Supporting evidence that the Holy Spirit is Feminine"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.”
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 9:1)
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 feminine ending.
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 blessed Trinity:
[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 Feminine
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