From the Revd P. R. Kay
Sir, - I read with great interest your back-page interview with
the Revd Sharon Ferguson (
6 June), which gave many insights into her life and the LGBT
faith scene. As someone who tries to keep up with his Biblical
Hebrew, I found especially thought-provoking her comments on
Genesis 1.27: "It says in the Hebrew that God created both male and
female - making it clear that every human is male and female. It's
just a societal construct that we are either/or."
This "non-binary" reading of Genesis 1.27 was new to me, and,
given the obvious implications for the same-sex marriage debate and
the sacramental theology of marriage, it had me scurrying to my
Alas, it was not long before I spotted clear weaknesses in Ms
Ferguson's exegesis. Zachar and niphvah, the
words for male and female used in Genesis 1.27, appear 79 and 22
times respectively in the Old Testament, and in almost every case
they describe a distinctive gender identity, including (and perhaps
especially) the physical aspects of gender. Zachar, for
instance, is used regularly in the context of circumcision,
procreation, military action, Levitical sacrifices, and even on one
occasion (Jeremiah 30.6) the impossibility of a man's giving
Perhaps the most telling counter-examples to this "non-binary"
reading are to be found in the Flood narrative (Genesis 6-9). On
four occasions, we are told the animals enter the ark not only two
by two but zachar and niphvah - male and female.
The implication is not that the animals were male and female within
themselves: rather, that there were some biological males, some
biological females, and they were expected to get cracking and save
their species from extinction.
PETER R. KAY
89 Howard Drive,
Letchworth Garden City
Herts SG6 2BX