The second approach is to infer that grammatical gender reflects an underlying gender which is could be ontological, representative or metaphorical, but, which, in any case, ought to be translated. While there are a few times when this kind of gender can be translated, we need to be aware of its illusory nature. It is a part of the poetry of the language and exists on the same level as imagery, personification and alliteration.
For example, Israel is both God's wife, and God's son or servant. Israel has no constant gender in relation to God. Neither the spirit nor the word have a constant gender. In fact, many adjectives, even some which appear to be gendered in English, come from a common root in Hebrew or Greek. So the "mighty man" and the "noble wife" both derive from the same Hebrew word chayil.
Although the connotation of male and female may drastically influence how we view something, gender is notoriously unstable across languages. In addition, using a gendered pronoun can alter the literal meaning of a clause, as it appears to do in John 1:3.
- 3All things were made by him; and without him was not any thing made that was made.
If we want to understand the church fathers, writing in Greek and Latin, then we will have to read the texts themselves in Greek and Latin, or read some commentary which explains the connotations of grammatical gender.
So I agree with John Starke, on this post, when he comments,
- I think too much is being put into the gender of the nouns. In Hebrew and in Greek, interpreters should not put too much stock in the gender of nouns or pronouns, other than discussing antecedent parts of the argument (especially in Greek). The gender of sophia and logos has nothing to do with the Personhood of Jesus. Any Greek grammar will first warn students not to put too much emphasis on the gender.
- I believe that by using ‘it’, we allow John to breathe a bit, free of theology and dogma.
I like Irenaeus, when he said that the Word and Wisdom were the two hands of God.