|Art by Arna Baartz|
The ancient Israelites understood Canaanite El and Yahweh, the God of Israel, to be the same deity. However, representations of El’s wife, Asherah, were condemned. But, archeological discoveries strongly suggest that a segment of the population continued to worship Asherah and Yahweh together. Plus, the Bible itself testifies to how Asherah’s statue was stationed in Solomon’s Temple—the holiest site of all—for a long time. Some kings opposed her while others endorsed her. The thesis I present in my new book, released earlier this year, is that the plural pronouns in the creation story of Mankind originally described the Canaanite chief divine couple. Men were created in the image of El and women Asherah. Most importantly, Asherah can be traced throughout the Bible in two other forms: the personified feminine Wisdom and the Holy Spirit. All three share the same core role and several attributes and thus the latter two can be understood as the manifestations of God’s wife.
Wisdom, well represented in the Bible, speaks of how she was created by God “in the beginning” (Prv. 8:22), present before all the rest of creation and “beside” Him (Prv 8:30). Sirach (part of the Catholic canon and Protestant Apochrypha) repeats this when Lady Wisdom says that “From eternity, in the beginning, he created me, and for eternity I shall not cease to exist” (24:9). Despite the strong presence of the personified Wisdom all such passages are ignored by the Church. They simply do not know what to do with her. To untangle this we have to understand what happened to the Spirit of God.
The fact that the Holy Spirit is grammatically feminine in Hebrew is not widely known among lay Christians and ordinary people. The translations we have for the New Testament come from Greek manuscripts where the Spirit is gender neutral and therefore they do not reflect how the ancient Israelites saw her. When the Spirit’s female gender was lost in translation it opened the door for the all-male Trinity. Hence, there was no longer any room in heaven for the divine feminine.
We have plenty of evidence that God’s gender mattered for Jesus: he called Him “Father” and even referred to Him as abba, meaning something like “daddy” (Mk 14:36). But, it is virtually unknown among Christians that there is evidence that he considered the Holy Spirit’s femininity important as well. Numerous ancient sources testify to the first gospel having been written in Hebrew by the Apostle Matthew. It is usually referred to as “the Gospel of the Hebrews.” Although no copy has yet been found we have many quotations from it. Among these, Jesus is quoted calling the Holy Spirit “my Mother.” This is profound because it testifies to a theological significance of the Spirit’s femininity.
Despite how the translations/compositions of the New Testament in Greek have almost completely obscured the importance of the Spirit’s feminine gender we can still see it in some places. For example, when John the Baptist told some of his disciples and other Jews that he was not the Messiah he did so by relaying how the one who has the “bride” is the “bridegroom” (Jn 3:29). The symbolism used is lost if one does not know that the feminine word “bride” is chosen because the Spirit is feminine. The bride signifies the Holy Spirit which Jesus, as the bridegroom, has. When John baptized Jesus the heavens opened and the Spirit, in the form of a dove, came down on Jesus and anointed him as the Messiah. The Hebrew word messiah literally means “anointed.” This symbolism of marriage goes back to earlier portrayals of Israel as God’s wife. Lady Wisdom says she “took root” among the Israelites (Sir 24:12) which parallels how the Holy Spirit filled believers.
Another illustration is when Jesus said that unless one is “born again” (Jn 3:3) you cannot see the kingdom of God. He then clarified that you have to be born again from water and the Spirit respectively representing baptism and anointing (Jn 3:5). Again, the language used depends on the Spirit being feminine. Here it is more than that too. “Born again” gives the Spirit the specific role as a mother. The imagery used parallels how a baby is born through a woman whereas a believer has to be born through our heavenly Mother—the Spirit.
In Genesis 1:2 the Spirit hovered over the water. Spirit and water before the creation of the world reminds us of what Jesus said was the way back to heaven—through our Mother—whose presence was always there. Man and woman were created in the image of God and our ability to pro-create reflects the power of creation above. The missing piece of the puzzle is who was next to God when we were created. It only begins to make sense when we understand that the mystery of life itself is the unification of the male and female—in heaven as it is on earth.
by Marianne Widmalm. An excerpt from the upcoming Girl God Anthology, Jesus, Mohammad and the Goddess.
Marianne Widmalm is the author of God is Not Alone: Our Mother - The Holy Spirit. She moved to Ann Arbor, Michigan from Tranås, Sweden in her twenties. She holds a B.A. in International Politics and Religion and M.A. in Near Eastern Studies (with a focus on on Ancient Israel and the Hebrew Bible) from the University of Michigan. Her article “God’s Wife” was published by the late Professor Noel Freedman in his journal The Biblical Historian,” February 2005. Having more to share and wanting to reach a wider audience Marianne went on to write this book.She hold a B.A. in International Politics & Religion, University of Michigan and M.A. in Near Eastern Studies with a concentration in Ancient Israel and the Hebrew Bible, University of Michigan.