GOD, FACE TO FACE CHAPTER ONE (CONTINUED)

CHAPTER ONE (continued): How some eminent early Church Fathers set the stage for the removal of sexuality from God

As the story of Abraham unfolds from Genesis 12 through 25, the narrative stresses the importance of his natural wife Sarah to God’s promises to him. It is in Sarah that the covenant promises reside through Isaac and then Jacob. The poignant account of Sarah’s death in Hebron is given in Genesis 23, where Abraham came “to mourn for Sarah, and to weep for her.” Abraham honored her memory by purchasing a cave in Hebron for her burial. It is the resting place for all the patriarchs, including Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, and their three primary wives.

Virtually every Christian recognizes that the story of Abraham’s attempted sacrifice of Isaac in Genesis 22 represents a forecast of Jesus’ sacrifice on the cross for our salvation. This event in Abraham’s life immediately and quite strongly identifies Isaac as a precursor to Jesus. Isaac is mentioned again in Genesis 24, this time in the context of his betrothal to Rebekah, which turns out to be an elaborate affair. The imagery in this prolonged event speaks quite plainly of another betrothal, that of Jesus to His Church, as described by Paul in Ephesians 5:25-32:

“Husbands, love your wives, even as Christ also loved the church, and gave himself for it, that he might sanctify and cleanse it with the washing of water by the word; that he might present it to himself a glorious church, not having spot, or wrinkle, or any such thing; but that it should be holy and without blemish. So ought men to love their wives as their own bodies. He that loveth his wife loveth himself. For no man ever yet hated his own flesh, but noourisheth and cherisheth it, even as the Lord the church; for we are members of his body. Of his flesh, and of his bones.

 

          “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 passage so plainly states the spiritual role of the Church as the Wife of Christ that any negation of gender in the spiritual realm speaks only of the poverty of the skeptic’s understanding of God and Scripture, and of the blindness and deafness of his anti-gender presuppositions.

It has been argued in the past that Matthew 22:29 and Galatians 3:28 preclude the role of procreation in the heavenly realm:

“Jesus answered and said unto them, Ye do err, not knowing the scriptures, nor the power of God. For in the resurrection they neither marry, nor are given in marriage, but are like the angels of God in heaven.”

 

          “There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither bond nor free, there is neither male nor female; for ye are all one in Christ Jesus.”

The key phrase here is “power of God”. In other words, if you subscribe to the notion that the spiritual realm doesn’t involve reproduction, lift your eyes from the mundane, thoroughly shallow little details and look at the big picture. Paul even spells it out for you in 1 Corinthians 12:12-20:

“For as the body is one, and hath many members, and all the members of that one body, being many, are one body, so also is Christ. For by one Spirit were we all baptized into one body, whether we be bond or free; and have been all made to drink into one Spirit. For the body is not one member, but many. If the foot shall say, Because I am not the hand, I am not of the body; is it, therefore, not of the body? If the whole body were an eye, where were the hearing? If the whole were hearing, where were the smelling? But now hath God set the members, every one of them, in the body, as it hath pleased him. And if they were all one member, were were the body. But now are they many members, yet but one body.”

Paul couldn’t have said it plainer than that: we as individuals are a tiny element of the Church, not the whole. Our being spiritually genderless doesn’t make the Church genderless, just like my genderless toenail doesn’t make me genderless in the flesh. Yet there are many people in the mainstream Church, even some who consider themselves to be among the spiritual elite, who are so blind to Scripture’s account of the Church’s future spiritual role as to be unable to differentiate the individual from the whole.

Beyond the Book of Genesis, there are a multitude of Scriptural corroborations of the essential role of gender in the spiritual realm. Among these is one of my favorites, the Shekinah Glory who inhabited the temples of Moses in the wilderness, as described in Exodus 40:34-38 and I Kings 8:10 and 11:

“Then a cloud covered the tent of the congregation, and the glory of the Lord filled the tabernacle. And Moses was not able to enter into the tent of the congregation, because the cloud abode therein, 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.”

 

          “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.”

 

It is generally acknowledged by Christian experts in the matter that the Hebrew word Shekinah is equivalent to the phrase glory of the Lord. It is also generally acknowledged that the word Shekinah is feminine. Furthermore, this indwelling function of the Shekinah has a counterpart, the indwelling of Christians upon their acceptance of Jesus Christ as their Lord and Savior. According to Acts 2, this indwelling is the Holy Spirit, as promised by Jesus in John 14. The parallelism of the Shekinah with the indwelling Holy Spirit is vividly described by Paul 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.”

Another favorite indication of feminine gender in the spiritual realm, again of the Holy Spirit, is the passage of spiritual birth in 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.”

But there’s plenty more regarding spiritual gender in the Old Testament. How about the Book of Proverbs, particularly in Proverbs 3 and 8, where the feminine Wisdom is personified as a Helper at the side of the Father in the creation of the world? According to those who take issue with the association of gender with God, the personification of Wisdom typically is explained away as merely a literary device. This attribution is an arbitrary claim without Scriptural support that does nothing more than identify the claimant as biased against gender in the spiritual realm. In contrast to this lack of Scriptural support against the personification of Wisdom, the notion that Wisdom is indeed personified by the Holy Spirit enjoys support from the Book of Wisdom, which is included in the Catholic canon but was deleted from the Protestant canon in 1827 by the British and Foreign Bible Society.

I noted in Marching to a Worthy Drummer in support of the Personhood of Wisdom the following statements by Jesus in Luke 7:35 and 11:49, 50 that associate Wisdom with motherhood, which is an eminently personal attribute:

“But wisdom is justified of all her children.”

“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 addition, Proverbs 8:22-36 and 9:1-6 directly link the act of creation to Wisdom, whereas the act of creation is also linked to the Holy Spirit in Genesis 1:1-5, Job 26:13 and Psalm 104:30. This functional parallelism strongly suggests the equivalence of Wisdom to the Holy Spirit.

Then there’s the explicitly romantic Song of Solomon, which would be extraneous to the Bible if gender is missing from the spiritual realm.

This sampling of Scriptural support for a gendered heaven illuminates a face of God that is altogether more lovely, compassionate, firm in the intra-Godhead bond of family than the sterner, informationally-poor and remote face as understood by the mainstream Church.

But there is yet more: evidence that the Church was cleansed of sexuality through the tampering of Scripture

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.

On the other hand, it is not really necessary to assert that Scripture was altered to change the references to the Holy Spirit from “she” to “he” to justify a feminine function of the Holy Spirit. As I had noted in both Family of God and Marching to a Worthy Drummer, it is more a matter of recognizing the Holy Spirit as functionally feminine in the face of the possibility that She may share in the masculine substance of the Father. This is certainly the case with the Church, in that Scripture describes her as functionally feminine, being the Bride of Christ, while the aggregate of individuals that describe her are collectively described as masculine, as in the term “mankind”. This view of collective masculinity and functional femininity is supported in Genesis 5:2:

“Male and female created he them; and blessed them, and called their name Adam, in the day when they were created.”

This differentiation between substance and function, in fact, is suggested by the Nicene Creed, in which in the original version the Holy Spirit is referred to as follows:

 

“And I believe in the Holy Ghost, the Lord and Giver of Life, who proceeds from the Father, who with the Father and the Son together is worshiped and glorified, who spoke by the prophets.”

Around the sixth century A.D. the filioque (the words “and the son”) were inserted into the Nicene Creed after the phrase “who proceeds from the Father”. This insertion was finally approved by the pope in 1014, an act that contributed to an uproar among the faithful that led in 1054 to the Great Schism between the Eastern and Western branches of the Church. The insertion of the filioque into the creed suggests the loss of the Church’s initial understanding of the Holy Spirit’s role within the Godhead.

 

 

 

 

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