On transgender issues we extend God's grace.Integrity helps us accurately interpret scripture
Transgender and transsexual
issues are not directly addressed in the Bible just as the Bible does not directly address issues of nuclear power and energy efficient light bulbs. Our job as Christians is to always "rightly divide the word of truth,"
2 Timothy 2:15.
How should Christians approach issues surrounding tr@nsgenderism, transsexualism and transvestism?
- We factor in context when determining what scripture means.
- We remember that Christians are under no obligation to keep Jewish law, Romans 6:14, 10:4.
- We humbly admit that the Hebrew text meant something different to Jewish readers 3500 years ago than the English text without a context means to us today."Scripture only settles matters
about which it speaks plainly."
- Richard Hooker, 1554-1600,
"Scripture cannot mean now
What it did not mean then."
- Rick Brentlinger, 1950-
Independent Baptist preacher
- We honor the Golden Rule of Jesus, Matthew 7:12, to treat others as we want to be treated. This guides our thinking about transgender issues which are not directly addressed in scripture.
- We remember that differences of opinion on non- essentials like clothing are not good reasons to break fellowship with our brothers and sisters in Christ.
Note: for purposes of this page, I make a distinction between cross-dressing which is not related to worshiping false gods and people wearing gender discordant clothing to worship the fertility goddess.
Our first consideration is context. There is one verse out of 31,102 verses in the King James Bible which is alleged to prohibit transgender life, transsexualism and transvestism. Logic compels us to ask a common sense question.
Is there any historical indication that Israel in 1450 BC had such transgender and transvestite problems (two separate issues) that they had to make a law about it?
The answer is No, nothing in scripture and nothing in the secular historical record indicates that Israel had problems with transgenders and transvestites in 1450 BC or at any other time in her history. Therefore common sense tells us God must have been addressing a problem unrelated to transgender and transvestite issues.
"The woman shall not wear that which pertains to a man, neither shall a man put on a woman's garment: for all that do so are abomination to the LORD your God." -Deuteronomy 22:5, American KJV
What an interesting verse! Some people seriously believe that God is addressing issues like fashion icon Coco Chanel dressing women in pants. Or that God is mandating that women may not wear slacks because that would be dressing like a man.
slacks in the 1920s
Please keep in mind that when Moses wrote Deu 22:5 3500 years ago, women were not wearing slacks. Does Deu 22:5 also apply to shoes? Women may not wear leather penny loafers because men wear penny loafers? And men may not wear leather penny loafers because women wear penny loafers?
Does this verse apply to men's and women's hiking boots and leather sandals too? Really, is that what God is telling us in Deuteronomy 22:5, to watch out that you don't wear your husband's sandals? Do you really believe God is intentionally blasting transgender people and cross-dressers?
In modern culture, the color pink pertains to women and the color blue pertains to men. Must men stop wearing pink shirts since pink is a feminine color? Must women stop wearing blue blouses because blue is a masculine color?
Let's move beyond knee jerk reactions focused on clobbering our transgender brothers and sisters to what God intended to convey in Deuteronomy 22:5.
God was the first
God Himself was the original couturier in the universe because God Himself made the first clothing on earth worn by the first couple on earth, Adam and Eve.
"And the LORD God made clothing from animal skins for Adam and his wife." -Genesis 3:21, New Living Translation
The Bible gives no information on the design of the original clothing made from animal skins. It is a reasonable assumption that God designed the clothing to cover their private parts. If that is true then the clothing God made for Adam and Eve was more similar than dissimilar. Our common sense understanding of Genesis 3:21 does not support the view that God intended Deu 22:5 as a negative blast at our transgender brethren who may wear something that pertains to the other gender.
In the ongoing down rush of human history, 2600 years passed from the time God made the first clothing for Adam and Eve and the writing of Deu 22:5. If the issue God intended to address was transgenderism - nothing more than preserving the distinctiveness of male and female by insisting they not wear similar clothing, why wait 2600 years to do that?
Was it unnecessary to prohibit cross-dressing for the first 2600 years of Bible history but now suddenly in 1450 BC, those transgender folk are completely out of control? Or does our text itself and the ancient historical situation it addressed contain additional clues to its true meaning?
The true meaning
of Deuteronomy 22:5
In Deut 22:5 the Hebrew word for man, geber
is not the more common word אדם or adam, normally used for man in the Old Testament.
The word for man in Deu 22:5 is גבר geber. It ocurs 68 time in 64 verses in the Hebrew concordance of the KJV. It carries the meaning of strong man, valiant warrior. Geber emphasizes strength and ability to fight as opposed to simply signifying maleness.
To make Deu 22:5 about transgender, transvestite and transsexual issues based on reading an English translation without factoring in the cultural, historical and religious context is to misunderstand the text. The issue Deu 22:5 addresses is shrine prostitution, the pagan worship of false gods. That is the issue in Leviticus 18:22 and 20:13 (not homosexuality) and that is also the issue in Deuteronomy 23:17-18.
Male shrine prostitutes wore make up, styled their hair like women and dressed in feminine clothing. In their service to the fertility goddess women dressed in masculine clothing including armor that was typically worn by men.
The point of Deuteronomy 22:5 is that Israel God's chosen people must not worship false gods. The prohibition addresses one of the most visible elements of false worship, wearing gender-discordant clothing while worshiping the false god. The true God Who brought Israel out of Egyptian slavery to the land He had prepared for them would not bless Israel if they worshiped false gods.
Is this understanding of Deuteronomy 22:5 nothing more than the twisted interpretation of a gay man and the transgender community trying to alibi their sin? No, absolutely not. Jewish and Christian scholars for many centuries have understood Deuteronomy 22:5 as a prohibition of practices associated with worship of false gods.
Adam Clark Commentary"The woman shall not wear that which pertaineth unto a man"
"keli geber, גבר the instruments or arms of a man. As the word geber is here used, which properly signifies a strong man or man of war, it is very probable that armour is here intended; especially as we know that in the worship of Venus, to which that of Astarte or Ashtaroth among the Canaanites bore a striking resemblance, the women were accustomed to appear in armour before her.
It certainly cannot mean a simple change in dress, whereby the men might pass for women, and vice versa. This would have been impossible in those countries where the dress of the sexes had but little to distinguish it, and where every man wore a long beard.
It is, however, a very good general precept understood literally, and applies particularly to those countries where the dress alone distinguishes between the male and the female. The close-shaved gentleman may at any time appear like a woman in the female dress, and the woman appear as a man in the male's attire. Were this to be tolerated in society, it would produce the greatest confusion. Clodius, who dressed himself like a woman that he might mingle with the Roman ladies in the feast of the Bona Dea, was universally execrated." - Adam Clark Commentary, notes on Deuteronomy 22:5
The Expositor's Bible Commentary"The prohibition against a woman wearing the habiliments of a man and of a man wearing the clothing of a woman can scarcely refer to transvestism. Though evidence for religious transvestism in ancient Canaanite religion is not conclusive, the inclusion of this rule under the proscription of the things the Lord detests suggests a serious problem, one that involves alienation from the Lord because of the adoption of proscribed religious practices." -The Expositor's Bible Commentary, Zondervan, Vol. 3, p. 135, notes on Deuteronomy 22:5
John Gill's Exposition "Some from this clause have been led to conclude, that respect is had to some customs of this kind used in idolatrous worship, which are always abominable to the Lord. So Maimonides (Moreh Nevochim, par. 3. c. 37.) observes, that in a book of the Zabians, called "Tomtom", it is commanded, that a man should wear a woman's garment coloured when he stood before the star of Venus, and likewise that a woman should put on a coat of mail and warlike armour when she stood before the star of Mars;
of the Entire Bible
which he takes to be one reason of this law, though besides that he gives another, because hereby concupiscence would be excited, and an occasion for whoredom given: that there was some such customs among the Heathens may be confirmed from Macrobius (Saturnal. l. 3. c. 8.) and Servius (In Virgil. Aeneid. l. 2.) as has been observed by Grotius;
(Macrobius) relates, that Philochorus affirmed that Venus is the moon, and that men sacrificed to her in women's garments, and women in men's; and for this reason, because she was thought to be both male and female; and (Servius) says, there was an image of Venus in Cyprus with a woman's body and garment, and with the sceptre and distinction of a man, to whom the men sacrificed in women's garments, and women in men's garments;
and, as the above learned commentator observes, there were many colonies of the Phoenicians in Cyprus, from whom this custom might come; and to prevent it obtaining among the Israelites in any degree, who were now coming into their country, it is thought this law was made; for the priests of the Assyrian Venus made use of women's apparel (Jul. Firmic. de Relig. Prophan. p. 6.) and in the feasts of Bacchus men disguised themselves like women (Lucian of Samosata and Eusebius, speak of the practice of masquerading in the worship of Astarte. Apparently women appeared in men's garments and men in women's garments)." John Gill's Exposition of the Entire Bible, notes on Deuteronomy 22:5
Matthew Henry Commentary"Some think it refers to the idolatrous custom of the Gentiles: in the worship of Venus, women appeared in armour, and men in women's clothes; this, as other such superstitious usages, is here said to be an abomination to the Lord." -Matthew Henry Commentary, notes on Deuteronomy 22:5
Holman Bible Dictionary
"FERTILITY CULT - A general term for religions marked by rites which reenact a myth accounting for the orderly change of the seasons and the earth's fruitfulness. Such myths often involve a great mother-goddess as a symbol of fertility and a male deity, usually her consort but sometimes a son, who like vegetation dies and returns to life again.
In Mesopotamia the divine couple was Ishtar and Tammuz (who is mourned in Ezekiel 8:14), in Egypt Isis and her son Osiris, in Asia Minor Cybele and Attis. In Syria the Ugaritic myths of the second millenium B.C. pictured Baal-Hadad, the storm god, as the dying and rising god. (A local manifestation of this god is mourned in Zechariah 12:11; Syrian kings derived their names from this deity, 1 Kings 15:18; 2 Kings 6:24; 2 Kings 13:24).
His wife was the goddess Anath. In the earliest Ugaritic myth Asherah, the great mother-goddess, was the consort of El, the chief god in the pantheon. As Baal replaced El as the major deity, he became associated with Asherah (Judges 6:25-30; 1 Kings 18:19). Ashtoroth, the daughter of Asherah, is used as the Hebrew word for womb or the fruit of the womb (Deuteronomy 7:13; Deuteronomy 28:4,Deuteronomy 28:18,Deuteronomy 28:51).
Fertility cults attribute the fertility of the cropland and herds to the sexual relations of the divine couple. Sacral sexual intercourse by priests and priestesses or by cult prostitutes was an act of worship intended to emulate the gods and share in their powers of procreation or else an act of imitative magic by which the gods were compelled to preserve the earth's fertility (1 Kings 14:23; 1 Kings 15:12; Hosea 4:14).
Transvestism (prohibited in Deuteronomy 22:5) may have been part of a fertility rite like that practiced by the Hittites. Sacrifices of produce, livestock, and even children (2 Kings 17:31; 2 Kings 23:10) represented giving the god what was most precious in life in an attempt to restore order to the cosmos and ensure fertility.
Elijah's struggle with the priests of Baal and Asherah at Mount Carmel is the best known conflict between worship of Yahweh and a fertility cult (1 Kings 18:17-40)." -Holman Bible Dictionary, definition of fertility cult
Our second consideration is that Christians are not under Jewish law. Christians Under Law explains that God does not require Christians after the resurrection of Christ to live under Jewish law.
Based on the clear statements of scripture, which tells us Christians are not under the law, and keeping in mind that we always interpret an unclear verse like Deu 22:5 in the light of a clear verse like Romans 6:14 or 10:4, we may safely conclude that Deu 22:5 does not address transgender issues.
Our third consideration is to always interpret scripture with Integrity when the Bible does not directly address an issue. In the Bible the issue with God is that He and He alone is to be worshiped. "Thou shalt have no other gods before me," Exodus 20:3, is God's way of saying He will not tolerate mixing pagan religious practices with our worship of God.
If we wear the clothing of the opposite sex to worship false gods, that is wrong according to Deu 22:5. If our brothers and sisters in Christ struggle with psychological issues related to transgenderism, does God require us to attack and condemn them or to extend loving grace to them? I believe Romans 14 is clear that we are to live peaceably with all men and extend the grace of God to those with whom we disagree. Instead of being mean-spirited, grace is always gracious.
Even though as saved born again Christians we are not under the Law, Romans 6:14 and 10:4 and Galatians 3:24-25, God still wants us to worship Him and Him alone. The fact that we are not under Jewish Law does not give us license to worship false gods.
When we come to a verse that puzzles our common sense, we use context, prayerful searching of scripture and history which might provide an explanation and our human understanding guided by the Holy Spirit, John 16:13 and 1 Corinthians 2:14, to give us light.
It is unChristlike to attack and exclude from Christian fellowship those who are transsexual or transgendered or who struggle with transgender issues. The Godly way to approach those who hurt, those who struggle with loneliness, those who contend daily with problems most of us have never even imagined is to practice the Golden Rule - treat others with the loving kindness and gracious spirit we would like to receive.
God requires us to love and care for the transgender, transsexual and transvestite communities. God's grace extends to them as surely as it extends to us. The blood of Jesus Christ God's Son cleanses their sin just like it cleanses our sin.
If transgender people get saved and struggle with transgender issues for the rest of their lives, that doesn't make it right to disfellowship them and treat them like lepers. God expects far more from us than that. God requires more of us than that.
Is surgery unBiblical?
If we interpreted the rest of the Bible by ignoring context and the meaning of Hebrew words like geber
as some Christians interpret verses like Deuteronomy 22:5, which is alleged to prohibit transgender activity, here is where we might end up. Deuteronomy 14:1 commands: "You shall not cut yourselves..."
The verse is clear and unequivocal. God is commanding us never to have surgery, right? No lung cancer surgery. No surgery to remove skin cancer. No caesarean sections for mothers having difficulty giving birth. No surgery on your tonsils. No surgery to repair a cleft palate. No surgery to set a broken bone. No dental surgery. No cosmetic surgery. No open heart surgery. "You shall not cut yourselves" is crystal clear, right?
Based on this verse, surgery is always sinful and always indicates wicked rebellion against God, according to Deuteronomy 14:1, right? OR, are we ignoring context by concluding that "you shall not cut yourselves" refers to surgery?
Thoughtful people understand that Deuteronomy 14:1, "you shall not cut yourselves" is not talking about surgery. As with so many commands in the Old Testament, "you shall not cut yourselves" is a warning not to engage in pagan religious practices to worship false gods.
"And they cried aloud, and cut themselves after their manner with knives and lancets, till the blood gushed out upon them." 1 Kings 18:28
Links to Additional InformationCan you explain transsexualism?
Is there a genetic basis
What do 42 scholars say about
the meaning of Deuteronomy 22:5?
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This page updated May 20, 2012