Masculinity studies is an emerging field in biblical studies that looks explicitly at how the male gender is portrayed in the text. Masculinity studies uses the tools for gender analysis that have been developed in feminist interpretation and by gender theorists, and shares many of the same goals of examining the role gender plays in the text. It explores the ways in which societies construct an understanding of what it is to be a man or masculine, focusing particularly on how gender and masculinity are embedded in power structures. Unlike feminist studies, masculinity studies does not need to search for male figures and voices in history and society, since the male and the masculine are the unmarked norm. The challenge instead has been to make those norms visible and to expose the multiple ways in which those norms permeate the ideas, structures, and assumptions of society. Feminist interpretation has made considerable progress in bringing light to those hidden assumptions, but has mostly focused on examining the construction of femininity and feminine gender roles within the texts. While feminist critics recognized that if femininity is a social construct, then masculinity must be as well, relatively little attention was given to the features of that construct. Masculinity studies arose to fill that gap. Like the feminist movement before it, masculinity studies uses a variety of types of analysis to understand how gender functions in a culture.


One of the issues in describing masculinity studies is the lack of a useful and consistent vocabulary to discuss the issues. Masculinity studies, in the realm of gender studies, is usually contrasted with men’s studies. The latter, including the mythopoetic men’s groups, is more generally associated with popular culture and can often be seen as a backlash against feminism, promoting traditional gender roles and stereotypical masculine traits. These movements focus on helping men to understand their own identity and role in society, as well as taking an interest in men’s rights, in cases such as child custody decisions. In contrast, academic masculinity studies as described here takes a more descriptive and analytic role, often seeking to deconstruct gender roles, or at least trying to articulate the many factors that have led to these particular social constructions.

Clarifying that masculinity studies is the examination of constructed gender and not a movement of men is helpful, but the problem of terminology remains. The lack of vocabulary that is parallel to feminist and feminism demonstrates the general unmarked nature of masculinity in cultural structures, including language. Femininity is contrasted not with the explicitly masculine, but with the norm, identifying masculinity as humanity. In an effort to make the discussion of masculinity syntactically less awkward and to make the vocabulary of masculinity more marked so that the embedded structural norms are further revealed, this article will use the terms masculist and masculism to refer to the interpretive strategy that studies masculinity as a constructed concept and recognizes multiple forms of valid masculinities (see Goldingay 1995, p. 161; Olson 2006, p. 77). Thus masculism as used here critiques the status quo dominated by hegemonic masculinity, rather than championing the promotion of men’s interests over those of women.


Studies of masculinity started to emerge in the late 1970s and 1980s, sometimes as a response to the feminist movement. In this first wave of men’s studies, the emphasis was on exploring the characteristics of men, especially in terms of reclaiming what was perceived as lost in the industrial age. The mythopoetic movement mentioned earlier, which flourished in the 1990s, is an example of this. This movement often decries the lack of ritual in industrial society to initiate males into full manhood. One prominent figure is the writer Robert Bly, whose most famous work in the area is Iron John. Bly and others draw on Jungian archetypes as manifested in myths like Grimms’ fairy tales to restore a sense of traditional manhood. The Promise Keepers is another movement that tries to restore masculine identity in its members. This group functions more within Christianity rather than the broader spirituality of the mythopoetic movement. The Promise Keepers aims to instill the principles of responsibility, leadership, and faithfulness among its followers, but has been criticized for advocating strict gender roles with the man as the authority figure and head of the household. Some aspects of the movement, however, promote egalitarian values in the family, emphasizing the expressive component of masculinity and not just the instrumental.

In the academic world, men’s studies programs began to develop alongside women’s studies programs. Rather than focusing on reclaiming men’s identities and traditional roles, men’s studies programs looked at social constructions of masculinity. Robert W. Connell has been particularly influential in theorizing about masculinity on the basis of both anthropological and psychoanalytic perspectives.

Psychoanalytic Studies.

Psychological approaches to masculinity first arose with Sigmund Freud and the development of psychoanalysis. Freud’s work on the Oedipus complex initiated an exploration of the complexities of masculinity. In his studies of gender and homosexuality, Freud came to the conclusion that people contain both masculine and feminine elements, which are intertwined and expressed to different degrees, so that humans are inherently bisexual. Masculinity is a multilayered phenomenon that develops through the complex relationships of a man with his parents as objects of desire, his primordial masculinity and castration anxiety, and later social interactions, so that masculinity arises through constantly shifting emotional attachments. For Freud, there was no such thing as a pure, unfiltered masculinity. Later psychoanalysis, however, simplified the idea of masculinity, ignoring much of the complexity of development between masculine and feminine forces implicit in Freud’s ideas. In this simplified approach, heterosexuality developed naturally and unproblematically while alternate expressions of gender were viewed as psychological disorders.

Carl Jung accepted the presence of masculine and feminine forces in all people, but related them in a different way than did Freud. He identified his ideas of the socially constructed persona with the masculine, and the repressed, subconscious anima with the feminine. The polarities between them were expressed by contrasting unconscious archetypes, which can be balanced, but never overcome. This idea of archetypes existing in the collective unconscious was expanded by later generations and forms the basis of many of the mythopoetic masculinity movements. Later theorists took these ideas a step further and formulated the concept of a core gender identity. Men either identified as masculine or feminine and the balance between masculine and feminine archetypes of Jung or the more complex relationships expressed by Freud were largely rejected.

Alfred Adler took gender ideas in a different direction than did his colleague Freud, focusing on the social implications. He understood the masculine and feminine elements existing in a person to be in tension, but also noted that the masculine was more highly valued in social institutions. Thus the feminine tended to be rejected through an excessive emphasis on the masculine. Adler saw this as harmful to society, since it was frequently associated with aggression, which was particularly problematic in the aftermath of World War I. In later developments, the Frankfort School applied similar theories of gender to the development of authoritarian or democratic personalities in society. Jacques Lacan envisioned masculinity as a concept fulfilling a particular social and symbolic space, in which the phallus plays a central dominant role, but is explicitly disassociated from the penis, an idea taken up by later theorists, such as Judith Halberstam, who explore the concept of female masculinities.

Anthropological Studies.

The basis of the anthropological approach is ethnographic studies. Cross-cultural analysis has been particularly important in developing theories of masculinity. Several cultures have been objects of interest, but nonurban Mediterranean societies, especially in Spain and Greece, and Polynesian studies have figured prominently. Maurice Berger, Harry Brod, Andrea Cornwall, and Nancy Lindisfarne, among others, have contributed significant studies. While cross-cultural generalizations have their drawbacks, including glossing over features particular to a given culture and tending to focus on the “other,” they are useful for drawing out certain elements of masculinity, some of which are discussed later.

Characteristics of Hegemonic Masculinity.

The term hegemonic masculinity, coined by Tim Carrigan, is frequently employed in discussions of masculinity. It expresses the idea that masculinity is usually tightly entwined with power; thus studying masculinity is an important way to analyze the competing power structures in a given society. Hegemonic masculinity is that specific gender construction that is dominant in cultural and political power structures. It may not be fully embodied by any particular man, but the combination of traits is promoted because of its association with power. Thus a particular gender construction continues to be imitated and propagated by those who wish to rise in the hierarchy of status and power, whether this is conscious or not. Hegemonic masculinity is not a stable concept, however, but is shaped by the competing subversive masculinities and the political tensions these represent. Masculinity cannot be defined simply in a dichotomy with femininity, but rather is expressed along a continuum that must be continually contested with other men, according to the characteristics of the current hegemonic norms. Cross-cultural studies have demonstrated a number of typical components of hegemonic masculinity. While not being equally important or present in all patriarchal cultures, these features comprise a basic understanding of how masculinity is performed in many social contexts.

Military Might.

Valor in warfare is an important display of masculinity in many cultures. Prowess on the field of battle often represents sexual prowess, as well. War has customarily been the domain of men, and the weapons of war are often associated with men’s virility. In modern times guns are used either to refer to a man’s strength (powerful biceps) or potency (as a phallic symbol). In ancient times and nonindustrial cultures, the equivalent characteristics were conveyed by bows and arrows or staffs and spears. For example, in the ancient Near East bows were a frequent metonym for warriors, and a warrior’s fate could be ascertained by the fate of his bow. One such example occurs in the Assyrian friezes showing the king’s defeat of a besieged city. The king is displayed with his bow taut and drawn, while the defeated soldiers are displayed as small figures, forced to cut their bows in half. Victory in battle thus increases masculinity, whereas loss is emasculating. A defeated man could maintain some degree of masculinity if he acted bravely in the face of severe opposition. Bravery was demonstrated by the position of scars in the Greco-Roman world. If a warrior had scars on his chest, it showed his willingness to face death in the face of close encounters with the enemy, rather than run away in fear. Scars on the back, however, bespoke cowardice and were thus an affront to masculinity.

Bodily Integrity.

The inability to defend oneself from bodily penetration, from weapons, as in warfare, corporal punishment, as a slave, or sexual penetration severely compromised masculinity. Because the appearance of emasculation creates anxiety about a loss of power and prestige, males in power, or aspiring to power, strongly assert their dominance in defending their bodies from penetration or other abuse. While asserting one’s role as the active partner in heterosexual intercourse was necessary, it was far more important in homosexual relations. The insertive partner can maintain or even increase his masculinity, because he is penetrating another man, but the masculinity of the passive partner is compromised. In the Greco-Roman context the typical status of the passive partner as a young man or slave underscores this point. The defense of bodily integrity extends to corporal punishment, which also penetrates the body. Being beaten or whipped was an affront to a man’s masculinity in the Greco-Roman context, and it was unlawful to beat a Roman citizen, who as such, had a higher social status than the average person. Because slaves were both at the low end of the social hierarchy and were subject to being both beaten and used as sexual objects, the masculinity of male slaves was effectively effaced.


The honor and shame model, developed primarily from studies of Mediterranean cultures, has been a popular system to understand another aspect of masculinity, which is the ability of a man to show control of the sexuality of the women in his household. Although the model has been criticized as overly simplistic for linking honor and shame too closely to gender and for glossing over differences between the cultures, it has proved a useful way to look at certain features of social relations. In this model, women are expected to remain virgins before marriage and to be faithful after marriage. Men are expected to guard this sexual fealty. The honor of men is thus largely dependent on the shame, that is, the chastity, of the women in their household. Outside sexual activity is a threat to the honor of the males responsible for the women, because it constitutes a challenge to the masculinity of the father or husband by the male who is cavorting with the woman. Illicit sex, therefore, is largely viewed as a competition between males, with challenges requiring a strong response. That response is often directed at the woman, not only because she is easier to target, but also because she casts aspersion on the honor and masculinity of her guardian by going to another male without official consent. When a daughter has sex before betrothal, she dishonors her father. The worst dishonor a man can suffer, however, is if he is cuckolded by his wife. In part this is because when she turns to another man, she leaves her husband open to the implication that he was somehow deficient in his ability to provide for her, in material or sexual terms or both. The dishonor increases for the husband if he knows about the affair, but does nothing, which shows that he was not only unable to prevent the affair, but also to end it.


A visible sign of a man’s masculinity is the ability to reproduce. The strong emphasis on female fidelity in marriage is often justified by a concern with paternity. In order for a man to know that his offspring are indeed his own, he must ensure that he is the only one having intercourse with his wife. The children themselves, especially sons, serve, among other things, as proof of their father’s virility. Although the female who is childless is often castigated as barren, in many areas of the world the male is considered the real source of the child, while the mother serves as an incubator. The language of seed, sowing, insemination, and so forth is quite common cross-culturally. In this model the male provides the seed, while the female is the soil. Soil can be fertile or barren, but it ultimately plays a passive role. The active role of the male must be continually proven.


Another component of masculinity is a man’s ability to provide for his household. Failure to do so can be grounds for divorce. Insufficient provisions could also provide a rationale for the women in his household to stray and increase a man’s dishonor. Related to this, hospitality was an important component of honor. Hospitality not only shows a man’s generosity, but also his ability to provide not only enough for his own family, but for visitors as well.


A man provides for his household and has authority over it, but the gendered nature of space in the household defines particular masculine and feminine roles. In most patriarchal societies, the interior space of the home, or the private realm, is where women have power, while the exterior or public space is the domain of men. Since politics, large scale economics, and communal religious rituals are usually performed in the public realm, men have the dominant visible power in a society. Thus men are expected to spend most of their time and energy in the public realm, and those who too often frequent the private realm are ridiculed as behaving like women.

Public Presentation.

In the public realm a man is expected to demonstrate self-control. Displaying mastery of emotions and actions is a key feature of masculine status, especially in the Greco-Roman era. Senses and emotions were linked with women, while the exercise of self-control and rationality were associated with men. A second aspect of public presentation is the ability to engage successfully in debate, which comprises several factors. Debate involves the ability to defeat another man through riposte, thinking quickly and responding cleverly and eloquently to opposition. Skillful rhetoric, the way words are used and arguments deployed, is crucial, but delivery of the speeches is equally important. Good delivery requires an impressive bodily presence. A handsome, well-built body gives more weight to a man’s words. A related characteristic is the tenor of the voice. Manly men have strong, low-pitched voices. Speeches delivered by those with high, squeaky voices are less effective, because their deliverers are less masculine. Thus physicality and intellect are intertwined in successful speech.

Masculinity Studies of the Bible.

Masculist interpretation has been applied to biblical texts as a way to gain further insight into the motivations, relationships, and power structures embedded in the texts. The societies of ancient Israel and the Hellenistic world, like most societies, were patriarchal, and men dominated the public realm. The biblical texts were written, probably exclusively, by men and focused largely on male characters and concerns. Masculist biblical interpretation, like feminist interpretation, employs a broad range of approaches and methodologies, utilizing in particular psychological and anthropological perspectives.

Hebrew Bible.

Many of the assumptions about masculinity in the Hebrew Bible, particularly hegemonic masculinity, are drawn from textual description and iconography throughout the ancient Near East, especially Assyria and Babylonia. Information specifically about Israelite masculinity has to be drawn from the biblical texts themselves through such approaches as psychoanalytical, literary, and cross-cultural studies.

Psychoanalytic Approaches.

One of the earlier works in biblical studies that takes a psychoanalytic approach is Howard Eilberg-Schwartz’s God’s Phallus and Other Problems for Men and Monotheism (1994). The thesis of the book is that the maleness of God presents a problem to male worshippers, because males and females are naturally complementary. Logically then, women would be the natural worshippers of a male god. In order for men to take part in worship of a male deity, they must become feminized, an issue noted by a number of other scholars. One consequence of this feminization is that the patriarchs must subordinate their masculinity to God. Examples of this include the case of Moses’s circumcision by Zipporah (Exod 4) and Jacob’s “hip” wound in his wrestling with the angel (Gen 32), both of which represent a divine attack on the procreative organs of the men.

Literary Approaches.

Other scholars examine normative masculinities primarily within the text. Dennis Olson examines how masculinity intersects with femininity in the Genesis creation narratives. In addition to analyzing how masculinity functions within the text, linking the story of Adam and Eve with that of Cain and Abel, he draws out implications for contemporary masculinity.

David Clines, an early contributor to masculist interpretation, has written several works exploring masculinity in particular biblical characters. His essay “David the Man” crystallizes several of these concepts and has been referenced by many later works. Taking David as an epitome of masculinity, he elucidates several characteristics of the ideal man. Many of these correspond to the features of hegemonic masculinity listed earlier, including prowess on the battlefield, virility, persuasive speech, and spending time with men as opposed to women, while including less common features such as beauty and musicianship. Clines has also identified masculine traits that are also found in other biblical characters, including the prophets. One challenge for this method of analysis is that the prominent male figures in the text often do not represent the ideal of manhood in Israelite culture, but display subordinate masculinities, as they are men most willing to submit to God. The latter point illustrates the situational nature of masculinity. What is an appropriate expression of masculinity in one context may represent less power and prestige in another context.

Other scholars primarily following the literary approach focus more explicitly on how masculinity is entwined in the power structures of Israelite society. Ken Stone provides an example of this approach, exploring the connections between gender, sex, and power. As noted earlier, the display of virility has important connotations for leadership and ability to carry out the functions of state. Examples of this abound in the Deuteronomistic History in which men contest with each other for control of females, which symbolizes control of the kingdom. A lower status man (e.g., Absalom or Abner) challenges the masculinity and the power of his superior (David or Ishbosheth) by claiming women in his household. The response, or lack thereof, in these cases supports the fact that the superior is unable to hold onto temporal as well as sexual power.

Cross-cultural Approaches.

Other scholars use cross-cultural studies to shed light on aspects of masculinity in the biblical texts. Susan Haddox has reconstructed a probable hegemonic masculinity functioning in Hosea using data from the biblical texts, Assyrian textual and iconographic sources, and contemporary anthropological studies. She investigates how Hosea uses a variety of metaphors, drawn from the cultural context, to critique the actions and attitudes of Israel’s male elite by contrasting the standards of hegemonic masculinity to those required for a proper relationship with God.

A number of studies are emerging that utilize insights from both biblical and nonbiblical sources to analyze masculinity in the Hebrew Bible. Most of the work so far has been on specific texts, generating the data needed for more overarching analysis. Examples of these studies are included in Men and Masculinity in the Hebrew Bible and Beyond (2010), one of the first anthologies to focus on masculist interpretation of these texts. As the field progresses it will continue to develop methodologies and apply them to a variety of texts and genres.

New Testament.

Masculinity in the New Testament is easier to classify than in the Hebrew Bible. There is a wealth of information from Hellenistic texts, which often explicitly deal with the characteristics and relationships within gender categories. A number of studies have applied these cultural characteristics to New Testament texts, particularly those pertaining to Jesus, and to a lesser extent, the disciples, and Paul.

The studies of the Gospels approach masculinity both from the perspective of psychoanalysis and by considering the context of Greco-Roman understandings of masculinity. Psychoanalytic studies have considered such things as the displacement of male anxieties about masculinity and the body. Jennifer Glancy’s work on the beheading of John the Baptist discusses the projection of Herod’s anxieties onto manipulative women. The problematic role of the body, in Jesus’s incarnation, crucifixion, and resurrection is addressed by Graham Ward. Though Jesus is fully embodied in the flesh at the beginning of the Gospel narrative, the male body is gradually erased. The passion and crucifixion accelerate the effacement of both the body and Jesus’s masculinity, until finally in the resurrected Christ, the body is almost entirely eliminated, taken up only in the communion bread and the church. Stephen Moore has considered the role of God’s masculinity in and behind the text, as a motivator for understanding motivation and portrayal of the body, both divine and human.

Studies situating masculinity in the New Testament within the larger Greco-Roman context are more numerous and have shed considerable light on the complexities of the portrayal of Jesus and the other men in the texts. They draw on works by classicists as well as New Testament scholars to illuminate gender representations in the Bible. The anthology New Testament Masculinities (2003), edited by Stephen D. Moore and Janice Capel Anderson, is a significant contribution to the field. The essays therein cover the major parts of the canon. Most of the essays draw upon understandings of masculinity from the cultural and historical background. Colleen Conway’s monograph Behold the Man: Jesus and Greco-Roman Masculinity (2008) undertakes a thorough examination of Jesus’s masculinity from the writings of Paul through the Gospels and ending in Revelation. From these studies a variety of characteristics of New Testament masculinities can be ascertained.

Masculinity of Jesus.

Jesus upholds the cultural constructions of masculinity in some ways and subverts them in others. Taken together, these studies construct a multifaceted portrait of Jesus’s masculinity. One masculine characteristic that Jesus displays is his association with outdoor spaces, which are the realm of men, rather than indoor spaces, an idea explored by Jerome Neyrey. In Luke’s description of his childhood, Jesus is born outside and speaks to the elders in the Temple, the domain of men. His interactions with his disciples and his teaching all take place in the out-of-doors with only occasional meals that take place indoors. Jesus is outdoors even more than would be typical for a Greco-Roman man, because he does not preside over a traditional household. While a man’s masculinity comes into question if he spends too much time in the private space associated with women, a man is nevertheless expected to hold authority over his household to prove his masculinity. Jesus rejects this role in the traditional sense, by rejecting his biological family, but he does establish his own, redefined household, consisting of his followers.

A second masculine characteristic that Jesus displays is his skill in verbal debate through making and responding to challenges in the public arena. All of the Gospels show Jesus in conflict with the religious, and sometimes, civil authorities. They question his right to speak, pointing out, among other things, his inauspicious place of origin. The Gospels repeatedly assert, however, that Jesus teaches and speaks with authority, beyond that which is held by the scribes and Pharisees. The acknowledged leaders continually test Jesus on matters of religious and civil issues, and his answers leave them appeased (in a few cases), speechless, or resentful. None of them is able to best him in public argument, and the verbal challenges he makes to them go unanswered.

Jesus shows mastery over others throughout his ministry. This mastery is displayed on three levels: human, natural, and supernatural. At the human level his mastery comes out from the beginning. Even when he is baptized by John, most of the Gospels are very clear that John considers himself subservient to Jesus, not worthy even to untie his sandals. Jesus calls his disciples from their tasks, with almost no resistance, causing them to leave family and occupations with hardly a backward glance. When people do resist, the text indicates that they are not worthy of following Jesus, rather than that Jesus is powerlessness over them. In the Temple he overthrows the tables of the money changers and critiques the elders. At the natural level, he shows mastery over the chaotic sea, calming the storm and walking on water. He destroys a fig tree with just a word and can make fish assemble and jump into nets. His healing of physical wounds suggests his power over matter, as does his ability to multiply loaves and fish and to turn water into wine. In the realm of the supernatural, Jesus has authority over the demons, and is able to cast them out over their protests and resistance. They recognize him as Lord and Son of God even when no one else does. This success in casting out demons is not easily replicated by his disciples, which further underscores Jesus’s special authority. His foreknowledge of his death and resurrection indicates that he has some mastery over his passion, especially in John, even though the events themselves subvert Jesus’s masculinity.

Despite all of those masculine traits, Jesus subverts other aspects of Greco-Roman masculinity. First, as mentioned earlier, he rejects the role of the traditional householder, and in his redefined family he does not set himself up as the father, but as the son and brother. He associates with people of a lower social status, and while he is the teacher, his words are persuasive only for those people. Those in authority cannot best him in an argument, but neither do they concede overall defeat, instead plotting to eliminate him. Most notably, in the passion, Jesus gives up nearly all claims to hegemonic masculinity. The scourging violates his bodily integrity, as does the crucifixion itself, which was not an honorable means of execution, further degrading Jesus’s standing. The fact that his disciples abandon him at the end shows their disavowal of his leadership. Finally, Jesus submits himself fully to the will of God the father, refusing to claim mastery over himself. This final submission to God follows the pattern set up in the Hebrew Bible, in which the top masculine status is reserved for God. Through this submission, however, Jesus gains mastery over death and over humanity. The symbol of Jesus’s power in Revelation is that of the slaughtered lamb, which represents the ultimate triumph of the subordinate masculinity favored by God. Jesus’s power over the world is expressed through the Lamb’s transformation into the warrior and the lion.

Masculinity of Paul.

There have been a number of studies examining Paul’s masculinity, many of which have shown that in contrast to the fairly masculine portrayal of Jesus in the Gospels, Paul tends to have a compromised masculinity both in his own self-portrayal and in the perception of others. Most unusually for a man in Hellenistic culture, he repeatedly states his willingness to suffer indignities in the service of Christ and the communities he founded. He does not hide his illness or his many scars from beatings with rods and whips. Jennifer Glancy thoroughly examined the verses in which Paul’s boasts of these beatings. Unlike what modern interpreters may think, in the Greco-Roman context, the ability to withstand whippings could not be considered a sign of manly strength and valor, but were instead the marks of slaves, who by definition have severely compromised masculinity. The complexity of Paul’s masculinity is further revealed because while he writes strong, authoritative letters, he seems to have a weak physical presence, and is willing to be all things to all people to lead them to Christ. Jennifer Larson observes that these are characteristics of the wimp and the flatterer, both of which are mocked by his opponents as unmanly. Yet Paul also asserts his authority over the communities he has founded, and strongly counters challenges put to him by his opponents, regarding his teaching of the gospel. Paul’s masculinity is multifaceted, in that he asserts it when it will help his mission, but lets it be compromised when that demonstrates his faithfulness to Christ, whose example of suffering and self-sacrifice Paul emulates.

Masculinity in the Epistles.

The epistles were important in shaping the early Christian community, and so what they say about the masculinity of the believers, as well as the masculinity of Paul, deserves attention. Brigitte Kahl studied the implications of the statement that in Christ there is no male and female (Gal 3:28) for the masculinity of followers of Christ. Galatians focuses extensively on the imagery of male genitalia, yet the bridge between the gospel of the foreskin and the gospel of the circumcised is couched in terms of maternal examples, which would seem to decenter traditional understandings of masculinity and lead to alternate understandings of gender in the Christian community. On the other hand, Conway counters that the loss of male and female in the context of Greco-Roman society results in an androgyny that is essentially male, so that masculinity retains its central place. She notes that in general Paul portrays Jesus as masculine, although he aligns that masculinity with the sometimes nonhegemonic ideals, such as endurance, lauded by the philosophers, in order to explain Jesus’s unmanly death. In salvation Jesus grants his followers the masculine virtues of righteousness and self-control. The Pastoral Epistles continue the emphasis on righteousness and self-control, while reinscribing conventional gender roles and hierarchies in the early church.


Masculist interpretation is set to make a significant contribution to the study of biblical texts. It complements feminist criticism and queer theory in its concern with the constructed nature of gender. Because most of the texts are predominantly written by men, about men, and for men, there is an extensive field of potential analysis. Specific appeals to or critiques of the masculinity of the original audience and the impact of those appeals on later readers provide layers of meaning for a passage. Explicit attention to masculinity can reveal important elements of the rhetorical assumptions and aims of the texts that have generally been overlooked. The impact of the construction of masculinity for the men in the text, for those who have transmitted it, and for those who have and continue to interpret is beginning to be realized. Future studies of both individual texts and more overarching themes of masculinity and gender will open new avenues of understanding of masculine perspectives of the text that have previously been accepted as normative.



  • Berger, Maurice, Brian Wallis, and Simon Watson, eds. Constructing Masculinity. New York: Routledge, 1995. An influential collection in shaping the contours of sociological approaches to masculinity studies.
  • Bly, Robert. Iron John: A Book about Men. Reading, Mass.: Addison-Wesley, 1990. A popular text from the mythopoetic men’s movement, drawing on Jungian archetypes to help men reclaim a masculine identity
  • Brod, Harry, ed. The Making of Masculinities: The New Men’s Studies. Boston: Allen & Unwin, 1987. A collection of essays focusing on the sociological approach to masculinity studies, including Tim Carrigan’s essay that defines hegemonic masculinity, a concept utilized extensively in later studies.
  • Chapman, Cynthia R. The Gendered Language of Warfare in the Israelite-Assyrian Encounter. Harvard Semitic Monographs 62. Winona Lake, Ind.: Eisenbrauns, 2004. An excellent analysis of masculinity in Assyrian royal annals and iconography as it applies to the gendered rhetoric of warfare in the biblical texts.
  • Clines, David J. Interested Parties: The Ideology of Writers and Readers of the Hebrew Bible. Journal for the Study of the Old Testament Supplement Series 205. Gender, Culture, Theory 1. Sheffield, UK: Sheffield Academic Press, 1995. Includes Clines’s essay on “David the Man,” which elucidates characteristics of masculinity in the Hebrew Bible and has been influential in many later studies.
  • Cornwall, Andrea and Nancy Lindisfarne, eds. Dislocating Masculinity: Comparative Ethnographies. Male Orders. New York: Routledge, 1994. An excellent collection of studies employing an anthropological approach to the study of masculinity.
  • Connell, R. W. Masculinities. 2d ed. Berkeley: University of California Press, 2005. A seminal work in masculinity studies, it lays out different approaches to the studies of masculinity, particularly in a sociological context.
  • Conway, Colleen M. Behold the Man: Jesus and Greco-Roman Masculinity. New York: Oxford University Press, 2008. A thorough study of Jesus’s masculinity throughout the New Testament texts using a historical-cultural approach.
  • Creangă, Ovidiu. ed. Men and Masculinity in the Hebrew Bible and Beyond. The Bible in the Modern World 33. Sheffield, UK: Sheffield Phoenix, 2010. The first major anthology of masculinity studies of the Hebrew Bible. It includes an assessment of the field to date.
  • Eilberg-Schwarz, Howard. God’s Phallus: And Other Problems for Men and Monotheism. Boston: Beacon, 1994. An early work on masculinity and biblical studies, employing a psychoanalytic approach.
  • Gilmore, David D. ed. Honor and Shame and the Unity of the Mediterranean. Special Publication of the American Anthropological Association 22. Washington, D.C.: American Anthropological Association, 1987. A collection of studies discussing how the honor and shame system functions in various cultures. Cross-cultural studies of honor have been very influential in analyzing biblical masculinity.
  • Glancy, Jennifer A. “Unveiling Masculinity: The Construction of Gender in Mark 6:17–29.” Biblical Interpretation 11 (1994): 34–50. An early study of masculinity in the New Testament from a psychoanalytic perspective.
  • Glancy, Jennifer A. “Boasting of Beatings.” Journal of Biblical Literature 123 (2004): 99–135. An examination of the effects of Paul’s scarred body on his masculinity, placed in the context of Greco-Roman attitudes toward scars from battles and whippings.
  • Goldingay, John. “Hosea 1–3, Genesis 1–4 and Masculist Interpretation.” In A Feminist Companion to the Latter Prophets, edited by Athalya Brenner, 161–168. Feminist Companion to the Bible 8. Sheffield, UK: Sheffield Academic, 1995. An early article applying a masculist interpretation to problematic texts for feminist interpretation.
  • Haddox, Susan E. Metaphor and Masculinity in Hosea. Studies in Biblical Literature 141. New York: Peter Lang, 2011. A monograph examining how the prophet draws his rhetorical images from the field of masculinity in the Ancient Near East, employing a historical and cross-cultural approach.
  • Hoffner, Harry A. Jr. “Symbols of Masculinity and Femininity: Their Use in Ancient Near Eastern Sympathetic Magic Rituals.” Journal of Biblical Literature 85 (1966): 326–334. An example of using Assyrian literature and archaeology to provide insight on references to gender in the Hebrew Bible.
  • Kahl, Brigitte. “No Longer Male: Masculinity Struggles Behind Gal 3:28?” Journal for the Study of the New Testament 79 (2000): 47–69. A study of the implications of Paul’s male and female imagery in Galatians for the masculinity of Gentile Christians.
  • Larson, Jennifer L. “Paul’s Masculinity.” Journal of Biblical Literature 123 (2004): 85–97. An analysis of how Paul’s self-portrayal was situated in Greco-Roman constructions of masculinity.
  • Moore, Stephen D. God’s Beauty Parlor: And Other Queer Spaces around the Bible. Contraversions. Stanford, Calif.: Stanford University Press, 2001. A collection of essays exploring issues of the divine body, sexuality, beauty, and violence.
  • Moore, Stephen D., and Janice Capel Anderson, eds. New Testament Masculinities. Semeia Studies 45. Atlanta: Society of Biblical Literature, 2003. The first major anthology of masculinity studies in the New Testament. It includes a helpful bibliography of general, classical, and biblical masculinity studies.
  • Neyrey, Jerome H. “Jesus, Gender, and the Gospel of Matthew.” In New Testament Masculinities, edited by Stephen D. Moore and Janice Capel Anderson, 43–66. Semeia Studies 45. Atlanta: Society of Biblical Literature, 2003. A study of Jesus in the Gospel of Matthew in the light of Greco-Roman ideas of gendered spaces and components of public speech.
  • Olson, Dennis T. “Untying the Knot? Masculinity, Violence, and the Creation-Fall Story of Genesis 2–4.” In Engaging the Bible in a Gendered World, edited by Linda Day and Carolyn Pressler, 73–86. Louisville, Ky.: Westminster John Knox, 2006. An interpretation of the J stories in Genesis, focusing on the masculine roles in the text and their implications for contemporary readers.
  • Stone, Ken. “Gender Criticism: The Un-Manning of Abimelech.” In Judges and Method: New Approaches in Biblical Studies, edited by Gale A. Yee, 183–201. 2d ed. Minneapolis: Fortress, 2007. A good explanation of how to practice gender criticism, focusing on the masculinity of Abimelech in Judges.
  • Stone, Ken. Sex, Honor, and Power in the Deuteronomistic History. Journal for the Study of the Old Testament Supplement Series 234. Sheffield, UK: Sheffield Academic, 1996. An analysis of the interplay of gender and power in the texts, particularly how sex frequently symbolizes a power play among men.
  • Ward, Graham. “The Displaced Body of Jesus Christ. In Radical Orthodoxy: A New Theology, edited by John Milbank, Catherine Pickstock, and Graham Ward, 163–181. London: Routledge, 1999. An example of a study dealing with the problem of the divine male body.

Susan E. Haddox