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now your reaching, show some proof of this
SUPPORTING EVIDENCE THAT THE HOLY SPIRIT IS FEMININE
If any of you lack wisdom [Sophia], let him ask of God, that giveth
to all men liberally, and upbraideth not; and it shall be given him.
- James 1:5
If ye then, being evil, know how to give good gifts unto your
children: how much more shall your heavenly Father give the Holy
Spirit to them that ask him?
- Luke 11:13
Perhaps the first argument which can be offered in support of the
feminine gender of the Holy Spirit is Her association with "the
spirit of wisdom"(Exodus 28:3; Ephesians 1:17). In both the Old and New Testaments, Wisdom is often personified in the feminine gender:
"Say that Wisdom is thy sister" (Proverbs 7:4)
"Wisdom has built a house for herself, and set up seven pillars"
Proverbs chapters 8 and 9 are in fact an extended allegory of Wisdom depicted as a woman.
"Wisdom is known by her children" (Matthew 11:19; Luke 7:35)
"Therefore also said the Wisdom of God, I will also send them
prophets and apostles . . ." (Luke 11:49). In this text our Lord is
equating the "Wisdom of God" with the Holy Spirit who provided
Divine inspiration to those who wrote the Scriptures (2 Peter 1:21).
He refers to Wisdom in the feminine gender.
The Old Testament word for "wisdom" is chokmah which has the
The New Testament word - in the Greek - is sophia - also feminine.
In fact "Sophia" is the name for a goddess of wisdom in the Greek
pantheon. It should be obvious that the Early Church, when reading
the Greek Septuagint - the translation of the Old Testament for the
Greek-speaking Jew - would have made the connection between that goddess and the Holy Spirit. Of course, a Gentile Christian would have known that the Holy Spirit was not a Greek goddess. Rather, he would have confessed that the Holy Spirit was the true Sophia in contrast to the pagan imitation.
The connection between the Holy Spirit and Sophia is more pronounced in the Apocrypha. The Apocrypha are writings from the
Intertestamental Period which was contained in the Septuagint but
are not included in our modern Bibles. (They are regarded as deutero-canonical by the Anglican Church).
For Sophia is a loving spirit. . . For the Spirit of the Lord
filleth the world.
- Wisdom of Solomon 1:5,7
For Sophia, which is the worker of all things, taught me: for in her
is an understanding spirit, holy, one only. . . For she is the
breath of the power of God, and a pure influence flowing from the
glory of the Almighty . . . And being but one, she can do all
things: and remaining in herself, she maketh all things new: and in
all ages entering into holy souls, she maketh them friends of God
and prophets. For God loveth none but him that dwelleth with Sophia.
- Wisdom chapter 7 (excerpts)
And thy counsel who hath known, except thou give Sophia, and send thy Holy Spirit from above?
In the writings of the Early Church, Wisdom (Sophia) is preserved as feminine (e.g. the Shepherd of Hermes)
Jesus associates the "spirit of truth" with the Holy Spirit (John
16:13). Sophia and the Holy Spirit share identical roles (1
Corinthians 2:7-11; Romans 5:5; 1 John 5:6-7 KJV). Were it not for
the masculine bias of later theologians, the Church would likely
have acknowledged the allegorical associations in the Old Testament as literal theophanies of the Holy Spirit.
The second argument which can be offered in support for the feminine gender of the Holy Spirit is found in the very names ascribed to God and the Holy Spirit. The name for God in the Hebrew language is "Elohim". Most scholars acknowledge that this word has a plural ending, which some use to suggest an Old Testament anticipation of the Trinity. What most scholars either do not know or care not to inform their constituents is that "Elohim" is not the plural of "El" the masculine form of the name. It is plural of the feminine, "Elowah". Strictly speaking, we can translate the Old Testament name for God as "goddesses".
Such a fact is naturally shocking to traditionalists who are largely
ignorant of the origins of their faith. We do not favor, however, a
translation of the name for God into the feminine because masculine pronouns are used in association with "Elohim". But we do argue that the use of the feminine ending by Divine Revelation ought to settle unequivocally that God's being encompasses both the masculine and feminine genders. Indeed, when describing man as made in God's image, the Scriptures say,
So God created man in his own image, in the image of God created he him; male and female created he them.
- Genesis 1:27
Thus indicating that both genders exist in the Godhead.
That the Holy Spirit is the designated representation of the
feminine principle is further supported by the Hebrew word
for "spirit". I quote now Jerome, the author of the Latin Vulgate:
In the Gospel of the Hebrews that the Nazarenes read it says, "Just
now my mother, the Holy Spirit, took me." Now no one should be
offended by this, because "spirit" in Hebrew is feminine, while in
our language [Latin] it is masculine and in Greek it is neuter. In
divinity, however, there is no gender.
- Jerome's Commentary on Isaiah 11
This explanation contains an astonishing admission. First, it tells
us that there was a tradition among a sect of Early Christians which believed that the Holy Spirit was our Lord's spiritual mother.
Second, Jerome - a more orthodox figure cannot be imagined - admits that the Hebrew word for "spirit" (ruach) is feminine, meaning that for the 1st Century Christians - who were largely operating in the Aramaic world (Paul's churches were tiny in comparison) - the Holy Spirit was a feminine figure. It was lost in the translation from the Hebrew into the Greek, and then it was changed to a masculine gender when it was translated from the Greek into the Latin.
Finally, Jerome's theological bias leads him to believe the
distinction of gender is unimportant. He believes there is no gender in God, therefore, it does not matter whether God is referred to as a "he" or a "she" or an "it", presumably. With many centuries of misogynist behavior by Christian leaders behind us, I think it does matter. We are not allowed to change one "jot or tittle" of the Law, and if God is represented as a being encompassing both the masculine and feminine genders, then we are foolish to hide that fact in our translations of the Sacred Text.
The third argument which can be offered is the example of early
Christian leaders in how they handled this doctrine. In his Homily
on Jeremiah 15, the learned Origen argued the case that the Holy
Spirit was Christ's mother. In a more practical application,
Methodius - also a leader with an impeccably orthodox reputation -
states directly that the family is meant to reflect analogously the
[T]he innocent and unbegotten Adam being the type and resemblance of God the Father Almighty, who is uncaused, and the cause of all; his begotten son [Seth] shadowing forth the image of the begotten Son and Word of God; whilst Eve, that proceedeth forth from Adam, signifies the person and procession of the Holy Spirit.
- Ante-Nicene Fathers, vol. 6, p. 402
The Didascalia, a 3rd Century clergy manual, commanded the churches that, "the deaconess should be honored by you as the Holy Spirit is honored". Thus, officially confirming that the role of the Holy Spirit is of a feminine nature.
It should be emphasized that we are not saying that the Holy Spirit
is a woman. Neither is God the Father a man. We are made in God's image. God is not made in our image. We must maintain a theistic perspective, rather than a humanistic one. The Holy Spirit is not married to the Father, nor is She His wife in any human sense of the word. Rather, marriage is a creaturely reflection of the glorious unity which exists within the Trinity. As long as we remain loyal to the Ecumenical Creeds, we will not go astray with this doctrine.
In conclusion, we affirm that it is not impious, nor does it in any
way diminish the deity of the 3rd Person, to address the Holy Spirit
as a "She" rather than as a "He". While we do not favor the call for
a gender neutral Bible, we do believe that a new translation of the
Scriptures is in order - under the supervision of the Desposyni -
which will correct the Latin biases which have been carried over
from the Vulgate.
Supporting evidence that the Holy Spirit is Femininehttp://www.grailchurch.org/sophia.htm
Constantine and Religious Unity Within the Empire
When Constantine became the undesputed ruler of the entire empire in 324 CE, his immediate goal was to politically unify the empire. His intended means was to use Christianity as the institution through which ideological unity would be achieved. However, Christianity was, itself, divided in its theology. The primary dispute was between leaders of the Eastern and Western church, Arius, a deacon of the church in Nicomedia, versus Alexander, bishop of Alexandria. Constantine urged Arius and Alexander to find unity in their common ground rather than to continue a public dispute based on their differences, but his urging was to no avail and the religious controversy continued. Constantine then decided to have this controversy resolved once and for all by convoking a general council of the church at Nicea (in what is now called Turkey) in 325 CE. Of an estimated 1800 bishops throughout the empire, about 318 attended the council. Their mandate from Constantine was to achieve a consensus about the Christian doctrine of the Father and the Son. Constantine himself arrived on the fourth or fifth of July and greeted the assembly, urging them to find unity and eliminate the discords that existed among them. Their problem was to determine how to reconcile the divinity of the Son with the belief in one God.
The debates at Nicea were dominated by three factions: the Arians, the Athanasians (or Alexandrians), and the moderate Arians. Although it was the last of these three who constituted the majority at Nicea, the debate would end with a creed most favorable to the views of Athanasius.
In the end, the views of Athanasius carried the day, and the creed that was accepted by all but the hard-core supporters of Arius became the cornerstone of the orthodox Christian doctrine of the Trinity. The Nicene Creed, as it is called, reads as follows:
We believe in one God,
the Father Almighty,
maker of all things, visible and invisible,
and in one Lord, Jesus Christ,
the Son of God,
the only-begotten of the Father,
that is, of one substance [ousia] of the Father,
God from God,
light from light,
true God from true God,
begotten not made,
of one substance [homoousion] with the Father,
through whom all things were made,
those things that are in heaven and
those things that are on earth,
who for us men and for our salvation
came down and was made man,
rose again on the third day,
ascended into the heavens
and will come to judge the living and the dead.
And we believe in the Holy Spirit.
Thus, by supporting Athanasius, Christianity would assert it's fundamental monotheism: God was of one essence, while the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, were simply three different expressions or manifestations, three hypostases, of the one, unfathonable God. These three expressions of God--the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit--are the only manifestations of God that can be experienced and comprehended by finite humans. The Father is the expression of God's transcendence and glory, the Son of God's creative Word, his logos, and the Holy Spirit as God's immanence, His presence as experienced by human beings. But God's ousia, His "essence", is unknowable and ineffible to the human mind. As there is but one fire with three manifestations--light, form, and heat--there is but one God who is known to humans in three ways.
The Triumph of the Nicene Creed
Constantine had hoped that the formulation of the Nicene Creed would unify the church, which in turn would unify the people of the empire, but things were not that simple. The writing of the creed did not put an end to the controversy itself. The divisions between the eastern and western churches continued for another sixty-seven years, before the Athanasian view was finally dominant. In fact, there were periods in which the Arian view seemed as if it might once again become the established theology. It was not until 392 CE that Arianism was finally put to rest. Until that time it was quite uncertain which view would actually become the established orthodoxy. Generally, the western churches continued to favor the Nicene Creed, while the eastern churches tended towards one degree or another of Arianism. At various times, one side or the other had more influence than did the other within the empire as a whole. For instance, in 355 CE Constantius, who favored the eastern view, called a council of 300 bishops in Milan and imposed his views under threat of exile. All but three of the bishops denounced Athanasius. For a while, it appeared that the Arian doctrine would be the established view, but the Arians themselves were divided among the strict Arians who declared the Father and Son to be unlike in substance and the semi-Arians who were satisfied with merely proclaiming the two to be of similar substance, a statement that was more conciliatory toward the Athanasians. This division prevented the formulation of a unified Arian declaration to supercede that of Nicea. After the death of Constantius in 361 CE, the exiled Athanasian bishops were permitted to return to the empire and the old controversy rekindled itself. In 364 CE, Valentinian I, who supported the Athanasian cause, became emperor of the West and the Arians there began to be persecuted. And after Theodosius became emperor of the East, he convened a council in constantinople, that under his direction gave its support to the Nicene Creed. In January of 381 CE, Theodosius decreed that only those who affirmed the Nicean Creed could possess church buildings or hold assemblies. In 392, Theodosius became the sole emperor and the Athanasian doctrine finally achieved universal support as the official view throughout the empire.
The Context of the Arian Controversy
Constantine's purpose in calling the original general counsel of Christian bishops was to achieve a unity of purpose within the religious institution of the empire, thereby strengthening the unity of the empire itself. This would have been the case regardless of the specific issues that happened to divide the church. But the debate between Arius and Athanasius which was the lynchpin of the division within the views of different Christians must be understood as the outgrowth of a change a new religious cosmology that had developed during the Common Era. Though a Nicea might still have been convened, the Arian controversy would never have arisen within the cosmology of the ancient Semites. In that cosmology, there was no grand gulf between the gods and their human servants. between the divine realm and the earthly creation. The gods of ancient Mesopotamia did not create "existence" itself. They merely formed order within a preexisting chaos. In modern terms, they did not "create" the world, they merely "fashioned" it from matter that was as old as the gods themselves.
The culture of Constantine's empire had developed a different way of thinking about the origins of the world. And it was in the context of this new cosmology that the Arian-Athanasian conflict arose and made sense. This new way of thinking about the relationship between God and the world was the concept of "creation ex nihilo"--the idea that God alone was self-existent and that He had brought the world into existence from nothingness. This view of creation emphasized the gulf between God on the one hand and "creation" on the other. Unlike God, whose existence was contingent on nothing but Himself, all that He had created existed only by virtue of God's will. The world and all in it had only "contingent existence". Creation was, in other words, a fragile thing, dependant solely on God for its very existence. It was in this context, that the controversy between Arius and Athanasius was so compelling of the loyalties of different Christians. What was really at issue in the question of whether Jesus was "of one substance" with the Father from the beginning was that final phrase "from the beginning". Both Arians and Athanasians agreed that once the Son was "begotten", once He existed, he was "full God" or "perfect God". The crux of the controversy was really when this had occurred--or more precisely, whether the Son was God from eternity or a created, and therefore contingent, being. Such a controversy would have been meaningless in the ancient Middle East, where both the gods and the stuff of creation were equally eternal. So we must ask from whence this doctrine of creation ex nihilo arose so that it could come to frame the debate that so divided Christian in the day of Constantine.
Although the doctrine that God created the world from nothing was not expressed in either the Yahwist, Elohist, or Priestly views expressed in the book of Genesis, it was taken for granted as true by both the Arians and the Athanasians. Yet it was a relatively recent innovation, one that arose between the first and fourth centuries of the Common Era. What are its roots? Karen Armstrong points out concerning this doctrine that "It was alien to Greek thought and had not been taught by such theologicans as Clement and Origen, who had held to the Platonic scheme of emanation" (1994:108). To answer the question about the origin of this new doctrine, we must examine the influence of Gnosticism on Christianity.
To the Gnostics, God--or in their terminology, the Godhead, was the ultimate, Absolute that cannot be described or comprehended in human terms, like the "essence" or ousia of God in the later Trinitarian doctrine. This ultimate perfection that we can never know lies beneath all reality, including even God, the being that we worship and pray to. God is an emanation of the Godhead, but even He is beyond our comprehension and eludes our understanding. New emanations, called Aeons, proceeded from God in pairs, male and female, and each new level of emanations, were further from the totally incomprehensible Divine Source, each less perfect and different from our human realm, and so, eventually--after 30 or more sequential Aeons, the divine world was complete. This was followed by a fall from grace by one of he last of the Aeons--called Sophia, or Wisdom, by some Gnostics. Leaving the divine realm, she yearned to return to it but was unable to find her way. She or one of the other Aeons who fell from the grace of the divine realm was the Creator, the demiourgos, who made the world. But being less than perfect, the Creator's world too was imperfect. Another of the Aeons, the Logos, came to earth as Jesus to save mankind, to show people the way back to God. In the Gnostic view, the Godhead could not have been the Creator, because, being perfect, the Godhead was so removed from anything comprehensible to those of us in the created world to have had anything to do with it. Creation had to stem from something less inaccessible, less unyieldingly different from this imperfect, created world. That role could only be filled by one of the lower emanations of the totally "other" that is the Godhead. Indeed, the world was created by the demiourgos in a fit of peek, when it fell from grace out of a desire to be the senter of the divine world. Hence, its imperfection and the need for a Savior.
Despite its calling upon the notion of a continuum to bridge the gulf between the incomprehensible absolute of the Godhead and the imperfect created world, the Gnostic view saw the origin of the world from an entirely different perspective than had the ancient Sumerians and the Semitic peoples who followed them. For these earlier peoples, there had been no unbridgeable gulf between the realm of the divine and creation. The world was imperfect, but so were the gods. The gods had great power, but they could be petty. What they created differed from them only in degree not kind. The gods were immortal; humans were mortal. The gods had great power; the strength of humans was easily depleated. The gods "created" nothing, they merely used the chaotic matter that already existed and organized it, putting structure and order into that which already existed. Not so for the Gnostic vision of creation. To them, the gulf between the Godhead and creation was unbridgeable. At first, there was only the Godhead. Eventually, the world was brought into existence by the demiourgos, where it had not existed before. Creation was imperfect and efemeral because it was so separated from the perfection of the Godhead, and salvation could only come by being led back to the divine realm. The doctrine of creation ex nihilo arose from this Gnostic vision of a Godhead who was totally separate from the so-called "real" world of creation. Although Gnostic doctrines would be declared heretical by the established Christianity of Constantine's empire, this one legacy, the doctrine of creation ex nihilo, remained, and it transformed Christianity into something new, something that is now taken for granted, but mistakenly so, as having been the traditional understanding of creation--that God brought the world into existence from nothing by an act of Divine Will. And it was this revolutionary new way of thinking about the contrast between God and His creatures that became the backdrop against which the controversy of Nicea was played out, thereby setting the form that for the last millenium and a half has been held to be the "orthodox" Christian doctrine of the Trinity--a God who is of one divine and incomprehensible essence, of whom the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit are but different expressions. Within this Gnostic-inspired framework in which all things must be either of one substance with God, the only noncontingent reality, or a mere part of creation, all that which exists only by the will of God and not of itself, it was inevitable that the Son, to be viewed as "fully God" would have to be declared to be not part of "creation" but "of one substance" with the Father from the beginning. Arius' views to the contrary, popular as they were at one time, were doomed, by virtue of the Gnostic-based doctrine of creation ex nihilo to be declared heresies by those who had adopted this grand dichotomy of God versus His creation.
"Behind every great fortune lies a great crime."
Honore de Balzac
"Democrats work to help people who need help.
That other party, they work for people who don't need help.
That's all there is to it."
~Harry S. Truman