God and the Feminine

August 26, 2008 at 8:12 am 5 comments

I have recently run across a few blogs about Rob Bell’s “She” Nooma Video and previewed it on Facebook, but you can preview it on the product website here (Nooma will open in a new window).

From the Nooma video introduction:

“We didn’t have anything to do with our birth. We are all here because some woman somewhere gave us life. Her pain, her effort, for our life. And when a mother gives like that to a child, she is showing us what God is like. But sometimes this part of God’s nature is overlooked. A lot of us are comfortable with male imagery for God. But what about female imagery for God? Is God limited to a gender? Or does God transcend and yet include what we know as male and female? Maybe if we were more aware of the feminine imagery for God we would have a better understanding of who God is and what God is like.”

I’ve been surprised by the number of people I have talked to about the female imagery for God – they didn’t even know it exists. In our western christian culture we have focused so exclusively on God as male – not God as man through Jesus, but God as HE – never SHE.

I bought into this male dominated view of God which then skews other readings of the scriptures, but my thinking was challenged when I read, Growing Strong Daughters by Lisa Graham McMinn. I have since been on a journey which led me to seminary to try to understand issues of God and gender. While God transcends gender, we do not. But what is God’s desire for our understanding of male and female? I hope to find some answers in the next few years along the road of my seminary journey.

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Entry filed under: faith, human nature.

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5 Comments

  • 1. cindyinsd  |  August 26, 2008 at 10:41 pm

    Hi, Elizabeth

    The Nooma video was really interesting–they always are. I hadn’t realized about the womb/compassion images, and I guess I just skipped over the one in Job as poetry. Other than that, the only feminine images of God I can think of in scripture are:

    Psalm 91 . . . He will cover you with His feathers and under His wings you shall trust. I realize the pronoun is masculine, but the scenario has always struck me as feminine.

    And the Proverbs where wisdom (who appears to be a type of Christ) is a female.

    Are there others that you know of? I’d love to hear about them.

    God bless,

    Cindy

  • 2. Elizabeth Chapin  |  August 27, 2008 at 7:21 am

    Cindy, this is something I am still researching, but some of the female connections in Scripture are lost in translation because we do not have feminine and masculine forms in our language. In Hebrew (and other languages you may be familiar with) nouns have gender. The noun for the Spirit in Gen. 1:2 is feminine while the noun for God is masculine, so in the phrase “the Spirit of God” we see both female and male in Hebrew. I’m sure there are books out there written on this subject, but I haven’t found one I would recommend yet besides Growing Strong Daughters.

  • 3. cindyinsd  |  August 27, 2008 at 9:26 pm

    Hi, Elizabeth

    This is really interesting. I’m wondering, though . . . (not to be contentious, but languages can be tricky) . . .

    In Latin, for example, first declension nouns are usually feminine. That doesn’t necessarily mean the object indicated by the noun is seen as female. Puerta (f) means gate or door or entrance, which is a sexless object. Is there a masculine and a feminine form for spirit in ancient Hebrew?

    Also, words such as poeta (poet) and agricola (farmer) are masculine despite the fact that they appear to be feminine (end in “a”, belong to first declension). I know very little about ancient Hebrew, so these are only questions, not challenges. As you learn more at school, I’d love to hear your updates.

    Grace and peace,

    Cindy

  • 4. cindyinsd  |  August 29, 2008 at 7:37 am

    Oops! I’m getting my Latin and my Spanish mixed. I meant porta, not puerta.

    Cindy

  • 5. Cindy  |  August 30, 2008 at 6:41 am

    Good video – I wish more church people were open to hearing this stuff … I brought up the fact that the Hebrew word for spirit is feminine in a Bible study and was pretty much ignored.

    There’s only one word for spirit in Hebrew. Shekhinah – which literally means presence or indwelling – is also feminine. Some words have 2 forms – nouns like “female cat” and “male cat,” and all verbs and adjectives. BTW, I speak modern Hebrew, not biblical, but I’m pretty sure this is true for both.

    🙂 Cindy (in TN)

    PS to Elizabeth – thanks for your comments on my Chrysalis post at Jesus Creed. Like you, I met my husband in Santa Cruz, and am growing strong daughters (but only 3 of them). I’m glad to have discovered your blog!

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