The image of God
- as an exclusively male
figure - is one of long standing in the Western
religious tradition. People of many faiths and none routinely use male pronouns when describing the Creator
, and until recently, it seems, this idea has gone unchallenged. But in fact, the idea of God as exclusively male is largely a cultural, not religious, artefact
In the Bible
, in Genesis 2
, we are told that God
created people in 'his' own image - male and female. Some scholars claim that the Hebrew
title 'Es Shaddai' - usually translated 'Almighty' - actually means 'Great-Breasted'.
In the book of Proverbs
, we encounter Wisdom
, who, like Jesus
in John 1
, was 'in the beginning with God'. This motif occurs again in the Great O Antiphons
, which commence with O Sapientia
, the invocation of Sophia
, the divine spirit of Wisdom.
and St Paul
play down the importance of gender differences. 'God is Spirit, and those that worship him must worship him in spirit, and in truth', Jesus tells the woman at the well of Samaria
. 'In Christ
there is no male or female', St Paul writes.
In certain apocryphal gospel
is presented as referring to his 'mother
, the Holy Spirit
'. This may be the mother intended by St John the Divine
when, in the Revelation
, he describes a woman robed in the sun, with a crown of stars
times, Mother Julian of Norwich
and other mystics described God, and indeed Jesus, as a mother, and this imagery was given forceful presentation both in mostly-lost wall paintings of the time and in later centuries by the works of artists such as Stanley Spencer
circles, the image of God as mother was, by and large, ruthlessly supressed. It is only in recent years that feminist theology
has taken hold, and even this has played a surprisingly small role in the continuing debate about women priests
. And last year there was great outcry when the Methodist
church in England
produced a prayer book
which, in just one place, addressed God as Mother.
But to the Christian
who feels that God
is both male and female, it is natural to respond to C S Lewis
' claim that 'only one wearing the masculine uniform may represent the Lord of the Church' with the assertion that, in God, through the Holy Spirit,
'I've got access to Mother now, and I'll get my own answers, thank you'.