Do biblical references to men, mankind, brothers, etc., include women?The Bible presents a masculine point of view throughout, so it can be confusing to determine where women fit or how/when they are included in the intended audience. Historically, masculine pronouns have been used as a gender-neutral pronoun option within the English language, but that doesn't mean that every passage in the Bible that uses a masculine pronoun refers to both men and women. As with any book, the clues to gender inclusivity within the Bible are found within the surrounding context. Good hermeneutics and the wisdom of the Holy Spirit help us to accurately interpret the Bible and the intended audience of specific passages.
Some passages are specifically addressing men. For example, in Acts 7:2, Stephen is speaking to the Sanhedrin and refers to them as "brothers and fathers." In this case, brothers and fathers can be taken literally because the Sanhedrin was male-only.
Other times, words like "man" or "sons" are used to describe, in a general sense, "mankind" and "children." Take, for instance, Galatians 3:26, which says: "for in Christ Jesus you are all sons of God, through faith." Does the use of the word "sons" mean that only men can become children of God? Hardly! When we look ahead at the next verses, we can see clearly that this verse is referring to both men and women. Men and women alike are all able to be children of God through Jesus Christ: "For as many of you as were baptized into Christ have put on Christ. There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is no male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus" (Galatians 3:27–28). This is one example of many that show masculine words being used to refer to people in general (see also Ephesians 4:8; Matthew 13:38).
Another masculine word that is used to address people in general is "brothers," which we sometimes see in more modern translations adjusted to "brothers and sisters" for enhanced clarity. An example of this is found in 1 Thessalonians 4:1, which in the ESV says "brothers" and in the NIV says "brothers and sisters." While "brothers" is a more literal translation of the Greek, changing it to "brothers and sisters" is a way to clarify the intent of the passage for modern readers.
The context determines the definition of the masculine words throughout the Bible. It is clear that the Bible is written for both men and women, but the language used can be a bit confusing. In the modern era, switching out masculine words for generic ones when a generic audience is intended might help enhance people's understanding while they read the Bible and prevent them from becoming offended unnecessarily.
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