The Importance of Hebrew with regards to the Holy Spirit in Christianity

For those of us who are Christians there is something that has been lost since around the 2nd-3rd century after Jesus walked the earth. In Hebrew, the Holy Spirit is a feminine entity. Scholars are aware of it, but most ordinary Christians are not.

Jesus spoke Hebrew and Aramaic, which are closely related to each other. In both languages the Spirit is feminine. The reason you cannot see the Spirit’s femininity in the New Testament is because all the earliest manuscripts we have are Greek where the gender of the Spirit is neuter. The Old Testament on the other hand was originally written in Hebrew, with minor parts in Aramaic. But, where the feminine pronouns are present, they are left out of translations.

When Christianity transitioned from consisting of mostly Hebrew-speaking Israelites to Greek-speaking gentiles, the gender of the Spirit was gradually lost. Once the 4th century creeds were written the Holy Spirit became part of an all-masculine Trinity and the spiritual implications the feminine Spirit had also disappeared. But, if Jesus addressed the Spirit as feminine, it is worth considering if this was theologically important.

The Holy Spirit has a more distinct and prominent role in the New Testament in comparison to the Hebrew Scriptures. For instance, Jesus began his ministry by being anointed by the Spirit and he emphasized being born again via the Spirit. John 16:13 even portrays the Spirit of Truth, a synonym to the Holy Spirit, as a personified divine power who did not speak on her own authority.

The feminine gender of the Spirit presents an interesting dichotomy to the male Yahweh in the Bible and this ties into the creation story of man and woman where God, in Genesis 1:26, declared “Let us make man in our image, and in our likeness…”. The plural pronouns used here have been a source of debate for millennia. Christians say the plurality refers to a spiritual likeness of God and Jesus, or the plurality of majesty. Scholars think the story is originally Canaanite and for that reason it was El talking to the divine council. Jews (and some Christians) believe the plural pronouns refer to the heavenly hosts, because they are present on other occasions.

But, there are problems with each of these answers. Christians need to consider that the word “image” refers to a physical form not spiritual likeness. This begs the question: in whose image was woman was made since Jesus and God are male? It also presents a problem with the fall of Man. Only when Adam and Eve ate of the forbidden fruit did Mankind become divine-like by gaining knowledge about good and evil. Proponents of the plural of majesty defend it as a way for God to emphasize His own power. But, the context stresses God’s form, not grandeur and they also overlook who the woman was modeled after. Scholars looking at Canaan for the answer ignore that the divine council were never co-creators. Aside from the main god El, only his wife Asherah had this role and title and she was the mother of these minor gods. So, if anyone thinks this is a Canaanite remnant, it ought to refer to Asherah. Jews are right about the heavenly host being present with God in the Bible. But, whether this is understood as the “army” of God, often translated as “host” or “sons of God,” or both, they are undoubtedly described as male. The sons of God are also portrayed as spectators of creation (Job 38:7) not co-creators.

Still, these answers are widely accepted while there is a divine feminine power overtly present during the creation of the world. She is Lady Wisdom and I propose that she and Holy Spirit are the same divine force. They have identical roles and functions, both are feminine, and both are present in the beginning. Wisdom speaks of herself as being created “at the beginning, the first of his acts of old” (Proverbs 8:23) and being “beside” Yahweh (Proverbs 8:30) when He created the world. Genesis 1:2 describes the Spirit of God “moving over the face of the waters” before God calls the world into being. In other words, the Spirit was present with God before the creation of the world just like Wisdom. Although Lady Wisdom has been given a lot of attention by scholars, this has never translated into a new theological understanding of the creation story.

It is my proposition that Eve was made in the Holy Spirit’s feminine image and it was her Yahweh was talking to, not the heavenly host, not Jesus, and not Himself. The duality presented by Yahweh’s Spirit can best be explained through the institution of marriage. Adam and Eve became one flesh and the union of male and female is the core enabling power of pro-creation of Mankind on earth. This may just reflect what made the creation of Mankind possible from heaven: two complementary forces—male and female—becoming One.

When Moses declared to Israel that Yahweh is One, the word for “one” can also mean “first.” So, we can read this as if Yahweh was the First, or as if Yahweh is One. If Yahweh and His Spirit are One it can be understood as a divine marriage. If Yahweh was first, it explains how Jesus could say that the Spirit of Truth did not speak on her own authority. After all, Jesus himself said he could do nothing of his own authority and that: “If I bear witness to myself, my testimony is not true” (Gospel of John 5:31).

Early church fathers recorded that the first Gospel written was authored by Matthew and called “the Gospel of the Hebrews.” They cite a passage that quotes Jesus calling the Holy Spirit “my Mother.” This is stunning, yet virtually ignored by scholars and theologians alike. But, it is entirely plausible and not only because Jesus spoke Hebrew and Aramaic. Matthew 1:18 describes how “Mary was found to be with child of the Holy Spirit.” She was his heavenly mother and, because of her femininity, he taught that the way to God was to be “born” again through her.

About the Author
I am a native of Sweden who lives in Ann Arbor, MI where I received my B.A. in Religion & International Politics and M.A. in Near Eastern Studies with a concentration in the Hebrew Bible, from the University of Michigan. My two books: “Our Mother – the Holy Spirit” (Relevant Publishing. US, 2019) and “God is not Alone: Our Mother – the Holy Spirit” (Avalon publishing, UK, 2015) developed out of a thesis that was published 2005 in the late Professor Noel Freedman’s journal “the Biblical Historian” and called “God’s Wife.” On a personal note I love animals and work on a private horse-farm, and have many other interests such as dancing, judo, ping-pong, running, swimming and skiing. I also have two grown children.
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