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What the early church thought about God’s gender

All Saints Episcopal Church in Fort Lauderdale, Florida. Photo by Carolyn Fitzpatrick/Creative Commons

(The Conversation) — The Episcopal Church has decided to revise its 1979 prayer book, so that God is no longer referred to by masculine pronouns.

The prayer book, first published in 1549 and now in its fourth edition, is the symbol of unity for the Anglican Communion. The Anglican Communion is the third largest Christian communion founded in 1867. While there is no clear timeline for the changes, religious leaders at the denomination’s recent triennial conference in Austin have agreed to a demand to replace the masculine terms for God such as “He” and “King” and “Father.”

Indeed, early Christian writings and texts, all refer to God in feminine terms.

God of the Hebrew Bible

Hebrew Bible. Photo courtesy Creative Commons

As a scholar of Christian origins and gender theory, I’ve studied the early references to God.

In Genesis, for example, women and men are created in the “Imago Dei,” image of God, which suggests that God transcends socially constructed notions of gender. Furthermore, Deuteronomy, the fifth book of the Hebrew Bible written in the seventh century B.C., states that God gave birth to Israel.

In the oracles of the eighth century prophet Isaiah, God is described as a woman in labor and a mother comforting her children.

And the Book of Proverbs maintains that the feminine figure of Holy Wisdom, Sophia, assisted God during the creation of the world.

Indeed, The Church Fathers and Mothers understood Sophia to be the “Logos,” or Word of God. Additionally, Jewish rabbis equated the Torah, the law of God, with Sophia, which means that feminine wisdom was with God from the very beginning of time.

Perhaps one of the most remarkable things ever said about God in the Hebrew Bible occurs in Exodus 3 when Moses first encounters the deity and asks for its name. In verse 14, God responds, “I am who I am,” which is simply a mixture of “to be” verbs in Hebrew without any specific reference to gender. If anything, the book of Exodus is clear that God is simply “being,” which echoes later Christian doctrine that God is spirit.

In fact, the personal name of God, Yahweh, which is revealed to Moses in Exodus 3, is a remarkable combination of both female and male grammatical endings. The first part of God’s name in Hebrew, “Yah,” is feminine, and the last part, “weh,” is masculine. In light of Exodus 3, the feminist theologian Mary Daly asks, “Why must ‘God’ be a noun? Why not a verb – the most active and dynamic of all.”

God in the New Testament

New Testament. Image courtesy Creative Commons

In the New Testament, Jesus also presents himself in feminine language. In Matthew’s Gospel, Jesus stands over Jerusalem and weeps, saying, “Jerusalem, Jerusalem, you who kill the prophets and stone those sent to you, how often I have longed to gather your children together, as a hen gathers her chicks under her wings, and you were not willing.”

Furthermore, the author of Matthew equates Jesus with the feminine Sophia (wisdom), when he writes, “Yet wisdom is vindicated by her deeds.” In Matthew’s mind, it seems that Jesus is the feminine Wisdom of Proverbs, who was with God from the beginning of creation. In my opinion, I think it is very likely that Matthew is suggesting that there is a spark of the feminine in Jesus’ nature.

Additionally, in his letter to the Galatians, written around 54 or 55 A.D., Paul says that he will continue “in the pain of childbirth until Christ is formed in you.”

Clearly, feminine imagery was acceptable among the first followers of Jesus.

The church fathers

This trend continues with the writings of the Church fathers. In his book “Salvation to the Rich Man,” Clement, the bishop of Alexandria who lived around 150-215 A.D., states, “In his ineffable essence he is father; in his compassion to us he became mother. The father by loving becomes feminine.” It’s important to remember that Alexandria was one of the most important Christian cities in the second and third centuries along with Rome and Jerusalem. It was also the hub for Christian intellectual activity.

Additionally, in another book, “Christ the Educator,” he writes, “The Word [Christ] is everything to his little ones, both father and mother.” Augustine, the fourth-century bishop of Hippo in North Africa, uses the image of God as mother to demonstrate that God nurses and cares for the faithful. He writes, “He who has promised us heavenly food has nourished us on milk, having recourse to a mother’s tenderness.”

And, Gregory, the bishop of Nyssa, one of the early Greek church fathers who lived from 335-395 A.D., speaks of God’s unknowable essence – God’s transcendence – in feminine terms. He says,

“The divine power, though exalted far above our nature and inaccessible to all approach, like a tender mother who joins in the inarticulate utterances of her babe, gives to our human nature what it is capable of receiving.”

What is God’s gender?

Do images limit our religious experience? Photo courtesy Saint-Petersburg Theological Academy/Creative Commons

Modern followers of Jesus live in a world where images risk becoming socially, politically or morally inadequate. When this happens, as the feminist theologian Judith Plaskow notes, “Instead of pointing to and evoking the reality of God, [our images] block the possibility of religious experience.” In other words, limiting God to masculine pronouns and imagery limits the countless religious experiences of billions of Christians throughout the world.

The ConversationIt is probably best, then, for modern day Christians to heed the words and warning of bishop Augustine, who once said, “si comprehendis non est Deus.” If you have understood, then what you have understood is not God.

(David Wheeler-Reed is a visiting assistant professor at Albertus Magnus College)

This article was originally published on The Conversation. Read the original article.

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David Wheeler-Reed


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  • “Indeed, early Christian writings and texts, all refer to God in feminine terms.” is demonstrably hogwash.

    David Wheeler-Reed, who teaches at Albertus Magnus College, conflates descriptions of the attributes of the deity – “like a mother” – with the very clear addresses of God as the Father, the most obvious one being the Lord’s Prayer.

    One can hardly propose that the Son was confused about the deity.

    In the publish or perish world of academia this sort of thing provides grist for the mill of promotion, but it doesn’t add to the store of human knowledge.

  • If “the first part of God’s name [Yahweh] in Hebrew, ‘Yah,’ is feminine, and the last part, ‘weh,’ is masculine”, then the first part of “yah, mahn” in Jamaican-English, “‘yah,’ is feminine, and the last part, [‘mahn’] … is masculine”? I did not know that. So wot ’bout dem “[Spicy Beef Patty’s] gender”? Me all curious now “what the early [Rastafarians] thought about [Patty’s] gender”, yah, mahn. So, y’know, kinda like what “Judith Plaskow notes” in this Conversation article, did their “pointing to and evoking [Spicy Beef Patty’s femininity or masculinity] block the possibility of religious experience”?!?!?! OMG “”King’ and ‘Father'”, come back, please, with the Lord and Son of the He-God!

  • Sandinwindsor,

    And God, with his voice from heaven, which could be heard, called Jesus his “Son, the beloved,” after Jesus’ baptism and anointing with holy spirit, thereby becoming the Messiah. God did not call Jesus “God, my son” (Matthew 3:16, 17).

  • Can’t go with that Augustine quote on the end. It’s too convenient a cover for baloney. Religion does not have to be, and should not be, such a mystery that no one can understand it.

  • If you can’t know God, you cannot know religion. Not only that, the entire and only purpose of the sacrifice of Jesus is so people actually can know Him. I say Augustine was just spinning fog with that line and we ought to all know it.

  • Here it comes. The JWs angle. But not on Jehovah, the topic of The Conversation. Fran just wanna pick on the Son of Jehovah, who is not the focus, though, of the article. Maybe some other time, then, Francisco?

  • Love, admire, actually, your pithy 1-liners. Always learning something new from them. Like the one above. Here’s my takeaway from it (thanks, Agni):

    “Faith is not the progressive unearthing of God’s nature but a recognition that he/she is fundamentally unknowable. The signpost points not to growing certainty but towards increasing non-knowing. This is not as outrageous as it seems. An apophatic thread, a belief that the only way to conceive of God is through conceding that he is ineffable, runs throughout Christian history. Jan Van Ruysbroeck, the 14th century Augustinian and man of prayer, maintained that ‘God is immeasurable and incomprehensible, unattainable and unfathomable’.”

    Source: David Bryant, “God is unknowable – stop looking for him, and you will find faith: The more you claim to know God and attempt to delineate his nature, the less likely you are to have hit the bull’s eye”, The Guardian, January 8, 2013.

  • I know this way too deep for atheists, but what if it’s “gender”, both male and female, that points to “an all powerful god”, to whom there’s neither female nor male?

    And you go, Huh? What? Can you repeat that oxymoron to an oxymoron-free atheist?

  • Although “there is neither male nor female … in Christ Jesus”, “male and female God created them”!

    Mindboggling, innit.

    Source: Galatians 3:28 and Genesis 1:27.

  • This article seriously misrepresents the Hebrew and Greek parsing (grammatical characteristics of a word). When you change the gender of a Hebrew or Greek word, you seriously mistranslate the word, damaging its meaning and theology. The Old Testament is written in Classical Hebrew. The New Testament is written in Koine Greek. “Imago Dei” is Latin, not Hebrew. This is a serious violation of genre consistency. So, where did you learn your understanding of Hebrew grammar? Where did you learn your understanding of Latin grammar? What?! “God gave birth to Israel?!” You are focusing on the idiom of “birth,” not the parsing of “God.” Once again, you are seriously misrepresenting Hebrew parsing and syntax (how a particular word relates to, and is understood by other words in the context). Shame on you! The average reader has no idea of what is being explained in this article, and no way to correct heretical parsing and syntax violations. This includes violations of the text about Jesus. Now, you’re in deeply troubled waters.

    Grammar: noun, common, masculine plural absolute (Hebrew) (Genesis 1 “God”).

    אֱלֹהִים יהוה
    Grammar: noun, common, masculine plural absolute (Hebrew) (Genesis 2 “Lord God”).

    Because of serious grammatical errors of this nature, for those who choose to check these things out for themselves, I refer to “Biblia Hebraica Stuttgartensia” and “A Practical Grammar For Classical Hebrew” by J. Weingreen.

  • Yes, let’s continue to move toward blurring the definitions of gender. There is no male. There is no female. You can be both. You can self identify. You can let your child determine their own gender. And the greatest prize of them all – The Father should not be identified as such, because it is a slight to the strong woman.
    Jesus said at the last supper, “Our Father, who art in heaven…”.
    Jesus said on the cross, “Father, Father, why does thou forsake me?”
    Jesus says in Matthew, “All things have been delivered to Me by My Father, and no one knows the Son except the Father. Nor does anyone know the Father except the Son, and the one to whom the Son wills to reveal Him.”
    Again, in a (wo)man-centric world, even God has to be politically correct.

  • In the Bible, Jesus God Almighty, The Messiah, spoke about His Father, who sent Him. Understandable that His followers consider Him a man. In any language the metier is masculine.

  • “One can hardly propose that the Son was confused about the deity.”

    Theological reasoning at its finest.

    Personally I wouldn’t propose that Nessie was confused about Bigfoot either.

  • “If you can’t know God, you cannot know religion.”

    Religion demonstrably exists and is therefore knowable – unlike God.

  • Religion is a version of faith

    Faith is not knowledge.

    Asking questions might lead to knowledge and destroy faith.

    Run, Forrest, run.

  • If you can’t know religion without knowing God, does that make atheists and agnostics incompetent to talk about religion? I hope not.

  • You have a point about Deut. 32:18, as the phrase used is “God delivered,” not “God gave birth to.” Still, most Christian translations do use the phrase “God who gave you birth.” Also, while Imago Dei is Latin, that is taken from the Hebrew “b’tzelem Elohim,” as used in Gen. 1:27. And while it is “b’tzelem Elohim” that God creates “the man” in Gen. 1:27, the text immediately notes “male and female he created them.” And God in 1:26 says let us create “man” (without the definite article, i.e. humanity as a whole) in our “image” (b’tzalmo), so that “they” may rule over the earth.

  • Serendipitously, the reading from the Prophets this Sabbath in synagogues is from Isaiah and contains several references to God as mother. Dr. Benjamin Sommer of the Jewish Theological Seminary noted that the “intensely monotheistic” author, writing to the Jews exiled by Babylon, might have used this language to portray YHVH as having characteristics of both genders to contrast with Babylonian gods and goddesses.

  • David Wheeler-Reed goes to great lengths to make a case for something that’s not a big secret in the first place: both male and female images are used for God in Scripture. I doubt anyone takes issue with that.

    The question is what images and pronouns are we supposed to use in the here and now. In personal prayer and conversation, I don’t much care. If it serves a person’s spirituality to think of God in terms of a particular gender, that’s fine with me. All our analogies and images are limited in any event.

    But we do need a common language for common worship and I’m not a fan of rendering that language inoffensive to the point of meaninglessness, like someone whose face has been lifted so many times that it’s become devoid of character. Scripture was written in a particular cultural context. So were the liturgical expressions that employ it. That’s reality. It really serves no good purpose to ignore that fact.

  • A wonderful quote from the article: It is probably best, then, for modern day Christians to heed the words and warning of bishop Augustine, who once said, “si comprehendis non est Deus.” If you have understood, then what you have understood is not God.

    Love that.

    There is another article I read recently that explores this question: Who Is the Author of the Bible? with a subtitle: Did God literally reach down and guide the hands of those who transcribed Sacred Scripture? The article can be found here:

    For one, we need to be aware that the human agents of God’s inspiration are influenced by the limited cultural, social, and scientific mores of their sitz im leben (“situation in life”). This applies not only to the original collators and editors that populate the world behind the text, but also to ourselves and our interpretive communities that constitute the world in front of the text. The documents of the modern Church readily recognise these limitations, counseling that “due attention must be paid to the customary and characteristic styles of feeling, speaking and narrating which prevailed at the time of the sacred writer, and to the patterns men normally employed at that period in their everyday dealings with one another” (Dei Verbum. 3:12). But these documents have not always recognised the limitations of our own cultural, social and scientific presuppositions and assumptions.

  • Actually it was abba. That isn’t father as we speak; it’s more like dada. It’s the most intimate title a child has for a parent. There’s an ancient proverb that says something to the effect that the first word a child speaks is abba or emma. It would have been scandalous for Jesus to pray that, but it’s what he taught. So to my mind his intention wasn’t so much to teach us about gender as intimacy.

  • I agree with you if the argument is from the standpoint that God does not exist. In that scenario, your sentence makes perfect sense. But, we would imagine that Augustine was not arguing that point. As far as I know, he insisted that God exists——but—–is so unknowable that no one can know him (her or it). To me that position denies Jesus for those who ever wanted to embrace Christianity, where Jesus was a man who said things anyone could “know” from the writings.

  • I agree with you if the argument is from the standpoint that God does not exist. In that scenario, your sentences make perfect sense. But, we would imagine that Augustine was not arguing that point. As far as I know, he insisted that God exists——but—–is so unknowable that no one can know him (her or it). To me that position denies Jesus for those who ever wanted to embrace Christianity, where Jesus was a man who said things anyone could “know” from the writings.

  • No, ATF45, it’s you who better “heed the words and warning of bishop Augustine, who once said … If you have understood, then what you have understood is not [ATF45]. … [ATF45 does] need to be aware that [ATF45 is] influenced by the limited cultural, social, and scientific mores of [her] sitz im leben (‘situation in life’). This applies not only to [ATF45] that [does] populate the world behind the text, but also to [ATF45] that [does] constitute the world … ‘Due attention must be paid to the customary and characteristic styles of feeling, speaking and narrating which prevail[s] at the time of [ATF45], and to the patterns [ATF45] normally employed at that period in [his] everyday dealings with [her religious species]’ (Dei Verbum. 3:12). But [ATF45 herself has] not always recognised the limitations of [her] own cultural, social and scientific presuppositions and assumptions. Everything [ATF45] tries to tell us we have to interpret through a lens of ‘culture, social, and scientific mores.’ And every interpretation is filtered the same way. Remember that when you think you have understood [ATF45]. We do the best we can for the level of understanding we have at any point in time. Just don’t think we have discovered what is definitive and reached infallibility on anything that has to do with [ATF45].”

  • Wanna see classic examples of topically irrelevant information? What you said and this:

    “If metier is defined narrowly as ‘a trade,’ nineteenth century women workers would seem not to have had one, as they were considered contingent workers whose primary ascription was to home and family.”

    Source: Laura L. Frader and Sonya O. Rose, Gender and Class in Modern Europe, Cornell University Press, 2018.

  • “Shame on you, [‘David Wheeler-Reed … visiting assistant professor at Albertus Magnus College … scholar of Christian origins and gender theory … the early references to God’]!”

  • “There is nothing wrong with sex … At the most basic level, people learn from [my] novels that sex is good … Then they get the notion that sexual love is a sacrament of God’s love, that sexual love tells us something about God. … [My erotic writings are] less erotic than the Song of Songs in the scriptures”.
    – Andrew M. Greeley, American Roman Catholic celibate priest.

  • So what’s your point here, that since someone says some things that are erroneous, everything they say must be? If I were you, I certainly wouldn’t employ such a standard.

    For the record, I wasn’t a fan of Greeley’s novels, but he was a very good sociologist and I appreciated many of his insights. And, though context is lacking, I have no problem with that quote you produced. I understand where he’s coming from and I’m not in the least scandalized by it.

  • Irrelevant, hence backfiring on you atheists. Because according to Urban Dictionary:

    (1) “Run Forrest Run from the film Forrest Gump, [is] used by dumpy and lazy people to deride somebody seen running for any reason other than recreation or to make it to lunch specials at Hooter’s”.

    (2) “Run Forrest Run, a phrase from the movie ‘Forrest Gump’ that is sometimes annoyingly used to cheer on unsuspecting cross country runners.”

    (3) “Run Forrest Run [is] snide mockery used against anyone seen running, especially out of need, anger, fear, confusion, etc. The greater the desperation, the funnier it is.”

  • You really do love, and I do mean love, “interpret(ing) through a lens of ‘culture, social, and scientific mores.'”

    Who needs religion when you have anthropology?

  • “[Atheism] demonstrably exists and is therefore knowable – unlike [the answer to the question atheists have been asking]”:

    “Seriously, where do we come from? Well, if you are talking about Humans, we evolved from a species named Homo erectus. However, it is more often about the universe. There are various scenarios, including the Big Bang and the multiverse. However, scientists have not ‘proven’ anything yet. Even if we come up with an answer, it will likely just lead to new questions. So the only correct answer anyone can give right now is, ‘I don’t know’.”

    Source: Unrepentant Atheist, March 16, 2018, “How Do Atheists Cope with the Unknown?”.

  • “Personally I wouldn’t propose that Nessie was confused about Bigfoot”.

    “[Atheistic] reasoning at its finest”, THIS, innit.

  • We need both, Bob and even more. Anthropology informs theology. Theology inspires anthropology. Science also informs theology and anthropology makes great strides with advances in science. All this stuff works together. God made it that way – we just have to recognize the interdependence – and respect it.

  • Mark 14:36 – And he said, Abba-father, the Father [kai elegen Abba ho Pateer] … What’s your dilemma, man? sandinwindsor got that right with, “Jesus called Him, ‘Father'”.

  • Anthropology does not inform Catholic theology.

    Natural law and revelation inform Catholic theology.

  • “Natural law and revelation” constitute fairy tales – without grounding in reality. Catholic theology is completely invented by men, and based on his own bias, perceptions and prejudice.

  • No, Jesus referred to Him as the Father.
    I and the Father are one.” John 10:30 New International Version (NIV)
    “Abba, Father,” he said, “everything is possible for you. Take this cup from me. Yet not what I will, but what you will.” Mark 14:36

    Two different statements.

  • thanks. I missed a the reference you used and re-used it, but there are more also.
    Thanks again.

  • It is unclear why metaphors based on human culture and biology should be accredited with sacred status, but they are. And a great deal of hatred has been generated by and a great deal of blood has been spilled over the competing theological metaphors. Or perhaps more accurately, the competing theological metaphors have been the excuse for all the hatred and the spilled blood.

  • Weird, innit. If Arbustin’s god is presumably all that – i.e. “YHVH … Tetragrammaton … Jehovah … Yahweh” – why doesn’t he wanna talk about her, when asked, What’s all that, then? Just ask Senor “Wikipedia” about that, Arbustin says. He’d rather not be bothered with such religious inquiry. She’s not important in his life? Dunno. Just weird, is all.

  • HpO, you certainly see it differently than I do. Nevertheless, as I already stated, God’s name, “YHWH,” is parsed masculine, not feminine. Yet, the focus is on Jesus Christ, who historically rose from the dead. Scholars have a tendency to strongly disagree with each other, as you both know. Yet, Jesus Christ still changes individual’s lives by the power of his Holy Spirit, to those who submit to him in obedience. I suppose we will agree to disagree on some points. But not on Jesus’ salvation from sins, and discipleship!

  • Wait, what? “A great deal of hatred … and a great deal of blood has been spilled over the competing theological metaphors”?!

    Hey, Pus! Wake up! And snap out of it! “A theological metaphor is a figurative analogy. And a theological metaphor is a controlled analogy. What the metaphor means depends on how it functions in the author’s poem or argument. Sometimes that can be determined by context. Oftentimes a Bible writer is recycling a stock metaphor. He takes for granted the idiomatic force of that metaphor in established usage.”

    “A great deal of hatred … and a great deal of blood has been spilled over [such things]”?!

    Source: Triablogue, January 28, 2014, “Parsing theological metaphors”.

  • Like I said, Arbustin wasn’t in agreement with you. Clue in on his tell-tale phrasing, “Still, most Christian translations do …” He meant your “translation”. He was testing you. Next time don’t say stuff to him like, “Well done, Arbustin. You took it to the next level.”

    A friend or foe, you gotta first sense from the guy, toward born-from-above, fired-up and die-hard followers of THE Christ Jesus of the gospels, epistles and revelation.

    Hint, hint.

  • Thanks, HpO. I am relatively new to this site. Learning the ropes and trying to avoid getting tangled up in them! I appreciate your Jesus-centered focus.

  • For Catholics, there is an All Powerful Trinity: Father, Jesus, Holy Spirit. All through Church History, the gender of the Deity has been referred to as masculine. In the expression of the Doctrine Of the Incarnation, to paraphrase: “In the fullness of time, The Father sent The Son” not “The Mother sent The Daughter ” nor “It sent It.”

  • “natural” law cannot stand alone . natural law must be based on the best science or it has little chance of reflecting what nature would tell us about the possibilities and the limitations of being human, and of the best course of action for humans to live a positive and moral life .

  • An old bishop advised not to press the paps of scripture too hard lest they yield blood and not milk. There are many ways of parsing and analysing ancient texts. Let’s not get too hung up about these differing interpretations.

  • we would agree that jesus was born to woman, was fully human, and said things that anyone can “know” . but that is not the same as the bald statement that we can “know” god .

    all the bible, one has to conclude, only tells us the tiniest piece of what this god is . enough for us ? yes . but yet “knowing” only as through a glass darkly .

    else one either does not believe that god is infinite, or one believes that one’s human mind can “know” all knowledge of all things without any limit .

  • there are, Over, intelligent statements made by those who don’t believe and are not impress by arguments that a god exists .

    your derisive presentation is not one of them . should you ever want a honest and serious discussion of what others believe, approach them with an honest, open and respectful stance .

  • “C’est moi! C’est moi, I’m forced to admit. ‘Tis I, I humbly reply. … I’ve never lost in battle or game; I’m simply the best by far. When swords are crossed ’tis always the same: one blow and au revoir! C’est moi! C’est moi! So adm’rably fit! A French Prometheus unbound. And here I stand, with valour untold, exception’ly brave, amazingly bold, to serve at the Table Round! The soul of a knight should be a thing remarkable, his heart and his mind as pure as morning dew. With a will and a self-restraint that’s the envy of ev’ry saint. He could easily work a miracle or two. … C’est moi! C’est moi, I blush to disclose. I’m far too noble to lie. That man in whom these qualities bloom, c’est moi, c’est moi, ’tis I. I’ve never strayed from all I believe; I’m blessed with an iron will. … C’est moi! C’est moi!”

    Thank you for asking.

    Source: Lancelot in Camelot, “C’est Moi”, lyrics by Robert Goulet, 1960.

  • “Louis, [I mean, Wayne] I think this is the beginning of a beautiful friendship”.***

    ***Humphrey Bogart says to Claude Rains in the film Casablanca (1942). Hint, hint. Otherwise see the film to learn why HpO says that line to Wayne Amelung.

    PS: Orient yourself to born-again Christian posters on this thread, although the Holy Usual Suspects aren’t here at the moment. Namely, floydlee, Shawnie (she has a numerical suffix to that, I forget). The rest (75%!) are atheists, LGBT and progressives (Christian & Jewish). In the minority there are also Catholics, Hindus and Buddhists. As for me, a nobody-nothing, because of The Christ Jesus, I ain’t no left wing and no right wing. Nor, I must add, chicken wing.

  • Yet the Catechism specifically teaches that God is neither man nor woman. There are reasons we traditionally refer to God with male pronouns, but ultimately, anything we say about God can only ever be analogical.

    “In no way is God in man’s image. He is neither man nor woman. God is pure spirit in which there is no place for the difference between the sexes. But the respective ‘perfections’ of man and woman reflect something of the infinite perfection of God: those of a mother and those of a father and husband.”

  • in these comments it seems that many christians are also oxymoronic with the oxymoron that god has neither gender nor sex .

  • The answer’s all right here in 2 Samuel 3:14. Your assignment for Tuesday, then, is a 3000-word, double-spaced essay on your atheist/LGBT rationalization of the following answer to your question:

    “So David sent messengers to Ish-bosheth, Saul’s son, saying, ‘Give me my wife Michal, to whom I was betrothed for a hundred foreskins of the Philistines.'”

  • why don’t you try responding to what alwayspuzzled said rather than take off on your own tangent ?

  • You’re confused. You’re thinking of OxyGlow Pearl Bleach Cream. Which is not in the talking point here.

  • when you refer to someone else’s comments as weird, you must be looking in a mirror as you type .

  • For me, much of what the Bible says about God should be regarded as myth. I do not believe the Genesis creation story, for instance, to be a literal account of the origins of earth and what is on earth, or the story of Noah, or the story of Babel, or the story of Lot and Sodom, or 613 commandments to the Jews all being valid or the even lore about David as being descriptive of God. I do believe that the myths about God can be exchanged for a savior who explained clearly that loving the neighbors is the point. We do that be seeking to tell each other our best-known truth on any subject. The Bible does not really contain that and we have to start by admitting such to each other. We do NOT do that by claiming that the Bible is “enough” for humans to know and throwing everything else up in the air as mystery. Humans are quite capable of understanding whatever is 1) discovered, and 2) honestly explained.

  • religion is the sociology and anthropology of what people striving for the infinite or god do or speak of in their faith .

    all are welcomed to talk, critique and react to that i would think .

    the search, vision, ecstasy of that faith is less available for critiquing as the person relating it can’t most often . the story is told that thomas aquinas toward the end of his life stopped writing . asked why he said simply ‘the only things worth writing cannot be written’ .

    though of course if the visions start making people do crazy things, that can always be called out .

    but the language of faith, often expressed as myth, forever circles around the object sought, never reaching it, but in hope pointing towards it .

  • god as god is infinite and unknowable . any thing less would not be god .

    jesus as the one born was fully human . as such that human can be know as well as any other human . the union of that human known and that god unknown is the mystery .

    perhaps redundant but worth repeating : when i wrote “the bible…only tells us the tiniest piece of what this god is . enough for us ? yes” i meant literally that a theist can know of god little, but it is enough for a person’s faith . i do not, in any way, conflate god with the physical world . there are billions and billions of things (to reference a great science figure) to know about the universe in us, surrounding us on this planet, and beyond our home to the edges of time and space . and each day i want to know more and more of what we as humans can know of scientific discoveries .

    your first paragraph seems to me to be a quite good summary of the way a person needs to approach the bible .

  • You made me laugh so much just now. To the point of a bronchial asthmatic episode. Wheezing & everything. Ever had that?

  • I’m glad you apparently are not with the “every word of this Bible is true” segment of theists. I talk to many of them and assumed at first that you might be in that camp.

    The “mystery” is smaller if we assume Jesus came or was sent to bring religion down from hierarchy and dogma to something relatable and achievable in one’s own prayer closet. He arrived on the ministry scene out of nowhere displacing other assumptions of what the famed Messiah might be, preached that religion is to be real in the individual mind and heart or it doesn’t count, sacrificed himself, told us to ask, seek and knock through him, and told us that loving the neighbors (like the Good Samaritan did) is more important than 611 other things quoted among Jews then as “commandments”.

    The combination of the religious authorities (Jewish hierarchy) and civic authority (Romans at the time) saw to it this man was cruelly executed for his presumptiveness. Stories arose, perhaps true (perhaps not) of a virgin birth, miracles, resurrection, and speculation about an eventual return. To me, what is both a mystery and “good enough” is that his simplest and kindest of messages endures and over 2,000,000,000 people claim it on some level today. I believe the love the neighbors thing works if we try to live it. So, I could be considered (and AM considered) a bit of a heretic about “God” because I see Jesus as the “fix” for —–not the continuation of—-a lot of God malarkey which came before him in his land of the times. Needless to say, every religious Trumpee who talks to me about these things is against my kind of comments. The “every word of this Bible is true” crowd is a tougher and tougher bunch these days, and most of them will talk about God all day without mentioning Jesus much. I want to see people do the opposite. You?

  • Alternatively, for the answer to your question, you may wanna do a paper on Matthew 1:20. You know this one from memory. “That which has been conceived in her [Mary] is from the Holy Spirit [en autee genneethen ek pneumatos estin hagiou].” It’s up you. Dr. Bob Arnzen had just consulted with me, see, on the risk or side effect of you writing about 100 f*r*sk*ns from the Philippines I mean Philistines. So this option, at least, will be a bit less, how do you say, nightmarish? Alright, I don’t wanna interrupt your research any further. Go to it and carry on. See ya Wednesday. You’ve got an extra-day extension, lucky you.

  • still that does not mean that god as god has a gender or a sex . jesus speaking to the rest of us had to use the limited human language of the day .

    to express that one was of power, reach, effective influence, and embracing mercy and concern the linguistic gender one would use 2000 years ago was male . the word use means a lot in telling us of the society that jesus worked in . it tells us nothing of the “gender” of the noncorporeal god .

  • So… God the Father looks like the Ken doll between his legs? The “Holy Spirit” flitting and floating about down there?

  • Uh-uh-uh, no cheating, Good Sport.

    But alright, alright. Here’s the clue, this 1 on the house for the loyal customer: Your conception, 75 years ago, in your Mummy’s Tummy by your Dad’s “Ken doll[y] between his legs”, bore the Image of God the Father when “that which had been conceived in Mary, i.e. in Jesus’ Mummy’s Tummy, was by the Holy Spirit [en autee genneethen ek pneumatos estin hagiou] of God Himself.” NOT THE OTHER WAY AROUND, which was what you were trying to get at, trollingly. The p*n*s was mere shadow after all, not the Real Thing.

    And remember now, on Wednesday you’re to hand in a 3000-word, double-spaced essay on your now well-informed (this here cheating, notwithstanding) atheist/LGBT rationalization of Matthew 1:20’s gospel answer to your mocking question. ALL THE BEST.

  • Thanks, HpO, for the multiple road signs I am navigating. This is a fascinating, eclectic mix of religious and skeptical perspectives, yet quite disproportionate. Great introduction to “the gang!” So … Wayne (I mean, “Louis”), Bogie and Rains walk off together into the mist (I thought I saw Stephen King there!)! Well, a Goliath-sized challenge! LOL!! No biggie! Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid cliff scene … “Oooooohhhhhhhh … ,” Uuummmm … that was fun. Can we do it again?! Jesus vs a Legion of demons … what are the odds?!

  • of course it does’t mean that god is male .

    male is a material biological matter . god as god is not material and has as god no flesh to be male or female .

  • “And when you pray, do not heap up empty phrases as the Gentiles do, for they think that they will be heard for their many words. 8 Do not be like them, for your Father knows what you need before you ask him. 9 Pray then like this:Pray then like this:

    “Our Father in heaven,

    hallowed be your name.[a]

    10 Your kingdom come,

    your will be done,[b]

    on earth as it is in heaven.

    11 Give us this day our daily bread,[c]

    12 and forgive us our debts,

    as we also have forgiven our debtors.

    13 And lead us not into temptation,

    but deliver us from evil.[d]
    Matthew 6:7

  • what is your point, sand ? you referenced the lord’s prayer before and i answered you . here you give it again . repetition is not a discussion . what is your point ?

    do you only believe in a literal reading of the bible ? do you not allow for standard literary techniques of expression used by the biblical folks of allegory and metaphor ? poetry and allusion ?

    what is your point ? you seem to be sincere in your religious efforts, but quite puzzling just the same .

  • Uh-uh-uh, still no cheating, Good Sport – even though I hear you and I stand corrected. What you said – “Um, I’m not an atheist, and I’m not ‘LGBT’, either [but] I’m just a human” – has been duly taken into full consideration.

    Even so, here’s the clue, this 1 on the house for the loyal customer that’s “just a human”: Your conception, 75 years ago, as “just a human” in your Mummy’s Tummy by your Dad’s “Ken doll[y] between his legs”, bore the Image of God the Father when “that which had been conceived in Mary, i.e. in Jesus’ Mummy’s Tummy, was by the Holy Spirit [en autee genneethen ek pneumatos estin hagiou] of God Himself.” NOT THE OTHER WAY AROUND, which was what you were trying to get at, trollingly. The p*n*s was mere shadow after all, not the Real Thing.

    And remember now, on Wednesday you’re to hand in a 3000-word, double-spaced essay on your now well-informed (this here cheating, notwithstanding) rationalization of Matthew 1:20’s gospel answer to your mocking question. ALL THE BEST.

  • Errata: I stand corrected by moresteps, whose questioning me with, “HpO? what’s that?”, has now been satisfied.

  • Is that where you’ve set up your laptop and held your tablet and cellphone? So you can be “looking in a mirror as you type”? There’s a new meaning to “weird, innit.”

  • Oh and uh for an extra-curricular credit, you may wanna do up a thesis on I-dunno-really 🙂 based on:

    (1) New Republic, April 27, 2018, “Inside the Spectacular Implosion of Religion News Service”.

    (2) Columbia Journalism Review, April 27, 2018, “As EIC of Religion News Service is ousted, staff fears loss of editorial control”.

  • I would love to talk about it, with someone serious. Not someone who pretends to be an evangelical Christian and never heard the terms Jehovah or Yahweh before.

  • When realities like the brain are studied and understood, ideas like “heart,” as in “I love you with all my heart” change. Understandings of other realities don’t, as in the expression, “Jesus, Son of the Most High God” will never be understood or expressed as “Jesus, Daughter of the Most High Goddess.” The understanding of the Deity (God) is no longer only of a singularity, but of a Trinity of Persons.

  • Jesus, historically a male human being is God Almighty, Second Person of the Blessed Trinity. This is the Faith of The Roman Catholic Church. #370 seems to be discussing The Divine Nature rather than The Divine Persons of the Trinity. Human nature is neither male or female, but the reality of male and female persons is.

  • But then, how would Certain People be able to claim that they alone understand what the Bible says, and everyone else is wrong?

  • The Bible is open to many interpretations. When Jesus said “This is my body,” and “This is my blood,” was he speaking figuratively or literally?

    In Matthew 19:12 was Jesus describing the fact that some men had castrated themselves or was he advocating celibacy or even self-castration?

    1 Corinthians 14:34 says that women should keep silent in the churches. Is this just Paul’s opinion or is it a universal decree?

    The Bible allows slavery. It even says that it is right for slaves to obey their masters (Ephesians 6:5) Does this justify keeping slaves or is it just Paul’s opinion?

    Are the two creation stories in Genesis ancient – and contradictory – legends or is one – or the other, or both – the literal truth?

    Is the Song of Solomon a collection of love poetry or a description of the love that God has for Israel or the Church?

    Is the Book of Job an exploration of human suffering or a satirical attack on the notion that God cares for humans?

    Is the Book of Ruth a simple love story or is it a veiled attack on Deuteronomy 23:3 which states: “An Ammonite or Moabite shall not enter into the congregation of the Lord; even to their tenth generation shall they not enter into the congregation of the Lord for ever.”

    Is the Book of Judges just a rough history of barbaric times or is it a feminist protest at male cruelty, callousness and barbarity?

    The Bible is full of these conundrums. Don’t press it too hard or it will yield blood instead of milk.

  • Exactly my point— and yours. The Bible is open to many interpretations. Which one someone chooses is very much dependent on the kind of person that someone is. Putting it in terms of your metaphor, is that someone milk-fed, or is that someone bloody and bloody minded?

    A lot of people have yielded blood because of some people’s vision of the Bible. Gay people, black people, Native American people, Jewish people, Protestants and Catholics and muslims and everyone else.

    I just finished reading Hawthorne’s “Maypole at Merrymount.” Talk about a chilling vision of theocracy, nearly 200 years before The Handmaid’s Tale.

  • Certain people are chosen by God to disseminate certain interpretations. You see, you are not a believer, therefore you cannot see. Some people are content to just believe and make no attempt to interpret scripture. Some like Mglass has chosen to disseminate that there are two creation accounts that are contradictory. This confirms that he is not a believer.
    Now put on your thinking cap, if you are called and chosen, would you make this claim that God’s word is contradictory? No, you would search the scripture for the correct interpretation.

    Surely with all your years of Bible study, you must have some individual interpretation that you think that only you have the correct understanding of. Perhaps the time has come that you should reveal it to the world. Maybe the world is waiting for your interpretation.

  • Search the Bible for the correct interpretation? You are fallen, you see through a glass darkly. And Christians have been killing other Christians and everyone else, each with the “correct interpretation.”

    Here is my correct interpretation. YOU are not god, YOU don’t represent god. He has not made you privy to the relationship he has with any other person on the planet.

    If there were a god.

  • Nor are you god, nor the Supreme Court, nor the legislature.

    You actually have to convince other people you’re right.

    With your approach your target audience is restricted to JoeMyGod and people who would feel comfortable there.

  • Christ, himself born male in his ministry on earth, referred to both other Persons of the Trinity as ‘he.’ I’m going to defer to the expert in this matter.

  • Your “natural law” is simply BS, as is Catholic theology. Get over your silly religious delusions already.

  • if one is accosted on the street by an obnoxious guy who intrudes on a conversation, insists on his own point of view, insults the views of those addressed and then claims–because people have chosen ignore him due to his obnoxiousness–that he has won the argument he started, most bystanders would consider him at least a pest, if not crazy .

    a similar thing also occurs on the internet . myself i respect the opinions and positions of christopher hitchens (r.i.p), seth andrews (who’s podcast i listen to an a regular basis), bill nye for example . may not always agree, but they make me think and reconsider what i believe and why .

    challenges from trolls do not .

  • Mglass………………The Bible does not contain “conundrums” as you say. Ruth was an Israelite. If you allow your mind to be opened; you can find explanations for these so called “conundrums” in your mind.

    Read these —

    If you would like to talk in Private, I would welcome a conversation. My email address is hobsroy at

  • Ruth 1:4 says that Ruth came from the land of Moab. Ruth 1:16 says that Ruth joined herself to the people of Israel.

    Your first link tries to explain this away by saying that the Ammonites and Moabites had been exterminated. However, Ruth stated explicitly “16 But Ruth replied, “Don’t urge me to leave you or to turn back from you. Where you go I will go, and where you stay I will stay. Your people will be my people and your God my God. ”

    If she was already an Israelite, this declaration would make no sense. All it does it add genocide to the equation.

  • Speaking of Ruth, Comparet states — She could not have been of any race except Israel, for no others lived there.

    Indeed, it could not have been otherwise, because from the beginning Yahweh very strongly condemned the Moaabites and Ammonites. In Deuteronomy 23:3 Yahweh commanded, “An Ammonite or Moabite shall not enter into the congregation of Yahweh; even to their tenth generation shall they not enter into the congregation of Yahweh forever.” In the tenth generation there could be as little as one part in 1,056 of Moabite blood. Even still, a person with even one part in a thousand of Moabite blood could not enter into the congregation of Yahweh forever.

    Yahweh was always consistent in this as in other matters. In Zephaniah 2:9 we read, “Therefore, as I live, saith Yahweh the God of Israel, surely Moab shall be as Sodom and the children of Ammon as Gomorrah.” Jeremiah chapter 48, the whole chapter is a condemnation of the people of Moab. In prophesying the triumphant return of Yahshua Isaiah 25:10 tells us, “For in this mountain shall the hand of Yahweh rest, and Moab shall be trodden down under Him, even as straw is trodden down for the dunghill.” Certainly Yahweh would not take from a people, whom He condemns like Sodom, a woman to be an ancestor of Yahshua.

    Never let anyone tell you Yahshua was only a mongrel, with the blood of other races in His veins. Yahweh was so insistent that even the least peasant, among His people Israel, must keep the bloodline pure, under penalty of being cut off from His people for violation of this law. Yahshua said in Matthew 5:17, “Think not that I am come to destroy the law or the prophets: I came not to destroy, but to fulfill”.

    We have the clearest proof, both as God the Father and as God the Son; Yahweh was consistently true to His own commandments. Ruth was a pure Israelite, from the land of Moab, but not from the race of Moab.

    I will assume you consider yourself a Christian; but yet you believe in a book which contradicts itself. No wonder agnostics/atheists believe Christians to be a contradiction.

    God declared ‘no Moabite shall enter the Congregation’…………..and yet you call God a liar. Shame.

  • I commented on what is in the text. Sometimes the biblical text is contradictory. The New Testament gives Joseph, Mary’s husband, two fathers, Heli (Luke 3:23) and Jacob (Matthew 1:16). This is just part of two genealogies that are almost completely at variance. The Bible is not always consistent.

  • Roy, when I quoted the book of Ruth I quoted the Bible. It says in Ruth 1:16: ‘But Ruth replied, “Don’t urge me to leave you or to turn back from you. Where you go I will go, and where you stay I will stay. Your people will be my people and your God my God. ‘

    This declaration of faith only makes sense if she is joining the people of Israel.

    You say: “Never let anyone tell you Yahshua was only a mongrel, with the blood of other races in His veins.”

    However, Matthew’s gospel calls Jesus the son of David and Abraham (Matthew 1:1). It also lists four women in his ancestral line: Tamar (verse 3), Rahab (verse 5), Ruth (verse 5) and the woman who had been the wife of Uriah (verse 6).

    Calling people mongrels because they are of mixed parentage is offensive. The same insult was directed towards Jesus in John 8:48 when his enemies accused him of being a Samaritan (someone of mixed ancestry).

    The problem isn’t mixed ancestry. The problem is racism.

  • Scripture Interprets Scripture.

    Certain passages carry more or less weight than others based on the “clarity” of the passage.

    “No Moabite shall enter the Congregation of the Lord”. This is an authoritative passage. One that which all other passages should be understood in light of.

    You can’t read this ‘analysis’ and not agree —

    Email me………………..let’s have a private conversation.

    An excerpt — In Scripture there are often things which are ambiguous, and men are given two or more possibilities of interpretation. Men who judge the Word of God according to the Law of God show their love for Yahweh’s laws, ultimately display their love for Yahweh their God, and it is a credit to them. On the other hand, men who interpret the Word of God hypocritically, and imagine Yahweh Himself to be a nullifier of His Own laws, or to be a breaker of His Own laws, those men are hypocrites and they shall be judged accordingly.

  • I have followed your link and read it. Yes. Ruth was from the land of Moab and yes, the words “shall be” are interpolations in the translation. However, your explanation shows up a problem: the extermination of the Moabites. These days, extermination (or attempted extermination) is called Genocide. Here are a few of these genocides: The Armenian Genocide, the Jewish Holocaust, the Killing Fields of Cambodia, the Ruanda Genocide

    The link you provided gives an interesting analogy:

    “In the 17th and 18th centuries of our era, the English had taken their territory in America, drove out the natives and established their colonies. From that time forward, it could never be taken for granted that a reference to a Pennsylvanian or a New Yorker or a Virginian could possibly refer to a native savage even in places where the native savage place names were retained by the English. ”

    Note the reference to savages. One might well argue that the real savagery was that displayed by the English invaders, who drove out and killed the Native Americans. And of course the same point can be made about the European settlement of North and South America and Australia. As Australian Aborigines state: White Australia has a black history.

  • I never said they don’t deserve respect. Are you critical of the Chinese for desiring China remain “Chinese”?
    Are you of the belief that when the first European Settlers arrived on the North American Continent, that upon seeing the first TeePee…..those Settlers should have boarded their ships and sailed back to Europe? Is this what you would have done.
    You should read — “Scalp Dance” for a proper perspective of this topic.
    And then have some pride in your Ancestors. Pick up — “March of the Titans” by Arthur Kemp.
    Also — “Tracing our Ancestors” by Frederick Haberman. If you are White that is. I have a sneaky feeling you are not. Why you delight in the genocide of the White race.

  • Hang on, Roy, You just made two claims:
    1 God ordered genocide.
    2 That I worship God.
    Can you back up these two claims? If you can, please supply the evidence.

  • Calling people savages is not treating them with respect.

    I won’t comment on American history, apart from drawing your attentions to the Trail of Tears. However, I will draw your attention to something that happened in New Zealand.

    It was a Maori custom after a battle to give water to the wounded and to treat all wounded with compassion. Because of this and other actions, New Zealanders, both Maori and European, were able to reconcile their differences.

    It is easy to point to savagery and brutality, especially of others; it is more difficult to face up to our own failings.

  • Poor answer. You made two claims. When pressed, you admitted you didn’t know whether one assertion was right or wrong, and you didn’t even try to supply evidence on your other claim.

  • Follow that up with “Scalp Dance” by Thomas Goodrich.
    Only fiction of course, but I watched “Hostiles” last night. The opening scene is a scene in which repeated itself over and over on the Frontier. It is no wonder the Pioneers had to travel in large numbers across the plains. And it is no wonder “Forts” had to be built along the wagon trails. And these “forts” were walled with guards. Not for snakes and coyotes btw.

  • I’m waiting for you to answer whether or not you consider yourself a follower of the Christ. Then I will answer your other question. If you are not a Christian……………why should I bother with Scripture???

  • Poor response. You claimed that God ordered genocide. I asked you to provide the evidence. Your curiosity about my beliefs is irrelevant. Once again, I ask you to provide the evidence.

  • Thank you, Sunshine, for providing a citation! Here is Deuteronomy 20:16-17:

    “16 But of the cities of these people, which the Lord thy God doth give thee for an inheritance, thou shalt save alive nothing that breatheth:

    17 But thou shalt utterly destroy them; namely, the Hittites, and the Amorites, the Canaanites, and the Perizzites, the Hivites, and the Jebusites; as the Lord thy God hath commanded thee:

  • When a group is taking over other people’s land it’s understandable that they meet with resistance. That’s how these things happen.

  • Exactly! I don’t blame the Indians one bit for the massacres that they instituted on the Settlers/Pioneers. I have no sympathy for the Whitman family who thought they could rest living amongst the Reds. Karma for trying to ‘evangelize’ them. They bought the lie of Evolution!

  • “…..other people’s land………….”

    Not ‘other people’s land’. Empty vast ocean of unoccupied land. The Reds didn’t have “No Trespassing” signs on the beaches or in the Country.