Who is God? Do pronouns take us away from God’s love?

Who is God? Or is it what is God? Not to mention, what are His “preferred pronouns”? I read a recent article that makes me feel like all this political correctness is taking us away from who/what God said He is. Most of all, God is love. But the article never used the word love. Not even once.

who is God?

Is God a lion?

Is God a lamb?

There are references to Jesus as both the Lion of Judah and as the lamb of God.

But does that make Jesus either one of them?

Does it make Jesus an animal?

Or are they useful references to tell us, using something we’re familiar with, to tell us something about Jesus that we don’t/can’t otherwise know? And I don’t mean Jesus incarnate who walked the earth for 30+ years. I mean Jesus, in Heaven, who will judge us.

The difference between who God is and what God is like

We’ll get into the article shortly, but first I want to make a point. Back in 2017 there was another controversy about who/what God is. It was the movie version of The Shack.

In that case, I wasn’t calling God a dog.

What I was saying is something about how God might reach out to me. Me. Not everyone Not you, unless the scenario fits you.

We say, and claim to believe, that God reaches out to us where we are. Where I was at the time was the same place as the guy in The Shack. A father figure came with baggage.

And that’s even considering one of my favorite verses, and one that got me to keep coming back to try to find my Heavenly Father, was the one below.

Ask, Seek, Knock – Matthew

7:7-11 pp — Lk 11:9-13

Mt 7:9 “Which of you, if his son asks for bread, will give him a stone? 10 Or if he asks for a fish, will give him a snake? 11 If you, then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give good gifts to those who ask him!

There’s no context here. That’s because, to be honest, it’s the only part of the passage I remembered after some years.

But in spite of the issues I had with my biological, supposedly, father – I still wanted that Father Jesus promised. And I have Him!

So my point is this. I learned very little about the kind of relationship we should have with our “Father” from my “father”. But I learned a lot from the relationship between me and my dogs.

If, as we believe, God is everywhere, and God meets us where we are, then why not through some dogs that He brought into my life? Three of them were “rescues”. I rescued them.

But in some very real ways, they rescued me as well. I credit that to God, not to the dogs who were/are His creation.

Who is God? Do pronouns take us away from His love?

With that backdrop, let’s get to the article I read. A feminist theologian says, ‘Our Father’ is not the only way of referring to God.

But first, a note about adjectives

I’m going to say something about that title. Even if you’re mad at me, and don’t like what I say, please read at least a bit further.

I don’t like that description “feminist theologian”. Every theologian should be a theologian after God’s own heart. Like David.

I don’t use any adjectives to describe me when I write. Or when I talk to people. I’m a person seeking to know God.

Anything added to that, like this adjective, takes away from that goal of knowing God. If having an adjective to describe us is that important, when do we cross the line of putting the adjective above God?

Do you remember the beginning of The Ten Commandments in Exodus?

The Ten Commandments – Exodus

20:1-17 pp — Dt 5:6-21

Ex 20:1 And God spoke all these words:

Ex 20:2 “I am the LORD your God, who brought you out of Egypt, out of the land of slavery.

Ex 20:3 “You shall have no other gods before me.

Ex 20:4 “You shall not make for yourself an idol in the form of anything in heaven above or on the earth beneath or in the waters below. 5 You shall not bow down to them or worship them; for I, the LORD your God, am a jealous God, punishing the children for the sin of the fathers to the third and fourth generation of those who hate me, 6 but showing love to a thousand generations of those who love me and keep my commandments.

I don’t think we should have any other “gods” equal to God either. After all, as Jesus said, we cannot serve two masters. And when a preferred adjective gets in the way of us knowing as much as we can about God, we got a problem.

Whether it’s feminist, or any other adjective, if it affects the way we read God’s Word, we have a problem. As Paul would probably say, our foundation is Jesus, not our preferred adjective that we want included when talking about us.

Let’s get to preferred pronouns

Let’s try again. That thought about any adjective we want to include just hit me as I was copying the title over from the article to here.

A feminist theologian says, ‘Our Father’ is not the only way of referring to God appeared in The Conversation.  I read it on msn.com.  It starts off:

Many Christian communities refer to God as “Father.” This takes root in the Gospels, where Jesus teaches his followers to pray “Our Father,” which Christians continue to say today. It is certainly appropriate to refer to God as Father, yet it is not the only way to depict God.

As a Catholic feminist theologian who runs a women’s center at a Catholic university, I understand the impact of the pronouns Christians use for God. Historically, Christian tradition has recognized many depictions for God, including father and mother. This is partly because God does not have a gender.

There’s the adjective thing. Catholic and feminist. That paints a picture. It also places some boundaries on what she’s going to say.

And there’s the “depictions”. Just because there are images created in our minds about God as something or someone, like the lion, the lamb, and others that we’ll get to, it doesn’t mean God is actually any of them.

Something is lost here. God isn’t human. Or animal. God is spirit. We, truthfully, don’t know if God (Father, Son, and Holy Spirit), the angels, have anything akin to gender or not. And honestly, does it matter? If God wanted us to know, He would’ve told us. The only thing we have is what’s in the Bible.

By the way, if we believe the Bible is the inspired word of God, then did God want us to believe something other than what the Bible says? Not to put a period and seal it in stone yet, but the Hebrew language does have both male and female words.

If there’s an impact on people because the Bible uses the male gender, is that God’s problem? Is it a problem we need to rectify, by changing His words? Have we decided God was wrong? Or should we instead work on understanding that God had a reason for what He inspired the authors to write?

You see, if we go back and change the words in the Bible to a mix of male and female, or to gender neutral, then we have also changed what the Bible says. There was. a culture at that time. It was male dominated. And if we change the words to indicate something else, then how can we possibly understand the message God is trying to portray to us?

We believe, as I said, that God meets us where we are. Assuming God also met the people in Biblical times where they were, then a male dominated culture is where they were. We can correctly translate their culture into our world today if, and only if, we leave God’s words alone. Changing the words to be politically correct will make it impossible for us to get the correct message from the Bible, as God gave it to His people.

Male languages and images

Despite the diverse images used for God in Scripture and Christian tradition, male language and images predominate in contemporary Christian worship.

As I already pointed out, images used to show what God is like do not mean that’s what God is.

As for today’s Christian worship, when song lyrics come from the Bible, again, they are what God gave His people. Why can’t we understand that, also understand that Something momentous began with Jesus, and move along?

What’s that momentous thing? Jesus did start including women. It would’ve been scandalous in His time. But He did it. Even Paul, who’s blamed for saying only men should be Pastors, worked with women. Did you realize, with Priscilla and Aquila, Paul mention Aquila first half the time, and Priscilla first the other half?

Maybe what we need to do here is give credit where credit is due, and keep the trend going. Jesus started the trend of making women equal. For His three short years, He did something major. Polar opposite of what Jewish tradition and world culture was. Why not write and talk about that, instead of changing what God gave us?

Ironically, if we do go back and change God’s words, we will lose track of things like the equal mentions of Aquila and Priscilla – as opposed to Priscilla and Aquila. By the way, did you notice, I also used each of them first half of the time?

When we speak about God, we do so knowing that what we say is incomplete. All images for God reveal something about God. No image of God is literal or reveals everything about God.

This text of hers should, and I believe does, negate much of the argument she puts forth. If we don’t know God fully, then how can we even assume things like God has no gender? We have what we have. We have what God gave us,

Before we go too far with all that follows, let’s look at the verses in question. The logic there is incredibly faulty. Let’s see why.

Scripture is filled with multiple images of God. In some of these images, God is depicted as a father or male. In other parts of Scripture, God is female.

Any attempt to describe God’s love for us is always going to come up short. The best we can do is to take examples that we’re familiar with, and use them as comparisons. We must realize that any such comparison is a pale shadow of the reality of God’s love. God’s love is beyond our comprehension.

Here’s an attempt to describe that. But even any attempt will also fall short.

God’s Love
Christ Became Poor
Almost anyone can “love” people in the abstract. But when it comes time to express that love—by lending a helping hand or writing a check—one can quickly determine the sincerity of a person’s love for others. That was Paul’s point in 2 Corinthians 8:8–9. To illustrate it, he used the ultimate model of tangible love—Jesus Christ.

Christ became poor in order to make us rich. Consider what He gave up when He left heaven and took on a human body:

1. He left His Father, whose immediate presence He would not enjoy again for more than thirty years. How long would you be willing to be away from your closest companion and friend in order to help a group of people—especially if you knew that most of them would reject and despise you, and might even kill you?

2. We can imagine that He left a joyful crowd that included Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, the angelic hosts, and all the redeemed saints who were worshiping Him, glorifying Him, and having fellowship with Him prior to His incarnation. He left those who loved Him to come and be misunderstood, rejected, scorned, hated, and scourged by most of those He came to help. Would you leave a position of honor and adoration to go help people who would by and large reject you?

3. He left a heavenly home that far exceeded in splendor, majesty, and comfort the physical environment of His earthly life. Would you give up the best accommodations this earth has to offer in order to help needy people in a bad neighborhood?

4. He left His pre-incarnate existence in the form of God, without limitations, to take on a physical body subject to fatigue, aches, and pains. Would you accept hunger, thirst, fatigue, pain, and limited physical abilities to help people who didn’t even care whether you came or not?

The statement that Christ became poor puts into perspective Jesus’ command to the rich young ruler to sell what he had and give the proceeds to the poor (Mark 10:21), and His instruction to the disciples to sell what they had and give alms, providing themselves treasure in heaven (Luke 12:33). What Jesus asked them to do, He had already done—to such a degree, in fact, that their obedience could never equal His selflessness.

He Did It for You!

To what extent have you ever sacrificed for someone else? Sacrifice can mean giving up something you really want in order for someone else to have it. But an even greater sacrifice involves taking on something that you really do not want so that someone else will not have to bear it.

That is what Jesus did when He was “wounded for our transgressions” and “bruised for our iniquities” (Is. 53:5). He took on Himself the “chastisement,” or punishment, that we deserved for our sins so that we would not have to bear it. He did not want to suffer, but He submitted to suffering because of His great love.

So. as we go through the passages called out in the article that are allegedly cause to assign various pronouns to God, remember what you just read. Any comparison of human attributes to attributes of God are, at best, a pale comparison that we must greatly enhance to get even a glimpse of what God is truly like. They aren’t meant to define God. They are only meant to try to begin to describe characteristics of God.

It’s like Song of Songs in the Bible. It took passionate human love and used it to give us an example of God’s love. But God’s love isn’t that kind of love. It was meant to show the deepness of a certain kind of human love, as the pale example of the depth of God’s kind of love that He has for us.

A nursing mother

The prophet Isaiah compares God to a nursing mother in the Book of Isaiah.

Isa 49:15 “Can a mother forget the baby at her breast
and have no compassion on the child she has borne?
Though she may forget,
I will not forget you!

Does this verse present God as a nursing mother? In a word – no.

This passage is to guide us to an ideal human characteristic. The love of a mother for her newborn infant. But even that description isn’t universal. We are a fallen people. We have different backgrounds. Experiences. Capabilities. And so on.

Let’s say we looked at the best, most loving mother who ever lived, and saw how she loved her baby. Even that mother’s love falls so short of showing God’s love for us.

This verse is in no way meant to show God is a female. It’s meant to show God’s love for us, compared to the ideal mother’s love for her child.

A mother hen

A mother hen gathering her chicks is an analogy for God in the Gospel of Matthew.

This reference is to the last paragraph of the section titled Seven Woes in the NIV.

Seven Woes

23:1-7 pp — Mk 12:38, 39; Lk 20:45, 46
23:37-39 pp — Lk 13:34, 35

Mt 23:37 “O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, you who kill the prophets and stone those sent to you, how often I have longed to gather your children together, as a hen gathers her chicks under her wings, but you were not willing. 38 Look, your house is left to you desolate. 39 For I tell you, you will not see me again until you say, ‘Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord.’’”

Again, this does not make Jesus a mother hen, and the attempt to use a female pronoun does not work. If the fact that it’s an analogy isn’t clear enough, just check out the words as a hen gathers her chicks.

In case there’s any doubt as to the validity of it being an analogy, here are the two Greek words underlying “as”.

3739 ὅς, ὅσγε [hos, he, ho /hos/] pron. Probably a primary word (or perhaps a form of the article 3588); GK 4005 and together with Strongs 1065 as GK 4007; 1393 occurrences; AV translates as “which” 395 times, “whom” 262 times, “that” 129 times, “who” 84 times, “whose” 53 times, “what” 42 times, “that which” 20 times, “whereof” 13 times, and translated miscellaneously 430 times. 1 who, which, what, that. Additional Information: Wigram’s count is 1310 not 1393.  1Strong, J. (1995). In Enhanced Strong’s Lexicon. Woodside Bible Fellowship.

5158 τρόπος [tropos /trop·os/] n m. From the same as 5157; GK 5573; 13 occurrences; AV translates as “as + 3739” three times, “even as + 2596 + 3739” twice, “way” twice, “means” twice, “even as + 3739” once, “in like manner as + 3639” once, “manner” once, and “conversation” once. 1 a manner, way, fashion. 1a as, even as, like as. 2 manner of life, character, deportment.  2Strong, J. (1995). In Enhanced Strong’s Lexicon. Woodside Bible Fellowship.

So, to expand the English a bit, correctly but easier to understand, we could say “in the same manner/way as a hen gathers her chicks”.

Again, this is not justification for using a female pronoun for Jesus. It’s another example of showing Jesus’ love for us. This one’s directed at people who raise chickens, and have witnessed this behavior even from animals. Surely, it wasn’t an attempt to say Jesus was a chicken or any other animal.

Lady Wisdom

The Book of Wisdom, a book in the Catholic Bible, depicts wisdom personified as a woman. Wisdom 10:18-19 states: “She took them across the Red Sea and brought them through deep waters. Their enemies she overwhelmed.” This account presents God as female, leading Moses and the Israelites out of Egypt and into the Promised Land.

Does this really present God as female? Or does the Book of Wisdom present wisdom as female? Or ???

NOTE: The links to Bible verses come with some of the software I use for research, and aren’t under my control. When. I was setting this one up for the Book of Wisdom, there were some issues with availability. As the saying goes, if at first you don’t succeed, try, try again. Seriously. The first few attempts failed with an error about the resource not being available at this time. It did work after maybe 10-15 seconds. There were also times when I had to click on it, rather than just get the hover-tip. (Sorry for the inconvenience if you get this happening to you.)

Since the Book of Wisdom isn’t included in most Protestant Bibles, or is part of the Apocrypha, here’s some extra info on Lady Wisdom in Solomon’s Book of Wisdom.

Woman Wisdom (Wis 6:22–10:21)

The beginning of the second part of the book is signaled by a shift from second-person exhortation in Wis 1:1–6:21 to first-person-singular speech. The speaker identifies himself first as a mortal and then as a king. Only gradually does the reader become aware that this is not just any king but the great king Solomon (though he is never named). The focus of the king’s speech is his search for wisdom, the many attributes of wisdom, and wisdom’s course. Continuing the personification begun in Wis 6:12–21, wisdom is represented as a woman. Through his search for wisdom the king provides a model for the “rulers” and “kings” addressed by the book, “for God loves nothing so much as the person who lives with wisdom” (Wis 7:28).

This section is more loosely framed than the first but is guided by the king’s statement that he will trace Woman Wisdom’s “course from the beginning of creation” (Wis 6:22). Repeatedly, one is reminded that God is the source and guide of Woman Wisdom (e.g., Wis 7:7, 15, 25; 8:21; 9:4, 10, 17) and that only if God sends her forth does one “obtain friendship with God” (Wis 7:14; cf. 7:27). In chapters 7–9 Solomon recites Woman Wisdom’s twenty-one attributes (Wis 7:22–23), gives a five-part description regaling her essence and all that she is capable of achieving (Wis 7:24–8:1), describes his desire to take her as his bride, recognizing her many benefits, including immortality (Wis 8:2–21), and prays to God to send Woman Wisdom, God’s throne companion, to him (9:1–18). In chapter 10 Solomon describes Wisdom’s “course,” as he tracks Woman Wisdom’s consistent rescue of the righteous from Adam through the exodus from Egypt (though the biblical figures are not named).  3Tanzer, S. J. (2012). The Wisdom of Solomon. In C. A. Newsom, J. E. Lapsley, & S. H. Ringe (Eds.), Women’s Bible Commentary (Revised and Updated, pp. 406–407). Westminster John Knox Press.

That speaks to wisdom. And clearly, wisdom. is represented as a woman. However, it says nothing about why wisdom is feminine.

Let’s try something different. Remember, the Old Testament to us Christians is actually Jewish Scripture. So let’s take a look from their point of view.

The Qualities of Woman Wisdom

Jewish background. In the Wisdom of Solomon many of Woman Wisdom’s characteristics build on traditions of personified wisdom found elsewhere in the Hebrew Bible and Apocrypha (Prov. 1, 8, and 9; Job 28; Sir. 24; and Bar. 3 and 4). In this tradition Wisdom is described as having come forth from dwelling with God to be associated with humans. She is present among all generations, accessible to all who seek her (although not so in Job 28). Woman Wisdom is associated with God’s creative activity but also teaches humans righteousness and offers counsel. People are urged to seek her, for she is worth more than all wealth and precious materials, since she offers long life.

The portrayal of Woman Wisdom is significantly extended in the Wisdom of Solomon. In this work she is presented as at once more abstract and yet definitely female, with many personal and mythic qualities. She is the “fashioner of all things,” possessing a “spirit that is intelligent, holy, unique, manifold” (Wis 7:22), “a pure emanation of the glory of the Almighty” (7:25). Woman Wisdom makes the righteous “friends of God” (Wis 7:27) and is given by God (Wis 8:21). She is pursued as “mother” of all good things (Wis 7:12) and as “bride” (Wis 8:2).

The relationship between Woman Wisdom and God is described in various ways. It is God who ultimately decides who shall possess Woman Wisdom (e.g., Wis 8:21). Yet God’s work is hardly distinguished from Wisdom’s work, “for [God] is the guide even of wisdom.… For it is [God] who gave me unerring knowledge of what exists, … I learned both what is secret and what is manifest, for wisdom, the fashioner of all things, taught me” (Wis 7:15, 17, 21–22). This symbiosis between God and Woman Wisdom is evident also in the way both are described as sought by humans (Wis 1:1–2 and Wis 6:12–16) and accessible to those who seek sincerely; involved in the processes of creation (Wis 1:14; 7:22; 8:6; 9:2, 9; 11:17); rewarding the righteous with immortality (Wis 5:15–16; 6:18; 8:13); protecting and rescuing the righteous man and Israel from their enemies (Wis 4:15; 9:18–10:21; 11:1–19:22). Many of the powers attributed to Woman Wisdom (e.g., granting immortality, saving the righteous) are elsewhere typically reserved for God, as are others: being the source of all good things (Wis 7:10–11) and pervading and penetrating all things (Wis 7:24). Perhaps none of this should be surprising. Woman Wisdom is God’s heavenly throne companion (Wis 8:2–9; 9:4, 10), “an initiate in the knowledge of God, and an associate in his works” (Wis 8:4).  4Tanzer, S. J. (2012). The Wisdom of Solomon. In C. A. Newsom, J. E. Lapsley, & S. H. Ringe (Eds.), Women’s Bible Commentary (Revised and Updated, p. 407). Westminster John Knox Press.

Still nothing on why wisdom is referred to as a woman.

Is it possible it’s something as mundane as what we read below, from a Jewish woman?

Why the female personification? Perhaps in part because, in Hebrew, wisdom is a grammatically feminine noun. Grammar does not fully explain, however, Proverbs’s interest in repeated and varied development of the female persona, which contrasts with the only incipient personification in Job. The female imagery for Woman Wisdom is also closely connected to her negative counterpart in Proverbs, that embodiment of evil referred to as the “loose woman” (“strange woman,” or “Woman Stranger”). 5Woman Wisdom: Bible by Claudia V. Camp

It’s interesting to see what comes up doing some of this research. I’m pretty sure this isn’t the image the feminine Catholic theologian wanted to come up when she used this as a reference verse for God being a woman.

What is the connection with wisdom and God? Let’s start by getting an idea of what wisdom is, in the Biblical sense, especially in Old Testament times, and in particular in Solomon’s time.


While the word wisdom strikes moderns as an abstraction, there is evidence that it was a living and palpable reality for the ancient imagination. Biblical wisdom is definable as skill for living, but by the time biblical wisemen have transformed it into images, it is more concrete than conceptual.

Old Testament Images of Wisdom. On the strength of some magnificent pictures in Proverbs 1–9, the most familiar picture of wisdom is probably that of the personified woman Wisdom. She is a commanding presence who summons people boldly and loudly in the most public places of a city—the street, the market, on top of the walls, and at the city gates (Prov 1:20–21). She is an alluring woman who builds a house and invites people to a lavish banquet of food and wine (Prov 9:1–12). As an extension of this evocative feminine imagery, the “son” to whom the speaker in the book of Proverbs repeatedly addresses his instruction is urged to have a love affair with wisdom: “do not forsake her … love her … prize her highly … embrace her” (Prov 4:6–9, RSV).  6Ryken, L., Wilhoit, J., Longman, T., Duriez, C., Penney, D., & Reid, D. G. (2000). In Dictionary of biblical imagery (electronic ed., p. 955). InterVarsity Press.

Since Proverbs 9:1-12 is brought up, let’s take a look at the entire passage containing those verses.

Invitations of Wisdom and of Folly

Pr 9:1 Wisdom has built her house;
she has hewn out its seven pillars.

Pr 9:2 She has prepared her meat and mixed her wine;
she has also set her table.

Pr 9:3 She has sent out her maids, and she calls
from the highest point of the city.

Pr 9:4 “Let all who are simple come in here!”
she says to those who lack judgment.

Pr 9:5 “Come, eat my food
and drink the wine I have mixed.

Pr 9:6 Leave your simple ways and you will live;
walk in the way of understanding.

Pr 9:7 “Whoever corrects a mocker invites insult;
whoever rebukes a wicked man incurs abuse.

Pr 9:8 Do not rebuke a mocker or he will hate you;
rebuke a wise man and he will love you.

Pr 9:9 Instruct a wise man and he will be wiser still;
teach a righteous man and he will add to his learning.

Pr 9:10 “The fear of the LORD is the beginning of wisdom,
and knowledge of the Holy One is understanding.

Pr 9:11 For through me your days will be many,
and years will be added to your life.

Pr 9:12 If you are wise, your wisdom will reward you;
if you are a mocker, you alone will suffer.”

I added a break here, because the focus changes, from wisdom to folly.
We’ll get into that below.

Pr 9:13 The woman Folly is loud;
she is undisciplined and without knowledge.

Pr 9:14 She sits at the door of her house,
on a seat at the highest point of the city,

Pr 9:15 calling out to those who pass by,
who go straight on their way.

Pr 9:16 “Let all who are simple come in here!”
she says to those who lack judgment.

Pr 9:17 “Stolen water is sweet;
food eaten in secret is delicious!”

Pr 9:18 But little do they know that the dead are there,
that her guests are in the depths of the grave.

Now, with that background, two thoughts come up right away when thinking about God, wisdom, and us – people.

Wisdom and God

Most Christians are probably familiar with verse 10, even if we don’t remember where it’s from.

Pr 9:10 “The fear of the LORD is the beginning of wisdom,
and knowledge of the Holy One is understanding.

In this case, “fear of the LORD” is more than “just” being afraid. It’s a strange, for us people, combination of fear, awe, respect, and even love. We don’t have complete knowledge of God, but we’re given enough by God Himself to engender these feelings, and more, just from what He gave us.

Fear the Lord and fear of the Lord are complicated topics. More than can be said in the preceding paragraphs. I’ve written about it twice, from different perspectives. I encourage you to check out one or both of them to find out more.

So fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom. But what does that mean? Unless you’ve studied the verse and gone into the Hebrew words, it probably doesn’t mean what you think. Today, we think of the beginning as being the initial steps in a process. But at the time, the Hebrew words used in this statement actually said that fear of the Lord is a prerequisite for wisdom.

One of the positives – and not so positives – things about doing research is learning new things. “Beginning” being a prerequisite, required before something happens is one of those new things for me. Finding out that the “fear of the Lord” is required before” wisdom is acquired is a new thing.

I made a note to go into that further. To write a third segment for fear of the Lord. I’ll add a link here when it’s done. And I’ll have to see what that means for other things as well. I don’t remember ever hearing or reading that before. I recently added a bunch of books by/for Messianic Jews to my library, because I think it’s important to get a feel for what “our” Old Testament meant to those whose Scripture it was first. Fascinating stuff. And so meaningful. So much to learn. And still, we can really only know a fraction of who God is.

Ultimately then, I guess what was brought to mind is more questions. But the tie between wisdom and God is still inseparable. even more so than I thought.

Wisdom as a woman

Now, I have to get back to Lady Wisdom or Woman Wisdom. Think about where this is coming from. Solomon. And from God. Think about Song of Songs.

Here’s a question. Or two. Or more. Is the feminine wisdom reference about God being feminine? Or is it about God trying to tell us how important wisdom is? And God telling us we need to know Him first, before wisdom? And making it something we want to desire by using the alluring woman in the first twelve verses of Proverbs 9?

And let’s not forget the earlier possible contrast of Lady Wisdom with loose women. That certainly comes out when we take the entirety of Proverbs 9 as a whole.

In other words, rather than an attempt to show God as feminine, is it God who gave us the idea of wisdom as feminine, in a male dominated culture of the time, to attract people to Him and thereby gain wisdom?

I know, some people won’t like that suggestion. But we must remember something Christians say today. God meets us where we are. In Old Testament times, it was very much a male dominated culture. If God was going to reach them where they were, the reference to an alluring woman would be one good way to do it.

Further, if we change words, or try to force modern political correctness back into the past, we’ll lose the lesson that God gave to His people. There’s nothing wrong with continuing the change that Jesus started – bringing women into more prominence. But changing the past to fit into our ideals today, that’s a dangerous thing. It takes away knowledge because there’s no way to learn when the analogies are changed and don’t portray their intended meanings.

A female God with tenderness and power

Depicting God as female in Scripture speaks to God’s tenderness as well as strength and power. For example, the prophet Hosea compares God to a bear robbed of her cubs, promising to “attack and rip open” those who break the covenant.

Since there’s a reference to showing God’s tenderness, I want to include the entire passage from Hosea. I underlined verse 8, to show the verse about the mother bear. It’s hardly tender. When you read the entire passage, you’ll find nothing tender about it at all.

The LORD’S Anger Against Israel

Hos 13:1 When Ephraim spoke, men trembled;
he was exalted in Israel.
But he became guilty of Baal worship and died.

Hos 13:2 Now they sin more and more;
they make idols for themselves from their silver,
cleverly fashioned images,
all of them the work of craftsmen.
It is said of these people,
“They offer human sacrifice
and kiss the calf-idols.”

Hos 13:3 Therefore they will be like the morning mist,
like the early dew that disappears,
like chaff swirling from a threshing floor,
like smoke escaping through a window.

Hos 13:4 “But I am the LORD your God,
who brought you out of Egypt.
You shall acknowledge no God but me,
no Savior except me.

Hos 13:5 I cared for you in the desert,
in the land of burning heat.

Hos 13:6 When I fed them, they were satisfied;
when they were satisfied, they became proud;
then they forgot me.

Hos 13:7 So I will come upon them like a lion,
like a leopard I will lurk by the path.

Hos 13:8 Like a bear robbed of her cubs,
I will attack them and rip them open.
Like a lion I will devour them;
a wild animal will tear them apart.

Hos 13:9 “You are destroyed, O Israel,
because you are against me, against your helper.

Hos 13:10 Where is your king, that he may save you?
Where are your rulers in all your towns,
of whom you said,
‘Give me a king and princes’?

Hos 13:11 So in my anger I gave you a king,
and in my wrath I took him away.

Hos 13:12 The guilt of Ephraim is stored up,
his sins are kept on record.

Hos 13:13 Pains as of a woman in childbirth come to him,
but he is a child without wisdom;
when the time arrives,
he does not come to the opening of the womb.

Hos 13:14 “I will ransom them from the power of the grave;
I will redeem them from death.
Where, O death, are your plagues?
Where, O grave, is your destruction?

“I will have no compassion,

Hos 13:15 even though he thrives among his brothers.
An east wind from the LORD will come,
blowing in from the desert;
his spring will fail
and his well dry up.
His storehouse will be plundered
of all its treasures.

Hos 13:16 The people of Samaria must bear their guilt,
because they have rebelled against their God.
They will fall by the sword;
their little ones will be dashed to the ground,
their pregnant women ripped open.”

As I said, I find nothing tender in there. That’s hardly surprising, given that it’s about God’s anger at His people. There was tenderness before they turned away from God. And there will be tenderness again, after they turn back to God. But here? No.

In any case, it’s not necessary to show God as feminine in order to show God as tender. Or with any other characteristic. If this verse had tenderness to show, it’s still an analogy, as was the lion reference. And the woman in childbirth. No one’s going to think God is a woman giving birth, just because there’s a reference to that. Instead, an analogy is just that – a reference to something else to make a comparison and tell something about God.

Is God a burning bush?

Elsewhere in Scripture, God has no gender. God appears to Moses in the burning bush in Exodus 3, defying all gender categories.

I’m just going to include Young’s Literal Translation here. Our English Bibles say that God appeared to Moses “in” the burning bush. But is that a true interpretation?

Ex 3:1 And Moses hath been feeding the flock of Jethro his father-in-law, priest of Midian, and he leadeth the flock behind the wilderness, and cometh in unto the mount of God, to Horeb; 2 and there appeareth unto him a messenger of Jehovah in a flame of fire, out of the midst of the bush, and he seeth, and lo, the bush is burning with fire, and the bush is not consumed.  7Young, R. (1997). Young’s Literal Translation (Ex 3:1–2). Logos Bible Software.

It appears that God was in the midst of the bush. God wasn’t the bush. God was “in” the bush. Just like we could be standing in the middle of a large bush, as long as it wasn’t on fire and wasn’t so thickly grown that we physically couldn’t get into it. But that doesn’t make us the bush. In other words, if I stood in the middle of a bush, I’m still a man. I’m not a gender-defying object just because I’m standing in a bush!

Even if we took the argument from the author, despite the logical problem with it, the only reason there’s no gender involved is because, like a previous example, there’s no gender because the Hebrew word for bush has no gender. Neither does English. But if you read a French Bible, a bush is male. Oops. I don’t think God changes or loses gender because of the language we’re reading.

No – God is God. Going to this effort to try to make God into something other than what God tells us only puts us into what I often refer to as the weeds. We get so into trying to figure out what gender God is in different circumstances that we lose sight of who God really is!

Is God a mountain?

The Book of 1 Kings presents a gentle image of a gender-neutral God. God asked the prophet Elijah to go to a mountain. While there, Elijah experienced a strong wind, an earthquake and fire, but God was not present in those. Instead, God was present in a gentle whisper.

1Ki 19:11 The LORD said, “Go out and stand on the mountain in the presence of the LORD, for the LORD is about to pass by.”

I’m sorry, but that doesn’t make God gender neutral. The Hebrew word for “mountain” is gender neutral. But God isn’t the mountain. God is going to pass by the mountain.

Is God “plural”?

The creation stories of Genesis refer to God in the plural.

Is God “plural”? Uh – yes. But does that have anything to do with gender? No.

In case you don’t remember, here’s what the author is referring to:

The Beginning

Ge 1:1 In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth. 2 Now the earth was formless and empty, darkness was over the surface of the deep, and the Spirit of God was hovering over the waters.

Ge 1:26 Then God sthe mid, “Let us make man in our image, in our likeness, and let them rule over the fish of the sea and the birds of the air, over the livestock, over all the earth, and over all the creatures that move along the ground.”

That’s clear enough in English. Let us …

But we know, English is one thing. Hebrew can be quite another. So let’s check it out. Here’s one source that looks at a variety of possibilities.

1:26 Let us make The occurrence of “us” in this passage has been understood to refer to the plurality of the godhead: the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. This understanding would have been unknown to the authors of the OT. 

This view is commonly held by Christianity. Notice, as the author points out, there’s no way the Jewish people at the time Genesis was written, could have known about the concept we call the Trinity.

Another possible explanation is the so-called “plural of majesty,” but this type of grammatical usage is more common for nouns and adjectives than verbs.

This one can probably be ruled out.

 A simpler explanation is that “us” reflects an announcement by the single God of Israel to a group in His presence—the heavenly host.  Other OT passages support the idea of a heavenly host or divine council (Psa 29:1; see Psa 82:1 and note). This explanation also applies to Gen 11:7. The phrase “our image” then means that the members of the heavenly host also reflect the divine image.  8Barry, J. D., Mangum, D., Brown, D. R., Heiser, M. S., Custis, M., Ritzema, E., Whitehead, M. M., Grigoni, M. R., & Bomar, D. (2012, 2016). Faithlife Study Bible (Ge 1:26). Lexham Press.

In Revelation, we see examples of God, Jesus, the twenty four elders, and others.

But there’s more

Yes, we read “us” in English. And as we saw, that “us” didn’t necessarily apply to God. However, there’s no escaping something about the Hebrew word we read as God.

430 אֱלֹהִים [ʾelohiym /el·o·heem/] n m p. Plural of 433; TWOT 93c; GK 466; 2606 occurrences; AV translates as “God” 2346 times, “god” 244 times, “judge” five times, “GOD” once, “goddess” twice, “great” twice, “mighty” twice, “angels” once, “exceeding” once, “God-ward + 4136” once, and “godly” once. 1 (plural). 1A rulers, judges. 1B divine ones. 1C angels. 1D gods. 2 (plural intensive—singular meaning). 2A god, goddess. 2B godlike one. 2C works or special possessions of God. 2D the (true) God. 2E God.  9Strong, J. (1995). In Enhanced Strong’s Lexicon. Woodside Bible Fellowship.

Even the Hebrew word for God is plural. This can’t be because Moses, the author of Genesis, people knew about the Trinity. It can only be because God made it known to Moses. Remember, God spoke to Moses. And Moses accepted that God, Elohim, was plural. But he also knew that Elohim was one God.

That’s why the Christian view of “us”, in let us make…, is that “us” is the Trinity – Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. It doesn’t rule out the presence of the heavenly host. However, in logical terms, the absence of the heavenly host is sufficient for the plural to be used when only Elohim is present. Given that God was also the speaker, His presence is also necessary. Therefore, we have both a necessary and a sufficient condition for use of the plural “let us make” without anyone else being present with Elohim.

Therefore, God, in the manner used by the author of this article, isn’t plural. There is one true God in the Bible. And any attempt to say there are multiple genders within the one true God is unfounded.

This is the kind of thing others use to claim Christians believe in multiple Gods. For instance, Islam claims Christianity is polytheistic, because we refer to God as the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit.

Of course, that’s wrong, because through some means that we don’t understand, God is one God, in three “persons”.

It gets even less comprehensible by us humans when we find out that the Holy Spirit is the mind of both The Father and the Son.

And yet, it’s critical to what we believe.

Talk about getting lost in the weeds. If we lose track of something this basic because we’re lost in things that aren’t what God says about God, then where are we? Are we on the right path? And how are we going to help others to know Jesus?

Conclusion – Who is God? Do pronouns take us away from His love?

I’ve tried very hard to not give away my conclusion until now. You may find it surprising. But then, you may also have reached it yourself.

Here’s what the author of the article we’ve been looking at concluded from what she wrote:

These examples emphasize that God has no gender and is beyond any human categories.

As you no doubt realize, I totally disagree. I think she has excellent examples, except the one in Hosea, to show some of God’s characteristics.

However, I don’t see that gender has anything to do with anything she mentioned.

Here’s my question about gender and getting lost in the weeds. Remember the part above from Genesis, let us make man in our image. “Man”, of course, in that instance is short for humans. Men and women. Adam and Eve. And humans have genders. Male and female. Given by God.

No – we’re not going to get into anything other than what the Bible says here. Nothing about all the gender stuff that seems to be so popular and so divisive in our culture today. Maybe another day. But not here. With this topic, it’s so divisive it would derail the whole thing.

The point is, people have genders.

When we try to assign a gender, or genders, or no gender, to God, are we not turning “let us make man in our image” on its head? Are we not trying to make God in our image?

Yes, Jesus came to earth as a man. As we say, God incarnate. Here’s another Christianity 101 type lesson.

The incarnation is the historic Christian doctrine that Jesus of Nazareth is the eternal Second Person of the Trinity, that he has in time taken upon himself a complete human nature by being born of the Virgin Mary by the power of the Holy Spirit.

The doctrine of the incarnation teaches that through the work of the Holy Spirit, God the Son has become fully human in time in order to die for the sins of humanity and defeat death by the power of his resurrection. Although the New Testament documents uniformly affirm that Jesus is God in the flesh, certain books of the Bible emphasize this doctrine more than others.  10Kilcrease, J. (2018). Jesus’ Incarnation. In M. Ward, J. Parks, B. Ellis, & T. Hains (Eds.), Lexham Survey of Theology. Lexham Press.

One of the names for Jesus is Immanuel. God with us. God, spirit, in human form. As it says above, it was necessary, for a whole bunch of reasons, for Jesus to come to earth as a human. God, spirit, came to earth in human form. In the person of Jesus.

Jesus had a gender. But he was 100% God and 100% human.

Why do we insist that God, spirit, must have a gender, just because we do?

Spirit refers to a living “intangible essence” with rational, emotional, and volitional attributes. The Bible primarily uses the concept of spirit for the non-material living essence of human beings (soul, spirit, inner life) and for the Holy Spirit, or Spirit of God.  11Lowther, R. J. (2014). Spirit. In D. Mangum, D. R. Brown, R. Klippenstein, & R. Hurst (Eds.), Lexham Theological Wordbook. Lexham Press.

Trying to assign a gender to God is going against the very essence of who/what we believe God is.

We have no idea what, if any relationship exists between human gender and any characteristic of God, as spirit. But by our definitions, if there is one at all, it’s certainly not grounded in what we call human gender, If anything, our human gender is based on something from God not that God has something/anything based on us as humans.

Why did Jesus come as a man?

Let’s address the likely question of: why did Jesus come as a man?

Do you remember, earlier we looked at God meeting us where we are? And that the culture at the time Jesus came was very much male dominated. Why would God come as a woman? No one would’ve listened. If you want to influence someone, you need to first have them even willing to listen to you.

As we saw in the examples, God had ways of miraculously appearing, like in the midst of a burning bush to Moses. Or in the wind to Elijah.

But God didn’t want that kind of miracle. The miracle for Jesus was God with us. Immanuel. God as a human. A human who would be born without sin. Live without sin. And who would, still without sin, suffer and die for all of our sins. At that time, the only way that was going to happen was with Jesus as a man.

History. There’s a saying that those who ignore history are doomed to repeat it. There’s also one about those who don’t learn from history are doomed to repeat it.

But, in this case, I think it’s more like those who don’t learn from history are doomed. Have condemned themselves. You know – as in a famous passage.

John 3:16

Jn 3:16 “For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. 17 For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him. 18 Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe stands condemned already because he has not believed in the name of God’s one and only Son. 19 This is the verdict: Light has come into the world, but men loved darkness instead of light because their deeds were evil. 20 Everyone who does evil hates the light, and will not come into the light for fear that his deeds will be exposed. 21 But whoever lives by the truth comes into the light, so that it may be seen plainly that what he has done has been done through God.”

If we change history, we’re not going to learn the right lessons from it.

If we get lost while trying to change history, we’re not going to learn the right lessons either.

If we get so lost in trying to remake God in our image, aren’t we doomed to condemn ourselves, because how can we believe in a God that we don’t even know? How can a God we don’t believe in transform our lives and make us want to be Holy like He is, when we don’t even know who He is?

So let’s accept that we are human, God is spirit. Yes, we use things we know to give us ideas about who God is. Jesus did that same thing with the parables. No one thinks the Kingdom of God is a mustard tree. It’s like a mustard tree, in one way.

And since we are made in God’s image, it’s not surprising that we can use examples of things we’re familiar with to in some way, describe God. But there’s no reason at all to think God actually picked up any traits/characteristics/anything, from us. There’s just no way we can assign anything of ourselves to God, and say He must have those things because we do.

Finally, remember this. God is love. But even there, we love God because He loved us first.

Image by Jeff Jacobs from Pixabay

  • 1
    Strong, J. (1995). In Enhanced Strong’s Lexicon. Woodside Bible Fellowship.
  • 2
    Strong, J. (1995). In Enhanced Strong’s Lexicon. Woodside Bible Fellowship.
  • 3
    Tanzer, S. J. (2012). The Wisdom of Solomon. In C. A. Newsom, J. E. Lapsley, & S. H. Ringe (Eds.), Women’s Bible Commentary (Revised and Updated, pp. 406–407). Westminster John Knox Press.
  • 4
    Tanzer, S. J. (2012). The Wisdom of Solomon. In C. A. Newsom, J. E. Lapsley, & S. H. Ringe (Eds.), Women’s Bible Commentary (Revised and Updated, p. 407). Westminster John Knox Press.
  • 5
  • 6
    Ryken, L., Wilhoit, J., Longman, T., Duriez, C., Penney, D., & Reid, D. G. (2000). In Dictionary of biblical imagery (electronic ed., p. 955). InterVarsity Press.
  • 7
    Young, R. (1997). Young’s Literal Translation (Ex 3:1–2). Logos Bible Software.
  • 8
    Barry, J. D., Mangum, D., Brown, D. R., Heiser, M. S., Custis, M., Ritzema, E., Whitehead, M. M., Grigoni, M. R., & Bomar, D. (2012, 2016). Faithlife Study Bible (Ge 1:26). Lexham Press.
  • 9
    Strong, J. (1995). In Enhanced Strong’s Lexicon. Woodside Bible Fellowship.
  • 10
    Kilcrease, J. (2018). Jesus’ Incarnation. In M. Ward, J. Parks, B. Ellis, & T. Hains (Eds.), Lexham Survey of Theology. Lexham Press.
  • 11
    Lowther, R. J. (2014). Spirit. In D. Mangum, D. R. Brown, R. Klippenstein, & R. Hurst (Eds.), Lexham Theological Wordbook. Lexham Press.

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