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What is the definition of a man in the Bible?

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God created humanity as male and female: “So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them” (Genesis 1:27, ESV, see also Genesis 2:20–24; 5:2). A man is a person of the male gender, and a woman is a person of the female gender.

The Hebrew word for a male-gendered person, often translated as “male” in the Bible, is zāḵār. That word is thought to have carried an original meaning of “sharpness” or “prominence,” possibly referring to the physiological feature of the male reproductive anatomy. Another rare but amusingly descriptive euphemism for “man” is used in the Old Testament. The Hebrew expression appears only six times (see 1 Samuel 25:22, 34; 1 Kings 14:10; 16:11; 21:21; 2 Kings 9:8) and literally translates as “one who urinates on a wall.”

The Greek New Testament word for a biological male adult, anēr (see Matthew 14:21), is also used to indicate a husband (see Matthew 1:19). A second related Greek word (arsēn) denotes the male gender (see Luke 2:23).

The only thing God pronounced “not good” in the creation account was “for the man to be alone” (Genesis 2:18; 1 Corinthians 11:11–12). By creating “a helper suitable for him,” God provided what was lacking and necessary for a man’s fulfillment and completion so that Adam could become not merely a lone male of his species but a legitimate model of the human race. Eve was Adam’s corresponding opposite (Genesis 2:21–24). Woman is man’s complement or reciprocal, not merely a helpful add-on accessory (1 Corinthians 11:11; 1 Peter 3:7). Together, a man and a woman form humanity created in the image of God. And only together as a man and a woman do they find their sexual counterparts and indispensable procreative match.

The spiritual equality of men and women does not equate to equal identity. While the words sex and gender are being systematically redefined by modern thought, God makes a distinction between the two sexes in Scripture. Structural and functional differences exist. Generally, men are larger and physically stronger than women. A man is physically incapable of bearing a child. It is the man who can fertilize or inseminate the woman to produce offspring.

The Bible gives few guidelines specifically for men. The path to spiritual growth and Christian maturity is essentially the same for men and women. Nevertheless, certain distinctions were made for males under the Old Covenant and as part of the priestly requirements. “Every male among you shall be circumcised,” states the terms of God’s covenant with His people (see Genesis 17:10–23). Only male descendants of Aaron could partake of the food offerings (Leviticus 6:18; Numbers 18:10). Three times a year during the annual feasts, “all the men” were to appear before the Lord as representatives for their families (Exodus 23:17; 34:23; Deuteronomy 16:16). Firstborn males were consecrated as holy to the Lord (Exodus 13:2, 12; Luke 2:23).

Men and women have different roles or functions within the church, the family, and marriage (1 Corinthians 14:33–35; 11:3–10; Ephesians 5:22–33; 1 Timothy 2:11–15; Titus 2:1–5). God designed men to be the spiritual leaders, teachers, and heads in each of these areas (1 Timothy 3:2; Acts 6:2–6), not as overlords but as loving, faithful servants (Colossians 3:18–19; 1 Peter 3:1–7; 5:1–4; Proverbs 5:15–19). They are to be good fathers (Colossians 3:21; Ephesians 6:4) and men of sexual integrity (1 Thessalonians 4:3–7; Matthew 5:27–28; 1 Corinthians 7:2–5) who operate within the framework of humility, respect, godliness, and compassion (Acts 20:28; 1 Peter 5:1–3; Ephesians 5:21, 25–30; 1 Timothy 3:1–7; Titus 1:7).

Jonathan Parnell writes, “What makes men men, or women women, is intrinsically connected to the majesty of the God in our design. We each exist as we do in order to display that glory” (Good: The Joy of Christian Manhood and Womanhood, Strachan, O., and Parnell, J., eds., Desiring God, 2014, p. 4). God created men and women to complement and complete each other and thereby become the most God-glorifying expression of His nature and character. When a man fulfills His God-given calling—when he loves and serves God and loves his neighbor as himself (Matthew 22:37–40)—he honors Christ in the church and glorifies God in the world.

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This page last updated: October 24, 2023