Photo Cred: (1) | Updated: 4/25/2019
In this blog-post, we’re going to examine the claims of Matriarchal Christianity and discover whether or not the Holy Spirit is a woman. What is Matriarchal Christianity exactly? It’s the idea that God as a triune being is comprised of three persons: the Father, the Mother, and the Son, with the Mother being the Holy Spirit.
Eisegesis vs. Exegesis
This philosophy is deeply rooted in a problem that relates to the context of Scripture. By context I mean to say the historical record, the culture, the time period the text was written, and the grammatical prose that reflects the author’s intent. In simpler terms, this question stems from a matter of eisegesis versus exegesis to study Scripture.
The practice of eisegesis is when one projects their own biases and ideas onto whatever text they are reading or studying. The practice of exegesis is when one finds the original meaning of a text they are reading or studying based on its original context. Eisegesis guides meaning from outside sources into the text (subjective interpretation), while exegesis guides meaning out of the text itself (objective interpretation). With this in mind, let’s quickly discover whether or not the Holy Spirit is a woman as we examine the claims of Matriarchal Christianity.
In Scripture, there are certain verses and passages that reveal the nature of God, along with how He chose to reveal Himself in a way that we humans could comprehend. In fact, Jesus as a person within the Godhead has appeared and interacted with humanity in various physical forms (2). This is commonly known as a Christophany where Christ appears or manifests Himself on Earth.
But isn’t Jesus a man? Doesn’t the Bible clearly state that He is a man? Doesn’t that make Him a male? The Bible and extra-biblical sources do say that Jesus was physically born and became a man, but He was more than just a man. As God, Jesus adopted a physical body and was fully human when He lived on the Earth. Yet He never was less than God either. This is known as the Hypostatic Union where Jesus is both fully God and fully man.
Well, what about God in general? If Jesus has appeared and adopted the body of a man, doesn’t that mean the Father or the Holy Spirit can too? No because of the three persons within God’s triune nature, only the Son appears physically as a human in history. Jesus is the only member of the tri-unity of God who can be seen since He does take on a physical form in history (3), while the other two persons do not adopt a physical form.
Remember that God is not a physical being to begin with, so He does not have the physical characteristics that are typically associated with a man or a woman (i.e. anatomy, chromosomes, cognitive function, DNA, etc). In fact, God is beyond the bounds of His own Creation and is free of those specific characteristics that are distinct to both men and women. God is an uncaused being that is eternal, immaterial, non-contingent, non-physical, and personally caused the universe into existence.
With that said, what we find in Scripture are numerous references to the Holy Spirit in the masculine sense. This can be seen in various places such as Isaiah 64:4, Romans 8:26, and 1 Corinthians 12:11, for instance. Yet, we also find allegory and prose that alludes to God being described in the feminine sense as well (4), so then what are the correct pronouns for God? Do we refer to God in the feminine or masculine sense?
Before answering this, we must reiterate some simple truths. First off, is God sovereign over all His Creation? Yes. Okay, did the Holy Spirit inspire the authors of the various books within the Bible to clearly and perfectly relay His message truthfully? Yes. Therefore, how God in His sovereignty allows Himself to be referred to in the Bible reflects what His preferred pronouns are and how we should refer to Him as God.
Next, do those passages referenced above about the Holy Spirit being described with feminine verbs indicate that He is in fact supposed to be referred to in the feminine sense? No because we see this sort of usage all throughout both the Bible and other texts where the gender is switched to express an idea better or just as an exception to the rule. Just because there are two verses that appear to be used in the feminine sense towards God, does not mean that God is to be referred to in the feminine sense.
Those exceptions to the rule do not supervene all of the other references to God in the masculine sense. They’re simply exceptions to the rule and that’s it. The vast majority of the Bible is geared to calling God a He and each person within the Trinity a He, so we should refer to Him in that way as Christians even if God is a gender-less being.
Even if God wanted us to attribute the feminine sense to Himself or any person within the Trinity, then He would have made the distinction clear. But Scripture overwhelmingly supports the masculine verbiage in reference to God. Since God has chosen to and prefers to be referred to in the masculine sense, then we should respect that decision. The Trinity consists of the Father, the Son, and the Spirit. It does not consist of the Father, the Son, and the Mother.
In order to properly understand the text in the Bible, we must allow context to dictate our conclusions and not our culture. In order to know who God is, we should hear and read how He is referred to in Scripture. Projecting our culture onto another culture’s original understanding of God is dishonest to say the least.
As believers in Christ, we should have a proper knowledge of God and understand who He reveals Himself to be and the manner He chooses to do so. Cultures and interpretations change, but context is timeless when we understand the text. With that, Godspeed and Jesus bless!
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- John 1:18
- Judges 14:6 and other references to the Holy Spirit in the original Hebrew of the book of Judges use the feminine verb for “came upon” as we see it in modern English. Also, Matthew 23:37 is another example where those that support the view of Matriarchal Christianity reference as evidence of this idea. Although, this is simply an analogy of how Christ describes his heart for the Jewish people and how He longs to care for them like a mother hen. For more information on Matriarchal Christianity, you can read more here: http://www.theology.edu/journal/volume3/spirit.htm.