A SUMMARY OF THE FEMININITY OF THE HOLY SPIRIT

 

 

 

Direct Scriptural support

 

 

The Siniatic Palimpsest

 

According to an Internet search of “feminine Holy Spirit in the Hebrew Scriptures”, multiple modern, deeply serious theologians and ancient language scholars share the view that the earliest Hebrew Christians had access to Scripture that presented the Holy Spirit as a feminine Persona; this feminine persisted within the Syriac and other Eastern branches of Christianity and within the Gnostic sect as well. A prime example of this is the Scriptural passage known as the Siniatic Palimpsest (a palimpsest is a recycled writing medium, wherein a second layer of writing was applied over the original, the original usually consisting of more important information) uncovered toward the end of the nineteenth century by Agnes Lewis. The original writing included portions of the Gospel of John of which a quote from Jesus Himself in John 14:26 asserts the following (translation attributed to Danny Mahar):

“But She – the Spirit – the Paraclete whom He will send to you – my Father – in my name – She will teach you everything; She will remind you of what I have told you.”

There is a suggestion, from a comparative review of this text with Paul’s letters that Paul, among the numerous early Hebrew Christians, used the version of John’s Gospel from which this passage came. References to the Siniatic Palimpsest may be found on the Internet. Unfortunately, many of the translations into English found under the search phrase “Siniatic Palimpsest” apply without justification the more conventional “he” rather than the “she” of the original language. Some Internet references, however, do acknowledge the proper “she”.

The identification of the Holy Spirit as feminine in the Siniatic Palimpsest is no small matter, for this document is the oldest of all copies of the Gospels, being dated to the second century A.D. It is a recognized principle of textual interpretation, even by the most conservative of Biblical scholars, that the older the text, the closer it is thought to be to the original Scripture. This is particularly important in light of the fact that there are no other Scriptural texts between it and the oldest Greek text dated to the fourth century A.D.

 

 

The nature of the spiritual birth by the Holy Spirit points directly to a feminine Holy Spirit

 

Quoting from John 3:

There was a man of the Pharisees, named Nicodemus, a ruler of the Jews; the same came to Jesus by night, and said unto him, Rabbi, we know that thou art a teacher come from God; for no man can do these miracles that thou doest, except God be with him. Jesus answered, and said unto him, Verily, verily, I say unto thee, Except a man be born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God. Nicodemus saith unto him, How can a man be born when he is old? Can he enter the second time into his mother’s womb, and be born? Jesus answered, Verily, verily, I say unto thee, Except a man be born of water and of the Spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God. That which is born of the flesh is flesh; and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit. Marvel not that I said unto you, Ye must be born again. The wind bloweth where it listeth, and thou hearest the sound of it, but canst not tell from where it cometh, and where it goeth; so is every one that is born of the Spirit. Nicodemus answered, and said unto him, How can these things be? Jesus answered, and said unto him, Art thou a teacher of Israel, and knowest not these things? Verily, verily, I say unto thee, We speak that which we do know, and testify to that which we have seen; and ye receive not our witness.

Dr. McGrath on the Protestant side and John MacQuarrie on the Catholic side, among many other theologians on both sides, argue that each Member of the Godhead has both a masculine and a feminine side enabling each and every Member of the Godhead to perform that birth function. This argument is negated not only by the strong maleness of the Father and Son as presented in the Bible, the proscription against effeminate males in Deuteronomy 23:1 and 1 Corinthians 6:9.

Acts Chapter 2 makes a singular association between this rebirth described in John 3 and the Holy Spirit, identifying the Holy Spirit as the Birther. Because gender weakness is frowned upon in the passages cited above as well as the proscription against homosexuality in both Testaments, the Holy Spirit must be identified as functionally feminine.

 

 

A Feminine Church suggests a feminine Holy Spirit

 

The femininity of the spiritual Church was established in the article entitled The Church, the Bride, the Body and the New Jerusalem. The spiritual Church, being a feminine entity and the Bride of Christ, requires Jesus Christ to be gendered. This was the great mystery of which Paul spoke in Ephesians 5:31 and 32:

For this cause shall a man leave his father and mother, and shall be joined unto his wife, and they two shall be one flesh. This is a great mystery, but I speak concerning Christ and His Church.

 

This relationship between Christ and His Church elicits a profound question, one that can be answered rationally only one way: why, if Jesus partakes of both gender and marriage, would the Father and the Holy Spirit not?

Given the male gender of the Father, the obvious answer is that the Holy Spirit is the feminine Spouse of the Father.

The feminine Shekinah Glory points to a feminine Holy Spirit

 

Perhaps the most significant suggestion of femininity in the Bible may be found in the property of indwelling, a characteristic of the Holy Spirit that strongly connects the New Testament with the Old.

That the Old Testament Shekinah is the New Testament’s Holy Spirit is manifestly evident in the precursor role to the indwelling Holy Spirit of the Shekinah Glory who indwelt both the Tabernacle in the wilderness and Solomon’s Temple at their dedications. Since it has been claimed that the word Shekinah does not exist in the Hebrew Scriptures in its noun form (the situation there being similar to the absence in the Bible of a noun form of the word baptize), the following commentary will be made regarding its origin before proceeding with examples of the Shekinah presence.

In the Hebrew Targum, the Aramaic translation of the Hebrew Old Testament, the word Shekinah is used as a noun. It means “intimate dwelling” or “the presence of the Glory of the Lord”.   Justification for the use of this word is the use in the Hebrew Scriptures of its root word “shachan”, referring particularly to the pillars of cloud and fire that accompanied the Israelites in their journey from Egypt to the Promised Land through the wilderness. The prophet Isaiah referred to it quite graphically in Isaiah 4:5 and 6, linking this pillar of cloud and fire to a covering presence. It is generally understood that this same pillar is referenced in Isaiah 51:9 and 10, where the prophet goes out of his way to describe by feminine pronouns the same pillar of cloud and fire that accompanied the Israelites on their journey from Egypt. The Targum interpretation leaves no doubt that the Shekinah Glory is a feminine presence, and represents an equivalence with a feminine Holy Spirit. Isaiah 4:5 and 6, and 51:9 and 10 read as follows:

“And the Lord will create upon every dwelling place of Mount Zion , and upon her assemblies, a cloud and smoke by day, and the shining of a flaming fire by night; for upon all the glory shall be a defense. And there shall be a tabernacle for a shadow in the daytime from the heat, and for a place of refuge, and for a covert from storm and from rain.”

 

          “Awake, awake, put on strength, O arm of the Lord; awake, as in the ancient days, in the generations of old. Art thou not she who hast cut Rahab, and wounded the dragon? Art thou not she who has dried the sea, the waters of the great deep; who hath made the depths of the sea a way for the ransomed to pass over?”

Exodus 40 and 1 Kings 8 provide prominent examples of the Shekinah as a precursor to the indwelling Holy Spirit of the New Testament. Exodus 40:33-38 describes the indwelling of the Tabernacle in the wilderness:

“And [Moses] reared up the court round about the tabernacle and the altar, and set up the hanging of the court gate. So Moses finished the work.

 

          “Then a cloud covered the tent of the congregation, and the glory of the Lord filled the tabernacle. And when the cloud was taken up from over the tabernacle, the children of Israel went onward in all their journeys; but if the cloud were not taken up, then they journeyed not till the day that it was taken up. For the cloud of the Lord was upon the tabernacle by day, and fire was on it by night, in the sight of all the house of Israel, throughout all their journeys.”

 

The description “cloud of the Lord” , “fire by night” and “taken up” leaves no doubt that this “cloud” is equivalent to the Shekinah of the Red Sea adventure and of Isaiah 4:5. The corresponding incident with respect to Solomon’s Temple, taken from 1 Kings 8:6-13, is given below:

And the priests brought in the ark of the covenant of the Lord unto its place, into the inner sanctuary of the house, into the most holy place, even under the wings of the cherubim. For the cherubim spread forth their two wings of the place of the ark, and the cherubim covered the ark and its staves above. And they drew out the staves, that the ends of the staves were seen out in the holy place before the inner sanctuary, but they were not seen outside; and there they are unto this day. There was nothing in the ark except the two tables of stone, which Moses put there at Horeb, when the lord made a covenant with the children of Israel, when they came out of the land of Egypt. And it came to pass, when the priests were come out of the holy place, that the cloud filled the house of the lord, so that the priests could not stand to minister because of the cloud; for the glory of the Lord had filled the house of the Lord. Then spoke Solomon, The Lord said he would dwell in the thick darkness. I have surely built thee an house to dwell in, a settled place for thee to abide in forever.”

In this passage the meaning of “cloud” is closely linked with “dwelling place” and “glory of the Lord”, which again point to the phrase Shekinah Glory.

The connection between these precursor events and the Holy Spirit who indwells Christian believers is given in 1 Corinthians 3:16 and Ephesians 2:19-22, wherein Paul asserts that the Church herself, through her constituents, is a temple indwelt by the Holy Spirit:

Know ye not that ye are the temple of God, and that the Spirit of God dwelleth in you?

 

          Now, therefore, ye are no more strangers and sojourners, but fellow citizens with the saints, and of the household of God; and are built upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Jesus Christ himself being the chief corner stone, in whom all the building fitly framed together groweth unto an holy temple in the Lord; in whom ye also are built together for an habitation of God through the Spirit.

The facts embedded in these passages are no surprise to Christians, who generally accept without question that believers are indwelt with the Holy Spirit and comprise, as the Church, a holy temple. What some of us may not be aware of is that this temple and its indwelling by the Holy Spirit was represented numerous times as the Glory of God in the Old Testament. Turning to the Internet, the Wikipedia entry for “Shekinah” begins as follows:

“Hebrew [Shekinah] is the English spelling of a grammatically feminine Hebrew ancient blessing. The original word means the dwelling or settling, and denotes the dwelling or settling of the divine presence of God, especially in the temple in Jerusalem.” An accompanying figure shows the Shekinah, or the Glory of God, indwelling the temple as described in 1 Kings 8.”

Noting the female gender of this indwelling Shekinah, we find here by comparing the indwelling presence of the Glory in Solomon’s temple with the description in Ephesians 2 of the Holy Spirit indwelling the human temple that Scripture itself, by furnishing this direct comparison, supports an interpretation of the Holy Spirit as a female Entity in the face of conventional Christian thought, as driven by the use in Scripture of the male pronoun in reference to the Holy Spirit.

This feminine gender attribute in Exodus 40 and 1 Kings 8 may have been simply lost in the translation from Hebrew (Aramaic) to English, which could have been a result of the lack of gender precision in the English language. (Actually, the first transference from feminine to masculine occurred in the Latin, for which the Holy Spirit was definitely presented as male.) But there is an associated gender misrepresentation in Isaiah 51:9, 10 that appears to be more deliberate. What the translators did in that passage was to substitute the grammatically incorrect ‘it’ for the gender-correct ‘she’ in reference to Shekinah. In their desire to maintain a fully masculine Godhead, they neutered the female. In the process, they inadvertently managed also to castrate their masculine God. As just one example of this removal of gender, Isaiah 51:9 and 10 refers to a neuter Arm of the Lord rather than the original feminine gender.

Proverbs points to the femininity of the Holy Spirit

 

The Book of Proverbs beautifully and harmoniously supports a female functional designation for the Holy Spirit., as the subject of this book is uniformly feminine, and whose functionality closely parallels that of the Holy Spirit. Of particular interest in this regard are Proverbs 3 and 8, from which the following excerpts are taken:

“Happy is the man that findeth wisdom, and the man that getteth understanding. . .She is more precious than rubies: and all the things thou canst desire are not to be compared unto her. . .The Lord by wisdom hath founded the earth; by understanding hath he established the heavens. . .Doth not wisdom cry? And understanding put forth her voice? . . .The Lord possessed me in the beginning of his way, before his works of old. I was set up from everlasting, from the beginning, or ever the earth was. When there were no depths, I was brought forth; when there were no fountains abounding with water. Before the mountains were settled, before the hills was I brought forth: While as yet he had not made the earth, nor the fields, nor the highest part of the dust of the world. When he prepared the heavens, I was there: when he set a compass upon the face of the depth: When he established the clouds above: when he strengthened the fountains of the deep: When he gave the sea his decree, that the waters should not pass his commandment: when he appointed the foundations of the earth: Then I was by him, as one brought up with him: and I was daily his delight, rejoicing always before him; Rejoicing in the habitable part of his earth; and my delights were with the sons of men. Now therefore hearken unto me, O ye children: for blessed are they that keep my ways. Hear instruction, and be wise, and refuse it not. Blessed is the man that heareth me, watching daily at my gates, waiting at the posts of my doors. For whoso findeth me findeth life, and shall obtain favor of the Lord. But he that sinneth against me wrongeth his own soul: all they that hate me love death.”

Several items come to mind from the above review of these passages in Proverbs. The first is that the Persona is female throughout; an attempt to assign some of these passages to Jesus Christ, as many do, would constitute an unnatural force-fit, most obviously in the issue of gender, but also with respect to function and role. The second is directly related to function, wherein the passages suggest a connection between Wisdom and the Holy Spirit as furnishing the most likely Person to which a female function may be assigned; the third is that the Holy Spirit was active in creation itself, as summarized in Genesis 1:1-3:

“In the beginning God created the heaven and the earth. And the earth was without form, and void; and darkness was upon the face of the deep. And the Spirit of God moved upon the face of the waters. And God said, Let there be light: and there was light.”

 

The frequent Catholic attribution of Wisdom to Mary faces the equally grave difficulty of linking Mary with capabilities such as creation that are reserved for God alone.

 

In the context of Scripture’s general treatment of the Holy Spirit, the passage in Genesis quoted above more than suggests that the Father was assisted by or in union with the Holy Spirit in the act of creation, the result being, as Jesus Himself suggested in Revelation 3:14, a manifestation of the Son. I am not alone in this assertion regarding the active participation of the Holy Spirit in the creation event. As a matter of fact, I simply repeat the position of Benjamin B. Warfield, a noted Bible scholar who is well-respected among conservative theologians.

 

Any attempt at a rebuttal of this association must address Proverbs 3:19 in the context of Genesis 1:1-5, Proverbs 8:22-36, Job 26:13 and Psalm 104:30. The attempt to attribute Proverbs 8 to Jesus rather than the Holy Spirit must explain the out-of-context insertion into material descriptive of Wisdom, as well as the feminine description of Wisdom throughout the Book of Proverbs as opposed to the depiction of Jesus throughout Scripture as strongly masculine and the image of the Father. Furthermore, the attempt to link Wisdom with the Virgin Mary is unsustainable in the light of Mary’s full humanity and consequent absence in the creation epic, wherein according to Chapter 8 Wisdom was at the side of the Father during the process of creation.

Wisdom, as depicted in Proverbs, is strongly female and only female. The attempt at rebuttal must also avoid taking the Jungian notion of the human psyche, both male and female, as containing both masculine and feminine elements, and extrapolating it to his notion of the Trinity. There are logical difficulties in doing so, as described below.

Scripture rather exclusively associates the Father with the Divine Will, which, as an initiating role, also is exclusively masculine. Similarly, Jesus the Son is presented in Scripture as the Divine Representation which, as the perfect image in reality of the Father would also be predominantly masculine. The masculine predominance of Jesus is given further weight by Paul’s characterization in Ephesians 5 of Jesus as the Bridegroom of the (functionally feminine) Church. In Family of God I simply noted what to me was an obvious connecting function of the Holy Spirit between Father and Son: the Divine Means which, in union with the Divine Will, gave birth to the Divine Implementation in reality (Divine Representation). Obviously, this Divine Means, being so closely linked with the other two Members, is also Deity. Because the Divine Means performed a function that was responsive to the Will, an obviously female role, I attached a female gender to this Person. Scripture and Christian tradition both understand this third Member of the Trinity to be the Holy Spirit.

Another difficulty, and it is a big one, that I see in the notion of each Member of Godhead possessing elements of both genders is that such a state of affairs would promote self-adoration, a characteristic that I sincerely hope is lacking within the Godhead. Love and adoration require otherness. The alternative is narcissism.   I truly believe (and hope) that both Father and Holy Spirit are as selflessly noble as the Son demonstrated on the cross.

Indirect Scriptural support

 

 

The personhood of Wisdom in Proverbs

As for the interpretation of the association of femininity with the subject of Proverbs as being nothing more than a literary device, the same is no more consistent with the general tone of Scripture than Zanchius’ removal of passion from God.

Jesus Himself, in Luke 7:35, associates Wisdom with motherhood, an eminently personal attribute.

“But wisdom is justified of all her children.”

 

While that verse possibly could be interpreted as being merely a figure of speech, Jesus in Luke 11:49 and 50 more emphatically personifies Wisdom:

“Therefore also said the wisdom of God, I will send them prophets and apostles, and some of them they shall slay and persecute, that the blood of all the prophets, which was shed from the foundation of the world, may be required of this generation.”

In further support of my equation of Wisdom with the Holy Spirit, I cite Isaiah 11:1 and 2:

“And there shall come forth a rod out of the stem of Jesse, and a Branch shall grow out of his roots; And the Spirit of the Lord shall rest upon him, the spirit of wisdom and understanding, the spirit of counsel and might, the spirit of knowledge and of the fear of the Lord,. . .”

Another item that presents itself in a reading of Proverbs with an eye to the Personhood of Wisdom is the implied intimacy between mankind and Wisdom in the warning given in Proverbs 8:36: he that sins against Wisdom wrongs his own soul. Could this imply that our own purpose and function in the spiritual realm might actually parallel that of the Holy Spirit? There may well be a correlation between this caution and the one expressed by Jesus in Matthew 12:31 and 32:

“Wherefore I say unto you, All manner of sin and blasphemy shall be forgiven unto men: but the blasphemy against the Holy Ghost shall not be forgiven unto men. And whosoever speaketh a word against the Son of man, it shall be forgiven him: but whosoever speaketh against the Holy Ghost, it shall not be forgiven him, neither in this world, neither in the world to come.”

These are strong words, and they make a strong connection between Wisdom and the Holy Spirit. Perhaps theologians instinctively sense this correlation. Perhaps also not wishing to shoot themselves in the foot and instead of attempting to truly understand what is being said here, they duck away from presenting anything controversial regarding the Holy Spirit. Historically, that has certainly been the situation with numerous theological expositions regarding the Holy Spirit, all of which end up complicating an extremely simple understanding of the nature of the Trinity by claiming that ultimately man is unable to grasp it.

I must express my disappointment with all such expositors for allowing this unjustified fear to prevent them from furnishing a richer, more love-inducing understanding of their God to the Christian community. How can we possibly fulfill God’s greatest commandment to us to love Him with all our hearts if we cannot understand Him? How can we truly worship God if we turn our hearts away from His own Word? I assert with the Revised Westminster Confession that the three Persons of the Trinity have but one substance – that of the Father, shared among them, and three distinct Personalities, or roles. I identify those roles as Father, Mother, and Son, wherein the Three constitute one God in the context of Family, by virtue of the love intrinsic to that structure which, of course, is idealized in its application to God. This identification I make does not represent any cleverness on my part; rather, its very simplicity gives me cause to suspect that many followers of God would do well to actually follow God in love tempered by fear instead of fear tempered by love, and to follow God Himself instead of adhering so stubbornly to the traditions of man.

Moreover, I would suggest that in a functional sense an all-male Godhead represents a model that can be construed with little difficulty to support homosexuality, in opposition to God’s detestation of that practice, as may be found in Genesis 19, Leviticus 18 and Romans 1.

Something the Catholic Church did for the feminine which the Protestant Church did not was to include the Book of Wisdom within the body of canonical, and therefore considered to be inspired, Old Testament books. This beautifully-written book furnishes several interesting passages suggestive of the identity of Wisdom as the feminine Holy Spirit. Selected passages are presented below:

“And in your wisdom have established humankind . . .Give me Wisdom, the consort at your throne . . . Now with you is Wisdom, who knows your works and was present when you made the world; Who understands what is pleasing in your eyes and what is conformable with your commands. Send her forth from your holy heavens and from your glorious throne dispatch her that she may be with me and work with me, that I may know what is pleasing to you. For she knows and understands all things, and will guide me prudently in my affairs and safeguard me to her glory . . . Or who can know your counsel, unless you give Wisdom and send your holy spirit from on high?

– Wisdom 9:2, 4, 9-11, 17

 

A family-based Godhead in which the Holy Spirit is functionally female, united in love, naturally and intuitively resolves the apparent discrepancy between monotheism and a Trinitarian Godhead.

In Matthew 22:37, Jesus identifies the greatest commandment as the one Moses gave in Deuteronomy Chapter 6: Thou shalt love the Lord thy God, with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind. Being the greatest of commandments, it is not one to be trifled with to anyone who wishes to be obedient to God. But its fulfillment requires one to seek intimate knowledge of the entire Godhead, including the nature of the Holy Spirit and of the intra-Godhead union. It certainly demands that one satisfactorily resolve the enigma of oneness in a Trinitarian setting.

Assuredly, a union within the Godhead involving love of a non-romantic nature can be proposed. However, a rebuttal alternative should carry as much intuitive and love-inspiring force as a relationship in which a family setting is central. A rebuttal should also explain in functional terms why there is a proscription against the gay lifestyle as presented in Leviticus 18 and Romans 1. Furthermore, a rebuttal should also address the centrality of family in Scripture as well as in life in general.

Linkage of the Holy Spirit with an executive function

 

This executive nature of the Holy Spirit was proposed by respected theologian Benjamin Warfield as well as others. It is certainly suggested in Scripture. An executive office is responsive to higher orders, this being within the Godhead the initiative of the Father, or Divine Will. A responsive office, in turn, is a distinctly feminine one. This creative response is distinctly different than Jesus’ role as the Divine Representation, or Divine Implementation, which is, as a perfect Image of the Will, the result of creative response to the Will.

The possessive nature of Jeremiah 10:10-13

 

In Jeremiah 10:10-13, God describes His creative accomplishments in a possessive way:

“But the Lord is the true God; he is the living God, and an everlasting king; at his wrath the earth shall tremble, and the nations shall not be able to abide his indignation. Thus shall ye say unto them, The gods that have not made the heavens and the earth, even they shall perish from the earth, and from under these heavens. He hath made the earth by his power; he hath established the world by his wisdom, and hath stretched out the heavens by his discretion. When he uttereth his voice, there is a multitude of waters in the heavens, and he causeth the vapors to ascend from the ends of the earth; he maketh lightnings with rain, and bringeth forth the wind out of his treasures.”

 

Wisdom, certainly, and often also power, are routinely linked to the Holy Spirit. To the person who views the Holy Spirit as feminine and bound to the Father in a family relationship in which romance is a major factor, this passage brings out the possessive nature of romance. In that context, the Holy Spirit belongs to the Father, as does the Father to the Holy Spirit. The passage above fits harmoniously into that supposition.

If, on the other hand, one presupposes that the Father and the Holy Spirit are more loosely bound in an agape relationship appropriate to an all-male Godhead, this passage would not speak of a possessive relationship between the two, and the attribute of wisdom would more appropriately be one possessed by the Father Himself. Of course, that assignment would create the collateral difficulty of rendering the Holy Spirit far less understandable as to function and attributes.

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