Biblical Theological Seminary

1985 Summer Institute: "Our Great God"

Robert C. Newman

 

DESCRIBING GOD IN GENDER TERMS

 

Introduction

 

            Feminist Movement

                        Emphasis on feminity of God vs traditional emphasis on masculinity of God

                        Some Samples from Women’s Bible (1895, 1898)

                        Some Samples from Inclusive Language Lectionary (1983‑4)

 

            Response

                        Often Christians respond to obviously unbiblical approaches by means of contradiction, taking opposite extreme

                        Want to respond here by seeing what Bible has to say

 

God as Masculine

            Pronoun "he": standard form for reference to God; used 100s of times

            Father

                 Term “father”: 2 Sam 7:14; 1 Chron 28:6; Ps 27:10; 68:5; 89:26; 103:13; Prov 3:12; Isa 9:6; 63:16; 64:8; Jer 3:4,19; 31:9; Mal 1:6; Matt 5:16,45,48; 6:1,4,6,8,9,14, 15,18,26,32; 7:11,21; 10:20,29,32,33; 11:25,26,27; 12:50; 13:43; 15:13; 16:17,27; 18:10,14,19,35; 20:23; 23:9; 24:36; 25:34; 26:39,42,53; 28:19; John 1:14,18; 3:35; 4:21,23; 5:17,18,19,20,21,22,23,26,30,36,37,45; 6:27,32,37, 44,45,46, 57,65; 8:16,18,19,27,28,29,38,39,41,42,44,49,54,56; 10:15,17,18,29, 30, 32,36, 37,38; 11:41; 12:26,27,28,49,50; 13:1,3; 14:6,7,8,9,10,11, 12,13,16, 20,21,23, 26,28,31; 15:1,8,9,15, 16,23,24,26; 16:3,10,15,16,17,23,25,26,27,28,32; 17:1,5, 11, 24,25; 18:11; 20:17,21; 3x in Acts; 4x in Rom; 8x in Cor; 4x in Gal; 8x in Eph; 3 x in Php; 6x in Col; 8x in Thess; 2x in Tim; 1x ea in Tit/Phm; 2x in Heb; 3x in Jas; 4x in Pet; 13x in 1 Jn; 4x in 2 Jn; 1x in Jd; 4x in Rev

                 Parabolic Use: Jer 35:1‑19; Ezk 16; Hos 1‑3; Mt 21:28‑32; Lk 15:11‑32

            Husband:  Isa 54:5ff; 64:4‑5; Jer 3:20; 31:32; Ezk 16l Hos 1‑3 (esp 1:2; 2:19‑20); 1 Cor 11:7; 2 Cor 11:2; Gal 4:27; Eph 5:23‑27,32; Rev 19:7‑9

            King: Ps 10:16; 22:28; 24:10; 29:10; 44:4; 47:2,7; 74:12; 95:3; 98:6; Isa 33:22; 43:15; 44:6; Jer 10:10; Dan 4:37; Mal 1:14; Mt 2:2; 5:35; 18:23; 21:5; 22:2,7,11,13; 25:34,40; 27:11,29, 37,42; Jn 1:49; 12:13,15; 18:33,37,39; 19:3,14,15,19,21; 1 Tim 1:17; 6:15; Rev 15:3; 17:14; 19:16

 

God as Feminine

            Pronoun "she," Queen & Wife not used

            Mother (Human)

                 Term: not used per se, but only in comparisons, below

                 Parabolic Use: Ps 27:10; 131:2; Isa 66:13

            Mother Hen: Mt 23:37

            Mother Eagle: Deut 32:11

                        cp refs. to wings: Ruth 2:12; Ps 17:8; 36:7; 57:1; 61:4; 63:7; 91:4

            Other Possible References

                        Lost coin (Lk 15:8‑10): woman represent God?

                        Leaven (Mt 13:33; Lk 13:20‑21): woman represent God?

 

Conclusions

            Clear predominance of masculine in reference to God

            Not merely result of patriarchal society, since many such had goddesses; cp Asherah. Astarte, Artemis, Athena, Juno

            Partly due to authority relation; only clear refs to God in feminine terms are those where God pictured as mother in authority over children; other pictures (wife/queen) would imply husband/king still higher

            Feminine forms prob saved to represent people of God collectively, as wife/queen to God/Christ, and as mother to individual believers; cp Ps 45:10ff; Isa 54; Hos 1‑3; Eph 5:23ff

            There may also be additional reasons we do not yet discern

            Not safe to restructure imagery of Bible to suit our own preferences; C.S. Lewis' distinction betw "teacher's metaphor" and "student's metaphor"; Biblical warnings about tampering: Deut 4:2; Prov 30:5‑6; Rev 22:18‑19