Restoring the Christian Woman
The Female Rôle in
Sabbath Day Sermon: Saturday 5 October 2002
One of the most controversial things that Yah'shua (Jesus) did in His ministry was to re-establish woman as the spiritual equal of man. The apostle Paul said: "There is not Yehudite (Jew) nor Greek, there is not slave nor free, there is not male and female, for you are all one (echad) in Messiah Yah'shua (Christ Jesus)" (Gal.3:28, ISRV). In the Gospel of Yah'shua (Jesus) all racial, social and gender distinctions disappear because such things have no meaning in "spiritual oneness".
In case you think I am a feminist supporting unisexuality, or a Marxist disapproving of separate national and racial identity, or a supporter of the UN charter on equal rights, I am not. I actually reject all three of these, not because they do not embrace true principles - for they do - but because they are built on a lawless, anarchistic and antichrist foundation. I believe the Gospel of Yah'shua covers but does not replace national identity, social distinctions, and gender differences and rôles. As you read scripture you soon discover that in the world to come the nations do not disappear - families, tribes and nations are an eternal concept. As you read scripture you soon discover that there are social hierarchies in both heaven and in the millennial world to come. And as you read scripture you also discover that male-female distinctives, far from disappearing, become even more enhanced. The Messianic world of the future is not a single nation, a single social status, or a converged gender. And yet in Yah'shua these distinctions - real and eternal though they are - aren't nearly as important as people make them out to be who are not in Christ. In terms of things that matter, they vaporise in the echad unity which is Christ. Hebrews, Englishmen, Africans, Russians and Americans are all echad. Princes, governors, cleaners and housewives are all echad. Men and women are all echad. What matters is not our race, our position in society, or our gender, but the fact that we are blood-purchased by Christ and are in harmonious union with Him.
Today I want to look at gender as viewed through the eyes of Yahweh, our Heavenly Father. To do that we need to not only understand the scriptural teaching on gender but also the way this teaching has been twisted and distorted by wrong Christian theology. And if we are to understand the relationship between men and women, we must first understand the relationship between the Persons in the Godhead.
For nearly sixteen centuries the doctrine of the Trinity has formed the vanguard of the Christian movement and has become the principle unifying distinctive of the world's most populous religion. What most Christians don't realise, however, is that this doctrine is principally the work of one man, Aurelius Augustine, a Catholic theologian who is known through his works, The City of God and Confessions. It was he who wrote Of the Trinity which lays out the 'orthodox' Christian belief that God consists of three male persons - Father, Son and Holy Spirit, and gave us a doctrine of the Godhead which is entirely void of anything or anyone female. If Augustine is right, then we are forced to ask ourselves a very difficult question: from whence sprang the concept, no less the manifestation, of femininity?
The first thing we must observe - which no-one can deny - is that femininity is a personal attribute of one or more personal beings. It's not something impersonal or neutral. Thus you don't find femininity in objects like tables or stars. When you say something is feminine you are talking about a person. The Trinity doctrine is, from a philosophical point-of-view, quite absurd. If God is independently and eternally self-existent, then it follows that God could not create God. The Trinitarians would agree with that statement. But if this is true, how could an all-masculine deity somehow reach outside "Himself" and create anything resembling the personal attribute of femininity?
We are all agreed that 'Father' and 'Son' are masculine monikers [a person's name or nickname]. So unless you are willing to attribute androgyny [having both male and female attributes] to one or both of these two Persons in the Elohim, we are forced to search elsewhere for the origin of femininity. And since the Scriptures make it perfectly plain that the Godhead consists only of Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, then we really have no choice but to look more closely at the Holy Spirit to see if we can find the origin of femininity. Fortunately for us, we do not have to look very far.
New Covenant Christians have a reputation for being radical and unapologetic when it comes to faithfulness to the biblical revelation even if such destroys our golden cow traditions. We violently intrude upon people's man-made comfort zones and receive violent condemnation for our trouble in return. In a way they are right to be concerned about correctly identifying the Holy Spirit. Yah'shua (Jesus) warns us that all sins can, if properly repented of, be forgiven, but there is one sin that can never be forgiven: blasphemy against the Holy Spirit (Mt.12:31). And so attributing femininity to the Spirit suddenly assumes huge dimensions for all believers, for there is the real threat of damnation as a possible penalty for error.
This is the problem we face. Unlike the English words 'Father' and 'Son', 'Holy Spirit' is not burdened by any specific gender connotation. But the Hebrew word for spirit, however, is ruach, a feminine noun. And Hebrew is the original language of both the Old and New Testaments. Where the confusion sets in is in the Greek for 'spirit' which is pneuma, a neuter noun. And since we have been wrongly told that the New Testament was written in Greek, theologians have been faced by a dilemma - on the one hand, the Old Testament Hebrew says without exception that the Ruach haQodesh (Holy Spirit) is female, the New Testament Greek translations would have us believe that She is neuter or sexless. And yet as you read our English translations of the New Testament, what do you see? You find masculine personal pronouns ('he', 'him') being supplied by the translators and thereafter attributed to the Ruach (Spirit). And why have they done this? In order to conform the Bible to a preconceived Catholic-Augustinian doctrine. That's right, and mark it well: our English Bibles have been deliberately altered to make doctrine agree with a Catholic creed!
Now we may rightly be annoyed with the Jehovah's Witnesses for mutilating the Bible to fit in with their preconceived doctrines (the New World Translation) but is it not a little hypocritical when Catholics and Protestants do exactly the same thing? At least the Jehovah's Witnesses are consistent with their belief that the New Testament was originally written in Greek and so teach that the Holy Spirit is neuter and non-personal!
Now some people may think I am making a mountain out of a mole hill here, but consider this possibility: if thinking or speaking about the Ruach (Spirit) in feminine terms constitutes blasphemy in the minds of Trinitarians, then what would make masculine attribution not blasphemous? Indeed, if the worst insult we can hurl at one another is to attribute masculinity to our mothers (for example, "Your mother wears army boots"), how much worse an insult to deny femininity to the Ruach (Spirit), if this should be the case? And what (horrors or horrors) if the Ruach (Spirit) should in some way turn out to be Yahweh's wife? How would you (a husband) feel having your wife identified in male terms? And how would a true woman feel being identified in such terms? Looking at the graffiti around town, the ultimate defacing of a woman seems to me to paint a moustache on her face.
Now gender may not be important to the New Ager or occultist who believes that we change gender in subsequent reincarnations but to the Elohim gender is very important. When we are resurrected our private parts aren't just going to drop off, as many seem to believe. For if gender is so unimportant in the next world, then surely it would be unimportant to the Godhead, in whose image we were originally made?
Historically speaking, I suspect the reason why the Ruach haQodesh (Holy Spirit) was masculinised was because the heretical sect called the Gnostics also believed in a female Ruach (Spirit). However, truth does not suddenly become untruth by association with a cult. If it did, then we might as well reject water baptism and a whole host of other true Christian doctrines and practices embraced by the Jehovah's Witnesses, Mormons, and others.
"And Elohim said, 'Let us make man in Our image, according to Our likeness, and let them rule over the fish of the sea, and over the birds of the heavens, and over the livestock, and over all the earth and over all creeping creatures that creep on the earth.' And Elohim created the man in His image, in the image of Elohim He created him - male and female he created them" (Gen.1:26-27, ISRV).
The term 'image' here thus carries with it twin notions of dominion and relationship - dominion in the sense of a vice regency or rule, and relationship in the sense of a diversity between the two sexes. An image, however, like a picture, is not the thing portrayed but rather something like it. If we see the image of a rose, for example in a photograph, we realise that we are not beholding the rose itself. Yet we can learn something about the rose by studying the image.
So it is with the image of Elohim (God), at least according to the Bible. Thus, as humans are ruling beings, so is Elohim a ruling Being. In this regard, humankind is not God, but an image of God. Humans rule the earth whereas God rules everything, including humankind.
Similarly, humans are revealed as relational beings. Mankind is "male and female". Does this mean that Elohim (God) is also "male and female" in the sense of being distinguished sexually? Well, not necessarily, since that would equate the image with the thing being imaged, depending on whether you regard the Elohim as being of exclusively spiritual substance or not. Prior to the incarnation, God did not apparently have a physical body, and so it could be argued that God could not have been "male and female" in the same sense that mankind is male and female. It's a difficult question which I don't propose to attempt to resolve here today, other than to say this: since angels were presumably made in God's image too, and since rebellious angels were able to come down to earth in the days before the flood and marry physical human women and have children, then there remains the possibility that the Elohim are in some sense 'physical' too. Let's, however, focus on the non-physical aspect of gender today.
The distinction between men and women is not, as we know, solely physical. There is a non-material distinction as well. We speak and conceive of this non material distinction between the sexes as 'masculinity' and 'femininity'. In other words, with nothing more to go on than Genesis 1:27, we can legitimately conclude that Elohim (God) somehow consists of two spiritual (and maybe 'physical') Persons, one masculine and one feminine. But this is not where the biblical image of God ends. Mankind is not portrayed as merely binary. There is a further distinction between human beings that pertains to God's image. Immediately following the Creation of the first man and the first woman, Yahweh commanded them to "be fruitful and multiply". He commanded them to come together as a unity (echad) - to become, as it were, "one flesh".
The result of this union was the procreation of another category of human being - children - who would then, in turn, continue the replication of God's image throughout the earth. Here, then, in its fullest sense, is the relational image of God as revealed in the biblical account of the creation of humankind: Father, Mother, and Child: a trinity of persons united by familial love - the basic nuclear human family. As the Elohim (God) is eternally Father, Ruach haQodesh (Holy Spirit) and Son, so is humankind temporally father, mother, and children. Indeed, it is this attribute of family that distinguishes human beings from all other creatures, be they animals or even possibly angels.
Strangely enough, you might think, this analogy did not sit well with Augustine. His objection was that it sought the image of God in a diversity of persons rather than in the mind of the individual. Since Adam was created first, he argued, we must seek the image of God in him alone (and by extension, in each individual man), and not just in him, but specifically in his mind, since, he argued, God is not a bodily being. But this thinking is based not only on certain assumptions but also errors. For one thing, it can be argued that God is a bodily being, not only because of the Incarnation but because of various theophanies in the Old Testament, not least Jacob physically wrestling with Him and claiming he, like Moses later, had talked to Him face-to-face (as well as getting his thigh dislocated for his trouble). For another, the first Adam contained Eve - he was already "two in one", a representation of the ideal echad or union between husband and wife. Anyway, Augustine went on to argue that Eve (and by extension women in general), being derived from Adam, could not, in and of herself, be considered as the image of God.
He gets worse. He reads too much into 1 Corinthians 11:7 ("For a man ... is the image and glory of God: but the woman is the glory of the man"), concluding that Paul here intended to deny to the woman her participation in the image of God. But were we to apply this selfsame logic to an earlier foundational verse, 1 Corinthians 11:3 ("the head of every man is Christ ... and the head of Christ is God"), we would be led to conclusion that Paul intended by this to deny Christ's participation in the divinity of the Elohim (God), a conclusion that Augustine would find preposterous.
We are forced to conclude that Augustine erred and in so doing bequeathed to orthodox Christianity a false, all-male concept of the Godhead. It is far more accurate to understand, using the analogy given by Yahweh Himself in Genesis, that as Adam was in the beginning one containing Eve, so Yahweh was in the beginning One containing the Ruach haQodesh (Holy Spirit) - that as Yahweh took Eve out of Adam, so He took the Ruach (Spirit) out of Himself. And as this separated Adam and Eve gave birth to Abel, who was perfectly in Adam's image, so Yahweh and the Ruach (Spirit) likewise gave birth to their Only Begotten Son, Yah'shua (Jesus). The original Yahweh contained the Ruach (Spirit) and Yah'shua (Jesus) - they were always there, but unmanifested, just as the original Adam contained Eve and their children. Indeed, is not Yah'shua (Jesus) a type of Adam, being called the "last Adam" (1 Cor.15:45)?
The traditional orthodox belief that each person of the Trinity is fully God does not conflict with the complimentary view that all three together are also fully God. Similarly, we recognise that every individual man, woman, or child - born or unborn - standing alone, is fully human. Yet alone, no single individual can represent humanity as fully as does the human family. The Elohim is therefore rightly viewed as a Divine Family.
What other evidence is there that the Ruach (Spirit) is female? Well, the principle ministry of the Ruach (Spirit) in human affairs, as revealed throughout the New Testament, is the spiritual regeneration of those who would come to faith. According to Yah'shua (Jesus), it is by the Ruach (Spirit) that one is "born again". This particular analogy bears closer examination, especially since it comes from that passage in the Bible that most evangelicals have appropriated as the high-octane fuel for their spiritual zeal.
You will remember, when Yah'shua (Jesus) told Nicodemus that he had to be "born again", that this Pharisee was highly confused. How, he asked, could a person be born again without first crawling back inside his mother's womb? Yah'shua's (Jesus') reply was: "That which is born of the flesh is flesh; and that which is born of the Ruach (Spirit) is ruach (spirit)" (Jn.3:6).
Now this birth analogy is notable for two reasons. First, because birth is, as Nicodemus realised, an exclusively feminine activity. Only a mother is capable of giving birth, and the labour involved is entirely her own. Neither father nor foetus plays any active rôle in the process. Second, Yah'shua (Jesus) completes the analogy by identifying the Ruach haQodesh (Holy Spirit) as the only Person in the Elohim who participates in this process of spiritual rebirth.
The analogy is clear. Just as Nicodemus' mother was to his physical birth, says Yah'shua (Jesus), so is the Ruach haQodesh (Holy Spirit) to a human's spiritual rebirth. The Ruach (Spirit), in other words, acts in the capacity of a mother to those who are "born again". The parallel is simply undeniable. This alone should have sent Augustine back to his drawing board, since the cross-analogy is just as valid: spiritual rebirth is to the physical birth as the Ruach (Spirit) is to ... mother.
But there's more. Take a look at the Annunciation, wherein the angel Gabriel comes to Mary with the news that she has been chosen from among all women to bring the long-awaited Messiah into the world. The account is set forth in Luke 1:26-38 and has been traditionally interpreted to mean that Yah'shua (Jesus) was conceived through a mystical union between Mary and the Ruach haQodesh (Holy Spirit) alone. However, a closer look at the process by which Yah'shua (Jesus) was conceived, as described by Gabriel, clearly involves two separate steps and, more importantly, two separate Persons of the Elohim, not just one:
"The Ruach haQodesh (Holy Spirit) shall come upon you, and the power of the Most High (Yahweh) shall overshadow you: therefore also that holy thing which shall be born of you shall be called the Son of Elohim (God)".
In step one, the Ruach (Spirit) will "come upon" Mary. Then, and only then, will the "power of the Most High" overshadow her. How else can we make sense of this than by seeing it as the supernatural union of Yahweh and the Ruach (Spirit) within Mary?
Could "the Most High" be the Ruach (Spirit)? No, that is not possible, for the two are distinct. And in a previous verse, Gabriel says to Mary that the son she will bear and name Yah'shua (Jesus) will be "called Son of the Most High". And El Elyon ('Most High') always refers to Yahweh. Thus "the Highest" is none other than the Father, Yahweh.
So what is being pictured here is a union between the Heavenly Father and the Heavenly Mother, Yahweh and the Ruach (Spirit). Mary's involvement in this union is secondary, limited to the rôle of the human vessel who will bear and give birth to the incarnate Son of the Elohim (God). She serves as Yah'shua's (Jesus') temporal mother, and in this she is "blessed among women" but it would be quite impossible for her to be the "Mother of God" in any way other than this temporal sense.
If Yah'shua (Jesus) is divine, as Augustine himself believed as we do and forcefully argued, then the eternal Son pre-existed the incarnate Christ. He did not first come into being as a Person when He was born of Mary in Bethlehem. He had always existed prior to that time, along with the Father and the Mother (Holy Spirit), all three persons in the Elohim being eternally self-existent. In this sense, Yah'shua (Jesus), as the eternal Son of the Father, is traditionally said to have been "eternally begotten" by the Father, not by the Ruach (Spirit).
But the term 'father' has a very specific denotation that was ignored not only by Augustine but by all the other so-called "fathers" of the Church. 'Father' is a relational term that is specific to the human family. In order for a person to be called a father, he needs to stand in relation to both of the other two familial persons. Certainly, he needs to stand in relation to his children, just as the biblically-revealed Father so explicitly stands in relation to the Mother of His Child.
Without the existence of a mother, it is quite impossible for a man to be considered a father in any sense other than a highly abstract one, as, for example, George Washington is called the 'father' of the United States. This is manifestly not the sense in which Yahweh the Father is portrayed in the Bible. The relationship between the Father and the Son is not abstract but explicitly familial. How then could anyone, no less someone of Augustine's enormous intellect, come to the conclusion that completing this divine family portrait by including the Ruach (Spirit) as Spouse and Mother should be "absurd"?
Next week we will consider the implications of a female Heavenly Mother relative to women in the Body of Christ. For you will discover that it sheds a wholly new light on the Christian wife, mother and daughter, both for Christian men and for Christian women. I personally consider this to be one of most glorious revelations that has come to this work, and one which I hope you will discover to be so too. Amen.
Click here for Part 2
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