Aetherous

Gender and Nature of the Holy Spirit in the Christian Bible

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@ilumairen recently stated, in another thread, that the holy spirit used to be considered feminine.

I think this is a potentially rich subject to explore for those who have some interest in digging deeper into the Bible.

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This site contains many "early church fathers" and other early Christian sources, which thought that the holy spirit was feminine.

 

Note that just because these were early church fathers, doesn't mean they were more correct due to being closer to the source, or even that they necessarily agreed with one another. For instance, Origen, who is the first one quoted on that site, was later considered to be heretical.

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Here's a little exploration of deriving ideas about gender from the grammar used.

 

This site makes a case for the holy spirit being personified, rather than being called "it"...because it has to do with the "personal relationship with God" that Christians speak of.

 

Here's a Catholic priest addressing the question of the holy spirit's gender fairly well. Besides the authors of the New Testament using masculine terms to describe the holy spirit, there's also the fact that the spirit proceeds from the Son and Father...and does it make sense for a female to proceed from two males,?

 

This site explores the concept of the holy spirit proceeding from the Father and the Son further.

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Here's a description from the Bible of what it was like for the apostles to receive the holy spirit. Note that the "speaking in tongues" involved speaking actual languages, which were understood by others who spoke those languages, and wasn't incoherent babbling.

 

This page gives some scriptural ideas of what this "holy spirit" does and is all about.

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Posted (edited)

One clear reference to gender, is that of wisdom being personified as female in Proverbs (and here in Proverbs as well...note that what's described here is taking place even before Genesis 1:1. Note that in Genesis 1:2 speaks of the spirit of God, perhaps the same as the holy spirit...in which case, Proverbs may be speaking of this wisdom as being a separate thing from the holy spirit of God).

Christians later contested whether Jesus, the Son, was to be associated with wisdom or not. Note what John said about the beginning, that the Word, aka the Son, was there in the beginning too...and sounds quite similar to what wisdom was saying about itself in the beginning, in Proverbs.

Notions of the trinity always trip me up, personally...this stuff is super hard to understand, but at least for me, kind of fun to try.

Edited by Aetherous

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The Bible has been translated from various languages, Hebrew, Greek, Latin etc. Some things may get obscured in translation process. For example in Hebrew the word for Spirit is ruach which is feminine - Ruach Elohim, the Spirit of God. Spirit translated into Greek is pneuma, which is gender neutral.

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2 minutes ago, Aetherous said:

One clear reference to gender, is that of wisdom being personified as female in Proverbs (and here in Proverbs as well...note that what's described here is taking place even before Genesis 1:1. Note that in Genesis 1:2 speaks of the spirit of God, perhaps the same as the holy spirit).

Christians later contested whether Jesus, the Son, was to be associated with wisdom or not. Note what John said about the beginning, that the Word, aka the Son, was there in the beginning too...and sounds quite similar to what wisdom was saying about itself in the beginning, in Proverbs.

 

Wisdom = Sophia

 

Word = Logos 

 

Both were present.  

 

And yes, much was contested and debated over the years..

 

Thank you for starting this thread. 

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4 minutes ago, rex said:

Some things may get obscured in translation process. For example in Hebrew the word for Spirit is ruach which is feminine - Ruach Elohim, the Spirit of God. Spirit translated into Greek is pneuma, which is gender neutral.

 

I think this is the primary argument for why the holy spirit would be considered feminine...because of ruach being a feminine word in Hebrew. A side argument could be for the extra-Biblical word, shekinah, being feminine, and Judaism as a whole having this kind of concept (of God's presence being female) as a foundation for Christianity.

 

But what if in the case of ruach, it was never actually meant to indicate femininity? Similar to what this article described, which I'll quote briefly here,
 

Quote

For example, in French the word livre, meaning “book,” is of the masculine gender and is referred to by a pronoun equivalent to the English “he” or “him.” And in Spanish, mesa, or “table,” is in the feminine. Clearly, although these nouns have gender, their gender does not refer to actually being male or female. In the English language, in contrast, most nouns that do not refer to objects that are male or female are referred to in the neuter sense, with the pronoun “it.”

We might note that in the Hebrew language, in which the Old Testament was written, the word translated “spirit,” ruach, is referred to with feminine pronouns. But the Holy Spirit clearly is not female or a woman.


What if the authors of the New Testament knew this, and therefore intentionally didn't use any feminine words in Greek when writing about the holy spirit, but actually sided toward masculine words to describe it (or him)? As opposed to the idea that they made a mistranslation.

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There's a movie called The Shack made a couple years ago that I was fortunate enough to have been roped into seeing by a friend. I think it had kind of bombed with the critics; overly scriptural people thought it was too new agey, and new agey people thought it was too scriptural! The name is not very catchy to boot, and honestly some people just couldn't even get past what happens at the beginning. But let me tell you.. i LOVE it, for a few reasons that i don't want to spoiler, but if you like this thread, and you like movies, totally worth checking out. 💛

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1 minute ago, Aetherous said:

 

I think this is the primary argument for why the holy spirit would be considered feminine...because of ruach being a feminine word in Hebrew. A side argument could be for the extra-Biblical word, shekinah, being feminine, and Judaism as a whole having this kind of concept (of God's presence being female) as a foundation for Christianity.

 

But what if in the case of ruach, it was never actually meant to indicate femininity? Similar to what this article described, which I'll quote briefly here,
 


What if the authors of the New Testament knew this, and therefore intentionally didn't use any feminine words in Greek when writing about the holy spirit, but actually sided toward masculine words to describe it (or him)? As opposed to the idea that they made a mistranslation.

 

I don't lean towards the idea of mistranslation, and tend to believe that there was intent. 

 

It's been many years since I looked into this subject matter, and what remains of my understanding is in rather large strokes. There is something in the writings of Paul regarding women's place, and women being allowed to speak at Christian assemblies... 

 

And I tend to believe that the translators aligned what they were translating with their own beliefs... 

 

It would be rather difficult to set forth certain ideas regarding man's place as head of the family (just as God was head of the church), if there was a feminine aspect of God. 

 

And as I said, it's been a very long time... 

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The notion of gendered words is foreign to the speaker of English, but the entire concept of gendered things is not. A good example would be vehicles, in particular boats. It is understood that all boats are female. "She is a great ship", for example. One would never say "it is a great ship".

 

Relating this to the text of the Bible is an excellent insight. Thank you for starting this topic.

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And before I get overly frustrated with the potential endless arguments as to why the holy spirit is not feminine - even though there is no argument against a masculine god, I'm going to take a brief break. 

 

Thanks again for at least considering the topic.

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Posted (edited)
10 minutes ago, ilumairen said:

And before I get overly frustrated with the potential endless arguments as to why the holy spirit is not feminine - even though there is no argument against a masculine god, I'm going to take a brief break. 

 

I didn't want the thread to be about gender wars, so much as about exploring the potential truth about this subject...so I kept it out of the men's and women's subforums, and brought it up to general discussion for religious discussion. I'm open to learning about feminine aspects of Divinity, and hope that others end up making some scriptural arguments for that. The fact that wisdom personified was definitely female, and existed prior to the creation of heaven and earth, is very interesting in that regard.

Also: I almost responded to you in the other thread, with a small sampling of scripture that used "he" for the holy spirit. But I looked into it a little deeper, and realized how difficult this subject really is. I might lean toward one side for certain reasons, but it's definitely not cut and dry.

Edited by Aetherous
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18 minutes ago, ilumairen said:

even though there is no argument against a masculine god

 

To address this...some people say that God isn't a gender, because God isn't created like a human being, but is the Creator. This makes sense, but I don't think we can make the inference based on anything scripturally - there's nothing that really says "God has no gender" in the Bible as far as I'm aware.

An argument that God could be either gender or both is made by pointing to Genesis 1:27, where it says "male and female" are created in "the image of God". So God is both? Neither? Are people like two halves of a previous united whole? Maybe the elohim (spiritual beings in the heavenly realm) are either male or female, just like humans became? Also, Genesis is probably best considered to be metaphorical rather than like a history book...so it's hard to come to any definitive conclusion from it.

 

For Christians, there's the fact that Jesus calls God his "Father". For that reason, it'd be difficult to argue that God is a woman if you're a follower of his teachings.

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Well if God is the father, then if Holy Spirit is not female, then clearly God is gay, and Jesus is a test tube baby, so, yeah.

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I think it is important to understand the broader context of the "divine feminine" in the mystical christian view. Also, people tend to think in terms of the Holy Trinity, but that concept does not really exist in the gospels, as it was made up later in the 200-300s AD to support a particular view regarding the divinity of Christ.  But the "universe" being and coming from feminine (like in my quote in the other thread) can be easily found Revelations 21...

 

And there came unto me one of the seven angels which had the seven vials full of the seven last plagues, and talked with me, saying, Come hither, I will shew thee the bride, the Lamb's wife.

10 And he carried me away in the spirit to a great and high mountain, and shewed me that great city, the holy Jerusalem, descending out of heaven from God,

11 Having the glory of God: and her light was like unto a stone most precious, even like a jasper stone, clear as crystal;

12 And had a wall great and high, and had twelve gates, and at the gates twelve angels, and names written thereon, which are the names of the twelve tribes of the children of Israel:

13 On the east three gates; on the north three gates; on the south three gates; and on the west three gates.

14 And the wall of the city had twelve foundations, and in them the names of the twelve apostles of the Lamb.

15 And he that talked with me had a golden reed to measure the city, and the gates thereof, and the wall thereof.

16 And the city lieth foursquare, and the length is as large as the breadth: and he measured the city with the reed, twelve thousand furlongs. The length and the breadth and the height of it are equal.

17 And he measured the wall thereof, an hundred and forty and four cubits, according to the measure of a man, that is, of the angel.

18 And the building of the wall of it was of jasper: and the city was pure gold, like unto clear glass.

19 And the foundations of the wall of the city were garnished with all manner of precious stones. The first foundation was jasper; the second, sapphire; the third, a chalcedony; the fourth, an emerald;

20 The fifth, sardonyx; the sixth, sardius; the seventh, chrysolyte; the eighth, beryl; the ninth, a topaz; the tenth, a chrysoprasus; the eleventh, a jacinth; the twelfth, an amethyst.

21 And the twelve gates were twelve pearls: every several gate was of one pearl: and the street of the city was pure gold, as it were transparent glass.

22 And I saw no temple therein: for the Lord God Almighty and the Lamb are the temple of it.

23 And the city had no need of the sun, neither of the moon, to shine in it: for the glory of God did lighten it, and the Lamb is the light thereof.

24 And the nations of them which are saved shall walk in the light of it: and the kings of the earth do bring their glory and honour into it.

25 And the gates of it shall not be shut at all by day: for there shall be no night there.

 

The "Bride" of the Lamb (Christ) is a new holy city that descends from God.  It is the new universe itself, where the Lamb(Christ) is the light of (or inside) this Holy City. Sort of like the bride is the "womb" of all creation and the father gives birth to the Lamb that lights it all up. 

 

Or you could say that Durga(from other thread quote) is the old Mom of creation, but a new one comes and replaces with the new world. A new (and "higher") one. :) 

 

 

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The book of Revelation is just so confusing for me, personally. The Lamb's wife or bride being a new Jerusalem coming down from heaven, etc. ...did I just take some LSD? :lol:

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In Hebrew tradition there is “shekinah” which some interpret as the same as Holy Spirit. Below is a quick definition I grabbed from Ye Olde Google:

 

Shekinah:

(in Jewish and Christian theology) the glory of the divine presence, conventionally represented as light or interpreted symbolically (in Kabbalism as a divine feminine aspect)

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1 hour ago, Aetherous said:

The book of Revelation is just so confusing for me, personally. The Lamb's wife or bride being a new Jerusalem coming down from heaven, etc. ...did I just take some LSD? :lol:

 

John was imprisoned, isolated and starved, which may be rather pertinent regarding the visions he shared and your comment regarding LSD.

 

And the vision seems to correlate with a certain (unorthadox) understanding of the fulfillment of Messianic Prophesy.

 

(Which may be slightly off topic, and still interesting.)

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People can hardly even translate a book correctly nowadays, without changing the original meaning, intention and definitions entirely. Not even 1 times.

 

You decide to rely on a 2 thousand year old book that has been translated how many times? Of which was a message that was ment for a people of a long long time ago. And not for you, at all, not even a little bit. 

 

You might aswell take a pair of dice, ask it stuff, and throw the answer. 

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