Editor's Choice

"Holy Spirit was ruha, a feminine word derived from the Hebrew ruach"

She Changes Everything, Lucy Reid
"Rooted in the Hebrew Scriptures and flourishing in a patriarchal culture, Christianity developed its own negative attitudes towards women and the old religion of the Goddess. At times subtle, at other times brutal, the movement was away from partnership and towards hierarchy, from feminine images of the Divine to strictly masculine ones. Despite Jesus' radical inclusion of women as friends and disciples and his refusal to treat them as second-rate, sinfully sexual, or stupid, his followers quickly established as orthodox an all-male priesthood, a masculine Trinity, and a theologically expressed aversion to women...

And in Syria, where for four hundred years the word Holy Spirit was ruha, a feminine word derived from the Hebrew ruach, and where the Holy Spirit was described as Mother, complementing the parental imagery of Father and Son in the Trinity, the association of feminine language with heresy led authors to assign masculine gender to the word—grammatical nonsense but evidence of the theological desire to defeminize the Divine."

Lucy Reid, She Changes Everything
Continuum, 2005, pages 32-33

The unfolding God of Jung and Milton, James P. Driscoll
"Fortunately, contemporary feminist scholarship provides a way to resolve Jung's difficulties and simultaneously deepen his basic insights. The feminine Wisdom or Shekinah the Old Testament says was with God from the beginning, feminist scholars point out, functions like the Holy Spirit or Paraclete of the New Testament, shares its symbolism of the dove, and is specifically referred to as God's 'holy spirit from above' in Wisdom 9:17-18.

Neglecting the similarity of Wisdom to the Paraclete did not of course begin with Jung. It began with those early Christians who sought to give intellectual respectability to Hebraic-Christian myth by reformulating it in terms of Hellenistic philosophy. The actual denigration of Wisdom, however, commenced before Christianity with Philo-Judaeus and other Alexandrian thinkers who, bowing to the era's intellectual fashions, concluded that feminine attributes lessened God. God's dignity, these philosophers insisted, required him to be all male no less than all good and powerful.

Anxious to protect the masculinity of their God, the church fathers declined to meld the Judaic wisdom figure with its natural successor, the Paraclete, which would have made one member of the Godhead feminine."

James P. Driscoll, The unfolding God of Jung and Milton
University Press of Kentucky, 1992, p. 88

Note: If by"gender"is meant grammatical gender, the gender of"Holy Spirit"varies according to the language used. Thus the grammatical gender of the word"Spirit"is masculine in Latin (Spiritus) and in Latin-derived languages such as English (Spirit) or German (Geist). In the Semitic languages such as Hebrew (Ruah), Arabic (Ruh, Rooh, Ruh-ul-Qudus), Aramaic (Ruha, Ruho) and its descendant Syriac (Ruha), it is feminine. In Greek it is neuter (Pneuma). When grammatical gender in a particular language is confused with physical gender, the Holy Spirit is thought of, within that language, as male, female or neither.

Is the Holy Spirit female?

The subject here is the "New Covenant Church of God, B'rit Chadashah Assembly of Yahweh" in Sweden, and an article titled "The Deity of the Holy Spirit" which is actually on the quetion: Holy Spirit, he or she?

Veteran readers have already seen some related comments we made on this, with reflect to the objection that identifying Jesus as divine Wisdom is an error, because Wisdom is depicted as female. The irony now is that the NCC errs from the opposite direction. They note that Wisdom described in Proverbs 8 and in intertestamental works is female, but do not know (as we showed here) that every one of these passages about Wisdom were applied to Jesus. The Spirit itself in this time was yet to be bifurcated conceptually from the Word (see here) but it remains that the NCC ironically uses prooftexts the NT applies to Jesus, to argue that the Spirit must be female.

As a refresher, let's note that applying such gender language to any member of the Godhead is strictly no big deal. Gender for the ancients was a matter of role, not equipment; Wisdom played a "feminine" role (that of maintainer of the universal "household") and this has no bearing on the masculine incarnation of Jesus as Wisdom. Indeed, widows were allowed to assume "male" roles to survive and were considered as "male" in role by others. Obviously the Spirit just as readily engages "female" roles.

Mark Smith in The Origins of Biblical Monotheism adds another salient point: "Attribution of female roles to gods was by no means an Israelite invention." [91] Even the OT attributes female imagery to Yahweh (Deut. 32:18, Ps. 22:9-10, Is. 46:3, 66:9, 13) as Jesus applies female imagery to himself (as a mother hen over Jerusalem). Yahweh and other ancient deities were beyond sexuality, but nevertheless expressed themselves in "genderly" ways. The Ugaritic deity Athtar is called in inscriptions both "father" and "mother". The "male" deities Shamash, Istanu, and Gatumdug are called a "mother". Female deities could also be ascribed male qualities.

This said, the NCC article collapses once it is clear that the Wisdom of the OT and Jewish lit is identified with Jesus over and over again. Nevertheless they say, the classical Trinitarian view of the Spirit in masculine terms is "a total misrepresentation of the Bible witness" and beyond appeals to passages like Proverbs 8 which they misplace, offer this suggestion of conspiracy:

Part of the problem we have with the New Testament is that the one used by the Western Churches is a Greek translation of the original Hebrew, a language evolved within a pagan context as opposed to the Hebrew of the Old Testament which was, we believe, the original divine language and which evolved within the context of a divine theocracy (Israel). This means, in our opinion, that Hebrew is more precise and inspired than Greek. Moreover, we have good reason to believe that most, if not all, the New Testament was originally written in Hebrew and subsequently translated into Greek. Therefore in terms of defining the gender of the Holy Spirit, New Covenant Christians are more disposed to the Hebrew Old and New Testament witness of the Bible which overwhelmingly reveals the Holy Spirit to be feminine.

The claim about the NT being written first in Hebrew is so far off from scholarship that it needs only be summarized here. The idea of Hebrew as a divine language (despite those related Semitic languages that preceded it in the record...) tells us enough of this body's concern for hard research; but in any event, James Trimm, a quite respectable scholar who has served well against Jewish anti-missionary efforts, is quoted next as saying:

...English has three genders, masculine, feminine and neuter (i.e. he, she and it). Hebrew and Aramaic have no neuter gender. In Hebrew and Aramaic everything is either a "he" or a "she" and nothing is an "it". Also gender plays a much more important role in Hebrew and in Aramaic than in English. In English gender is usually only an issue when dealing with pronouns. But in Hebrew and Aramaic nouns and verbs are also maculine or feminine. And while there are no true adjectives in Hebrew (nouns are also used as adjectives), noun modifiers must agree in gender with the noun. Now the Hebrew word RUACH (Aramaic RUCHA) is gramatically feminine as is the phrase Ruach haKodesh. This is matched by the rôle of the Ruach haKodesh as "comforter" (Jn.14-16) and the identifier of the "comforter" with YHWH acting as a "mother" (Is.66:13).

Of course all of this fits in with Smith's comments above; gender here is a matter of role, not organs, and with relation to us, we are all the "bride of Christ" (even men). The Spirit's role in the universe is feminine; this does not make it's gender feminine any more than you men are "womanized" at the wedding supper of the Lamb. But oblivious to the sort of point Smith makes and that Trimm actually supports, the NCC goes on to posit all manner of conspiracies to hide this vital truth:

...it is very clear that the gender of the RUACH has been revised in many passages of the Aramaic to agree with the Hellenistic concept of the Holy Spirit as being either a he" or an "it". Thus the pronouns used for the Ruach haKodesh in Jn.14-16 in the Peshitta are all masculine. However, the hand of revision is very clear. For example while both the Peshitta and Old Syriac have "he" in Jn.16:8 the Old Syriac has "she" just a few verses further down in 16:13 while the Peshitta has "he". oreover there are many passages in which the Peshitta itself pairs the Ruach haKodesh with feminine verbs and/or feminine modifiers.

The Old Syriac and Peshitta are of course later versions of the NT and just one of many; nevertheless there is nothing "Hellenistic" about masculinity and the Spirit; no more so than it is "Hellenistic" for Wisdom to be incarnated as a male. This and the above is why Trimm, as the NCC admits, "is of the view that whilst the Holy Spirit is 'spiritually female', She is 'sexually neuter'." But no, they say, "She is both spiritually and sexually female" (though what organs make a spirit female we can only guess).

Web (March 22, 2015)

This concept of YHWH being expressed as a Father (Is. 63:16; 64:8; Jer. 31:9 & Mal. 1:6) and a Mother (Is. 66:13) is found in the Tanak ("Old Testament") itself, in which we are told that the image of Elohim in which man was created was "male and female" (Gen. 1:26-27).

Now in Romans 1:19-20 we are told:

19: Because that which may be known of Elohim is manifest in them; for Elohim hath shewed it unto them. 20: For the invisible things of him from the creation of the world are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even his eternal power and Godhead; so that they are without excuse:
(Rom. 1:19-20)

Further down in Rom. 1:26-28 we are told that those who fail to perceive these things may fall into the errors of Homosexuality and Lesbianism.

So when in creation was Elohim's invisible attributes manifest in man and made clearly seen. The answer is in Gen. 1:26, 27 where we read:

Then Elohim said, "Let Us make man in Our image, according to Our likeness... So Elohim created man in His own image; in the image of Elohim He created him; male and female He created them.

Now following the parallelism of the passage, "Our image", "Our likeness" and "male and female" appear to be parallel terms.

The male aspect of this image of Elohim is called "Father" as we read in the Tanak ("Old Testament"):

…If then I be a Father, Where is My honor?… Says the YHWH of Hosts. …
(Mal. 1:6)

…You, O YHWH, are our Father, Our Redeemer from everlasting is Your name.
(Is. 63:16)

But now. O YHWH, You are our Father;…
(Is. 64:7)

The female aspect of this image is called "mother" as we also read in the Tanak ("Old Testament"):

As one whom his mother comforts, so will I [YHWH] comfort you…
(Is. 66:13)

YHWH as a "comforter" is also known as the Ruach HaKodesh as we read in John:

…I will ask my Father and he will give you another comforter that will be with you forever, The Spirit of Truth …
(Jn. 14:16-17)

…the comforter, the Ruach HaKodesh, whom my Father will send in my name,…
(Jn. 14:27)

…when the comforter comes. Whom I will send you from my Father, the Spirit of Truth who has proceeded from my Father…
(Jn. 15:26)

…I will send the comforter to you.
(Jn. 16:7)

The Ruach HaKodesh is the Spirit of Elohim, which rested upon Messiah at his immersion:

…behold, the Spirit of Elohim descending from the heavens… …and rested upon him…
(Mt. 3:16-17 see also Mk. 1:10-11; Lk. 3:21-22 & Jn. 1:33)

Which is the Spirit of YHWH which rests upon Messiah in Isaiah 11:2-4:

And the Spirit of YHWH shall rest upon him, the Spirit of Wisdom (Chokmah) and Understanding (Binah) the Spirit of Counsel (Atzah) and power (Gevurah) the spirit of knowledge and of the fear (yirah) of YHWH …But with righteousness shall he judge…
(Is. 11:2-4)

This Ruach HaKodesh is clearly is the "her/she" of Prov. 8:1-2, 12-18:

Does not wisdom call, And understanding put forth her voice? Where the paths meet, she stands…I Wisdom (Chokmah) dwell with prudence…the fear (yirah) of YHWH is to hate evil… Counsel (atzah) is mine…I am understanding (Binah) power (Geburah) is mine…. ...by me rule... all judges...

One problem that presents itself in translating the New Testament from Hebrew and Aramaic into English is that of the gender of the Ruach HaKodesh (Ruach HaKodesh). English is very different from Hebrew and Aramaic. To begin with English has three genders, masculine, feminine and neuter (i.e. he, she and it). Hebrew and Aramaic have no neuter gender. In Hebrew and Aramaic everything is either a "he" or a "she" and nothing is an "it". Also gender plays a much more important role in Hebrew and in Aramaic than in English. In English gender is usually only an issue when dealing with pronouns. But in Hebrew and in Aramaic nouns and verbs are also masculine or feminine. And while there are no true adjectives in Hebrew (nouns are used as adjectives), noun modifiers must agree in gender with the noun. Now the Hebrew word RUACH (Aramaic RUCHA) is grammatically feminine as is the phrase Ruach HaKodesh. This is matched by the role of the Ruach HaKodesh as "comforter" (Jn. 14-16) and the identification of the "comforter" with YHWH acting as a "mother" (Is. 66:13).

Now in English the Ruach is often referred to as "he" or "it" as also in the Greek New Testament. However this seems very odd indeed to the Semitic mind. In fact the Peshitta Aramaic of Rom. 8:16 opens (literally) with "And she the Ruach gives testimony…."

While it is clear that the Ruach HaKodesh has no literal gender, it is also clear that the Ruach HaKodesh is grammatically and figuratively a "she".

Now the ancient Nazarenes (an ancient Jewish sect of believers in Yeshua) actually believed the Ruach HaKodesh to be a sort of Heavenly Mother. These ancient Nazarenes used an apocryphal Gospel called The Gospel according to the Hebrew.. While this apocryphal Gospel is now lost, several quotes from it have survived in the writings on the ancient "Church Fathers." One of these quotes, found in Jerome's commentary on Isaiah, tells the story of Messiah's baptism as follows:

And it came to pass when YHWH was come up out of the water, the whole fount of the Ruach HaKodesh descended and rested upon him, and said to him, "My Son, in all the prophets was I waiting for you that you should come, and I might rest in you. For you are my rest, you are My firstborn son, that reigns forever."
(Jerome- On Is. 11:2)

Here it is the Ruach HaKodesh, not the Father, who is calling Messiah "My Son" In another place the Church Fathers cite a passage from this lost Gospel where Messiah is reported as saying:

"Even so did my Mother, the Ruach HaKodesh, take me by one of my hairs and carry me away to the great mountain Tabor."
[Origen- On Jn. 2:12; Hom. on Jer. 15:4; Jerome- On Micah 7:6; On. Is.
40:9; On Ezkl. 16:13]

There are other feminine titles for Elohim as well, which also point to the feminine aspect within the Godhead. Among these are terms like Shekinah (glory – a feminine word in Hebrew) and El-Shaddai. "El" means "Elohim" while Shaddai is the dual form of the Hebrew word "Shad" (Strong's Heb. # 7699) "the breast of a woman" so that El-Shaddai signifies "El, the double breasted" or the Elohim with a woman's breasts.

Web (March 22, 2015)

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