The Divine Feminine Trinity

Christian theology is full of masculine terminology. If we really think about it, the Christian Trinity – Father, Son, and Holy Spirit – could be interpreted as a thoroughgoing male deity.

Is Godde masculine or feminine? Even to pose the question is to realize that Godde, as a spiritual being beyond our comprehension, is neither male nor female. Or perhaps more to the point, considering that Genesis 1:27 indicates that woman and man were both created in Godde’s image, Godde can be described using feminine as well as masculine terms.

To be sure, the Bible uses not only masculine images to depict Godde, but feminine images as well. Consider Isaiah 66:13: “As a mother comforts her child, so I will comfort you” (NRSV). Throughout the Psalms, Godde is described as a mother hen protecting her children under her wing.

The Holy Spirit in particular is an archetypal image that evokes the Divine Feminine. She gives birth (John 3:6), life (2 Cor. 3:6), inspiration (2 Pet. 1:21), comfort (Acts 9:31), and groans as if in childbirth (Rom. 8:23). Furthermore, she is described as fire and as a dove – both feminine images of the divine in that culture. Ben Zoma wrote in the Talmud that “the Spirit of God was brooding over the face of the waters like a dove which broods over her young but does not touch them” (Hag. 15a).

There is another compelling feminine image in the Bible: That of Lady Wisdom. In the Hellenistic Jewish Wisdom literature, beginning with Proverbs, Godde’s Wisdom is personified as a woman (see Prov. 8:1-9:6). And as many biblical scholars now recognize, some of the principal New Testament passages about the incarnation (including John 1:1-18 and Col. 1:15-20) are rooted in this Jewish Wisdom tradition, depicting Jesus as the incarnation of divine Wisdom (see also 1 Cor. 1:30).

From a feminist perspective, this means that Jesus incarnated both his “Father” (Godde) and his “Mother” (Wisdom) in his own person (cf. also Matt. 11:19 // Luke 7:35). If we add to this the fact that Godde’s Wisdom and Godde’s Spirit are closely linked and even equated in biblical literature (cf. Wis. 7:22ff) and the fact that the Spirit is an archetypal image of the Divine Feminine, we may think of the Spirit as (in a sense) Jesus’ Mother.

There is some Jewish precedent for this type of language. Philo of Alexandria, a contemporary of the Apostle Paul, described Godde as “the husband of Wisdom” (Cher. 49), and wrote that the Word of Godde “has received imperishable and wholly pure parents, Godde being his Father, who is also the Father of all things, and Wisdom being his Mother, by means of whom the universe arrived at creation” (Flight 109).

When the Church Fathers began to formulate early descriptions of the Trinity in the second century, they explicitly identified Wisdom with the Holy Spirit. The first known use of the word “Trinity” (Greek, triados), in Theophilus of Antioch’s second letter to Autolycus, described the Trinity as Godde, Word, and Wisdom. Similarly, Irenaeus of Lyons constantly identified the Holy Spirit as the Wisdom of Godde. For example, he wrote “that the Word, namely the Son, was always with the Father; and that Wisdom also, which is the Spirit, was present with” Godde (Haer. 4.20.3).

Other early Christians explicitly identified the Holy Spirit as “Mother.” For example, both Origen and Jerome favorably quoted a passage from a second-century Jewish Christian Gospel (the Gospel of the Hebrews) in which Jesus referred to the Holy Spirit as his Mother. Up until the fifth century, the Syriac church used the feminine pronoun of the Holy Spirit, regarding her as “our Mother.” The idea of a Father-Mother-Son Trinity was popular enough in the fifth century to draw the criticism of Augustine (Trin. XII.5).

However, the Divine Feminine ideal in the early church was not limited to Motherhood. For example, Methodius of Olympus (260 – 312 C.E.) explored Paul’s image of the Spirit-indwelled Church as the Bride of Christ, comparing the relationship of Christ and the Spirit with the relationship of Adam and Eve.

Based on this evidence, some have argued that the Holy Spirit should be considered the “feminine” member of the Trinity who balances out the “masculine” Father and Son. However, proposing a “feminine dimension” within Godde or one “feminine person” within the Trinity is problematic. What qualities are distinctively “feminine” and which are distinctively “masculine”? How can that question be answered without actually reinforcing gender stereotypes?

Fortunately, using fully biblical terms, we can actually use Divine Feminine language of each of the three “persons” of the Trinity. For example, we can justifiably say that the Divine Feminine is Godde as Mother and Godde (Wisdom)-in-Christ, as well as the indwelling Godde (the Spirit). This expanded Trinitarian formula describes each of the three “persons” using feminine metaphors that actually complement masculine metaphors like “Father” and “Son.”

The women and men of The Christian Godde Project support individuals and churches that incorporate these biblical terms into their liturgies and devotion. We believe that recognition of the Divine Feminine in Godde not only signals a willingness to consider seriously the criticism that churches have historically suppressed women, but goes a long way to helping to restore the rightful place of women as equal partners with men in the task of building up the Church.

Mark Mattison

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4 Responses to “The Divine Feminine Trinity”

  1. Eva K. Delgado Says:

    may I add you to my blogroll! I have been following you for some time and I just want to scream YES YES every time I read your posts!! Thank you – Eva

  2. Mark Says:

    Eva, yes, please, add this blog to your blogroll. May we add yours to our blogroll as well?

  3. Eva K. Delgado Says:

    Absolutely! I am so thrilled that Google Alerts sent me your site! 🙂

  4. Mark Says:

    Great! Thanks!

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