s teaching on marriage to that concerning children, which then imagines Jesus instructing his disciples to become like unmen (whether eunuchs or children) and welcoming unmen to become his followers.[48] With the sexual and gender ambiguity of eunuchs, these teachings capture a likeness of the sexless God of the Hebrew Bible in Jesus. If Jesus associates his followers with unmen, followers of Jesus in Matthew might be called to adopt this gender troubling position that affronts ideal masculinity. And yet, in these moments of teaching, Jesus is fulfilling a masculine role of persuasive public speaker and teacher.[49] Further, he teaches masculine ideals (e.g. self-control in Matt 5:5, 21-22, 27, 39; abandonment of excessive wealth in Matt 6:19, 24; justice and peace-making in Matt 5:6-7, 9:10).[50] This culminates in the instruction to imitate the perfection of the divine Father (Matt 5:48), which is “perhaps the most direct call in the New Testament for ideal masculinity.”[51] Though, as we have seen, the hegemonic masculinity performed by God the Father in the Hebrew Bible is unattainable and any man who attempts to emulate it cannot succeed.

The Gospel of Luke is the Synoptic Gospel most concerned with the Greco-Roman and imperial ideals of masculinity.[52] Because genealogies are socially constructed with meaning themselves,[53] we should notice that Luke’s genealogy (3:23-38) aligns Jesus within a royal lineage to Adam and then God,[54] identifying him as the Son of God within the context of the Hebrew Bible. The titles used for Jesus throughout Luke also reflect his masculinity, with salvific connotations associated with emperors who were understood in divine terms.[55] Stephen Moore highlights that in Roman provinces emperors were worshipped as divine beings whilst they reigned, whereas within Italy it was usually a posthumous honour.[56] Further, Conway also argues that Jesus’s ascension to heaven is akin to the emperor’s chariot ascension to heaven.[57] By associating Jesus with divinity and imperialism, Luke is framing Jesus within the masculine ideals of both the Hebrew Bible and the Greco-Roman world. This is only one of the many examples in which the Gospel of Luke continues to fit Jesus within these frameworks of masculine standards.

The Gospel of John’s well-known high Christology is actually infused with idealised masculinity. In this way, the contours of hegemonic masculinity and the divine are blurred together to create a divinely masculine Jesus, particularly in light of the masculinity of the God of the Hebrew Bible, as well as the standards of the Greco-Roman world. As such, the Gospel of John presents the most masculine Jesus. A key aspect of the Johannine masculinised Christology is the persistent Father and Son imagery. In this Gospel, Jesus is explicitly identified as God (John 1:1) and became flesh (John 1:14). It is here that the tension of divine masculinities discussed can be seen most succinctly in a Gospel. If the God from the beginning of creation, a hegemonic masculine deity (as we have seen in Genesis, Exodus, and the prophetic literature), becomes flesh in this Gospel, then what type of masculinity does this incarnation of Jesus perform? Conway’s close study of this shows that Jesus should not just be considered to become flesh but to be God born as flesh.[58] In this way, John’s prologue can be considered its own birth narrative, despite usual comments of its absence. Although the Word is with God from the beginning, the incarnation of Jesus is birthed from the “divine seed” which idealises and emphasises the masculinity of both God and Jesus.[59] There is still a reproductive process from these unsexed divinities. Hegemonic divine masculinity is reproduced in the incarnation of Jesus in the Gospel of John.

There are several other points of interest. Firstly, John the Baptist’s self-proclaimed unworthiness anticipates the greatness of Jesus’s masculinity (John 1:27, 30; 3:30).[60] Because he is “[making] straight the way of the Lord” (John 1:23), we can assume that these comments of John the Baptist’s own unworthiness are to elevate the worthiness of Jesus. Honour, as we have seen, is intrinsically linked to masculinity. Further, the romantic and sexual expectations of the type-scenes of Jesus with the Samaritan woman (John 4:7-30) as well as Mary Magdalene searching for the body of Jesus (John 20:1-2, 11-18) remain unfulfilled, showing us the masculine ideal of self-control exhibited by the Johannine Jesus.[61] This disinterest, or perhaps intentional eschewal of interest, in women also reflects the unsexed nature of the God of the Hebrew Bible. Although, God’s metaphorical marriage in the prophetic literature would offer some justification of Jesus having a romantic interest, if that was the case.

This section has not intended to extensively outline the portrayal of Jesus’s masculinity in each Gospel in full, for the works of Asikainen and Conway have already achieved this. Rather, it has been to demonstrate how each Gospel differs in their portrayal quite considerably. All the evangelists are writing within the framework of ideal masculinity in the Greco-Roman world, but also trying to identify Jesus with the hegemonic masculinity of the God of the Hebrew Bible. As such, each Gospel chooses to accentuate or diminish certain characteristics or features of Jesus. Taking mainstream consensus of dating into consideration, it seems the later on from Jesus’s historical life the Gospels come into formation, the more concerned they are with protecting the masculinity of Jesus according to ancient norms in order to elevate and legitimise his divine status.

The Tension of Divine Masculinities

Regardless of how each Gospel portrays the masculinity of Jesus, the emasculation of the crucifixion is unavoidable. Because of this, a tension of divine masculinities is revealed. Not only are there multiple masculinities present in the Gospel portrayals of Jesus, but there are various divine masculinities at play in the act of crucifixion where God the Father maintains his masculine hegemony whilst his Son submits to him. One agent of God is dominant and the other is subordinate—how do we reconcile this tension if we are to understand them both as the same divine being? In short, how can we understand God to be simultaneously exhibiting two very contrasting masculinities?

The relationship between Jesus and Pilate can be seen to be a battle of masculine performativity, much like between God and Pharaoh, or Mark’s Jesus and the demoniac. The reception of Pilate, including his involvement and blame for the death of Jesus, varies depending on which Gospel is being read.[62] Regardless, all four of the Gospels portray Jesus as more manly than Pilate, whether that be because Pilate is an unjust judge who fails to hold a fair trial (Mark 15:4-5), because he concedes to the wishes of the Jewish people who want to kill Jesus (Luke 23:24), or because Jesus holds all the authority within these scenes (John 19:11). It seems that, like other competitions of masculinity in the Bible, the divine wins against humanity. Yet oddly, after this competition with Pilate, Jesus still submits and thus feminises himself fully for God the Father, and inadvertently for Pilate and the Roman empire too. His masculinity plummets from victor over Pilate to potential unman before God. It seems Jesus triumphs over human masculinity but will always submit to the hegemonic divine.

The invasion of bodily boundaries is what renders the torture and crucifixion of Jesus as shameful,[63] as well the involuntary nature of the exposition of his naked body.[64] The physical and social violence of crucifixion undoubtedly impacts the victim’s masculinity, particularly when we consider crucifixion as a display of power whereby bodily penetration is acted by men upon other (un)men.[65] Mark and Matthew’s Jesuses passively take this abuse and effeminise themselves. Luke’s Jesus takes more control over the situation, passing forgiveness on those performing the crucifixion (Luke 23:34) and committing his spirit to God rather than questioning him (Luke 23:46; cf. Matt 27:46). Also, whereas the Markan and Matthean Passion narratives contain flogging as a preceding punishment before crucifixion (Mark 15:15; Matt 27:26), Luke’s Gospel has Pilate ask for the flogging to take place (Luke 23:16) but with little certainty that it then occurred. Stephen Moore argues the Johannine flogging is an example of Roman judicial punishment to publicly enforce the authority of the empire.[66] Yet, Luke’s narrative seems to suggest that Pilate offers this scourging as an alternative and laxer punishment. Here, Pilate offers one opportunity less for the body to be invaded.

Conway understands the Markan Passion narrative to utilise ideas of nobly masculine death traditions.[67] We see the redressing of the shameful crucifixion in theological purpose in Pauline literature (e.g. Rom 6:6; 1 Cor 1:17-18; Gal 2:19-21), but Mark is the most prevalent Synoptic Gospel to contain similar ideas. Jesus’s suffering is a divine necessity (Mark 8:31) and yet shame also still seems to be a requirement (Mark 8:38). In other words, the shame and bodily invasion of Jesus must happen in order for him to be glorified. This certainly echoes, if not furthers, Asikainen’s Markan voluntarily marginalised masculinity.

The Johannine Jesus has a much harder fall from manly glory, however. Even when the emasculated victim of crucifixion has been elevated to hegemonically masculine ideas from the very opening verses of the Gospel, he is still shamefully penetrated on the cross. Peter-Ben Smit shows how the Johannine Jesus is emasculated through crucifixion when observed against the hierarchy of penetration that underpinned social understanding of the ancient world.[68] This hierarchy is “the idea that one would be more masculine the more one could penetrate, and vice versa.”[69] This can be sexually, physically, or even socially. As such, viewing the crucifixion in this way unveils more discreet elements of power at play. The crucifixion sees more elite men exerting their authority over lesser men.[70] And yet, Jesus is glorified in these moments. The Johannine irony here exhumes itself. As Smit states, “glorification takes place in the shape of absolute humiliation, Jesus the Man reaches the peak of his glory, when he is completely and utterly robbed of his masculinity in the ancient sense of the word.”[71]

As such, in all four Gospels, Jesus is penetrated, and therefore unmanned, both physically and socially. The humiliation and emasculation of crucifixion is unavoidable. Rather than meticulously outline the Passion narratives of each Gospel, I have demonstrated how each one cannot escape the impact that crucifixion has on Jesus’s masculinity, regardless of how the Gospel writer had portrayed Jesus prior to this moment. However hard the authors may try to protect Jesus’s masculinity, being crucified was shameful and emasculating. Jesus submits entirely to God the Father, the dominant masculinity in this exchange. Stephen Moore’s understanding of God in Pauline theology reverberates strongly here: “the Impenetrable Penetrator (that condition being the quintessence of Roman manhood, as we have seen—it is not by accident that we speak of ‘the impenetrability of God’) remains fully in charge.”[72] The divine is both cruelly superordinate and vulnerably subordinate.[73]

Not only does this beg questions of the nature of God the Father who dominates, the prerequisite of violence for glorification, and the seemingly disturbing relationship between the Father and Son, but it leaves us with a tension of divine masculinities. I acknowledge that a fluidity, and indeed diversity, of masculinities is possible. However, two agents of the same being make this more difficult, with two contrary characterisations, especially when the Hebrew Bible is so invested in particularly portraying a masculine God. God the Father is hegemonically masculine by dominating God the Son who submits as a potential unman. How can we understand the divine and their masculinities with both of these opposing positions in occupation? And further, particularly for Christians, how can this tension be resolved? This diversity of masculinities suggested is part of the solution I will offer.

Divine Gender Trouble

There is a dichotomy, a paradox even, between the divine masculinities that we see in God and Jesus in the Bible. Is it plausible to depict a God in the Gospels who so strongly asserts his masculinity throughout the Hebrew Bible by his superiority revealed in his relationships with biblical men, but then adopts a submissive role of un-masculinity upon the cross and even his some of his teachings? Some might say that this tension in the divine power dynamic is completely unresolvable.

It seems though that, through this act where multiple gendered positions are taken, the God of both Father and Son troubles gender norms, just as Judith Butler advocates for. We expect God to be the dominant masculine here because of his portrayal in the Hebrew Bible and yet he astonishingly also submits as his Son, whether it is an act of nobility or vulnerability. Our expectations and the constructions of the ancient world are disturbed. The divine masculine who has always been the hegemonic ideal of the biblical narrative has become the effeminate unman. Perhaps it is in this moment that constructions of gender (particularly ancient ones, although this could stretch to all heteronormative masculinist systems) are questioned and even challenged. This divine moment negates earthly structures in which gender and honour is central. Crucially, the divine transcendently surpasses what it means, or what humanity says it means, to be a man or unman in the ancient world through this act.

As Connell states, an eradication of masculinity would not be a constructive approach, for in a pursuit of gender social justice it would be much more advanceable for masculinity to be degendered and recomposed instead.[74] I would like to suggest that this reimagination of gender is what is happening here. The divine masculinities take both the highest point of masculinity as a controlling divinity and the lowest point in the human death of a criminal. This reconstructs familiar hierarchical understanding not only of the divine but also of humanity. There is, if you will, a divine monopolisation of masculinities occurring. God takes the prize position of the hegemonic masculine ideal who has complete authority and control, whilst shamefully embodying the suffering servant of a subordinate or marginalised masculinity. God is both in this moment. As such, the divine is troubling gender. The constructions of gender that queer theory tasks us to unveil and disrupt are being done so by the divine in the act of crucifixion. The tension of divine masculinities is resolved because constructions of gender and power relations that dominated the ancient world are deconstructed. God becomes powerful and powerless and thus masculine and un-masculine. There are no longer any gender or power dynamics at play for they are all occupied.

Further, does this then discourage the aspiration towards, and thus assumably the imitation of, God’s masculinity too? Butler states a repetition of actions is the origin of gendered construction.[75] Eilberg-Schwartz bemoans the unattainability of God’s masculinity in the Hebrew Bible.[76] Stephen Moore states that Paul’s Jesus is a “hypostatized Masculinity, if you will, to which all human beings can now aspire, whether or not they have been blessed with male genitalia.”[77] But perhaps, in this moment of gendered monopolisation where the divine occupies both dominant and subordinate positions, aspiration and imitation, and thus the reification and legitimisation, of socially constructed hegemonic masculinity can no longer occur from a recurrence of actions as there are multiple and conflicting masculinities of God present. God already occupies all relational positions and so the spaces of submission and dominance are removed. As such, neither manliness nor unmanliness are ungodly. This means that religious followers can, instead, reflect the fluidity of divine gender.

Moreover, there is a consistently sexless (or perhaps absently sexed) God in the Bible. As we have seen, the Hebrew Bible offers a tension where God advocates for procreation but is not biologically procreating himself, unless the act of creation is considered reproductive in a more biological sense. Similarly, the Gospels also portray a sexless Jesus, who is not sexually interested in women, or at least is intentionally celibate, particularly showcased in the unfulfilled type-scenes in the Gospel of John. Further, although there are conflicts in his Gospel teachings, there are moments where Jesus welcomes unmen into the kingdom and perhaps welcomes his followers to become unmen too. In this way, Jesus is emulating the sexless nature of the God of the Hebrew Bible and teaching his followers to do the same.[78] In some ways this undercuts the sexuality of ideal masculinity in the Greco-Roman world, but also fits some philosophical understandings of the sexual self-control of men. The only way the unsexed God in Father and Son can reproduce is by gaining followers. The paradox is that those who choose to follow and imitate might think it will make them more masculine but will actually find it means relinquishing their masculinity completely. Once again, we find a tension that can be resolved with the notion that God and Jesus are troubling dominant ideas of masculinity in relation to sex by being sexless. Expectations of masculine sex and sexuality are deconstructed and even rejected by God across the Christian Bible.

These ideas could be understood as a scriptural model of Connell’s “exit politics,” akin to Butler’s maxim of troubling gender, in which hegemonic masculinity is disturbed by either questioning power structures or troubling symbols of masculinity and femininity in order to exit from dominant and oppressive gendered structures.[79] The God who upheld hegemonic masculinity has now deconstructed it and may be calling his followers to do the same, by way of the existence of varying masculine performativity by the Father and the Son across the Bible. Not only is divine masculinity reimagined, but so are dominant ancient constructions of human masculinity. As Gerard Loughlin argues, “identities are destabilised in Christ.”[80] We just are—without performativity, without conventional gender constructions, without power relations, and without gendered expectations of manliness or womanliness. Did God trouble gender long before queer theory thought to do the same?


Using the Butlerian concept of performativity, situated within a social-scientific understanding of gender relations and hierarchies, this study has argued that a tension has been caused by the depiction of the masculinity of Jesus in the Gospels within the contexts of the masculine ideals of the Greco-Roman world as well as that of the hegemonically masculine God of the Hebrew Bible. Not only is the divine unsexed yet reproductive in both the Hebrew Bible and the New Testament, but the divine is also un-masculine in the Son submitting to the dominating control of the masculine Father.

These ideas of a divine masculine tension begged questions of how we might then understand the God and Jesus in relation to one another. Using queer theory, I have argued that this tension can be resolved clearly in the identification of the divine occupying multiple gendered positions across the Bible and particularly in the act of crucifixion. If that is the case, there is a deconstruction of gender occurring and it might be that, in following Christ, humanity is called to do the same and trouble the dominant constructions of gender that society creates.

There will be subsequent questions from this study that there is not space to address. Some other arising concerns might be that this monopolisation of masculine positions in gender relations simply reinforces a male-dominated arena, leaving women left out of the discussion and arguably re-exalting manliness. As I have discussed though, we have to work with ancient constructions to an extent in order to understand them, regardless of our criticisms of them. The danger is that we might legitimise them. Alternatively, perhaps this conclusion leaves divine masculinity resonating with hybrid masculinity,[81] which is considered disconcerting because it presents itself to be an example of troubling gender but actually benefits from hegemonic masculinity. Jesus adopts subordinated and marginalised masculine traits whilst still being of one substance with an exalted hegemonically masculine God. With Jesus, divine masculinity appears to be new and disruptive of hegemony, but actually does nothing but perpetuate gendered ideals. Another point of interest may be how the resurrection could restore the masculinity of the un-masculine Jesus after crucifixion. Finally, to address the gendered tension of the divine with a Trinitarian inclusion of the Holy Spirit might bring about a different finding.

There are several conclusions to make here, with such a broad study. Firstly, the God of the Hebrew Bible, in terms of his masculine portrayals, is undoubtedly presented as hegemonically masculine. He is the normative being to which all men aspire and try to compete with. On the other hand, Jesus is portrayed in the Gospels enacting a multiplicity of masculinities. The act of crucifixion troubles these gendered portrayals of Jesus, however. To whatever extent Jesus’s masculinity is attempted to be protected in each Gospel, the humiliation and effeminacy of being crucified by the masculine empire, as well as in submission to the hegemonically masculine Father’s will, Jesus cannot escape the un-masculine position he takes in this moment. God is both superordinate and subordinate. Positions of multiple masculinities have been divinely monopolised. In the climactic moment of his earthliness, Jesus destabilises the hierarchy of masculinity and identities (or performative traits) contained within it. Similarly, we see a tension in the unsexed nature of God and Jesus. Both divine masculinities manage this tension of being un-masculine in their unsexed nature by their masculine reproduction of followers who must subordinate themselves and relinquish their masculinity for their God.

If resolving this tension means the divine are troubling gender, perhaps religious followers are called to do the same. Although I have dismissed the imitation of the masculine divine, religious followers might be invited to trouble gender norms instead in reflection of the fluidly gendered divine. Queer theory, which has underpinned this discussion, concurs—for the imitation of specific masculinities creates favourable and unfavourable ones. If the divine occupies and deconstructs all gendered hierarchical positions, maybe we are left to just be ungendered and unaffected by (inevitably gendered) power dynamics and cultural expectations. We need to exit what culture has deemed to be masculine, just as the divine does on the cross.

In the incarnation of divinity, we see both dominant and submissive, hegemonic and marginalised, masculine and feminine. Christ is multiple, which creates an unsurety within our own gender constructions.[82] An overarching conclusion throughout this study has been that gender (and specifically masculinity) is unstable. Biblical constructions of masculinity are no different, including of the divine.

Conway concludes her extensive study on Jesus’s masculinity with an emphasised focus on the construction of Jesus’s gender, rather than his manliness.[83] I would like to do the same, but from a queerly different angle. The queering of divine masculinity that has been explored is a call for us to move away from such constructions. The complexity and tensions of divine masculinity in the Bible are only resolved if we realise that these dominant constructions are humanly devised, as informed by queer theory. It is humanity that creates constructions of sex, gender, race, and so forth, and then expects God as well as society to fit within them. In the crucifixion, we see the divine deconstruct conceptions of masculinity and power relations. The divine display of multi-masculine performativity deconstructs and transforms our understandings of categories.[84] In the words of Brittany E. Wilson: “Because Jesus is God in human flesh, Jesus disrupts our preconceived categories, including our conception of gender, for Jesus embodies this categorical disruption within his very body.”[85] It might be worth consideration that the divine calls us to do the same.


Asikainen, Susanna. Jesus and Other Men: Ideal Masculinities in the Synoptic Gospels. Boston: Brill, 2018.

Bond, Helen K. Pontius Pilate in History and Interpretation. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1998.

Butler, Judith. Gender Trouble: Feminism and the Subversion of Identity. Abingdon: Routledge, 2006.

Carter, Warren. “Cross-Gendered Romans and Mark’s Jesus: Legion Enters the Pigs (Mark 5:1-20).” Journal of Biblical Literature 134.1 (2015): 139-155.

Connell, R. W. Masculinities. 2nd ed. Cambridge: Polity Press, 2005.

Conway, Colleen M. Behold the Man: Jesus and Greco-Roman Masculinity. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2008.

Deutsch, Francine C. “Undoing Gender.” Gender & Society 21.1 (2007): 106-127.

DiPalma, Brian C. “De/Constructing Masculinity in Exodus 1-4.” Pages 36-53 in Men and Masculinity in the Hebrew Bible and Beyond. Edited by Ovidiu Creangă. Sheffield: Sheffield Phoenix Press, 2010.

Eilberg-Schwartz, Howard. God’s Phallus: And Other Problems for Men and Monotheism. Boston: Beacon Press, 1994.

Graybill, Rhiannon. “Masculinity, Materiality, and the Body of Moses.” Biblical Interpretation 23.4-5 (2015): 518-40.

Greenough, Chris. The Bible and Sexual Violence Against Men. Abingdon: Routledge, 2021.

Halperin, David. “The Social Body and the Sexual Body.” Pages 131-150 in Sex and Difference in Ancient Greece and Rome. Edited by Mark Golden and Peter Toohey. Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press, 2003.

Kalmanofsky, Amy. “Moses and his Problematic Masculinity.” Pages 173-189in Hebrew Masculinities Anew. Edited by Ovidiu Creangă. Sheffield: Sheffield Phoenix Press, 2019.

Kirova, Milena. Performing Masculinity in the Hebrew Bible. Sheffield: Sheffield Phoenix Press, 2020.

Kotrosits, Maia. “Penetration and Its Discontents: Greco-Roman Sexuality, The Acts of Paul and Thecla, and Theorizing Eros Without the Wound.” Journal of the History of Sexuality 27.3 (2018): 343─366.

Liew, Tat-siong Benny. “Re-Mark-able Masculinities: Jesus, the Son of Man, and the (Sad) Sum of Manhood?” Pages 93-135 in New Testament Masculinities. Edited by Stephen D. Moore and Janice Capel Anderson. Atlanta: Society of Biblical Literature, 2003.

Lipka, Hilary. “Shaved Beards and Bared Buttocks: Shame and the Undermining of Masculine Performance in Biblical Texts.” Pages 176-197 in Being a Man: Negotiating Ancient Constructs of Masculinity. Edited by Ilona Zsolnay. London: Routledge, 2017.

Loughlin, Gerard. “Refiguring Masculinity in Christ.” Pages 405-414 in Religion and Sexuality. Edited by Michael A. Hayes, Wendy Porter, and David Tombs. Sheffield: Sheffield Academic Press, 1998.

McLaughlin, Eleanor. “Feminist Christologies: Re-Dressing the Tradition.” Pages 118-149 in Reconstructing the Christ Symbol: Essays in Feminist Christology. Edited by Maryanne Stevens. Eugene: Wipf and Stock Publishers, 2004.

Messerschmidt, James W. and Michael A. Messner. “Hegemonic, Nonhegemonic, and ‘New’ Masculinities.” Pages 35-56 in Gender Reckonings: New Social Theory and Research.Edited by James W. Messerschmidt, Patricia Yancey Martin, Michael A. Messner, and Raewyn Connell. New York: New York University Press, 2018.

Moore, Stephen D. God’s Gym: Divine Male Bodies of the Bible. New York: Routledge, 1996.

Moore, Stephen D. God’s Beauty Parlor and Other Queer Spaces In and Around the Bible. California: Stanford University Press, 2001.

Moore, Stephen D. Empire and Apocalypse: Postcolonialism and the New Testament. Sheffield: Sheffield University Press, 2006.

Moore, Will. “Militance, Motherhood, and Masculinisation: How is Gender Constructed in Judges 4 and 5?” Pages 90-105 in The Bible on Violence: A Thick Description. Edited by Helen Paynter and Michael Spalione. Sheffield: Sheffield Phoenix Press, 2020.

Moore, Will. “Gorifying the Gospels: The Treatment of Crucifixion Violence in Film.” In In the Cross-Hairs: Biblical Violence in Focus. Edited by Helen Paynter and Michael Spalione. Sheffield: Sheffield Phoenix Press, forthcoming.

Moxnes, Halvor. “Jesus in Gender Trouble.” CrossCurrents 54.3 (2004): 31-46.

Musa, Aysha W. “Jael Is Non-binary; Jael Is Not a Woman.” Journal for Interdisciplinary Biblical Studies 1.2 (2020): 97─120.

Punt, Jeremy. “Writing Genealogies, Constructing Men: Masculinity and Lineage in the New Testament in Roman Times.” Neotestamentica 48.2 (2014): 303-332.

Purcell, Richard and Caralie Focht. “Competing Masculinities: YHWH versus Pharaoh in an Integrative Ideological Reading of Exodus 1-14.” Pages 83-104 in Hebrew Masculinities Anew. Edited by Ovidiu Creangă. Sheffield: Sheffield Phoenix Press, 2019.

Smit, Peter-Ben. “Jesus and the Ladies: Constructing and Deconstructing Johannine Macho-Christology.” The Bible and Critical Theory 2.3 (2006): 31.1-15.

Stewart, Eric C. “Masculinity in the New Testament and Early Christianity.” Biblical Theology Bulletin 46.2 (2016): 91-102.

Stone, Ken. “The Garden of Eden and the Heterosexual Contract.” Pages 48-70 in Bodily Citations: Religion and Judith Butler. Edited by Ellen T. Armour and Susan M. St. Ville. New York: Columbia University Press, 2006.

Trible, Phyllis. God and the Rhetoric of Sexuality. Philadelphia: Fortress Press, 1978.

Walters, Jonathan. “‘No More Than a Boy:’ The Shifting Construction of Masculinity from Ancient Greece to the Middle Ages.” Gender & History 5.1 (1991): 20-33.

Wilson, Brittany E. “Gender Disrupted: Jesus as a ‘Man’ in the Fourfold Gospel,” Word & World 36.1 (2016): 24-35.

[1] Judith Butler, Gender Trouble: Feminism and the Subversion of Identity (Abingdon: Routledge, 2006), 34 and 187-193.

[2] Butler, Gender Trouble, 191.

[3] Butler, Gender Trouble, 9-10.

[4] For a biblical example, in which Jael’s gender performativity subversively includes both feminine traits like maternity and sexual seduction as well as masculine ones such as penetration, see Will Moore, “Militance, Motherhood, and Masculinisation: How is gender constructed in Judges 4 and 5?” in The Bible on Violence: A Thick Description, ed. Helen Paynter and Michael Spalione (Sheffield: Sheffield Phoenix Press, 2020), 90-105. For an approach which highlights the gender ambiguity of Jael, see Aysha W. Musa, “Jael Is Non-binary; Jael Is Not a Woman,” Journal for Interdisciplinary Biblical Studies 1.2 (2020): 97-120.

[5] In a sense, it is imperative to “undo” gender before understanding how to “do” it. See Francine C. Deutsch, “Undoing Gender,” Gender & Society 21.1 (2007): 107.

[6] R. W. Connell, Masculinities, 2nd Edn (Cambridge: Polity Press, 1995), 36.

[7] Connell, Masculinities, 78-81.

[8] Hilary Lipka, “Shaved Beards and Bared Buttocks: Shame and the Undermining of Masculine Performance in Biblical Texts,” in Being a Man: Negotiating Ancient Constructs of Masculinity, ed. Ilona Zsolnay (London: Routledge, 2017), 177.

[9] This will be addressed further in the “The Masculinity of God in the Hebrew Bible” section below.

[10] Eric C. Stewart, “Masculinity in the New Testament and Early Christianity,” Biblical Theology Bulletin 46.2 (2016): 92.

[11] Tat-siong Benny Liew, “Re-Mark-able Masculinities: Jesus, the Son of Man, and the (Sad) Sum of Manhood?” in New Testament Masculinities, ed. Stephen D. Moore and Janice Capel Anderson (Atlanta: Society of Biblical Literature, 2003), 105.

[12] Susanna Asikainen, Jesus and Other Men: Ideal Masculinities in the Synoptic Gospels (Boston: Brill, 2018), 20-21.

[13] Asikainen, Jesus and Other Men, 20-23.

[14] David Halperin, “The Social Body and the Sexual Body,” in Sex and Difference in Ancient Greece and Rome, ed. Mark Golden and Peter Toohey (Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press, 2003), 139-140.

[15] Asikainen, Jesus and Other Men, 24.

[16] Though, this binary understanding of activity and passivity in relation to sex, power, and social stratification in the ancient world may be an oversimplification. There will have been relations that operated within, across, and outside of this paradigm. See Maia Kotrosits, “Penetration and Its Discontents: Greco-Roman Sexuality, The Acts of Paul and Thecla, and Theorizing Eros Without the Wound,” Journal of the History of Sexuality 27.3 (2018): 343─366.

[17] Jonathan Walters, “‘No More Than a Boy:’ The Shifting Construction of masculinity from Ancient Greece to the Middle Ages,” Gender & History 5.1 (1991): 31, cited in Stephen D. Moore, God’s Beauty Parlor and Other Queer Spaces In and Around the Bible (California: Stanford University Press, 2001), 136.

[18] Halperin, “The Social Body,” 142.

[19] S. D. Moore, God’s Beauty Parlor, 171.

[20] Asikainen, Jesus and Other Men, 26-35.

[21] Milena Kirova, Performing Masculinity in the Hebrew Bible (Sheffield: Sheffield Phoenix Press, 2020), 162-163.

[22] Phyllis Trible, God and the Rhetoric of Sexuality (Philadelphia: Fortress Press, 1978),77.

[23] Perhaps it is worth noting the homoeroticism that might occur in this masculine relationship, especially in light of the ensuing discussion that will emerge in this paper regarding the metaphor of God and Israel. See Ken Stone, “The Garden of Eden and the Heterosexual Contract,” in Bodily Citations: Religion and Judith Butler, ed. Ellen T. Armour and Susan M. St. Ville (New York: Columbia University Press, 2006), 48-70.

[24] For, as already outlined, our best method of observing God’s masculinity is to see him in relation with other men, for his dominance and power over them assumes greater masculinity in the ancient world.

[25] Richard Purcell and Caralie Focht, “Competing Masculinities: YHWH versus Pharaoh in an Integrative Ideological Reading of Exodus 1-14,” in Hebrew Masculinities Anew,ed. Ovidiu Creangă (Sheffield: Sheffield Phoenix Press, 2019), 83-104.

[26] Purcell and Focht, “Competing Masculinities,” 94.

[27] Howard Eilberg-Schwartz, God’s Phallus: And other problems for men and monotheism (Boston: Beacon Press, 1994), 144-145.

[28] Rhiannon Graybill, “Masculinity, Materiality, and the Body of Moses,” Biblical Interpretation 23.4-5 (2015), 531. It is also interesting that looking upon God is also forbidden (Ex 33:20) which makes the presence of God an un-masculine and private space, though perhaps his control over the happenings of his appearance and revelation in the Bible restores this loss of masculinity slightly.

[29] Brian Charles DiPalma, “De/Constructing Masculinity in Exodus 1-4,” in Men and Masculinity in the Hebrew Bible and Beyond, ed. Ovidiu Creangă (Sheffield: Sheffield Phoenix Press, 2010), 36-53; Amy Kalmanofsky, “Moses and his Problematic Masculinity,”in Hebrew Masculinities Anew,ed. Ovidiu Creangă (Sheffield: Sheffield Phoenix Press, 2019), 175.

[30] This is similarly seen in the metaphor of Christ and his bride. See Chris Greenough, The Bible and Sexual Violence Against Men (Abingdon: Routledge, 2021), 70-71.

[31] Eilberg-Schwartz, God’s Phallus, 99.

[32] Eilberg-Schwartz, God’s Phallus, 146.

[33] Eilberg-Schwartz, God’s Phallus, 199.

[34] Eilberg-Schwartz, God’s Phallus, 200-202.

[35] Eilberg-Schwartz, God’s Phallus, 199.

[36] Stephen D. Moore, God’s Gym: Divine Male Bodies of the Bible (New York: Routledge, 1996), 139.

[37] Eilberg-Schwartz, God’s Phallus, 142.

[38] Colleen M. Conway, Behold the Man: Jesus and Greco-Roman Masculinity (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2008), 175.

[39] Conway, Behold the Man, 90.

[40] Conway, Behold the Man, 92-94.

[41] Conway, Behold the Man, 94-96.

[42] Warren Carter, “Cross-Gendered Romans and Mark’s Jesus: Legion Enters the Pigs (Mark 5:1-20),” Journal of Biblical Literature 134.1 (2015): 139-155.

[43] Asikainen, Jesus and Other Men, 3.

[44] Asikainen, Jesus and Other Men, 76.

[45] Asikainen, Jesus and Other Men,77.

[46] Asikainen, Jesus and Other Men, 99-100.

[47] Asikainen, Jesus and Other Men, 103.

[48] Halvor Moxnes, “Jesus in Gender Trouble,” CrossCurrents 54.3 (2004): 31-46.

[49] Conway, Behold the Man, 113-114.

[50] Conway, Behold the Man, 119.

[51] Conway, Behold the Man, 120.

[52] Asikainen, Jesus and Other Men, 2; Conway, Behold the Man, 142.

[53] Jeremy Punt, “Writing Genealogies, Constructing Men: Masculinity and Lineage in the New Testament in Roman Times,” Neotestamentica 48.2 (2014): 312.

[54] The Gospel of Matthew also places Jesus within a royal lineage, but with particular emphasis on the Davidic line rather than direct association with God.

[55] Conway, Behold the Man, 130.

[56] Stephen D. Moore, Empire and Apocalypse: Postcolonialism and the New Testament (Sheffield: Sheffield University Press, 2006), 103.

[57] Conway, Behold the Man, 130-131.

[58] Conway, Behold the Man, 145.

[59] Conway, Behold the Man, 145.

[60] Conway, Behold the Man, 143-144.

[61] Conway, Behold the Man, 146-147.

[62] Helen K. Bond, Pontius Pilate in History and Interpretation (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1998), 205-206.

[63] Asikainen, Behold the Man, 172.

[64] Greenough, The Bible and Sexual Violence Against Men, 62-63.

[65] For more on the physical and social violence of crucifixion, particularly in light of Jesus’s masculinity, see Will Moore, “Gorifying the Gospels: The Treatment of Crucifixion Violence in Film,” in In the Cross-Hairs: Biblical Violence in Focus, ed. Helen Paynter and Michael Spalione (Sheffield: Sheffield Phoenix Press, forthcoming).

[66] S. D. Moore, Empire and Apocalypse, 59-62.

[67] Conway, Behold the Man, 96.

[68] Peter-Ben Smit, “Jesus and the Ladies: Constructing and Deconstructing Johannine Macho-Christology,” The Bible and Critical Theory 2.3 (2006): 31.8-9.

[69] Smit, “Jesus and the Ladies,” 31.6.

[70] Smit, “Jesus and the Ladies,” 31.7.

[71] Smit, “Jesus and the Ladies,” 31.8-9.

[72] S. D. Moore, God’s Beauty Parlor, 169. Original parenthesis.

[73] For an exploration using the imagery of the Father as torturer and the Son as victim, see S. D. Moore, God’s Gym, 24.

[74] Connell, Masculinities, 230-234.

[75] Butler, Gender Trouble, 191.

[76] Eilberg-Schwartz, God’s Phallus, 17.

[77] S. D. Moore, God’s Beauty Parlor, 162.

[78] Though, as we have seen, sexual (and particularly sexually abusive) portrayals of the divine persist, such as Ezek 16 as well as the rape threat of Jesus in Rev 2:22. These examples elicit questions about the argument of the emulation of a sexless divine being seen in the Gospels, but we must ask how much this largely illustrative imagery for a broader socio-political message is a given product of rape cultures from which the text is constructed, rather than explicit revelation of the nature of God.

[79] Connell, Masculinities, 220-224.

[80] Gerard Loughlin, “Refiguring Masculinity in Christ,” in Religion and Sexuality, ed. Michael A. Hayes et al. (Sheffield: Sheffield Academic Press, 1998), 411.

[81] James W. Messerschmidt and Michael A. Messner, “Hegemonic, Nonhegemonic, and ‘New’ Masculinities,” in Gender Reckonings: New Social Theory and Research, ed. James W. Messerschmidt et al. (New York: New York University Press, 2018), 48-49.

[82] Loughlin, “Refiguring Masculinity in Christ,” 411.

[83] Conway, Behold the Man, 183-184.

[84] Eleanor McLaughlin, “Feminist Christologies: Re-Dressing the Tradition,” in Reconstructing the Christ Symbol: Essays in Feminist Christology, ed. Maryanne Stevens (Eugene: Wipf and Stock Publishers, 2004), 144.

[85] Brittany E. Wilson, “Gender Disrupted: Jesus as a ‘Man’ in the Fourfold Gospel,” Word & World 36.1 (2016), 35.

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