- Perhaps unseen is not the best word that I could have used. Instead, perhaps I should have said heavenly versus earthly? By that, I mean, that John interacted on a very personal level with the Logos, while Wisdom has yet to interact with humanity on the personal level, as the Logos has.
So what does this suggest to me about gender?
First, there is grammatical gender - in those languages which have grammatical gender - which we can identify almost all the time by visible linguistic elements. Second, there is biological gender, which is largely, but not absolutely, stable. For the purposes of this discussion, I regard grammatical and biological gender as simple, observable phenomena, although I recognize that for the purposes of other discussions, they may not be.
In my view, we cannot verify the gender of any other thing beyond our observable reality. I believe that both logos and sophia are equally considered the preincarnate Christ by the early church fathers. The gender of these terms did not bother them. Christ was male in his physical and biological being, but he is neither the "eternal masculine" nor is he the "pre-existant feminine."
Only this view makes sense of the fact that logos becomes feminine in French and neuter in German without losing meaning. Only this view accounts for the fact that the spirit is feminine in Hebrew, neuter in Greek and masculine in Latin.
Here is another example. Some say that as the Father is to the Son, so is man to woman. Right away this contravenes gender. But if we think of Christ as the Logos of God, as His expression, the earthly incarnation of God; then once again gender is contravened. Woman is never treated as the logos of man - would that she were!
However, I do believe that the gender of words contributes to metaphorical meaning. It is a strong component of the poetic force of any language with grammatical gender. As humans we are very susceptible to arguments using gender since sexuality is a strong force in our life.
Gender in language should be treated as a beautiful and powerful poetic device which rouses our feeling and draws us close to what is beautiful and good. Gender in language should call to mind the love of our mother and father, the closeness of a community of siblings, the friendship of others, and the life-creating power of intimacy.
I'll write about what I think are the implications for translation in another post.