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This passage can therefore be interpreted as an image of God as a mother. The above examples demonstrate how God is lexically given feminine attributes in the Bible. In these images, however, God maintains some masculine characterization. In contrast, there are some Christian traditions where aspects of God are personified, or characterized, as feminine. In the ancient Syriac Christian tradition, for example, the Holy Spirit is characterized as feminine.

This feminine characterization has its roots in Hebrew grammar. Further, the act of hovering has a connotation of the action of a mother bird. Similarly, a feminine Wisdom figure is prominent in Proverbs. In Prov 8, Wisdom speaks:. Ages ago I was set up, at the first, before the beginning of the earth.

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When he established the heavens, I was there, when he drew a circle on the face of the deep, when he made firm the skies above. I was beside him, like a master worker; and I was daily his delight, rejoicing before him always, rejoicing in his inhabited world and delighting in the human race.

And now, my children, listen to me: happy are those who keep my ways. Hear instruction and be wise, and do not neglect it. Prov —36 NRSV. Though it is not clear in English, the grammar of this passage in Hebrew is feminine and describes a feminine persona. Sophia is described as being created by God and present at the creation of the world.

This female embodiment of divine creative force can be found in the visions and writings of Saint Hildegard of Bingen, a renowned medieval mystic and theologian. Additionally, this image of Wisdom is often connected to Christ as Logos, or the Word. The Bible presents this beautiful imagery of Jesus, incarnate as a man, being connected to this rich symbol of a divine feminine figure. By and large, the modern church has lost its balance of masculine and feminine language to talk about God. Frequently, God is only referred to as a male figure, and this limiting language is defended.

For example, the Christian Reformed Church in North America asserts that only masculine names may be used for God and any feminine imagery must be used explicitly in its biblical context. On the contrary, God, not being human, and being beyond human understanding, cannot be contained in human language.

To simplify the infinite and transcendent existence of a distinctly non-human God to a single label is not only inaccurate, but damaging. Intentionally expanding the language and imagery churches and Christians use to talk about God does not change the essence of who God is. Nor does expanding our language further limit or define God. Essentially everyone has a mother or mother figure whose relationship they can draw from in this God-symbol. Additionally, many people are mothers and can connect to God on a maternal level.

Thus, this example of God as Mother has demonstrated a way in which feminine imagery, already present in the Bible, can be used in a beautiful way that further connects the human experience to the Divine. In contrast, when churches hold so tightly to the God-as-male image, it become distorted and negatively affects the way Christians interact with one another, particularly with women. Sometimes Christians read this poem as a metaphor of the love between God and the church, with the church as the bride.

The NT imagery of the church as the Bride of Christ plays into this as well. This God-as-male imagery translates into earthly interactions between men and women. As a result, women are forced into a position inferior to that of men in the church.

Women as Pastors, Elders, and Leaders in Bible-Based Churches - Soul Shepherding

An additional implication of the God-as-male belief system is that the natural order of things is for women to be submissive. Humankind is to be submissive to the will of God; when God is male and human is female in this power hierarchy then the same must be true on the earth. Women in general must then be submissive to men in general because that is the natural order.

Exclusive God-as-male language, whether intended to be taken literally or not, implies that women are lesser. In other words, because God is male, men are somehow more reflective of the Divine than women are. However, women are created in the image of God, just as men are Gen Both men and women reflect the Divine equally and fully; neither men nor women are lacking because they are not the other sex.

What logically follows is that God cannot be only represented in one gender if both reflect God equally. Therefore, to diminish half of humankind created in the image of God is to blind ourselves to divine realities that we might otherwise engage or that may be revealed.

Theological sensitivity in explicating analogical language frees us from distortions and helps point to the glory of God. Instead, we hear vociferous defense of this masculine designation, as if it were in some way true. When the church lacks sensitivity to the symbolic nature of God-language, it crafts God in its own image. In this case, that image is male. By acknowledging that language about God is metaphoric or analogical, these tightly held, partial imaginings of God are easier to let go of, and, as a result, the church opens itself to fuller symbolism.

To combat this idolatry and to acknowledge the gender-transcendence of God, some churches, to varying degrees, have opted for entirely gender-neutral God-language. Such texts offer striking parallels to contemporary gender theories particularly those of Luce Irigaray and Judith Butler , which have unravelled given notions of power and constructed identity. Through the study of gender in terms of its application by biblical writers as a theological strategy, we can observe how these writers use female characters to undermine human masculinity, through their 'higher' intention to elevate the biblical God.

God Gender and the Bible demonstrates that both maleness and femaleness are constructed in the light of divine omnipotence. Unlike many approaches to the Bible that offer hegemonist interpretations, such as those that are explicitly Christian or Jewish, or liberationist or feminist, this enlightening and readable study sustains and works with the inconsistencies evident in biblical literature.

Imagining a Feminine God: Gendered Imagery in the Bible

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